a Bible passage

Click a verse to see commentary
Select a resource above

Psalm 68

Praise and Thanksgiving

To the leader. Of David. A Psalm. A Song.


Let God rise up, let his enemies be scattered;

let those who hate him flee before him.


As smoke is driven away, so drive them away;

as wax melts before the fire,

let the wicked perish before God.


But let the righteous be joyful;

let them exult before God;

let them be jubilant with joy.



Sing to God, sing praises to his name;

lift up a song to him who rides upon the clouds—

his name is the L ord

be exultant before him.



Father of orphans and protector of widows

is God in his holy habitation.


God gives the desolate a home to live in;

he leads out the prisoners to prosperity,

but the rebellious live in a parched land.



O God, when you went out before your people,

when you marched through the wilderness, Selah


the earth quaked, the heavens poured down rain

at the presence of God, the God of Sinai,

at the presence of God, the God of Israel.


Rain in abundance, O God, you showered abroad;

you restored your heritage when it languished;


your flock found a dwelling in it;

in your goodness, O God, you provided for the needy.



The Lord gives the command;

great is the company of those who bore the tidings:


“The kings of the armies, they flee, they flee!”

The women at home divide the spoil,


though they stay among the sheepfolds—

the wings of a dove covered with silver,

its pinions with green gold.


When the Almighty scattered kings there,

snow fell on Zalmon.



O mighty mountain, mountain of Bashan;

O many-peaked mountain, mountain of Bashan!


Why do you look with envy, O many-peaked mountain,

at the mount that God desired for his abode,

where the L ord will reside forever?



With mighty chariotry, twice ten thousand,

thousands upon thousands,

the Lord came from Sinai into the holy place.


You ascended the high mount,

leading captives in your train

and receiving gifts from people,

even from those who rebel against the L ord God’s abiding there.


Blessed be the Lord,

who daily bears us up;

God is our salvation. Selah


Our God is a God of salvation,

and to G od, the Lord, belongs escape from death.



But God will shatter the heads of his enemies,

the hairy crown of those who walk in their guilty ways.


The Lord said,

“I will bring them back from Bashan,

I will bring them back from the depths of the sea,


so that you may bathe your feet in blood,

so that the tongues of your dogs may have their share from the foe.”



Your solemn processions are seen, O God,

the processions of my God, my King, into the sanctuary—


the singers in front, the musicians last,

between them girls playing tambourines:


“Bless God in the great congregation,

the L ord, O you who are of Israel’s fountain!”


There is Benjamin, the least of them, in the lead,

the princes of Judah in a body,

the princes of Zebulun, the princes of Naphtali.



Summon your might, O God;

show your strength, O God, as you have done for us before.


Because of your temple at Jerusalem

kings bear gifts to you.


Rebuke the wild animals that live among the reeds,

the herd of bulls with the calves of the peoples.

Trample under foot those who lust after tribute;

scatter the peoples who delight in war.


Let bronze be brought from Egypt;

let Ethiopia hasten to stretch out its hands to God.



Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth;

sing praises to the Lord, Selah


O rider in the heavens, the ancient heavens;

listen, he sends out his voice, his mighty voice.


Ascribe power to God,

whose majesty is over Israel;

and whose power is in the skies.


Awesome is God in his sanctuary,

the God of Israel;

he gives power and strength to his people.


Blessed be God!

