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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Psalms 84:3

 

 

The bird also has found a house, And the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, Even Your altars, O LORD of hosts, My King and my God.

Adam Clarke Commentary

Yea, the sparrow hath found a house - It is very unlikely that sparrows and swallows, or birds of any kind, should be permitted to build their nests, and hatch their young, in or about altars which were kept in a state of the greatest purity; and where perpetual fires were kept up for the purpose of sacrifice, burning incense, etc. Without altering the text, if the clause be read in a parenthesis, the absurdity will be avoided, and the sense be good. "My heart crieth out for the living God, (even the sparrow hath found a house, and the swallow דרור deror, the ring-dove, a nest for herself, where she may lay; her young), for thine altars. O Lord of hosts!" Or, read the parenthesis last: "My heart crieth out for the living God; for thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God. Even the sparrow hath found out a house, and the swallow (ring-dove) a nest for herself, where she may lay her young;" but I have no place, either of rest or worship, understood. The Chaldee translates thus: "Even the pigeon hath found a house, and the turtle-dove hath a nest because their young may be offered lawfully upon thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God." Or, as a comparison seems to be here intended the following may best express the meaning; "Even as the sparrow finds out (seeks) a house, and the swallow her nest in which she may hatch her young; so I, thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God."


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Bibliography
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Psalms 84:3". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/psalms-84.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Yea, the sparrow hath found an house - A home; a place where she may abide, and build her nest, and rear her young. The word here used - צפור tsippôr - is a name given to a bird from its chirping or twittering. It is rendered sparrow in Leviticus 14:4 (margin); Psalm 102:7; and is often rendered bird (Genesis 7:14; Genesis 15:10, et al.), and fowl, Deuteronomy 4:17; Nehemiah 5:18; et al. It may denote a bird of any kind, but is properly applied here to a sparrow, a species of bird very common and abundant in Palestine; a bird that finds its home especially about houses, barns, etc. That sparrows would be likely to gather around the tabernacle and even the altar, will appear not improbable from their well-known habits. “The sparrows which flutter and twitter about dilapidated buildings at Jerusalem, and crevices of the city walls, are very numerous. In some of the more lonely streets they are so noisy as almost to overpower every other sound. Their chirping is almost an articulate utterance of the Hebrew term (צפור tsippôr ), which was employed to designate that class of birds. It may be taken for granted that the sparrows are not less numerous in other places where they have similar means for obtaining shelter and building their nests. The sparrows, in their resort to houses and other such places, appear to be a privileged bird. Encouraged by such indulgence, they are not timid - they frequent boldly the haunts of people. The sight of this familiarity reminded me again and again of the passage in the Psalms Psalm 84:3, where the pious Israelite, debarred from the privileges of the sanctuary, felt as if he could envy the lot of the birds, so much more favored than himself.” - Professor Hackett, “Illustrations of Scripture,” pp. 94,95.

And the swallow a nest for herself - A place where it may make its nest. The word used here - דרור derôr - denotes properly, swift flight, a wheeling or gyration; and it is applied to birds which fly in circles or gyrations, and the name is thus appropriately given to the swallow. It occurs in this sense only here and in Proverbs 26:2.

Where she may lay her young - Where she may place her young. The wordplay here is not used in the sense in which we now apply it when we speak of “laying” eggs. It means to place them; to make a home for them; to dispose and arrange them.

Even thine altars … - The altars where thou art worshipped. The idea here is, that the sparrows and the swallows seemed to have a happy lot; to be in a condition to be envied. Even they might come freely to the place where God was worshipped - to the very altars - and make their home there undisturbed. How strongly in contrast with this was the condition of the wandering - the exiled - author of the psalm!


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Bibliography
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Psalms 84:3". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/psalms-84.html. 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

Psalms 84:3

Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself.

Sparrows and swallows

These birds found in the sanctuary what we would find in God.

I. Houses for themselves. That they should find houses in and around the Lord’s house is remarkable, and David dwelt on it with pleasure.

1. Consider what they were. Sparrows.

2. Consider what they did. “Found a house”--a comfortable, suitable abode.

3. Consider what they enjoyed. Safety, Rest, Abode, Delight, Society, Nearness. All this in the house of God, hard by His altars. Thus do believers find all in Christ Jesus. And so, secondarily, they find the same things in the assembly of the saints, in the place where God’s honour dwelleth. We come to the house of the Lord with joy. We remain in it with delight. We sit and sing in it with pleasure. We commune with our fellow-songsters with much content.

