George Booker
Psalms Studies - Book 4

Psalm 98

1. Structure

The new song
The whole earth joins in
The reason

There are clear links with Psalm 96 in both phraseology and idea; yet the emphasis is different: There is not such vivid emphasis on theophany, nor such scornful reprobation of idols.

2. Title

A Psalm: This is the only psalm with such an abbreviated title — so that it is sometimes called “the orphan psalm”. Doubtless this title once had special significance, but today nobody knows what that was.

3. Authorship

Most likely the author is Isaiah. There are such marked resemblances that this psalm might well be termed a mosaic of Isaiah phrasing.

A new song = Isa. 42:10.

His right hand and his holy arm = Isa. 59:16; 63:5.

Victory = Isa. 25:8.
Isa. 45:21-23; 49:6; 52:10; 53:5.
Isa. 45:24,25; 46:13; 62:2.
Isa. 63:7.
Isa. 52:10; cp. Isa. 40:5, 45:22; 49:6.
Isa. 12:6; 14:7; 42:11; 44:23; 49:13; 52:9; 54:1; 55:12.
Isa. 49:13; 61:11.
Isa. 55:12.

4. Historical setting

There is a dramatic contrast between the misery occasioned by the Assyrian invasion on the one hand, and on the other the great salvation brought by the Angel of the Lord. This salvation leads on to a matchless Year of Jubilee and a period of unexampled prosperity and blessing, and imparts a unique reality to the phrasing of the psalm.

The situation calls for a new song (cp. Psa. 33:3; 40:3; 96:1; 98:1; 144:9; 149:1), for nothing like it had happened since Israel’s deliverance from Egypt (hence the frequent reference in Isaiah to that salvation); compare the language of Exod. 15:1,2,6,7.

Marvellous things (Psa. 106:7) is “the standard term for the miraculous interventions of God” (Kidner).
The house of Israel... all the ends of the earth (i.e., Land). These are appropriate phrases, for Hezekiah’s appeal had gone a long way towards reuniting the nation (2 Chron. 30:5-11). And the salvation of our God was literally seen in the mighty theophany described in Psa. 97:1-5; Isa. 37:36.
Sing unto the Lord with the harp; with the harp, and the voice of a psalm. With trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the Lord, the King. This suggests a special service of praise in the Temple, in thanksgiving for a great deliverance.
For he cometh (96:13). The Hebrew is a past tense, with reference to the salvation just experienced.

5. Messianic fulfillment

As will be seen, the New Testament takes this for granted. In the Last Days there will be a similar and very striking deliverance of a friendless Israel, and a sudden dramatic transformation to the authority and righteousness of a divine rule.

The new song is echoed time and again in the Apocalypse (5:9-14; 11:16,17; 14:1-3; 19:4-8).

His holy arm, shown in power (Isa. 59:16; 63:5), is Jesus, now glorified (Isa. 53:1).

The victory is identified by Isaiah, Paul, and John as the conquest of death (Isa. 25:8; 1 Cor. 15:54-57; Rev. 20:14; 21:4).
His salvation = His “Jesus”!

His righteousness = the Lord our Righteousness (Jer. 23:6; Rev. 3:12).
He hath remembered his mercy and his truth towards the house of Israel. Both Mary and Zacharias went instinctively to these words when contemplating the fulfillment of the great Messianic purpose through Jesus and John (Luke 1:54,72). Mary’s Song, especially, contains a number of connections with this psalm.

His mercy and his truth. The Covenants of Promise: Mic. 7:21. “Mercy”, because freely given to sinners irrespective of merit. “Truth”, because the fulfillment of God’s Promises is absolutely certain.
All the earth can now, in contemplation of the Messianic age, be ac-corded its completely literal sense: meaning, the whole habitable world, and not just the Land of Israel.
Trumpets are associated with resurrection (1 Cor. 15:52; 1 Thes. 4:16; Rev. 11:15-18). Trumpets also signaled the coronation or approach of a king (1 Kings 1:34,39; 2 Kings 9:13; 11:12,14), and therefore accompanied the Ark to Zion (1 Chron. 15:24,28; 16:6,42) — because it represented the real presence of God, the true King of Israel.
Let the sea roar. It is tempting here to quote Luke 21:25 as parallel. But is the sense really the same, or is it rather as in Psa. 96:11 (see notes there)?

Let the floods clap their hands, thus acclaiming the King (2 Kings 11:12). The slapping of waves against the shore would suggest the action and noise of hands clapping.
Let the hills be joyful together. The LXX has Luke’s splendid word for the early church: homothumadon = of one mind, of one accord (Acts 1:14; 2:1,46; 4:24; 5:12). How much more valid for the Messianic age described here! (See Par. 6 also.)
With righteousness shall he judge the world. Certainly this was in Paul’s mind in his witness at Athens (Acts 17:31; cp. Psa. 95:13).

6. Other details

Victory (yasha) has as its chief aspect salvation (yeshua). “So it looks at both friend (with salvation) and foe (with victory), and is big enough to combine the hard decisiveness of the latter with the compassion and constructiveness of the former. This salvation/victory is wholly supernatural, a single-handed exploit of the Lord” (Kidner, p. 352).
Make a joyful noise. The verb is plural, and the noun singular; that is, all peoples are unanimous in making the same glad sound.
See Psalms Studies, Vol. 1, p. 12, on musical instruments.
Psalm here is the Hebrew zimrah — which is different from the word which forms the title for this collection of songs — i.e., mizmor. The distinction between the two, however, is relatively minor. Zimrah signifies “a song of praise” (s.w. Psa. 81:2; Isa. 51:13; Amos 5:23). Instead of “the voice of a psalm”, the RSV translates: “the sound of melody”.
Let the sea roar, and the fullness thereof: the world, and they that dwell therein. Let the floods clap their hands: let the hills be joyful together. This is either very poetic language, or the words are to be read figuratively with reference to the angels of God who control not only the ocean but all the other forces of nature.

7. Postscript

Forth to the battle rides our King;
        He climbs his conquering car;[1]
He fits his arrows to the string,
        And smites his foes afar.

Convictions pierce the stoutest hearts;
        They bleed, they faint, they die;
Slain by Immanuel’s well-aimed darts,
        In helpless heaps they lie.

Behold, he bares his two-edged sword,
        And deals almighty blows;
His sharp and all-revealing word
        ’Twixt joints and marrow goes.

Anon, arrayed in robes of grace,
        He rides the trampled plain,
With pity beaming from his face,
        And mercy in his train.

Mighty to save he now appears,
        Mighty to raise the dead,
Mighty to stanch the bleeding wound,
        And lift the fallen head.

Victor alike in love and arms,
        Myriads before him bend;
Such are the Conqueror’s matchless charms,
        E’en foe becomes his friend.

They crown him on the battle-field
        Of all the nations King;
With trumpets and with cornets loud
        They make the heavens ring.

(C.H. Spurgeon, and[1] Not a Ford or Chevrolet, or even a Mercedes or Cadillac! Before the twentieth century, when the above was written, this was a shortened form of “carriage” or “chariot”.

Next Next Next