INTRODUCTION TO Psalm 9
To the chief Musician upon Muthlabben, a Psalm of David. Some, take "muthlabben" to be the name of the tune to which this psalm was sung, and to design the same note which we call the counter-tenor: others think, that "upon muth", or "almuth", are but one word, and the same as "alamoth", Psalm 45:1, title; and that it is the name of a musical instrument; and that "Ben" in "labben", is the name of the chief musician, who was over that sort of instrument, to whom the psalm is inscribed (l); and indeed R. Sol Jarchi says, that he had seen in the great Masorah these words as one; and so it seems the Septuagint interpreters read them, who render them, "for the hidden things of the son"; and the Arabic version, "concerning the mysteries of the son": and Ben is a name, it is said, of one of the singers, whose kindred and companions were appointed with psalteries on "alamoth", 1 Chronicles 15:18. And so then the title runs thus; "to the chief musician on alamoth, [even to] Ben". But others are of opinion that the subject matter or occasion of the psalm is designed by this phrase; and that as "muth" signifies "death", the death of some person is intended, on account of which this psalm was composed; some say Nabal, seeing the word "Laban", inverted, or read backwards, is "Nabal" (m), whose death affected David; as appears from 1 Samuel 25:38. Others, that it was one of the kings of the Gentiles, whose name was Labben, and is mentioned nowhere else, who fought with David, and whom he slew, and upon his death penned this psalm (n). Others, Goliath the Philistine (o), who is called, 1 Samuel 17:4. , which we render "champion" and dueller, one of two that fight together. But rather the reason of the name is, as given by the Jewish commentators (p), because he went and stood between the two camps of the Philistines and the Israelites; and so the Chaldee paraphrase renders the title of this psalm,
"to praise, concerning the death of the man who went out between the camps, a song of David.''
And so the psalm itself, in the Targum, and by other Jewish writers, is interpreted of Goliath and the Philistines, and of the victory over them; and which does not seem amiss. Arama interprets it of the death of Saul. Others interpret Almuth Labben "of the death of the son"; and understand it of the death of Absalom, the son of David (q): but David's passion moved in another way, not in joy, but in grief, 2 Samuel 18:33; nor is there anything in the psalm that can be referred unto it. Others, of the death of the son of God; but of that there is not the least hint in the psalm. Theodoret interprets it of Christ's victory over death by dying, which was a mystery or hidden thing. Rather, I should think, it might be interpreted of the death of the son of perdition, the man of sin and his followers; who may be typified by Goliath, and the Philistines: and so, as Ainsworth observes, as the former psalm was concerning the propagation of Christ's kingdom, this is of the destruction of antichrist. And Jerom, long ago said, this whole psalm is sung by the prophet in the person of the church, concerning antichrist: and to this agrees the Syriac version; which makes the subject of the psalm to be,
"concerning Christ, taking the throne and kingdom, and routing the enemy.''
And also the Arabic version, according to which the argument of the psalm is,
"concerning the mysteries of the Son, with respect to the glory of Christ, and his resurrection and kingdom, and the destruction of all the children of disobedience.''
To which may be added, that this psalm, according to R. Sol Jarchi, belongs to the time to come, to the days of the Messiah, and the future redemption by him.
(l) Kimchi & Abendana in Miclol Yophi in loc. (m) So some in Jarchi & Aben Ezra in loc. (n) Donesh Hallevi in ibid. (o) Kimchi & Ben Melech in loc. (p) Jarchi, Kimchi, Levi Ben Gersom, R. Isaiah, & Ben Melech in 1 Samuel 17.4. (q) So some in Jarchi in loc.
