Psalm 76:7-12

7. Thou, even thou, art terrible, and who shall stand before thy face when thou art angry? 8. From heaven thou hast made thy judgment to be heard: the earth was afraid,1 and was still, 9. When God arose to judgment,2 to save all the meek3 of the earth. Selah. 10. Surely the wrath of men shall praise thee, and the remainder of wrath thou wilt restrain. 11. Vow and pay4 to Jehovah your God: let all those who are round about him bring presents to him who is worthy to be feared,5 [literally to the terrible one.] 12. He will cut off the spirit of princes: he is terrible to the kings of the earth.


7. Thou, even thou, art terrible. The repetition of the pronoun Thou, is intended to exclude all others from what is here predicated of God, as if it had been said, Whatever power there is in the world, it at once vanishes away, and is reduced to nothing, when He comes forth and manifests himself; and, therefore, He alone is terrible. This is confirmed by the comparison added immediately after, which intimates that, although the wicked are so filled with pride as to be ready to burst with it, yet they are unable to abide the look and presence of God. But as he sometimes keeps silence, and seems merely to look on as an idle spectator, it is expressly asserted, that as soon as he begins to be angry, ruin will be near all the wicked. Although they may then for a time not only stand, but also rise above the clouds by their fury, we are here, notwithstanding, admonished that we ought to wait for the time of wrath. Let us also mark that this terror is denounced against the wicked in such a manner as that it sweetly draws all true believers to God.

8. From heaven thou hast made thy judgment to be heard. By the name of heaven, the Psalmist forcibly intimates that the judgment of God was too manifest to admit of the possibility of its being ascribed either to fortune or to the policy of men. Sometimes God executes his judgments obscurely, so that they seem to proceed out of the earth. For example, when he raises up a godly and courageous prince, the holy and lawful administration which will flourish under the reign of such a prince will be the judgment of God, but it will not be vividly seen to proceed from heaven. As, therefore, the assistance spoken of was of an extraordinary kind, it is distinguished by special commendation. The same remarks apply to the hearing of God's judgment, of which the Psalmist speaks. It is more for the divine judgments to sound aloud like a peal of thunder, and to stun the ears of all men with their noise, than if they were merely seen with the eyes. There is here, I have no doubt, an allusion to those mighty thunder-claps by which men are stricken with fear.6 When it is said, the earth was still, it is properly to be referred to the ungodly, who, being panic-struck, yield the victory to God, and dare no longer to rage as they had been accustomed to do. It is only fear which has the effect of bringing them to subjection; and, accordingly, fear is justly represented as the cause of this stillness. It is not meant that they restrain themselves willingly, but that God compels them whether they will or no. The amount is, that whenever God thunders from heaven, the tumults which the insolence of the ungodly stir up, when things are in a state of confusion, come to an end. We are, at the same time, warned of what men may expect to gain by their rebellion; for, whoever despise the paternal voice of God which is loudly uttered, must be destroyed by the bolts of his wrath.

9. When God arose to judgment. The great object which God had in view in executing this judgment is now declared; which was, that he might furnish a proof of his fatherly love towards all his people. He is, therefore, introduced as speaking, not with his mouth, but with his hand, that he may show to all how precious in his sight is the salvation of all who fear and love him. Under the word arise, there is a reference to the inactivity and indolency ascribed by wicked men to God, an opinion which had led them to take so much liberty to themselves. God is then said to ascend into his judgment-seat, when he plainly indicates that he exercises a special care over his Church. The design of the passage is to show that it is as impossible for God to forsake the afflicted and innocent, as it is impossible for him to deny himself. It is to be observed that he is termed Judge, because he affords succor to the poor who are unrighteously oppressed. The appellation of the meek or humble of the earth is applied to the faithful, who, subdued by afflictions, seek not high things, but, with humble groaning, patiently bear the burden of the cross. The best fruit of afflictions is, when thereby we are brought to purge our minds from all arrogance, and to bend them to meekness and modesty. When such is the effect, we may conclude with certainty that we are under the guardianship and protection of God, and that he is ready to extend his aid and favor towards us.

