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Psalm 97:1-5

1. Jehovah reigns: let the earth rejoice, let the great islands 9595     “Ou, que beaucoup d’isles.” — Fr marg “Or, let the many isles.” Horsley and some other critics object to translating the original word, איים, iyim, by isles He reads, “Let the various settlements of man rejoice:” on which he observes, “I cannot more exactly render the force of the Hebrew איים, than by this periphrasis. The English language hath no single word to convey the same idea; and the word ‘isles’ or ‘islands,’ hath hardly any relation to it.” Fry’s note here is as follows: — “The Hebrew terms rendered, ‘the multitude of the isles,’ ‘the various settlements of men,’ ‘the extended shores,’ seem in a special manner to designate these western parts of the world, which were known as distant coasts visited by the ships of Tyre. All Europe might originally fall under this denomination, with some parts of the sea coasts of Africa, and even of Asia; nor can there be any doubt, that all subsequent discoveries by sea, once uninhabited, but now colonized, and settled from the old countries, would be designated by this term. Some nations of this description are called upon, in particular, to rejoice in the Savior’s appearing.” be glad. 2. Clouds and darkness are round about him; righteousness and judgment are the habitation 9696     The word מכון, mechon, here rendered “habitation,” is from כון, kun, he prepared, fitted, confirmed “It is used,” says Hammond, “for a place, seat, but especially a basis, whereon anything is set: from whence the LXX. had their μεχωςὼθ, (the very Hebrew מכונות) for basis, 1 Kings 7:27. The Chaldee here retains the original מכון, but the LXX., from the notion of the verb for fitting, read κατόρθωσις, ‘the setting right of his throne;’ the Syriac, by way of paraphrase, ‘by equity and judgment thy throne is confirmed:’ all which concur to the notion of basis or foundation, which is the thing that gives the rectitude first, and then the stability, to the chair or throne that is set on it. And so that is unquestionably the right, intelligible rendering of the phrase, ‘Righteousness and judgment are the (not habitation but) basis of his throne,’ i e., his sentences, decrees, judicatures, are all built upon righteousness and judgment, as a throne is built and established on a foundation.” of his throne. 3. A fire shall go before his face, and shall burn up his enemies round about. 4. His lightnings enlightened the world; the earth shall see, and tremble. 5. The hills flow down like wax at the presence of Jehovah, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.


1 Jehovah reigns His inviting men to rejoice, is a proof that the reign of God is inseparably connected with the salvation and best happiness of mankind. And, the joy he speaks of being common to the whole world and to the regions beyond the seas, it is evident that he predicts the enlargement of God’s kingdom, which had been confined within the narrow boundaries of Judea, to a far wider extent. The Psalmist, in setting forth the various particulars of the Divine glory in the four verses which follow, would seek to impress all men with a reverential fear of him. Thus he gives us a representation of the formidable majesty attaching to God, that he may dash and humble vain confidence and carnal pride. A cloudy sky overawes us more than a clear one, as the darkness produces a peculiar effect upon the senses. The Psalmist makes use of this symbol, no doubt, to impress the world with the greater reverence of God. Others refine more upon the words, and think that clouds are said to be round about God, to check human rashness and presumption, and restrain that excessive curiosity which would pry more than is fit into the mysteries of Godhead. This is an interpretation of the words which makes them convey a very useful lesson; but I am against all refined renderings, and think that the Psalmist intended in associating darkness with God, to impress the hearts of men with a fear of him in general. 9797     “Que le Prophete a voulu par ce regard obscur de Dieu, toucher au vif les coeurs des hommes, afin qu’ils tremblent.” — Fr. The same meaning is brought out in the remaining context, when fire is said to go before him, and burn up his enemies, his lightnings to shake the earth, and the mountains to flow down. Should any object that this does not agree with what was said of the joy which his kingdom diffuses, I might answer, first, that although God is ready on his part to diffuse blessedness wherever he reigns, all are not capable of appreciating it. Besides, as I have already hinted, the truth is one of use to believers, humbling the pride of the flesh, and deepening their adoration of God. God’s throne is represented as founded in justice and judgment, to denote the benefit which we derive from it. The greatest misery which can be conceived of, is that of living without righteousness and judgment, and the Psalmist mentions it as matter of praise exclusively due to God, that when he reigns, righteousness revives in the world. He as evidently denies that we can have any righteousness, till God subjects us to the yoke of his word, by the gentle but powerful influences of his Spirit. A great proportion of men obstinately resist and reject the government of God. Hence the Psalmist was forced to exhibit God in his severer aspect, to teach the wicked that their perverse opposition will not pass unpunished. When God draws near to men in mercy, and they fail to welcome him with becoming reverence and respect, this implies impiety of a very aggravated description; on which account it is that the language of denunciation suits with the kingdom of Christ. The Psalmist intimates that those who should despise God in the person of his only-begotten Son, will feel in due time and certainly the awful weight of his majesty. So much is implied in the expression used — The earth Shall See. For the wicked, when they find that their attempts are vain in fighting against God, resort to subterfuge and concealment. The Psalmist declares that they would not succeed by any such vain artifice in hiding themselves from God.

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