Psalm 76:1-6

1. God is known in Judah; his name is great in Israel. 2. And his tabernacle was in Salem, and his dwelling-place in Zion. 3. There he broke the arrows of the bow, the shield, and the sword, and the battle. Selah. 4. Thou art more glorious and terrible than the mountains of prey. 5. The stout hearted were spoiled, they slept their sleep,1 and all the men of might have not found their hands. 6. At thy rebuke, O God of Jacob! the chariot and the horse were cast into a deep sleep.


1. God is known in Judah. In the outset, we are taught that it was not by human means that the enemies of Israel were compelled to retire without accomplishing any thing, but by the ever-to-be-remembered aid of Jehovah. Whence came that knowledge of God and the greatness of his name which are spoken of, but because He stretched forth his hand in an extraordinary manner, to make it openly manifest that both the chosen people and the city were under his defense and protection? It is therefore asserted, that the glory of God was conspicuously displayed when the enemies of Israel were discomfited by such a miraculous interposition.

2. And his tabernacle was in Salem. Here the reason is assigned why God, putting the Assyrians to flight, vouchsafed to deliver the city of Jerusalem, and to take it under his protection. The reason is, because he had there chosen for himself a dwelling-place, in which his name was to be called upon. The amount, in short, is, first, that men had no ground to arrogate to themselves any share in the deliverance of the city here portrayed, God having strikingly showed that all the glory was his own, by displaying from heaven his power in the sight of all men; and, secondly, that he was induced to oppose his enemies from no other consideration but that of his free choice of the Jewish nation. God having, by this example, testified that his power is invincible for preserving his Church, it is a call and an encouragement to all the faithful to repose with confidence under his shadow. If his name is precious to himself, it is no ordinary pledge and security which he gives to our faith when he assures us that it is his will that the greatness of his power should be known in the preservation of his Church. Moreover, as the Church is a distinguished theater on which the Divine glory is displayed, we must always take the greatest care not to shroud or bury in forgetfulness, by our ingratitude, the benefits which have been bestowed upon it, and especially those which ought to be held in remembrance in all ages. Farther, although God is not now worshipped in the visible tabernacle, yet as by Christ he still dwells in the midst of us, yea even within us, we will doubtless experience, whenever we are exposed to danger, that under his protection we are in perfect safety. If the earthly sanctuary of Jerusalem afforded to God's ancient people succor while it stood, we may rest assured that he will have no less care of us who live in the present day, when we consider that he has vouchsafed to choose us as his temples in which he may dwell by his Holy Spirit. Here the prophet, in speaking of Jerusalem, uses merely the name of Salem, which was the simple and uncompounded name of the city, and had been applied to it very anciently, as appears from Genesis 14:18. Some think that the name in the course of time assumed its compound form, by having Jebus prefixed to Salem; for Jebus was the name by which it was afterwards known in the intervening period, as we learn from the Book of Judges, Judges 19:10, it being so called because it was inhabited by the Jebusites. But we will be more correct as to the etymology of the word, if we derive it from the verb hary, yereh, which signifies will see,2 because Abraham said,

"God will look out for himself a lamb for a burnt-offering," (Genesis 22:8.)

3. There he broke the arrows of the bow. We have here stated the particular way in which God was known in Judah. He was known by the wonderful proofs of his power, which he exhibited in preserving the city. Under these figures is described the destruction of the enemies of the chosen people.3 They could not otherwise have been overthrown than by being despoiled of their armor and weapons of war. It is therefore said, that the arrows, the swords, and the shields, were broken, yea, all the implements of war; implying that these impious enemies of the Church were deprived of the power of doing harm. The fact indeed is, that they were wounded and slain, while their weapons remained uninjured; but this metonymy, by which what befell themselves is represented as happening to their implements of war, is not improper. Some translate the word Mypsr, reshaphim, points of weapons! Properly, it should be rendered fires;4 but it is more accurate to take it for arrows. Even birds are sometimes metaphorically so called, on account of their swiftness; and flying is attributed to arrows in Psalm 91:6.

It is farther added, (verse 4th,) that God is more glorious and terrible than the mountains of prey. By the mountains of prey, is meant kingdoms distinguished for their violence and extortion. We know that from the beginning, he who exercised himself most in robbery and pillage, was the man who most enlarged his borders and became greatest. The Psalmist, therefore, here compares those great kings, who had acquired large dominions by violence and the shedding of human blood, to savage beasts, who live only upon prey, and their kingdoms to mountains covered with forests, which are inhabited by beasts inured to live by the destruction of other animals. The enemies of God's ancient people had been accustomed to make violent and furious assaults upon Jerusalem; but it is affirmed that God greatly surpassed them all in power that the faithful might not be overwhelmed with terror.