7 O God! when thou wentest forth before thy people, etc. The Psalmist now proceeds to show that the Divine goodness is principally displayed in the Church, which God has selected as the great theater where his fatherly care may be manifested. What follows is evidently added with the view of leading the posterity of Abraham, as the Lord’s chosen people, to apply the observations which had been just made to themselves. The deliverance from Egypt having been the chief and lasting pledge of the Divine favor, which practically ratified their adoption under the patriarch, he briefly adverts to that event. He would intimate that in that remarkable exodus, proof had been given to all succeeding ages of the love which God entertained for his Church. Why were so many miracles wrought? why were heaven and earth put into commotion? why were the mountains made to tremble? but that all might recognize the power of God as allied with the deliverance of his people. He represents God as having been their leader in conducting them forth. And this not merely in reference to their passage of the Red Sea, but their journeys so long as they wandered in the wilderness. When he speaks of the earth being moved, he would not seem to allude entirely to what occurred upon the promulgation of the law, but to the fact that, throughout all their progress, the course of nature was repeatedly altered, as if the very elements had trembled at the presence of the Lord. It was upon Mount Sinai, however, that God issued the chief displays of his awful power; it was there that thunders were heard in heaven, and the air was filled with lightnings; and, accordingly, it is mentioned here by name as having presented the most glorious spectacle of the Divine majesty which was ever beheld. Some read, This Sinai, etc., connecting the pronoun זה, zeh, with the mountain here named; but it is much more emphatical to join it with the preceding clause, and to read, the heavens dropped at the presence of This God; David meaning to commend the excellency of the God of Israel. The expression is one frequently used by the prophets to denote that the God worshipped by the posterity of Abraham was the true God, and the religion delivered in his law no delusion, as in Isaiah 25:9, “This, this is our God, and he will save us.” To establish the Lord’s people in their faith, David leads them, as it were, into the very presence of God; indicates that they were left to no such vague uncertainties as the heathen; and indirectly censures the folly of the world in forsaking the knowledge of the true God, and fashioning imaginary deities of its own, of wood and stone, of gold and silver.

9. Thou, O God! shalt make a liberal rain to fall 1919     Heb. Shall shake out, i.e., from the clouds, a liberal rain. upon thine inheritance Mention is made here of the continued course of favor which had been extended to the people from the time when they first entered the promised land. It is called the inheritance of God, as having been assigned over to his own children. Others understand by the inheritance spoken of in the verse, the Church, but this is not correct, for it is afterwards stated as being the place where the Church dwelt. The title is appropriately given to the land of Canaan, which God made over to them by right of inheritance. David takes notice of the fact, that, from the first settlement of the seed of Abraham in it, God had never ceased to make the kindest fatherly provision for them, sending his rain in due season to prepare their food. The words translated a liberal rain, read literally in the Hebrew a rain of freenesses, and I agree with interpreters in thinking that he alludes to the blessing as having come in the exercise of free favor, 2020     Ainsworth reads, “a rain of liberalities.” Horsley, “a shower of unmerited kindnesses;” “literally,” says he, “a plentiful rain, rain being used here metaphorically.” and to God, as having of his own unprompted goodness provided for all the wants of his people. Some read a desirable rain; others, a rain flowing without violence, or gentle; but neither of these renderings seems eligible. Others read a copious or plentiful rain; but I have already stated what appears to me to be the preferable sense. It was a proof, then, of his Divine liberality, that God watered the land seasonably with showers. There is clearly a reference to the site of Judea, which owed its fertility to dews and the rains of heaven. In allusion to the same circumstance, he speaks of its being refreshed when weary. The reason is assigned — because it had been given to his chosen people to dwell in. On no other account was it blessed, than as being the habitation of God’s Church and people. The more to impress upon the minds of the Jews their obligations to Divine goodness, he represents them as pensioners depending upon God for their daily food. He fed them upon the finest of the wheat, giving them wine, and honey, and oil in abundance — still he proportioned the communication of his kindness so as to keep them always dependent in expectation upon himself. Some, instead of reading, Thou wilt prepare with thy goodness, etc., render it, Thou wilt prepare with rich food; but, without absolutely objecting to this translation, I rather think that he adverts to the circumstance of God’s being led to provide for his people entirely by his own good pleasure.

