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Psalm 9

God’s Power and Justice

To the leader: according to Muth-labben. A Psalm of David.


I will give thanks to the L ord with my whole heart;

I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.


I will be glad and exult in you;

I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.



When my enemies turned back,

they stumbled and perished before you.


For you have maintained my just cause;

you have sat on the throne giving righteous judgment.



You have rebuked the nations, you have destroyed the wicked;

you have blotted out their name forever and ever.


The enemies have vanished in everlasting ruins;

their cities you have rooted out;

the very memory of them has perished.



But the L ord sits enthroned forever,

he has established his throne for judgment.


He judges the world with righteousness;

he judges the peoples with equity.



The L ord is a stronghold for the oppressed,

a stronghold in times of trouble.


And those who know your name put their trust in you,

for you, O L ord, have not forsaken those who seek you.



Sing praises to the L ord, who dwells in Zion.

Declare his deeds among the peoples.


For he who avenges blood is mindful of them;

he does not forget the cry of the afflicted.



Be gracious to me, O L ord.

See what I suffer from those who hate me;

you are the one who lifts me up from the gates of death,


so that I may recount all your praises,

and, in the gates of daughter Zion,

rejoice in your deliverance.



The nations have sunk in the pit that they made;

in the net that they hid has their own foot been caught.


The L ord has made himself known, he has executed judgment;

the wicked are snared in the work of their own hands. Higgaion. Selah



The wicked shall depart to Sheol,

all the nations that forget God.



For the needy shall not always be forgotten,

nor the hope of the poor perish forever.



Rise up, O L ord! Do not let mortals prevail;

let the nations be judged before you.


Put them in fear, O L ord;

let the nations know that they are only human. Selah

11. Sing unto Jehovah. David, not contented with giving thanks individually, and on his own account, exhorts the faithful to unite with him, praising God, and to do this not only because it is their duty to stir up one another to this religious exercise, but because the deliverances of which he treats were worthy of being publicly and solemnly celebrated; and this is expressed more clearly in the second clause, where he commands them to be published among the nations. The meaning is, that they are not published or celebrated as they deserve, unless the whole world is filled with the renown of them. To proclaim God’s doings among the nations was indeed, as it were, to sing to the deaf; but by this manner of speaking, David intended to show that the territory of Judea was too narrow to contain the infinite greatness of Jehovah’s praises. He gives God this title, He who dwelleth in Sion, to distinguish him from all the false gods of the Gentiles. There is in the phrase a tacit comparison between the God who made his covenant with Abraham and Israel, and all the gods who, in every other part of the world except Judea, were worshipped according to the blinded and depraved fancies of men. It is not enough for persons to honor and reverence some deity indiscriminately or at random; they must distinctly yield to the only living and true God the worship which belongs to him, and which he commands. Moreover, as God had particularly chosen Sion as the place where his name might be called upon, David very properly assigns it to him as his peculiar dwelling-place, not that it is lawful to attempt to shut up, in any particular place, Him whom “the heaven of heavens cannot contain,” (1 Kings 8:1.) but because, as we shall afterwards see, (Psalm 132:12) he had promised to make it his rest for ever. David did not, according to his own fancy, assign God a dwelling-place there; but he understood, by a revelation from heaven, that such was the pleasure of God himself, as Moses had often predicted, (Deuteronomy 12:1.) This goes far to prove what I have said before, that this psalm was not composed upon the occasion of David’s victory over Goliath; for it was only towards the close of David’s reign that the ark of the covenant was removed to Sion according to the commandment of God. The conjecture of some that David spake by the Spirit of prophecy of the residence of the ark on Sion, as a future event, appears to me to be unnatural and forced. Farther, we see that the holy fathers, when they resorted to Sion to offer sacrifices to God, did not act merely according to the suggestion of their own minds; but what they did proceeded from faith in the word of God, and was done in obedience to his command; and they were, therefore, approved of by him for their religious service. Whence it follows, that there is no ground whatever to make use of their example as an argument or excuse for the religious observances which superstitious men have, by their own fancy, invented for themselves. Besides, it was not enough for the faithful, in those days, to depend upon the word of God, and to engage in those ceremonial services which he required, unless, aided by external symbols, they elevated their minds above these, and yielded to God spiritual worship. God, indeed, gave real tokens of his presence in that visible sanctuary, but not for the purpose of binding the senses and thoughts of his people to earthly elements; he wished rather that these external symbols should serve as ladders, by which the faithful might ascend even to heaven. The design of God from the commencement in the appointment of the sacraments, and all the outward exercises of religion, was to consult the infirmity and weak capacity of his people. Accordingly, even at the present day, the true and proper use of them is, to assist us in seeking God spiritually in his heavenly glory, and not to occupy our minds with the things of this world, or keep them fixed in the vanities of the flesh, a subject which we shall afterwards have a more suitable opportunity of discussing more fully. And as the Lord, in ancient times, when he called himself, He who dwelleth in Sion, intended to give his people full and solid ground of trust, tranquillity, and joy; so even now, after the law has come out of Sion, and the covenant of grace has flowed to us from that fountain, let us know and be fully persuaded, that wherever the faithful, who worship him purely and in due form, according to the appointment of his word, are assembled together to engage in the solemn acts of religious worship, he is graciously present, and presides in the midst of them.