5. The stout-hearted were spoiled, The power of God in destroying his enemies is here exalted by another form of expression. The verb wllwtsa, eshtolelu, which we translate were spoiled, is derived from lls, shalal, and the letter a, aleph, is put instead of the letter h, he.5 Some translate, were made fools;6 but this is too forced. I, however, admit that it is of the same import, as if it had been said, that they were deprived of wisdom and courage; but we must adhere to the proper signification of the word. What is added in the second clause is to the same purpose, All the men of might have not found their hands.7 that is to say, they were as incapable of fighting as if their hands had been maimed or cut off. In short, their strength, of which they boasted, was utterly overthrown. The words, they slept their sleep,8 refer to the same subject; implying that whereas before they were active and resolute, their hearts now failed them, and they were sunk asleep in sloth and listlessness. The meaning, therefore, is, that the enemies of the chosen people were deprived of that heroic courage of which they boasted, and which inspired them with such audacity; and that, in consequence, neither mind, nor heart, nor hands, none either of their mental or bodily faculties, could perform their office. We are thus taught that all the gifts and power which men seem to possess are in the hand of God, so that he can, at any instant of time, deprive them of the wisdom which he has given them, make their hearts effeminate, render their hands unfit for war, and annihilate their whole strength. It is not without reason that both the courage and power of these enemies are magnified; the design of this being, that the faithful might be led, from the contrast, to extol the power and working of God. The same subject is farther confirmed from the statement, that the chariot and the horse were cast into a deep sleep at the rebuke of God.9 This implies, that whatever activity characterised these enemies, it was rendered powerless, simply by the nod of God. Although, therefore, we may be deprived of all created means of help, let us rest contented with the favor of God alone, accounting it all-sufficient, since he has no need of great armies to repel the assaults of the whole world, but is able, by the mere breath of his mouth, to subdue and dissipate all assailants.

1 From har, raäh, he saw, or beheld.

2 "This seems to allude to the miraculous destruction of the Assyrian army, as recorded in Isaiah 27:36." -- Warner.

3 "The Hebrew Psr, [here rendered arrows,] signifies fire, Job 5:7, where 'sparks that fly upward' are poetically expressed by Psr ynb, 'the sons of the fire.' . .By metaphor it is applies to an 'arrow' or 'dart' shot out of a bow, and, by the swiftness of the motion, supposed to be inflamed. See Cant. 8, 6, where of love it is said, (not the coals, but) 'the arrows thereof are arrows of fire,' it shoots, and wounds, and burns a man's heart, inflames it vehemently by wounding it. The poetical expression will best be preserved by retaining some trace of the primary sense in the rendering of it -- 'fires or lightnings of the bow,' i.e., those hostile weapons which are most furious and formidable, as fire shot out from a bow." -- Hammond. Parkhurst renders "glittering flashing arrows," or rather, "fiery, or fire-bearing arrows;" such as, it is certain, were used in after times in sieges and in battles; the belh pepurwmena of the Greeks, to which Paul alludes in Ephesians 6:16, and the phalarica of the Romans, which Servius (on Virgil, Æn. lib. 9, 5, 705) describes as a dart or javelin with a spherical leaden head, to which combustible matter was attached, which being set on fire, the weapon was darted against the enemy; and when thrown by a powerful hand, it killed those whom it hit, and set fire to buildings. Walford has, "fiery arrows." "The arrows," says he, "are described as fiery, to denote either the rapidity of their motion, or that they were tinged with some poisonous drugs to render them more deadly."

4 The verb is in the praet. hithpahel; and it has a, aleph, instead of h, he, according to the Chaldaic language, which changes h, the Hebrew characteristic of hiphil and hithpahel into a.

5 As the verb signifies, has plundered, spoiled; and as it is here in the praet. hithpahel, which generally denotes reciprocal action, that is, acting on one's self, it has been here rendered by some, despoiled themselves of mind, were mad, furious. Hammond reads, "The stout-hearted have despoiled or disarmed themselves." The Chaldee paraphrase is, "They have cast away their weapons."

6 "waum al Mhydy, may be rendered have not found their hands, i.e., have not been able to use them for resistance, for the offending others, or even for their own defense." -- Hammond. The Chaldee paraphrase is, "They could not take their weapons in their hands," i.e., they could not use their hands to manage their weapons. In the Septuagint, the reading is, eu[ron oujde<n tai~v cersin aujtw~n; "they found nothing with their hands," i.e., they were able to do nothing with them: the vast army of Assyrians, the most warlike and victorious then in the world, achieved nothing, but "returned with shame to face to their own land," (2 Chronicles 32:21.)

7 "They slept their sleep." "They slept, but never waked again." -- Hammond. There may be here a direct allusion to the catastrophe which befell the Assyrian army during the night, when, as they were fast asleep in their tents, a hundred and eighty-five thousand of them were at once slain, Isaiah 37:36.

8 The chariot and horse may be put poetically for charioteers and horsemen. Chariots formed a most important part of the array in the battles of the ancients. See Judges 4:3. Instead of "both the chariot and the horse," Horsley reads, "both the rider and the horse." "It is not improbable," says he, "that the pestilence in Sennacherib's army might seize the horses as well as the men, although the death of the beasts is not mentioned by the sacred historian."

9 "Dont la terre a eu frayeur." -- Fr. "With which the earth was afraid."


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