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Commentary on Psalms - Volume 2
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Psalm 47:1-4

1. Clap your hands, all ye peoples: shout unto God with the voice of triumph. 2. For Jehovah is high, terrible, and a great King over all the earth. 3. He hath put in order 183183     “Ou, range.” — Fr. marg. “Or, subdued.” the people under us, and the nations under our feet. 4. He hath chosen our inheritance for us, the glory of Jacob, whom he loved. Selah.

 

1. Clap your hands, all ye peoples As the Psalmist requires the nations, in token of their joy and of their thanksgiving; to God, to clap their hands, or rather exhorts them to a more than ordinary joy, the vehemence of which breaks forth and manifests itself by external expressions, it is certain that he is here speaking of the deliverance which God had wrought for them. Had God erected among the Gentiles some formidable kingdom, this would rather have deprived all of their courage, and overwhelmed them with despair, than given them matter to sing and leap for joy. Besides, the inspired writer does not here treat of some common or ordinary blessings of God; but of such blessings as will fill the whole world with incredible joy, and stir up the minds of all men to celebrate the praises of God. What he adds a little after, that all nations were brought into subjection to Israel, must, therefore, necessarily be understood not of slavish subjection, but of a subjection which is more excellent, and more to be desired, than all the kingdoms of the world. It would be unnatural for those who are subdued and brought to submit by force and fear to leap for joy. Many nations were tributary to David, and to his son Solomon; but while they were so, they ceased not, at the same time, to murmur, and bore impatiently the yoke which was imposed upon them, so far were they from giving thanks to God with joyful and cheerful hearts.

Since, then, no servitude is happy and desirable but that by which God subdues and brings under the standard and authority of Christ his Son those who before were rebels, it follows that this language is applicable only to the kingdom of Christ, who is called a high and terrible King, (verse 2;) not that he makes the wretched beings over whom he reigns to tremble by the tyranny and violence of his sway, but because his majesty, which before had been held in contempt, will suffice to quell the rebellion of the whole world. It is to be observed, that the design of the Holy Spirit is here to teach, that as the Jews had been long contumeliously treated, oppressed with wrongs, and afflicted from time to time with divers calamities, the goodness and liberality of God towards them was now so much the more illustrious, when the kingdom of David had subdued the neighboring nations on every sidle, and had attained to such a height of glory. We may, however, easily gather from the connection of the words the truth of what I have suggested, that when God is called a terrible and great King over all the earth, this prophecy applies to the kingdom of Christ. There is, therefore, no doubt, that the grace of God was celebrated by these titles, to strengthen the hearts of the godly during the period that intervened till the advent of Christ, in which not only the triumphant state of the people of Israel had fallen into decay, but in which also the people, being oppressed with the bitterest contumely, could have no taste of the favor of God, and no consolation from it, but by relying on the promises of God alone. We know that there was a long interruption of the splendor of the kingdom of God’s ancient people, which continued from the death of Solomon to the coming of Christ. This interval formed, as it were, a gulf or chasm, which would have swallowed up the minds of the godly, had they not been supported and upheld by the Word of God. As, therefore, God exhibited in the person of David a type of the kingdom of Christ, which is here extolled, although there followed shortly after a sad and almost shameful diminution of the glory of David’s kingdom, then the most grievous calamities, and, finally, the captivity and a most miserable dispersion, which differed little from a total destruction, the Holy Spirit has exhorted the faithful to continue clapping their hands for joy, until the advent of the promised Redeemer.

