The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Psalm 65

Psa 65:1

SUPERSCRIPTION: "A PSALM OF DAVID. A SONG". A Psa for the Day of Atonement: cp Psa 67, 85, 103. See Psa 133n for suggestions that -- immed after David became king over all the twelve tribes -- there was the appointment of a new High Priest, the celebration of a Day of Atonement, and the inauguration of a Year of Jubilee. These three ideas dominate Psa 65. God promised special blessings for the Year of Jubilee which began on the Day of Atonement (Lev 25:9): "And I will command my blessing upon you in the sixth year, and it shall bring forth fruit for three years" (Lev. 25:21). Remarkably, the same combination of phenomena belong also to the year of the destruction of Sennacherib's army in Hezekiah's reign. Then, also, it may be inferred that there was a new High Priest (Isa 22:2), a special Day of Atonement (Isa 58), and a Year of Jubilee (2Ki 19:29; Isa 37:30; Isa 35).

Thus the pattern repeats itself of a Davidic Psa seemingly being adopted into Hezekiah's framing of the Psalter, because of the remarkable suitability of its details to the circumstances of that good king's reign. It may be, as in a few other psalms, that the problematic section (vv 5b-8) was actually added in Hezekiah's time.

In the Davidic psalm the section of vv 5b-8 seems to be out of tune with all the rest. But not so when read as a Hezekiah psalm. The wreck of the Assyrian attack on Jerusalem was by a devastating manifestation of divine power almost unique in human experience (Isa 29:6; 30:27-33; 31:8,9; 59:16-20; 64:1,2; 66:15,16). The allusive details in the Psa harmonize with this.

PRAISE AWAITS YOU, O GOD: Here implies waiting in silence (cp Psa 62:1; Rev 8:1, in a strong Day of Atonement context; Hab 2:20; Zec 2:13). It is a picture of the multitude of worshippers praying in silence in the sanctuary while the High Priest presents their special offering within the sanctuary -- hushed in the awed expectation of the coming revelation of God.

(NT) See Heb 9:24-28.

ZION: Misspelled in AV: "Sion", derived from Vulgate and LXX.

TO YOU OUR VOWS WILL BE FULFILLED: David's vow to give the Ark a worthy home in Jerusalem (Psa 132:1-5).

"The signs of the times tell us that we are rapidly nearing the time of the dead when God shall give reward to His servants and prophets: when all who fear His name, small and great, shall awake together to the joyful celebration of His praise, and the execution of His judgment upon the nations.

"A little more waiting for God; a little more patience; a little more endurance of evil and continuance in well doing; and the hour will arrive. The moment will be here when we shall suddenly be confronted by the great fact that the Lord is in the earth. Great will be the joy of the saints at the announcement, though they mingle trembling with their fear" (SC).

Psa 65:2

TO YOU ALL MEN WILL COME: Esp true of one of the great Feasts of the Lord.

(NT) The time when the Father's house will truly become "a house of prayer for all nations" (Isa 56:7).

Psa 65:3

The entire Day of Atonement has this as its theme.

WHEN WE WERE OVERWHELMED BY SINS: Lit, as AV mg, "Words of iniquity prevail against me" -- in two different senses: (a) the reviling by his enemies (Mat 27:39-43), and (b) his numbering with the transgressors (Isa 53:6,12; Mar 15:28) under the curse of the Law (Gal 3:13; Deu 21:23).

YOU FORGAVE OUR TRANSGRESSIONS: "Thou shalt purge them away" (AV). Here "purge" is kaphar, "cover" -- from whence Yom Kippur; it is also sw as "make atonement" (as NIV mg), which appears 16 times in the Heb of Lev 16. Cp Isa 53:4-6,8,11.

Psa 65:4

"The man whom thou choosest" (AV) is, of course, the High Priest. The rest of the verse is esp suitable to the Day of Atonement.

TO LIVE IN YOUR COURTS: Psa 15:1; 23:6; 24:3; 27:4; 84:4.

COURTS: Heb "chatser". From root sig "to wall around", esp applied to the open space within the outer fence of the Tabernacle (Exo 27:9), or to the different courts of the Temple (1Ki 6:36; 7:12).

Psa 65:5

YOU ANSWER US WITH AWESOME DEEDS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS: The dominant words here seem incompatible with each other. But on the Day of Atonement they were just right, for it was a day when sin was covered and righteousness imputed; and this was signified by the terrible shining forth of the Shekinah Glory (Psa 80:1).

(NT) Overpowering manifestations of divine might at the 2nd Coming. Even Act 2:1-4 was awe-inspiring, and that was just the most meager foretaste (Heb 6:4,5) of the powers of the age to come.

