George Booker
Psalms Studies - Book 4

Psalm 94

1. Structure

Appeal to God against the wicked
The wickedness of the wicked
God is in control
God’s Providence for the upright
The sufferings of the righteous, and his deliverance

2. Historical background

Careful analysis suggests that Psalm 94, like 132 and a few others, is a fusion of two psalms:

Verses 1-15 are very appropriate to the times of Hezekiah.
Verses 16-23 read like a psalm of David in the time of his persecution by Saul. In this section nearly every phrase can be matched to other psalms of that period.

This combination of psalms is readily understood, for as David was the Lord’s Anointed who at last came through to a settled kingdom and prosperity, so also was Hezekiah.

It is just possible that the whole psalm was David’s originally, but that Hezekiah added certain features here and there — especially in the first part — to mirror his own unique experiences, which were at the same time not that far removed from those of his illustrious ancestor. Can anyone be absolutely sure about such matters?

3. Hezekiah

There is considerable agitation here; the sentences are jerky, and characterized by omission of phrases. The writer is clearly uneasy, and worried and distracted.
Shew thyself. The acuteness of the crisis when Assyrians besieged Jerusalem demanded a theophany. The AV mg. and RSV have: Shine forth, which describes what happened (Isa. 37:36; cp. Psa. 93:1; 50:2,3). Note the ensuing details: the wicked are proud because their triumph seems inevitable; they are coarse of speech and boastful; they slaughter indiscriminately, and are contemptuous of the power of the Lord. It is a perfect picture of the Sennacherib situation.
Proud. The Hebrew word is actually cognate with majesty (93:1).
How long? The phrase is required also twice more in v. 4; thus a very striking quadruple usage. The honor of Yahweh is at stake (see Isa. 37). The words also express a personal misery, which is quite suitable to Hezekiah’s circumstances.
Speak. The Hebrew form here is very unusual, suggesting: appoint themselves as spokesmen. This is what Rabshakeh apparently did.

Utter. The word nabi suggests: to bubble up, as a (false?) prophet (s.w. Psa. 59:7; “belch out”).
He that chastiseth the heathen (goyim = Gentiles). Hezekiah is looking back to God’s great deliverances from Gentiles oppression. Compare the numerous allusions in contemporary Isaiah to Israel’s deliverance from Egypt.
Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest (Prov. 3:11,12; Heb. 12:5-11). Hezekiah certainly saw his own sickness and the great Assyrian tribulation in precisely this light — as the chastening of the Lord.
For the Lord will not cast off his people, neither will he forsake his inheritance. Here is an astonishing expression of confidence in God at a time when all seemed black and hopeless. Note the parallelism: his people... his inheritance, and the reference back to v. 5 (“heritage” is s.w.).

4. David

These verses are very appropriate to the time of David’s outlaw life, when in one crisis after another Saul’s persecution seemed likely to overwhelm him. In these times David depended on God in a very real sense. Who will rise up for me? (v. 16) is answered by The Lord (is) my help (v. 17). In many a place Thy mercy (v. 18) means God’s Promises. Even in the evil times David knew himself to be the Lord’s Anointed (1 Sam. 16:12,13).
The throne of iniquity describes Saul’s reign readily enough. To whom else could these words apply so well?

Which frameth mischief (i.e., against David) by a law. The mischief-maker has the authority (and power) of the Law behind him. So Saul could get away with it when he declared all friends of David to be enemies of the king.
They... condemn the innocent blood of David the righteous man (1 Sam. 19:5).
The Lord is my defence (high tower)... the rock (tsur) of my refuge (machseh). Compare also Psa. 18:2; 31:3.
And he shall bring upon them their own iniquity, and shall cut them off in their own wickedness; yea, the Lord our God shall cut them off. The words fit Saul very readily; cp. Psa. 7:15,16 about “the Benjamite” (see the superscription).

5. Messiah

Verses 16-23 apply naturally enough to the Lord’s crisis in Gethsemane.

The evildoers and workers of iniquity are readily identified.
Unless the Lord had been my help... Even if Luke 22:43 (the strengthening by the Angel) had not been written in the gospel (as some modern versions suggest), these words would make that detail necessary.
My foot slippeth. Then in Gethsemane how near to failure was the Father’s plan of redemption in Christ?