3. He hath set in order the people under us Some translate the verb he hath subjected; and this agrees with the translation which I have given. Others translate it he hath led, which is somewhat more remote from the meaning. But to understand the verb ידבר, yadebber, as meaning to destroy, as is done by others, is altogether at variance with the mind of the prophet; for it is doubtless an advantageous, joyful, and desirable subjection which is here meant. In the Hebrew, the verb is in the future tense, he will set in order; and if any are disposed to prefer retaining it in this tense, I have no great objection to it. As, however, it is certain that under the figure of the kingdom of David there is here celebrated the grace of God to come, I have readily adopted that rendering which has been preferred by other interpreters. Besides, although in this verse the prophet especially exhorts his own countrymen to gratitude to God, because, through his favor, they ruled over all people; yet it is certain that he means, that those also who were subdued are associated with the Jews in this joy. The body does not differ more from the shadow than the reigned expressions of joy with which the heathen nations honored David in old time, differ from those with which the faithful through the whole world 184184     “Par tout le monde.” — Fr. receive Christ,; for the latter flow from the willing obedience of the heart. And assuredly, if after the ark was brought to the temple, there had not appeared hidden under this figure something far higher, which formed the substance of it:, it would have been as it were a childish joy to assign to God his dwelling there, and to shut him up within such narrow limits. But when the majesty of God which had dwelt in the tabernacle was manifested to the whole world, and when all nations were brought in subjection to his authority, this prerogative of the offspring of Abraham was then illustriously manifested. The prophet, then, when he declares that the Gentiles Will be subdued, so that they will not refuse to obey the chosen people, is describing that kingdom of which he had previously spoken. We are not to suppose that he here treats of that secret providence by which God governs the whole world, but of the special power which he exercises by means of his word; and, therefore, in order that he may be properly called a King, his own people must necessarily acknowledge him as such. It may, however, be asked, “Since Christ has brought the Church under his own authority and celestial power, in what sense can it be said that the nations are subject to the Jews, seeing we know that the order of the Church cannot be settled aright, and as it ought to be, unless Christ the only head stand forth prominently above all, and all the faithful, from the greatest to the least, keep themselves in the humble rank of members? Nay, more, when Christ erected his dominion through the whole world, the adoption, which had before been the peculiar privilege of one people, began to be the common privilege of all nations; and by this means liberty was granted to all together, that being united to one another by the ties of true brotherhood, they should aspire to the celestial inheritance.” The answer to this is easy: When the yoke of the law, 185185     “C’est a dire, la reformation selon la vraye religion de Dieu.” — Fr. marg. “That is to say, the reformation according to the true religion of God.” was imposed upon the Gentiles, the Jews then obtained the sovereignty over them; even as by the word the pastors of the Church exercise the jurisdiction of the Holy Spirit. For this very reason the Church is called a Queen, and the Mother of all the godly, (Galatians 4:26,) because divine truth, which is like a scepter to subdue us all, has been committed to her keeping. Although then the Jews, when the kingdom of Christ emerged into light, were in a state of wretched and ignominious servitude to heathen nations, and had been, as it were, their slaves; yet the sovereignty is truly and justly attributed to them, because God “sent the rod of his strength out of Zion,” (Psalm 110:2;) and as they were intrusted with the keeping of the la their office was to restrain and subdue the Gentiles by its authority. The only way by which the rest of the world has been brought into subjection to God is, that men, being renewed by the Spirit of God, have willingly yielded themselves docile and tractable to the Jews, and suffered themselves to be under their dominion; as it is said in another passage,

“In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you;for we have heard that God is with you,” (Zechariah 8:23.)

4. He hath chosen our inheritance for us. The inspired poet here celebrates more distinctly the special grace which God, in his goodness, had bestowed upon the chosen and holy seed of Abraham. As he passed by all the rest of the word, and adopted to himself a people who were few in number and contemptible; so it was proper that such a signal pledge of his fatherly love should be distinguished from his common beneficence, which is extended to all mankind without distinction. The word chosen is therefore peculiarly emphatic, implying that God had not dealt with the children of Abraham as he had been accustomed indiscriminately to deal with other nations; but that he had bestowed upon them, as it were by hereditary right, a peculiar dignity by which they excelled all others. The same thing is expressed immediately after by the word glory Thus then the prophet enjoins the duty of thanksgiving to God, for having exalted, in the person of Jacob, his chosen people to the highest degree of honor, so that they might boast that their condition was distinguished from that of all other nations. He shows, at the same time, that this was entirely owing to the free and unmerited favor of God. The relative pronoun whom is put instead of the causal particle for or because, as if the Psalmist had attributed the cause of this prerogative by which they were distinguished to God himself. Whenever the favor of God towards the Jews is commended, in consequence of his having loved their fathers, this principle should always be kept in mind, that hereby all merits in man are annihilated. If all the excellence or glory of the holy patriarch depended purely and simply upon the good pleasure of God, who can dare to arrogate any thing to himself as peculiarly his own? If God then has given us any thing above others, and as it were by special privilege, let us learn to ascribe the whole to the fatherly love which he bears towards seeing he has chosen us to be his flock. We also gather from this passage that the grace which God displays towards his chosen is not extended to all men in common, but is a privilege by which he distinguishes a few from the great mass of mankind.


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