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Bible Commentaries

Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament

Psalms 24




Preparation for the Reception of the Lord Who Is About to Come

Psalms 23:1-6 expressed a longing after the house of Jahve on Zion; Psalms 24:1-10 celebrates Jahve's entrance into Zion, and the true character of him who may enter with Him. It was composed when the Ark was brought from Kirjath Jearim to Mount Zion, where David had caused it to be set up in a tabernacle built expressly for it, 2 Samuel 6:17, cf. 2 Samuel 11:11, 1 Kings 1:39; or else, which is rendered the more probable by the description of Jahve as a warrior, at a time when the Ark was brought back to Mount Zion, after having been taken to accompany the army to battle (vid., Ps 68). Psalms 15:1-5 is very similar. But only Psalms 24:1-6 is the counterpart of that Psalm; and there is nothing wanting to render the first part of Psalms 24:1-10 complete in itself. Hence Ewald divides Psalms 24:1-10 into two songs, belonging to different periods, although both old Davidic songs, viz., Psalms 24:7-10, the song of victory sung at the removal of the Ark to Zion; and Psalms 24:1-6, a purely didactic song pre-supposing this event which forms an era in their history. And it is relatively more natural to regard this Psalm rather than Psalms 19:1-14, as two songs combined and made into one; but these two songs have an internal coherence; in Jahve's coming to His temple is found that which occasioned them and that towards which They point; and consequently they form a whole consisting of two divisions. To the inscription לדוד מזמור the lxx adds τῆς μιᾷ s σαββάτου

(Note: The London Papyrus fragments, in Tischendorf Monum . i. 247, read ΤΗ ΜΙΑ ΤΩΝ ΣΑΒΒΑΤΩΝ . In the Hexaplarian text, this addition to the inscription was wanting.)

( = שׁל אחד בשׁבת , for the first day of the week), according to which this Psalm was a customary Sunday Psalm. This addition is confirmed by B . Tamı̂d extr ., Rosh ha - Shana 31 a , Sofrim xviii. (cf. supra p. 19). In the second of these passages cited from the Talmud, R. Akiba seeks to determine the reasons for this choice by reference to the history of the creation.

Incorporated in Israel's hymn-book, this Psalm became, with a regard to its original occasion and purpose, an Old Testament Advent hymn in honour of the Lord who should come into His temple, Malachi 3:1; and the cry: Lift up, ye gates, your heads, obtained a meaning essentially the same as that of the voice of the crier in Isaiah 40:3 : Prepare ye Jahve's way, make smooth in the desert a road for our God! In the New Testament consciousness, the second appearing takes the place of the first, the coming of the Lord of Glory to His church, which is His spiritual temple; and in this Psalm we are called upon to prepare Him a worthy reception. The interpretation of the second half of the Psalm of the entry of the Conqueror of death into Hades-an interpretation which has been started by the Gospel of Nicodemus (vid., Tischendorf's Evv. apocrypha p. 306f.) and still current in the Greek church, - and the patristic interpretation of it of the εἰς οὐρανοῦς ἀνάληψις τοῦ κυρίου , do as much violence to the rules of exegesis as to the parallelism of the facts of the Old and New Testaments.

Verses 1-6

Jahve, whose throne of grace is now set upon Zion, has not a limited dominion, like the heathen deities: His right to sovereignty embraces the earth and its fulness (Psalms 50:12; Psalms 89:12), i.e., everything that is to be found upon it and in it.

(Note: In 1 Corinthians 10:26, Paul founds on this verse (cf. Psalms 50:12) the doctrine that a Christian (apart from a charitable regard for the weak) may eat whatever is sold in the shambles, without troubling himself to enquire whether it has been offered to idols or not. A Talmudic teacher, B. Berachoth 35a , infers from this passage the duty of prayer before meat: He who eats without giving thanks is like one who lays hands upon קדשׁי שׁמים (the sacred things of God); the right to eat is only obtained by prayer.)

