George Booker
Psalms Studies - Book 2

Psalm 68

1. Structure

This is very difficult to tidy up. The early part of the psalm (vv. 1-18?) is clearly a sustained reminiscence of Israel’s wilderness journey; it could even be in part a psalm of Moses, surviving from those early days. The concluding verses (vv. 26-35) seem to shout for reference to the days of Hezekiah: and, less certainly, so also do verses 20-23 (cp. the concluding verses of Psa. 69). Yet verses 24 and 25 are most appropriate to the occasion of David’s bringing of the ark to Zion (Psalms 24 and 30; 2 Samuel 6; 1 Chronicles 15). It is quite impossible to be sure about conclusions of this character.

2. Titles

A Psalm, a Song, of David. It seems likely that David saw his bringing of the Ark to Zion as the culminating processional of the long pilgrimage of the Ark, the token of God’s presence in Israel, all the way from Sinai to Jerusalem. The protracted journey is at last concluded — or, more precisely, will be concluded with the fulfillment of this typical history when the Glory of the Lord in Christ re-enters the Holy City (Ezek. 43:2,3; Zech. 14:4; Acts 1:10,11).
The subscription Shoshannim means Lilies, and has been traditionally associated in Israel with the Passover (see Psa. 44, Par. 3). Certainly the psalm begins with allusions to the first Passover deliverance. But the Hezekiah deliverance from Assyrian invasion also took place at Passover (Psa. 44, Par. 6). It is, furthermore, entirely possible that the Second Coming of the Lord will also occur at Passover. So there is no lack of relevance of this significant subtitle.

3. A Psalm of the Wilderness

Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered: let them also that hate him flee before him. The entire verse is a quotation of Num. 10:35, which was “when the ark set forward” in the wilderness, moving on from one encampment to the next.
Before him... Before the fire... at the presence of God all suggest the pillar of cloud and fire in the wilderness. Notice, in v. 2, the smoke (by day) and the fire (by night).
Extol him that rideth upon the heavens might be an allusion to Exod. 24:10. But a much better reading is: ‘in the deserts’ (RSV mg.: the Hebrew is arabah; cp. John Thomas’ translation in Eureka, vol. 2, p. 550). The word arabah is translated “desert” 9 times, “plain” 42 times, and “wilderness” 5 times. Nowhere else is it translated “heavens”. The AV translators may have been influenced (or confused!) by v. 33, where a completely different word (shamayim) is rightly rendered “heavens”.

His name JAH (or YAH) is the shortened form of the Covenant Name. Its first occurrence is Exod. 15:2.
Fatherless... widows... he bringeth out those who are bound with chains. Vivid memories of Egyptian oppression, and Egyptian deliverance.

God setteth the solitary in families. There are no lonely ones in this well-knit community of family groups encamped beneath the standards of the houses of their fathers.

But the rebellious dwell in a dry land. The unworthy generation of Israelites which perished in the wilderness.
O God, when thou wentest forth before thy people, when thou didst march through the wilderness. A clear picture of the Ark of God leading the Israelite march through the desert (Exod. 13:21).
The earth shook... Sinai itself was moved. The outstanding theophany: Exod. 19:18. In general, earthquakes accompany awesome manifestations of God: Ezek. 38:20; Zech. 14:4; Joel 3:16; Amos 9:1,5; Jer. 4:24; Psa. 77:18; 114:7; Isa. 2:10-22; Rev. 6:12; 11:19; 16:18.
A plentiful rain may mean manna from heaven (one of the “gifts for men” of v. 18). Or it may mean simply a literal refreshing downpour (cp. Judg. 5:4: “The heavens also dropped” of v. 8 may be “poured down rain” — as RSV mg.).
This should read: Thy living ones (the Cherubim of the Ark) have dwelt in it (i.e. among the people of Israel, God’s inheritance: v. 9).
The whole gives a poetic description of the early victories in the wilderness.
The Lord gave the word (or mandate: Delitzsch), as in other instances of directing the Israelites in battle (Num. 31:1,2; Josh. 10:8).

Great was the company of those that published it. The one word equivalent to “those that published it” is feminine: it describes the women who celebrate the victory, as in Exod. 15:20,21; 1 Sam. 18:6; and Judg. 5 (see Par. 4).
The RV has: among the sheepfolds. John Thomas: “prostrate among the cattle pens” (Eureka, vol. 1, p. 180). Probably this is parallel to the sarcastic reference to the inept Reuben in Judg. 5:16, who would not or could not come forward to help his brethren in their sore trial. Reuben had been faithful in the early fight for the Land (Josh. 22:1-6); they then had much silver and gold (22:7,8). But, in later days, apparently corrupted by prosperity, this tribe did not help.

