George Booker
Psalms Studies - Book 1

Psalm 9

1. Structure

Psalms 9 and 10 are really one psalm (note the NEB heading). This may be seen from:

Similarity of theme.
Coincidences of phrasing (see notes on Psa. 10).
LXX presents them as one psalm.
Both are partial acrostic psalms — together (and using every other verse) they make up most of the Hebrew alphabet (see Introduction, Chapter 4). Also, see Par. 5 here.
Psalm 10 has no title; it is an “orphan” psalm.
From this point in the Psalter up to Psalm 149 the versions differ as to the numbering of the psalms, since LXX and Vulgate — followed by the Roman church — count 9 and 10 as a single psalm, while the Protestant churches follow the Hebrew reckoning.

2. Outline

Careful attention to verbs and pronouns leads to this breakdown of Psalm 9:

1- 5.
Praise to God
Reproach of the enemy
7- 9.
Praise of God
Praise to God
Praise of God
Prayer to God
The wicked Gentiles
God’s faithful
Prayer to God

3. Theme

The dominant theme is the judgment of God (vv. 3-8,12,15-20) upon hostile Gentiles (vv. 5,6,15,17,19,20). Note that the words “heathen” and “nations” are the same: goyim, Gentiles.

4. Historical Setting

To identify the historical setting, note:

  1. It is a psalm of David.
  2. Zion is already the center of the psalmist’s devotion and confidence (vv. 11,14).
  3. Verse 13 implies a grievous illness, such as afflicted David at the time of the ark being brought to Zion, and about the time of Absalom’s rebellion (H.A. Whittaker, Samuel, Saul and David, pp. 190,246; see also Psalms 30 and 41).
  4. The emphasis on Gentile enemies. These considerations suggest that historically Psalm 9 belongs to the time of 2 Samuel 6 and 8.

5. Acrostic Psalms?

An incomplete acrostic feature may be seen here. But why the considerable dislocation? The good student is understandably reluctant to dismiss this as an example of scribal carelessness. Verse 6 may supply a clue. It is hardly appropriate to the time of David, but it well fits the time of Hezekiah: the sweeping devastation of the Land, the destruction of captured cities (2 Kings 18:13, and the Taylor prism), and the way in which divine wrath exposed the futility of the gods of Assyria (“their memorial”; contrast 135:13; cp. Isa. 46:1,2). Thirtle’s case for a revision of the psalms in Hezekiah’s time is a strong one.

6. Messianic reference

Any historical study of this psalm must be held subsidiary to its Messianic character — a picture of the assertion of the authority of God in the Last Days:

They shall fall and perish at thy presence.
Thou satest in the throne judging right: v. 7; Matt. 25:31,32.
Blot out their name: Rev. 3:5.

For ever and ever: cp. Isa. 34:10,17.
Thou hast destroyed cities: Rev. 16:19.
He shall judge the world in righteousness is quoted in Acts 17:31. The apostle Paul, a thousand years later, could find no better words to describe the day of Christ’s coming and kingdom.
A refuge in times of trouble: Isa. 25:4.
Know thy in thee. This is justification by faith, for the faithful remnant, who are not forsaken.
The Lord which dwelleth in Zion.
He remembereth them. Resurrection? 88:5.
Thou that liftest me up from the gates of death. 23:4.
All thy praise in the gates of the daughter of Zion: I will rejoice in thy salvation. 22:22,25,26.
The Lord is known: s.w. Ezek. 38:23.

The wicked is snared in the work of his own hands. Compare Ezek. 38:21; Isa. 24:19 (Heb.); 9:19 (= Judg. 7:22); Hag. 2:22; Zech. 14:13; Joel 3:11,12.
The nations that forget God. Then what of Britain and the U.S.A.? For that matter, what of all modern nations?
Needy....poor. Bible phrases for the faithful remnant.