11. The Lord shall give the word, etc. David now adverts to the victories by which God had signally displayed his power in behalf of his people. He had himself been the instrument of restoring peace to the country, by putting down its foes, and he had extended the boundaries of the kingdom; but he ascribes the praise of all that had been done in stratagems and counsels of war to God. In representing God as issuing orders for the song of triumph, he intimates, figuratively, that it is he who determines the successful issue of battles. Notice is taken of the women who announce the army, for it was the custom anciently for women to sing the song of triumph, as Miriam, the sister of Moses, with her companions, sounded the praises of God upon the timbrel, and the women celebrated David’s victory upon the harp, when he slew Goliath, and routed the Philistines, (Exodus 15:20; Judges 11:34; 1 Samuel 18:6.) In making this reference to a song of praise, the Psalmist, as I have already said, intended to impress the truth upon the people, that the victories gained were entirely owing to God; though, at the same time, he tacitly reminds them of its being their duty to proclaim his benefits with due gratitude.

From the verse which succeeds, we are taught that the mightiest preparations which the enemies of the Church may make for its destruction shall be overthrown. We may consider the words as spoken in the person of the Psalmist himself, or as forming the song of the women mentioned above. It was a circumstance illustrative of the Divine favor, that the most formidable kings, before whom the Jews could never have stood in their own strength, had been put to flight. That princes, who could easily have overrun the world with their forces, should have not only departed without obtaining their purpose, but been forced to fly to a distance, could be accounted for on no other supposition than God’s having stood forward signally as their defender. In the Hebrew the verb is repeated, they shall flee, they shall flee, signifying that the attacks of the enemy had been repelled by Divine assistance once and again. The greatness of the spoil taken is intimated by the circumstance stated, that a share of it would come even to the women who remained at home. While the soldiers would return from battle clothed with the spoils, such would be the quantity of booty taken, that the females, who took no part in war, would partake of it.

13. Though ye should lie among the pots 2525     The interpretation of this verse is attended with great difficulty. Speaking of it and the following verse, Dr Lowth says, “I am not at all satisfied with any explication I have ever met with of these verses, either as to sense or construction, and I must give them up as unintelligible to me. Houbigant helps out the construction in his violent method: ‘Aut invenit viam, aut facit.’” It is pretty generally admitted, that in the first part of this verse a “state of wretchedness and distress,” as Calvin remarks, is indicated; but it is difficult to ascertain the meaning of the word שפתים, shephataim, which he renders pots, and, consequently, to ascertain to what the allusion particularly is. None of the old translators have so rendered it; and numerous significations have been given to it. The Chaldee renders it, “bounds in the divisions of the way;” the Syriac and Arabic, “paths” or “ways;” the Septuagint, κλήρων, “allotments,” “inheritances,” or “portions,” apparently deriving the word from שפת, divisit, ordinavit, and perhaps attaching to it a similar idea as in the preceding translations, men’s portions of land or possessions having been divided and distinguished by paths Jerome, adhering to the Septuagint, makes it “inter medios terminos.” Thus, the word will not be without significance, expressing a forlorn and wretched condition, lying down betwixt the bounds; that is, in the highways. But many modern critics think that it signifies something in relation to pots, and that it may very probably be the same as that which the Arabs call אתאפי, Athaphi, stones set in a chimney for a pot to rest on, the pots being without legs. “Of these,” says Hammond, “the Arabians had three, and the third being commonly (to them in the desert) some fast piece of a rock, or the like, behind the pot, — as in a chimney the back of the chimney itself, and that not looked on as distinct from the chimney, — the other two at the sides, which were loose, might fitly be here expressed in the dual number שפתים; and then the lying between these will betoken a very low, squalid condition, as in the ashes, or amidst the soot and filth of the chimney.” “These two renderings,” he adds, “may seem somewhat distant; and yet, considering that the termini or bounds in divisions of ways were but heaps of stones, or broken bricks, or rubbish, the word שפתים, which signifies these, may well signify these supporters of the pots also, in respect of the matter of these being such stones or broken bricks.”
   Parkhurst takes a view somewhat similar to this last interpretation. He reads, “among the fire ranges,” or “rows of stones.” “Those,” says he, “on which the caldrons or pots were placed for boiling; somewhat like, I suppose, but of a more structure, than those which Niebuhr says are used by the wandering Arabs. ‘Their fire-place is soon constructed: they only set their pots upon several separate stones, or over a hole digged in the earth.’ Lying among these denotes the most abject slavery; for this seems to have been the place of rest allotted to the vilest slaves. So, old Laertes, grieving for the loss of his son, is described by Homer (in the Eleventh Book of the Odyssey) as, in the winter, sleeping where the slaves did, in the ashes near the fire: —

   ‘—Oqi dmwev eni oikw
En koni agci purov.’”