Verse 13 is a real problem passage (note all the italics in the AV!). Various guesses have been made:

a. Israel enjoying plunder and prosperity.

b. The enemy in flight.

c. A manifestation of the Shekinah Glory.

d. Trophies seized from the enemy.

e. Women displaying their finery.

But whichever it is (and the first seems most likely, because of the probable parallel to Judg. 5:16 — see Par. 4), why should the figure of silver and gold be used? Here is a suggestion: The phrase about lying among the sheepfolds recalls the desire of the tribes of Reuben and Gad to settle with their flocks and herds east of Jordan. This was granted provided they first played their part in the campaign to conquer Canaan. That achieved, they were free to make their way in peace (with the wings of a dove?) back to Trans-Jordan. And they went loaded with a handsome share of the plunder of the campaign — hence the allusion to silver and gold.
When the Almighty scattered kings in it, it was white as snow in Salmon. Salmon — possibly Zalmonah (Num. 33:41)? — could have been the site of a great battle fought against the Arabs of that territory. The “snow” may suggest the whiteness of stripped carcasses, or bleached bones, or even perhaps the white robes of the fallen Bedouin soldiers. The slaughter of these kings and chieftains was so great that the appearance of the battlefield, strewn with their dead bodies, was that of a snow-covered land.
Here of God is a not uncommon idiomatic way of saying immense. Read: ‘The mountain of Bashan (i.e. Hermon) is a great mountain, a mountain of summits is the mount of Bashan.’ Bashan, a territory east of Jordan, generally appears in Scripture as indicative of that which is mighty and rich, and which exalts itself against the things of God (Isa. 2:11-14; Ezek. 27:3-7; 39:18; Mic. 7:14; Nah. 1:4; Zech. 11:2; Amos 4:1).

“With this boldly formed mass of rock so gloomily majestic, giving the impression of antiquity and invincibility, when compared with the ranges on the other side of unstable porous limestone and softer formations, more particularly with Zion, it [i.e. the black volcanic mass of Bashan] is an emblem of the world and its powers standing over against the people of God as a threatening and seemingly invincible colossus” (Delitzsch).
Nevertheless, in God’s eyes the mighty Hermon cannot begin to compare with the mountain which God hath desired to dwell in. The Almighty declares His intention to dwell in Zion for ever. This selection of Zion was evidently intimated to David at the time of the great promise of 2 Samuel 7 (see also Psa. 132:11-14). It is rather surprising that the history does not include this detail, but abundant other references and allusions (both before and after David’s time) to Zion support this premise.

Leap is a wrong translation here. It should be: Why look ye askance — why do ye envy (RSV) — Oh ye high mountains? This is a poetic way of expressing the fears of the surrounding nations when Israel came into the Land and, much more, when David became king in Jerusalem (2 Sam. 8). God has often chosen “little things” (David himself, for example: 1 Sam. 16:11; 18:18) to confound the mighty (1 Cor. 1:28)!

Yea, the Lord will dwell in it for ever. Therefore this part of the psalm cannot possibly apply (as has been attempted) to Sinai (cp. “Jerusalem” in v. 29; “Salem” in Psa. 76:2,4). Note the marked contrast in Heb. 12:18-29 between Sinai and Zion. And see further on this point in Par. 8.
Literally: The chariot of God is... thousands of angels, with reference to the Cherubim Chariot of the Lord in Ezek. 1; Zech. 6; 2 Kings 6:17; etc. But why twenty thousands? The word ribbothayim may be rendered “twice ten thousand” (RSV). Since “ten thousand” is often used symbolically for a large undefined number (Psa. 3:6, notes; 1 Cor. 4:15; 14:19; 1 Sam. 29:5), then “twice” such a number is undoubtedly intended to convey a number of almost unimaginable magnitude.

Again, the RSV: The Lord came FROM Sinai INTO the holy place (i.e. Jerusalem). This is a description of happenings in Zion, not (as some mistakenly suppose) in Sinai!
This verse looks back to an important development in Israel’s experience in the wilderness:

Thou (Moses) hast led captivity captive, that is, the captives of Egypt were now become God’s captives, on whom He “inflicts” His gifts instead of hard bondage. The same idiom occurs (according to A. Gibson) in Deut. 21:10-13 (“hast taken them captive” = “hast led captivity captive”) — where the women captives of vanquished people are delivered into a much more pleasant “captivity”!

