Psalm 68


Psalm 68:1–35

God and the Enemies of Israel/ David Transports the Ark of God


Outline of Chapter 68:

 

         Introduction         An Introduction to Psalm 68

         Inscription            Psalm 68 Inscription

         vv.     1–2           Let God Arise Against His Enemies

         vv.     3–6           Sing Praises to God

         vv.     7–10         God with Israel in Sinai

         vv.    11–14         God Prevails Against Heathen Kings

         vv.    15–16         The Mountains of Bashan

         vv.    17–18         The Power and Ascendency of God

         vv.    19–20         The God of Our Salvation [transitional verses]

         vv.    21–23         God Destroys His Enemies

         vv.    24–27         The Procession of God

         vv.    28–31         God Will Subjugate His Enemies

         vv.    32–33         Sing Praises to God Again

         vv.    34–35         Proclaim God’s Power

Psalm 68 Addendum


Charts, Short Doctrines and Maps:

 

         Introduction         Psalm 68: the Big Picture

         Introduction         Barnes Outlines Psalm 68

         Introduction         The NIV Study Bible Outlines Psalm 68

         Introduction         Another Way to Organize Psalm 68

         Introduction         Psalm 68: Getting it Wrong

         Introduction         My Thinking Process in Organizing Psalm 68

         Introduction         Do We Find a Parallelism in Psalm 68?

         Introduction         Opinions as to the Occasion of Psalm 68

         Introduction         Albert Barnes: Why Psalm 68 was Written on the Occasion of Moving the Ark

         Introduction         The Importance of the Ark of God

         v.       4              A Summary of the Doctrine of the Hebrew Word Çâlal

         v.       4              A Summary of the Doctrine of the Arabah

         v.       4              Alternate Ways of Organizing Psalm 68:4

         v.       4              Concluding Remarks about Psalm 68:4

         v.       5              Psalm 68:5 Summarized

         v.       8              David Quotes Judges 5:4–5

         v.       8              Why Did David Alter Deborah’s Words?

         v.      11              Theologians Interpret Psalm 68:11

         v.      13              Commentators on Psalm 68:13

         v.      14              Various Interpretations of Scattered Kings and Snow in Zalmon

         v.      14              One of the Parallels of Psalm 68

         v.      14              The New American Bible Rearranges the Verses

         v.      15              The NET Bible® Translates Psalm 68:15 and Comments

         v.      16              The Jerusalem Mountains

         v.      16              Psalm 68:15–16 Translated and Interpreted

         v.      17              How Many Angels?

         v.      17              The Trinity in the Old Testament (the Abbreviated Version)

         v.      17              Psalm 68:17 Translated and Interpreted

         v.      17              Concluding Points on Psalm 68:15–17

         v.      18              How is Old Testament Scripture Used in the New Testament?

         v.      18              The Two Translations of Psalm 68:18

         v.      18              God Lives Among Us

         v.      18              The New Testament Parallel

         v.      20              A Summary of the Doctrine of Tôwtsâôwth

         v.      21              Commentaries on the Hairy Scalp of His Enemies

         v.      21              A Summary of the Doctrine of Âshâm

         v.      21              A Human Rationale for the Lake of Fire

         v.      22              How Should We Interpret, I will bring [them] back from Bashan; I will bring them back from the depths of the sea?

         v.      25              Two Accounts of the Same Procession

         v.      25              Why Are There Four Gospels?

         v.      26              The Fountain of Israel

         v.      27              Interpreting Rigemâh in Psalm 68:27

         v.      27              Questions and Answers Concerning Psalm 68:27

         v.      28              What Do We Do When We Face a Problem?

         v.      30              Hypotheses Based upon other Translations of Psalm 68:30

         v.      30              The Commentators Comment on “Rebuke the beast of the reeds”

         v.      30              The Commentators Comment on “the multitude of bulls”

         v.      30              The Commentators Comment on “With the calves of the people”

         v.      30              The Commentators Comment on “Till every one submit himself with pieces of silver”

         v.      30              The Commentators Comment on “He scatters the people that delight in war”

         v.      30              The Commentators Comment on All of Psalm 68:30

         v.      31              Various Translations of Psalm 68:31 and Their Interpretations

         v.      33              The Three Heavens

         v.      33              Barnes on the Voice of Jehovah

         v.      35              God’s Holy Place

         Addendum          A Complete Translation of Psalm 68

         Addendum          A Brief, Verse-by-Verse Exposition of Psalm 68

         Addendum          The Parallel Passages


Doctrines Covered

Doctrines Alluded To

Çâlal

Doctrine of the Arabah

The Ark of God

 

Jerusalem Mountains

The Trinity in the Old Testament

 

 

Doctrine of Tôwtsâôwth

Doctrine of Âshâm

 

 


An Introduction to Psalm 68


I ntroduction: Psalm 68 is one of the most difficult psalms to exegete. When it comes to understanding a psalm, organization is often quite helpful, and, most of the time, the selah’s in a psalm tell you how the psalm should be broken up. However, that is not the case with Psalm 68, where a musical interlude is thrown into the midst of a thought, which is clearly continued after the selah. Secondly, there are a number of words found in this psalm which are found nowhere else; and other words found here which are relatively rare. Thirdly, there is at least one word which is translated very similarly by most translators, but in a way that we do not find elsewhere. Finally, some verses standing on their own do not seem to make sense (e.g., vv. 13, 21, 23, 27, and 30). In beginning this psalm, I must admit to feeling overwhelmed by it. Now that I have examined a couple dozen different translations, I feel a little less intimidated, although I would not be surprised if I am unable to explain some sections of this psalm.


To become oriented, there is a specific time and place and occasion for this psalm: David attempted to move the Ark of God previously, and, in doing so, one of the caretakers of the Ark was struck dead. David stopped the procession because he realized that he had screwed up. He spent a few months studying the Bible, and felt confident enough to attempt to move the Ark once again into Jerusalem, the new capital of Israel. The first verse of this psalm is taken from the word of Moses—it is what Moses would say every morning before breaking camp and moving forward, and these words were specifically tied to the moving of the Ark. Vv. 24–27 offer further evidence that we are speaking of a procession. Secondly, the first 18 verses of this psalm give us an historical perspective of Israel, from Egypt to Canaan, and their conquering of the Land of Promise. The final 17 verses are more difficult to classify. Are we speaking of Israel in the Tribulation? Are we examining a few doctrinal points about the relationship between God and Israel? Throughout portions of the latter half of this psalm, I was somewhat flummoxed.


However, I do think that I can give the big picture view of this psalm:

Psalm 68: the Big Picture

Verses

Title

Commentary

vv. 1–14

God’s Past Dealings with Israel

The past. David begins with Moses leading his people through the desert and culminates with the victories of Israel over the heathen of the land.

vv. 15–18

The Ark of God Comes to Rest in Mount Zion, just as God will Rule from Zion Eternally

The present. This section views parallel time periods: the Ark being taken into Jerusalem, which is symbolic of our Lord ruling forever from Mount Zion.

vv. 19–35

God’s Future Dealings with Israel

The future. The previous few verses are transitional, connecting the symbols of Israel’s present to Israel’s true future under God.

Bear in mind that, even though this is the big picture, all the time David is mindful of the moving of the Ark into Jerusalem. Therefore, throughout this psalm, there will be continued references to the actual moving of the Ark (vv. 1, 17b, 24–25—a reference for each major section of this psalm).

At this point in time, I have almost completed this psalm, and I am reasonably satisfied with the results. However, for many of the individual verses, you may be asking out loud, why didn’t you just say this in the first place? Quite frankly, much of the exegesis here is me thinking out loud and throwing in the comments of a dozen other commentators. Although the final explanation for this or that verse may seem fairly simple and on target, getting to that point was not easy.

When all is said and done, you will find that there are two verses for which I did not give a complete and reasonable explanation (vv. 13, 30). Footnote With the help of a commentator (Barnes, I believe), that inability to understand and explain those verses actually had great meaning in and of itself (you’ll see).

There will be a few more verses where I believe that I have explained portions of them, or given the gist of their meanings, but was unable to fully and completely develop them.


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As you read this commentary, now and again you are going to feel as if you are slogging through knee-deep mud. This is how I felt throughout most of this psalm, although I must admit that, as I near the final week or two or working on it, that I am becoming more and more confident and comfortable with the results.

 

That being said, the NET Bible® probably gives us the most concise summary of this psalm: The psalmist depicts God as a mighty warrior and celebrates the fact that God exerts his power on behalf of his people. Footnote


One of the most marvelous applications of this study is false concept that, the believer with the greatest faith can go sit on a park bench, and God will provide for him. Why isn’t this God’s plan for our lives? Why doesn’t God expect us to reach a point of faith in our lives where we can simply open up our hands, and God will drop money into them? What is Christian growth if it is not aimed toward complete faith and dependence upon God? We’ll cover this topic when we get to v. 28, and there are a number of concepts which will suddenly come together for you: faith, Christian growth, maturity, and how this all relates to us being shadow images of God.


Allow me to offer up, as is my tradition, an alternate outline for this chapter:

Barnes Outlines Psalm 68

I. A prayer that God would arise and scatter all his enemies (Psalm 68:1–2).

II. A call on the people to praise God, with reference to his greatness, and to his paternal character (Psalm 68:3–6).

III. A reference to what he had done in former times for his people in conducting them from bondage to the promised land (Psalm 68:7–14).

IV. A particular reference to the ark (Psalm 68:15–18). After it had been lying neglected, God had gone forth with it, and Zion had become distinguished above the hills; the chariots of God had been poured forth; victory had attended its movements; and God had gone up leading captivity captive.

V. The anticipation of future triumphs – the confident expectation of future interposition – as derived from the history of the past (Psalm 68:19–23).

VI. A description of the procession on the removing of the ark (Psalm 68:24–27).

VII. The anticipation of future triumphs expressed in another form, not that of subjugation by mere power, but of a voluntary submission of kings and nations to God (Psalm 68:28–31). Kings would come with presents Psalm 68:29; nations – Egypt and Ethiopia – would stretch out their hands to God (Psalm 68:31).

VIII. A call on all the nations, in view of these things, to ascribe praise to God (Psalm 68:32–35).

In comparing Barnes’ organization to mine, there is very little difference. Barnes breaks the psalm into fewer parts, but divides them as I have, with the exception of the first section, which I end at v. 3 and he ends at v. 2.

Taken from Albert Barnes, Barnes’ Notes on the Old Testament; from e-Sword, Psalm 68 introduction.

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The NIV Study Bible has a pretty good outline as well, which they nail down based upon the 1st and 7th stanzas:

The NIV Study Bible Outlines Psalm 68

Stanza

Incident

1st Stanza

The beginning of the liturgical procession. vv. 1–3

2nd Stanza

The benevolence of God’s rule and a call for us to praise Him. vv. 4–6

3rd Stanza

This stanza recalls the desert journey from Sinai to the promised land. vv. 7–10

4th Stanza

Here, David recalls God’s victories over the kings of Canaan. vv. 11–14

5th Stanza

The fifth stanza marks that stage in which the Lord ascends Mount Zion. vv. 15–18

6th Stanza

The sixth stanza speaks reassuringly of God’s future victories. This is a joyous confession of hope that God’s victorious campaigns will continue until the salvation of His people is complete. vv. 19–23

7th Stanza

The seventh speaks expressly of the procession coming into view and entering the sanctuary. vv. 24–27

8th Stanza

This stanza contains prayers that God may continue to muster His power to subdue the enemy as He had done before. vv. 28–31

9th Stanza

The climax of the liturgical procession, where God is enthroned in His sanctuary. All kingdoms are called upon to praise the God of Israel as the God Who reigns in heaven and has established His earthly throne in the Temple of Jerusalem. vv. 32–35

The author of this footnote jumped around, naming the stanzas which seemed to be the most certain, and then he filled in with the others. The odd numbered stanzas appear to be the easiest to tie down to a particular topic or time frame; perhaps we should logically determine the even-numbered stanzas based upon their placement within this psalm? Or, perhaps these even-numbered stanzas could be removed from this psalm and be properly fitted together in another way. Bear in mind, David can sometimes be very complex in his compositions.

