George Booker
Psalms Studies - Book 2

Psalm 66

1. Title

A Song, a Psalm. Compare Psalms 67 and 68. All three psalms are connected with feasts of Yahweh. In LXX, the title is: A Song of Resurrection, which is apt, for whilst it seems to have little relevance to the resurrection of Christ, it has portions very appropriate to the “resurrection” of Hezekiah’s nation from the horrible Assyrian invasion (vv. 1-12), and to the “resurrection” of the king himself from his mortal sickness (vv. 13-20). The first portion has a subsection alluding to Israel’s “resurrection” from Egypt (vv. 3-6) as well.

The subscription Neginoth, the great smiting, is also appropriate to the themes mentioned (cp. Psalms 3, 5, 53, 54, 60, and 75).

2. Structure

God’s mighty works acknowledged by Gentile nations

God’s mighty works for His people

God’s mighty works for His faithful servant

3. Passover

There are two outstanding allusions:

He turned the (Red) sea into dry land: they (Israel) went through the river (Jordan) on foot; there did we rejoice in him. Both the Red Sea and Jordan were crossed at Passover time.
We went through the fire and through water. Paul’s comment on this: “Baptized unto Moses in the cloud (the pillar of cloud and fire: Exod. 14:19,22) and in the sea” (1 Cor. 10:1,2).

But thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place. “A wealthy (or ‘spacious’: RSV) place” = revayah: fullness, used only here and in 23:5 (“runneth over”). The LXX and other versions have into freedom.

The reason for these allusions will be made evident in the next paragraph.

4. A Psalm of Hezekiah

There are few psalms which respond so readily when the key of historical reference is turned.

Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands. The fantastic destruction of Sennacherib’s army at Jerusalem meant the smashing of the legend of Assyrian invincibility. Not only little Judah but also other nations, trampled by these imperial bullies, took heart. And they recognized the mighty power that had done this; hence their bringing of gifts to Hezekiah at Jerusalem (2 Chron. 32:23). Hence also the emphasis on “all the earth” (v. 4) and “the nations” (v. 7). Psa. 100:1 repeats this verse, but uses the Covenant Name of God (Jehovah/Yahweh) because that is the psalm of thanksgiving for God’s covenant people.
Sing forth the honour of his name: make his praise glorious. This is what Israel did at their first Passover (Exod. 15; cp. v. 6 here).
Say unto God, How terrible art thou in all thy works. “Terrible” is s.w. Psa. 65:5. This is just the right word to describe the massive destruction of Isa. 37:36.

Thine enemies submit themselves. The kings of Nineveh never went to such lengths, but the neighboring peoples who had become allies of Assyrian certainly found it a wise policy to honor Hezekiah’s God, even if it was only, as the margin puts it, to “yield feigned obedience” (or to “come cringing”: Rotherham; cp. RSV), being compelled by sheer force of circumstances. (The same expression occurs in Psa. 18:44; 81:15; Deut. 33:29. The same attitude was to be found in the Pharaoh of the Exodus: Exod. 15:8-15,25,29.)
All the earth shall worship thee, and shall sing unto thee; they shall sing to thy name. Compare Isa. 42:12 and its context:

“Let them give glory unto the Lord, and declare his praise in the islands.”

Selah is appropriate to the offering of sacrifices implied in the word worship.
Come and see the works of God; he is terrible in his doing toward the children of men. This is immediately explained by the historical context.
He turned the sea into dry land. Exod. 14 was the only comparable deliverance in earlier days; cp. Psa. 114:3.

They went through the flood on foot refers to the crossing of the Jordan River (Josh. 4:23): Nachar = “river” in RSV (s.w. 74:15).

There did we rejoice in him uses the same idiom as Hos. 12:4. Such “theophanies” as Exod. 15 and Isa. 37:36 belong to all generations of God’s people (they are “for ever”: v. 7). For those who will embrace them in faith, such stories from the history of Israel are a preview of their personal deliverance.
His eyes behold the nations. There is evidence that the Assyrian army invading Judah included also support from Media, Elam, Edom, Moab, Philistia, Arabia, and Tyre (see notes and references, 47:3 and 65:7).

Let not the rebellious exalt themselves. Could this be an allusion to such as Rabshakeh, who was probably a renegade Jew? Note that:

(a) he was fluent in Hebrew;

(b) he knew about Hezekiah’s religious reforms (2 Kings 18:22), although he distorted the facts for his own purpose;

(c) he knew of the prophecy of an Assyrian invasion of Israel (v. 25; Isa. 10:5-7); and

(d) his speech in 2 Kings 18 is replete with other Biblical allusions.

Selah has reference to Israel’s praise of God in the temple: v. 8.
Which holdeth our soul in life. A double reference to (a) Hezekiah saved from his incurable sickness (note the first person singular pronouns in vv. 13-20); and (b) the nation saved from obliteration by Sennacherib’s savage campaign.

And suffereth not our foot to be moved. Note the emphasis on the feet of the saved nation in Exod. 14:13,29; Josh. 4:9,10; cp. v. 6 here. In general, see Psa. 15:5; 16:8; 46:5.
Thou, O God. The “Thou... thou... thou” (vv. 10-12) is very effective.