And received gifts for men refers to the gifts of Holy Spirit wisdom which were distributed to Moses’ seventy helpers: Num. 11:24,25 — where “the Lord came down” in the person of the Angel of the Covenant (Exod. 23:20-25). This is a well-recognized Bible idiom for a theophany (Gen. 11:5; 18:21; Exod. 3:7,8; 19:11,18,20; 34:5; Psa. 19:8; Isa. 64:1), and thou hast ascended on high indicates the end of the theophany.

Yea, for the rebellious also probably alludes to the unconventional Eldad and Medad, who did not join the others before the sanctuary, but stayed in the midst of the common people, and prophesied there. On this, Moses’ level-headed comment was: “Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets” (Num. 11:29). David doubtless saw the aptness of all this to the occasion when, having brought the Ark to Zion, he was able to organize a full service of praise to God through the “prophesying” of Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun, and the rest (1 Chron. 25). Hence the insertion of this verse at this point. (For Paul’s exposition of this passage in Eph. 4:8-10, see Paragraph 7.)

That the Lord may dwell among them. “Dwell” = Hebrew shaken, from whence is derived the “Shekinah” Glory.
The issues (goings forth: s.w. vv. 6,7) from death is simply another way — an extremely poetic way! — of describing the “exodus” (departure) from Egypt— the land of death.

4. The Song of Deborah

It is not to be denied that there is some sort of connection between Judges 5 and Psalm 68. The following tabulation makes this clear:

Judges 5
Psalm 68
Lord, when thou wentest out of Seir... the earth trembled, and the heavens dropped, the clouds also dropped water. The mountains melted from before the Lord; even that Sinai.
Why abodest thou among the sheepfolds?
13 (RV)
Lead thy captivity captive
The kings of Canaan
Rehearse the righteous acts of the Lord
Divided the spoil

It is usually assumed that the psalm alludes to Deborah’s Song. But if indeed 68:1-18 is an ancient psalm of the time of Moses then the reverse would be the case. Judging from the general character of the two psalms, this seems more likely.

5. Part 2

The hairy scalp. Identification of the individual referred to is decidedly difficult, and depends a good deal on the dating of this half of the psalm. Is this a Nazarite not truly devoted? The following have been suggested:

a. Korah: Num. 16:1.

b. Uzzah: 2 Sam. 6:6,7.

c. Absalom: 2 Sam. 14:15,16; 15:7,8; 18:9.

d. Rabshakeh, a renegade Jew: Psa. 66:7, notes.
The Lord said, I will bring again from Bashan... from the depths of the sea. Reference to the time of David is difficult. But bringing up out of the sea easily recalls the times of Moses and Joshua (Psa. 66:6; Isa. 63:11 — cp. Heb. 13:20). And in Hezekiah’s day there was a massive captivity who were almost immediately returned to their homeland: Isa. 27:13; 35:8,10. Isa. 11:11,12,16 had a fulfillment at that time.
That thy foot may be dipped in the blood of thine enemies. Another allusion in Isa. 63 — vv. 3 and 4.
They have seen thy goings, O God; even the goings of my God, my King, in (into: RSV) the sanctuary. The singers went before, the players on instruments followed after; among them were the damsels (almah: Psa. 45 subscription) playing with timbrels. These verses seem to shout for reference to David’s bringing the Ark in procession to Zion. Yet something appropriate to these words must have happened also in Hezekiah’s reformation after the cleansing of the temple.

The damsels playing with timbrels are celebrating a triumph over the enemy (e.g. Exod. 15:20,21; 1 Sam. 18:6).
From the fountain of Israel is possibly an allusion to the life-saving water brought into Jerusalem via Hezekiah’s conduit (cp. Psa. 46:4, notes).
In this impressive processional verse, why the mention of these four tribes specifically, and omission of all the rest?

Little Benjamin... Judah. The boundary between these two tribes went right through the middle of Jerusalem (Josh. 15:8,63; Deut. 33:12).

Zebulun and Naphtali were prominent in the response to Hezekiah’s appeal to keep Passover at Jerusalem. (This is the primary reference of Isa. 9:1.)
Thy God hath commanded His angels (v. 17; Psa. 133:3, notes; Lev. 25:21).

Strengthen, O God, that which thou hast wrought for us. The periods of both David (2 Sam. 8) and Hezekiah (2 Chron. 32) were times of exceptional divine deliverances for Israel.
Because of thy temple at Jerusalem. Phrases like this seem to be specially appropriate to Hezekiah’s day: 2 Chron. 32:23. And so also v. 30.
RV and RSV: wild beasts of the reeds... bulls. That is, the crocodile of Egypt (the land of reeds: Isa. 19:6; 36:6), and the bull of Assyrian temple bas-reliefs. Both such “wild beasts” were (and would be) rebuked by the Lord!