Each section was given more of an explanation in later footnotes in the NIV Study Bible, some of which is included here.

Taken from The NIV Study Bible; ©1995 by The Zondervan Corporation; pp. 846–8 (footnote; edited).


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One of the first steps in understanding a psalm is setting up a structure or an outline. Of course, I look at what others have done, but, from experience, I have found that David tends to have very carefully structured psalms which can be broken down into pieces, but which should be seen in a structural form as well. For instance, in this psalm, from looking at the first two sections of the psalm, it appears as though the first section matches the final section of this psalm, that the 2nd section matches the 2nd to the last section, etc. This is a structure which David has used before. Bear in mind, I come to this conclusion from just a superficial perusal of the psalm; when I begin to organize the psalm itself is what bears my theory out or not.


At this point, I have almost completed the exegesis of Psalm 68. Because this was a difficult psalm, I spend some time on the internet searching for whatever other nuggets of wisdom I might find. I cam across a paper by Steve Puluka (http://www.puluka.com/psalm68/default.asp) which suggested the following organization of the psalm.

What I have done differently is actually write out the verses below, grouped as Puluka (or Fokkelman?) suggest (the combination of verses are strophes). Given David’s highly organized nature with respect to literature, I thought I would lay this out and see if it works.

Another Way to Organize Psalm 68

Scripture

Stanza

Section

God rises up

[and] He scatters [or, breaks into pieces] His enemies;

and those who hate Him flee from Him.

Just as smoke is blown away,

You dispel [them];

[and] just as wax is melted by fire,

so the corrupt are destroyed because of Elohim [or, before Elohim].

The righteous will rejoice;

they will exhibit [or, feel] joy before Elohim;

they will leap with joy. (vv. 1–3)

As God leads Israel in the desert, He scatters His enemies.


This same God looks out for the widows and orphans.


God leaves those who are headstrong and wilful to die in the desert wilderness.

God leads Israel from Egypt to the Land of Promise, defeating and scattering Israel’s enemies and, at the same time, providing for Israel.

Sing unto Elohim,

make music which praises His name.

Construct [a highway] for the one riding in the [desert] Arabah.

His name [is] in Yah,

Rejoice before Him. Elohim [is] a Father to the fatherless

and an advocate of the widows

in His holy habitation.

Elohim causes those who are solitary to live in a household;

He leads captives [possibly, slaves] into freedom [or, prosperity]; but those who are willful [and headstrong] have settled into a scorched region. (vv. 4–6)

O Elohim, when You went forth before Your people;

when You marched in the desert wasteland;[Musical] Pause [or, musical interlude; lit., Selah!]

The earth quaked;

furthermore, the heavens poured down [rain] from Elohim.

This Sinai [quaked] because of Elohim,

the Elohim of Israel. (vv. 7–8)

God caused both earthquakes and rains in order to bring Israel from Sinai into the Land of Promise. He used those rains and earthquakes against Israel’s enemies and to sustain Israel.

You have scattered rain freely [or, in abundance], O Elohim;

You established Your inheritance, when it [the rain] was wearied.

Your community lived in it [the land];

You, O Elohim, established the humble [or, possibly, the grace oriented] in Your goodness. (vv. 9–10)

Another Way to Organize Psalm 68

Scripture

Stanza

Section

Adonai gives a promise [or, mandate];

those [women] who bring good news [or, female messengers] [are] a great army. Kings of armies flee—they flee;

while [each] female inhabitant of a home divides up [her] recompense [or, spoil]. (vv. 11–13a)

God scatters opposing armies; Israel enjoys the spoils of victory.

The God of Mount Sinai is the God of Mount Zion. We will save those who are His and destroy His enemies.

Though you lay between two stalls (?),

the wings of a dove are overlaid with silver

and her feathers with a yellowish gold.

When the Almighty scatters kings in her [in the land];

He causes snow [to fall] in Zalmon. (vv. 13b–14)

O mountain of Elohim, O mountain of Bashan, O mountain of [many] summits, O mountain of Bashan. Why do you look with envy, O mountains, O peaks, [at] the mountain Elohim desires for His dwelling place?

Indeed, Yehowah will live there forever. (vv. 15–16)

God will make His Presence with Israel in Mount Zion

The chariot of Elohim [leads] twenty thousand—a myriad of thousands [of angels]—

my Adonai [is] among them,

[as He was with them at] Sinai, [as He was with them] in the holy place. You have gone up on high [or, to the Most High];

You have led captivity captive;

You have received gifts in the presence of mankind.

And even [in the presence of] the rebellious;

Yah Elohim lives [there]. (vv. 17–18)

Blessed is Adonai,

day [after] day, God bears our deliverance [or, salvation] for us.

[Musical] Pause [or, musical interlude; lit., Selah!] Our God [is] a God with respect to [His] acts of salvation;

and to Yehowah Adonai, with respect to death, [there are] limits [or, the Lord Jehovah is the end with respect to death]. (vv. 19–20)

God will both save those who are His and destroy completely those who oppose Him

Surely Elohim will shatter the head of His enemies;

the crown of his head—[his] hair brisling up walking around [with evil intent] with his guilt [for wrongdoing].

Adonai has said, “I will bring [them] back from Bashan;

I will bring [them] back from the depths of the seas so that you bathe your feet in blood

[and] the tongue of your dogs [this blood] from [your] enemies [is] his portion.” (vv. 21–23)



Another Way to Organize Psalm 68

Scripture

Stanza

Section

They have seen Your solemn processions, O Elohim;

[they have seen] the processions of my God, my King, into the holy place.

The singers are in front [lit., preceded];

[and] after [them], [are] those who play stringed instruments;

in the midst of young women playing timbrels. (vv. 24–25)

The procession of Israel with the Ark of God.

From the procession of the Ark to God’s Millennial rule from Jerusalem.

Bless Elohim in the assemblies,

[and blessings to] Yehowah from the fountain of Israel. Then [or, there], insignificant Benjamin has dominion over them;

the princes of Judah [are] their means of execution [or, means of control; or, are in a group],

[along ] the princes of Zebulun [and] the princes of Naphtali. (vv. 26–27)

Your Elohim commands your strength [or, protection, glory] [possibly, Summon Your strength, O God];

make secure [or, strong], O Elohim, that which you have done for us. Because of Your Temple upon Jerusalem,

[in a procession] kings bring presents [lit., a present] to You. (vv. 28–29)

God makes His Temple in Jerusalem; kings from all over bring tribute to Him.

Castigate the community [or, life, living thing, animal] of stalks [or, reeds],

the congregation of mighty ones,

with calves of people trampling down [or, prostrating themselves with] bars of silver;

scatter [these] people,

[for] they delight in war [possibly, He scatters (them); the people desire to draw near]. Ambassadors from Egypt come;

His hands quickly bring Ethiopia unto Elohim. (vv. 30–31)

Sing, you kingdoms of the earth, to Elohim;

Sing praises [to] Adonai!

[Musical Pause] [lit., selah!]. [Sing praises] to the Rider of the heavens, [those] ancient heavens;

Listen, He sends forth [lit., gives] His voice, [His] mighty voice. (vv. 32–33)

Sing praises to God.

Give glory [or, praise] to Elohim;

His majesty and His strength [is] in the clouds over Israel. The God of Israel [is] a feared [and respected] Elohim [or, is an awesome God] [ruling] from Your sanctuary;

He gives to the people blessed [by] Elohim strength and might [or, He gives strength and might to the people; blessed [be] God]. (vv. 34–35)

Puluka refers to some guy, Fokkelman, writing An alternative view of the organization of Psalm 68 is the stress accent model of poetry. Here two or four stresses yield a colon, two to three colon yield a verse, two to three verses form a strophe and two to three strophe form a stanza. [Fokkelman, J.P. Reading biblical Poetry: An Introductory Guide. Westminster Jon Knox Press, Louisville/London, 2001] The stanzas can be further organized into sections in the longer Psalms, like Psalm 68.

I had a mixed reaction to this organization. There were sections which were hard to organize under one title or under one theme. However, the sections seemed to be reasonably easy to classify.

The translation and the brief description of the stanzas and the sections are mine; the organization came from Puluka or from Fokkelman.

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There are times when someone really gets it wrong. When I pulled up this website, I did not pay much attention to who put it out. I just read a few lines into their commentary and I could tell, they simply got it wrong.

Psalm 68: Getting it Wrong

Their Comments

How They Got it Wrong

Psalm 68 is extremely difficult because the Hebrew text is badly preserved and the ceremony that it describes is uncertain.

The Hebrew text itself is difficult, containing a number of words which are found nowhere else. This does not mean that it was badly preserved.


The time and place of this psalm is pretty easy to ascertain. David wrote it for the 2nd attempt to move the Ark. We know this because, this psalm tells us that David wrote it; the first verse repeats what Moses would say when the Ark was moved during the 40 years in the desert wilderness. We know that David’s problem the first time that he tried to move the Ark is, he did not have the Bible doctrine in his soul. The second time he moved the Ark, he knew the proper way to do it. This psalm reveals an understanding of the history of Israel and God’s involvement in the history of Israel prior to David’s time (vv. 1–17) and there is a clear reference to a procession in vv. 24–27.

The translation assumes the psalm accompanied the early autumn Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkoth), which included a procession of the tribes (Psalm 68:25-28).

Although there is a procession in this psalm, there is nothing to indicate that there is any connection between this psalm and the Feast of Tabernacles.

Israel was being oppressed by a foreign power, perhaps Egypt (Psalm 68:31-32)--unless Egypt stands for any oppressor.

It appears as though Egypt is bringing tribute to Israel, which is pretty much the opposite of being oppressive.

The psalm may have been composed from segments of ancient poems, which would explain why the transitions are implied rather than explicitly stated. At any rate, Psalm 68:2 is based on Numbers 10:35-36, and Psalm 68:8-9 are derived from Judges 5:4-5.

Although this is possibly true, there are only 2 or 3 verses which were definitely taken from elsewhere. It is very likely that David, when studying the Old Testament to determine how to move the Ark of God, was inspired to continue reading God’s Word. That he wrote a few verses in this psalm which parallel the Scripture which he studied is likely, since he does write a history of Israel from Sinai to his choice of Mount Zion for the location of the Ark.

For whatever reason, their verse allusions here to Psalm 68 are out of whack by one verse (I believe this is a Catholic translation and website).

The quotation on the left side came from http://www.usccb.org/nab/bible/psalms/psalm68.htm

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At this point, I have already broken the psalm up into sections, but I need to delve deeper than that. I will use the English Standard Version below and show you how my thought processes work to further organize this psalm in my own mind.

I will break the psalm down according to the chapter breakdown above:

My Thinking Process in Organizing Psalm 68

Psalm 68

Thinking Process Here

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. A Song.

I assume that David wrote this psalm and that it reflects incidents in his life and/or the history of Israel as he saw it.

God shall arise, his enemies shall be scattered; and those who hate him shall flee before him!

As smoke is driven away, so you shall drive them away; as wax melts before fire, so the wicked shall perish before God!

But the righteous shall be glad; they shall exult before God; they shall be jubilant with joy!

Immediately, we find enemies and war here; so I note this with boldface where else this occurs. We also have them called wicked here.


There is a clear contrast with the righteous, who exhibit joy.

Sing to God, sing praises to his name; lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts; his name is the LORD; exult before him!

Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.

God settles the solitary in a home; he leads out the prisoners to prosperity, but the rebellious dwell in a parched land.