II. Nests for their young.

1. Some persons are not so much in need of a house fez themselves; for, like swallows, they live on the wing, and are active and energetic; but they need a nest for their young, for whom they are greatly anxious. They long to see the young people settled, happy, and safe in God. Children should be housed in the house of God. The sanctuary of God should be the nursery of the young.

2. The second blessing of a nest for our young often follows on the first, or getting a house for ourselves. But it needs prayer, example, and precept. Children do not take to religion as ducks to water: they must be led and trained with earnest care. Are you sighing after Christ for yourself and your children? Are you content without Christ? Then you are not likely to care about your children. Do you already possess a home in Jesus? Rest not till all yours are housed in the same place. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

More value than many sparrows

I. A bitter and significant contrast. “The sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself,” while I! We do not know what the circumstances were, but if we accept the conjecture that he may have accompanied David in his flight during Absalom’s rebellion, we may fancy him as wandering on the uplands across Jordan and sharing the agitations, fears and sorrows of those dark hours, and in the midst of all, as the little company hurried hither and thither for safety, thinking, with a touch of bitter envy, of the calm restfulness and serene services of the peaceful tabernacle. But, pathetic as is the complaint, when regarded as the sigh of a minister of the sanctuary exiled from the shrine which was as his home, and from the worship which was his occupation and delight, it sounds a deeper note and one which awakens echoes in our hearts, when we hear in it, as we may, the complaint of humanity contrasting its unrest with the happier lot of lower creatures. Be true to the unrest, and do not mistake its meaning, nor seek to still it, until it drives you to God.

II. A plea which we may use, and a pledge on which we may rest. “Thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.” The psalmist pleads with God, and lays hold for his own confidence upon, the fact that creatures who do not understand what the altar means may build beside it, and who have no notion of who the God is to whom the house is sacred, are yet cared for by Him. And he thinks to himself, “If I can say, ‘My King and my God,’ surely He that takes care of them will not leave me uncared for.” The unrest of the soul that is capable of appropriating God is an unrest which has in it, if we understand it aright, the assurance that it shall be stilled and satisfied. These words not only may hearten us with confidence that our desires will be satisfied if they are set upon Him, but they point us to the one way by which they come. Say “My King and my God” in the deepest recesses of a spirit conscious of His presence, of a will submitting to His authority, of emptiness expectant of His fulness; say that, and you are in the house of the Lord. For it is not a question of place, it is a question of disposition and desire.

III. A warning. Sparrows and swallows have very small brains. They build their nests, and they do not know whose altars they are flitting around. There are plenty of people who live like that. We are all tempted to build our nests where we may lay our young, or dispose of ourselves or our treasures in the very sanctuary of God, with blind, crass indifference to the Presence in which we move. The Father’s house has many mansions, and whereever we go we are in God’s temple. Alas! some of us have no more sense of the sanctities around us, and no more consciousness of the Divine eye that looks down upon us than if we were so many feathered sparrows flitting about the altar. Let us take care that we give our hearts to be influenced, and awed, and ennobled, and tranquillized by the sense of evermore being in the house of the Lord. Let us see to it that we keep in that house by continual aspiration, cherishing in our hearts the ways that lead to it; and so making all life worship, and every place what the pilgrim found the stone of Bethel to be, a house of God and a gate of heaven. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Thy swallow’s nest

The swallow, like the robin and the wren, is one of the sacred birds of Christendom. Its own beauty throws a shield of protection over it; and by rude and gentle natures alike it is regarded with a feeling of veneration akin to that which pervades the quaint rhymes of the “Ancient Mariner.” It makes its nest under the lowly cottage eaves, almost within reach of eager childish hands stretched forth from the dormer window; but it is as safe and unmolested there as under the porch of the rural sanctuary, whose profound quiet is disturbed only once a week by feet of reverent worshippers. Nor can we wonder at this beautiful feeling which extends to a few favoured birds and flowers an interest in that blessed religion which guards and hallows everything that God has made, as an earnest that it shall yet embrace all nature. It has more and other beauty than the mere grace of its form and the glossy sheen of its plumage. All the past summers of life have shed their halo around it. To the careworn mind there is childhood in every twitter of its little throat, and in every flash of its purple wing. It is full of our own human heart. Scarcely less wonderful than itself is the nest which it builds, in defiance of the laws of gravity, against the smooth masonry of the gable. It attaches its frail nest to the enduring structure of man that it may share in its endurance. It seeks, as the psalmist tells us, the vicinity of the altar of God, the safe sanctuary of holy places.

