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Psalm 60:1-3

1. O God! thou hast cast us off; thou hast scattered us; thou hast been displeased: O turn thyself to us again! 2. Thou hast made the earth [or the land] to tremble; thou hast caused it to open wide: heal the breaches thereof; for it shaketh. 3. Thou hast showed thy people hard things: thou hast made us drunk with the wine of astonishment. 382382     The three first verses, which complain of calamities and distresses, seem not to correspond to the title of the psalm, from which we would naturally expect the expressions of joy and praise for the victory obtained. Hare conjectures that these three verses have accidentally changed place with Psalm 85:2, 3, 4. Archbishop Secker observes, that this conjecture “is bold, but otherwise very ingenious and plausible; and this change would make each psalm more consistent, and reconcile this psalm to its title very well; for the historical books mention no distress in the war to which the title refers.” Dr Adam Clarke considers this conjecture well founded; but others think the apparent discrepancy may be removed by supposing that the psalm was written after some of the battles of which mention is made in the title, and that the Author does not restrict himself to those events, but takes in a wider range, so as to embrace the afflictive condition both of Israel and Judah during the latter part of Saul’s life, and the former years of David’s reign.


1. O God! thou hast cast us off. With the view of exciting both himself and others to a more serious consideration of the goodness of God, which they presently experienced, he begins the psalm with prayer; and a comparison is instituted, designed to show that the government of Saul had been under the divine reprobation. He complains of the sad confusions into which the nation had been thrown, and prays that God would return to it in mercy, and re-establish its affairs. Some have thought that David here adverts to his own distressed condition: this is not probable. I grant that, before coming to the throne, he underwent severe afflictions; but in this place he evidently speaks of the whole people as well as himself. The calamities which he describes are such as extended to the whole kingdom; and I have not the least doubt, therefore, that he is to be considered as drawing a comparison which might illustrate the favor of God, as it had been shown so remarkably, from the first, to his own government. With this view, he deplores the long-continued and heavy disasters which had fallen upon the people of God under Saul’s administration. It is particularly noticeable, that though he had found his own countrymen his worst and bitterest foes, now that he sat upon the throne, he forgets all the injuries which they had done him, and, mindful only of the situation which he occupied, associates himself with the rest of them in his addresses to God. The scattered condition of the nation is what he insists upon as the main calamity. In consequence of the dispersion of Saul’s forces, the country lay completely exposed to the incursions of enemies; not a man was safe in his own house, and no relief remained but in flight or banishment. He next describes the confusions which reigned by a metaphor, representing the country as opened, or cleft asunder; not that there had been a literal earthquake, but that the kingdom, in its rent and shattered condition, presented that calamitous aspect which generally follows upon an earthquake. The affairs of Saul ceased to prosper from the time that he forsook God; and when he perished at last, he left the nation in a state little short of ruin. The greatest apprehension must have been felt throughout it; it was become the scorn of its enemies, and was ready to submit to any yoke, however degrading, which promised tolerable conditions. Such is the manner in which David intimates that the divine favor had been alienated by Saul, pointing, when he says that God was displeased, at the radical source of all the evils which prevailed; and he prays that the same physician who had broken would heal.

3. Thou hast showed thy people hard things He says, first, that the nation had been dealt with severely, and then adds a figure which may additionally represent the grievousness of its calamities, speaking of it as drunk with the wine of stupor or astonishment. Even the Hebraist interpreters are not agreed among themselves as to the meaning of תרעלה, tarelah, which I have rendered astonishment. Several of them translate it poison. But it is evident that the Psalmist alludes to some kind of poisoned drink, which deprives a person of his senses, insinuating that the Jews were stupified by their calamities. 383383     It was customary among the Hebrews to make their wine stronger and more inebriating by the addition of hotter and more powerful ingredients; such as honey, spices, defrutum, (i e., wine inspissated by boiling it down to two-thirds or one-half of the quantity,) mandrakes, opiates, and other drugs. Such were the stupifying ingredients which the celebrated Helen is represented, in Homer’s Odyssey, as mixing in the bowl, together with the wine, for her guests oppressed with grief, to raise their spirits; and such is probably the wine to which there is here an allusion. The people were stupified by the heavy judgments of God, like a person stupified with wine which had been rendered more intoxicating by the deleterious drugs with which it had been mingled. This highly poetical language is not unfrequently employed to express the divine judgments: as in Isaiah 51:17, 20-22, and Jeremiah 25:15, 16. The original word תרעלה, tarelah, means properly trembling, from the verb רעל, raal, from which the English word reel is perhaps derived. We might therefore read, “the wine of trembling.” He would place, in short, before their eyes the curse of God, which had pressed upon the government of Saul, and induce them to abandon their obstinate attempts to maintain the interests of a throne which lay under the divine reprobation.

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