Singing is often an indication of joy.


God’s holy habitation is mentioned here.


God’s provision and direct involvement in the lives of His people is clearly seen in the second portion of this stanza.

O God, when you went out before your people, when you marched through the wilderness, Selah the earth quaked, the heavens poured down rain, before God, the One of Sinai, before God, the God of Israel.

Rain in abundance, O God, you shed abroad; you restored your inheritance as it languished;

your flock found a dwelling in it; in your goodness, O God, you provided for the needy.

Sinai is alluded to in this stanza.


The nation Israel is named here, which is a culmination of God’s moving Israel from Egypt to the Land of Promise. At this point, I see a parallel which I have missed before: much of this psalm speaks of God moving the Jews from Egypt to the Land of Promise; and this is a nice parallel to David moving the Ark from a place of inactivity to central Israel.


God’s provision and direct involvement in the lives of His people is clearly seen in the second portion of this stanza.

The Lord gives the word; the women who announce the news are a great host:

"The kings of the armies--they flee, they flee!" The women at home divide the spoil--

though you men lie among the sheepfolds-- the wings of a dove covered with silver, its pinions with shimmering gold.

When the Almighty scatters kings there, let snow fall on Zalmon.

The kings of armies that flee make me think back to God’s enemies mentioned at the beginning of this psalm.

O mountain of God, mountain of Bashan; O many-peaked mountain, mountain of Bashan!

Why do you look with hatred, O many-peaked mountain, at the mount that God desired for his abode, yes, where the LORD will dwell forever?

Bashan is named here, and the names of many countries will follow.


Hatred is used often to speak of an enemy of God.


At the end of this stanza, God’s abode is again mentioned.

The chariots of God are twice ten thousand, thousands upon thousands; the Lord is among them; Sinai is now in the sanctuary.

You ascended on high, leading a host of captives in your train and receiving gifts among men, even among the rebellious, that the LORD God may dwell there.

Sinai, although not strictly a country, is another area which is named in this psalm.


God’s sanctuary is mentioned again, along with a place where the Lord God will dwell forever.

Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation. Selah

Our God is a God of salvation, and to GOD, the Lord, belong deliverances from death.

God’s provision and direct involvement in the lives of His people is clearly seen in this stanza.

But God will strike the heads of his enemies, the hairy crown of him who walks in his guilty ways.

The Lord said, "I will bring them back from Bashan, I will bring them back from the depths of the sea,

that you may strike your feet in their blood, that the tongues of your dogs may have their portion from the foe."

Bashan is named again in this verse.


Here, God’s clear victory over His enemies is noted.


God’s promise indicates His provision and direct involvement.

Your procession is seen, O God, the procession of my God, my King, into the sanctuary--

the singers in front, the musicians last, between them virgins playing tambourines:

"Bless God in the great congregation, the LORD, O you who are of Israel's fountain!"

There is Benjamin, the least of them, in the lead, the princes of Judah in their throng, the princes of Zebulun, the princes of Naphtali.

We have a procession here with music, which is quite similar to the righteous and their joy.


This joyous procession of course takes place in Israel and is celebrated by the tribes of Israel.

Summon your power, O God, the power, O God, by which you have worked for us.

Because of your temple at Jerusalem kings shall bear gifts to you.

Rebuke the beasts that dwell among the reeds, the herd of bulls with the calves of the peoples. Trample underfoot those who lust after tribute; scatter the peoples who delight in war.

Nobles shall come from Egypt; Cush shall hasten to stretch out her hands to God.

God speaks of Jerusalem.


Both Egypt and Cush (Ethiopia) are named here.

O kingdoms of the earth, sing to God; sing praises to the Lord, Selah

to him who rides in the heavens, the ancient heavens; behold, he sends out his voice, his mighty voice.

God riding in the heavens is spoken of here.

Ascribe power to God, whose majesty is over Israel, and whose power is in the skies.

Awesome is God from his sanctuary; the God of Israel--he is the one who gives power and strength to his people.

Blessed be God!

Although God is not riding in the heavens here, per se, His power is in the skies.


God’s sanctuary is again mentioned.


He is called the God of Israel here as well.

As I study this, I note that I can, more or less, match up the first 3 stanzas with the final 3 stanzas, making me think that David set up this psalm to parallel itself.

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Now that it appears as though the beginning of this psalm should be matched with the end of the psalm, let me place them in parallel and comment:

I will use the Literal Translation of the Holy Bible (my choice of translations here is purely random, as I am not comfortable with my own translation).

Do We Find a Parallelism in Psalm 68?

Psalm 68 from the Beginning

Psalm 68 from the End

God rises up and His enemies are scattered; and those who hate Him flee from His face.

As smoke is driven away, You drive them away; as wax melts before the fire, the wicked perish in God's presence.

But the righteous are glad; they shout for joy before God; yea, they exult with gladness.

Give might to God over Israel; His majesty and His strength in the clouds.

O God, You are awesome out of Your holy places; the God of Israel is He who gives strength and power to the people.

Blessed be God!

God rises up against His enemies; God reigns over Israel, and gives strength to His people, Israel. What they have in common is both of these begin with an imperative (the LTHB does not render it that way, obviously)

Sing to God, sing praise to His name; lift up a song for Him who rides in the deserts, by His name Jehovah; yea, exult in His presence.

In His holy dwelling God is a father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows.

God causes the lonely to live at home; He brings out those who are bound with chains, while the rebellious dwell in a dry land.

Sing to God, kingdoms of the earth, praises to the Lord. Selah.

To Him who rides on the heavens of heavens of old; lo, He gives forth His voice, a mighty voice.

God is to be praised and we are called upon to sing to God. This is probably the clearest parallel, which suggested to me that perhaps David set these up as parallel stanzas.

 O God, when You marched before Your people, when You walked on through the wilderness. Selah.

The earth shook, and the heavens dropped before God, this Sinai before God, the God of Israel.

O God, You sent down a shower of plenty, by which You upheld Your inheritance when it was weary.

Your flock lived in it. You, O God, have prepared for the poor in Your goodness.

Your God has commanded your strength; O God, be strong, in this that You have worked out for us.

Because of Your temple over Jerusalem, kings shall bring a present to You.

Rebuke the wild beasts of the reeds, the herd of bulls, with the calves of the peoples, trampling down with pieces of silver. He scatters the people who delight in war.

Let nobles be brought out of Egypt; Ethiopia shall run up her hands to God.

Although I originally saw a parallel here, I don’t any more.

Jehovah gave the Word; the bearers of it were a great army.

Kings of armies fled, they ran away; yea, she who stayed home has divided the plunder.

When you lie among the sheepfolds, the wings of a dove are covered with silver, and its feathers with gleaming gold.

When the Almighty scatters kings in it, it snows on Mount Salmon.

They have seen Your goings, O God, the goings of my God, my King, in the holy place.

The singers went before, then the musicians came; among them were the virgins playing the timbrels.

O bless God in the congregations, the Lord, from the fountain of Israel.

There is little Benjamin ruling them; the leaders of Judah in their crowd, and the leaders of Zebulun, the leaders of Naphtali.

There might be a legitimate parallel here, where God scatters the armies of Israel’s enemies on the one hand; and we have the orderly procession of God’s people on the other hand.

The mountain of Bashan is God's mountain; the Bashan range is a mountain of peaks.

Why do you gaze in envy, O mountain range, at the mountain God desired for His dwelling? Yea, Jehovah will dwell in it forever.

Yea, God will crush the head of His enemies, the hairy crown of him who walks on in his guilt.

The Lord said, I will bring back from Bashan; I will bring back My people from the depths of the sea;

so that your foot may be dashed in the blood of your enemies, the tongue of your dogs in it.

Bashan is mentioned in these two possibly parallel stanzas, and we contrast the high mountains of Bashan with God bringing His people back from the depths of the seas.

The chariots of God are myriads, thousands of thousands, the Lord is among them, in Sinai, in the holy place.

You have gone up on high; You have led captivity captive; You have received gifts among men; yea, to dwell among the rebellious, O Jehovah God.

Blessed be the Lord: day by day He carries a load for us, the God of our salvation. Selah.

Our God is the God of salvation; and to Jehovah the Lord are the issues of death.

These appear to be the most distinctly New Testament stanzas, as the first is quoted in the New Testament and the 2nd speaks of God as our salvation, Who bears our burdens for us. Although the latter stanza is not quoted in the New Testament, there are certainly a number of parallel New Testament verses.

I was hoping to conclude without question a set of parallel stanzas, which parallelism is more easily seen when these verses are laid down next to one another; unfortunately, although that appears to be the case in some places, in others, it is a stretch to make them parallel.

What is my point with these past two charts? First of all, for me, they are like scratch paper; you might see this as my scratch work in attempting to unearth the information of Psalm 68. Secondly, it is to point out that, not everything in Scripture comes easily to anyone with the gift of exegesis (which would include some who write commentaries and some pastor-teachers Footnote ). Now and again, when I examine this or that chapter of the Bible, I complete the task and am quite pleased with the results. For instance, when I figured out why God allowed Saul to speak to Samuel after Samuel had died, even though Samuel did not really give Saul any new information, I was pleased as peaches; particularly, because I had not seen this correctly explained elsewhere. When I understood the gist of 1Cor. 13:1–3, I was quite happy with that knowledge, as I don’t believe that this passage was ever taught correctly. However, on the other hand, when I deal with a chapter like Psalm 68, I am humbled and taken aback. The more translations and the more scratch work that I do on this psalm, the more manageable it becomes, but, after first exegeting the Hebrew, I must confess, my mind was drawing quite a blank to begin with; and I still feel there are passages within this psalm which I may not be able to adequately explain.

One more important message to those who exegete the Scriptures: do not become emotionally involved with any hypothesis that you may come up with! Now and again, you are going to think you have a breakthrough; you are going to think that you see something that no one else has seen (and, in some cases, this will occur). Think it through; compare Scripture to Scripture; don’t commit to it until you’ve slept on it for several evenings and have carefully examined the related Scriptures. None of us are going to come up with breakthroughs which turn Christianity on its side; but some of us will, now and again, come across an interpretation, a viewpoint, a rationale, which has not been proposed before, or completely exploited yet. When you come across something like that, do not become emotionally attached to it; you may find that, after a day or two of study, it turns out that your hypothesis does not hold water. Don’t worry about that. It’s no big deal. Just be humble enough to recognize, I went down a blind alley; my hypothesis is just flat out wrong; and then you just move on. Adjust your caffeine intake if necessary, and then go back to studying.

Personally, when it comes to interpreting a particular passage, I would rather admit that I have hit a wall and don’t understand it, or offer up the explanations of others, which I may find to be inadequate, rather than to throw out some dogmatic assertion as to the meaning of the passage, when, in fact, I do not believe that interpretation is warranted. Since I am not a pastor, I can get away with this. I recognize that only a few people are going to actually read this, and I hope that they will respect my intellectual integrity when, at times, I don’t claim to have the answer or the correct interpretation.

I think by the gist of the past few paragraphs, I may be revealing just how intimidating this psalm was to me.


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On a personal note, David kept me in the Hebrew dictionary time after time after time for this psalm. There are several words found only in this psalm and there are several words whose meaning is clear by their cognates, but which are found only here and one or two other passages. Keil and Delitzsch tell us that there are 13 words in this psalm which are found nowhere else. Footnote Sometimes, we can go for several chapters before finding even a single word like that.

