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Psalm 83:5-8

5. For they have consulted with the heart together; they have entered into a covenant 434434     The Hebrew is ברית יכרתו, berith yichrothu, “they have cut a covenant.” The verb is from כרת, carath, he cut, which, with the noun, ברית, berith, signifies to strike a league, or to covenant The phrase owes its origin to the custom which prevailed, in ancient times, of sacrificing an animal at the forming of solemn leagues, and dividing the victim in twain, the contracting parties passing between the two pieces; see volume 2, page 264, note. It is then affirmed of these combined enemies of the Jews, that they had cut the covenant sacrifice; that they had slain a sacrificial victim, divided it in twain, and passed between the pieces’ thus mutually binding themselves to accomplish their hostile purpose. against thee. 6. The tents of Edom, 435435     That is, the Edomites, the descendants of Esau, (Genesis 25:30.) They were a pastoral people, and made great use of tents. and the Ishmaelites 436436     The Ishmaelites were the descendants of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, by Hagar the Egyptian, (Genesis 25:12-18.) They inhabited part of Arabia. Moab 437437     That is, the Moabites, the descendants of Moab, a son of Lot, by one of his daughters, (Genesis 19:37.) and the Hagarenes. 438438     The Hagarenes or Hagarites were the posterity of Abraham by Keturah, (who is supposed to have been Hagar,) whom he married after Sarah’s death. They dwelt on the east of Gilead, in the vicinity of the Euphrates. In the days of Saul war was made upon them by the Reubenites, who, after having nearly destroyed them and expelled them from their country, dwelt in their tents, (1 Chronicles 5:10.) They seem again to have recruited their strength; but where they afterwards dwelt is not known. “They are probably the same,” says Cresswell, “as the Saracens.” 7. Gebal, 439439     Gebal, which signifies a mountain, denotes, according to some, the Giblites, who inhabited a district on the Phoenician coast in the neighborhood of Tyre. They were a tribe of the Aborigines of Canaan, and are mentioned as left by Joshua to be conquered after his death, (Joshua 13:5.) They were of considerable service to Hiram, king of Tyre, in preparing materials for Solomon’s temple, as we learn from 1 Kings 5:18, where the original word for stone-squarers is הגבלים haggibelim, the Giblites; and it would seem from Ezekiel’s speaking of “the ancients of Gebal and the wise men thereof,” (Ezekiel 27:9,) that they rose to no small degree of eminence. The ruins of an ancient city called by the natives Gibyle, situated upon the Mediterranean Sea between Tripoli and Sidon, are supposed to be those of the chief city of the Giblites. If so, these ruins attest its ancient grandeur to have been considerable. Others suppose that Gebal (the Gebalene of the Romans) was a mountainous district inhabited by the Edomites, and extending from the Dead Sea southward to Selal or Petra. By the Arabs it is called Djebal. and Ammon, 440440     That is, the Ammonites, the descendants of Ammon, another of Lot’s sons, by one of his daughters, (Genesis 19:38.) They dwelt in Arabia Petrea. and Amalek 441441     The Amalekites were a powerful people, who dwelt also in Arabia Petrea, between the Dead Sea and the Red Sea, or between Havilah and Shur, (1 Samuel 15:7,) south of Idumea, and east of the northern part of the Red Sea. the Philistines with the inhabitants of Tyre. 8. Assur is also associated with them: they have been an arm to the sons of Lot. Selah.

 

5 For they have consulted with the heart together. The multiplied hosts which united their powers together to oppose the Church of God and to effect her overthrow, are here enumerated. As so many nations, formed into one powerful confederacy, were bent on the destruction of a kingdom not greatly distinguished by its power, the miraculous aid of God was indispensably necessary for the deliverance of a people who, in such extremity, were altogether unable to defend themselves. In circumstances apparently as hopeless good king Asa gave utterance to that truly magnanimous reflection:

“Lord, it is nothing with thee to help whether with many, or with them that have no power: help us, O Lord our God! for we rest on thee, and in thy name we go against this multitudes”
(1 Chronicles 14:11.)

