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Psalm 97

The Glory of God’s Reign


The L ord is king! Let the earth rejoice;

let the many coastlands be glad!


Clouds and thick darkness are all around him;

righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.


Fire goes before him,

and consumes his adversaries on every side.


His lightnings light up the world;

the earth sees and trembles.


The mountains melt like wax before the L ord,

before the Lord of all the earth.



The heavens proclaim his righteousness;

and all the peoples behold his glory.


All worshipers of images are put to shame,

those who make their boast in worthless idols;

all gods bow down before him.


Zion hears and is glad,

and the towns of Judah rejoice,

because of your judgments, O God.


For you, O L ord, are most high over all the earth;

you are exalted far above all gods.



The L ord loves those who hate evil;

he guards the lives of his faithful;

he rescues them from the hand of the wicked.


Light dawns for the righteous,

and joy for the upright in heart.


Rejoice in the L ord, O you righteous,

and give thanks to his holy name!

1 Jehovah reigns His inviting men to rejoice, is a proof that the reign of God is inseparably connected with the salvation and best happiness of mankind. And, the joy he speaks of being common to the whole world and to the regions beyond the seas, it is evident that he predicts the enlargement of God’s kingdom, which had been confined within the narrow boundaries of Judea, to a far wider extent. The Psalmist, in setting forth the various particulars of the Divine glory in the four verses which follow, would seek to impress all men with a reverential fear of him. Thus he gives us a representation of the formidable majesty attaching to God, that he may dash and humble vain confidence and carnal pride. A cloudy sky overawes us more than a clear one, as the darkness produces a peculiar effect upon the senses. The Psalmist makes use of this symbol, no doubt, to impress the world with the greater reverence of God. Others refine more upon the words, and think that clouds are said to be round about God, to check human rashness and presumption, and restrain that excessive curiosity which would pry more than is fit into the mysteries of Godhead. This is an interpretation of the words which makes them convey a very useful lesson; but I am against all refined renderings, and think that the Psalmist intended in associating darkness with God, to impress the hearts of men with a fear of him in general. 9797     “Que le Prophete a voulu par ce regard obscur de Dieu, toucher au vif les coeurs des hommes, afin qu’ils tremblent.” — Fr. The same meaning is brought out in the remaining context, when fire is said to go before him, and burn up his enemies, his lightnings to shake the earth, and the mountains to flow down. Should any object that this does not agree with what was said of the joy which his kingdom diffuses, I might answer, first, that although God is ready on his part to diffuse blessedness wherever he reigns, all are not capable of appreciating it. Besides, as I have already hinted, the truth is one of use to believers, humbling the pride of the flesh, and deepening their adoration of God. God’s throne is represented as founded in justice and judgment, to denote the benefit which we derive from it. The greatest misery which can be conceived of, is that of living without righteousness and judgment, and the Psalmist mentions it as matter of praise exclusively due to God, that when he reigns, righteousness revives in the world. He as evidently denies that we can have any righteousness, till God subjects us to the yoke of his word, by the gentle but powerful influences of his Spirit. A great proportion of men obstinately resist and reject the government of God. Hence the Psalmist was forced to exhibit God in his severer aspect, to teach the wicked that their perverse opposition will not pass unpunished. When God draws near to men in mercy, and they fail to welcome him with becoming reverence and respect, this implies impiety of a very aggravated description; on which account it is that the language of denunciation suits with the kingdom of Christ. The Psalmist intimates that those who should despise God in the person of his only-begotten Son, will feel in due time and certainly the awful weight of his majesty. So much is implied in the expression used — The earth Shall See. For the wicked, when they find that their attempts are vain in fighting against God, resort to subterfuge and concealment. The Psalmist declares that they would not succeed by any such vain artifice in hiding themselves from God.