 

Keil and Delitzsch write: But over and above all this, the language is so bold and so peculiarly its own, that we meet with no less than thirteen words that do no occur anywhere else. It is so distinctly Elohimic in its impress, that the simple Elohim occurs twenty–three times; but in addition to this, it is as though the whole cornucopia of divine names were poured out upon it: YHWH (הוהי) [pronunciation is possibly yhoh-WAH] in Psalm 68:16; ădônây (יָנֹדֱא) [pronounced uh-doh-NAY] six times; êl (ל ֵא) [pronounced ALE] twice in Psalm 68:18; Shadday (י ַ ַש) [pronounced shahd-DAH-ee] in Psalm 68:14; Yâh (ָי) [pronounced yaw] in Psalm 68:4; YHWH (הוהי) [pronunciation is possibly yhoh-WAH] ădônây (יָנֹדֱא) [pronounced uh-doh-NAY] in Psalm 68:20; Yâh (ָי) [pronounced yaw] Ělôhîym (מי̣הֹלֱא) [pronounced el-o-HEEM] in Psalm 68:18; so that this Psalm among all the Elohimic Psalms is the most resplendent. Footnote

 

When investigating this psalm, I thought to myself, what’s wrong with me? Why don’t I get this? After completing the very frustrating exegesis from the Hebrew, I then read what Clarke wrote: I know not how to undertake a comment on this Psalm: it is the most difficult in the whole Psalter; and I cannot help adopting the opinion of Simon De Muis: “In this Psalm there are as many precipices and labyrinths as there are verses or words. It may not be improperly termed, the torture of critics, and the reproach of commentators.” To attempt any thing new on it would be dangerous; and to say what has been so often said would be unsatisfactory. I am truly afraid to fall over one of those precipices, or be endlessly entangled and lost in one of these labyrinths. There are customs here referred to which I do not fully understand; there are words whose meaning I cannot, to my own satisfaction, ascertain; and allusions which are to me inexplicable. Yet of the composition itself I have the highest opinion: it is sublime beyond all comparison; it is constructed with an art truly admirable; it possesses all the dignity of the sacred language; none but David could have composed it; and, at this lapse of time, it would require no small influence of the Spirit that was upon him, to give its true interpretation. I shall subjoin a few notes, chiefly philological; and beg leave to refer the reader to those who have written profusely and laboriously on this sublime Psalm, particularly Venema, Calmet, Dr. Chandler, and the writers in the Critici Sacr.

 

Clarke isn’t the only one to express such thoughts. Henry writes: This is a most excellent psalm, but in many places the genuine sense is not easy to come at; for in this, as in some other scriptures, there are things dark and hard to be understood. It does not appear when, or upon what occasion, David penned this psalm; but probably it was when, God having given him rest from all his enemies round about, he brought the ark (which was both the token of God's presence and a type of Christ's mediation) from the house of Obed-edom to the tent he had pitched for it in Zion; for the first words are the prayer which Moses used at the removing of the ark, Num. 10:35. Footnote

 

Spurgeon offers up more of the same: The Psalm is at once surpassingly excellent and difficult. Its darkness in some stanzas is utterly impenetrable. Well does a German critic speak of Psalm 68 as a Titan very hard to master. Our slender scholarship has utterly failed us, and we have had to follow a surer Guide. Footnote After reading this and the previous comments, I don’t feel nearly as bad as I did when I began this psalm; I feel just as confused at times, but at least I know that is how other commentators have felt over the centuries.

 

Steve Puluka writes: The RSV translation below provides our base text for the discussion. For purposes of the analysis of Jewish and Christian usage and interpretation the reference text is sufficient. However, as noted by the Jewish Publication society translation “The coherence of this psalm and the meaning of many of its passages are uncertain.” Outlined below are the uncertain terms and divergences of the LXX for this text. None provide a point of theological or liturgical controversy in the use or interpretation of the Psalm between Christians and Jews. Footnote What is most important in his statement is, we might not understand all that is in this psalm; but we don’t find things which contradict Jewish or Christian doctrines. This, by the way, is true of all of the passages which we do not understand. We may not be able to get a definite handle on them, but difficult passages do not rise to the level of teaching, for instance, soul sleep or purgatory (or, whatever). So I might not be able to tell you exactly what this or that verse means, but, you won’t read it and think that you have suddenly discovered new revelations on covenant theology.


Given the many difficulties associated with this psalm, the primary commentators all appear to be in agreement that this psalm was written by David to be sung when the Ark was moved to Jerusalem. Some of them do allude to other commentators—guys I have never heard of—for additional theories, most of which are pretty weird and find themselves at odds immediately with the inscription of this psalm.

Opinions as to the Occasion of Psalm 68

Commentator

Opinion/Comment

The Amplified Bible

David sang of the ark of the covenant, which after a great victory was transferred or brought back to Zion. in this fact he sees the principle of the history of the kingdom of God, appearing in ever widening circles and nobler manner. the fact is to him a type of the method and course of the Messiah’s kingdom. so the Apostle Paul (in eph. 4:8) is perfectly justified in finding the psalmists’s eye directed toward Christ, and so interpreting it. The “on high” in the Psalm is first of all Mount Zion, but this is a type of Heaven, as Paul makes clear. (Lange’s Commentary)  Footnote

Barnes

It is evidently, like the eighteenth psalm, a triumphal song designed to celebrate victories which had been achieved; but whether composed to celebrate some particular victory, or in view of all that had been done in subduing the enemies of the people of God, it is impossible now to determine. Prof. Alexander supposes that it was in reference to the victory recorded in 2Sam. 12:26–31, the last important victory of David’s reign. Venema supposes that it was composed on the occasion of removing the ark to Mount Zion, to the place which David had prepared for it. This also is the opinion of Rosenmüller. DeWette inclines to the opinion that it was written in view of the victory over the Ammonites and others, as recorded in 2 Sam. 8–12. Footnote Barnes has more to say on this, which I will give next.

Böttcher

Böttcher, on the other hand, sees in it a festal hymn of triumph belonging to the time of Hezekiah, which was sung antiphonically at the great fraternizing Passover after the return home of the young king from one of his expeditions against the Assyrians, who had even at that time fortified themselves in the country east of the Jordan (Bashan). Footnote

Gill

The Targum makes the argument of this psalm to be the coming of the children of Israel out of Egypt, and the giving of the law on Mount Sinai; in which it is followed by many of the Jewish interpreters: but Aben Ezra rejects such an interpretation of it, and thinks that David composed it, concerning the war he had with the uncircumcised nations, the Philistines and others, 2Sam. 8:1, &c. And so the title of the Syriac version begins, "a psalm of David, when the kings prepared themselves to fight against him:'' [my Syriac Bible does not have that].


Kimchi says it was composed on account of Sennacherib's army coming against Jerusalem, in the times of Hezekiah, and so delivered by David, under a spirit of prophecy concerning that affair; though he owns that some of their writers interpret it of the war of Gog and Magog, in the times of the Messiah they yet expect. But they are much nearer the truth, who take it that it was written on occasion of the ark being brought to the city of David; seeing it begins with much the same words that Moses used when the ark set forward in his times, Num. 10:35; and the bringing of which was attended with great joy and gladness, 2Sam. 6:14; such as the righteous are called upon to express in this psalm, Psalm 68:3. And this being a type of Christ, and of his ascending the holy hill of God, may be allowed of; for certain it is that this psalm treats of the coming of Christ, and of blessings by him, and of victory over his enemies; and particularly of his ascension to heaven, as most evidently appears from Eph. 4:8; and from prophecies in it, concerning the calling of the Gentiles. Wherefore the latter part of the Syriac inscription of it is very pertinent; "also a prophecy concerning the dispensation of the Messiah, and concerning the calling of the Gentiles to the faith.'' Footnote

Keil and Delitzsch

Although Keil and Delitzsch clearly apply this psalm to the moving of the Ark by David (at least, at first), they do list a number of other theories. Most of the other theories are ridiculous, and several are listed here. Refer to Keil and Delitzsch introduction to the exegesis of this psalm if you are interested in the more bizarre theories concerning Psalm 68.

Kukis

One clue that this psalm was written for the moving of the Ark of God is, back in Num. 10:34–36, when the Ark was about to be moved, Moses said a few word which David uses in the first verse of this Psalm: And the cloud of Jehovah was on them by day as they pulled up stakes from the camp. And it happened when the ark pulled out, Moses said, Rise, O Jehovah, and Your enemies shall be scattered, and those hating You shall flee from Your presence. And when it rested, he said, Return, O Jehovah, to the myriads of the thousands of Israel (Num. 10:34–36). The fact that David quotes Moses almost verbatim indicates that this psalm was written specifically for the moving of the Ark of God.


As we proceed further along in this psalm, I will better tie the reason for David writing it.

NIV Study Bible

[Psalm 68 is] a recessional liturgy celebrating the glorious and triumphant rule of Israel’s God...Verses 1–18 contain many clear references to God’s triumphal march from Mount Sinai (in the days of Moses) to Mount Zion (in the days of David). The events at Mount Sinai marked the birth of the kingdom of God among His people; the establishing of the Ark of the Covenant, a symbol of God’s thorne, in Jerusalem marked the establishment of God’s redemptive kingdom in the earth, with Jerusalem as its royal city. The early church, taking its cue from Eph. 4:8–13, understood this psalm to foreshadow the resurrection, ascension and present rule of Christ and the final triumph of His church over the hostile world. Footnote The NIV Study Bible also suggests that this is the last psalm in a series of 4 psalms, all of which have similar themes. If this is the case, then this opens up a whole Pandora’s Box of questions: Did David write these at the same time? Did he write them sequentially? Were all of these psalms a part of the moving of the Ark of God? Will understanding Psalms 65–67 provide the necessary keys for understanding Psalm 68? That we find ourselves being faced with a boat-load of questions is not a problem, but it does make me question whether I should have begun with Psalm 65, even if the previous 3 psalms may not be directly connected to the moving of the Ark.

Reuss

The Psalm is said, as Reuss ultimately decides, to have been written between the times of Alexander the Great and the Maccabees, and to give expression to the wish that the Israelites, many of whom were far removed from Palestine and scattered abroad in the wide earth, might soon be again united in their fatherland. But this apprehension rests entirely upon violence done to the exegesis, more particularly in the supposition that in v. 23 the exiles are the persons intended by those whom God will bring back. Reuss makes out those who are brought back out of Bashan to be the exiles in Syria, and those who are brought back out of the depths of the sea he makes out to be the exiles in Egypt. He knows nothing of the remarkable concurrence of the mention of the Northern tribes (including Benjamin) in Psalm 68:28 with the Asaphic Psalms: Judah and Benjamin, to his mind, is Judæa; and Zebulun and Naphtali, Galilee in the sense of the time after the return from exile. The “wild beast of the reed” he correctly takes to be an emblem of Egypt; but he makes use of violence in order to bring in a reference to Syria by the side of it. Nevertheless Olshausen praises the services Reuss has rendered with respect to this Psalm; but after incorporating two whole pages of the “Denkmal” in his commentary he cannot satisfy himself with the period between Alexander and the Maccabees, and by means of three considerations arrives, in this instance also, at the common refuge of the Maccabean period, which possesses such an irresistible attraction for him. Footnote

Thenius

Thenius (following the example of Rödiger) holds a different view. He knows the situation so very definitely, that he thinks it high time that the discussion concerning this Psalm was brought to a close. It is a song composed to inspirit the army in the presence of the battle which Josiah undertook against Necho, and the prominent, hateful character in Psalm 68:22 is Pharaoh with his lofty artificial adornment of hair upon his shaven head. It is, however, well known what a memorably tragical issue for Israel that battle had; the Psalm would therefore be a memorial of the most lamentable disappointment. Footnote

I must admit that I had not the slightest clue that there would be so many differing opinions here. Barnes will clear this up for us in the next short doctrine.

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Barnes makes a very compelling argument for this psalm being written on the occasion of the moving of the Ark of God:

Albert Barnes: Why Psalm 68 was Written on the Occasion of Moving the Ark

 

Reason/Rationale

1.

It is clear that it was not composed before the time of David, because before his time Jerusalem or Zion was not the seat of the royal authority, nor the place of divine worship, which it is evidently supposed to be in the psalm (Psalm 68:29—Because of Your temple over Jerusalem, kings shall bring a present to You).