I will show forth all thy marvellous works; such as the creation of all things out of nothing, and the bringing them into the form and order in which they are by the word of God; and in which there is such a display of the power and wisdom of God; and particularly the formation of man out of the dust of the earth, in the image, and after the likeness of God; the sustentation of the whole world of creatures in their being, the providential care of them all, the preservation of man and beast; and especially the work of redemption: it is marvellous that God should think of redeeming sinful men; that he should fix the scheme of it in the way he has; that he should pick upon his own Son to be the Redeemer; that ungodly men, sinners, the chief of sinners, and enemies, should be the persons redeemed; and that not all the individuals of human nature, but some out of every kindred, tongue, people, and nation: as also the work of grace, which is a new creation, and more marvellous than the old; a regeneration, or a being born again, which is astonishing to a natural man, who cannot conceive how this can be; a resurrection from the dead, or a causing dry bones to live; a call of men out of darkness into marvellous light; and it is as wondrous how this work is preserved amidst so many corruptions of the heart, temptations of Satan, and snares of the world, as that it is; to which may be added the wonderful works yet to be done, as the setting up of the kingdom of Christ, the destruction of antichrist, the resurrection of the dead, the last judgment, and the eternal glory and happiness of the saints; and doubtless the psalmist may have respect to the many victories which he, through the divine power, obtained over his enemies; and particularly the marvellous one which was given him over Goliath with a stone and sling: these the psalmist determined to make the subject of his song, to dwell and enlarge upon, to show forth unto others, and to point out the glories, beauties, and excellency of them: and when he says "all" of them, it must be understood of as many of them as were within the compass of his knowledge, and of as much of them as he was acquainted with; for otherwise the marvellous works of God are infinite and without number, Job 5:9.
I will sing praise to thy name, O thou most High; that is, to the glory of his name, his being, and perfections, as displayed in his marvellous works, and in the revelation of his word, and especially in his son; and under the character of the "most high" God, the supreme Being over all creatures, angels and men; see Psalm 7:17.
thou sittest in the throne judging right; God has not only a throne of grace on which he sits, and from whence he distributes grace and mercy to his people, but he has a throne of judgment, and which is prepared for it, as in Psalm 9:7; where he sits as the Judge of all the earth, and will do right; nor can he do otherwise, though his judgments are not always manifest in the present state of things; and the vindication of the psalmist's innocence and uprightness is another reason of his joy and gladness.
thou hast destroyed the wicked; the wicked man; for it is in the singular number, "labben", as Aben Ezra observes, or who is meant by him; Goliath, according to the Targum and Kimchi; or Esau, as other Jewish writers (b), that is, his posterity the Edomites; and each of these were figures of antichrist, the man of sin, the wicked one, whom Christ will slay with the breath of his lips, Isaiah 11:4;
thou hast put out their name for ever and ever; that is, the glory and reputation of their name, a good and honourable one, which they sought to transmit to the latest posterity; for though the names of wicked men may continue, as Pharaoh, Judas, and others; yet they continue with a scandal and reproach upon them that shall never be wiped off, their names rot and stink; see Proverbs 10:7; the whole of this denotes the utter ruin and shameful end of the enemies of Christ and his church, and which is matter of joy to the saints.
(a) Jarchi in loc. & Pesikta in ibid. in v. 1.((b) Ibid.
destructions are come to a perpetual end; which may be understood either of the destructions and desolations made by antichrist, the havoc he has made in the world, treading under foot the holy city, the church, destroying the earth and the inhabitants of it, the bodies, souls, and estates of men; but now the psalmist prophetically declares the end of them to be come, his forty two months, or one thousand two hundred and sixty days or years, will be up, and he will go on no more desolating and destroying; see Revelation 11:2; or of the destructions and desolations made upon him by the pouring out of the seven vials upon the antichristian states, upon the seat of the beast, and upon both Pope and Turk, the eastern and western antichrist; when in the issue the beast, and the false prophet with him, will be taken and cast alive into a lake of fire; see Revelation 19:20; and so this phrase denotes that the destruction of antichrist will be consummate, his ruin will be complete, and there will be an utter end of him. Some, instead of "desolations", by