With the calves of the people. With hardly an exception this common word am refers to the tribes of Israel. So the calves are Jeroboam’s false “cherubim” which he introduced to wean the people away from loyalty to the temple at Jerusalem (1 Kings 12:26-33; 2 Chron. 13:8).

Till every one submit himself with pieces of silver. These are the tokens of a people who acknowledge themselves to be redeemed by God and glad to be numbered in His family (Exod. 30:12,13).
Princes shall come out of Egypt; Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God. This did not happen in the time of Moses or of David. But in Hezekiah’s days, yes! (2 Chron. 32:23; Isa. 18:7; 19:23-25; 11:16; Psa. 87:4 — a Hezekiah psalm)
To him that rideth upon the heavens of heavens... of old. This may allude to the great theophany at Sinai. Hence a mighty voice: Exod. 24:10; 19:19; see also Psa. 29:1,3; 77:18.
O God, thou art terrible out of thy holy places. This is an intensive plural referring to the very presence of God, in the one supreme holy place.

6. Messianic fulfillment

The copious allusions, in the early part of the psalm, to Israel in the wilderness have often been read as foreshadowing a “march of the saints” from Sinai into the Holy Land. This is a mistake (see Par. 8). To be faithful to the prototype, that march in the last days would have to begin in Egypt. The New Israel belongs to Jerusalem. It is natural Israel that has its beginnings in Egypt and Sinai: compare the allegory in Galatians 4:22-31.

However, several Last Days Scriptures speak of a renewed bondage for Jews in Egypt (Isa. 19:18-20; 11:11-16; Deut. 28:68; Joel 3:19).

But there is also much of value here with reference to the New Israel in their present life, as a wilderness journey to a Land of Promise. This is a very familiar idea, frequently used in the New Testament (e.g. Rev. 7:9-17; 1 Cor. 10:1-11). And Paul’s exposition of v. 18 in Eph. 4:8-10 is along these lines (Par. 7).

Here are further suggestions along these lines:

Let God arise. “Arise” has to do with resurrection; it is the s.w. as cumi in “Talitha cumi” (Mark 5:41). “Destroy (unloose, take down) this tabernacle, and in three days (cp. Num. 10:33,34!) I will raise it up” (John 2:19).
Fatherless... widows. See John 14:18, where “comfortless” is literally “orphans”. Also compare with the parable of the importunate widow (Luke 18:3,7,8,15,16). See also James 1:26,27.
God setteth the solitary in families (Hebrew beth: houses). In general, those who have left families for the Truth’s sake will receive “an hundredfold” even now, and greater things yet in the age to come (Mark 10:29,30).

More specifically, Christ is the “solitary” one — the Hebrew is yachid, which describes an only child! It is translated “darling” in Psa. 22:20 and 35:17, and is used of Isaac (a type of Christ) in Gen. 22:2,12,16. So Christ, the only-begotten Son (Psa. 2:7) — who dies childless (Isa. 53:8) — would yet live to “see his seed” (Isa. 53:10; Psa. 22:30): a spiritual family or house (Hebrew beth) of believers (Heb. 3:6; 1 Pet. 2:5; Eph. 2:19).

He bringeth out those who are bound with chains. A reference to the resurrection, i.e. Isa. 49:9; Zech. 9:11,12?

But the rebellious dwell in a dry land. Heb. 3:16 is a clear allusion to this:

“For some, when they had heard, did provoke (s.w. LXX ‘rebellious’): howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses.”

And the LXX for this verse (“dwell in tombs”) — though not the Hebrew text — is echoed in Mark 5:3: Legion dwelling in the tombs. This demoniac is a remarkable figure of “provocative”/“rebellious” Israel in the last days: miraculously healed, “clothed”, and — its mind renewed — brought into fellowship with Christ.
Sinai itself was moved. A clear implication that the Law was to be superseded. Also, note that the march of Israel required that they leave Sinai, which typified the Law. In a different figure, Isa. 51:6 has the same idea — as does Heb. 8:13: “Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away”.
A plentiful rain = the refreshing influence of Holy Scripture?
Thy goodness is, in the LXX, chrestotes, which is — almost — “thy Christ-ness”!
The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it. It is for good reason that Handel’s “Messiah” applies this verse to the preaching of the gospel in the first century.
But the next verse calls for further reference to the time when Christ himself will discipline all human authority: thus, Kings of armies did flee.

At this point the Messianic reference switches to the Second Coming and the inauguration of the Kingdom.