2.

It was composed when the Hebrew nation was one, or before the separation of the ten tribes and the formation of the kingdom of Israel under Jeroboam, for Benjamin, Judah, Zebulun and Naphtali are especially mentioned as taking part in the solemnities referred to in the psalm (Psalm 68:27—There is little Benjamin ruling them; the leaders of Judah in their crowd, and the leaders of Zebulun, the leaders of Naphtali).

3.

It was consequently before the Babylonian captivity.

4.

It was composed on some occasion of bringing up the ark, and putting it in the place which had been prepared for it. Why do you gaze in envy, O mountain range, at the mountain God desired for His dwelling? Yea, Jehovah will dwell in it forever (Psalm 68:16). They have seen Your goings, O God, the goings of my God, my King, in the holy place. The singers went before, then the musicians came; among them were the virgins playing the timbrels (Psalm 68:24–25). These verses can be best explained on the supposition that the psalm was written on that occasion. Indeed they cannot well be explained on any other supposition.

5.

it was in view of past triumphs; of victories secured in former times; of what God had then done for his people, and especially of what he had done when the ark of the covenant had been placed at the head of the armies of Israel (Psalm 68:14—When the Almighty scatters kings in it, it snows on Mount Salmon). Compare Psalm 68:7–8 (O God, when You marched before Your people, when You walked on through the wilderness. Selah. The earth shook, and the heavens dropped before God, this Sinai before God, the God of Israel); Psalm 68:12 (Kings of armies fled, they ran away; yea, she who stayed home has divided the plunder); Psalm 68:17–18 (The chariots of God are myriads, thousands of thousands, the Lord is among them, in Sinai, in the holy place. You have gone up on high; You have led captivity captive; You have received gifts among men; yea, to dwell among the rebellious, O Jehovah God).

6.

it was in anticipation of future triumphs – the triumphs of the true religion; under the feeling and belief that Jerusalem would be the center from which wholesome influences would go out over the world; and that through the influences which would go out from Jerusalem the world would be subdued to God, Psalm 68:20–23; 29–31 (Our God is the God of salvation; and to Jehovah the Lord are the issues of death. Yea, God will crush the head of His enemies, the hairy crown of him who walks on in his guilt. The Lord said, I will bring back from Bashan; I will bring back My people from the depths of the sea; so that your foot may be dashed in the blood of your enemies, the tongue of your dogs in it...Because of Your temple over Jerusalem, kings shall bring a present to You. Rebuke the wild beasts of the reeds, the herd of bulls, with the calves of the peoples, trampling down with pieces of silver. He scatters the people who delight in war. Let nobles be brought out of Egypt; Ethiopia shall run up her hands to God). Compare Isa. 2:3 (And many people shall go and say, Come and let us go up to the mount of Jehovah, to the house of the God of Jacob. And He will teach from His ways, and we will walk in His paths. For out of Zion the Law will go forth, and the Word of Jehovah from Jerusalem).

It’s hard to argue with Barnes’ logic here. He concludes: The psalm was composed, therefore, I apprehend, when the ark was brought up from the house of Obed–edom, and placed in the city of David, in the tent or tabernacle which he had erected for it there: (2Sam. 6:12 1 Chr. 15). It is not improbable that other psalms, also, were composed for this occasion, as it was one of great solemnity. Footnote

The only surprising thing about Barnes’ argument is, he does not mention that David quoted Moses in this psalm, word that Moses used anytime the Ark was moved (compare Psalm 68:1 and Num. 10:34–36).

From Albert Barnes, Barnes’ Notes on the Old Testament; from e-Sword, Psalm 68 introduction.

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So, what do we know about this psalm? It appears to be an interpretation of God’s involvement with Israel throughout history; and there are suggestions here and there that this psalm was mostly likely written by David specifically for the transportation of the Ark of God into Jerusalem. Let me remind you of this history. David and his army take Jerusalem, and David makes Jerusalem his capital city. David recognizes God’s hand in all of this and he decides to bring the Ark of God to Jerusalem—which Ark had been in Kiriath-jearim in storage, and separated from the Tabernacle of God (which we hear very little about). Although this is never outright said, David either intends to bring the Tabernacle into Jerusalem or he thinks about building a Temple to God. We do know that David thought about building a Temple around this time period (2Sam. 7), and we may hypothesize that he did not bring the Tabernacle to Jerusalem knowing that he or his son Solomon would build this Temple.


David’s first attempt to bring the Ark into Jerusalem ends with the death of one of the Ark’s caretakers. The problem is, David did not know how to properly move the Ark, lacking that doctrine in his soul, and the Ark was simply placed into a cart (as the heathen Philistines had done) and brought toward Jerusalem. Before the Ark had traveled very far, it appeared that the Ark was going to fall out of the cart, and Uzzah reached out to steady the Ark, and God killed him immediately for touching the Ark. David then stopped the first procession, and the Ark was taken to the closest home, the home of Obed-edom, where it remained for 3 months. Obed-edom was so blessed that, men actually went to David within that 3 month period of time and told David how much God had done for Obed-edom. David, either on his own, or because God had blessed Obed-edom so much, began searching the Scriptures and reading about the Ark and, subsequently, about Israel’s history. I think that there are a number of things which we will read in this psalm which are a clear result of David searching the Scriptures. We essentially have a history of God’s dealings with Israel from the beginning, and the blessings which God had heaped upon Israel and the protection which God had afforded Israel from the outset. David then decided to move the Ark from the home of Obed-edom, having more confidence from Bible doctrine (he knew the correct mechanics for moving the Ark), and he determined that a great women’s chorus would sing this psalm in the procession.


I think that if we bear in mind that David wrote this psalm for the moving of the Ark, and if we recognize that this psalm presents a poetic history of Israel, from Egypt to the Land of Promise, that this may help us to understand what some of the verses mean. At this point, given the discussion so far, you should be acutely aware that interpreting this psalm will we moderately difficult at times.


Since the Ark of God is in the Old Testament, many believers do not really understand what it is or what it represents.

The Importance of the Ark of God

1.      At this point, you may want to examine the Doctrine of the Ark of God. However, in a nutshell, it is this:

         a.      God had certain men under the direction of Moses build the Tabernacle of God and the furniture for this Tabernacle.

         b.      One of these pieces of furniture, was a chest made out of acacia wood, overlaid with gold. This speaks of the humanity and the deity of Jesus Christ.

         c.      In the Ark of God were three items: the tablets of the Ten Commandments, Aaron’s rod which budded, and a pot of manna. These speak of the fundamental doctrines of our relationship with God. The tablets tell us that we have sinned and that we are unrighteous in the eyes of God. The pot of manna speaks of God’s provision for us, which includes salvation and redemption. Aaron’s rod that budded speaks of our resurrection from the dead.

         d.      The Ark had at the top, the Mercy Seat, with two angels on each side. This Mercy Seat is the place where we have contact with God, so to speak.

         e.      On top of the Ark were two angels (cherubim) who appear to be staring down at the Ark (at the Mercy Seat), which suggests angelic observation of our lives.

         f.       The most fascinating thing about the Ark (at least to me) is, no one saw the Ark but the High Priest, and He only had contact with the Ark once a year on the Day of Atonement, when he would enter into the Holy of Holies and sprinkle blood on the top of the Ark (on the Mercy Seat). The sprinkling of blood on the Mercy Seat, of course, refers to the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our sins. Again, no one saw this except for the High Priest! Although Jesus Christ is revealed in the Old Testament, just as the nature of the Ark of God is revealed in the Old Testament, very few people ever came into contact with Jesus Christ in the Old Testament (these are the various physical manifestations of God in the Old Testament, e.g., the Burning Bush). Because the Ark of God was never seen by Israel during the Age of Israel, it was clear that their Savior had not yet come to them; it was clear that their Savior had not yet been revealed to them.

2.      The Ark of God, although unseen, is the heart and soul of the Tabernacle of God. Despite the various foreshadowings of Jesus Christ, one might argue that the Tabernacle of God was empty without the Ark of God within its midst.

3.      The Ark, more than any other piece of furniture in or about the Tabernacle, spoke of the Person and Work of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for us.

4.      David could look at the history of Israel and the Ark of God, and how, during the time that the Ark was not a part of the Tabernacle of God, the history of Israel was at a low point.

         a.      Let me caveat that by adding, much of Israel’s history was a history of low points; however, parallel to these low points is the ignoring or non-function of the Tabernacle, the sacrificial system which God set up, or the absence of the Ark of God from the Tabernacle.

         b.      One might reasonably argue that, there are very few points in Israel’s history when God’s sacrifices or days are observed; and there are very few times in Israel’s history when the Tabernacle is set up and functioning as God intended it to be. However, parallel to this is Israel’s sorry spiritual state and, therefore, Israel’s sorry place in history.

5.      David recognized that observing the rituals and holy days prescribed by God were an innate part of Israel, and that disregarding God’s commands in any area was a mistake.

6.      We do not know just exactly how much God the Holy Spirit revealed to David or how well he was able to see into the future; David clearly believed in Jesus Christ and David clearly understood the importance of God’s rituals, all of which spoke of Jesus Christ. Therefore, bringing the Ark of God into Jerusalem, the new capital city of Israel, was the only reasonable thing which David could do. However, so there is no misunderstanding here: this was a great desire of David’s; it was not simply a fulfillment of religious duty.

7.      In this lifetime, we will never completely understand just how much David understood; however, it was clear to him that the Ark of God must be reintroduced to the Tabernacle of God, both of which should be located in the capital city of Jerusalem.

8.      So that you understand David’s plans, his intention was to build a Temple for God—a permanent dwelling place—which would take the place of the Tabernacle. This is why David did not bring the Tabernacle into Jerusalem simultaneous to bringing the Ark into Jerusalem.

Now that we understand David’s motivation, this helps to explain why this event was so important in the history of Israel.


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Psalm 68 Inscription

Slavishly literal:

 

Moderately literal:

To the preeminent one; to David; a psalm; a song.

Psalm

68 inscription

To the preeminent one, of David; a psalm; a song.

For the choir director by David; a psalm to be put to music.


Here is how others have translated this verse:


Ancient texts:

 

Dead Sea Scrolls                   Although there are fragments of this psalm in the Dead Sea Scrolls, none of those fragments amount to enough to offer an alternative to the Masoretic text.

Latin Vulgate                          Unto the end, a psalm of a canticle for David himself.

Masoretic Text                       To the preeminent one; to David; a psalm; a song.

Septuagint                              For the end, a Psalm of a Song by David.

 

Significant differences:           The LXX and the Vulgate change the order of the words and they both have the end instead of the more commonly found preeminent one.


Thought-for-thought translations; paraphrases:

 

CEV                                       (A psalm and a song by David for the music leader.)

EasyEnglish (Churchyard) Footnote      (This is) for the music leader.

(It is) a psalm of David, a song.

NET Bible®                             For the music director; by David, a psalm, a song.

Revised English Bible            For the leader; for David; a psalm; a song.


Mostly literal renderings (with some occasional paraphrasing):

 

Bible in Basic English             To the chief music-maker. Of David. A Psalm. A Song.

Complete Apostles’ Bible      For the end, A Psalm of a Song by David.

HCSB                                     For the choir director. A Davidic psalm. A song.


Literal, almost word-for-word, renderings:

 

King James 2000 Version      [To the Chief Musician. A Psalm or Song of David.]

A Voice in the Wilderness      [To the chief Musician. A Psalm or Song of David.]

Young's Literal Translation     To the Overseer. --A Psalm, a song of David.


What is the gist of this verse? This psalm appears to be written by David and given to the choir leader/head musician. It appears to be a psalm put to music with the intention that it be sung.