the change of a point read "swords", and Ben Labrat or R. Donesh says (d) that he found it so written in an ancient book; and so reads Jarchi, though he takes notice of the other reading also; and so read the Septuagint, Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions; and then the sense is, swords shall fail, they shall be no more made use of to destroy men with, they shall be beaten into ploughshares; for upon the destruction of the man of sin there will be a profound peace in the world; see Isaiah 2:4. Some (e) read these words interrogatively, "are destructions come to a perpetual end?" that is, which the enemy antichrist designed to bring upon the people of God? no, they are not; he may imagine they are, when the two witnesses are slain; and may think he has then made an entire slaughter, and a complete destruction of the saints; but he will be mistaken, these witnesses will rise again, and ascend up to heaven in the sight of their enemies, and to the great terror of them, Revelation 11:10;
and thou hast destroyed cities, or "hast thou destroyed cities?" that is, as antichrist threatened and intended, namely, to destroy all the cities and churches of Christ; but, alas! he will never be able to do it, they are built on a rock against which the gates of hell can never prevail: but it is better to read the words affirmatively, and interpret them not of the enemy, but of God, and of him destroying the cities of the enemy; for, at the pouring out the seventh and last vial, the great city, the whole antichristian jurisdiction, will be divided into three parts, and utterly perish; and the cities of the Pagan and Mahometan nations will fall, and particularly Babylon the great city will come in remembrance before God, and be utterly destroyed, Revelation 16:19;
their memorial is perished with them; they shall not be returned or built any more, but shall be like a millstone cast into the sea, and be found no more at all, Ezekiel 35:9. Some (f) read this clause by way of interrogation as the others, "is their memorial perished with them?" no, the righteous are in everlasting remembrance, even those churches which the Romish antichrist has made havoc of, as the Albigenses and Waldenses; the memory of them is still precious.
(c) Midrash Tillim in loc. Tzeror Hammor, fol. 150. 2.((d) Apud Aben Ezra in loc. (e) So Piscator, Cocceius, Ainsworth. (f) Sic Genevenses, Diodatus, Bueerus, Cocceius.
he hath prepared his throne for judgment; for the administration of judgment in this world, for the particular judgment after death, and for the general judgment after the resurrection of the dead; which seems by what follows to be chiefly meant, and which will come on after the destruction of antichrist; and all things are preparing for it; the day is appointed in which God will judge the world; Christ is ordained to be the Judge of quick and dead; devils and ungodly men are reserved to the judgment of the great day; the throne is ready, which will be a white one, Revelation 20:11; denoting the purity, justice, and uprightness of the Judge, who himself is at the door.
(g) "sedebit", Montanus, Junius & Tremellius, Cocceius, Michaelis; so Ainsworth; "sedet", Vatablus, Musculus. (h) R. Abraham Seba in Tzeror Hammor, fol. 150. 2.
he shall minister judgment to the people in uprightness; which signifies the same with the former clause, unless by the "world" there, should be meant the wicked of the world; and by the "people" here, the people of God; to whom the righteous Judge will give the crown of righteousness.
a refuge in times of trouble; of which the saints have many, as when God hides his face, when corruptions prevail, when grace is low in exercise, and temptations are strong, yet even then Christ is the refuge from the storm; the salvation of his people is of him, and he is their strength in every time of trouble; see Isaiah 25:4.
(i) "attrito", Cocceius, Gejerus: "contrito", Michaelis.
will put their trust in thee; as they have great reason to do; and the more they know of the grace and mercy of God in Christ, and of the ability and suitableness of Christ as a Saviour, the more strongly will they place their trust and confidence in him;
for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee: who are first sought out by God in the effectual calling, and then under the influence and direction of his grace and Spirit seek him in Christ, where he is only to be found; and seek Christ and his righteousness above all things else, and with their whole hearts, and diligently; and seek to Christ alone for life and salvation, and continue seeking the Lord, by prayer and supplication, for whatever they stand in need of; these God does not forsake: he may sometimes hide his face from them, as he does from his own children, and did from his own Son, yet he never forsakes them totally and finally; nor will he forsake the work of his own hands, which he has wrought in them, but will perfect it; he will never leave them so as that they shall perish by sin, Satan, or any enemy; he will not forsake them in life, nor at death, but will be the strength of their hearts, and their portion for ever.