1. And is there not a profound lesson for us in this curious contrast? We are migratory like the swallow; and the land from whence we have come and to which we are hastening is fairer than any tropical dream of groves of palm and violet skies of unfading summer. We wear immortal wings within; and no small part of the sadness of human life arises from the incongruity between our capacities and attainments, our longings and enjoyments; between the infinite duration of our immortal spirits and the transitoriness of all things here.

2. The swallow, aerial as is its flight, transient as is its stay, graceful and ethereal as is its form, nevertheless builds its nest of the common clay of the ground; but compensates for the seeming degradation by attaching that nest to the home of man and the very altar of God. And so God has made our bodies of the dust of the earth, and closely connected our life with it. We must make our nest of clay. But while by our bodies we belong to one set of circumstances, we belong by our souls to another and higher. We are immortal guests dwelling within a transient house of clay that must one day crumble and fall and be resolved into the elements out of which it was built. And we, too, must build our clay-nest against the house of God, near the very altar of heaven, if its vanity and insignificance are to be redeemed, if we are to learn most richly the meaning of our discipline, and find strength to endure unto the end, and lay up provision in a storehouse which death cannot rifle.

3. The swallow’s nest has a wise lesson for us in the building of many other structures, mental and moral, as well as material. To labour steadily and to wait patiently is the precept which it enforces. Only by slow and cautious degrees can any human effort reach perfection. Especially in the growth of the spiritual being, the formation of the Christian character, do we need to act upon the swallow’s motto of “Haste is slow.” We must not force our higher nature into premature or impatient development lest it become weak and unstable. Like all Nature’s operations, which proceed by a wise and orderly progression from the seed to the blade, and from the blade to the ear, and from the ear to the full corn in the ear, never anticipating at any stage what belongs to a more advanced one, never exhibiting an abnormal precocity, the kingdom of heaven in us should develop its germinating fulness with the same ease and quietude and steady progress. (H. Macmillan, D. D.)


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Bibliography
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 84:3". The Biblical Illustrator. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/psalms-84.html. 1905-1909. New York.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Yea, the sparrow hath found an house,.... One or other of the houses of men, where to build its nest; or its nest itself is called an house, as it seems to be explained in the next clause: the word here used signifies any bird; we translate it a "sparrow", and so Kimchi; the Targum renders it the "dove"; but the Midrash is,

"it is not said as a dove, but as a sparrow: the dove takes its young, and returns to its place; not so the sparrow:'

and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young; the Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Arabic versions, have it the "turtle", the stock, or ring dove: and so the Targum, which paraphrases this clause, in connection with the following, thus:

"and the turtle a nest for herself, whose young are fit to be offered up upon thine altars:'

it is translated a swallow in Proverbs 26:2 and has its name in Hebrew from liberty, it not loving confinement, or because it freely visits the houses of men without fear:

even thine altars, O Lord of hosts; that is, as some understand it, there the swallow builds a nest, and lays her young; but it can hardly be thought that this could be done in them, since the priests were so often officiating at them, and there were so much noise, fire, and smoke there; it must be "at the sides of them", as the Syriac and Arabic versions render it, or near unto them; or rather in the rafters of the house where they were; and the rafters and beams of the temple were of cedar, and in such turtles have their nestsF19Vide Theocrit. Idyl. 5. ; or in the houses adjoining to the tabernacle; or in the trees that might be near it; see Joshua 24:26, and so the psalmist seems to envy and begrudge the place these birds had, and wishes he had the same nearness as they. Kimchi observes, that if this is to be understood of David, when in the land of the Philistines, at that time high places and altars were lawful everywhere, and there birds might build their nests; but if of the captivity, the birds found a place and built their nests in the ruins of the temple and altars; and so Jarchi; for as for the temple, it was not built in the times of David; besides, when built, had a scarecrow on itF20"To drive away birds", or "to destroy them", Misn. Middot, c. 4. s. 6. Maimon. & Bartenora, in ib. : though the words may be considered as in connection with Psalm 84:3 and what goes before be read in a parenthesis, as they are by R. Judah Ben Balsam, cited by R. Aben Ezra;

"my soul longeth for the courts of the Lord, crieth out for the living God: even thine altars, O Lord of hosts';

that is, for them; or may be supplied thus,

"I desire thine altars, O Lord of hosts'F21So Noldius, p. 23. :

as the birds above mentioned seek for a nest, and desire to find one, and have what they want, and nature prompts them to; so I desire a place in thine house and courts, and near thine altars; see Matthew 8:20, or thus; as these birds rejoice, when they have found an house or nest for themselves and young; so should I rejoice, might I be favoured once more with attendance on thine altars, O Lord of hosts: mention is made of "altars", referring both to the altar of burnt sacrifice, and the altar of incense, both typical of Christ, Hebrews 13:10 and of his sacrifice and intercession; both which believers have to do with: it is added,

my King, and my God; when, by attending at his tabernacle, courts, and altars, he would testify his subjection to him as his King, and his faith in him, and thankfulness to him, as his God; see John 20:28.


