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CRITICAL, EXPLANATORY, AND PRACTICAL,
BOOK OF PSALMS.
By ALBERT BARNES,
IN THREE VOLUMES.
HARPER & BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS,
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1867, by
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the Eastern
District of Pennsylvania.
THE BOOK OF PSALMS.
death; its similarity of diction to the
poetical portions of the Pentateuch, withThis psalm is one of the most remark
out the slightest trace of imitation or quoable in the whole collection. It is said, tation ; its marked unlikeness to the in the title, to be “A Prayer of Moses, Psalms of David, and still more to those the man of God;" or, as it is in the mar
of later date ; and finally the proved imgin, “ being a Psalm of Moses.” The possibility of plausibly assigning it to original word—799m, tephillah_means any other age or author.” As a relic properly (1) intercession, supplication thus of most ancient times,-as coming for any one; (2) prayer or supplication down from the most remarkable man in in general; 3) a hymn or inspired the Jewish history, if not in the world, song. Gesenius, Lex. In Ps. lxxii. 20, —as well as for its own instructive the word is applied to the whole preced- | beauty and appropriateness to all times ing part of the Book of Psalms,—“The and lands,-it is a composition of great prayers of David, the son of Jesse, are interest and value. ended.” The word prayer would better This psalm is placed at the beginning represent the nature of the contents of this of the fourth book of the Psalter, acpsalm than the word psalm, or hymn. cording to the ancient traditional divi
If the author was Moses, then this is sion of the Psalms. Or, perhaps, the the only one of his compositions which author of the arrangement-- probably we have in the Book of Psalms. We Ezra—designed to place this hy itself know, from not a few places in the between the two great divisions of the Pentateuch, that Moses was a poet as book, containing respectively the earlier well as a lawgiver and statesman; and and 'the later psalms. It may be reit would not be improbable that there garded, therefore, as "the heart or centre might have been some compositions of of the whole collection," suggesting his of this nature which were not in- thoughts appropriate to the entire curcorporated in the five books that he rent of thought in the book. wrote, and which would be likely to be The phrase, “the man of God," in preserved by tradition. This psalm the title, is given to Moses in Deut. bears internal evidence that it may xxxiii. 1; Josh. xiv. 6; Ezra iii. 2; as have been such a composition. There a title especially appropriate to him, is no local allusion which would make denoting that he was faithful to God, it necessary to suppose that it was writ- that he was a man approved by God. ten at à låter period; there is nothing
The title is indeed given to others, inconsistent with the sentiments and Judges xiii, 6, 8; 1 Šam. ii. 27; ix. style of Moses in the Pentateuch; there 6-8; 1 Kings xii. 22, et al. ; but there is much that is in accordance with his was a peculiar appropriateness in the style and manner; and there were nu- title as given to Moses on account of his merous occasions when the sentiments character, his eminent rank, and his of the psalm would be exceedingly suit- influence in founding the Hebrew comable to the circumstances in which he monwealth. was, and to the train of thoughts which It is impossible, of course, now to we may suppose to have passed through determine the time when the psalm was his mind. The following remarks of composed, but it may not improbably be Prof. Alexander seem to me to be emi- supposed to have been near the close of nently just and appropriate :
the wanderings in the wilderness. The correctness of the title which ascribes | Hebrew people were about to enter the the psalm to Moses is confirmed by its promised land; the generation that came unique simplicity and grandeur; its out of Egypt was passing away ; Moses appropriateness to his times and circum- himself felt that he was near the end of stances; its resemblance to the law in his course, for he had been apprized that urging the connexion between sin and he could not enter the land of promise to
dwelling-place in 2 all generations.
LORD, thou hast been our
1 Or, being a Psalm of.
la Deut. xxxiii. l.
6 Ps. lxxi. 3 ; Ez. xi. 16.
the borders of which he had conducted IV. A prayer for those who were to the people. These things were emi
follow-for the coming generation—that nently fitted to suggest such views of God would continue his favours; that the sħortness of human life, and of its though the present generation must die, frailty, as are here presented. At the
At the yet that God, who is unchanging and same time, all these circumstances were eternal, would meet the next generation, fitted to suggest the reference to the and all the generations to come, with future, and the prayer in respect to that
the same mercies and blessings, enjoyed future, with which the psalm so beauti- þy those who went before them,---profully closes. It seems, then, not im- longing these to all future time, vers. proper to regard this psalm as one of the
13-17. last utterances of Moses, when the wan- The psalm, therefore, has a universal derings of the Hebrew people were about applicability. Its sentiments and its to cease; when an entire generation had petitions are as appropriate now as they been swept off; and when his own
were in the time of Moses. The generalabours were soon to close.
tions of men pass away as certainly and The main subject of the psalm is
as rapidly now as they did then; but it the brevity--the transitory nature-of
is as true now as it was then, that God is human life; the reflections on which unchanging, and that he is the “ dwellseem designed to lead the soul up to ing-place”— the home-of his people. God, who does not die. The races of men are cut down like grass, but God
1. Lord. Not here Jehovah, but remains the same from age to age.
The word is progeneration finds him the same as the perly rendered Lord, but it is a term previous generation had found him
which is often applied to God. It inunchanged, and as worthy of confidence None of these changes can
dicates, however, nothing in regard to affect him, and there is in each age the
his character or attributes except that comforting assurance that he will be
he is a Ruler or Governor. T Thou found to be the refuge, the support, the hast been our dwelling-place. The dwelling-place” of his people.