The hill (mountain) of God... thousands of angels. The cherubim-chariot of the Lord, who comes with a multitude of angels: Matt. 16:27; 24:30,31; 25:31; Mark 8:38; 1 Thes. 4:16; 2 Thes. 1:9,10.
For the first century application of this, see the next paragraph. Just as Joel 2:28-31, a Last Days prophecy, had its earlier fulfillment (in Acts 2), so also does this Scripture.

Jesus, who ascended on high after his resurrection, will in due time receive gifts for men (literally, ‘for the man’: i.e. the one perfect man, his ecclesia: Eph. 4:13); and then he will come in blessing to lead his captivity captive (i.e. save his Israel for a more benign form of bondage), that the Lord God (in the person of His Son) might dwell among them. But, as Paul pointedly argues, the ascension implies that first there be a “descent” into the lower parts — that is, the earth. The first triumph must be preceded by a sharing and fellowship with human weakness — leading, inevitably, to his death.
Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation... He that is our God is the God of salvation; and unto God the Lord belong the issues from death. Every phrase here is eloquent of the blessedness of Christ’s kingdom, and especially the last: The “issues (goings forth: s.w. vv. 6,7) from death” refers, of course, to the resurrection to everlasting life!
Literally, Blessed be the Lord, who daily beareth our burdens. Generally, God as the bearer of His people (Isa. 46:1-4; 63:9). Specifically, Christ as the burden-bearer of our “sins” (Isa. 53:4-6, 8,10-12; 1 Pet. 2:22-25; Matt. 8:17).
But God shall wound the head of his enemies, and the hairy scalp of such an one as goeth on still in his trespasses. Here is the other side of the coin: judgment for those who have persisted in wilfull trespass, and hard discipline for those who (as in Psa. 2) are unwilling to accept divine authority. See also v. 23. Wounding the head (Hebrew rosh) of his enemies is, obviously, the fulfillment of Gen. 3:15 (see also Num. 24:17, RSV; 1 Sam. 17).
I will bring again from Bashan (Trans-Jordan)... from the depths of the sea (the Dead Sea). This foreshadows a re-occupying of the Land by Israel, as in Joshua’s day (cp. Mic. 7:15, RV; Ezek. 20:33-44), when the authority of Jesus/Joshua is asserted.
That thy foot may be dipped in the blood of thine enemies, and the tongue of thy dogs in the same. Similar graphic figures for exercising dominion occur also in Psa. 58:10; 110:5; Isa. 63:3,4; Rev. 19:13.
They have seen thy goings... in (or into: RSV) the sanctuary. It was several hundred years after Joshua that David eventually brought the Ark of God in triumph to the mountain He had chosen (v. 16). Fulfillment under Jesus will hardly take so long!
There is little Benjamin with their ruler. Is this Paul (Phil. 3:5)? His name means ‘the wee one’. “Benjamin, the least of them (1 Cor. 15:9!) in the lead” (RSV).

Zebulun... Naphtali. Most of the apostles came from Galilee (Isa. 9:1; Matt. 4:15,16).
Kings bring presents... princes of Egypt... Ethiopia... ye kingdoms of the earth. In the kingdom, the great ingathering of the Gentiles: cp. Psa. 72:10; 45:12; Isa. 60:6,7; 45:14. The Temple, and the King, established at Jerusalem: Isa. 2:2-4; 24:23; 56:7; Joel 3:17; Zech. 8:3; 14:16. The initial fulfillment of Ethiopia shall... stretch out her hands unto God is, of course, Acts 8:26-39, and what — we may surmise — was the immediate and thorough preaching to his countrymen once the eunuch reached home!
All the world gives praise to God. Now, at last, His Kingdom has come.
Excellency. Gaavah sig. “rising” or “lightning”. The LXX word (megaloprepous) comes in the New Testament only in 2 Pet. 1:17 — describing the brightness of the Transfiguration.

7. Ephesians 4:8-10

Paul’s enigmatic quotation of Psalm 68:18 with reference to the gifts of the Spirit in the early ecclesia is not exactly easy to follow. The following suggestions may help.

Several of Paul’s phrases indicated that, in quoting the psalm, he was also acutely aware of the wilderness-journey allusions there.

“Unto every one of us was given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ” (v. 7). Here “grace” (charis) is certainly used in the sense of ‘a gift of the Spirit’ (as in a good many other places). “Wherefore it [Psalm 68] saith, When he [Christ] ascended on high, he led captivity captive” — that is, he brought into a much lighter bondage (Matt. 11:28,29) those who had been the captives of sin (see the meaning given this phrase in Judg. 5:12). This he did, in the ultimate sense, by destroying the devil (the power of sin) and by becoming the firstfruits of the dead (Heb. 2:14,15; 4:15; 1 Cor. 15:20 — cp. Col. 1:18). The gifts, almost an ecstatic experience, were an open proof of the light and joyful character of this new service.