The same Spirit who inspired that pious king with such invincible fortitude dictated this psalm for the benefit of the whole Church, to encourage her with unhesitating confidence to betake herself to God for aid. And in our own day he sets before us these words, in order that no danger or difficulty may prevent us from calling upon God. When the whole world may conspire together against us, we have as it were a wall of brass for the defense of Christ’s kingdom in these words, “Why do the heathen rage?” etc., (Psalm 2:1.)

It will be in no small degree profitable to us to contemplate this as an example in which we have represented to us, as in a mirror what has been the lot of the Church of God from the beginning. This, if rightly reflected upon, will keep us at the present day from being unduly dejected when we witness the whole world in array against us. We see how the Pope has inflamed the whole world against us with diabolical rage. Hence it is, that in whatever direction we turn our eyes, we meet with just so many hostile armies to destroy us. But when we have once arrived at a settled persuasion that no strange thing happens to us, the contemplation of the condition of the Church in old time will strengthen us for continuing in the exercise of patience until God suddenly display his power, which is perfectly able, without any created aid, to frustrate all the attempts of the world.

To remove from the minds of the godly all misgivings as to whether help is ready to be imparted to them from heaven, the prophet distinctly affirms that those who molest the Church are chargeable with making war against God, who has taken her under his protection. The principle upon which God declares that he will be our helper is contained in these words,

“He that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of mine eye,”
(Zechariah 2:8.)

And what is said in another psalm concerning the patriarchs, is equally applicable to all true believers,

“Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm,”
(Psalm 105:15.)

He will have the anointing with which he has anointed us to be, as it were, a buckler to keep us in perfect safety. The nations here enumerated did not avowedly make war against him; but as, when he sees his servants unrighteously assaulted, he interposes himself between them and their enemies to bear the blows aimed at them, they are here justly represented as having entered into a league against God The case is analogous to that of the Papists in the present day. If any were to ask them, when they hold consultations for the express purpose of accomplishing our destruction, Whether they were stronger than God? they would immediately reply, That they had no intention whatever of assaulting heaven in imitation of the giants of old. But God having declared that every injury which is done to us is an assault upon him, we may, as from a watch-tower, behold in the distance by the eye of faith the approach of that destruction of which the votaries of Antichrist shall have at length the sad and melancholy experience.

The expression, to consult with the heart, is by some explained, to deliberate with the greatest exertion and earnestness of mind. Thus it is quite common for us to say, that a thing is done with the heart which is done with earnestness and ardor of mind. But this expression is rather intended to denote the hidden crafty devices complained of a little before.

Some interpreters refer the tents of Edom to warlike furniture, and understand the words as meaning, that these enemies came well equipped and provided with tents for prolonging the war; but the allusion seems rather to be to the custom which prevailed among those nations of dwelling in tents. It is, however, a hyperbolical form of expression; as if it had been said, So great was their eagerness to engage in this war, that they might be said even to pluck their tents from the places where they were pitched.

I do not intend to enter curiously into a discussion concerning the respective nations here named, the greater part of them being familiarly known from the frequency with which they are spoken of in the sacred Scriptures. When it is said that Assur and the rest were an arm to the sons of Lot, this is evidently an additional aggravation of the wickedness of the sons of Lot. It would have been an act of unnatural cruelty for them to have aided foreign nations against their own kindred. But when they themselves are the first to sound the trumpet, and when of their own suggestion they invite the aid of the Assyrians and other nations to destroy their own brethren, ought not such barbarous inhumanity to call forth the deepest detestation? Josephus himself records, that the Israelites had passed through their borders without doing them any harm, sparing their own blood according to the express command of God. When the Moabites and Ammonites then knew that their brethren the Jews spared them, remembering that they were of the same blood, and sprung from one common parentage, ought they not also to have reciprocated so much kindness on their part as not to have embarked in any hostile enterprise against them? But it is, as it were, the destiny of the Church, not only to be assailed by external enemies, but to suffer far greater trouble at the hands of false brethren. At the present day, none are more furiously mad against us than counterfeit Christians.


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