12. For in requiring blood. In the original, it is bloods, in the plural number, and, therefore, the relative which follows immediately after, And remembereth THEM, may very properly be referred to that word in this way, He requireth bloods, and remembereth them. But as it is sufficiently common in Hebrew to invert the order of the antecedent and the relative, and to put them before the word to which it refers, 176176     “Et de mettre Eux, devant le mot auquel il se rapporte.” — Fr. some explain it of the poor, thus: In requiring blood, he hath remembered them, namely, the poor, of whom he speaks a little after. As to the sum and substance of the matter, it is of small importance in which of these ways we explain the relative; but the former is, in my view, the more natural explanation. There is here a repetition of what the Psalmist had said a little before, that we ought especially to consider God’s power, as it is manifested in the mercy which he exercises towards his servants, who are unrighteously persecuted by wicked men. From the numerous works of God, he selects one which he commends as especially worthy of being remembered, namely, his work in delivering the poor from death. God sometimes leaves them in his holy providence to be persecuted by men; but at length he takes vengeance for the wrongs inflicted upon them. The words which David uses denote a continued act; but I have no doubt that he intends from those examples, which he has related in the preceding part of the psalm, to lead men to acknowledge that God requireth innocent blood, and remembers the cry of his people.

He again insists on what I adverted to before, that God does not always put a stop to injuries so speedily as we would wish, nor break the attempts of the wicked at the first, but rather withholds and delays his assistance, so that it may seem that we cry to him in vain, a truth which it is of importance for us to understand; for if we measure the help of God according to our senses, our courage will ever and anon fail us, and in the end our hope will be entirely extinguished, and will give place to despondency and despair. We would fondly wish him, as I have said, to stretch forth his hand to a distance, and drive back the troubles which he sees to be prepared for us; yet he seems to take no notice, and does not prevent the blood of the innocent from being shed. Let this consolatory consideration, however, sustain us, that he will at length actually show how precious our blood was in his sight. If it is objected, that God’s assistance comes too late, after we have endured all calamities, I answer, God delays to interfere no longer than he knows it to be of advantage for us to be humbled under the cross, and if he chooses rather to take vengeance after we have suffered outrage, than to aid us previous to the infliction of evil, it is not because he is not always willing and ready to succor us; but because he knows it is not always a proper time for manifesting his grace. By the way, it is a striking evidence, not only of his fatherly love towards us, but of the blessed immortality which is the portion of all the children of God, that he has a care about them even after they are dead. Were he always by his grace to prevent affliction from befalling us, who is there amongst us who would not be wholly attached to the present life? When, however, he avenges our death, from this it appears that, though dead, we still remain alive in his presence. For he does not, after the manner of men, hold in estimation the memory of those whom he could not preserve alive, 177177     “Car ce n’est pas qu’il face comme les hommes qui auront en estime et reverence apres la mort la memoire de leurs amis quand ils ne leur ont peu sauver la vie. — Fr. “For he does not act like men, who hold in estimation and reverence after death the memory of their friends, when they can no longer preserve their life.” but he actually shows that he cherishes in his bosom, and gives protection to those who seem to be no more, viewing them according to the flesh. And this is the reason why David says that he remembereth blood when he requireth it; for although he may not presently deliver his servants from the swords of the wicked, yet he suffers not their murder to pass unpunished. To the same purpose is the last clause He forgetteth not the cry of the afflicted God may not show, by granting instant deliverance or relief, that he lends an immediate ear to the complaints of his servants; but at length he proves unanswerably that he has regarded them. Express mention is made of crying, to encourage all who desire to experience God as their deliverer and protector, to direct their wishes, groanings, and prayers to him.