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Bibliography
Gill, John. "Commentary on Psalms 84:3". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/psalms-84.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, [even] thine c altars, O LORD of hosts, my King, and my God.

(c) So that the poor birds have more freedom than I.

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Bibliography
Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Psalms 84:3". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/psalms-84.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

thine altars — that is, of burnt offering and incense, used for the whole tabernacle. Its structure afforded facilities for sparrows and swallows to indulge their known predilections for such places. Some understand the statement as to the birds as a comparison: “as they find homes, so do I desire thine altars,” etc.


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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.

Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Psalms 84:3". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/psalms-84.html. 1871-8.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

3The sparrow also hath found a house for herself, and the swallow a nest for herself. Some read this verse as one continuous sentence, conveying the idea that the birds made their nests near the altars; (459) from which it might the more evidently appear how hard and distressing his condition was in being kept at a distance from them. This opinion seems to be supported from the circumstance, that immediately before the Hebrew word for altars, there is the particle את, eth, which is commonly joined with the accusative case. But as it is also sometimes used in exclamations, the prophet, I have no doubt, breaking off in the middle of his sentence all at once, exclaims, that nothing would be more grateful to him than to behold the altar of God. David then, in the first place, with the view of aggravating the misery of his condition, compares himself with the sparrows and swallows, showing how hard a case it was for the children of Abraham to be driven out of the heritage which had been promised them, whilst the little birds found some place or other for building their nests. He might sometimes find a comfortable retreat, and might even dwell among unbelievers with some degree of honor and state; but so long as he was deprived of liberty of access to the sanctuary, he seemed to himself to be in a manner banished from the whole world. Undoubtedly, the proper end which we ought to propose to ourselves in living, is to be engaged in the service of God. The manner in which he requires us to serve him is spiritual; but still it is necessary for us to make use of those external aids which he has wisely appointed for our observance. This is the reason why David all at once breaks forth into the exclamation, O thine altars! thou Jehovah of Hosts! Some might be ready to say in reference to his present circumstances, that there were many retreats in the world, where he might live in safety and repose, yea, that there were many who would gladly receive him as a guest under their roof, and that therefore he had no cause to be so greatly distressed. To this he answers, that he would rather relinquish the whole world than continue in a state of exclusion from the holy tabernacle; that he felt no place delightful at a distance from God’s altars; and, in short, that no dwelling-place was agreeable to him beyond the limits of the Holy Land. This he would intimate, by the appellations which he gives to God, My King, and my God. In speaking thus, he gives us to understand that his life was uncomfortable and embittered, because he was banished from the kingdom of God. “Although all men,” as if he had said, “should vie with each other in their eagerness to afford me shelter and entertainment, yet as thou art my King, what pleasure would it afford me to live in the world, so long as I am excluded from the territory of the Holy Land? And again, as thou art my God, for what end do I live but to seek after thee? Now, when thou castest me off, should I not despise every place of retreat and shelter which is offered me, however pleasant and delightful it may be to my flesh?”

“As the sparrow findeth a house, and the swallow a nest,
Where she may place her offspring,
So may thy altars be my abode, O Jehovah of Hosts!
My King, and my God.”


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Bibliography
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Psalms 84:3". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/psalms-84.html. 1840-57.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Psalms 84:3 Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, [even] thine altars, O LORD of hosts, my King, and my God.

Ver. 3. Yea, the sparrow] Avis communissima, haunteth about houses, buildeth about windows, and there chirpeth.

And the swallow a nest for herself, &c.] She hath her name in Hebrew from her liberty to fly boldly, and to nestle in men’s chimneys, Proverbs 26:2. The Hebrew word קן, for a nest, hath the first letter larger than the rest, to note God’s providence in teaching birds to build. {Hebrew Text Note}

Even thine altars] Or, Oh thine altars! (so some read it) by a passionate exclamation, importing strongest desires after them. The want of God’s ordinances should pinch us to the heart.


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Bibliography
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Psalms 84:3". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/psalms-84.html. 1865-1868.

Sermon Bible Commentary

Psalms 84:3

I. The first point in the analogy is that of rest and home—home rest. The house of God, the house of the Father, and the elder Brother, and all the children, is, and must be from its nature, a home. All needed rest and comfort is to be found in it.