    See his Lexicon on שפת ii.

   The Chaldee has “broken bricks,” or “rubbish,” that are thrown away; the word, according to this sense, being derived from שפה, shephah, to bruise, to trample on A similar noun, אשפת, ashpoth, derived from the verb שפה, is used in Psalm 113:7, for a dunghill, or the vilest place, whither all kinds of rubbish are cast out, and where the poor are said to lie. When Job was brought by Satan to the lowest depths of affliction, he sat down among the ashes, and scraped himself with a potsherd, which indicated the state of extreme sadness and debasement to which he was reduced. If this is the sense here, “lying among the broken bricks or rubbish” expresses, in like manner as the preceding translations, the most mean, dejected, and wretched condition.

   Harmer’s attempt to explain this passage is at least very ingenious: — As shepherds in the East betake themselves, during the night, for shelter to the caves which they find in their rocky hills, where they can kindle fires to warm themselves, as well as dress their provisions, and as doves, as well as other birds, frequently haunt such places, he conjectures that the afflicted state of Israel in Egypt is here compared to the condition of a dove making its abode in the hollow of a rock which had been smutted by the fires which the shepherds had made in it. He supposes the word here translated pots to mean the little heaps of stones on which the shepherds set their pots, there being a hollow under them to contain the fire. — Harmers Observations, volume 1, pp. 176, 177.

   Gesenius thinks the word is equivalent to המשפתים, hammishpethaim, which occurs in Judges 5:16, and which our English version makes “sheepfolds,” the only difference between the two words being, that the word here wants the formative letter מ, mem Thus, it may refer to the condition of the Israelites when living among their flocks in the wilderness. We have not yet exhausted the different significations affixed by commentators to this word; but, without referring to more, we shall only add, that, according to some, the allusion is to the condition of the Israelites in Egypt, who were doomed to the drudgery of brick-making and pottery, and had probably to sleep among the brick-kilns or earthenware manufactories in which they were employed.

   With respect to the second clause of the verse, in which an image taken from the dove is introduced, a difficulty which has been stated is, how her feathers can be said to resemble yellow gold. From the circumstance, that the splendor of gold is here intermingled, Harmer concludes that this is not a description of the animal merely as adorned by the hand of nature, but that the allusion is to white doves that were consecrated to the Syrian deities, and adorned with trinkets of gold, the meaning being, “Israel is to me as a consecrated dove; and though your circumstances have made you rather appear like a poor dove, blackened by taking up its abode in a smoky hole of the rocks, yet shall you become beautiful and glorious as a Syrian silver-coloured pigeon, on which some ornament of gold is put.” — Harmers Observations, volume 1, p. 180. But there are certainly doves which answer to the description here given, some of them having the feathers on the sides of the neck of a shining copper color, which in a bright sun must resemble gold. See Encyc. Brit. Art. Columbia. Besides, the reference is not necessarily to the color of gold, but to its brilliancy. How highly poetical an emblem, to depict the glorious change effected in the condition of the Hebrews by the deliverance which God had granted them over the proud and formidable enemies who had kept them in the degrading condition represented in the first clause of the verse!
Having spoken of God as fighting the battles of his people, he adds, by way of qualification, that they may lie for a time under darkness, though eventually God will appear for their deliverance; There can be little doubt that he hints at the state of wretchedness and distress to which the nation had been reduced under the government of Saul, for the interposition was the more remarkable, considering the misery from which it had emerged. The words, however, convey a further instruction than this. They teach us the general truth, that believers are, by the hidden and mysterious power of God, preserved unhurt in the midst of their afflictions, or suddenly recovered so as to exhibit no marks of them. The language admits of being interpreted to mean either that they shine even when lying under filth and darkness, or that, when freed from their troubles, they shake off any defilement which they may have contracted. Let either sense be adopted, and it remains true that the believer is never consumed or overwhelmed by his afflictions, but comes out safe. An elegant figure is drawn from the dove, which, though it lie amongst the pots, retains the beauty which naturally belongs to it, and contracts no defilement on its wings. From this we learn that the Church does not always present a fair or peaceable aspect, but rather emerges occasionally from the darkness that envelops it, and recovers its beauty as perfectly as if it had never been subjected to calamity.

