Psalm 84:5-7

5. Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; the ways are in their hearts. 6. They passing through the valley of weeping,1 will together make it a fountain;2 the rain also will cover the cisterns, [or reservoirs.]3 7. They will go from strength to strength;4 the God of gods will be seen in Zion.


5. Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee. David again informs us, that the purpose for which he desired liberty of access to the sanctuary was, not merely to gratify his eyes with what was to be seen there, but to make progress in faith. To lean with the whole heart upon God, is to attain to no ordinary degree of advancement: and this cannot be attained by any man, unless all his pride is laid prostrate in the dust, and his heart truly humbled. In proposing to himself this way of seeking God, David's object is to borrow from him by prayer the strength of which he feels himself to be destitute. The concluding clause of the verse, the ways are in their hearts,5 is by some interpreted as meaning, That those are happy who walk in the way which God has appointed; for nothing is more injurious to a man than to trust in his own understanding. It is not improperly said of the law, "This is the way, walk ye in it," Isaiah 30:21. Whenever then men turn aside, however little it may be, from the divine law, they go astray, and become entangled in perverse errors. But it is more appropriate to restrict the clause to the scope of the passage, and to understand it as implying, that those are happy whose highest ambition it is to have God as the guide of their life, and who therefore desire to draw near to him. God, as we have formerly observed, is not satisfied with mere outward ceremonies. What he desires is, to rule and keep in subjection to himself all whom he invites to his tabernacle. Whoever then has learned how great a blessedness it is to rely upon God, will put forth all the desires and faculties of his mind, that with all speed he may hasten to Him.

6. They passing through the valley of weeping, will together make it a well. The meaning of the Psalmist is, that no impediments can prevent the enlightened and courageous worshippers of God from making conscience of waiting upon the sanctuary. By this manner of speaking, he confirms the statement which he had previously made, That nothing is more desirable than to be daily engaged in the worship of God; showing, as he does, that no difficulties can put a stop to the ardent longings of the godly, and prevent them from hastening with alacrity, yea, even though their way should be through dry and barren deserts, to meet together to solemnise the holy assemblies. As the Hebrew word axbh, habbacha, when the final letter is h, he, signifies tears, and when the final letter is a, aleph, a mulberry tree, some here read valley of tears, and others, valley of the mulberry. The majority of interpreters adopt the first reading; but the other opinion is not destitute of probability.6 There is, however, no doubt, that dry and barren deserts are here to be understood, in travelling through which, much difficulty and privation must be endured, particularly from the want of water; drink being of all other articles the most necessary to persons when travelling. David intended this as an argument to prove the steadfastness of the godly, whom the scarcity of water, which often discourages travelers from prosecuting their journey, will not hinder from hastening to seek God, though their way should be through sandy and and vales. In these words, reproof is administered to the slothfulness of those who will not submit to any inconvenience for the sake of being benefited by the service of God. They indulge themselves in their own ease and pleasures, and allow nothing to interfere with these. They will, therefore, provided they are not required to make any exertion or sacrifice, readily profess themselves to be the servants of God; but they would not give a hair of their head, or make the smallest sacrifice, to obtain the liberty of hearing the gospel preached, and of enjoying the sacraments. This slothful spirit, as is evident from daily observation, keeps multitudes fast bound to their nests, so that they cannot bear to forego in any degree their own ease and convenience. Yea, even in those places where they are summoned by the sound of the church-bell to public prayers7 to hear the doctrine of salvation, or to partake of the holy mysteries, we see that some give themselves to sleep, some think only of gain, some are entangled with the affairs of the world, and others are engaged in their amusements. It is therefore not surprising, if those who live at a distance, and who cannot enjoy these religious services and means of salvation, without making some sacrifice of their worldly substance, remain lolling at home. That such may not live secure and self-satisfied in the enjoyment of outward prosperity, David declares, that those who have true heart religion, and who sincerely serve God, direct their steps to the sanctuary of God, not only when the way is easy and cheerful, under the shade and through delightful paths, but also when they must walk through rugged and barren deserts; and that they will rather make for themselves cisterns with immense toil, than be prevented from prosecuting their journey by reason of the drought of the country.