Psalm 68 inscription a

Hebrew/Pronunciation

Common English Meanings

Notes/Morphology

BDB and Strong’s Numbers

lâmed (לְ) [pronounced le]

to, for, towards, in regards to, with reference to, as to, with regards to, belonging to

directional/relational preposition

No Strong’s # BDB #510

nâtsach (נָצַח) [pronounced naw-TZAHKH]

to oversee, to supervise to be; preeminent, to be enduring; the Preeminent One

Piel participle with the definite article

Strong’s #5329 BDB #663

The Piel participle of nâtsach is given a wide variety of renderings: overseer (Young), the music leader (CEV), choir director (NASB, NLT), choirmaster (Owens), leader (NRSV, NEB, NAB) and chief musician (Rotherham).

Both the Greek and Latin have to the end instead.


Translation: To the preeminent one;... As we have seen with the numerous translations above, no one is clear as to who this person is. This psalm could be dedicated to God, which is essentially how I have translated it; however, it could be designed to be conducted by the chief musician, which is how Rotherham understands it. Most translators assume that this is given over to the choir director or the conductor or the one in charge of those who sang.


Unfortunately, the exact meaning of the lâmed preposition is also hard to determine. We find several psalms which are ascribed to David written to David; but the idea is, the psalm belongs to David. The lâmed preposition is used more often when something is given to someone else or something is for someone else, the chief meanings of the lâmed preposition. Despite the use of the lâmed preposition with David throughout the book of Psalms, I have taken this to me that this psalm is written for whoever this Preeminent person is.

 

Barnes comments on this portion of the inscription: This phrase in the title, “To the chief Musician,” occurs at the beginning of 53 psalms, and at the close of the hymn in Habak. 3:19. It is uniformly rendered “to the chief Musician,” and means that the psalm was intended for him, or was to be given to him, probably to regulate the manner of performing it. In no one instance does the title imply that he was the author. The word rendered “Chief Musician” is derived from [ a Hebrew word] properly meaning “to shine,” but not used in the Qal. In the Piel form it means to be conspicuous; to be over anything; to be chief; to be superintendent (2Chron. 2:2, 18 34:12) and then it means to lead in music. The meaning of the form used here, and in the other places where it occurs as a title to a psalm, is “Chief Musician,” or precentor; and the idea is, that the psalm is to be performed under his direction; or that the music is to be directed and adapted by him. Footnote


Even though we have the same preposition used here as we find used with David, when he is the author, the many times that this phrase is found in combination with the author’s name suggests more that there is a musical organization and that this song was delivered over to the Choirmaster (or conductor) of that organization to be sung and performed at various functions.

 

The NIV Study Bible has its opinion on this matter: [For the director of music is] probably a liturgical notation, indicating either that the psalm was to be added to he collection of works to be used by the director of music in Israel’s worship services, or that when the psalm was used in the temple worship, it was to be spoke [or, sung?] by the leader of the Levitical choir—or by the choir itself (see 1Chron. 23:4–5, 30 [Of the overseers over the works of the house of the Lord there were twenty-four thousand, and there were six thousand scribes and judges; and four thousand gatekeepers, and four thousand to praise the Lord with instruments which he made to praise the Lord...to stand in the morning to praise and give thanks to the Lord, and so in the evening] 25 [assignments are given to the sons of Korah, among others]). In this liturgical activity the Levites functioned as representatives of the worshiping congregation. Following their lead the people probably responded with “Amen” and “Praise the Lord” (Hallelujah); see 1Chron. 16:36 Neh. 5:13; compare 1Cor. 14:16 Rev. 5:14 7:12 19:4. Footnote


Psalm 68 inscription b

Hebrew/Pronunciation

Common English Meanings

Notes/Morphology

BDB and Strong’s Numbers

lâmed (לְ) [pronounced le]

to, for, towards, in regards to, with reference to, as to, with regards to, belonging to

directional/relational preposition

No Strong’s # BDB #510

Dâvid (דָּוִד); also Dâvîyd (דָּוִיד) [pronounced daw-VEED]

beloved and is transliterated David

masculine proper noun

Strong’s #1732 BDB #187


Translation: ...of David;... For reasons which were never completely clear to me, this is also how we denote that David is the author.


We even know exactly when David wrote this psalm. He had attempted to move the Ark to Jerusalem, which resulted in the death of a priest who put his hand on the Ark. The procession was stopped and the Ark was taken to one of the nearest homes in the area, the home of Obed-edom. For 3 months, the Ark remained at this house, while David researched the Scriptures to determine what went wrong. Although we do not know all of the events which took place during this time, we know for a certainty that David examined the Scriptures available, found how the Ark was supposed to be moved, and then He wrote this psalm in anticipating of moving the Ark. The first line, as we will see, was taken directly from the words of Moses, which Moses would say whenever the Ark was picked up and moved. Although others have, at various times, attempted to assign this psalm to another author, to another point in time, and to other circumstances, there is really no reason to do so. The logic we are applying here is, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it is probably a duck. Any other approach requires us to ignore or to explain away various portions of the psalm (the inscription and the first verse), and then to offer up some convoluted explanation based upon a lot less evidence in order to assign this psalm to a different author and/or set of circumstances.


We do have a potential problem here. David is said to be the author, yet we find that kings would bring gifts to Jehovah because of His Temple in Jerusalem. There was no Temple in Jerusalem until Solomon, David’s son, built it. However, as we find in 1Chron. 17, David had been thinking about building a permanent residence for the Ark of the Covenant. He believed it to be reasonable to build a Temple for God, as he, David, lived in a wonderful, permanent house. It did not seem right for him to live in a palace and for God to be in a tent (bear in mind, the Ark of God was not a object of idolatry nor did it portray the visage of God; the Ark did, however, represent God and God’s relationship to mankind). So, because the Ark of God was the most holy thing on this earth, it seemed incongruous to David for him to live in a palace and for the Ark to be in a tent. Therefore, it is reasonable for David to have either planned to build a Temple in Jerusalem when writing this psalm; or, he knew that one of his descendants would build the Temple (1Chron. 17:3–12).

 

Clarke remarks about the authorship: In the title of this Psalm there is nothing particular to be remarked. It is probable that this Psalm, or a part of it at least, might have been composed by Moses, to be recited when the Israelites journeyed. See Num. 10:35; and that David, on the same model, constructed this Psalm. It might have been sung also in the ceremony of transporting the ark from Kirjath–jearim, to Jerusalem; or from the house of Obed–edom to the tabernacle erected at Sion. Footnote


Num. 10:35 is the first line of this psalm, and it sets the time and place of this psalm. There is no indication from the book of Numbers that Moses wrote a psalm to be sung when the Ark is moved; but certain words were to be spoken when the Ark was moved. Although I admit that such a viewpoint is not out of the question, it seems like a rather convoluted explanation and one which obfuscates the more natural and reasonable explanation that, David examined the Scriptures to determine how the Ark should be transported (where he clearly did in 1Chron. 15:2, 12–13), and, understanding what a great celebration this was, he also wrote a psalm for it (probably several), including the lines which Moses said should be spoken when the Ark is moved. If I were to put a time and a scenario to this psalm, I would guess that, after David did his research, he was so inspired as to read more of the Law and to write this psalm in anticipation of successfully moving the Ark (recall that the first time that David tried to move the Ark, one of the priests lost his life).


Although portions of this inscription can be questioned, this portion cannot.


Psalm 68 inscription c

Hebrew/Pronunciation

Common English Meanings

Notes/Morphology

BDB and Strong’s Numbers

mizemôwr (מִזְמוֹר) [pronounced mizê-MOHR]

melody, song, poem, psalm

masculine singular noun

Strong’s #4210 BDB #274


Translation: ...a psalm;... There are three words translated psalm; this is one of them which is found a little less than a third of the time. I’m not yet ready to differentiate between these three words, nor am I confident that there is an important lesson hidden in differentiating them.


Psalm 68 inscription d

Hebrew/Pronunciation

Common English Meanings

Notes/Morphology

BDB and Strong’s Numbers

shîyr (רי.ש) [pronounced sheer]

song, singing; music

masculine singular noun

Strong’s #7892 BDB #1010


Translation: ...a song. This psalm was written to be performed. It was written to be sung.

 

Barnes: The word “song” in the titles to Psalms 30 45 48 65–68 75 76 83 87 88 92 108 120–134. Nothing seems to be indicated by it in regard to the nature and character of the psalms where it is found. Footnote As above, I don’t think that it is unreasonable to suppose that these psalms had been composed and arranged to be performed. What that would say about the other psalms, however, is not clear. The NIV Study Bible points out that these are psalms of praise (with the exception of Psalms 83 and 88). The final group of psalms (120–134) are songs of ascents.


We do not know with certainty the difference between a psalm and a song (and this psalm is both). Barnes suggests that a psalm is a poem or a composition and that a song is something composed with the idea of it being sung in public or sung as a part of public worship. Footnote Perhaps the idea is, a psalm has been composed possibly even with the knowledge that it is divinely inspired; and a song has music written with it. These are obviously guesses and we do not know without a doubt how to differentiate them.


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Let God arise against His Enemies


Slavishly literal:

 

Moderately literal:

Rises up God;

He breaks [into pieces] His enemies;

and flee those hating Him from His faces.

Psalm

68:1

God rises up

[and] He scatters [or, breaks into pieces] His enemies;

and those who hate Him flee from Him.

God rises up and He scatters His enemies;

those who Hate God flee from Him.


Here is how others have handled this verse:


Ancient texts:

 

Masoretic Text                       Rises up God;

He breaks [into pieces] His enemies;

and flee those hating Him from His faces. [This is v. 2 in the Hebrew].

Septuagint                              Let God arise, and let his enemies be scattered; and let them that hate him flee from before him.

 

Significant differences:           The Latin, Syriac and Greek have a cohortative here rather than a simple imperfect tense. In the Hebrew, God scatters His enemies; in the Latin, Greek and Syriac, God’s enemies are scattered.


Thought-for-thought translations; paraphrases:

 

EasyEnglish (Churchyard)     God will rise up and his enemies will move away in all directions.

The people that hate him will quickly ride away from him.

The Message                         Up with God! Down with his enemies! Adversaries, run for the hills!

NET Bible®                             God springs into action!

His enemies scatter;

his adversaries run from him.

New Living Testament           Arise, O God, and scatter your enemies.

Let those who hate God run for their lives.

Revised English Bible            May God arise and his enemies be scattered,

and those hostile to him flee at his approach.


Mostly literal renderings (with some occasional paraphrasing):

 

The Scriptures 1998              Elohim arises, His enemies are scattered. And those who hate Him flee before Him!


Literal, almost word-for-word, renderings:

 

The Amplified Bible                God is [already] beginning to arise, and His enemies to scatter; let them also who hate Him flee before Him!

LTHB                                     God rises up and His enemies are scattered; and those who hate Him flee from His face.

WEB                                      Let God arise! Let his enemies be scattered! Let them who hate him also flee before him.

Young's Updated LT              God rises—scattered are His enemies! And those hating Him flee from His face.


What is the gist of this verse? God rises up and His enemies scatter.


Psalm 68:1a

Hebrew/Pronunciation

Common English Meanings

Notes/Morphology

BDB and Strong’s Numbers

qûwm (םק) [pronounced koom]

to stand, to rise up, to get up; to establish, to establish a vow, to cause a vow to stand, to confirm or to fulfill a vow

3rd person masculine singular, Qal imperfect

Strong’s #6965 BDB #877

The NET Bible® gives us the rendering God springs into action and then comments: Or "rises up." The verb form is an imperfect, not a jussive. The psalmist is describing God's appearance in battle in a dramatic fashion. Footnote Their point being, this is not a 3rd person imperative, as some translators have supposed (Let God arise...).

