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5

Father of orphans and protector of widows

is God in his holy habitation.


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4 Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: exalt him 1212     The reading of the Septuagint is, ‘Οδοποιήσατε, “Make way.” The Hebrew word סלו, sollu, has this sense, as well as that of exalt In two passages in Isaiah, the forms of expression are very like the present passage, (Isaiah 57:14,) “Cast ye up, cast ye up, prepare the way;” and (Isaiah 62:10,) “Cast up, cast up the highway.” Jerome has, “Praeparate viam,” “Prepare yea way.” Walford adopts the same translation, — “Prepare a way for him who rideth through the deserts,” — which he explains in the following note: “The imagery is borrowed from the custom of Eastern princes, who sent pioneers before their armies, to reduce the hills, and carry raised roads through the valleys, to facilitate their progress. God is described as riding through the deserts, from his having accompanied Israel through the wilderness, to conduct them to Canaan.” that rideth, etc. He now proceeds to call upon the Lord’s people to praise God. And he begins by pointing out the grounds in general, as I have already hinted, which they have for this exercise, because he comprehends the whole world under his power and government, adding, that he condescends to take the poorest and the most wretched of our family under his protection. His infinite power is commended, when it is said that he rides upon the clouds, or the heavens, 1313     The word בערבות, baaraboth, here rendered the clouds, or the heavens, is by the LXX. translated the west, as if it were derived from ערב, ereb, evening; and by the Vulgate, “Super occasum,” “Upon the going down of the sun.” Others translate it “deserts.” Thus, Jerome reads, “ascendenti per deserta,” “for him that rideth through the deserts.” In this he is followed by Dr Boothroyd, Bishops Lowth and Horsley, Drs Kennicott and Chandler, Fry, and others; but critics of no less note read heavens, as Paginus, Buxtorf, and Hammond. “The feminine ערבה,” says this last critic, “is frequently taken for a plain, and so for the desert; but ערבות, in the plural, is acknowledged by the Hebrews to signify the heavens.” The idea is altogether fanciful which has been put forth by some, that this word, which frequently signifies a plain or desert, is applied to the highest heavens, “either as being plain and void of stars, and so a kind of superior desert, without anything in it, or (as the learned Grotius piously conjectures from 1 Timothy 6:16) because, as a desert, it is ἀπρόσοιτον, not approached or approachable by any.” for this proves that he sits superior over all things. The Holy Spirit may signify by the expression, that we should exclude from our minds every thing gross and earthly in the conceptions we form of him; but he would, doubtless, impress us chiefly with an idea of his great power, to produce in us a due reverence, and make us feel how far short all our praises must come of his glory. We would attempt in vain to comprehend heaven and earth; but his glory is greater than both. As to the expression which follows, in Jah, his name, there has been some difference of opinion. The Hebrew preposition ב, beth, may here, as sometimes it is, be a mere expletive, and we may read, Jah is his name 1414     This is the rendering in all the ancient versions, as the Septuagint, Chaldee, Syriac, Vulgate, etc. Many instances might be produced in which ב it is redundant; as, for example, Exodus 32:22, Proverbs 3:26 Others read, in Jah is his name; 1515     This is the translation given by Horsley, who applies the passage to Christ; and his criticism upon it is excellent. “Upon mature consideration,” says he, “I am inclined to take the text as it stands, and render it literally with Jerome, ‘In Jah is his name;’ i e., his name, who is riding through the wilderness, is in Jehovah, in the Self-existent One. He who led the armies of Israel through the wilderness, when they first came up from Egypt, was Christ. He who brought the captives home from Babylon was Christ. He who shall finally bring the revolted Jews home to his Church, and, in a literal sense, bring the nation home to its ancient seat, is Christ. Christ, therefore, is intended here, under the image of one riding through the wilderness, (‘ascendenti per deserta,’ Jerome,) not upon the heavens, at the head of the returning captives. ‘His name is in Jah:’ Christ’s name is in Jehovah. שם, ‘the Name,’ is used, in the Hebrew language, for the thing imperfectly apprehended, to which, however, a name belongs. Thus, for God all languages have a name; and all men have an idea of the Being intended by that name, as the First Cause, the Maker, and Governor of the universe. Yet the human intellect, — we may say, more generally, the created intellect, — comprehends not the nature of this Great Being, nor can it enumerate his attributes. ‘The name of God’ is the incomprehensible Being who is all that the name imports, more than is expressed; more, at least, than any name can express to the finite understanding. Thus, when we are commanded to fear the name of God, the injunction is, that we carry in our minds a constant fear of the Being to whom that name belongs. The name, therefore, of Christ is Christ himself, considered as known by a name, but yet imperfectly understood, or rather incomprehensible in his nature. The sentence, ‘His name is in Jehovah,’ is an emphatical assertion of his divinity, introduced here to justify and enforce the worship enjoined. ‘Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: cast up a way for him that is riding through the wilderness.’ Who is he that is riding through the wilderness, that we should pay him this respect? ‘He,’ says the Psalmist, ‘who cannot be described.’ ‘His name is in Jah.’ His name and his nature are involved in the name and nature of the Godhead. Name him: you name the All-glorious One. Name the All-glorious One: you name him. Name him as distinct from the All-Good and Glorious: you name him not aright.” and I have no objection to this, though I prefer the translation which I have adopted. It is of less consequence how we construe the words, as the meaning of the Psalmist is obvious. The whole world was at that time filled with the vain idols of superstition, and he would assert the claim of God, and set them aside when he brought forward the God of Israel. But it is not enough that the Lord’s people should bow before him with suppliant spirits. Even the wicked, while they fear and tremble before him, are forced to yield him reverence. David would have them draw near to him with cheerfulness and alacrity; and, accordingly, proceeds to insist upon his transcendent goodness shown in condescending to the orphans and widows. The incomprehensible glory of God does not induce him to remove himself to a distance from us, or prevent him from stooping to us in our lowest depths of wretchedness. There can be no doubt that orphans and widows are named to indicate in general all such as the world are disposed to overlook as unworthy of their regard. Generally we distribute our attentions where we expect some return. We give the preference to rank and splendor, and despise or neglect the poor. When it is said, God is in the habitation of his holiness, this may refer either to heaven or to the temple, for either sense will suit the connection. God does not dwell in heaven to indulge his own ease, but heaven is, as it were, his throne, from which he judges the world. On the other hand, the fact of his having chosen to take up his residence with men, and inviting them familiarly to himself there, is one well fitted to encourage the poor, who are cheered to think that he is not far off from them. In the next verse, other instances of the Divine goodness are mentioned — that he gives the bereaved and solitary a numerous offspring, and releases the bonds of the captive. In the last clause of the verse, he denounces the judgment of God against those who impiously despise him, and this that he might show the Lord’s people the folly of envying their lot as well as strike terror into their minds. The sense of the words is, That we ought to comfort ourselves under the worst afflictions, by reflecting that we are in God’s hand, who can mitigate all our griefs and remove all our burdens. The wicked, on the other hand, may congratulate themselves for a time upon their prosperity, but eventually it will fare ill with them. By dwelling in a dry land, is meant being banished, as it were, to a wilderness, and deprived of the benefits of that fatherly kindness which they had so criminally abused.




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