7. Other details

Marvellous works. A single Hebrew word, particularly frequent in the Psalms, used especially of the great redemptive miracles (i.e. 106:7,22), but also of their less lofty counterparts in daily experience (71:17), and of the hidden wonders of Scripture (119:18). It is a word reserved for God, and never used of man’s feeble and temporary efforts.
I will sing praise to thy Name looks back to 7:17 ; 8:1,9. By thy Name the student should understand God at work, whether in past, present, or future: cp. Rev. 1:8.
When mine enemies are turned back, they shall fall and perish at thy presence. Alluded to in John 18:6, where those who attempt to arrest Christ are temporarily befuddled and driven back. Thus there is intimated — even at his “weakest moment” — the truth about the Man they were attempting to arrest.
Thou satest in the throne judging right. Verse 7. And for this judgment He “sits in Zion” (v. 11, Hebrew).
Rebuked: s.w. 68:30.

Thou hast destroyed the wicked. Compare v. 6: the destructions the enemy has wrought are ended for ever.

Thou hast blotted out their name (RV), like Absalom, the godless rebel: 2 Sam. 18:18; Deut. 29:20.
Their memorial is perished within them. “Thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven” (Deut. 25:19). God’s memorial is His covenant name Jehovah (v. 7). The memorial of every rival god perishes for all time.
Shall endure. Better, “sits enthroned”. For ever = in eternity. A lovely thought.
A refuge in times of trouble. “The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe”: Prov. 18:10. Contrast the man who believes in justification by his own efforts, and thus builds his own place of refuge. The Hebrew implies times steeped in trouble. It is an unusual phrase, found only here and in 10:1.
They that know thy name. Mal. 3:16,17.
The wicked and the godless think to get away with it: Thou wilt not require it (10:13), and they say so to God’s face. But no! God will make inquisition (s.w. “require it”: Gen. 9:5; Deut. 18:19; 2 Chron. 24:22). God as the Go’el, the “near-kinsman” and “avenger of blood”.

The humble, those who pray as in vv. 13,14.
Thou that liftest me up. A pointed contrast with v. 15: The wicked are sunk down.

From the gates of death. A deliberate contrast with the gates of Zion (v. 14). And consider 6:5; 107:18; Gen. 22:12,17; Rev. 1:18; Matt. 16:18.
The daughter of Zion is a favorite Isaiah phrase for Jerusalem (Isa. 1:8; 52:2). See Par. 5 above.
The heathen are sunk down in the pit that they made: in the net which they hid is their own foot taken. Like Haman, hanged on the gallows which he had intended for Mordecai (Est. 7:10; cp. Psa. 7:15,16; Prov. 1:17,18).
Higgaion. One of the mystery words of the Psalms, translated meditation (19:14), a solemn sound (92:3), and device (Lam. 3:62). The Hebrew root means to talk, which is the best way to meditate. But why should Higgaion occur here?
The wicked shall be turned into hell. RV, more accurately: return to Sheol, either in the sense of Gen. 3:19 or as the fate of those raised and rejected (Matt. 25:26,32,41). For such, Death is their native element. Compare 104:29; 146:4.
For the needy shall not always be forgotten. Of course not! Even the sparrows are not forgotten by God (Luke 12:6).

Expectation. Heb. Tiqvah: “hope”, s.w. Josh. 2:18 (line). How well the experience of Rahab illustrates this verse! 1 Thes. 1:3 (“patience of hope”) refers to both Hebrew and LXX readings of this verse.

The expectation of the poor shall not perish forever. The second negative is omitted in text (see italics), but implied. This is a common Hebraism (75:5; Isa. 38:18; Deut. 33:6; Prov. 24:12; 25:27 — note italics in all these). Also, see Psa. 26:9; 38:1; Deut. 7:25; Prov. 6:4; 30:3; Exod. 20:17; 2 Sam. 1:21, where in each case the second negative is omitted, but AV gives no indication.
The Hebrew text has a superb paradox which is quite lost here: Let not frail mortal man (v. 20, s.w.) show himself strong (against Thee).
Put them in fear. LXX: “Place a lawgiver over them.” Coverdale Bible: “Set a scholemaster over them”!

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