For He, הוא , is the owner of the world, because its Creator. He has founded it upon seas, i.e., the ocean and its streams, נהרות , ῥέεθρα (Jonah 2:4); for the waters existed before the dry land, and this has been cast up out of them at God's word, so that consequently the solid land, - which indeed also conceals in its interior a תּהום רבּה (Genesis 7:11), - rising above the surface of the sea, has the waters, as it were, for its foundation (Psalms 136:6), although it would more readily sink down into them than keep itself above them, if it were not in itself upheld by the creative power of God. Hereupon arises the question, who may ascend the mountain of Jahve, and stand above in His holy place? The futures have a potential signification: who can have courage to do it? what, therefore, must he be, whom Jahve receives into His fellowship, and with whose worship He is well-pleased? Answer: he must be one innocent in his actions and pure in mind, one who does not lift up his soul to that which is vain ( לשּׁוא , according to the Masora with Waw minusculum ). ( ל ) נשׂא נפשׁ אל , to direct one's soul, Psalms 25:1, or longing and striving, towards anything, Deuteronomy 24:15; Proverbs 19:18; Hosea 4:8. The Kerî נפשׁי is old and acknowledged by the oldest authorities.

(Note: The reading נפשׁי is adopted by Saadia (in Enumoth ii., where נפשׁי is equivalent to שׁמי ) , Juda ha-Levi ( Cuzari iii. 27), Abulwalid ( Rikma p. 180), Rashi, Kimchi, the Sohar, the Codices (and among others by that of the year 1294) and most editions (among which, the Complutensis has נפשׁי in the text). Nor does Aben-Ezra, whom Norzi has misunderstood, by any means reverse the relation of the Chethîb and Kerî ; to him נפשׁי is the Kerî , and he explains it as a metaphor (an anthropomorphism): וכתוב נפשי דוך כנוי . Elias Levita is the only one who rejects the Kerî נפשׁי ; but he does so though misunderstanding a Masora (vid., Baer's Psalterium p. 130) and not without admitting Masoretic testimony in favour of it ( וכן ראיתי ברוב נוסחאות המסורת ). He is the only textual critic who rejects it. For Jacob b. Chajim is merely astonished that נפשׁו is not to be found in the Masoreth register of words written with Waw and to be read with Jod . And even Norzi does not reject this Kerî , which he is obliged to admit has greatly preponderating testimony in its favour, and he would only too gladly get rid of it.)

Even the lxx Cod. Alex . translates: τὴν ψυχὴν μου ; whereas Cod. Vat. (Eus., Apollin., Theodor., et al.): τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ . Critically it is just as intangible, as it is exegetically incomprehensible; נפשׁי might then be equivalent to שׁמי . Exodus 20:7 , an explanation, however, which does not seem possible even from Amos 6:8; Jeremiah 51:14. We let this Kerî alone to its undisturbed critical rights. But that the poet did actually write thus, is incredible.

In Psalms 24:5 (just as at the close of Psalms 15:1-5), in continued predicates, we are told the character of the man, who is worthy of this privilege, to whom the question in Psalms 24:3 refers. Such an one shall bear away, or acquire ( נשׁא , as e.g., Esther 2:17) blessing from Jahve and righteousness from the God of his salvation (Psalms 25:5; Psalms 27:9). Righteousness, i.e., conformity to God and that which is well-pleasing to God, appears here as a gift, and in this sense it is used interchangeably with ישׁע (e.g., Psalms 132:9, Psalms 132:16). It is the righteousness of God after which the righteous, but not the self-righteous, man hungers and thirsts; that moral perfection which is the likeness of God restored to him and at the same time brought about by his own endeavours; it is the being changed, or transfigured, into the image of the Holy One Himself. With Psalms 24:5 the answer to the question of Psalms 24:3 is at an end; Psalms 24:6 adds that those thus qualified, who may accordingly expect to receive God's gifts of salvation, are the true church of Jahve, the Israel of God. דּור (lit., a revolution, Arabic dahr , root דר , to turn, revolve) is used here, as in Psalms 14:5; Psalms 73:15; Psalms 112:2, of a collective whole, whose bond of union is not contemporaneousness, but similarity of disposition; and it is an alliteration with the דּרשׁיו ( Chethîb דרשו , without the Jod plur .) which follows. מבקשׁי פּניך is a second genitive depending on דּור , as in Psalms 27:8. Here at the close the predication passes into the form of invocation (Thy face). And יעקב is a summarising predicate: in short, these are Jacob, not merely after the flesh, but after the spirit, and thus in truth (Isaiah 44:2, cf. Romans 9:6; Galatians 6:16). By interpolating אלהי , as is done in the lxx and Peshîto, and adopted by Ewald, Olshausen, Hupfeld, and Böttcher, the nerve, as it were, of the assertion is cut through. The predicate, which has been expressed in different ways, is concentrated intelligibly enough in the one word יעקב , towards which it all along tends. And here the music becomes forte . The first part of this double Psalm dies away amidst the playing of the instruments of the Levitical priests; for the Ark was brought in בּכל־עז וּבשׁירים , as 2 Samuel 6:5 (cf. 2 Samuel 6:14) is to be read.

