Psalms 66 COMMENTARY (Ellicott)

Psalm 66
Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

The compilers of the Psalter found no tradition of authorship attached to this Psalm, and did not themselves conjecture one, nor have we any guide towards the time of its composition beyond the tone of innocence assumed in the last part, which marks that part as belonging to a period subsequent to the captivity, when persecution and suffering were no longer regarded as punishment for national disloyalty to the covenant. The poetical form is uncertain, but there is a marked change in the rhythm at Psalm 66:13, and some commentators regard the psalm as composite.

Title.—See titles, Psalms 4, 48

Here there is a peculiarity in the absence of any author’s name after the double title song, psalm. (Comp. Psalms 67, where the words are reversed.)

To the chief Musician, A Song or Psalm. Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands:
(1) Make a joyful noise.—Better, sing aloud, or shout.

All ye lands.—The margin is better.

Sing forth the honour of his name: make his praise glorious.
(2) Sing forth.—Literally, play on the harp.

Make his praise glorious.—So the LXX., but the construction is dubious. Literally, put glory his praise, meaning perhaps, in parallelism with the first clause, “make the Divine glory the subject of your praise.” But the opening words of the next verse, “say unto God, how,” &c, are so bald that a suspicion arises as to the arrangement of the text. Perhaps by bringing back the initial words of Psalm 66:3 we get the true sense, “ascribe glory (and) speak praise to God.”

Say unto God, How terrible art thou in thy works! through the greatness of thy power shall thine enemies submit themselves unto thee.
All the earth shall worship thee, and shall sing unto thee; they shall sing to thy name. Selah.
Come and see the works of God: he is terrible in his doing toward the children of men.
He turned the sea into dry land: they went through the flood on foot: there did we rejoice in him.
(6) Flood.—Hebrew, nāhar, which generally stands for the Euphrates, but here, as in Psalm 74:15, for either the Jordan or the Red Sea.

There did we rejoice.—The verb is properly optativethere (i.e., in those works) let us rejoice, and thus rendered is more in keeping with the first verses of the psalm. The LXX. and Vulg. have the future, “There we will rejoice in him.”

He ruleth by his power for ever; his eyes behold the nations: let not the rebellious exalt themselves. Selah.
(7) His eyes behold.—Better, his eyes keep watch on the nations. God is, as it were, Israel’s outpost, ever on the alert to warn and defend them against surrounding nations.

Let not . . .—Literally, the rebellious, let them not exalt for themselves, where we may supply “horn” as in Psalm 75:4-5, or “head” as in Psalm 3:3; Psalm 110:7. For the rebellious, comp. Psalm 68:6.

O bless our God, ye people, and make the voice of his praise to be heard:
Which holdeth our soul in life, and suffereth not our feet to be moved.
(9) Which holdeth . . .—The LXX. literally, which putteth our soul into life, i.e., keeps us alive, as the parallelism shows.

For thou, O God, hast proved us: thou hast tried us, as silver is tried.
Thou broughtest us into the net; thou laidst affliction upon our loins.
(11) Net.—The Hebrew in Ezekiel 12:13 certainly means “net,” as LXX. and Vulg. here. But Aquila, Symmachus, and Jerome prefer the usual meaning, “stronghold” (2 Samuel 5:7, &c), which is more in keeping with the other images of violence and oppression. The fortress, the hard labour, the subjection as by foes riding over the vanquished, the passage through fire and water, all raise a picture of the direst tyranny.

Thou hast caused men to ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water: but thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place.
(12) Ride over our heads.—For the figure comp. Isaiah 51:23.

We went through fire and water.—A figure of extreme danger. (Comp. Isaiah 43:2.)

A wealthy place.—The LXX. and Vulg., “to refreshment,” which is certainly more in keeping with the figures employed, and may perhaps be got out of the root-idea of the word, “overflow.” But a slight change gives the frequent figure “a broad place.”

I will go into thy house with burnt offerings: I will pay thee my vows,
Which my lips have uttered, and my mouth hath spoken, when I was in trouble.
(14) Uttered.—Literally, opened.

I will offer unto thee burnt sacrifices of fatlings, with the incense of rams; I will offer bullocks with goats. Selah.
(15) I will offer.—Such a holocaust could hardly have been vowed by a single person. It is the community that speaks. Besides, the ram was not a sacrifice for any individual, but particularly enjoined for the high priest (Leviticus 9:2), the head of a tribe (Numbers 7), or a Nazarite (Numbers 6:14). Incense is here the ascending smoke of the sacrifice.

Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul.
(16) Come.—Refers back to Psalm 66:9.

I cried unto him with my mouth, and he was extolled with my tongue.
(17) And he . . .—Literally, exaltation (i.e., praise) was under my tongue, apparently a Hebrew idiom akin to our “on the tip of the tongue,” i.e., ready at any moment for utterance.

If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:
(18) If I regard . . .—Rather, if I had seen evil (i.e., had had it purposely in view) in my heart, the Lord would not have heard me. One may not “be pardoned and retain the offence.” The reference may be either to the forming of wicked schemes, or to the complacent view of wickedness in others.

The protestation of innocence in this verse, being made by or for the community at large, marks a late period for the composition. (See Introduction, and Psalms 44, Introduction and Notes.)

But verily God hath heard me; he hath attended to the voice of my prayer.
Blessed be God, which hath not turned away my prayer, nor his mercy from me.
(20) Who hath not turned . . .i.e., he found himself able to pray, was not silenced. Notice the zeugma. God had not rejected his prayer nor withdrawn His grace.

Courtesy of Open Bible