Psalms 96 COMMENTARY (Ellicott)

Psalm 96
Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

This “new song,” breathing indeed aspirations and hopes which were not wholly new to Israel, but ideal, and still waiting for their complete fulfilment, most probably dates, according to the conjecture of the LXX., from the rebuilding of the Temple after the Captivity. No one can miss the points of resemblance with the literature of that period, especially the evidence of deeper sympathy with nature, and extended interest in mankind. The outward world has become instinct with emotion, while the barrier of faith and feeling between Israel and other races is gradually breaking down.[18]

[18] The LXX. inconsistently go on to ascribe the Psalm to David, probably because of its insertion in 1 Chronicles 16.

O sing unto the LORD a new song: sing unto the LORD, all the earth.
(1) A new song.—See Note, Psalm 33:3. It appears to have been a kind of national and religious “lyric cry” after the Restoration. (Comp. Isaiah 42:10.)

Sing unto the LORD, bless his name; shew forth his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the heathen, his wonders among all people.
For the LORD is great, and greatly to be praised: he is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the nations are idols: but the LORD made the heavens.
(5) Idols.—Literally, nothings; Heb., elîlîm, with a play on the word el, God. This plainly shows that by Gods, in Psalm 96:4, the heathen deities, and not angels, are meant. (See Note, Psalm 95:3.) The LXX. sometimes renders the Hebrew word “idols,” sometimes “vanities,” but here “demons.” Symmachus “nonexistences.”

But the Lord made the heavens.Nothings could not do that, but only Jehovah.

Honour and majesty are before him: strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.
(6) Honour . . . The whole universe displays Jehovah’s majesty, but chiefly his sanctuary in Israel, where it is typified by the costly splendour of the building and its rites. So the version of Apollinaris, “Pureness and stately glory fit his shrine.” The chronicler having adopted this psalm as suitable for the occasion when the ark was brought to Zion by David, has substituted “strength and gladness are in his place” possibly because the Temple was not built at that time.

Give unto the LORD, O ye kindreds of the people, give unto the LORD glory and strength.
(7-9) These verses are a relic of Psalm 29:1-2, where see Notes, but instead of being addressed to the angels it is, in accordance with the world of new ideas and feelings in which Israel lived after the Captivity, addressed to all the people of the world. A truly Messianic character is thus impressed on the psalm.

Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come into his courts.
(8) Offering.—The minchah, or sacrifice of fine flour.

O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth.
(9) O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.—Better, Bow before Jehovah in holy attire. But the LXX. and Vulgate have as in margin.

Fear before him.—Or literally, let all the earth be moved before his face.

Say among the heathen that the LORD reigneth: the world also shall be established that it shall not be moved: he shall judge the people righteously.
(10) Say among the heathen.—The watchword of the Restoration, “Jehovah has become King” (see Psalm 93:1, note, and comp. Isaiah 52:7), is an Evangel not only for Jerusalem but for the world at large. But to it is added (see the difference of arrangement in 1 Chronicles 16:29-31) the further statement of the stability of the world, emblem of the stability and justice of the Divine Government.

Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof.
(11-13) Magnificent progress of the Divine Judge through His realm. There is only one thought, that of the inauguration of a righteous sway for all nations: at its advent, as in Isaiah’s glorious visions (see Isaiah 35:1-2; Isaiah 42:10; Isaiah 44:23; Isaiah 55:12), all nature seems to join the chorus of gladness.

Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein: then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice
(12) Then shall all the trees . . .—Comp.—

His praise, ye winds that from four quarters blow,

Breathe soft or loud, and wave your tops ye pines,

With every plant in sign of worship wave.”—MILTON.

Before the LORD: for he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth.
(13) For he cometh, for he cometh.—Notice the striking repetition, the natural expression of gladness.

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