13. Have mercy upon me, O Jehovah. I think that this is the second part of the psalm. Others, however, are of a different opinion, and consider that David, according to his frequent practice, while giving thanks to God for the deliverance wrought for him, mingles with his thanksgiving an account of what had been the matter of his prayer in the extremity of his distress; and examples of the same kind, I confess, are every where to be met with in the Psalms. But when I consider all the circumstances more attentively, I am constrained to incline to the other opinion, namely, that in the commencement he celebrated the favors conferred upon him in order to make way for prayer; and the psalm is at last concluded with a prayer. He does not, therefore, in passing here insert the prayers which he had formerly made in the midst of his dangers and anxieties; but he purposely implores help from God at the present time, 178178     “In the 12th verse,” says Horsley, “the Psalmist having mentioned it as a part of the divine character, that God forgetteth not the cry of the helpless, naturally thinks upon his own helpless state, and in the 13th and 14th verses cries for deliverance. The promise of the overthrow of the faction, which were the principal instruments of his affliction, recurring to his thoughts, he breaks out again in the 15th verse in strains of exultation.” The transition from the language of triumph, in the preceding part of the psalm, to the language of prayer and complaint in the 13th verse, and the mixture of triumph and complaint in the sequel of the psalm, are very remarkable. This was the natural effect of the Psalmist’s present distressed condition. The pressure of his affliction excited him, on the one hand, to utter the language of dejection; while his confident expectation of deliverance prompted him, on the other hand, to utter the language of triumph. and asks that He, whom he had often experienced as his deliverer, would continue the exercise of the same grace towards him. His enemies, perhaps, whom he had already vanquished on various occasions, having gathered new courage, and raised new forces, made a desperate effort, as we often see those who are driven to despair rush upon their enemies just with the greater impetuosity and rage. It is indeed certain, that David, when he offered this prayer, was seized with the greatest fear; for he would not, on account of a small matter, have called upon God to witness his affliction in the way he here does. It ought to be observed, that while he humbly betakes himself to the mercy of God, he bears, with a patient and submissive mind, the cross which was laid upon him. 179179     “Or il faut noter que quand il ya humblement au recours a la misericorde de Dieu, c’est signe qu’il portoit doucement et patienment, la croix que Dieu luy avoir comme raise sur les espaules.” — Fr. “But it ought to be observed, that, while he humbly betakes himself to the mercy of God, it is a sign that he bore, submissively and patiently, the cross which God had, as it were, laid upon his shoulders.” But we ought chiefly to mark the title which he gives to God, calling him his lifter up from the gates of death; for we could not find a more appropriate expression than to lift up for the Hebrew word מרומם, meromem. By this the Psalmist, in the first place, strengthens his faith from his past experience, inasmuch as he had often been delivered from the greatest dangers. And, in the second place, he assures himself of deliverance, even in the very jaws of death; because God is accustomed not only to succor his servants, and to deliver them from their calamities by ordinary means, but also to bring them from the grave, even after all hope of life is cut off; for the gates of death is a metaphorical expression, denoting the utmost perils which threaten destruction, or rather, which lay the grave open before us. In order, therefore, that neither the weight of the calamities which we presently endure, nor the fear of those which we see impending over us, may overwhelm our faith, or interrupt our prayers, let us call to our remembrance that the office of lifting up his people from the gates of death is not ascribed to God in vain.

