Psalm 89:9-14

9. Thou governest the pride of the sea: when the waves thereof rise up, thou restrainest them 10. Thou hast overthrown Egypt, as a wounded man;1 with thy mighty arm [literally, with the arm of thy strength] thou hast scattered thy enemies. 11. The heavens are thine, the earth also is thine: thou hast made the world, and the fullness thereof. 12. Thou hast created the north2and the south:3 Tabor and Hermon4 shall rejoice in thy name. 13. Thou hast a mighty arm: thou wilt strengthen thy hand, thou wilt exalt thy right hand. 14. Righteousness and judgment are the place of thy throne: mercy and truth shall go before thy face.


9. Thou governest the pride of the sea. I have already observed that what the prophet has hitherto spoken generally concerning the power of God, is to be referred to the miracle of the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt, which he now celebrates in express terms. According to the interpretation of some, God is said to still the impetuous waves of the sea, because he does not suffer it to break forth and overflow the whole world by a deluge. But I would read the 9th and 10th verses connectedly, and would understand the prophet as speaking of the Red Sea, which God divided to make a way for the chosen tribes to pass over. The Psalmist adds immediately after, that all the land of Egypt was overthrown as a wounded man. By these words he magnifies the grace of God, which was displayed in the deliverance of the Church. He intended, there can be no doubt, to set before his own mind and the minds of others, the paternal love of God, to encourage both himself and others to have recourse to Him for succor, with the greater freedom and alacrity. And in affirming that God had broken in pieces his enemies with his mighty arm, he concludes from the past experience of the Church, that his mode of acting will be always similar, whenever in his infinite wisdom he sees it to be required.

11. The heavens are thine, the earth also is thine. He again repeats, the third time, that the same God who had been the deliverer of the chosen people exercises supreme dominion over the whole world. From the fact that God created all things, he concludes, that it is He who actually presides over, and controls whatever takes place in heaven and in earth. It would be absurd to suppose, that the heavens, having been once created by God, should now revolve by chance, and that things should be thrown into confusion upon the earth either at the will of men, or at random, when it is considered that it belongs to God to maintain and govern whatever he has created; unless, like the heathen, we would imagine that he enjoys himself in beholding all the works of his hand, in this beautiful theater of the heaven and the earth, without giving himself any farther trouble about them. In speaking of the south and the north, and also of the mountains, Tabor and Hermon, the prophet accommodates his language to the unrefined apprehension of the common people: as if he had said, there is no part of the fabric of the world which does not reverence and honor its Creator. I also connect with this the next verse, which affirms, that the arm of God is furnished with power, his hand with strength, and that his right hand is exalted. Some resolve the two last clauses of the verse into the form of a prayer, Strengthen thy hand, lift up thy right hand; but this seems too much removed from the mind of the prophet, who, with the simple view of encouraging all the godly, celebrates the inconceivable power of God.

14. Righteousness and judgement are the place of thy throne. These encomiums serve more effectually to confirm the hope of true believers than if the Divine power alone had been presented to our view. Whenever mention is made of God, it behoves us to apply our minds principally to those attributes of his nature which are specially fitted for establishing our faith, that we may not lose ourselves by vainly indulging in subtile speculations, by which foolish men, although they may minister to their own mental recreation, make no advances to the right understanding of what God really is. The prophet, therefore, in allusion to the insignia and pomp of kings, declares that righteousness and judgment are the pillars of the throne on which God sits conspicuous in sovereign state, and that mercy and truth are, as it were, his pursuivants; as if he had said, "The ornaments with which God is invested, instead of being a robe of purple, a diadem, or a scepter, are, that he is the righteous and impartial judge of the world, a merciful father, and a faithful protector of his people." Earthly kings, from their having nothing in themselves to procure for them authority, and to give them dignity,5 are under the necessity of borrowing elsewhere what will invest them therewith; but God having in himself an all-sufficiency, and standing in no need of any other helps, exhibits to us the splendor of his own image in his righteousness, mercy, and truth.

1 Hammond's explanation of the words, And thy truth is round about thee, conveys a striking and beautiful idea. "The elegance of the phrase (which is poetical) seems to be taken," says he, "from the style of angels, verse 7th, where they are described as they that encompass God; signifying, that as they wait upon God, and execute his will, so, far above the strength of those, God's fidelity, his care to perform his promise exactly encompasses him, is ready prest to perform all that he hath ever promised to do." -- Hammond.

2 Horsley renders the clause thus: -- Thou hast crushed Rahab, that she lies gasping with her wounds; and has the following note: -- "The word llx", [for lies gasping with her wounds,] "as it is used here, and in Psalm 88:5, signifies not a dead carcass, but a person left for dead, under his wounds, upon the field of battle; a person so wounded, as to be fallen, and incapable of rising to defend himself, or annoy the enemy. It answers exactly to the Greek word , traumatiav, by which the LXX. render it. We have no corresponding word in the English language." Dr Adam Clarke reads, "Thou, like a hero, hast broken down Egypt;" and observes, "Dr Kennicott has largely proved, that llx, chalal, which we render wounded, slain, etc., means a soldier, warrior, hero; and it is certain that this sense agrees better with it than the other in a great number of places."

3 "The Hebrew word for 'the north,' is derived from a root signifying 'to hide, conceal.' The 'north' is probably so named; because in our northern hemisphere of the earth, the sun appears to move from east to south, and from south to west, and, towards mid-day, is at all times of the year southerly; whence the north side of a building, tree, or mountain, is usually 'concealed' or 'hidden' from his direct rays, and is, as we express it, in the shade. (See Parkhurst on Npu, 4.) Simonis, also, assigns this as the reason of the name, in the judgment of some critics, or, in that of others, because the north is covered with snow, and of others again, with darkness; and so the Greek word for darkness, zofov, is continually used by Homer for the north: for the ancients thought that the north was always buried in gloom and thick darkness." -- Mant.

4 The original word Nymy, yamin, for "the south," signifies literally "the right hand." As the Hebrews, when they engaged in prayer, turned their faces eastward, they called the East Mynp, the face, and the West, rwxa, the hinder part. The South, therefore, would necessarily be on their right hand; and hence, Mymy, yamin, came to be used to denote the south.

5 Tabor is a mountain of Judea, and Hermon (Psalm 133:3) of Syria, the former to the west, and the latter to the east of the Jordan; so that they may be considered as put for the East and the West. Accordingly, the Chaldee paraphrase is, "Thou hast created the desert of the north, and the inhabitants of the south; Tabor on the west, and Hermon on the east, sing praises to thy name." "These mountains," says Warner, "were at a considerable distance from each other. This indicates, that the most distant parts of the land shall be equally blessed; have a like cause of rejoicing."