Bible Commentaries
Psalms 92

The Expositor's Bible CommentaryThe Expositor's Bible Commentary

Verses 1-15

AUTHORITIES differ in their arrangement of this psalm. Clearly, the first three verses are a prelude; and if these are left out of account, the remainder of the psalm consists of twelve verses, which fall into two groups of six each, the former of which mainly deals with the brief prosperity and final overthrow of the wicked, while the latter paints the converse truth of the security and blessedness of the righteous. Both illustrate the depth of God’s works and purposes, which is the psalmist’s theme. A further division of each of these six verses into groups of three is adopted by Delitzsch, and may be accepted. There will then be five strophes of three verses each, of which the first is introductory; the second and third, a pair setting forth the aspect of Providence towards the wicked; and the fourth and fifth, another pair. magnifying its dealings with the righteous. Perowne takes the eighth verse, which is distinguished by containing only one clause. as the kernel of the psalm, which is preceded by seven verses, constituting the first division, and followed by seven, making the second. But this arrangement, though tempting, wrenches Psalms 92:9 from its kindred Psalms 92:7.

Psalms 92:1-3 are in any case introductory. In form they are addressed to Jehovah, in thankful acknowledgment of the privilege and joy of praise. In reality they are a summons to men to taste its gladness, and to fill each day and brighten every night by music of thanksgiving. The devout heart feels that worship is "good," not only as being acceptable to God and conformable to man’s highest duty, but as being the source of delight to the worshipper. Nothing is more characteristic of the Psalter than the joy which often dances and sings through its strains. Nothing affords a surer test of the reality of worship than the worshipper’s joy in it. With much significance and beauty, "Thy lovingkindness" is to be the theme of each morning, as we rise to a new day and find His mercy, radiant as the fresh sunshine, waiting to bless our eyes, and "Thy faithfulness" is to he sung in the night seasons, as we part from another day which has witnessed to His fulfilment of all His promises.

The second strophe contains the reason for praise-namely, the greatness and depth of the Divine works and purposes. The works meant are as is obvious from the whole strain of the psalm, those of God’s government of the world. The theme which exercised earlier psalmists reappears here, but the struggles of faith with unbelief, which are so profoundly and pathetically recorded in Psalms 73:1-28, are ended for this singer. He bows in trustful adoration before the greatness of the works and the unsearchable depth of the purpose of God which directs the works. The sequence of Psalms 92:4-6 is noteworthy. The central place is occupied by Psalms 92:5 -a wondering and reverent exclamation, evoked by the very mysteries of Providence. On either side of it stand verses describing the contrasted impression made by these on devout and on gross minds. The psalmist and his fellows are "gladdened," though he cannot see to the utmost verge or deepest abyss of Works or Plans. What he does see is good; and if sight does not go down to the depths, it is because eyes are weak, not because these are less pellucid than the sunlit shallows. What gladdens the trustful soul, which is in sympathy with God, only bewilders the "brutish man"-i.e., the man who by immersing his faculties in sense, has descended to the animal level; and it is too grave and weighty for the "fool," the man of incurable levity and self-conceit, to trouble himself to ponder. The eye sees what it is capable of seeing. A man’s judgment of God’s dealings depends on his relation to God and on the dispositions of his soul.

The sterner aspect of Providence is dealt with in the next strophe (Psalms 92:7-9). Some recent signal destruction of evil-doers seems to be referred to. It exemplifies once more the old truth which another psalmist has sung, {Psalms 37:2} that the prosperity of evil-doers is short-lived, like the blossoming herbage, and not only short-lived, but itself the occasion of their destruction. The apparent success of the wicked is as a pleasant slope that leads downward. The quicker the blossoming, the sooner the petals fall. "The prosperity of fools shall destroy them." As in the previous strophe the middle verse was central in idea as well as in place, so in this one. Psalms 92:8 states the great fact from which the overthrow of the wicked, which is declared in the verses before and after results. God’s eternal elevation above the Transitory and the Evil is not merely contrasted with these, but is assigned as the reason why what is evil is transitory. We might render "Thou, Jehovah, art high (lit. a height) for evermore," as, in effect, the LXX and other old versions do; but the application of such an epithet to God is unexampled, and the rendering above is preferable. God’s eternal exaltation "is the great pillar of the universe and of our faith" (Perowne). From it must one day result that all God’s enemies shall perish, as the psalmist reiterates, with triumphant reduplication of the designation of the foes, as if he would make plain that the very name "God’s enemies" contained a prophecy of their destruction. However closely banded, they "shall be scattered." Evil may make conspiracies for a time, for common hatred of good brings discordant elements into strange fellowship, but in its real nature it is divisive, and, sooner or later, allies in wickedness become foes, and no two of them are left together. The only lasting human association is that which binds men to one another, because all are bound to God.

