Psalm 20:6-9

6. Now I know that Jehovah hath saved his anointed; he will hear him from the heavens of his sanctuary, in the mightiness of the salvation of his right hand.1 7. Some trust2 in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of Jehovah our God. 8. They are bowed down and are fallen; but we are risen and are erect. 9. Save, O Jehovah! let the king hear us in the day that we call upon him.


6. Now I know. Here there follows grateful rejoicing, in which the faithful declare that they have experienced the goodness of God in the preservation of the king. To this there is at the same time added a doctrine of faith, namely, that God showed by the effect that he put forth his power in maintaining the kingdom of David, because it was founded upon his calling. The meaning is, It appears from certain experience, that God is the guardian of the kingdom which he himself set up, and of which he is the founder. For David is called Messiah, or anointed, that the faithful might be persuaded that he was a lawful and sacred king, whom God had testified, by outward anointing, to be chosen by himself. Thus, then, the faithful ascribe to the grace of God the deliverance which had been wrought for David from the greatest dangers, and at the same time, particularly mention the cause of this to be, that God had determined to protect and defend him who, by his commandment, had been anointed king over his people. They confirm still more clearly their hope, with respect to the future, in the following clause:God will hear him out of heaven. I do not translate the verb which is here used into the past tense, but retain the future:for I have no doubt, that from the experience which God had already given them of his goodness, they concluded that it would be hereafter exercised in the continual preservation of the kingdom. Here the Psalmist makes mention of another sanctuary,3 namely, a heavenly. As God then graciously vouchsafed to descend among the Israelites, by the ark of the covenant, in order to make himself more familiarly known to them; so, on the other hand, he intended to draw the minds of his people upwards to himself, and thereby to prevent them from forming carnal and earthly conceptions of his character, and to teach them that he was greater than the whole world. Thus, under the visible sanctuary, which was made with hands, there is set forth the fatherly goodness of God, and his familiarity with his people; while, under the heavenly sanctuary, there is shown his infinite power, dominion, and majesty. The words, In the mightiness of the salvation, mean his mighty salvation, or his saving power. Thus, in the very expression there is a transposing of the words. The sense comes to this: May God by his wonderful power, preserve the king who was anointed by his commandment! The Holy Spirit, who dictated this prayer, saw well that Satan would not suffer David to live in peace, but would put forth all his efforts to oppose him, which would render it necessary for him to be sustained by more than human power. I do not, however, disapprove of the other exposition which I have marked on the margin, according to which the faithful, for their greater encouragement, set before themselves this truth, that the salvation of God's right hand is in mightiness; in other words, is sufficiently strong to overcome all impediments.

7. Some trust in chariots. I do not restrict this to the enemies of Israel, as is done by other interpreters. I am rather inclined to think that there is here a comparison between the people of God and all the rest of the world. We see how natural it is to almost all men to be the more courageous and confident the more they possess of riches, power and military forces. The people of God, therefore, here protest that they do not place their hope, as is the usual way with men, in their military forces and warlike apparatus, but only in the aid of God. As the Holy Spirit here sets the assistance of God in opposition to human strength, it ought to be particularly noticed, that whenever our minds come to be occupied by carnal confidence, they fall at the same time into a forgetfulness of God. It is impossible for him, who promises himself victory by confiding in his own strength, to have his eyes turned towards God. The inspired writer, therefore, uses the word remember, to show, that when the saints betake themselves to God, they must cast off every thing which would hinder them from placing an exclusive trust in him. This remembrance of God serves two important purposes to the faithful. In the first place, however much power and resources they may possess, it nevertheless withdraws them from all vain confidence, so that they do not expect any success except from the pure grace of God. In the second place, if they are bereft and utterly destitute of all succor, it notwithstanding so strengthens and encourages them, that they call upon God both with confidence and constancy. On the other hand, when ungodly men feel themselves strong and powerful, being blinded with pride, they do not hesitate boldly to despise God; but when they are brought into circumstances of distress, they are so terrified as not to know what to become. In short, the Holy Spirit here recommends to us the remembrance of God, which, retaining its efficacy both in the want and in the abundance of power, subdues the vain hopes with which the flesh is wont to be inflated. As the verb rykzn, nazkir, which I have translated we will remember, is in the conjugation hiphil, some render it transitively, we shall cause to remember. But it is no new thing in Hebrew for verbs to be used as neuter which are properly transitive; and, therefore, I have adopted the exposition which seems to me the most suitable to this passage.