declare among the people his doings; what God does for the souls of men is not only to be declared among the people of God, Psalm 66:16; but also among the people of the world, when a suitable opportunity offers; and especially in the public ministry of the word; partly that the name of God may be exalted, his grace, goodness, and mercy be displayed; and partly that it might be the means of the conversion of God's chosen ones among them, Psalm 96:2; though it may be here his doings in providence are meant, his special providential care of his church and people, and his vengeance on their enemies, on Babylon; for upon the ruin of antichrist, the judgments of God, his providential dispensations towards his church and people, will be made manifest, and all nations will be called upon to fear and worship him; see Jeremiah 50:28; the word (k) which is here used signifies such deeds and actions as are the effects of thought and counsel, and which are purposely and industriously done; and whatsoever is done by the Lord, whether in a way of grace or providence, is done after the counsel of his own will; as he thought so it is, as he purposes so it comes to pass, and all things are done well and wisely, and answer the ends and designs of them.
(k) "significat tam machinationes, sive consilia", 1 Sam. 3. "quam consiliorum eventus, seu opera ipsa, quomodo", Jeremiah 32.19. Gejerus.
he remembereth them; either the "righteous", as the Targum paraphrases it, whose blood has been shed; or else the wicked, who shed their blood: God will remember them and their sins; which, for some time, may seem not to have been taken notice of by him, and will pour out his wrath, and inflict just punishment on them; see Revelation 16:19;
he forgetteth not the cry of the humble: the "Cetib", or writing of the text, is "afflicted"; the "Keri", or marginal reading, is "humble"; so the Masorah and Targum read: both may be taken into the sense: afflicted persons are generally humble, afflictions make them humble; God's people are an afflicted people; afflicted with sin, with Satan, with the world, with antichrist and his followers: and they are an humble people; grace makes them humble, and a sense of their sin and unworthiness keeps them so: and this is a proper character of the followers of Jesus. These in their distress cry to the Lord, as the Israelites did in Egypt under their bondage and, pressures: yea, their blood cries after death, as Abel's did, and as the blood of the martyrs of Christ does, whose souls under the altar cry for vengeance, Revelation 6:9; and God is not unmindful of their cry; however he may seem to be, he takes notice of it, and wilt in his own time avenge his elect, which cry unto him day and night.
consider, my trouble which I suffer of them that hate me; or "see my affliction because of mine enemies" (l); look upon me under it with an eye of pity and compassion, and help and deliver me; and look upon mine enemies that give me this trouble, and take vengeance on them;
thou that liftest me up from the gates of death; the house appointed for all living; that is, from the power of it, when just upon the brink of it; when near it, as a person is to an house, when he is at the gates of it; either through sickness, or some violent distemper of body, as Hezekiah was; or through some imminent danger in battle, as David was when engaged with Goliath; when everyone thought, as Kimchi observes, that he should fall by his hand: or it may be this may have respect to his being raised up from the death of sin, and delivered from the power of darkness; to his being brought out of the horrible pit and miry clay of an unregenerate state, and set upon the rock of salvation; which is a lifting up indeed, an exaltation from a very low to a very high estate: and this the psalmist takes notice of to encourage his faith; and makes use of it as an argument with God, that as he had dealt so graciously and bountifully with him, he would still show mercy to him, and look upon him under his affliction.
(l) "intuere afflictionem meum propter osores meos", Gejerus.
in the gates of the daughter of Zion: it was usual with the Hebrews to represent a chief city as a mother city, and the towns and villages, and places adjacent, as daughters; and so, as Zion or Jerusalem signifies the church of God in general, or the mother church, Galatians 4:26; so "the daughter" of Zion may mean a particular church: the Targum renders it the congregation of Zion; and "the gates" of it are the public ordinances of divine worship in it; and the sense is, that the psalmist desired to show forth the praises of God in the most public manner in the congregation and assembly of the saints;
I will rejoice in thy salvation, or "that I may rejoice in thy salvation" (m): meaning either temporal salvation and deliverance from enemies, wrought by God for him, which would be matter of joy to him; or spiritual salvation, which may be called God's salvation, because contrived by him in the council of peace, and secured by him in the covenant of grace, and wrought out by his Son in the fulness of time, and applied by his Spirit at conversion. And a gracious man rejoices in this salvation more because it is the Lord's than because it is his own; or he rejoices more because of the glory of God, which is displayed in it, than because of his own advantage and happiness by it.