14. That I may recount. David’s meaning simply is, that he will celebrate the praises of God in all assemblies, and, wherever there is the greatest concourse of people, (for at that time it was the custom to hold assemblies at the gates of cities;) but, at the same time, there seems to be an allusion to the gates of death, of which he has just spoken, as if he had said, After I am delivered from the grave, I will do my endeavor to bear testimony, in the most public manner, to the goodness of God, manifested in my deliverance. As, however, it is not sufficient to utter the praises of God with our tongues, if they do not proceed from the heart, the Psalmist, in the last clause of the verse, expresses the inward joy with which he would engage in this exercise, And that I may rejoice in thy salvation; as if he had said, I desire to live in this world for no other purpose than to rejoice in having been preserved by the grace of God. Under the name of daughter, as is well known, the Jews meant a people or city, but he here names the city from its principal part, namely, Sion.

15. The heathen are sunk. David being now raised up to holy confidence, triumphs over his enemies. In the first place, he says metaphorically, that they were taken in their own craftiness and snares. He next expresses the same thing without figure, that they were snared in their own wickedness. And he affirms that this happened not by chance, but was the work of God, and a striking proof of his judgment. When he compares his enemies to hunters or fowlers, it is not without having just ground for doing so. The wicked, it is true, often commit violence and outrage, yet in deceits and cunning artifices they always imitate their father Satan, who is the father of lies, and, therefore, whatever ingenuity they have, they employ it in practising wickedness and in devising mischief. As often, therefore, as wicked men cunningly plot our destruction, let us remember that it is no new thing for them to lay nets and snares for the children of God. At the same time, let us comfort ourselves from the reflection, that whatever they may attempt against us, the issue is not in their power, and that God will be against them, not only to frustrate their designs, but also to surprise them in the wicked devices which they frame, and to make all their resources of mischief to fall upon their own heads.

16. The Lord is known in executing judgment. The reading of the words literally is this, The known Lord has done judgment. This manner of speech is abrupt, and its very brevity renders it obscure. It is therefore explained in two ways. Some explain it thus:- God begins then to be known when he punishes the wicked. But the other sense suits the passage better, namely, that it is a thing obvious and manifest to all that God executes the office of judge, as often as he ensnares the wicked in their own maliciousness. In short, whenever God turns back upon themselves whatever schemes of mischief they devise, David declares that in this case the divine judgment is so evident, that what happens can be ascribed neither to nature nor to fortune. If God, therefore, in this way manifestly display, at any time, the power of his hand, let us learn to open our eyes, that from the judgments which he executes upon the enemies of his Church our faith may be confirmed more and more. As to the word Higgaion, which properly signifies meditation, I cannot at present assign a better reason why it has been inserted than this, that David intended to fix the minds of the godly in meditation upon the judgments of God. The word Selah was intended to answer the same purpose, and as I have said before, regulated the singing in such a manner as to make the music correspond to the words and the sentiment.

