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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Psalms 98

A Psalm.

This psalm is written in the same strain as Psalms 96:0, of which it is the echo in theme and spirit. The first lines of the first verses, together with the last verses of each, bear a close and literal resemblance. But there are peculiar indications in Psalms 98:0 of some occasion of victory, (Psalms 98:1,) and of the manifestation of divine judgments upon the idolatrous nations (Psalms 98:2) in vindication of his covenant with the house of Israel, (Psalms 98:3,) which ally it, historically, with Psalms 97:0. The judicial aspects of the two psalms are also strikingly similar, and their triumphal celebration of Jehovah’s kingdom over the nations resembles a military triumph, which distinguishes them from the simply devout joyfulness over the converted peoples in Psalms 96:0. The Septuagint, Vulgate, and Syriac ascribe the psalm to David, and the Syriac title, which refers it to “the deliverance of the people from Egypt,” though not accurate, indicates how strongly the evidences of a special occasion impressed the mind. We may safely refer it to the same occasion as Psalms 97:0, with which it corresponds in theme and historic allusion. Compare Psalms 98:1-3 with Psalms 97:7-8, and see introduction to Psalms 97:0. But the language and imagery far out-step any local occasion, rising to the sublime height of prophecy, and finding its real fulfilment in the triumph of Christ over death and all his enemies, and in the establishment of his kingdom on the earth.

The divisions of the psalm are simple. In the first strophe (Psalms 98:1-3) is a call to sing unto Jehovah for his works of power, and judgment, and faithfulness; in the second, (Psalms 98:4-6,) “all the earth,” all nations, are invited to join in the “new song;” in the third, (Psalms 98:7-9,) all nature is appealed to, to swell the chorus of praise “because Jehovah cometh to judge the earth.”

TITLE:

A Psalm The only instance where mizmor ( a psalm) stands alone in the title, whence this has been called “the orphan psalm.” Delitzsch. But it rather marks it as “a psalm among psalms a genuine lyrical effusion. It forms, in fact, the lyrical complement to the more decidedly prophetical psalm by which it is preceded.” Thrupp.

Verse 1

1. A new song See note on Psalms 96:1.

His right hand, and his holy arm Symbols of his most excellent power and majesty.

Hath gotten him the victory The form of expression denotes, that as the cause was God’s, so he achieved deliverance in a manner to signalize his own name. The description is parallel to Isaiah 52:10; Isaiah 59:16; and applies, prophetically, to Christ, his resurrection, and his victory over his enemies.

Verse 2

2. His righteousness In punishing the wicked and vindicating the just. The word corresponds to his salvation in the previous member of the verse, for the “salvation” of those who trust in him implies judgment against such as reject and persecute the truth.

Openly showed in the sight of the heathen It was no doubtful display of the divine power and purpose, but open, and defiant of all his enemies. The sentence is a more emphatic form of made known, in the previous member.

Verse 3

3. He hath remembered That is, to fulfil and make good his promise. Here is a recognition of covenant promise and relation toward the house of Israel.

Ends of the earth A clear anticipation of the subjection of the Gentile nations to Christ. The judgments of Jehovah, like the miracles of Egypt, of the Red Sea, and of the wilderness, in Moses’s time, should cause the distant nations to tremble and submit.

Verse 4

4. Make a joyful noise unto the Lord Shout to Jehovah. This call is made to all the earth, inasmuch as “the ends of the earth” had seen (Psalms 98:3) the salvation of God to his people. The descriptions of joy and praise, given in Psalms 98:4-6, may be accepted as comprehending all that was known in Hebrew worship of vocal and instrumental demonstrations of rejoicing.

Verse 6

6. Trumpets and… cornet For “cornet” see note on Psalms 81:3. “Trumpets,” here, are the “silver trumpets” which Moses was commanded to make, to be used only by the priests for signals of war, the beginnings of months, festivals, and sacrifices. Numbers 10:1-10; Numbers 31:6. At first they were only two, but increased to twenty in the time of Solomon, and employed in the orchestra. 2 Chronicles 5:12

Verse 7

7. Let the sea roar Inanimate nature (Psalms 98:7-8), is called to unite with the Gentile nations and the covenant people in the highest strains of joy, at this coming of Jehovah to judge the earth. For a still higher realization of this “new song” of the universe, see Revelation 5:9-14. In both instances the occasion is the same: Jehovah’s righteous judgment of the world, or, in the New Testament, Christ’s victory over the nations.

Verse 8

8. The floods Hebrew, the rivers. See on Psalms 93:3.

Clap their hands The clapping of the rivers is a figure which differs from Isaiah 55:12, and occurs nowhere else, but finds its origin in the playful dashings of the river rapids, or floods, as the common version has it. On clapping of hands, as an expression of exultation, see 2 Kings 11:12; Psalms 47:1; Ezekiel 25:6. The whole imagery is exceedingly animated. See Psalms 96:11-13. The correspondence of much of this psalm with the later prophecies of Isaiah is no proof that it is borrowed from, and hence later than, the latter, (better might the prophet be supposed to have copied from the psalm,) but is an example of coincidences in the poetic style where the subjects were similar, not unfrequent in Scripture, and not confined to Scripture.

Hills be joyful Hills are “joyful” when clothed with greenness and covered with flocks. See on Psalms 65:13. In the last of May and June the hills of Palestine already put on a brown and parched appearance for want of moisture; but if the rains, which end in April, have been copious, the harvest is plenteous and joyous. The imagery is specially suited to a pastoral and agricultural people in such a climate. Wherever Christ reigns men are at peace with each other, and through honest industry and sobriety the external signs of righteousness and prosperity soon appear in nature and in society.

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 98". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/psalms-98.html. 1874-1909.