(m) "exultem", Junius & Tremellius, Musculus; "ut exultem", Piscator, Gejerus, Michaelis; "gaudeam", Cocceius; so Ainsworth.
in the net which they laid is their own foot taken; which may signify the same thing as before, that the mischief they design for others falls upon themselves; only as the former phrase denotes their utter destruction like the sinking of a millstone in the sea, by which the irrecoverable ruin of Babylon is expressed, Revelation 18:21; this may design the restraint and hinderance of them from doing the evil they would; their feet are entangled, that they cannot run to shed blood; and their hands are held, that they cannot perform their enterprise; and their wrath in restrained and made to praise the Lord. The metaphor is taken from fowlers, who lay nets and snares for birds, and cover them that they may not be seen, but fall into them unawares; see Psalm 124:7.
the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands; not Goliath, as Kimchi thinks, who was slain by David with his own sword, though this was true of him in the letter and type; but the wicked one, the man of sin and son of perdition, antichrist, whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all craftiness and wily stratagems, called the depths of Satan, Revelation 2:24; but his own sins shall take him, and he shall be holden with the cords of his iniquities, and be rewarded double for all his sins; what is before figuratively expressed is here literally declared; or, "he hath snared the wicked in or by the work of his hands" (o), that is, God.
Higgaion. Selah; of the latter of these words; see Gill on Psalm 3:2; the former signifies "meditation"; Jarchi paraphrases it "let us meditate on this, selah"; Aben Ezra interprets it, "I will show forth this in truth"; the Chaldee paraphrase is, "the righteous shall rejoice for ever"; the note of Kimchi and Ben Melech is, "this salvation is to us meditation and praise"; upon the whole the sense seems to be this, that God's judgments upon antichrist, and the antichristian states, and the deliverance of his people from their yoke and tyranny, are things worthy of the meditation of the saints, and afford just matter of joy, praise, and thanksgiving.
(n) "notus est Dominus; judicium fecit", Pagninus, Montanus, Gussetius; so Vatablus, Musculus, Cocceius, Gejerus, Michaelis, and Ainsworth. (o) "illaqueavit iniquum per opus (vel in opere) manunm ipsius", Gussetius.
and all the nations that forget God; which is not to be understood of the Pagan nations, though they may be said to forget God, since he is to be known by the light of nature, and yet they worship idols, the works of their hands; but the Papal nations, who adore the pope of Rome as God on earth, worship angels and saints departed, and images of gold and silver, and wood and stone. It may be applied to every wicked man who forgets there is a God who sees and knows all things, and to whom men are accountable; see Psalm 50:22.
(p) "revertentur ad vel in sepulchrum", Pagninus, Montanus, Vatablus, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator.
the expectation of the poor shall not perish for ever; the negative particle, though not in the original text, is rightly supplied from the preceding clause, as it is by the Targum, Jarchi, Aben Ezra, and Kimchi, and as the sense requires; and the expectation of Christ's poor ones is not only a supply of grace here and eternal happiness hereafter; but they expect a glorious state of the church on earth, and that Christ will descend in person from heaven, and his tabernacle will be among men; and that they shall be kings and priests, and possess the kingdom, and reign with Christ a thousand years; and though these things may seem to be deferred, and their expectation put off to a length of time, yet it shall not perish for ever; there will be a performance of the things promised and expected.
let not man prevail; the man of sin, antichrist, that is, let him not always prevail; he is the little horn that was to prevail against the saints, and has prevailed, Daniel 7:21; but he shall not always prevail; this petition will be heard and answered; for though he shall cast down many thousands, he shall not be "strengthened" by it, Daniel 11:12; where the same word is used as here; the Lamb at last shall overcome him and his ten kings, his supporters, and all that shall aid and assist him, Revelation 17:14;
let the Heathen be judged in thy sight; that is, the antichristian nations that adhere to the man of sin, let them be judged and punished in the sight of God, the Judge of all the earth, whose eyes are as a flame of fire; compare with this Joel 3:12.