Thou hast tried us, in the siege of Jerusalem, as also in earlier generations: Exod. 20:20; Psa. 81:7; Deut. 8:2,16. In general, see 12:6; 17:3; Mal. 3:2,3; 1 Pet. 1:6,7; 4:12; Job 23:10; Isa. 48:10; Lam. 4:2.
Thou hast caused men to ride over our heads. This is the very picture of Assyrian chariots presented by their bas-reliefs (cp. Isa. 51:23). And here men is enoshim, weak mortal men, as the Assyrians were demonstrated to be.

We went through fire and through water. “Fire” = the pillar of fire in the wilderness, or the “burning bush” (Exod. 3:2) — as typifying Israel’s experience of trials. “Water” = the Red Sea and the Jordan River (v. 6), a national “baptism” (1 Cor. 10:1,2). The language is repeated in Isa. 43:2, in a Hezekiah/Sennacherib context.

Into a wealthy place. Or, possibly, to freedom. Here the AV suggests the prosperity of Canaan, in Moses’ time, and the plunder of the Assyrians, in Hezekiah’s. The alternative (“freedom”) pictures the release of bondage from Egypt, or from the straitness of the siege of Jerusalem.
I will go into thy house. This paragraph is certainly about Hezekiah after his miraculous healing (Isa. 37:1; 38:22).

With burnt offerings. This and v. 15 are typical of Hezekiah (2 Chron. 29:20-24). Literally, in burnt offerings — Hezekiah sees himself typified or represented in the actual offerings.

I will pay thee my vows. This is not mentioned in the history, but very clearly in 116:14 (another Hezekiah psalm).
When I was in trouble may refer both to his sickness and to the Assyrian threat. These happened together (Isa. 38:5,6 — some other portions of the text dealing with the chronology of this period are defective and confusing, and have led to some deeply-flawed expositions).
The rams and goats suggest the Nazarite vow (v. 13; Num. 6:14) and the Day of Atonement, which is alluded to in Isa. 58 and 59.

Selah is fitting to the offering of sacrifices.
Come and hear. Compare v. 5: “Come and see”. It was characteristic of Hezekiah to lead his people in worship (2 Chron. 29; 30).

What he hath done for my soul. This praise of God was promised in Isa. 38:20. The meaning is, of course: ‘He has saved my life’ (v. 9; 16:10).
I cried unto him with my mouth, and he was extolled with my tongue. Here are cause and ultimate result. Note Isa. 38:2,3.
If I regard iniquity in my heart. Isa. 39:2 is the only example of iniquity pertaining to Hezekiah. Verse 19 (RV mg.) and Jer. 26:18,19 chime in with the outcome of this disreputable Babylonian alliance. Hezekiah repented of his weakness, and the divine judgment was stayed for 100 years. Hence the word mercy (forgiveness) in v. 20.

5. Messianic reference

This should surely be read as a picture of God’s judgments in establishing Messiah’s kingdom.
A feigning or lying spirit of “worship” will still exist during the Kingdom Age, as evidenced by such passages as Zech. 14:16-9 and Rev. 20:7,8.
Come and see were the words used by Jesus to the two disciples of John the Baptism (John 1:39), and by Philip to Nathanael (v. 46). God’s marvels must be seen, and seeing them is the first step toward believing in their Almighty Author.
The final salvation of Israel from their enemies.
Thou hast tried us as silver is tried.

“And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The Lord is my God” (Zech. 13:9).
I will go into thy house with burnt offerings: I will pay thee my vows. Should this verse and its context (vv. 13-20) be considered in connection with Mark 1:44 and its context (vv. 35-45) — about the healing of the leper?:

“And [Jesus] saith unto him, See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.”

For vows, see also Psa. 22:22-26.
I will offer unto thee burnt sacrifices of fatlings, with the incense of rams; I will offer bullocks with goats. If applied literally to Jesus in the days of his flesh, when was this true of him?
Come and hear were the words of Jesus to the cured demoniac (Mark 5:19; Psa. 116:12-14), and the words of the Samaritan woman to her friends (John 4:29).
But verily God hath heard me. Therefore, there was no iniquity in his heart (note the if in v. 18). Nevertheless, because of the nature he bore, mercy (v. 20) is not an inappropriate word.

6. Other details

He turned the sea into dry (“land” is italicized). It is an interesting, though not particularly important, curiosity which is suggested by Henry Sulley: that the Red Sea was miraculously frozen — “dry” (but not “dry land”) referring to the ice on which the Israelites crossed (cp. also Exod. 15:8: the floods “standing upright”, and the depths “congealed”) (The Christadelphian, vol. 40, pp. 179-181).
Net. The Hebrew word is quite different from the common word, as seen in such verses as Psa. 57:6 and 140:5. This is metsudah, which denotes “fortress” or “stronghold” (18:2, notes), possibly here in the sense of a place of restriction or confinement. NIV has “prison”.
If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me. Consider the parallel teaching of Matt. 5:23,24; 6:12; Mark 11:25; Luke 11:4; James 4:3; and Psa. 26:6.

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