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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Psalms 60

 

 

Verse 1

Psalms 60.

David complaining to God of former judgment, now, upon better hope, prayeth for deliverance: comforting himself in God's promises, he requesteth that help whereon he trusteth.

To the chief Musician upon Shushan-eduth, Michtam of David, to teach; when he strove with Aram-naharaim, and with Aram-zobah, when Joab returned, and smote of Edom, in the Valley of Salt, twelve thousand.

Title. עדות שׁושׁן על al shushan eduth. Upon Shushan-eduth, &c.] See on Psalms 22. Houbigant renders it, Upon the hexachord of the testimony. Others render it, Upon the lily of the testimony; Michtam, or golden psalm of David. We here subjoin some further remarks on the titles of the Psalms by the author of the Observations. D'Herbelot, says he, observes, that "the works of seven of the most excellent Arab poets who flourished before the times of Mohammedanism, were called Al Moallacat, because they were successively fixed by way of honour to the gate of the temple of Mecca; and also Al-Modhahebat; which signifies gilded or golden, because they were written in letters of gold upon Egyptian paper:" and in a following page the same writer informs us, that the Arabs, when they would praise any one's poems, were wont to say, "These are the golden verses of such or such a one;" which he seems to suppose was derived from the writing of these poems in letters of gold. Now, might not the present psalm, and those five others which are distinguished by the same epithet, be called golden, on account of their having been, on some occasion or other, written in letters of gold, and hung up in the sanctuary, or elsewhere? Not (it may be) on account of their being judged to have a superior excellence to the other hymns of this collection, absolutely speaking, but on account of their being suited to some particular circumstances which might occasion their being treated with this distinction. Hezekiah, we know, went up to the house of the Lord, and spread the letter of Sennacherib before him there; Isaiah 37:14 hung it up, it may be, before the Lord. What Hezekiah did with a paper of threatening, other princes might do with these psalms of encouragement and hope. Some have imagined that they were called golden psalms merely on account of their distinguished excellence. That distinguished excellence, however, doth not appear; and what is more, the ancient Jews, it is certain, had a different way of marking this out: as, The song of songs, which is Solomon's; not the golden song of Solomon. Ainsworth supposes the word מכתם michtam to signify a golden jewel. That the affixing such a title to a psalm would have been agreeable enough to the eastern taste anciently, we may believe, from what appears in these modern times. D'Herbelot has actually mentioned a book intitled bracelets of gold, containing an account of all that history had mentioned relating to a month sacred among the Arabs. I cannot, however, easily admit that this is the true meaning of the word michtam, because there are several psalms which have this word prefixed to them; whereas, if it signified a jewel of gold, it would have been intended, if we may judge by modern titles of eastern books, to have distinguished one psalm from all the rest. To which may be added, that some of these psalms have another name given them; the 56th being called the dove dumb in distant places; and the present, the lily of the testimony. I will only farther add, that this writing in letters of gold still continues in the east. Maillet, speaking of the royal Mohammedan library in Egypt, which was so famous, and was afterwards destroyed by Saladine, says, "The greatest part of there books were written in letters of gold, such as the Turks and Arabs, even of our time, made use of in the titles of their books." And a little after, speaking of the ignorance of the modern Egyptians, as to the burnishing of gold, so that their gilding has nothing of the ancient splendour, he adds, "It is true, to make up this defect, they have preserved the art of making gold liquid, and fit for ink. I have seen some of their books written with this gold, which were extremely beautiful." See Observations, p. 318.

When he strove with Adram-naharaim That is Syria of the rivers, or that part of it which is called Mesopotamia, as lying between the two rivers Tigris and Euphrates. The Syrians, both here and in other places, were called Aram, because they were the descendants of Aram, the son of Shem, Genesis 10:22. Aram-Zobah is that part of Syria which was called Zobah. 2 Samuel 8:5. As David's victory over Idumea was different from that over the Syrians, the next clause should be rendered literally, And Joab returned.