7. They will go from strength to strength. In this verse the same sentiment is repeated. Mount Zion being the place where, according to the appointment of the law, the holy assemblies were observed, after the ark of the covenant was removed thither, it is said, that the people of God will come to Zion in great numbers, provoking one another to this good work.8 The word lyx, chayil, seldom signifies a troop, or band of men, but most commonly power, or strength. It will therefore be more in accordance with the ordinary use of the term, to translate, They will go from strength to strength;9 implying, that the saints are continually acquiring fresh strength for going up to mount Zion, and continue to prosecute their journey without weariness or fatigue, until they reach the wished-for place, and behold the countenance of God. If the word troop is preferred, the meaning will be, that not a few only will come, but numerous companies. The manner in which God manifested himself to his servants in the temple in old time, we have spoken of elsewhere, and especially on the 27th psalm, at the 4th and 5th verses. No visible image of God was there to be seen; but the ark of the covenant was a symbol of his presence, and genuine worshippers found from experience, that by this means they were greatly aided in approaching him.

1 "Ou, du meurier." -- Fr. marg. "Or, of the mulberry-tree."

2 "Fontem ponent." -- Lat. "La rendent semblable a une fontaine." -- Fr.

3 "Pools or reservoirs of water, as well as wells, are common in the Eastern deserts: the latter are supplied by springs, the former by rains, as here noticed: but both are to be found in considerable numbers in Judea, and are, according to Rauwolff, more numerous in these countries than springs that lie high; that is, than fountains and brooks of running water. Some of these have been made for the use of the people that dwell in the neighborhood; some for travelers, and especially those that travel for devotion; as for instance, such as go in pilgrimage to Mecca. The Psalmist appears to refer to provisions of this sort, made by the devout Israelites in the way of their progress to Jerusalem." -- Mant.

This last clause has been very variously rendered. It has been understood by all the versions, in a different sense from that given to it by Calvin and our English version, which agrees with him. The Septuagint reads: "The law-giver will give blessings." Dr Adam Clarke: "Yea, the instructor is covered, or clothed with blessings." "God," says he, "takes care to give his followers teachers after his own heart, that shall feed them with knowledge: and while they are watering the people they are watered themselves." Mudge reads: "Even Moreh is clothed with ponds." He translates the 5th, 6th, and 7th verses thus: -- "How happy the man whose strength is in thee! that travel the roads with their hearts. In the valley of Baca he maketh it a fountain; even Moreh is clothed with ponds. They walk from strength to strength; he appeareth before God in Zion." His note on these verses is as follows: -- "I join the latter end of the 5th to the first word of the 6th, (so the Seventy direct, and the sense seems to require,) with a slight alteration into wrbe; the change of number, I have often observed, is not to be regarded. 'How happy the man that feels himself invigorated by thee; that travels the roads that lead to Jerusalem, with full bent of heart! He goes through the valley of Baca as full of spirit as if it was cheered with a fountain of waters, and Moreh, as if it was filled with delicious ponds.' (Two desolate places I suppose, through which the road lay.) 'He grows lustier as he walks; he appears before God in Zion.'"

4 "Ou, de troupe en troupe." -- Fr. marg. "Or, from company to company."

5 "Heb. The ways are in his heart; i.e., the highways to the temple are the objects of his delight. In the former verses he had alluded to the happiness of the priests, etc., who were always engaged in the service of Jehovah; here he expresses the felicity of other Israelites, who frequented the worship of the temple." -- Dr Good's new Version of the Book of Psalms, with Notes.

6 "Ou la cloche sonnera pour appeler les gens aux prieres publiques" -- Fr.

7 "Il dit que les fideles y viendront a grand foulle, et a l'envie l'un de l'autre, comme on dit." -- Fr.

8 "Horsley reads, 'from wall to wall;' Merrick, 'from station to station;' others, 'from virtue to virtue,' in the military sense. All come to the same effect; they persevere through all difficulty or opposition, having their hearts set on reaching Zion's hill." -- Williams. "I think with Gejerus that the Hebrew may be translated from strength to strength, (answerably to the words from faith to faith, Romans 1:17, and from glory to glory, 2 Corinthians 3:18,) and signify, that whereas other travelers grow more and more weary as they travel, each of the pious persons here described shall, by the refreshments administered to them, proceed from one degree of strength to another, viresque acquiret eundo. As Jerusalem is represented in the New Testament as a type of heaven, I see nothing irrational in supposing that the inspired writer might, in describing the ascent to Jerusalem, have in view also that spiritual progress which leads to the city which is above, the mother of us all. The words before us are certainly very applicable to the advances made in this progress, from strength to strength, from one stage of Christian perfection to another." -- Merrick's Annotations.

9 "Ailleurs." This supplement is not in the Latin version.