17. The wicked shall be turned into hell. Many translate the verb in the optative mood, Let the wicked be turned into hell, as if it were an imprecation. But, in my judgment, David here rather confirms himself and all the godly with respect to the future, declaring that whatever the wicked may attempt, it will have a termination disastrous to themselves. By the word turn he means that the issue will be far otherwise than what they imagine; for there is implied in it a tacit contrast between the height of their presumption and the depth of their fall. As they have no fear of God, they exalt themselves above the clouds; and then, as if they had “made a covenant with death,” according to the language of Isaiah, (Isaiah 28:15) they become so much the more arrogant and presumptuous. But when we see them raging without apprehension of danger, the prophet warns us that their madness carries them headlong, so that, at length, they fall into the grave, from which they thought themselves to be a great way off. Here, then, is described to us the sudden and unexpected change, by which God, when he pleases, restores to order things which were in confusion. When, therefore, we see the wicked flying aloft devoid of all fear, let us, by the eyes of faith, behold the grave which is prepared for them; and rest assured that the hand of God, although it is unseen, is very near, which can turn them back in the midst of their course in which they aim at reaching heaven, and make them tumble into hell in a moment. The meaning of the Hebrew word שאולה, sheolah, is doubtful, but I have not hesitated to translate it hell 180180     “Le mot Hebreu, pour lequel nous avons traduit Enfer signifie aussi Sepulchre; mais j’ay mieux aime retenir ceste signification. — Fr. “The Hebrew word which we have translated hell also signifies the grave; but I have preferred to retain the former meaning of the word.” I do not find fault with those who translate it the grave, but it is certain that the prophet means something more than common death, otherwise he would here say nothing else with respect to the wicked than what would also happen to all the faithful in common with them. Though then, he does not speak in express terms of eternal destruction, but only says, They shall be turned into the grave, yet, under the metaphor of the grave, he intimates that all the ungodly shall perish, and that the presumption with which, by every unlawful means, they raise themselves on high to trample righteousness under foot, and to oppress the innocent, shall bring upon them ruin and perdition. The faithful, also, it is true, descend into the grave, but not with such fearful violence as plunges them into it without hope of coming out again. So far is this from being the case, that even when shut up in the grave, they dwell already in heaven by hope.

18. For the poor shall not always be forgotten. The assertion that God will not forsake the poor and afflicted for ever, is a confirmation of the preceding sentence. By it he intimates, that they may indeed seem to be forsaken for a time. Let us, therefore, remember that God has promised his assistance to us, not in the way of preventing our afflictions, but of at length succouring us after we have been long subdued under the cross. David speaks expressly of hope or expectation, thereby to encourage us to prayer. The reason why God seems to take no notice of our afflictions is, because he would have us to awaken him by means of our prayers; for when he hears our requests, (as if he began but then to be mindful of us,) he stretches forth his powerful hand to help us. David again repeats that this is not done immediately, in order that we may persevere in hoping well, even although our expectations may not be instantly gratified.

19. Arise, O Jehovah. When David beseeches God to arise, the expression does not strictly apply to God, but it refers to external appearance and to our senses; for we do not perceive God to be the deliverer of his people except when he appears before our eyes, as it were sitting upon the judgment-seat. There is added a consideration or reason to induce God to avenge the injuries done to his people, namely, that man may not prevail; for when God arises, all the fierceness 182182     “Toute la fierte et arrogance.” — Fr. “All the pride and arrogance.” of the ungodly must immediately fall down and give way. Whence is it that the wicked become so audaciously insolent, or have so great power to work mischief, if it is not because God is still, and gives them loose reins? But, as soon as he shows some token of his judgment, he immediately puts a stop to their proud tumults, 183183     “Leur rage et insolence.” — Fr. “Their rage and insolence.” and breaks their strength and power with his nod alone. 184184     “Solo nutu.” - Lat. Enfaisant signe seulement du bout du doigt.” — Fr. We are taught, by this manner of praying, that however insolently and proudly our enemies may boast of what they will do, yet they are in the hand of God, and can do no more than what he permits them; and farther, that God can doubtless, whenever he pleases, render all their endeavors vain and ineffectual. The Psalmist, therefore, in speaking of them, calls them man. The word in the original is אנוש, enosh, which is derived from a root signifying misery or wretchedness, and, accordingly, it is the same thing as if he had called them mortal or frail man. Farther, the Psalmist beseeches God to judge the heathen before his face God is said to do this when he compels them, by one means or another, to appear before his judgment-seat. We know that unbelievers, until they are dragged by force into the presence of God, turn their backs upon him as much as they can, in order to exclude from their minds all thought of him as their Judge.