This conquest of Joab's is to be looked upon as distinct from that of Abishai, mentioned 2 Samuel 8:13 and 1 Chronicles 18:12. After Abishai had slain eighteen thousand of the Idumeans, Joab fell upon them again; and, as the title of this psalm particularly informs us, smote in the same place twelve thousand more, and afterwards destroyed them entirely. See 1 Kings 11:15-16. The Valley of Salt, is in Idumaea, near the Black Sea.

Psalms 60:1. Thou hast scattered us See 1 Samuel 1:7. Mudge renders these words, Thou hast made a breach upon us.


Verse 2

Psalms 60:2. Thou hast made the earth to tremble The land. By this figurative expression the Scripture frequently denotes extraordinary troubles and calamities: Compare Isaiah 23:13; Isaiah 29:6. And such were the dreadful commotions and miserable divisions among David's people.


Verse 3

Psalms 60:3. The wine of astonishment i.e. "Thou hast so dispirited us, as if thou hadst given us a myrrhate drought." So Dr. Hammond interprets the wine of astonishment. See on Psalms 11:6 and Zechariah 12:2. Dr. Delaney is of opinion, that though it is contrary to the title of the present psalm, yet it was composed upon occasion of David's being crowned by all Israel at Hebron, and there sung, and with those variations which we find at the 108th psalm, after the taking of Jerusalem. This I am sure of, and this only I will venture to pronounce, that this golden memorial of David suits this occasion, and no other that I know of. It was written when the Israelites were dispersed, and driven out of their dwellings by their enemies. Thou hast scattered us, Psalms 60:1—When they were in terror, and divided amongst themselves: Thou hast made the earth to tremble, and divided it.—This was exactly the condition in which Israel was, from the death of Saul. The Israelite cities contiguous to the Philistines were deserted by their inhabitants after the battle of Gilboa; and soon after, the kingdom was divided under David and Ishbosheth. David now beseeches God to heal the divisions of his people: Heal the breaches thereof; for it shaketh: and that was done when they all joined to make David their king at Hebron. God had now given them a centre of union, to which they might resort, as the forces of a broken army to their standard. Thou hast given a banner, &c. Psalms 60:4. David was the only centre of union that people ever had; and God now made him their captain and ruler, to manifest the truth of those promises long since made to him. David here sings in the rapture of a man who had just recovered his right, Gilead is mine, and Manasseh is mine.—Gilead and Manasseh were just before in the possession of Ishbosheth: no king of Israel but David was ever dispossessed of them and recovered them again. Life of David, book 2: chap. 5.


Verse 4

Psalms 60:4. Thou hast given a banner to them that feared thee That is, "Though the Philistines and other nations have long been too hard for us, by reason of our divisions; yet now thou hast made me to be king, that under my banner, or ensign, the people may unanimously fight against their enemies." Because of the truth, signifies, "According to thy faithful promise given me, to be king over them." Mudge renders this and the following verses thus, Thou givest to them that fear thee a signal to be displayed before the truth. Psalms 60:5. That thy favoured ones may be delivered, clothe thy right arm with victory, and answer us. Psalms 60:6. God speaketh in his sanctuary. I will exult: I shall portion out Shechem, and measure the valley of Succoth. The fourth verse, he says, seems to mean that God had appointed for the consolation of his people a certain signal of favour, with which therefore he prays him to answer them. This accordingly he does. God speaketh in his sanctuary; called דביר debir, or oracle, for that very reason. What he desires then, as he stands imploring the mercy of God before the oracle, is, that he may see the usual signal of favour proceed from it: a voice perhaps, joined with some luminous emanation; whence the phrase of the light of God's countenance. The expression in the 6th verse seems to be proverbial, and means, "I shall divide the spoils of my enemies with as much ease as the sons of Jacob portioned but Shechem, and measured out for their tents the valley of Succoth." The satisfaction that Benhadad received touching the safety of his life, 1 Kings 20:31-32 appears to have been by words; but it seems that the modern eastern people have looked upon the giving them a banner, as a more sure pledge of protection. Thus Albert Aquensis informs us, that when Jerusalem was taken in 1099, about three hundred Saracens got upon the roof of a very lofty building, and earnestly begged for quarter; but could not be induced by any promises of safety to come down, till they had received the banner of Tancred, one of the chiefs of the Croisade army, as a pledge of life. It did not indeed avail them, as that historian observes; for their behaviour occasioned such indignation that they were, to a man, destroyed. The event shewed the faithlessness of these zealots, whom no solemnities could bind; but the Saracens surrendering themselves upon the delivery of a standard to them, proves in how strong a light they looked upon the giving a banner, since it induced them to trust it when they would not trust any promises. Perhaps the delivery of a banner was anciently esteemed in like manner an obligation to protect, and that the Psalmist might here consider it in this light; when, upon a victory gained over the Syrians and Edomites, after the public affairs of Israel had been in a very low estate, he says, Thou hast shewed thy people hard things, &c.—Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee. "Though thou didst for a time give up thine Israel into the hands of their enemies, thou hast now given them an assurance of thy having received them under thy protection." When the Psalmist is represented as saying, Thou hast given a banner,—that it may be displayed, it may be questioned whether it is rightly translated, since it is most probable that they used anciently only a spear, properly ornamented, to distinguish it from a common one; as the same Albert tells us, that a very long spear covered all over with silver, (to which another writer of those Croisade wars adds, a ball of gold at the top,) was the standard of the Egyptian princes at that time, and carried before their armies. Thou hast given a banner,—an ensign or standard, to them that fear thee, that it may be lifted up, may perhaps be a better version; or rather, that they may lift up a banner to themselves, or encourage themselves with the confident persuasion that they are under the protection of God; because of the truth, thy word of promise, which is an assurance of protection, like the giving me and my people a banner; the surest of pledges. See the Observations, p. 360.