14. When the Almighty scattered kings in it We might read extended, or divided kings, etc., and then the allusion would be to his leading them in triumph. But the other reading is preferable, and corresponds better with what was said above of their being put to flight. There is more difficulty in the second part of the verse, some reading, it was white in Salmon; that is, the Church of God presented a fair and beautiful appearance. Or the verb may be viewed as in the second person — Thou, O God! Didst make it fair and white as mount Salmon 2626     Salmon is the name of a mountain in Samaria, in the tribe of Ephraim, (Judges 9:48,) white with perpetual snow. with snows The reader may adopt either construction, for the meaning is the same. It is evident that David insists still upon the figure of the whiteness of silver, which he had previously introduced. The country had, as it were, been blackened or sullied by the hostile confusions into which it was thrown, and he says that it had now recovered its fair appearance, and resembled Salmon, which is well known to have been ordinarily covered with snows. 2727     Carrieres, in his paraphrase, has, “You became white as snow on mount Salmon.” “We certainly think,” says the author of the Illustrated Commentary upon the Bible, “that Carrieres has seized the right idea. The intention evidently is, to describe by a figure the honor and prosperity the Hebrews acquired by the defeat of their enemies, and to express this by whiteness, and superlatively by the whiteness of snow. Nothing can be more usual in Persia, for instance, than for a person to say, under an influx of prosperity or honor, or on receiving happy intelligence, ‘My face is made white;’ or gratefully, in return for a favor or compliment, ‘You have made my face white;’ so also, ‘His face is whitened,’ expresses the sense which is entertained of the happiness or favor which has before been received. Such a figurative use of the idea of whiteness does, we imagine, furnish the best explanation of the present and some other texts of Scripture.” Others think that Salmon is not the name of a place, but an appellative, meaning a dark shade. 2828     Instead of “in Salmon,” the Targum has, “in the shade of death;” and Boothroyd has,
   “The Almighty having scattered these kings,
hath by this turned death-shade to splendor.”

   Walford gives a similar version, and explains the meaning to be, “Though you have been in bondage and the darkness of a dejected condition, you are now illuminated with the splendor of victory and prosperity.”
I would retain the commonly received reading. At the same time, I think that there may have been an allusion to the etymology. It comes from the word צלם, tselem, signifying a shade, and mount Salmon had been so called on account of its blackness. 2929     That is, it was so called from the dark shade produced by its trees. This makes the comparison more striking; for it intimates, that as the snows whitened this black mountain, so the country had resumed its former beauty, and put on an aspect of joy, when God dispelled the darkness which had lain upon it during the oppression of enemies. 3030     “Que comme les neiges font blanchir ceste montagne, laquelle de soy est obscure et noire, ainsi quand il a pleu a Dieu d’oster l’obscurite qu’apportoit l’affliction des ennemis, lors on a veu la terre reluire d’un lustre naif, et par maniere de dire, porter une face joyeuse.” — Fr.