From the scattered fugitives the psalmist turns first to joyful contemplation of his own blessedness, and then to wider thoughts of the general wellbeing of all God’s friends. The more personal references are comprised in the fourth strophe (Psalms 92:10-12). The metaphor of the exalted horn expresses, as in Psalms 75:10; Psalms 89:17, triumph or the vindication of the psalmist by his deliverance. Psalms 92:10 b is very doubtful. The word usually rendered "I am anointed" is peculiar. Another view of the word takes it for an infinitive used as a noun, with the meaning "growing old," or, as Cheyne renders, "wasting strength." This. translation ("my wasting strength with rich oil") is that of the LXX and other ancient versions, and of Cheyne and Baethgen among moderns. If adopted, the verb must be understood as repeated from the preceding clause, and the slight incongruity thence arising can be lessened by giving a somewhat wider meaning to "exalted" such as "strengthen" or the like. The psalmist would then represent his deliverance as being like refreshing a failing old age, by anointing with fresh oil.

Thus triumphant and quickened, he expects to gaze on the downfall of his foes. He uses the same expression as is found in Psalms 91:8, with a similar connotation of calm security, and possibly of satisfaction. There is no need for heightening his feelings into "desire," as in the Authorised and Revised Versions. The next clause (Psalms 92:11 b) "seems to have been expressly framed to correspond with the other; it occurs nowhere else in this sense" (Perowne). A less personal verse (Psalms 92:12) forms the transition to the last strophe, which is concerned with the community of the righteous. Here the singular number is retained. By "the righteous" the psalmist does not exactly mean himself, but he blends his own individuality with that of the ideal character, so that he is both speaking of his own future and declaring a general truth. The wicked "spring like herbage" (Psalms 92:7), but the righteous "spring like the palm." The point of comparison is apparently the gracefulness of the tree, which lifts its slender but upright stem, and is ever verdant and fruitful. The cedar in its massive strength, its undecaying vigour, and the broad shelves of its foliage, green among the snows of Lebanon, stands in strong contrast to the palm. Gracefulness is wedded to strength, and both are perennial in lives devoted to God and Right. Evil blooms quickly, and quickly dies. What is good lasts. One cedar outlives a hundred generations of the grass and flowers that encircle its steadfast feet.

The last part extends the thoughts of Psalms 92:12 to all the righteous. It does not name them, for it is needless to do so. Imagery and reality are fused together in this strophe. It is questionable whether there are trees planted in the courts of the Temple; but the psalmist’s thought is that the righteous will surely be found there, and that it is their native soil, in which rooted, they are permanent. The facts underlying the somewhat violent metaphor are that true righteousness is found only in the dwellers with God, that they who anchor themselves in Him as a tree in the earth, are both stayed on, and fed from Him. The law of physical decay does not enfeeble all the powers of devout men, even while they are subject to it. As aged palm trees bear the heaviest clusters, so lives which are planted in and nourished from God know no term of their fruitfulness, and are full of sap and verdant, when lives that have shut themselves off from Him are like an old stump, gaunt and dry, fit only for firewood. Such lives are prolonged and made fruitful, as standing proofs that Jehovah is upright, rewarding all cleaving to Him and doing of His will, With conservation of strength, and ever-growing power to do His will.

Psalms 92:15 is a reminiscence of Deuteronomy 32:4. The last clause is probably to be taken in connection with the preceding, as by Cheyne ("And that in my Rock there is no unrighteousness"). But it may also be regarded as a final avowal of the psalmist’s faith, the last result of his contemplations of the mysteries of Providence. These but drive him to cling close to Jehovah, as his sole refuge and his sure shelter, and to ring out this as the end which shall one day be manifest as the net result of Providence-that there is no least trace of unrighteousness in Him.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Psalms 92". "The Expositor's Bible Commentary".