Verse 7-8

Psalms 60:7-8. Gilead is mine, &c.— He exultingly surveys his strength. Gilead and Manasseh comprehended the whole country beyond Jordan, as did Ephraim and Judah on this side; of which Ephraim, containing the main body of tribes, is here said to be the strength of his head; i.e. the guard of his person: [Achish told David that he would make him the keeper of his head.] The main bulk of the strength lay in Ephraim. Judah was his minister, or secretary of state, as that was the reigning tribe. Moab is my wash-pot, signifies, "the Moabites shall be subject to me." The wash-pot here is a mean piece of household-stuff for the use of the feet, (as the Syriac interprets it) the lowest part of the body, and so it is a fit title for the Moabites; as we may gather from 2 Samuel 8:2 where it is said, He smote Moab, and measured them with a line, casting them down to the ground; even with two lines measured he to put to death, and with one full line to keep alive: and the Moabites became David's servants, and brought him gifts. The next phrase, Over Edom will I cast out my shoe, signifies, "I will trample upon the Edomites, and make them my slaves." (Compare 2 Samuel 8:14.) Or, I will reach out my shoe to them, as a master does to his meanest servants, to be untied and taken off by him, Matthew 3:11. Philstia, triumph thou because of me, may signify, "Let the Philistines also add to my triumph, by meeting me as their conquering lord." Houbigant renders it,

Against the Philistines I will be united. See Psalms 108:9. Mudge is of opinion, that, as Ephraim and Judah are mentioned as affording a supply of certain things to David; so we are to understand the same of Moab, Edom, and Philistia; the two former fulfilling the meaner offices, while Philistia is spoken of as his supporter: Philistia, be thou my sidesman or supporter. But the common interpretation appears to be the best; and the verses, disrobed of metaphor, may be thus understood: "Gilead and Manasseh have submitted to me; Ephraim furnishes me with valiant men; and Judah with men of prudence and wisdom. I will reduce the Moabites to servitude: I will triumph over the Edomites, and make them my slaves; and the Philistines shall add to my triumph." See the Essay for a new Translation.