The 3rd person masculine singular, Qal imperfect is yâqûwm (םקָי) [pronounced yaw-KOOM]; which is what we find here. The jussive is yâqôm (םֹקָי) [pronounced yaw-KOHM], which is not the form found in the Masoretic text.

The Latin, Greek and Syriac all read let God arise.

Ělôhîym (מי̣הֹלֱא) [pronounced el-o-HEEM]

gods, foreign gods, god; God; rulers, judges; superhuman ones, angels; transliterated Elohim

masculine plural noun

Strong's #430 BDB #43


Translation: God rises up... God is a spirit, so God does not rise up; however, this is an anthropomorphism to indicate that God is going to clearly act. The general concept here is also anthropomorphic. God is not at some dinner party, nor is He sitting down to a good book, when suddenly He hears a prayer from us, and He puts down His book and springs into action. God is ever-vigilant and God is always involved in our lives. He is both omnipresent and omnipotent. This does not mean that we are going to face pressures from all of our neighbors or all of our co-workers, and that God will suddenly wipe them out. However, God has made provision for us—which provision He made in eternity past—for everything that we might face.


Application: We do not always see God’s hand in our lives. We get fired from this job, we have this or that person giving us grief, we have to move for financial reasons, we or someone close to us falls ill; and, when these problems or crises strike us, we don’t always recognize God’s hand in it. In fact, much of the time, when facing a crisis, we call upon God to rise up and remove the problem which is giving us grief. However, it is often these problems which are God’s hand in our lives. Personally, I found myself moved halfway across the United States due to employment problems, and the end result was clearly, in retrospect, God’s doing. Moving to Texas was a wonderful thing for me and exactly the thing which I needed to do.


God is always involved in the life of believers; He is always involved in His creation. When David speaks of God rising up, this does not mean that God is slumbering, and David is calling upon Him to solve a problem. This does not mean that God was ignoring David’s life, and now, at David’s behest, is getting back to work. God rising up looks at God from our perspective and it is applying actions to God which God does not actually do. God does not actually rise up in any way; however, to us, it may seem like that.


What is occurring simultaneously to the singing of this psalm is, the Ark is being lifted upon the shoulders of 4 Levites at the home of Obed-edom, and it will be carried to Jerusalem. So David, when he writes this psalm, envisions the Ark rising up; and, at the same time, in keeping with the theme of this psalm, sees God arising (anthropomorphically speaking) against His enemies.

 

Some see this as the 3rd person masculine singular, Qal imperative, and render it, Let God arise. Barnes comments: This is a common mode of calling upon God in the Scriptures, as if He had been sitting still, or had been inactive. It is, of course, language taken from human conceptions, for in the intervals of active effort, in labor or in battle, we sit or lie down, and when we engage in toil we arise from our sitting or recumbent posture. So the mind accustoms itself to think of God. The idea is simply that David now calls upon God to interpose in his behalf and to deliver him. Footnote


God rises up... This is a perfect introduction to his psalm, as the theme of the psalm is God’s interaction with His people and with His earth. We find similar language used many times in Scripture (2Chron. 6:41 Psalm 7:6 44:26 132:8 Isa. 51:9).


Psalm 68:1b

Hebrew/Pronunciation

Common English Meanings

Notes/Morphology

BDB and Strong’s Numbers

1 Early printed edition, the LXX, the Peshitta and the Vulgate all have a conjunction here.

pûwts (ץ) [pronounced poots]

to break, to dash into pieces; to disperse [sometimes, to disperse themselves; to be dispersed], to scatter; to overflow

3rd person masculine plural, Qal imperfect

Strong’s #6327 BDB #806

âyab (בַי ָא) [pronounced aw-YABV]

enemy, the one being at enmity with you; enmity, hostility

masculine plural, Qal active participle with the 3rd person masculine singular suffix

Strong’s #340 BDB #33


Translation:...[and] He scatters [or, He breaks into pieces] His enemies;... David is not necessarily at war with anyone at the time that he writes this psalm. He may have recently defeated the Jebusites; and, in the back of his mind, he might be thinking that it is time for the Philistines to overrun his country once more, but David is speaking in generalities here. When God decides to insert Himself into human history, His enemies, often the enemies of Israel, are scattered. No person with half a brain thinks that they can stand up to God and somehow oppose Him. No army thinks that, with all of its forces, that they have any chance of opposing God.


Application: As I live longer, I find more and more people who are angry with God; who hate God; who do everything in their power to remove Him from their periphery. All kinds of excuses are made. Most recently, there have been attacks by the ACLU against the holiday Christmas. Christmas hymns which were a part of my growing up—hymns which we sang every year at Christmas and sung during Christmas pageants—are absent from most public schools today. The ACLU, which is allegedly trying to enforce the Bill of Rights, finds small school districts and attacks these districts when they play Christmas songs or make reference to Christmas holidays (even though Christmas is a federal holiday and has been so for decades). One of the reasons why they attack the small districts is, legal defense costs a lot of money, and these small school districts generally have very tight budgets, so some of them will back down just to avoid the cost of a lawsuit. Furthermore, this is done piecemeal, so that, if any news source speaks of such an attack in a disparaging manner, liberals can marginalize their comments by saying, “Look, that is just some little school district off in Podunk County; why make a big deal out of t?” Meanwhile, other school districts in the same area react by cancelling Christmas pageants, Christmas music, and some have even banned the use of the decorative colors red and green during that time frame. These various districts may have a tradition of Christmas celebration and music going back 30–50 years, but they cancel these events, fearing that their own funds will be taken from them in a lawsuit.


Just as God rising up is found many times in Scripture, so we also find that He scatters His enemies throughout His Word (Psalm 59:11 68:14, 30 89:10 Isa. 41:16 Ezek. 5:2 12:14–15).


Psalm 68:1c

Hebrew/Pronunciation

Common English Meanings

Notes/Morphology

BDB and Strong’s Numbers

we (or ve) (ו) [pronounced weh]

and, even, then; namely; when; since, that; though

simple wâw conjunction

No Strong’s # BDB #251

The wâw conjunction is used as ➊ a simple copulative, used to connect words and sentences, in which case it is usually rendered and. ➋ It can be used to explain one noun or clarify one noun with another, in which case it is rendered even or yea (see Job 5:19 Dan. 4:10). ➌ The wâw conjunction can introduce two nouns, where the first is the genus and the second is the species; in which case, we would render it and particularly, and specially, and namely, and specifically (and it can be used the other way as well) (see 2Kings 23:2 Psalm 18:1 Isa. 1:1 2:1 Zech. 14:21). ➍ It can be prefixed to a verb also by way of explanation; it could be reasonably rendered as a relative pronoun (who, which) (see Gen. 49:25 Job 29:12 Isa. 13:14). ➎ It can be used to begin an apodosis (the then portion of an if...then... statement) (see Gen. 2:4, 5 40:9 48:7). ➏ It is used between words and sentences in order to compare them or to mark their resemblance (1Sam. 12:15 Job 5:7). ➐ When doubled, it can mean both...and... (Num. 9:14 Joshua 7:24 Psalm 76:7). ➑ It can be prefixed to adversative sentences or clauses and rendered but, and yet, although, otherwise (Gen. 2:17 15:2 17:20 Judges 16:15 Ruth 1:21 Job 15:5 6:14). ➒ And, what we were after, is the wâw conjunction can be used in disjunctive sentences; that is, it can be rendered or (which will help us to understand what Jephthah does) (Ex. 21:17 Lev. 5:3 Deut. 24:7). ➓ Finally, the wâw conjunction can be used before causal sentences and rendered because, for, that, in that (Gen. 18:32 30:27 Psalm 5:12 60:13); before conclusions or inferences, and therefore rendered so that, therefore, wherefore (2Kings 4:41 Isa. 3:14 Ezek. 18:32 Zech. 2:10); and before final and consecutive sentences, which mark an end or an object: in order that (Gen. 42:34 Job 20:10 Isa. 13:2). To paraphrase Gesenius, frequently, it is put after verbs and sentences standing absolutely, especially those which imply time or condition and is reasonably rendered then. Footnote

nûwç (סנ) [pronounced noose]

to flee, to flee from, to escape, to depart, to hasten quickly [away]

3rd person masculine plural, Qal imperfect

Strong's #5127 BDB #630

sânê (אֵנָ) [pronounced saw-NAY]

hating ones, the ones hating, the haters; enemies

masculine plural, Piel participle; with the 3rd person masculine singular suffix

Strong’s #8130 BDB #971

min (ן ̣מ) [pronounced min]

from, away from, out from, out of from, off, on account of, since, above, than, so that not, above, beyond, more than

preposition of separation

Strong's #4480 BDB #577

pânîym (םי̣נָ) [pronounced paw-NEEM]

face, faces, countenance; presence

masculine plural noun (plural acts like English singular); with the 3rd person masculine singular suffix

Strong’s #6440 BDB #815

Together, min pânîym mean from before the face of; out from before the face, from the presence of. However, together, they can also be a reference to the cause, whether near or remote, and can therefore be rendered because of, because that.


Translation: ...and those who hate Him flee from Him. This line parallels the one above; God scatters or disperses His enemies, so those who hate Him flee from Him.


David apparently took a portion of this psalm from the Pentateuch. We read in Num. 10:34–36: And the cloud of Jehovah was on them by day as they pulled up stakes from the camp. And it happened when the Ark pulled out, Moses said, “Rise, O Jehovah, and Your enemies shall be scattered, and those hating You will flee from Your presence.” And when it rested, he said, “Return, O Jehovah, to the myriads of the thousands of Israel.” This passage alone sets the time and place of this psalm: the moving of the Ark to Jerusalem. The Ark was moved by David on two occasions: first, unsuccessfully, and then, successfully. I place this psalm with the 2nd movement of the Ark because it is clear that David did some Biblical research for the 2nd movement (1Chron. 15:2, 12–15). Having done Biblical research, David would have come across these words of Moses. The first time that David attempted to move the Ark, it is clear that he had not done any research in that regard and one of the priests died as a result. Therefore, he would not have quoted Moses the first time the Ark was moved.


Here is how I see it (and this is partially conjecture): David, after his failure to move the Ark the first time, went to the Word of God to see what should have been done. He found what was supposed to be done in Num. 10, but he continued to read all the available material, which gave David a clear, historical perspective of God’s involvement with Israel in time. He was inspired by knowledge of doctrine, by knowing how to correctly transport the Ark, and by the history of Israel, to write this particular psalm. This interpretation and understanding of Psalm 68 does absolutely no damage to any portion of the psalm, and is the most logical approach. Almost every major commentator agrees with this interpretation, although one of them was uncertain whether this psalm was sung at the first or second movement of the Ark. Footnote


Now we should determine more of what is being said, and I can offer up four interpretations/explanations: (1) The Pre-incarnate Lord goes with Israel, destroying Israel’s enemies, sending them on the run. This could be seen as God being with Moses and the Exodus generation and this could be seen as God being with David as God saw that David’s enemies were scattered. Furthermore, one might reasonably interpret this to stand for any point in history where God stood with Israel against her enemies. (2) David could be applying this to his day and time, as he was very successful in the military realm. Given the time frame, he would have just defeated the Jebusites, taking Jerusalem for his own. (3) We may reasonably understand this to apply to our Lord at His incarnation, when He came to us in the form of Jesus, subject to all that we are subject to (apart from the indwelling of the old sin nature), and how He is victorious over Satan and the cosmic system in His death, and victorious over sin in the world. (4) Certainly this can be applied to our Lord in the future, at the 2nd advent when He destroys the multitude of armies who converge upon Israel; and later, after the Millennium, to put down the Gog and Magog revolution. Rev. 6:15–17: And the kings of the earth, and the great ones, and the rich ones, and the commanders, and the powerful ones, and every slave, and every freeman hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains. And "they said to the mountains" and to the rocks, "Fall on us," [Hosea 10:8b] and hide us from the face of the One sitting on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb. because the great day of His wrath has come; and who is able to stand? I am not asking you to pick your favorite interpretation of these 4. The psalms are often written with multiple interpretations. Each one of these interpretations has merit and may be reasonably implied.