8. They are bowed down. It is probable that there is here pointed out, as it were with the finger, the enemies of Israel, whom God had overthrown, when they regarded no event as less likely to happen. There is contained in the words a tacit contrast between the cruel pride with which they had been lifted up for a time when they audaciously rushed forward to make havoc of all things on the one hand, and the oppression of the people of God on the other. The expression, to rise, is applied only to those who were before sunk or fallen; and, on the other hand, the expression, bowed down and fallen, is with propriety applied to those who were lifted up with pride and presumption. The prophet therefore teaches by the event, how much more advantageous it is for us to place all our confidence in God than to depend upon our own strength.

9. Save, O Jehovah! etc. Some read in one sentence, O Jehovah! save the king;4 perhaps because they think it wrong to attribute to an earthly king what is proper to God only, -- to be called upon, and to hear prayer. But if we turn our eyes towards Christ, as it becomes us to do, we will no longer wonder that what properly belongs to him is attributed in a certain sense to David and his successors, in so far as they were types of Christ. As God governs and saves us by the hand of Christ, we must not look for salvation from any other quarter. In like manner, the faithful under the former economy were accustomed to betake themselves to their king as the minister of God's saving grace. Hence these words of Jeremiah,

"The breath of our nostrils, the anointed of the Lord, of whom we said, Under his shadow we shall live among the heathen." (Lamentations 4:20)

Whenever, therefore, God promises the restoration of his church, he sets forth a symbol or pledge of its salvation in the kingdom. We now see that it is not without very good reason that the faithful are introduced asking succor from their king, under whose guardianship and protection they were placed, and who, as the vicegerent of God, presided over them; as the Prophet Micah says, (Micah 2:13,) "Their king shall pass before them, and the Lord on the head of them;" by which words he intimates, that their king will be as it were a mirror in which they may see reflected the image of God. To return to the present passage:-- The expression, Save, O Jehovah, is elliptical, but it has greater emphasis than if the object for which salvation is sought had been mentioned; for by this means David shows that this salvation belongs in common to the whole body of the church. In Psalm 118:25, there is a prayer in the same words, and it is certain that it is the very same prayer. In short, this is a prayer, that God, by blessing the king, would show himself the Savior of the whole people. In the last clause of the verse there is expressed the means of this salvation. The people pray that the king may be furnished with power from God to deliver them whenever they are in distress, and cry to him for help. Let the king hear us in the day that we call upon him. God had not promised that his people would be saved in any other way than by the hand and conduct of the king whom he had given them. In the present day, when Christ is now manifested to us, let us learn to yield him this honor -- to renounce all hope of salvation from any other quarter, and to trust to that salvation only which he shall bring to us from God his Father. And of this we shall then only become partakers when, being all gathered together into one body, under the same Head, we shall have mutual care one of another, and when none of us will have his attention so engrossed with his own advantage and individual interest, as to be indifferent to the welfare and happiness of others.

1 "Ou A puissances le salut de sa dextre." -- Fr. marg. "In mightiness the salvation of his right hand." The rendering which Horsley gives is this:"In powers or in strengths, salvation of his right hand" and he views this clause as a complete sentence by itself. He explains it thus:-- "In situations of power and strength, whatever a man's natural means of deliverance may be, his preservation must be the work of God's right hand." "This seems," says he, "to be the best exposition of this line, which is a clause by itself, not a part of the preceding sentence; esy is a noun substantive, the subject of the verb substantive understood. The chariots and horses mentioned in the next verse are expository of trrg in this line, and all that follows of this psalm is an amplification of his general sentiment."

2 In the Hebrew text there is here an ellipsis, the reading being, "Some in chariots, and some in horses" etc. All the ancient versions read the words as they are in the Hebrew text, without supplying any verb. Calvin does the same in his Latin version; but in the French he supplies the verb "Se foyent," "trust," the same supplement as that which is made in our English version.

3 Different from "the sanctuary" mentioned in verse second.

4 This is the reading of the Septuagint. Its words are, Kurie swson ton basilea. The reading of the Vulgate is the same. Calvin's rendering, which is also that of our English version, agrees with the masoretical punctuation; but the Septuagint has followed a different pointing.


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