10. Surely the wrath of men shall praise thee. Some understand these words as denoting, that after these enemies shall have submitted to God, they will yield to him the praise of the victory; being constrained to acknowledge that they have been subdued by his mighty hand. Others elicit a more refined sense, That when God stirs up the wicked, and impels their fury, he in this way affords a most illustrious display of his own glory; even as he is said to have stirred up the heart of Pharaoh for this very purpose, (Exodus 14:4; Romans 9:17.) Understood in this sense, the text no doubt contains a profitable doctrine, but this being, I am afraid, too refined an explanation, I prefer considering the meaning simply to be, that although at first the rage of the enemies of God and his Church may throw all things into confusion, and, as it were, envelop them in darkness, yet all will at length redound to his praise; for the issue will make it manifest, that, whatever they may contrive and attempt, they cannot in any degree prevail against him. The concluding part of the verse, The remainder of wrath thou wilt restrain, may also be interpreted in two ways. As the word rgx, chagar, signifies to gird, some supply the pronoun thee, and give this sense, All the enemies of the Church are not yet overthrown; but thou, O God! wilt gird thyself to destroy those of them who remain. The other interpretation is, however, the more simple., which is, that although these enemies might not cease to breathe forth their cruelty, yet God would effectually restrain them, and prevent them from succeeding in the accomplishment of their enterprises.7 Perhaps, also, it would not be unsuitable to explain the verb thus, Thou wilt gather into a bundle, as we say in French, "Tu trousseras," i.e., Thou wilt truss or pack up. Let us therefore learn, while the wicked would involve in obscurity and doubt the providence of God, to wait patiently until he glorify himself by bringing about a happier state of things, and trample under foot their infatuated presumption, to their shame and confusion. But if new troubles arise from time to time, let us remember that it is his proper office to restrain the remainder of the wrath of the wicked, that they may not proceed to greater lengths. Meanwhile, let us not be surprised if we observe fresh outrages every now and then springing forth; for, even to the end of the world, Satan will always have partisans or agents, whom he will urge forward to molest the children of God.

11. Vow and pay to Jehovah your God. The faithful are now exhorted to the exercise of gratitude. As under the law the custom prevailed among the Jews of vowing sacrifices for singular blessings which God had conferred upon them, by which they solemnly acknowledged that their safety depended solely upon him, and that to him they were entirely indebted for it, they are called anew to engage in this exercise of religion; and by the word pay it is intended to inculcate steadfastness, -- to teach them that they should not make merely a sudden and inconsiderate acknowledgement, but that they should also testify at all times that the remembrance of their deliverance was deeply fixed in their hearts. Their most important business, no doubt, was seriously to reflect with themselves that God was the author of their salvation; but still it is to be observed, that the solemn profession of religion, by which every man stimulates not only himself but also others to the performance of their duty, is far from being superfluous. In the second clause, those addressed seem to be the neighboring nations; as if it had been said, that such a special manifestation of the goodness of God was worthy of being celebrated even by foreign and uncircumcised nations.8 But it appears to me, that the sense most agreeable to the context is, that these words are addressed either to the Levites or to all the posterity of Abraham, both of whom are not improperly said to be round about God, both because the tabernacle was pitched in the midst of the camp so long as the Israelites traveled in the wilderness, and also because the resting-place assigned for the ark was mount Zion, whither the people were accustomed to resort from all the surrounding parts of the country. And the Levites had intrusted to them the charge of the temple, and were appointed to keep watch and ward round about it. The word arwml, lammora, is referred to God by the majority of interpreters, and they translate it terrible. The term fear is, however, sometimes taken in a passive sense for God himself.9 If it is applied to the Gentiles and to irreligious men,10 the sense will be, that they shall be tributaries to God; because, being stricken with fear, they shall no longer dare to offer him any resistance. But it is more probable that this word has a reference to God, whom the prophet justly declares to be worthy of being feared, after having given such a remarkable proof of his power.

12. He will cut off11 the spirit of princes. As the Hebrew word rub, batsar, occasionally signifies to strengthen, some think it should be so translated in this passage. But as in the two clauses of the verse the same sentiment is repeated, I have no doubt that by the first clause is meant that understanding and wisdom are taken away from princes; and that by the second, God is represented in general as terrible to them, because he will cast them down headlong from their loftiness. As the first thing necessary to conduct an enterprise to a prosperous issue is to possess sound foresight, in which the people of God are often deficient from the great perplexity in which they are involved in the midst of their distresses, while, on the other hand, the ungodly are too sharp-sighted in their crafty schemes; it is here declared that it is in the power of God to deprive of understanding, and to inflict blindness on those who seem to surpass others in acuteness and ingenuity. The majority of princes being enemies to the Church of God, it is expressly affirmed, that He is sufficiently terrible to subdue all the kings of the earth. When it is said, that their spirit is cut off, or taken away from them, it is to be limited to tyrants and robbers whom God infatuates, because he sees that they apply all their ingenuity and counsels to do mischief.