Verse 9

Psalms 60:9. Who will bring me, &c.— Dr. Delaney observes, that David, having promised himself, in a prophetic rapture, the dominion over Moab and Edom, considered himself as that rod which should rise out of Israel, and smite the corners of Moab, and make Edom a possession, Numbers 24:17. And what king but David subdued the haughty Philistines, conquered Moab first, and Edom after? And when could this prophesy be written, but in the beginning of his reign; when the Philistines were triumphant, and before he had made any of these conquests? It appears from this verse, that David expected to be brought by God into a strong city, before he was brought into Edom by him. Jerusalem is the only city so characterised, which David took before his war with Edom. He concludes with imploring the divine aid; with a resolution, that, on this presumption, he and his people would act valiantly; and accordingly they marched directly against Jerusalem, and took it by storm. Some, from the title of this psalm, imagine the strong city here mentioned to be Rabbah of the Ammonites. See 2 Samuel 12:26.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, We have here,

1. The deplorable state of the affairs of the Jewish nation during the ill administration of Saul, and the struggles of Ishbosheth. Probably, this description looked forward also, as prophetical of that state, when, for their rejection of God's anointed, his wrath should be kindled, more terribly convulsions destroy their whole polity and government, and, scattered into all lands, they should bear the marks of God's heavy hand; an astonishment to others, a terror to themselves.

2. In the midst of their distresses, a banner is displayed for the faithful Israelites, in David promised to be their king and captain, and now exalted to the throne; under whom enlisted, union within prepared them for victory without: animated by his presence, and bold under such a leader, they lifted up their hostile banners, defied and vanquished their foes. Christ, the captain of our salvation, may also be here designed; his banner of love spread abroad, invites poor sinners to his standard; under him enlisted, spiritual strength and courage animate their souls, and they go forth conquering and to conquer: and to him shall the dispersed of Israel be gathered at last, and, turning to the Lord, see a period of their miseries. Note; (1.) The deeper our distresses, the more are the power and grace of our God magnified in our deliverance. (2.) We should ever remember the state in which Jesus found us, and the misery from which he drew us, as an engagement to be faithful, and fight manfully under his banners.

3. He prays earnestly for God's help and healing. O turn thyself to us again, cease from thy displeasure, and visit us with thy salvation; heal the breaches, for thou alone canst heal them; and as the danger is imminent, it shaketh, let thy mercy to the land be speedy, that thy beloved may be delivered from the hands of all their enemies; for, having no power of themselves, they look to thee; save with thy right hand and hear me,—their advocate. Note; (1.) Sin has made a deadly breach in our souls, which nothing but the grace of God can repair. (2.) They who turn to God in prayer, may expect his return to them in mercy. (3.) They who fear God are beloved by him, and his right hand will save them.

2nd, David appears triumphing in the divine promises; God hath sworn; he believes, and in consequence rejoices.

1. All foes within and without shall yield to him. Israel, in their several tribes who had joined Ishbosheth, shall return to him. Conquest without would follow union within. Note; (1.) When a believer can say, Christ is mine, then all other blessings necessarily follow. (2.) When God pleases, he can make our bitterest foes our warmest friends. (3.) National union is a great blessing from God.

2. He answers a difficulty which might be suggested from the strength of the enemy's fortresses. Who will bring me into the strong city? who will lead me into Edom? God is the strength of his confidence. Wilt not thou, O God, which hadst cast us off? yes, assuredly: now thou art returned in mercy, we shall be victorious; and thou, O God, which didst not go out with our armies before, shalt make us now more than conquerors. Therefore give us help from trouble, in answer to our fervent prayers; for vain is the help of man, we acknowledge it; and, renouncing every human confidence, desire alone to repose ourselves on thee. And thus we are confident, that through God we shall do valiantly, and put all our enemies under our feet, for he it is who shall tread down our enemies, on whom we depend, and to whom we will ascribe the praise of all our success. Note; (1.) Difficulties will often stand in the believer's way, but faith will overcome them all. (2.) When to sense we seem as cast off, we must not quit our hold of the promise, but trust, and wait to see the salvation of God. (3.) When our dangers are greatest, our prayers and cries should be most earnest. (4.) The less we expect to receive from the creature, the surer we are to avoid disappointment. (5.) If we are enabled to do valiantly against our spiritual enemies, let us remember from whom cometh our strength, and lay at his feet the crown which his own grace has obtained for us.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 60:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/psalms-60.html. 1801-1803.

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