THE HOPE OF ALL THE ENDS OF THE EARTH: "Eretz" = Land. As in v 2, all the nation gathered before God. From north to south the ravaged Land of Israel sighed with relief that, suddenly, the irresistible enemy had been swept away. Lit, all the limits of the Land, and the sea of far distances... Is this a hint of Tyrian sailors being impressed, or even overpowered, by the storm of God's wrath? Cp Psa 48:7, another picture of the same titanic crisis.

Psa 65:6

Mt Zion mocked the military might and intentions of these all-victorious Assyrians. Jerusalem was girded for defense by twelve legions of Passover angels (Isa 31:5; 26:20,21; 37:36).

WHO FORMED THE MOUNTAINS BY YOUR POWER: (NT) Another open demonstration, as in David's and Hezekiah's time, of the divine permanence of Zion -- the "mountain" of the Lord's house being established in the tops of the mountains (Isa 2:2-4).

Psa 65:7

WHO STILLED THE ROARING OF THE SEAS, THE ROARING OF THEIR WAVES: V 5 requires a lit reading of these phrases (see note there), but then "the tumult of the people(s)" requires a figurative ref also, as in several other places (ie Psa 89:9; 93:3,4; cp Isa. 57:20; Luk 21:25). The Assyrians had doubled their invading force with considerable contingents from other nations (see refs, Psa 47:3). But this word is that which is hundreds of times applied to the twelve tribes. So, poss: 'the tumult created in Israel's Land' is the meaning.

(NT) Christ's stilling of the storm (Mar 4:37-41), the saving of the demoniac Legion (Mar 5:1-16), and the fear imparted to Gentiles round about (Mar 5:17). "He who could quieten the uproar of one man's tortured mind can quell the turbulence of peoples; and the linking together of these two miracles reflects the power of God described in this passage" (SMk). Furthermore, all of this is a kind of acted parable of the startling events at our Lord's coming. Then follows... (vv 9-13) a delightful symbolic picture of the blessings of Christ's kingdom, the true and perfect and final "Jubilee". See JT on the salvation symbolism of the water cycle (Eur 1:139-145).

See Lesson, Leviathan (the "Creation" myth).

Psa 65:8

"They also that dwell in the uttermost parts are afraid" (AV). This was one of the results of the mighty angelic stroke against Sennacherib (2Ch 32:23).

"Thou makest the outgoings of the morning and (ellipsis: add 'the incoming of the....') evening to rejoice" (AV). The ct with v 8a makes it difficult to apply to neighbors east and west (Moab, Edom, Philistia). So prob ref to the awesome destruction of Isa 37:36 and the surge of relief and gladness in God's salvation, which was felt across the breadth of the Land, "from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof" (ie Psa 50:1; 113:3)?

Psa 65:9

Vv 9,10: The early rains come soon after the Day of Atonement, which itself is preceded by Rosh Hashanah, the New Year, hence... "Thou crownest the year" (v 11), in that the "head", or the "beginning", of the year sees fruitful showers from God.

Vv 9-13: "The climax of this psalm, a stanza as fresh and irrepressible as the fertility it describes, puts every harvest hymn to shame as plodding and contrived. Here we almost feel the splash of the showers, and sense the springing growth around us" (Kidner).

THE STREAMS OF GOD ARE FILLED WITH WATER: Perhaps Kidron, which then, but not now, rushed boisterously down the valley after the rains (cp Psa 46:4n; Rev 22:1). Or may it be the rain which, because it descends from heaven, is called "the river of God"? (Ct, very significantly, Deu 11:10-12: Palestine, unlike Egypt, was a land God cared for, because it received its moisture from heaven and not from any river!) The rabbis taught that "God hath four keys which He never entrusts to any angel, and chief of these is the key of the rain." Cp Job 26:8; 28:26; 38:28.

Psa 65:10

YOU SOFTEN IT WITH SHOWERS: "Palestine's summer sun bakes the ground hard so that no oriental plow can break it until the autumn rains" (LGS).

SHOWERS: Heb "rebibim", lit "myriads" -- of rain drops.

Psa 65:11

YOU CROWN THE YEAR WITH YOUR BOUNTY: "Crown" = "atar", to encircle, and thus to complete a circuit. The greatest blessing of all being the Day of Atonement itself and God's open sign of sins forgiven.

"Thy paths drop fatness" (AV): The word for "paths" is lit "the tracks of thy chariot" (RSV) -- God rides upon the chariot of His clouds (Psa 18:10,11; 68:4; 104:3), a richly-laden wagon which drops the "fatness" of His rains as He passes! See Isa 55:10-13; Psa 72:6; 2Sa 23:4.

Psa 65:13

"Are clothed... are covered" (AV) = "Clothe themselves... deck themselves" (RSV). This, along with v 12b, is the language of animation, as though all creation sings praise to the Almighty. (Isaiah is filled with this sort of imagery: Isa 35:1,2; 44:23; 49:14; 55:12.) Even Solomon in all his splendor was not arrayed like the frailest and lowliest lily of the field, turned out in its best divine attire to worship God (Mat 6:28-30).


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