The parallel with Numbers 11 (see on 68:18, Par. 3) needs to be borne in mind: There the Angel of the Covenant “came down in a cloud... and took of the Spirit that was upon Moses, and gave it unto the seventy elders” (Num. 11:25). That phrase “came down” is the idiomatic way of describing a “theophany”, and in the same way “ascended” means not only an actual ascension to the presence of God but also is the now obvious idiom for the end of a theophany (Psa. 47:5, notes).

The theophany in Christ began when he “descended (here is the idiom) into the lower parts of the earth”; this latter phrase means the lower parts, even the earth (139:15 shows this to be a prophecy of the birth of Christ; cp. Luke 1:35). “Descended first” emphasizes that if ascended means God-manifestation concluded, then descended is the appropriate phrase to describe Christ’s open exhibition among men of the character and purpose of his Father (John 7:16; 10:36,37; etc.). This was fully achieved in his ministry.

This great work having been achieved, Jesus after his resurrection “ascended far above all heavens... that he might fill all things” (cp. 1 Tim. 3:16: “received up into glory”). Here are two more phrases borrowed from the wilderness experience of Israel. When the covenant was ratified at Sinai, the seventy saw a vision of God enthroned:

“There was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness” (Exod. 24:10).

This was the Almighty enthroned “above the heavens” (the sky). In his ascension Jesus literally shared not only the personal presence but also the status of the Father (Phil. 2:9-11; Eph. 1:22). And as “the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” at its consecration (Exod. 40:34), so after his ascension did the gifts of the Spirit “fill all things in the church”.

8. Judgment Seat at Sinai?

The traditional view that the resurrectional judgment will be at Sinai has been summarized by a number of Christadelphian writers. But the results are still far from conclusive. Only three passages have ever been seriously advanced as “proof” of Sinai as the site of judgment: Deuteronomy 33:2,3; Psalm 68:17; and Habakkuk 3:3. Significantly, all three are in the Old Testament. Of course, we should interpret the Old by the New Testament, and by no means should Old Testament passages be ruled out in any study. But the resurrectional judgment, it must be admitted, is very much a New Testament doctrine otherwise — alluded to in the law and the prophets, but stated with clarity in all its particulars only in the New Testament. Then is it not a little strange that all the “evidence” for Sinai comes in the Old Testament?

First, a look at the three traditional “proofs”:

(1) Deuteronomy 33:2,3: To Moses, Sinai was the place of God’s revelation to His people; he knew no other. The deliverance from Egypt and the wilderness trek were the focal points of his life. Therefore, when he speaks his final blessing upon the people, it is certainly fitting that “the Lord came from Sinai... with ten thousands of saints (certainly angels and not saints in this context! compare Psa. 68:17)... and (with) a fiery law”. This same thing Yahweh has done before (Exod. 19:16-19)! So it would appear there are two reasonable interpretations of Deuteronomy 33:2,3: either (a) Moses is remembering what has already happened, or (b) the last revelation of God to Moses follows the patterns of the previous ones: i.e. God coming out of the great fiery cloud atop Sinai.

Let us grant for a moment that, as some say, “the context calls for this to be a future blessing” — meaning, it is supposed, the distant future (from Moses’ day) of Christ’s return. Then, since the words are addressed to the twelve tribes (just as are Deut. 28 and 29; etc.), is not the Last Days fulfillment (if there is to be one) most likely to be a re-enactment of the Exodus and the giving of the Law for the remnant of the nation of Israel, imprisoned again in Egypt? To this Isaiah 11:11,15; 19:1,18-20; 63:11-19; and Micah 7:15 may well refer.

(2) Psalm 68:17 may be approached in the same way. Furthermore, as to this particular passage, the context is altogether concerning Zion! It was most likely written to commemorate David’s bringing of the ark to Zion at last (see Par. 1). This was the culmination of an important phase in the Divine purpose which began with Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, proceeded to the giving of the Law at Sinai, and languished for several generations while the ark rested uneasily at a number of temporary locations. Now it was at last coming to its foreordained dwelling place. With this background we now consider verses 15-17:

The “hill of God” is Zion (v. 15), “the hill which God desires to dwell in... for ever” (v. 16). These three verses contain two comparisons:

(a) Zion is now (in David’s eye, and — prophetically — in the kingdom age) like the hills of Bashan (v. 15), meaning majestic and towering and invincible. This is another way of saying that, when God dwells in Zion and His king (David or Christ) reigns there, Zion will be “lifted up”, first to rival and then to surpass the “mountains” (i.e. kingdoms) of the Gentiles (Isa. 2:2; Psa. 48:2).

