A Psalm of thanksgiving for that holy concord which prevailed in the nation, and which the Lord's people are earnestly exhorted to maintain.
A Song of Degrees of David.
1. Behold! how good, and how becoming, that brethren1 should even dwell together! 2. Like the precious ointment upon the head, that descendeth upon the beard, the beard of Aaron, which descendeth upon the skirt of his garments.2 3. Like the dew of Hermon,3 which descendeth upon the mountains of Zion,4 for there5 Jehovah commanded the blessing, life for evermore.
There can at the same time be no doubt; that the Holy Ghost is to be viewed as commending in this passage that mutual harmony which should subsist amongst all God's children, and exhorting us to make every endeavor to maintain it. So long as animosities divide us, and heartburnings prevail amongst us, we may be brethren no doubt still by common relation to God, but cannot be judged one so long as we present the appearance of a broken and dismembered body. As we are one in God the Father, and in Christ, the union must be ratified amongst us by reciprocal harmony, and fraternal love. Should it so happen in the providence of God, that the Papists should return to that holy concord which they have apostatized from, it would be in such terms as these that we would be called to render thanksgiving unto God, and in the meantime we are bound to receive into our brotherly embraces all such as cheerfully submit themselves to the Lord. We are to set ourselves against those turbulent spirits which the devil will never fail to raise up in the Church, and be sedulous to retain intercourse with such as show a docile and tractable disposition. But we cannot extend this intercourse to those who obstinately persist in error, since the condition of receiving them as brethren would be our renouncing him who is Father of all, and from whom all spiritual relationship takes its rise. The peace which David recommends is such as begins in the true head, and this is quite enough to refute the unfounded charge of schism and division which has been brought against us by the Papists, while we have given abundant evidence of our desire that they would coalesce with us in God's truth, which is the only bond of holy union.
1 The word brethren is not limited to those who are descended from the same parents; it denotes such as are members of the same community, profess the same holy religion, and are governed by the same institutions. All the people of Israel are in the first instance here addressed.
2 Kimchi, Jarchi, and others, instead of "to the skirts," translate "to the collar of his garment." This seems to give the true meaning of the original, which implies that the head and beard of Aaron only were anointed, and that the costly sacerdotal robes were thus preserved from an unction, which must inevitably have spoiled them. For an account of this ointment and of its sprinkling on Aaron, and his sons, see Exodus 30:23-25, 30; Leviticus 8:12. When Aaron was consecrated High Priest the oil was poured on him, whilst on the other priests it was only sprinkled.
3 There is a mountain called Hermon, which is the highest of the ridge of mountains designated Anti-Lebanon, and which is situated in the northern border of the country beyond Jordan. This, however, is not the mountain supposed to be here intended, but another of the same name lying within the land of Canaan on the west of the river Jordan. It is described by Buckingham as a range of hills running for several miles east and west, and forming the southern boundary of the plain of Esdraelon, overlooked in which Mount Tabor is situated. Maundrell, who, in his journey from Aleppo to Jerusalem had a full view of Tabor and Hermon at about six or seven hours' distance to the eastward, speaking of the copious dews which fell in that part of the country, says, "We were sufficiently instructed by experience what the Psalmist means by the dew of Hermon, our tents being as wet with it as if it had rained all night." Journey.
4 Calvin gives the construction of these words as it is in the Hebrew text. But to make them intelligible something must be supplied. As Hermon and Zion are many miles distant from each other, it would be absurd to speak of the dews of the former as falling on the latter, not to mention the difficulty of understanding how the dew of one mountain can descend upon another. The translators of our English Bible repeat the words like the dew before which descended; and the insertion of this supplement is fully justified, as it is the most natural way of bringing out an intelligent meaning.
5 The particles,
6 "Les expositeurs laissent passer cette cireonstanee, et mal, comme si David louoit generalement, et sans son propre regard, le consentement fraternel, etc." Fr.
7 "Car a quel propos tireroit il ceste similitude de l'huile sacree, sinon a ceste fin clue la vraye religion tiene tousjours le premier lieu?" Ft.
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