1 "Pour faire jugement." -- Fr. "To execute judgment."

2 "Tous les humbles." -- Fr. "All the humble."

3 "Rendez vos voeus." -- Fr. "Pay your vows."

4 "Ou, a cause de la frayeur." -- Fr. marg. "Or, on account of fear."

5 When an angel of the Lord descended to perform some mighty work with which he had been commissioned, thunders and earthquakes frequently accompanied the execution of his commission; and it is highly probable that both these phenomena accompanied such a stupendous display of power, as that which was afforded by the slaughter of one hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the army of Sennacherib. By God's judgment being heard, may accordingly be understood the thunder which was heard; and what follows, "The earth was afraid," may signify the earthquake which then took place.

6 Hammond's statement of these two interpretations is clear and full. It is as follows: -- "What rwgxt [which Calvin renders, thou wilt restrain] signifies here, is not agreed among the interpreters, the word signifying 1. to gird, and, 2. to restrain. In the notion of restraining, it will have a very commodious sense, applied to Sennacherib, to whom this psalm belongs. For, as by the slaughter of the one hundred and eighty-five thousand in his army he was forced to depart, and dwell at Nineveh, 2 Kings 19:36; so, after his return thither, there are some remainders of his wrath on the Jews that dwelt there. We may see it, Tobit 1:18, 'If the king Sennacherib had slain any, when he was come and fled from Judea, I buried them privily, (for in his wrath he killed many,') etc. This was the gleanings of his wrath, and this was 'restrained' by God; for he soon falls by the hands of his sons, Adrammelech and Sharezer, 'as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god,' 2 Kings 19:37. And to this sense Kimchi interprets it, 'Thou shalt so repress the malice of our enemies, that the other nations shall not dare to fight against us;' so likewise Aben Ezra. And thus it must be, if 'the remainder of wrath' be 'man's wrath,' as the former part of the verse inclines it, 'Surely the wrath of man,' etc. But rgx, in the primary notion, signifies girding or putting on, arraying oneself. Girding, we know, signifies putting on, and is applied to garments, ornaments, arms: rwgx, 'Gird thy sword upon thy thigh,' Psalm 45:3, and frequently elsewhere; and so 'girding with gladness,' is putting on festival ornaments. And in like manner here, in a poetical phrase, 'Thou shalt gird on the remainder of wrath,' parallel to 'putting on the garments of vengeance for clothing,' Isaiah 59:17, will signify God's adorning and setting out himself by the exercise of his vengeance, vulgarly expressed by his wrath, and the word tmx, wrath, most fitly used with reference on tmx, the wrath of man, in the beginning of the verse. Man's wrath is the violence, and rage, and blasphemy of the oppressor, upon the meek or poor man foregoing. This begins, goes foremost, in provoking God; and then tyras, the remnant, or second part of wrath, is still behind for God; and with that he girds himself, i.e., sets himself out illustriously and dreadfully, as with an ornament, and as with an hostile preparation in the eyes of men. And so in this sense also it is agreeable to the context... In either sense, the parts of this verse are perfectly answerable the one to the other. To this latter rendering of rwgxt, the Chaldee inclines us, paraphrasing it by, 'Thou hast girded on, or prepared, or made ready, the remainder of fury, (meaning by God's fury,) for the destroying of the nations.'"

7 This is Kimchi's interpretation: He understands by "those round about God," the nations near the land of Israel, and so near God.

8 In this sense it is employed in Genesis 31:53, "And Jacob sware by the Fear of his father Isaac."

9 If it is thus applied, the reading will be, "Let all those who are round about him bring presents on account of fear."

10 The word employed by Calvin is "Vindemiabit," which expresses the precise idea of the original verb, rwuby, yebtstor. It is from rub, he cut off, brake off, referring properly to grapes and other fruits. The reading of the LXX. is, "takes away."

11 This is the rendering in our English Bible, which Dr Adam Clarke pronounces to be "a most unaccountable translation." The reading of the margin, however, "my hand," favours the sense given by our Author.