(b) Secondly, God is among the angels and the chariots (cherubim) there in Zion, like he was previously in Sinai (v. 17). Zion is now (David’s day, and again of course with prophetic implications) like Sinai was — the scene of God’s glorious fiery manifestation.

With this understanding, verse 17 may now be read, with no real modification:

“The Lord is among them (the cherubim and angels), as (He had been) in Sinai, (but now) in the holy place [mount Zion!].”

That this is the proper reading is borne out by such verses as 24 (where “sanctuary” would be Zion) and 29 (temple at Jerusalem), and — for that matter — the whole of the psalm. So, if Psalm 68:17 proves anything in the matter of the location of the judgment seat, it proves that Zion and not Sinai will be the site!

(3) Habakkuk 3:3 may be prophetic, but again the effect of the mention of Sinai must be to draw an analogy between the mighty deeds of Yahweh in Moses’ day and the wonderful deliverance expected and prayed for by the prophet. However, where in all the chapter is the resurrectional judgment referred to — or even implied? It is not. We must make a far-reaching inference to use this passage as “proof” of the Sinai location. We must set up a dogmatic sequence of events, a sequence which may appear plausible, but about which we simply cannot be positive. It would be far more reasonable to interpret Scripture with Scripture, and surmise that the Sinaitic (and Egyptian) revelations of God in the last days will be for the purpose of saving the natural Jews out of Egypt (as the historical allusions cited above imply), not for the judgment of the responsible out of all nations.

Briefly, then, these are the Scriptural reasons for the judgment seat of Christ being at Zion:

(1) Isaiah 25:7,8 states clearly that the glorification of the saints will take place at Jerusalem/Zion. (“This mountain” can only be Zion: see 24:23.) If the righteous will be given eternal life there, what is more reasonable than to conclude that the site of their judgment will be there also?

(2) But this is not all: Christ speaks repeatedly of Gehenna as the scene of punishment for the responsible wicked (there are many references). Christadelphians have always been quick to show believers in “hell-torments” that Gehenna is a known locality, adjacent to Jerusalem, where the bodies of criminals, animal carcasses, and other garbage were burned. Is it fair to take Gehenna as literal when convenient, and figurative at other times, only to suit our preconceived notions? If Gehenna is indeed the literal place where the responsible wicked will be destroyed after the judgment by Christ, what does this tell us about the location of that judgment? Are we really prepared to argue that Gehenna is in the Sinai desert?

Note also that twice in Christ’s earthly ministry, the temple area was the scene of his cleansing judgment against hypocritical professors of the Truth. And the fig tree which he cursed was also adjacent to Jerusalem!

(3) Other passages favor Zion as the location of judgment, because it will be the scene of the saints’ reward: Psalm 133:3 for one: “There (Mount Zion) the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.”

(4) Psalm 87:5: The Lord’s people are counted as having been born in Zion, because all their hopes and aspirations are centered upon that place. By a similar figure, their “mother” is Jerusalem (see Gal. 4:26; Isa. 54:1,11-13; cp. Rev. 21:2). What more beautiful than the completion of the process of “rebirth” in Zion? If the saints are “born” at baptism to be prospective children of Zion, then why not truly “born” after judgment in the glory of immortal bodies, again at Zion? Common sense would suggest that “children” should not be “born” hundreds of miles away from their “mother”!

(5) Matthew 25:31-34: A careful reading indicates that the separation of the “sheep” and the “goats” takes place at the same place where Christ’s “throne of glory” is located. Again, Christadelphians argue eloquently against those of other persuasions that the throne of Christ and David can only be in Jerusalem, and not in heaven (or Rome or Salt Lake City). If that is so for purposes of first principle arguments about the nature of the coming kingdom, then let us not shrink from the implication of such a passage as this in regard to the location of judgment. Are we really prepared to argue that Christ’s “throne of glory”, where he will sit as a King (v. 34), will be set up for a time on Mount Sinai?

(6) “His feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives” (Zech. 14:4) — the same place where his feet last stood before his ascension into heaven (Acts 1:9-12). Does it stand to reason that Christ will return first to the immediate locale of Jerusalem, and then immediately hustle off a couple of hundred miles to the southwest, for a special judgment at Sinai?