Psalm 97:6-8

6. The heavens have declared his righteousness, and all the people have seen his glory. 7. Confounded be all those who serve graven images, who glory in their inventions; 9898     “Ou, idoles.” Fr marg “Or, idols.” The original word here is אלילים elilim See note 2, page 50. let all the gods worship before him. 8. Zion heard, and was glad; and the daughters of Judah 9999     “Judahs daughters, the inferior towns and villages of Judea, so called with reference to the metropolis, or mother city. This is a very elegant kind of personification, by which the subject, adjunct, accident, effect, or the like, of any thing or place is called the son, or, as in this instance, the daughter of that thing or place. Hence the Hebrew poets often introduce, as it were, on the stage, nations, countries, or kingdoms, clothed in the dress of women, and performing all the functions suited to such a character. The practice is familiar to our minds; but probably it is so rendered by our habitual acquaintance with the Hebrew idiom, to which it appears to owe its origin.” — Mant on Psalms 48:11. rejoiced because of thy judgments, O Jehovah!


6 The heavens have declared his righteousness Here he states that there would be such an illustrious display of the righteousness of God, that the heavens themselves would herald it. The meaning is not the same as in the beginning of the nineteenth psalm, “The heavens declare the glory of God,” etc. In that psalm David means no more than that the wisdom and power of God are as conspicuous in the fabric of the heavens, as if God should assert them with an audible voice. The meaning of the passage before us is, that the spiritual righteousness of God should be so signally manifested under the reign of Christ as to fill both heaven and earth. There is much force in this personification, in which the heavens, as if even they were penetrated with a sense of the righteousness of God, are represented as speaking of it. It is equally probable, however, that the heavens signify here the angels, who are contained in heaven, by the figure of metonomy or synecdoche, while, in the corresponding clause, instead of the earth being mentioned, he speaks of the peoples who dwell upon it. The angels may very properly be said to announce and celebrate the Divine glory.

7 Confounded be all those who serve graven images. The Psalmist draws a broad distinction here, as in the psalm next to this, between the true God and the false gods which men form for themselves. This he does that the praise which he had ascribed might not be applied to any but the true God. Men are all ready to admit that they ought to celebrate the praises of God, but, naturally prone as they are to superstition, few indeed will be bound down to worship God in the manner which is right. No sooner have they to do with God than they deviate into the most baseless delusions. Each fashions a god for himself, and all choose what suits them best in the medley of inventions. This is the reason why the sacred writers, under the apprehension that men may turn to false gods, are careful in giving exhortations to the worship of God, to state at the same time who the true God is. The order observed by the Psalmist suggests the remark, that corrupt superstitions will never be removed until the true religion obtains. Prevented from coming to the true God by the slowness of their spiritual apprehension, men cannot fail to wander in vanities of their own; and it is the knowledge of the true God which dispels these, as the sun disperses the darkness. All have naturally a something of religion born with them, 100100     “Les hommes ont naturellement quelque religion,” etc. — Fr. but owing to the blindness and stupidity, as well as the weakness of our minds, the apprehension which we conceive of God is immediately depraved. Religion is thus the beginning of all superstitions, not in its own nature, but through the darkness which has settled down upon the minds of men, and which prevents them from distinguishing between idols and the true God. The truth of God is effectual when revealed in dispelling and dissipating superstitions. Does the sun absorb the vapors which intervene in the air, and shall not the presence of God himself be effectual much more? We need not wonder then that the Psalmist, in predicting the Kingdom of God, triumphs over the ungodly nations, which boasted in graven images, as when Isaiah, speaking of the rise of the Gospel, adds,

“Then all the idols of Egypt shall fall,” (Isaiah 19:1)