15. The hill of God, the hill of Bashan Here he adverts to the spring and source of all the kindness which God had shown, this being the circumstance that he had chosen mount Zion as the place of his palace and temple, whence all blessings should go out to the nation. A Divine declaration to that effect had been made to David, and this pre-eminence and dignity conferred upon mount Zion is very properly adduced as a proof of his being king, lawfully and by Divine appointment; for there was an inseparable connection between God’s dwelling upon that mountain, and David’s sitting upon the throne to govern the people. The words of the verse admit of two senses. We may suppose that the mountain of God is compared to mount Bashan as being like it, or we may understand that it is opposed to it. The first is the sense adopted almost by all interpreters, that while Bashan was famed for its fertility, Zion excelled it. It is of little importance which we prefer; but perhaps the distinction would be brought out as well were we to construe the words the hill of God by themselves, and consider that Bashan with its boasted height is afterwards ordered to yield precedence, as if David would say, that there was but one mountain which God had consecrated to himself by an irrevocable decree, and that though Bashan was renowned for height and fertility, it must rank with other mountains, which might in vain exalt themselves to an equality with Zion, honored as the chosen residence of God. If we read the verse differently, and consider it as applying to mount Zion throughout, then the Psalmist extols it as high and illustrious, and this because there emanated from it the Divine favor, which distinguished the Jews from every other nation.

16. Why leap ye, 3232     The word here rendered leap ye “occurs only here,” observes Hammond, “and is by guess rendered to leap, or lift up, or exalt one’s self; but may best be interpreted, not leap as an expression of joy, but lift up, or exalt yourselves, as an effect of pride;” and he understands the meaning to be, Why do ye lift up or exalt yourselves, ye high hills, God not having chosen any of the highest hills to build his temple on, but the hill of Zion, of a very moderate size, lower than the hill of Hermon, and at the foot of it, (Psalm 133:3.) Some Jewish commentators, founding their opinion on the cognate Arabic word רצר, would render it, to look after This gives the same sense. What look ye for? what expect ye, ye high hills, to be done to you? Ye are not those which God has chosen to beautify with his glorious presence, but mount Zion is the object of his choice. Aquila and Jerome read, “Why contend ye?” Dr Chandler renders it, “Why look askance?” i e., “with jealous leer malign,” as Milton expresses it. “Why are ye jealous?” Horsley, following Jerome, has, “For what would ye contend?” ye high hills? In this verse there is no obscurity or ambiguity. David having said that there was only one mountain in all the world which God had chosen, calls upon the highest hills to yield it the pre-eminency. As he repeats in the plural number what had been said immediately before of Bashan, this leads me to think that he intended first to oppose that mountain, and then all other high mountains generally, to Zion. 3333     “The Psalmist,” says Horsley, “having settled the Israelites between their hills, proceeds to the circumstance of God’s choice of a hill for the site of his temple. He poetically imagines the different hills as all ambitious of the honor, anxiously waiting God’s decision, and ready to enter into a jealous contention; watching each other with an anxious eye. The lofty hill of Bashan first puts in his claim, pleading his stately height —
   The hill for God is the hill of Bashan;
A hill of lofty brows is the hill of Bashan.

   The Psalmist cuts short the contention —

   For what would ye contend, ye hills of lofty brows?
This is the hill desired of God for himself to dwell in;
Yea, Jehovah will dwell in it for ever.”
Mountains are here to be understood figuratively, and the great truth conveyed is, that the kingdom of Christ, which God had begun to shadow forth in the person of David, far excels all that is reckoned glorious by the world. The reproof which the Psalmist administers, in order to humble the proud boasting of the world, is justified by that contempt which we know that carnal and ungodly persons entertain of Christ’s kingdom, devoted as they are to their own pleasures or wealth, and unable to appreciate spiritual blessings. The lesson will be felt to be the more useful and necessary, if we consider that this vain pride of man rises to an additional height, when the slightest occasion is afforded for its exercise. When we see those indulging it who have no grounds to do so, we need not wonder at the arrogance of such as are possessed of wealth and influence. But the Lord’s people may afford to leave them to their self-complacency, resting satisfied with the privilege of knowing that God has chosen to take up his habitation in the midst of them. They have no reason to repine at their lot so long as they have union with God, the only and the sufficient source of their happiness.

VIEWNAME is study