15. The hill of God, the hill of Bashan, a high hill,1 the hill of Bashan. 16. Why leap ye, ye high hills? the hill which God desireth to dwell in; yea, Jehovah will dwell in it for ever. 17. The chariots of God are twenty thousand thousands of angels: the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place.
15. The hill of God, the hill of Bashan. Here he adverts to the spring and source of all the kindness which God had shown, this being the circumstance that he had chosen mount Zion as the place of his palace and temple, whence all blessings should go out to the nation. A Divine declaration to that effect had been made to David, and this pre-eminence and dignity conferred upon mount Zion is very properly adduced as a proof of his being king, lawfully and by Divine appointment; for there was an inseparable connection between God's dwelling upon that mountain, and David's sitting upon the throne to govern the people. The words of the verse admit of two senses. We may suppose that the mountain of God is compared to mount Bashan as being like it, or we may understand that it is opposed to it. The first is the sense adopted almost by all interpreters, that while Bashan was famed for its fertility, Zion excelled it. It is of little importance which we prefer; but perhaps the distinction would be brought out as well were we to construe the words the hill of God by themselves, and consider that Bashan with its boasted height is afterwards ordered to yield precedence, as if David would say, that there was but one mountain which God had consecrated to himself by an irrevocable decree, and that though Bashan was renowned for height and fertility, it must rank with other mountains, which might in vain exalt themselves to an equality with Zion, honored as the chosen residence of God. If we read the verse differently, and consider it as applying to mount Zion throughout, then the Psalmist extols it as high and illustrious, and this because there emanated from it the Divine favor, which distinguished the Jews from every other nation.
16. Why leap ye,2 ye high hills? In this verse there is no obscurity or ambiguity. David having said that there was only one mountain in all the world which God had chosen, calls upon the highest hills to yield it the pre-eminency. As he repeats in the plural number what had been said immediately before of Bashan, this leads me to think that he intended first to oppose that mountain, and then all other high mountains generally, to Zion.3 Mountains are here to be understood figuratively, and the great truth conveyed is, that the kingdom of Christ, which God had begun to shadow forth in the person of David, far excels all that is reckoned glorious by the world. The reproof which the Psalmist administers, in order to humble the proud boasting of the world, is justified by that contempt which we know that carnal and ungodly persons entertain of Christ's kingdom, devoted as they are to their own pleasures or wealth, and unable to appreciate spiritual blessings. The lesson will be felt to be the more useful and necessary, if we consider that this vain pride of man rises to an additional height, when the slightest occasion is afforded for its exercise. When we see those indulging it who have no grounds to do so, we need not wonder at the arrogance of such as are possessed of wealth and influence. But the Lord's people may afford to leave them to their self-complacency, resting satisfied with the privilege of knowing that God has chosen to take up his habitation in the midst of them. They have no reason to repine at their lot so long as they have union with God, the only and the sufficient source of their happiness.
17.The chariots of God are twenty thousand thousands of angels.4 For the most part, we are apt to undervalue the Divine presence, and therefore David presents us with a description fitted to exalt our thoughts of it. Owing to our unbelieving hearts, the least danger which occurs in the world weighs more with us than the power of God. We tremble under the slightest trials; for we forget or cherish low views of his omnipotence. To preserve us from this error, David directs us to the countless myriads of angels which are at his command, -- a circumstance, the consideration of which may well enable us to defy the evils which beset us. Twenty thousand are spoken of; but it is a number designed to intimate to us that the armies of the living God, which he commissions for our help, are innumerable; and surely this should comfort us under the deadliest afflictions of this life. In adding that the Lord is among them, the Psalmist is still to be considered as designing to give us an exalted view of what is included in God's presence; for the words suggest that he can no more divest himself of his existence than not have this power whereby angels are subordinated to his will. Another idea suggested is, that one God is better than a universe of angels. The great distance to which we are apt to conceive God as removed from us is one circumstance which tries our faith, and in order to obviate this, the Psalmist reminds us of Sinai, where there was a display of his majesty. The inference was conclusive that he still abode in the sanctuary. For why did God appear upon that occasion in such a glorious manner? Evidently to show that his covenant formed a sacred bond of union between him and the posterity of Abraham. Hence the words of Moses --
"Say not in thine heart, Who shall go up into heaven? or who shall descend into the deep? or who shall go over the sea? For the word is nigh unto thee," etc. (Deuteronomy 30:12.)
Sinai accordingly is mentioned by David, to teach us that if we would fortify our minds with a firm faith in the Divine presence, we must derive it from the Law and the Prophets.
1 "La montagne des hauteurs," "the hill of highnesses or eminences." -- Fr. That is, (says Calvin, on the margin,) "treshaute," "very high." The literal rendering of the original words is, "a hill of gibbosities," "a hill with humps," i.e., projections, eminences. This seems peculiarly applicable to Bashan, which had many tops; and this may explain the origin of the name of that mountain. It has its name from
2 The word here rendered leap ye "occurs only here," observes Hammond, "and is by guess rendered to leap, or lift up, or exalt one's self; but may best be interpreted, not leap as an expression of joy, but lift up, or exalt yourselves, as an effect of pride;" and he understands the meaning to be, Why do ye lift up or exalt yourselves, ye high hills, God not having chosen any of the highest hills to build his temple on, but the hill of Zion, of a very moderate size, lower than the hill of Hermon, and at the foot of it, (Psalm 133:3.) Some Jewish commentators, founding their opinion on the cognate Arabic word
3 "The Psalmist," says Horsley, "having settled the Israelites between their hills, proceeds to the circumstance of God's choice of a hill for the site of his temple. He poetically imagines the different hills as all ambitious of the honor, anxiously waiting God's decision, and ready to enter into a jealous contention; watching each other with an anxious eye. The lofty hill of Bashan first puts in his claim, pleading his stately height --
The hill for God is the hill of Bashan;
A hill of lofty brows is the hill of Bashan.
The Psalmist cuts short the contention --
For what would ye contend, ye hills of lofty brows?
This is the hill desired of God for himself to dwell in;
Yea, Jehovah will dwell in it for ever."
4 The words
"God hath been to them [the Israelites] twice ten thousand chariots,
Even thousand of thousands."
Chariots were much used in war by the nations of antiquity; and the chosen people were forbidden to use chariots and horses in war; but God was to them as effectual a safe-guard as innumerable war-chariots would have been. He was "the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof," 2 Kings 2:12. Comp. Psalm 20:7. And in his protection and aid they were to trust. "When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies, and seest horses, and chariots, and a people more than thou, be not afraid of them: for the Lord thy God is with thee, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt." "For the Lord your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies to save you," (Deuteronomy 20:1 and 4.)