Verses 7-10

The festal procession has now arrived above at the gates of the citadel of Zion. These are called פּתחי עולם , doors of eternity (not “of the world” as Luther renders it contrary to the Old Testament usage of the language) either as doors which pious faith hopes will last for ever, as Hupfeld and Hitzig explain it, understanding them, in opposition to the inscription of the Psalm, to be the gates of Solomon's Temple; or, what seems to us much more appropriate in the mouth of those who are now standing before the gates, as the portals dating back into the hoary ages of the past ( עולם as e.g., in Genesis 49:26; Isaiah 58:12), the time of the Jebusites, and even of Melchizedek, though which the King of Glory, whose whole being and acts is glory, is now about to enter. It is the gates of the citadel of Zion, to which the cry is addressed, to expand themselves in a manner worthy of the Lord who is about to enter, for whom they are too low and too strait. Rejoicing at the great honour, thus conferred upon them, they are to raise their heads (Job 10:15; Zechariah 2:4), i.e., lift up their portals (lintels); the doors of antiquity are to open high and wide.

(Note: On the Munach instead of Metheg in והנּשׂיאוּ , vid., Baer's Accentsystem vii. 2.)

Then the question echoes back to the festal procession from Zion's gates which are wont only to admit mighty lords: who, then ( זה giving vividness to the question, Ges. §122, 2), is this King of Glory; and they describe Him more minutely: it is the Hero-god, by whom Israel has wrested this Zion from the Jebusites with the sword, and by whom he has always been victorious in time past. The adjectival climactic form עזּוּז (like למּוּד , with ı̆ instead of the in חנּוּן , קשּׁוּב ) is only found in one other passage, viz., Isaiah 43:17. גּבּור מלחמה refers back to Exodus 15:3. Thus then shall the gates raise their heads and the ancient doors lift themselves, i.e., open high and wide; and this is expressed here by Kal instead of Niph . ( נשׂא to lift one's self up, rise, as in Nahum 1:5; Hosea 13:1; Habakkuk 1:3), according to the well-known order in which recurring verses and refrain-like repetitions move gently onwards. The gates of Zion ask once more, yet now no longer hesitatingly, but in order to hear more in praise of the great King. It is now the enquiry seeking fuller information; and the heaping up of the pronouns (as in Jeremiah 30:21, cf. Psalms 46:7; Esther 7:5) expresses its urgency ( quis tandem, ecquisnam ). The answer runs, “Jahve Tsebaoth, He is the King of Glory (now making His entry).” צבאות ה is the proper name of Jahve as King, which had become His customary name in the time of the kings of Israel. צבאות is a genitive governed by ה and, while it is otherwise found only in reference to human hosts, in this combination it gains, of itself, the reference to the angels and the stars, which are called צבאיו in Psalms 103:21; Psalms 148:2 : Jahve's hosts consisting of celestial heroes, Joel 2:11, and of stars standing on the plain of the havens as it were in battle array, Isaiah 40:26 -a reference for which experiences and utterances like those recorded in Genesis 32:2., Deuteronomy 33:2; Judges 5:20, have prepared the way. It is, therefore, the Ruler commanding innumerable and invincible super-terrestrial powers, who desires admission. The gates are silent and open wide; and Jahve, sitting enthroned above the Cherubim of the sacred Ark, enters into Zion.


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The Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.

Bibliography Information
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Psalms 24:4". 1854-1889.

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