LXX. render this, refuge--katapvyn. The psalm consists of the following So the Latin Vulgate, refugium; and parts:
Luther, Zuflucht. The Hebrew word I. The fact that God is unchanging;
-yiyip, maon—means properly a that he is the refuge of his people, and always has been ; that from the eternity habitation, a dwelling, as of God in past to the eternity to come, he is the his temple, Ps. xxvi. 8; heaven, Ps. same,-he alone is God, vers. 1, 2. lxviii. 5; Deut. xxvi. 15. It also
II. The frailty of man—the brevity means a den or lair for wild beasts, of human life—as contrasted with this
Nah. ii. 12; Jer. ix. 11. But here unchanging nature -- this eternity-of the idea seems to be, as in the SeptuaGod, vers. 3-11. Man is turned to destruction; he is carried away as with a
gint, Vulgate, and Luther, a refuge; flood; his life is like a night's sleep;
a place to which one may come as to the human race is like grass which is
his home, as one does from a jourgreen in the morning and is cut down ney; from wandering; from toil; at evening ;-human existence is like a from danger :--a place to which such tale that is told-brief as a meditation
a one naturally resorts, which he and narrowed down to threescore years loves, and where he feels that he may and ten.
rest secure. The idea is, that a friend III. A prayer that the living might of God has that feeling in respect to be able so to number their days-to take such an account of life as to apply the
Him, which one has towards his own heart to wisdom ;-to make the most of home-his abode--the place which life, or to be truly wise, ver. 12.
he loves and calls his own. In all
2 Before c the mountains were lasting, thou art God. brought forth, or ever thou hadst 3 Thou turnest man to deformed the earth and the world, struction; and sayest, Return, even from everlasting to ever- ye children of men.
c Prov. viii. 25, 26.
d Gen. iii. 19.
generations. Marg., generation and was formed, he existed, with all the generation. That is, A succeeding attributes essential to Deity; at any generation has found him to be the period in the future -- during the same as the previous generation had. existence of the earth and the heaHe was unchanged, though the suc- vens, or beyond—far as the mind can cessive generations of men passed reach into the future, and even beyond away
that-he will still exist unchanged, 2. Before the mountains
with all the attributes of Deity. The brought forth. Before the earth
creation of the universe made no brought forth or produced the moun
change in him; its destruction would tains. In the description of the crea- not vary the mode of his existence, tion it would be natural to represent
or make him in any respect a differthe mountains as the first objects
ent being. There could not be a that appeared, as emerging from the more absolute and unambiguous dewaters; and, therefore, as the first claration, as there could not be one or most ancient of created objects. more sublime, of the eternity of God. The phrase, therefore, is equivalent The mind cannot take in a grander to saying, Before the earth thought than that there is one eternal created. The literal meaning of the
and immutable Being. expression, were brought forth,” is,
3. Thou turnest man to destruction. in the Hebrew, “ were born.” The
In contradistinction from his own mountains are mentioned as the most unchangeableness and eternity. Man ancient things in creation, in Deut. passes away; God continues ever the xxxiii. 15. Comp. Gen. xlix. 26;
The word rendered destrucHab. iii. 6. T Or ever thou hadst tion-43, dakka~ineans properly formed. Literally, “hadst brought anything beaten or broken small or forth."
Comp. Job xxxix. 1. T The very fine, and hence dust. The idea earth and the world. The word earth here is, that God causes
man to here is used to denote the world as return to dust ; that is, the elements distinguished either from heaven whicli compose the body return to (Gen. i. 1), or from the sea (Gen. i. their original condition, or seem to 10). The term world in the original mingle with the earth. Gen. iii. 19: is commonly employed to denote the “ Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt earth considered as inhabited, or as thou return.” The word man here, capable of being inliabited,-a dwell- of course, refers to man in general,ing-place for living beings. Even
It is the great law of our from everlasting to everlasting. From being. Individual man, classes of duration stretching backward with- men, generations of men, races of men, out limit to duration stretching for- pass away; but God remains the ward without limit; that is, from
The Septuagint and the Latin eternal ages to eternal ages; or, for Vulgate render this, “ Thou turnest ever. I Thou art God. Or, “ Thou, man to humiliation;" which, though O God.” The idea is, that he was not the sense of the original, is a true always, and ever will be, God :—the idea, for there is nothing more humiliGod; the true God; the only God; the ating than that a human body, once unchangeable God. At any period in so beautiful, should turn back to the past, during the existence of the dust; nothing more humbling than earth, or the heavens, or before either the grave. | And sayest, Return,