II. Liberty. To the soul in God's house, as to the bird in its nest, there is a happy combination of rest and freedom. A nest is not a cage. There is rest in revealed truth in Christ, in a reconciled God, in holiness; but there is the freedom of a spirit which abides in these because they are ever true and real to it, and which goes forth at liberty to seek and find all that is in any way good or true.

W. Morison, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiv., p. 143.


References: Psalms 84:3.—H. Macmillan, The Olive Leaf, p. 119; Spurgeon, My Sermon Notes: Genesis to Proverbs, p. 154; Preacher's Lantern, vol. ii., p. 496. Psalms 84:4.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 283; G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 252. Psalms 84:5.—A. Scott, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xx., p. 205.


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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Psalms 84:3". "Sermon Bible Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/sbc/psalms-84.html.

Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture

Psalms

SPARROWS AND ALTARS

Psalms 84:3.

The well-known saying of the saintly Rutherford, when he was silenced and exiled from his parish, echoes and expounds these words. ‘When I think,’ said he, ‘upon the sparrows and swallows that build their nests in the kirk of Anwoth, and of my dumb Sabbaths, my sorrowful, bleared eyes look asquint upon Christ, and present Him as angry.’ So sighed the Presbyterian minister in his compelled idleness in a prosaic seventeenth-century Scotch town, answering his heart’s-brother away back in the far-off time, and in such different circumstances. The Psalmist was probably a member of the Levitical family of the Sons of Korah, who were ‘doorkeepers in the house of the Lord.’ He knew what he was saying when he preferred his humble office to all honours among the godless. He was shut out by some unknown circumstances from external participation in the Temple rites, and longs to be even as one of the swallows or sparrows that twitter and flit round the sacred courts. No doubt to him faith was much more inseparably attached to form than it should be for us. No doubt place and ritual were more to him than they can permissibly be to those who have heard and understood the great charter of spiritual worship spoken first to an outcast Samaritan of questionable character: ‘Neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem shall men worship the Father.’ But equally it is true that what he wanted was what the outward worship brought him, rather than the worship itself. And the psalm, which begins with ‘longing’ and ‘fainting’ for the courts of the Lord, and pronouncing benedictions on ‘those that dwell in Thy house,’ works itself clear, if I might so say, and ends with ‘O Lord of Hosts! Blessed is the man that trusteth in Thee’-for he shall ‘dwell in Thy house,’ wherever he is. So this flight of imagination in the words of my text may suggest to us two or three lessons.

I. I take it first as pointing a bitter and significant contrast.

‘The sparrow hath found a house, and the swallow a nest for herself,’ while I! We do not know what the Psalmist’s circumstances were, but if we accept the conjecture that he may have accompanied David in his flight during Absalom’s rebellion, we may fancy him as wandering on the uplands across Jordan, and sharing the agitations, fears, and sorrows of those dark hours, and in the midst of all, as the little company hurried hither and thither for safety, thinking, with a touch of bitter envy, of the calm restfulness and serene services of the peaceful Temple.

But, pathetic as is the complaint, when regarded as the sigh of a minister of the sanctuary exiled from the shrine which was as his home, and from the worship which was his occupation and delight, it sounds a deeper note and one which awakens echoes in our hearts, when we hear in it, as we may, the complaint of humanity contrasting its unrest with the happier lot of lower creatures. Do you remember who it was that said-and on what occasion He said it-’Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have roosting-places, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head’? That saying, like our text, has a narrower and a wider application. In the former it pathetically paints the homeless Christ, a wanderer in a land peculiarly ‘His own,’ and warns His enthusiastic would-be follower of the lot which he was so light-heartedly undertaking to share. But when Jesus calls Himself ‘Son of Man,’ He claims to be the realised ideal of humanity, and when, as in that saying, He contrasts the condition of ‘the Son of Man’ with that of the animal creation, we can scarcely avoid giving to the words their wider application to the same contrast between man’s homelessness and the creatures’ repose which we have found in the Psalmist’s sigh.