(7) Other New Testament passages seem to call for the same interpretation: among them (a) Hebrews 12:18-24 (the context is certainly judgment: “Much more shall not we escape” — v. 25); (b) Galatians 4:24-28 (two covenants; Moses’ covenant at Sinai had to do with length of mortal days in the land, but Christ’s covenant at Jerusalem has to to do with eternal life); and (c) Revelation 5:6-10; 7:9-14; 14:1-5; and 19:1-9 (the scene of the saints’ reward is invariably the royal throne of Christ and mount Zion).

One final point: We make a mistake if we elevate the location of the judgment seat to the status of a “first principle”, no matter what we believe. In the first place, it was never intended so to be by our “pioneer brethren”. It would be well to note the following comment:

“Where will [Christ] set up [the judgment seat]? Will it be in Palestine, or in Egypt, or in the Arabian peninsula, in the solitudes of Sinai? We cannot be sure... An uncertain detail must not be made a basis of fellowship. We must not insist upon a man believing the judgment seat will be set up at Sinai or any particular place so long as he believes that ‘Jesus Christ will judge the living and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom’ ” (Robert Roberts, “True Principles and Uncertain Details”, The Christadelphian, vol. 35, p. 185).

In the second place, there are no Scriptural passages absolutely conclusive on the matter. We may think we know the exact order of future events, and exactly how and where each one will be fulfilled. But the true purpose of Bible prophecy is not to enable us to score 100% in our predictions, but to prepare us personally and as a body for the coming of Christ.

Names and numbers and locations and facts have a place in the study of prophecy, but they are only the framework. The heart of the matter is the love we hold for the Bridegroom and his appearing. But before he will be the Bridegroom for us, he must first be the Judge. It is not nearly as important where we will stand literally when he comes, as where we will stand spiritually in his eyes. “Depart from me” or “Come, ye blessed?” This we all know in theory, but it bears repeating, often and forcefully.

9. Other details

As smoke is driven away, so drive them away.

“But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the Lord shall be as the fat of lambs: they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away” (37:20).
Extol him may be “cast up a highway”... for Him (RSV mg.) — cp. Isa. 40:3,4; 49:11; 57:14: 62:10.
She that tarried at home divided the spoil. 1 Sam. 30:21-25.
The wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold. “He refers to a bird found in Damascus, whose feathers, all except the wings, are literally as yellow as gold; they are very small, and kept in cages. I have often had them in my house, but their note was so very sad that I could not endure it” (Thomson, The Land and the Book, p. 271).

Or: “He referred to the rock dove because the metallic luster on its neck would gleam like gold in sunshine, and the soft grayish-white feathers beneath the wings as he would see the bird above him in flight would appear silver-like” (Stratton-Porter).
The Almighty = El Shaddai (as in Psa. 91:1) — a divine title which, in its context, often suggests fruitfulness and prosperity (Gen. 17:1; 28:3,4; 35:11-13; 43:14; 48:3,4; 49:25; Num. 24:4,7; Ruth 1:20,21). It is used extensively in Job, where the idea of the wrath and judgment of the Lord is prominent — and in such fashion it is used here (cp. also Isa. 13:6; Joel 1:15). The derivation of Shaddai has been disputed: some suggestions are (1) a word meaning “to be powerful”; (2) the word for “breasts” — implying of course fertility; and (3) a verb meaning “ to destroy”. All these possibilities have some Biblical basis.
The gifts for men, both received and given (the Hebrew laqach is ambiguous) may also refer to the Levites — a gift from God to Israel, and a gift to God from Israel (Num. 17:6; 8:9-10; cp. 3:5-10).
The hairy scalp recalls the heathen practice of leaving the locks un-shorn as a vow: soldiers would not cut their hair until they returned victorious from battle.
And the tongue of thy dogs (may be dipped) in the same (blood). Dog = keleb; compare the military exploits of the Gentile “dog” Caleb himself (Josh. 14:6-15). Also, this phrase suggests the fate of Ahab and Jezebel (1 Kings 21:19; 22:38; 2 Kings 9:26). Consider Eureka, vol. 3, p. 22, on the fate of the Apocalyptic “Jezebel”.
The damsels (almah) are the “virgins” specially dedicated to the service of the Lord in the tabernacle: cp. Jephthah’s daughter in Judg. 11:37; Hannah in Luke 2:36; the spiritual “virgins” in Rev. 14:4. Note also Exod. 38:8; 1 Sam. 2:22; Lam. 1:4.
Bring presents is a neat indirect way of saying “pay tribute” (1 Kings 4:21; 2 Kings 17:4; Psa. 72:10; etc.).
The stretching out of hands unto God implies prayer: 28:2; 44:20; 88:9; 134:2; 141:2; 143:6; 1 Kings 8:22.

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