Thy mercy is especially the great Promise in Gen. 22:17,18, when the only begotten son was saved out of destruction.
In the multitude of my thoughts within me (“when the cares of my heart are many”: RSV) thy comforts delight my soul. It is simply not possible to appreciate the fullness of truth in these words, for Christ in the time of his suffering.
The throne of iniquity = not Pilate’s, nor Herod’s, but rather that of Annas — who wielded enormous power. What fellowship did he have with the God he pretended to serve?

Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee? “How can darkness fellowship with light? Darkness must beget darkness, and end in the darkness of the pit” (N.P. Holt).

Which frameth mischief by a law. “It is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not” (John 11:48-54). “We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God” (19:7).
They... condemn innocent blood. These were Pilate’s words: “I have sinned in that I have betrayed innocent blood” (Matt. 27:4).
But the Lord is my defence; and my God is the rock of my refuge. In Gethsemane Jesus turned near-defeat into victory, as this verse records.
And he shall bring upon them their own iniquity, and shall cut them off in their own wickedness; yea, the Lord our God shall cut them off. The inevitable retribution: “His blood be on us, and on our children” (Matt. 27:25; cp. Luke 23:28).

6. Other details

O Lord God, to whom vengeance belongeth (Gen. 18:25; Deut. 32:35). “For it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay’, saith the Lord” (Rom. 12:19).
Lift up thyself, as a Judge ascending to sit upon his tribunal.
How long? The constant anxious cry of the Lord’s afflicted (Psa. 13:1; 74:10; 79:5; 89:46; etc.). These will not avenge themselves, but they desperately desire that God will avenge them (v. 1).
The workers of iniquity = v. 16; Psa. 92:9.
They slay the widow and the stranger, and murder the fatherless. See Exod. 22:22; 23:9; Lev. 19:9,15,33,34; Isa. 1:17; James 1:27. Such a detail here suggests a Davidic authorship — even for the first part of the psalm (see last paragraph in Par. 2).
Yet they say, The Lord shall not see, neither shall the God of Jacob regard it. Psa. 10:4,6,11,13; 12:4; 13:1,2; 50:21. But “they” are the ones who cannot “see”. And the Almighty is the One who can see (v. 9 here)!
Ye fools, when will ye be wise? implies repeated opportunities to understand God’s purposes, but all of them neglected. There is also, perhaps, an echo of this verse in Christ’s words to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus: “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken” (Luke 24:25).
He that planted the ear seems to imply that instruction brings growth. Shall the Author of every sense be Himself senseless? He who planted the ear and formed the eye can surely teach man all knowledge (cp. Exod. 4:11). The s.w. (as “planted”) occurs in Gen. 2:8 — this planting also is to bring forth fruit, as in Acts 6:7.

In this verse fill in the ellipsis thus: Shall he not hear... the cry of v. 3?... Shall he not see... the affliction of vv. 5-7?
And here, read Shall he not correct (Israel)? The AV italics support the view that the end of the verse has lost a similar phrase.
The Lord knoweth. Compare Psa. 33:10,11; and the citation in 1 Cor. 3:20.
Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O Lord, and teachest him out of thy law. These is no chastisement or teaching to compare with this. Compare 1 Cor. 11:31,32: here v. 12 = “judge ourselves”; and v. 13 = “not condemned with the world”.
The days of adversity. If about Hezekiah, then see Isa. 7:4; 30:15; 32:17.
For the Lord will not cast off his people, neither will he forsake his inheritance. Is Hezekiah quoting a psalm of Samuel (1 Sam. 12:22)?
This should read: Judgment shall return to the Righteous One (Christ), and after him to all the upright in heart (his saints).
When I said, My foot slippeth; thy mercy, O Lord, held me up. This is Peter attempting to walk on the water (Matt. 14:30,31; cp. Psa. 73:2).
My thoughts within me. Sorrows in my heart. The LXX has s.w. as Rom. 9:2: Paul’s yearnings for Israel after the flesh. And “forsake” (v. 14 here) = Rom. 11:1,2: “Hath God cast away his people?  

Indeed, Paul is the best example of constancy of concern, not just for Israel, but for all the ecclesias (2 Cor. 11:28).
Innocent blood is, in Hebrew, naqiy dam. To a Jewish ear this echoes the essentially Greek name Nicodemus. It was this secret disciple who castigated the Sanhedrin for “judging” the innocent man Jesus without so much as a hearing (John 7:50-52)!
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