Yes! There is only one being in this world that does not fit the world that he is in, and that is man, chief and foremost of all. Other beings perfectly correspond to what we now call their ‘environment.’ Just as the soft mollusc fits every convolution of its shell, and the hard shell fits every curve of the soft mollusc, so every living thing corresponds to its place and its place to it, and with them all things go smoothly. But man, the crown of creation, is an exception to this else universal complete adaptation. ‘The earth, O Lord! is full of Thy mercy,’ but the only creature who sees and says that is the only one who has further to say, ‘I am a stranger on the earth.’ He and he alone is stung with restlessness and conscious of longings and needs which find no satisfaction here. That sense of homelessness may be an agony or a joy, a curse or a blessing, according to our interpretation of its meaning, and our way of stilling it. It is not a sign of inferiority, but of a higher destiny, that we alone should bear in our spirits the ‘blank misgivings’ of those who, amid unsatisfying surroundings, have blind feelings after ‘worlds not realised,’ which elude our grasp. It is no advantage over us that every fly dancing in the treacherous gleams of an April sun, and every other creature on the earth except ourselves, on whom the crown is set, is perfectly proportioned to its place, and has desire and possessions absolutely conterminous.

‘The son of man hath not where to lay his head.’ Why must he alone wander homeless on the bleak moorland, whilst the sparrows and the swallows have their nests and their houses? Why? Because they are sparrows and swallows, and he is man, and ‘better than many sparrows.’ So let us lay to heart the sure promises, the blessed hopes, the stimulating exhortations, which come from that which, at first sight, seems to be a mystery and half an arraignment of the divine wisdom, in the contrast between the restlessness of humanity and the reposeful contentment of those whom we call the lower creatures. Be true to the unrest, brother! and do not mistake its meaning, nor seek to still it, until it drives you to God.

II. These words bring to us a plea which we may use, and a pledge on which we may rest.

‘Thine altars, O Lord of hosts! my King and my God.’ The Psalmist pleads with God, and lays hold for his own confidence upon the fact that creatures which do not understand what the altar means, may build beside it, and those which have no notion of who the God is to whom the house is sacred, are yet cared for by Him. And he thinks to himself, ‘If I can say “My King and my God,” surely He that takes care of them will not leave me uncared for.’ The unrest of the soul that is capable of appropriating God is an unrest which has in it, if we understand it aright, the assurance that it shall be stilled and satisfied. He that is capable of entering into the close personal relationship with God which is expressed by that eloquent little pronoun and its reduplication with the two words, ‘King’ and ‘God’-such a creature cannot cry for rest in vain, nor in vain grope, as a homeless wanderer, for the door of the Father’s house.

‘Doth God care for oxen; or saith He it altogether for our sakes?’ ‘Consider the fowls of the air; your heavenly Father feedeth them.’ And the same argument which the Apostle used in the one of these sayings, and our Lord in the other, is valid and full of encouragement when applied to this matter. He that ‘satisfies the desires of every living thing,’ and fills full the maw of the lowest creature; and puts the worms into the gaping beak of the young ravens when they cry, is not the King to turn a deaf ear, or the back of His hand, to the man who can appeal to Him with this word on his lips, ‘My King and my God!’ We grasp God when we say that; and all that we see of provident recognition and supply of wants in dealings with these lower creatures should encourage us to cherish calm unshakable confidence that every true desire of our souls after Him is as certain to be satisfied.

And so the glancing swallows around the eaves of the Temple and the twittering sparrows on its pinnacles may proclaim to us, not only a contrast which is bitter, but a confidence which is sweet. We may be sure that we shall not be left uncared for amongst the many pensioners at His table, and that the deeper our wants the surer we are of their supply. Our bodies may hunger in vain-bodily hunger has no tendency to bring meat; but our spirits cannot hunger in vain if they hunger after God; for that hunger is the sure precursor and infallible prophet of the coming satisfaction.

These words not only may hearten us with confidence that our desires will be satisfied if they are set upon Him, but they point us to the one way by which they are so. Say ‘My King and my God!’ in the deepest recesses of a spirit conscious of His presence, of a will submitting to His authority, of emptiness expectant of His fulness; say that, and you are in the house of the Lord. For it is not a question of place, it is a question of disposition and desire. This Psalmist, though, when he began his song, he was far away from the Temple, and though he finished it sitting on the same hillside on which he began it, when he had ended it was within the curtains of the sanctuary and wrapt about with the presence of his God. He had regained as he sang what for a moment he had lost the consciousness of when he began-viz. the presence of God with him on the lone, dreary expanse of alien soil as truly as amidst the sanctities of what was called His House.

So, brethren! if we want rest, let us clasp God as ours; if we desire a home warm, safe, sheltered from every wind that blows, and inaccessible to enemies, let us, like the swallows, nestle under the eaves of the Temple. Let us take God for our Hope. They that hold communion with Him-and we can all do that wherever we are and whatever we may be doing-these, and only these, ‘dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of their lives.’ Therefore, with deepest simplicity of expression, our psalm goes on to describe, as equally recipients of blessedness, ‘those that dwell in the house of the Lord,’ and those in ‘whose heart are the ways’ that lead to it, and to explain at last, as I have already pointed out, that both the dwellers in, and the pilgrims towards, that intimacy of abiding with God are included in the benediction showered on those who cling to Him, ‘Blessed is the man that trusteth in Thee!’