20. Put them in fear, O Jehovah. The Septuagint translates מורה, morah, [νομοθέτης,] a lawgiver, deriving it from ירה, yarah, which sometimes signifies to teach. 185185     The Chaldee version reads fear, but the Syriac, Ethiopic, and Vulgate versions follow the Septuagint. The Arabic employs a word of nearly the same import, signifying a doctor or teacher of the law. In it is, “O Lord set a schoolmaster over them.” Augustine and Jerome, who adopted the reading of the Septuagint, render the words, “Set, O Lord, a lawgiver over them;” and it was their opinion that lawgiver means antichrist, to whom God in his wrath gave dominion over the nations. According to others, lawgiver means Christ. Dr Horsley reads, “O Jehovah, appoint thou a teacher over them.” Ainsworth and Dr Adam Clarke adopt the same rendering, and view the words as a prayer that the nations may learn humility and piety, that they may know their accountability to God, and become wise unto salvation. But the scope of the passage requires that we should understand it of fear or dread; and this is the opinion of all sound expositors. Now, it is to be considered of what kind of fear David speaks. God commonly subdues even his chosen ones to obedience by means of fear. But as he moderates his rigour towards them, and, at the same time, softens their stony hearts, so that they willingly and quietly submit themselves to him, he cannot be properly said to compel them by fear. With respect to the reprobate, he takes a different way of dealing. As their obduracy is inflexible, so that it is easier to break than to bend them, he subdues their desperate obstinacy by force; not, indeed, that they are reformed, but, whether they will or no, an acknowledgement of their own weakness is extorted from them. They may gnash their teeth and boil with rage, and even exceed in cruelty wild beasts, but when the dread of God seizes upon them, they are thrown down with their own violence, and fall with their own weight. Some explain these words as a prayer that God would bring the nations under the yoke of David, and make them tributaries to his government; but this is a cold and forced explanation. The word fear comprehends in general all the plagues of God, by which is repulsed, as by the heavy blows of a hammer, 186186     “Tous fleax de Dieu par lesquels est rembarre comme a grans coups de marteau.” — Fr. the rebellion of those who would never obey him except by compulsion.

There follows next the point to which the nations must be brought, namely, to acknowledge themselves to be mortal men. This, at first sight, seems to be a matter of small importance; but the doctrine which it contains is far from being trifling. What is man, that he dares of himself to move a finger? And yet all the ungodly run to excess as boldly and presumptuously as if there were nothing to hinder them from doing whatever they please. It is certainly through a distempered imagination that they claim to themselves what is peculiar to God; and, in short, they would never run to so great excess if they were not ignorant of their own condition. David, when he beseeches God to strike the nations with terror, that they may know that they are men, 187187     The original word is אנוש, enosh; and therefore it is a prayer that they may know themselves to be but miserable, frail, and dying men. The word is in the singular number, but it is used collectively. does not mean that the ungodly will profit so much under the rods and chastisements of God as to humble themselves truly and from the heart; but the knowledge of which he speaks just means an experience of their own weakness. His language is as if he had said, Lord, since it is their ignorance of themselves which hurries them into their rage against me, make them actually to experience that their strength is not equal to their infatuated presumption, and after they are disappointed of their vain hopes, let them lie confounded and abased with shame. It may often happen that those who are convinced of their own weakness do not yet reform; but much is gained when their ungodly presumption is exposed to mockery and scorn before the world, that it may appear how ridiculous was the confidence which they presumed to place in their own strength. With respect to the chosen of God, they ought to profit under his chastisements after another manner. It becomes them to be humbled under a sense of their own weakness, and willingly to divest themselves of all vain confidence and presumption. And this will be the case if they remember that they are but men. Augustine has well and wisely said, that the whole humility of man consists in the knowledge of himself. Moreover, since pride is natural to all, God requires to strike terror into all men indiscriminately, that, on the one hand, his own people may learn to be humble, and that, on the other hand, the wicked, although they cease not to elevate themselves above the condition of man, may be put back with shame and confusion.

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