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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Psalms 99



Verse 1

1. The Lord reigneth—A public proclamation, (see on Psalms 93:1; Psalms 97:1,) for all the nations to hear.

Let the people tremble—Or, the nations shall tremble. The future tense of the verb makes it prophetic. It is spoken of the hostile nations who hated, and meditated evil of, the Hebrew people and religion. These shall quake through fear when they learn that Jehovah is the true king of Israel, and will defend them, and punish with destruction those who conspire against them. The allusion is to Exodus 15:14-16; Deuteronomy 2:25; Joshua 2:9-11.

He sitteth between the cherubim—He not only reigns, but he is now sitting in his throne of judgment, with the swift executioners of his willthe cherubimabout him. See note on Psalms 80:1.

Let the earth be moved—The earth shall be moved. This clearly determines that the address is to all the nations.

Verse 2

2. Great in Zion—Here is the seat of his power, which it is necessary for the nations to know, because it assures them that Israel is his people, and none but the true Israel will God defend; while to Israel it settles the great question whether Shiloh or Zion is the place for the national worship. See on Psalms 78. But above this historic intimation, we must understand the spiritual Zion here, the Church. The greatness of God “in Zion” is the greatness of his acts of redemption by his word, his Spirit, his providences, through and for his Church.

Verse 3

3. Let them praise—They shall praise; that is, the nations, or peoples, just mentioned. Psalms 99:2. The prophetic character of the psalm and the form of the verb require that it be rendered in the declarative future.

Terrible name— “Terrible” only to his enemies, whom he will “break with a rod of iron,” (Psalms 2:9,) and who, in conspiring against God’s people, “have played the madmen to their own destruction.”Calvin. No less terrible is God against cherished sins in his own people. See Deuteronomy 10:17.

For it is holy—A solemn declaration, thrice madeonce at the end of each strophe, (Psalms 99:5; Psalms 99:9,)which strongly suggests that the occasion of this psalm was one which related to the public worship, and of solemn but joyful recognition and renewal of the national covenant with God.

Verse 4

4. The king’s strength also loveth judgment— “The meaning seems to be, that God’s power is controlled in its exercise by his love of justice.” Alexander. But who is the “king?” The most natural construction would refer it to David, (or Solomon,) whose administration is regarded as the type and expression of the true theocracy. The language conforms to the description given of David’s reign, (2 Samuel 8:15,) “And David reigned over all Israel; and David executed judgment and justice unto all his people.” Also David’s charge to Solomon, (2 Samuel 23:3,) “He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.” The next sentence is an address to Jehovah:

Thou dost establish equity—That is, a government thus conformed to thine, and of thine appointment, thou wilt render firm and effective against all hostility.

In Jacob—An enlargement of “in Zion,” (Psalms 99:2,) but prophetically the true Church. And so, from the ground idea found in the history of David’s throne, above given, we must advance to the conception of Messiah’s kingdom. The verbs in the last clause are in the preterit, but equally apply to the future kingdom of Messiah, because they affirm what God has always done, and hence what is abstractly fit that he should always do.

Verse 5

5. For he is holy—With this refrain close the three divisions. The first, (Psalms 99:3,) ascribes holiness to God’s name; the second, (Psalms 99:5,) ascribes the same to his abode; the third, (Psalms 99:9,) to his nature. Some, as Tholuck, regard these verses as a chorus, sung by a second, or responsive, choir.

Verse 6

6. Moses and Aaron… Samuel—Three leading representatives of the old dispensation.

Among his priests—Not the only ones, but the most illustrious specimens of the class, as the preposition among, or with, denotes. The word כהן, (kohehn,) priest, seems here to be used in a broader sense than usual, to denote a prince, or chief. In 2 Samuel 8:18 the word means chief ruler, prince; and in 1 Chronicles 18:17, it is explained by substituting another word, which also means first, or chief, minister. The same use of the word is seen in 2 Samuel 20:26, and elsewhere. Moses and Samuel, though of supreme civil dignity, were of the Levitical order, as well as Aaron, and on different occasions performed the functions of the priesthood in mediation, sacrifice, and purification of the people. See Exodus 17:15; Exodus 24:7-8; Leviticus 8:15-30; 1 Samuel 9:13; 1 Samuel 16:2-5. Their history is here cited to encourage prayer and trust in God, who, through these same means, would now, as of old, work salvation for his people. Particularly is this recital made to encourage faith in their leaders as God’s representatives.

Verse 7

7. He spake unto them in the cloudy pillar—That is, unto Moses and Aaron, and through them to the people, as Exodus 19:9; Numbers 12:5; and to Samuel, 1 Samuel 3:10; 1 Samuel 7:9-10.

They kept his testimonies—Beautiful is this pious example of these heads and leaders of the nation.

Verse 8

8. Thou answeredst them—That is, Moses, Aaron, and Samuel.

Forgavest them—The people.

Their inventions—The pronoun again refers to the people. “Inventions” means works, doings, and here evil doings. Thus, forgiveness and vengeance, mercy and judgment, tempered the divine discipline. 2 Samuel 7:14. “God punished their transgressions, but his method was lenient; he had not removed his favour from them, but forgave them for their intercessor’s sake.”Tholuck.

Verse 9

9. Exalt the Lord our God—A repetition of Psalms 99:5, with the change of holy hill, here, for footstool there, and “the Lord our God,” for the pronoun heindicating a rising emphasis.


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 99:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

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