Since the knowledge of God has been hid from the view of men, we are taught also that there is no reason to be surprised at the host of superstitions which have overspread the world. We have an exemplification of the same truth in our own day. The knowledge of the true doctrine is extinguished amongst the Turks, the Jews, and Papists, and, as a necessary consequence, they lie immersed in error; for they cannot possibly return to a sound mind, or repent of their errors, when they are ignorant of the true God. When the Psalmist speaks of their being confounded, he means that the time was come when those who were given to idolatry should repent, and return to the worship of the true God. Not that all without exception would be brought to genuine repentance, — for experience has taught us in these our own times how atheistical men 101101     “Lucianici homines.” — Lat. “Disciples de Lucian et Atheistes.” — Fr. will cast off superstition, and yet assume the most shameless effrontery, but that this is one of those consequences which the knowledge of God should effect, the turning of men from their errors unto God. Some there are who obstinately resist God, of which we have many examples in the Papacy; but we have every reason to believe that they are secretly prostrated by that which they affect to despise, and confounded notwithstanding their opposition. What the Psalmist says a little after, Let all the gods 102102     With the exception of the Chaldee, which, instead of “gods,” has “people,” all the ancient versions translate angelsall his angels, as if the Hebrew reading had originally been כל מלאכיו, and not as in our present copies כל אלהים. It has indeed been questioned whether אלהים, elohim, can be correctly translated angels The most of modern lexicographers and critics reject this sense of the word. “But usage, after all,” says Moses Stuart, “pleads in favor of it. The Septuagint render אל (God) by ἄγγελος, in Job 20:15; and אלהים by ἄγγελοι, in Psalm 8:6; 96:7; 137:1. Paul follows them by quoting Psalm 8:6 in Hebrews 2:7; and also by quoting Psalm 97:7 in Hebrews 1:6; i e., supposing that he does actually quote it. Is not this sufficient evidence that there was a usus loquendi among the Jews, which applied the word אלהים occasionally to designate angels? It is admitted that kings and magistrates are called elohim, because of their rank or dignity. Is there any thing improbable in the supposition that angels may be also called אלהים, who at present are elevated above men, Hebrews 2:7?”
   Stuart, in the above remarks, speaks as if it were doubtful whether Paul in Hebrews 1:6, “And again, when he bringeth the first-begotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him,” quotes from the 7th verse of the 97th Psalm. Commentators are divided in opinion on this point, some maintaining that the quotation is from Psalm 97, and others that it is from Deuteronomy 32:43, in the Septuagint version, where the very words are found which appear in Hebrews 1:6, although only in that version; the Hebrew and all the ancient versions being without them. One difficulty attending the supposition of his quoting from Deuteronomy 32:43 is, that the subject connected with this command to the angels (if we admit the clause in the Septuagint to be a part of the sacred text) has no relation to the Messiah. The context celebrates the victory over the enemies of Israel, which God will achieve. After saying that ‘his arms should be drunk with blood, and that his sword should devour flesh with the blood of the slain and of captives, from the time when he begins to take vengeance on the enemy,’ the Septuagint (not the Hebrew) immediately inserts, εὐφράνθητε οὐρανοὶ ἅμα αὐτῷ καὶ προκυνησάτωσαν αὐτῷ πάντες ἄγγελοι θεοῦ. This in the place where it stands must mean, “Let the inhabitants of the heavenly world rejoice in the victory of God over the enemies of his people, and let them pay their adoration to him.” But the Messiah does not seem to be at all alluded to any where in the context, much less described as being introduced into the world It is not therefore very likely that this is the passage quoted, unless we suppose that Paul borrowed the words merely as fitted to express the idea which he intended to convey, without any reference to their original meaning. The probability is in favor of a quotation from the text before us; which in the Septuagint runs thus: προσκυνήσατε αὐτῷ πάντες ἄγγελοι αὐτοῦ. Paul’s words are, και προσκυνησάτώσαν αὐτῷ παντες ἄγγελοι Θεοῦ. Here the variation from the Septuagint is so very inconsiderable, making no change upon the sense of the passage, that the discrepancy, especially when it is considered that very few of the quotations from the Old Testament in the New agree verbatim either with the Hebrew or Septuagint, is no argument against the supposition of the Apostle’s quoting this text from that version which was in general use among the Jews. And this psalm admits of an easy application to the coming and kingdom of the Messiah, whose advent was to destroy idolatry, and be the source of rejoicing and happiness to all the righteous, which the passage in Deuteronomy referred to does not. — See Stuarts Commentary on Hebrews 1:6, and Excursus 6.
worship before him, properly applies to the angels, in whom there shines forth some small portion of divinity, yet it may, though less appropriately, be extended to fictitious gods; as if he had said, Whatever is accounted or held as a god must quit its place and renounce its claims, that God alone may be exalted. Hence it may be gathered that the true definition of piety is, when the true God is perfectly served, and when he alone is so exalted, that no creature obscures his divinity; and, accordingly, if we would not have true piety entirely destroyed amongst us, we must hold by this principle, That no creature whatever be exalted by us beyond measure,

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