III. Lastly, we may take this picture of the Psalmist’s as a warning.

Sparrows and swallows have very small brains. They build their nests, and they do not know whose altars they are flitting around. They pursue the insects on the wing, and they twitter their little songs; and they do not understand how all their busy, glancing, brief, trivial life is being lived beneath the shadow of the cherubim, and all but in the presence of the veiled God of the Shekinah.

There are too many people who live like that. We are all tempted to build our nests where we may lay our young, or dispose of ourselves or our treasures in the very sanctuary of God, with blind, crass indifference to the Presence in which we move. The Father’s house has many mansions, and wherever we go we are in God’s Temple. Alas! some of us have no more sense of the sanctities around us, and no more consciousness of the divine Eye that looks down upon us, than if we were so many feathered sparrows flitting about the altar.

Let us take care, brethren! that we give our hearts to be influenced, and awed, and ennobled, and tranquillised by the sense of ever more being in the house of the Lord. Let us see to it that we keep in that house by continual aspiration, cherishing in our hearts the ways that lead to it; and so making all life worship, and every place what the pilgrim found the stone of Bethel to be, a house of God and a gate of heaven. For everywhere, to the eye that sees the things that are, and not only the things that seem-and to the heart that feels the unseen presence of the One Reality, God Himself-all places are temples, and all work may be beholding His beauty and inquiring in His sanctuary; and everywhere, though our heads rest upon a stone, and there be night and solitude around us, and doubt and darkness in front of us, and danger and terror behind us, and weakness within us, as was the case with Jacob, there will be the ladder with its foot at our side and its top in the heavens; and above the top of it His face, which when we see it look down upon us, makes all places and circumstances good and sweet.


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Bibliography
MacLaren, Alexander. "Commentary on Psalms 84:3". Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/mac/psalms-84.html.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

The sparrow hath found an house, i.e. a habitation, to wit, a nest, as it here followeth.

Even thine altar; or, nigh (as this Hebrew particle eth is elsewhere used, and as it is rendered by the Septuagint and the Chaldee, Jude 4:11) thine altar, Heb. altars, that of burnt-offerings, and the other of incense; at or near which these birds might well and truly be said to have their nests, because they were either in some part of the tabernacle or temple in which the altars were, or in some buildings belonging, or near at least, to it.


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Bibliography
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Psalms 84:3". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/psalms-84.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

3. The sparrow hath found a house, etc.To spiritualize this verse, or to convert it into a delicate symbolism, as if the sparrow and swallow represented the psalmist, who had at last found the place of desire, even the altars of God, is to abandon sober interpretation. Neither can we explain it of the well known nesting of birds in oriental mosques and idol temples. The plain historic sense only is admissible. The temple and city had lain desolate for seventy years during the captivity, from B.C. 585 to 515, (see notes on Psalms 74:3; Psalms 74:7,) and the birds had nested in the ruins. Thus the returned exiles found things, and mournfully describe them. צפור, (tzippor,) here rendered “sparrow,” is a generic term for bird, generally small birds, the connexion determining the species. It occurs thirty nine times in the Old Testament, and is always translated in our English Bible either by bird or fowl, except here and in Psalms 102:7, (see note there,) where also it is rendered “sparrow.” But in these last mentioned places two kinds of bird are denoted. In the text before us its social habit and its disposition to nest among ruins are alluded to, and the sparrow proper is intended.

Swallow—The original denotes a bird that flies in circles and glances on the wing, as the “swallow” does.


