Psalm 89:5-8

5. And the heavens shall praise thy wondrous work, O Jehovah! thy truth1 also in the congregation of the saints. 6. For who in the clouds [or in heaven] can be compared to Jehovah? who among the sons of the gods2 is like to Jehovah? 7. God is very terrible3 in the assembly of the saints, and to be feared above all who are around him. 8. O Jehovah! God of Hosts, who is a strong God as thou art? and thy truth is round about thee.


5. And the heavens shall praise thy wondrous work. The prophet, having spoken of God's covenant, even as faith ought to begin at the word, now descends to a general commendation of his works. It is, however, to be observed, that when he treats of the wonderful power of God, he has no other end in view than to exalt and magnify more highly the holiness of the covenant. He exclaims, that this is the God who has rightful claims to be served and feared, who ought to be believed, and upon whose power the most unhesitating confidence may be reposed. The words wondrous work, in the first clause, I would therefore limit to the power which God displays in preserving and maintaining his Church. The heavens, it is true, are most excellent witnesses and preachers of God's wonderful power; but from attending to the scope of the passage, it will be still more evident, that the encomiums here pronounced have all a special reference to the end of which I have spoken. Some interpreters judiciously explain the word heavens, of the angels, among whom there is a common joy and congratulation in the salvation of the Church. This interpretation is confirmed from the last clause of the verse, in which it is asserted, that God's truth will be celebrated in the congregation of the saints. There is no doubt, that the same subject is here prosecuted, and that by the word truth, it is intended to signalise the remarkable deliverances by which God had manifested his faithfulness to the promises made to his servants.

6. For who in the clouds can be compared to Jehovah? The prophet now proceeds to illustrate farther what he had said respecting God's wonders, and exclaims emphatically, Who in the clouds can be compared to God? The reason why he speaks of the clouds, or heaven, is because, what is not surprising, nothing is to be found upon the earth which can at all approach the glory of God. Although man excels other living creatures, yet we see how contemptible and miserable his condition is, or rather, how full it is of shame and reproach. Whence it follows, that under heaven there is no excellence which can compete with that of God. But when we ascend to heaven, immediately ravished with admiration, we conceive of a multitude of gods, which do away with the true God. The last clause of the verse, in which it is said, that among the sons of the gods there is none like the true and only God, is an explanation of the first. The opinion of some, that by the clouds, or the heavens, is to be understood the sun, moon, and stars, is disproved by the context itself. The amount then is, that even in the heavens, God alone has the entire pre-eminence, having there none as a companion or equal. The appellation the sons of the gods is here given to angels, because they neither have their origin from the earth, nor are clothed with a corruptible body, but are celestial spirits, adorned with a Divine glory. It is not meant that they are a part of the Divine essence or substance, as some fanatics dream; but as God displays his power in them, this title is attributed to them, to distinguish between their nature and ours. In short, although a greater majesty shines forth in the angels than in other creatures, at the contemplation of which we are ravished with admiration, yet come they not near God, so as to obscure and impair his glory by their excellence, or to share with him in the sovereignty of the universe. This is a point worthy of our careful attention; for, although God everywhere declares in his word that the angels are only his servants, and always ready to execute his commands, yet the world, not contented with having only one God, forges for itself a countless number of deities.

To the same effect is the following verse, in which it is affirmed, that God is very terrible in the assembly of the saints. In these words is censured that devilish superstition, to which almost all men are prone, of exalting angels beyond measure, and without reason. But if the angels themselves tremble, and are afraid before the Divine Majesty, why should they not be regarded as subjects, and kept in their own rank, that God alone may have the sovereignty entirely to himself? Farther, when they are represented as around God, the meaning is, that they surround his royal throne like body-guards, and are always ready to execute his behests. In the subsequent verse the same thing is repeated yet again, Who is a strong God as thou art? and this is done, that at least the fear of the Divine Majesty may teach us to beware of robbing him of the honor which belongs to him. That we may not, however, by too much fear, be prevented from approaching him, some portion of sweetness is intermingled with this description, when it is declared, that his truth is to be seen round about him on all sides; by which we are to understand, that God is always steadfast in his promises, and that whatever changes may happen, he nevertheless continues invariably true, both before and behind, on the right hand and on the left.4

1 "Comp. 2 Samuel 7:11, etc. In 5:3 and 5:4, the Psalmist introduces God as speaking on a subject which he resumes in 5:34; so that the intervening verses may be considered as parenthetical." -- Cresswell.

2 " -- and thy truth" -- Le Clerc thinks that the word men should here be supplied, and men thy truth; in which case, the congregation of the saints will have its proper meaning -- an assembly of the pious upon earth; and the Psalmist thus describes both angels and men as praising God." -- Cresswell.

3 "Literally who is he among the sons of Alim, (or of Gods, as in Psalm 29:1,) i.e., according to Suicer, the powerful, the princes of the earth. Ale, in the singular number, is used to signify God in Deuteronomy 32:17; Job 3:4, 23, (and in other places of that book;) Daniel 11:38; Habakkak 3:3. But it may be doubted whether its plural, Alim, ever means, as Aleim does, the true God. We have, however, the sons of Aleim, for chief men, in Genesis 6:2, and for angels in Job 1:6; in which sense some commentators have understood the sons of Alim both here and in Psalm 29:1, and with them agrees the Chaldee interpreter of this place. In Habakkak 1:11, Ale is used in speaking of the false god of the Chaldeans; and Parkhurst is of opinion, that by the sons of Alim are meant those kings who worshipped material divinities, such as the sun." -- Cresswell.

4 Ainsworth reads, "God is daunting terrible." The original word is Pren, naarats, from Pre, arats, he was broken, bruised, terrified. "An epithet of God," says Bythner "as though breaking all things."