George Booker
Psalms Studies - Book 4

Psalm 96

1. Structure

Yahweh and idols
Worship Him
Let Israel and Gentiles worship Him together

2. The link with 1 Chronicles 16

By supplying “this psalm” in 1 Chronicles 16:7 (“Then on that day David delivered first this psalm to thank the LORD”), the AV is misleading. The RV has: “...did David first ordain to give thanks unto the Lord.” The RV mg. has: “...did David make it the chief work to give thanks unto the Lord.” These alternative readings of the Hebrew are both better than the AV.
There follow, in 1 Chronicles 16, quotations from typical psalms:

Psalm 105:1-15 (vv. 8-22).

Psalm 96, with the first and half of the last verse omitted, and a few minor differences (vv. 23-33).

Psalm 106 — the first and last two verses only (vv. 34-36).
In Psalm 96 the verses about idols, and in Psalm 106 the details about captivity and deliverance, are markedly inappropriate to David’s bringing the ark to Zion.
Paragraphs (a) and (c) suggest that the psalms in 1 Chronicles 16 are included as samples of the Davidic service in later days.
The chief problem remaining is why the psalms given here are so incomplete — i.e., 96 has slight alterations, 105 is cut short at v. 15, and 106 has only its beginning and ending.

3. Historical setting

The various details accord best with the mighty “Theophany” in Hezekiah’s reign.

O sing unto the Lord a new song (Psa. 33:3; 40:3; 98:1; 144:9; 149:1; Isa. 42:10): sing unto the Lord, all the earth. This verse matches Isa. 38:20. Note also the marked similarities between Psalm 96 and Isa. 42:10-12 (and v. 9 suggests that the great divine deliverance will have its greater future counterpart).

“All the earth” should read: all the Land — this is the king’s appeal to all twelve tribes to unite themselves as before in the worship of Jehovah.
Shew forth his salvation from day to day. Hezekiah’s reign witnessed the greatest deliverance ever.
Note the accumulation of descriptive words appropriate to a theophany: glory, wonders, honour, majesty, strength, beauty, glory and strength again.
Compare Psa. 95:3. Here are scornful expressions about idols, because the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem was essentially a challenge to Yahweh by the “gods” of Nineveh (Isa. 36; 37). The outcome was foreordained: Yahweh is to be feared above all gods.
The Lord made the heavens, that is, even the sun, moon and stars which the heathen invaders worshiped. Not only was He greater than the other “gods”; He made the other “gods”!
Say among the Gentiles (goyim) that the Lord reigneth. The destruction of Sennacherib’s army made a mighty impact on surrounding nations (2 Chron. 32:23). And they had good reason to rejoice (v. 11) when the threat of Assyrian domination was swept away (cp. Psa. 67:2,7; 76:11,12).
Let the field by joyful, and all that is therein: then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice. This figurative language is almost literal — the God-given fruitfulness of the Year of Jubilee which God had promised to the wasted Land (Isa. 35:1,6,7; 41:18; 43:19; 44:23; 55:12,13; cp. Psa. 67:6; 81:16; 85:12; 107:35-38; 147:8,9).
He cometh to judge the earth. This was very evident in the great destruction of the 185,000 troops in Isa. 37:36.

4. Messiah’s kingdom

This is the real fulfillment of this fine psalm (see the detailed Hezekiah type of Christ in Psalm 80, Par. 4).

A new song is the song of the 144,000 (Rev. 14:1-3), the new song of a New Creation.
Bless his name. The Covenant Name of Yahweh now finds its full-fillment!

Shew forth his salvation. The LXX has: ‘Preach the gospel of his salvation’ (i.e., of his “Jesus”). He comes first to save, and then to judge (v. 13).
How the false “gods” of a clever human civilization (materialism, pleasure, science, health, recreation, etc.) will be exposed as the most futile vanities!
Honour and majesty are before him: strength and beauty are in his sanctuary. These divine qualities are personified as attendant Angels, who are always in the presence of the Almighty.
The Lord reigneth... he shall judge the people righteously. This, and much of the psalm, is as explicit as the Seventh Trumpet: Rev. 11:15-19.
Saints in both the heavens and the earth will rejoice and be glad.
Let the sea roar, and the fullness thereof. This is comparable to Psa. 98:7-9, but altogether at variance — as a figure of speech — with the more common usage of 93:3,4; 46:3; Isa. 5:30; 57:20; Jer. 50:42; and Luke 21:25. Here (and in Psalm 98) the roaring sea is a picture of great rejoicing, but elsewhere it is a picture of turmoil and war and revolution.
He shall judge the world with righteousness. This is quoted by Paul on Mars’ Hill (Acts 17:31). But those “clever” Athenians would not even be able to recognize the quotation!

For he cometh, for he cometh. The repetition (as of “sing” in v. 1) surely suggests a second — and greater — fulfillment. The repetition also suggests an eager expectation — a stretching out, or longing (of the new “Creation”) — for the coming redemption (Rom. 8:22). Note the same urgent, almost breathless repetition of “Come” in Rev. 22:17,20.

Judge... righteousness... truth. All these terms come in Rev. 19:11, not by accident.

5. Other details

Psalm 95:7 appealed: Hear his voice. Now a lovely counterpoint: ‘Let Him hear your voice.’ Note how 98 follows on from 97, and likewise 100 from 99.
Shew forth his salvation from day to day, and not just “Today”: 95:7.
For all the gods of the nations are idols. There is a marvelous play on words here: “gods”/“idols” = elohim/elilim. Elilim is intended as a pun and parody on Elohim; the word means “worthless” or “useless” (Job 13:4; Jer. 14:14, s.w.). So Paul writes that “an idol is nothing” (1 Cor. 8:4). This Psalm 96 (v. 13) is cited by Paul on Mars’ Hill (Acts 17:31) — as noted in the above paragraph. There the main thrust of his discourse was to undermine the supposed authority of the many idols in Athens — so this psalm (and especially v. 5 here) would naturally come to mind.

But the Lord made the heavens. And He “will make” the “heavens”!:

“For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy” (Isa. 65:17,18; cp. 51:16; 66:20,22; Rev. 3:12; 21:2,10; Heb. 12:22,23; 2 Pet. 2:13).
Ye kindreds of the people (Hebrew am). This Hebrew phrase always means Israel.
Note the italics: The Glory (which is) his name (11 times in 13 verses, and see the note on v. 11 below).
The beauty of holiness is a badly misunderstood phrase. Not: in holy garments; but in the beauty (Glory) of His Holiness (“beauty” being a common synonym for the Shekinah Glory). NEB and NIV have: “the splendor of holiness”.
The Lord reigneth, i.e., over the heathen (goyim) as well as over the world (of Israel), or the people (am).
Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad. In Hebrew, this reads something like: Yismehu Hashshamayim Wethagel Ha’arez (“Rejoice, heavens; be glad, the earth”). The Masoretes have pointed out that the first letters of these four words form the Tetragrammaton YHWH. Not counting this verse, the Covenant Name occurs 11 times in Psalm 96 (vv. 1,1,2,4,5,7,7,8,9,10,13); counting it, the Name occurs a much more satisfying 12 times! (Is this exposition, or simply amusing diversion? Each reader must judge for himself.)
The field... and all that is therein = grass and flowers, hence “milk and honey”!
This verse comes verbatim at Psa. 9:8 and (almost) at 98:9.
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