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Bibliography
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 84:3". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/psalms-84.html. 1874-1909.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Psalms 84:3. Yea, the sparrow hath found a house — That is, a habitation, namely, a nest, as it follows. Even thine altar — Or nigh thine altar, as the Hebrew particle, את, eth, often signifies, and is rendered by the Seventy and the Chaldee, 4:11. In the Hebrew it is altars, namely, that of burnt-offerings, and the other of incense: near which these birds might be truly said to have their nests, if, as is probable, they were either in some part of the tabernacle or temple, in which the altars were; or in some buildings belonging to or near them. Thus Bishop Patrick understands the verse, whose paraphrase is, “It grieves me, O mighty Lord, whose subject I am, and infinitely engaged for thee, to see the very birds, who know nothing of thee, enjoy that liberty which is denied me; who am here lamenting my distance from thee, when the sparrows and the ring-doves” (Hebrew, דרור, deror, which the Seventy render τρυγων, a turtle, and others a wild-pigeon) “have their constant residence at thy house; and there live so undisturbed, that they build their nests, and bring forth their young in the rafters of it.” The passage, however, is interpreted somewhat differently by several expositors, who read it thus: My heart, &c., crieth out for the living God, (yea, as a sparrow, till she finds a house, and a swallow a nest for herself, where to lay her young,) for thine altars, &c., that is, my heart, &c., crieth out for thine altars, &c. Or thus, “The sparrow findeth a house, &c., but when shall I find access to what I far prefer to a house of my own, the house of God?” Others again read, Even as the sparrow, that is, with the same joy and delight as the sparrow findeth her house, and the swallow (or wild-pigeon) her nest, where she hath laid (so שׁתה, shata, properly means) her young; so should I find thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my king and my God. This last seems the most just and easy exposition of the words. But whichsoever of the interpretations may be preferred, “the design of the passage,” as Dr. Horne has justly observed, “is evidently to intimate to us, that in the house, and at the altar of God, a faithful soul findeth freedom from care and sorrow, quiet of mind, and gladness of spirit; like a bird that has secured a little mansion for the reception and education of her young. And there is no heart endued with sensibility which doth not bear its testimony to the exquisite beauty and propriety of this affecting image.”


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Bibliography
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 84:3". Joseph Benson's Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/psalms-84.html. 1857.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

Yea, the sparrow, &c. These two lines are placed within a parenthesis.

sparrow: or bird.

nest. Not in the altars. See note below.

Even Thine altars. Figure of speech Ellipsis. App-6. Supply it by repeating the verb "found" from preceding clause = "[Even so have I found] Thine altars", &c. Nothing has "dropped out" from the text.

altars: i.e. the two altars; the brazen altar of burnt offering, and the golden altar of incense. Birds could not build their nests in these! These have no reference to the times of the Maccabees, but to Exodus 27:1, and Exodus 30:1. Compare Numbers 3:31.

God. Hebrew. Elohim. App-4.


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Bibliography
Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Psalms 84:3". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/psalms-84.html. 1909-1922.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(3) Sparrow.—Heb., tsippôr, which is found up-wards of forty times in the Old Testament, and is evidently used in a very general way to include a great number of small birds. “Our common house- sparrow is found on the coast in the towns, and inland its place is taken by a very closely-allied species, Passer Cisalpina” (Tristram, Nat. Hist. of the Bible, p. 202).

Swallow.—Heb. derôr, which by its etymology implies a bird of rapid whirling flight. (See Proverbs 26:2, where this characteristic is especially noticed.) The ancient versions take the word as cognate with “turtle-dove.” In an appendix to Delitzsch’s Commentary on the Psalms, Dr. J. G. Wetzstein, identifies the tsippôr with the ôsfur of the Arabs, a generic name for small chirping birds, and derôr with dûri. which is specific of the sparrow.

Even thy altars.—Better, at or near thine altars, though even if taken as in the Authorised “Version the meaning is the same. There is no real occasion for the great difficulty that has been made about this verse. It is absurd indeed to think of the birds actually nesting on the altars; but that they were found in and about the Temple is quite probable, just as in Herodotus (i. 159) we read of Aristodicus making the circuit of the temple at Branchidæ, and taking the nests of young sparrows and other birds. (Comp. the story in Ælian of the man who was slain for harming a sparrow that had sheltered in the temple of Æsculapius.) Ewald gives many other references, and among them one to Burckhardt showing that birds nest in the Kaaba at Mecca.

The Hebrew poetic style is not favourable to simile, or the psalmist would have written (as a modern would), “As the birds delight to nest at thine altars, so do I love to dwell in thine house.”


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Bibliography
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Psalms 84:3". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/psalms-84.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O LORD of hosts, my King, and my God.
Yea, etc
Or, rather, "Even as the sparrow findeth a house, and the swallow (deror, or the ring-dove, according to some, but probably the bird which Forskal mentions among the migratory birds of Alexandria, by the name of dururi) a nest for herself where she may lay her young, (so I seek) thine altars, O Jehovah, God of hosts, my King and my God." That is, as nature inclines birds to seek and prepare their nests, so grace has taught me to desire thy altars, and to worship there.
sparrow
90:1; 91:1; 116:7; Matthew 8:20; 23:37

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Bibliography
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Psalms 84:3". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/psalms-84.html.

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