Let me propose something here. David has something in mind when he writes these lines (actually, when he copies these lines). He might be thinking the first two interpretations as he writes this. God the Holy Spirit is the divine author of Scripture and He might have all 4 meanings in mind. Let’s take the hypostatic union of Jesus Christ and work backward. Jesus Christ is fully man and fully God. Sometimes his actions reveal just His humanity and sometimes his actions reveal just His Deity and sometimes His actions reveal his hypostatic union. Similarly, things which our Lord says could come from His humanity, His divinity or from His hypostatic union. For instance, when Jesus said, “I thirst,” He was speaking from His humanity. When He said, “Before Abraham, I existed eternally [lit., I am],” He was speaking from His deity. When He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life; no man comes to the Father but by Me,” He is speaking from His hypostatic union. So, when we examine Scripture, we must bear in mind that there is a human author and a divine author. Their purposes are never going to be in opposition to one another, but we may reasonably assert that the human author is thinking one thing and that God the Holy Spirit is thinking something different. The thrust of this or that verse can have several different meanings, depending upon whose perspective is in view.


The Ark of God, as previously discussed, is a symbol of our Lord—not an idol by any means—but the most holy piece of furniture associated with the Tabernacle of God which presented our Lord in shadow form. When the Levites hoisted the Ark of God upon their shoulders and moved out, Israel’s enemies scattered, in a manner of speaking. However, the Ark of God was not to be used as a good luck charm to be taken with the army going into battle, as we saw in 1Sam. 4–5. In fact, the use of the Ark in this passage was idolatrous. Rather than understanding that the Ark represented God, Israel’s army used the Ark as if it were God, as anyone would have used an idol in that day. Not understanding this distinction resulted in the defeat of Israel’s army and the capture of the Ark.

 

Gill expresses essentially the same thoughts: Let God arise,.... This is to be understood of the divine Person, Whose chariots the angels are; Who is said to be the "Adonai", or "Lord" in the midst of them; and of whom it is prophesied that he should ascend to heaven (Psalm 68:17—The chariots of God are myriads, thousands of thousands, the Lord is among them, in Sinai, in the holy place); even the Messiah, who is God over all. And this "arising," attributed to Him, may be interpreted either of His incarnation, His exhibition and manifestation in the flesh; which is sometimes called in Scripture a raising of Him up, as in Acts 3:26 (Having raised up His child Jesus, God sent Him first to you, blessing you in turning away each one from your iniquities); or of His resurrection from the dead, as it is interpreted by many of the ancients; which, as it was a certain thing, and previous to His ascension hereafter spoken of, so it was a proof of His deity; for though it was only the man that rose, who died and was buried, yet as in union with the Divine Person of the Son of God, and Who rose by virtue of that union; and thereby He was declared to be the Son of God with power. Or else rather this is to be understood of His arising and exerting His power as a man of war, as a mighty and victorious hero, on the behalf of His people, and against His enemies; as He did when He arose and met Satan, the prince of the world, and engaged with all the powers of darkness; see Psalm 45:3; and this sense is confirmed by what follows:

 

...let his enemies be scattered; let them also that hate him flee before him: the sense of these two clauses is the same; His enemies, and those that hate Him, are the same persons; and to be scattered and flee express the same things; for enemies, being discomfited, flee and scatter. Some interpret this of the watch set to guard our Lord's sepulchre; who, upon His rising from the dead, were filled with great fear and dread, and scattered, and fled to the priests, to acquaint them with what was done: others, of the Jewish nation in general, who were enemies to Christ; and hated Him, and would not have Him to reign over them; against whom He rose up and exerted His great strength; came in His kingdom and power against them; poured out His wrath upon them to the uttermost; which issued in the utter destruction of them, as a body politic; and in the entire dispersion of them in all countries, which remains until quite recently. Or rather the whole is to be applied to Satan, and to his principalities and powers; the professed enemies of Christ, personal and mystical; who, when He arose and exerted his mighty power in his conflict with them, in the garden and on the cross, were spoiled and dissipated, and obliged to fly before Him: and who at the same time overcame the world, made an end of sin, abolished death, as well as destroyed him which had the power of it. Footnote


I have warned you just how difficult this psalm is from the outset. Therefore, we must keep these interpretations in mind as we progress in the exegesis of this psalm. Understanding the meaning and application of David’s first words of this psalm forms the foundation for our understanding throughout the psalm. I am expecting that, if we fall back on these interpretations when we face the more difficult verses, that we might be able to make at least some sense from them, in the light of these opening words, first spoken by Moses and then echoed by David.


As is dispelled smoke, You dispel;

as melts wax from faces of fire,

perishes lawless ones from faces of Elohim.

Psalm

68:2

Just as smoke is blown away,

You dispel [them];

[and] just as wax is melted by fire,

so the corrupt are destroyed because of Elohim [or, before Elohim].

Just as smoke is blown away, in the same manner, You dispel them;

and just as fire melts wax, in the same manner the corrupt are destroyed by God.


Here is how others have translated this verse:


Ancient texts:

 

Masoretic Text                       As is dispelled smoke, You dispel;

as melts wax from faces of fire,

perishes lawless ones from faces of Elohim.

Septuagint                              As smoke vanishes, let them vanish: as wax melts before the fire, so let the sinners perish from before God.

 

Significant differences:           In the Hebrew, God does the dispelling; in the Greek, Latin, and Syriac, it reads let them be dispelled. The final phrase is very similar in the Greek, Latin and Syriac, it reads let the wicked perish; in the Hebrew, they simply perish.


Thought-for-thought translations; paraphrases:

 

CEV                                       Scatter them like smoke! When you come near, make them melt like wax in a fire.

EasyEnglish (Churchyard)     (God), blow them away as you would blow smoke away.

As butter becomes *oil in a fire,

when the *godless see the face of God it will destroy them.

Good News Bible (TEV)         As smoke is blown away, so he drives them off; as wax melts in front of the fire, so do the wicked perish in God's presence.

The Message                         Gone like a puff of smoke, like a blob of wax in the fire-- one look at God and the wicked vanish.

New American Bible              The wind will disperse them like smoke;

as wax is melted by fire,

so the wicked will perish before God.

New Jerusalem Bible             You disperse them like smoke;

as wax melts in the presence of a fire,

so the wicked melt at the presence of God.

New Living Testament           Drive them off like smoke blown by the wind.

Melt them like wax in fire

Let the wicked perish in the presence ofGod.


Mostly literal renderings (with some occasional paraphrasing):

 

Bible in Basic English             Let them be like smoke before the driving wind; as wax turning soft before the fire, so let them come to an end before the power of God.

Complete Apostles’ Bible      As smoke vanishes, let them vanish: as wax melts before the fire, so let the sinners perish from before God.

HCSB                                     As smoke is blown away, so You blow them away. As wax melts before the fire, so the wicked are destroyed before God.

NET Bible®                             As smoke is driven away by the wind, so you drive them away.

As wax melts before fire,

so the wicked are destroyed before God.

The Scriptures 1998              As smoke is driven away, You drive them away; As wax melts before the fire, The wrong perish before Elohim.


Literal, almost word-for-word, renderings:

 

A Conservative Version         As smoke is driven away, so drive them away. As wax melts before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God.

Updated Emphasized Bible    As smoke is driven about

Let them be driven about, [so it should be, as per the Aramaic, Septuagint, Syriac and Vulgate]

As wax is melted before a fire

Let the lawless perish before God.

English Standard Version      As smoke is driven away, so you shall drive them away; as wax melts before fire, so the wicked shall perish before God!

Young’s Updated LT             As the driving away of smoke You drive away, As the melting of wax before fire, The wicked perish at the presence of God.


What is the gist of this verse? In the previous verse, God rises up and his enemies are scattered; this verse presents an analogy to His enemies being scattered: they are scattered as one would blow smoke away. Furthermore, this verse first presents an analogy (...as wax melts when near a fire...) and then the reality: ...in this way, the wicked perish before God.


Psalm 68:2a

Hebrew/Pronunciation

Common English Meanings

Notes/Morphology

BDB and Strong’s Numbers

kaph or ke ( ׃) [pronounced ke]

like, as, just as; according to; about, approximately

preposition

No Strong’s # BDB #453

nâdaph (ף-דָנ) [pronounced naw-DAHF]

to be dispelled, to be driven away [about]; to be blown away; to be put to flight; to be conquered

Niphal infinitive construct

Strong’s #5086 BDB #623

׳âshân (ןָשָע) [pronounced ģaw-SHAWN]

smoke; vapor, dust; anger

masculine singular noun

Strong’s #6227 BDB #798

nâdaph (ף-דָנ) [pronounced naw-DAHF]

to dispel, to drive, to drive away [about]; to blow away; to put to flight; to conquer

2nd person masculine singular, Qal imperfect

Strong’s #5086 BDB #623


Translation: Just as smoke is blown away, You dispel [them];... There are two analogies in this verse; this is the first one. The object of this analogy refers back to those from v. 1—those who hate God, those who are enemies of God. It is nothing for God to dispel them, as one would wave his hand to dispel a little smoke. Psalm 1:4: Not so are the wicked [in contrast to the righteous, who are stable and produce fruit]: but rather they are like chaff, which is blown away by the wind. Psalm 37:20 reads: But the wicked will perish, And the enemies of Yahweh will be as the fat of lambs: They will consume; in smoke they will consume away.

 

Barnes aptly comments: As smoke is driven away - Smoke or vapor is easily disturbed and moved by the slightest breath of air; it represents an object of no stability, or having no power of resistance, and would thus represent the real weakness of the most mighty armies of men as opposed to God. So You drive them away - With the same ease with which smoke is driven by the slightest breeze, so do the enemies of God disappear before his power. Footnote

 

Spurgeon writes: Easily the wind chases the smoke, completely it removes it, no trace is left; so, Lord, do to the foes of Your people. They fume in pride, they darken the sky with their malice, they mount higher and higher in arrogance, they defile wherever they prevail: Lord, let Your breath, Your Spirit, Your Providence, make them to vanish forever from the march of Your people. He then adds: Philosophic scepticism is as flimsy and as foul as smoke; may the Lord deliver His Church from the reek of it. Footnote


Psalm 68:2b

Hebrew/Pronunciation

Common English Meanings

Notes/Morphology

BDB and Strong’s Numbers

kaph or ke ( ׃) [pronounced ke]

like, as, just as; according to; about, approximately

preposition

No Strong’s # BDB #453

mâçâh (הָסָמ) [pronounced maw-SAWH]

to be melted, to be flowing down [away]; to be dissolved, to become faint [with fear, terror, sorrow, grief]

Niphal infinitive construct

Strong’s #4529 BDB #587

dôwnâg (גָנ) [pronounced doh-NAWG]

wax [as melting]

masculine singular noun

Strong’s #1749 BDB #200

Also spelled dôwnag (ג-נ) [pronounced doh-NAHG].

min (ן ̣מ) [pronounced min]

from, away from, out from, out of from, off, on account of, since, above, than, so that not, above, beyond, more than

preposition of separation

Strong's #4480 BDB #577

pânîym (םי̣נָ) [pronounced paw-NEEM]

face, faces, countenance; presence

masculine plural construct (plural acts like English singular)

Strong’s #6440 BDB #815

Together, min pânîym mean from before the face of; out from before the face, from the presence of. However, together, they can also be a reference to the cause, whether near or remote, and can therefore be rendered because of, because that; by.

esh (ש ֵא) [pronounced aysh]

fire, lightning, supernatural fire; presence of Yehowah, the attendance of a theophany

feminine singular noun

Strong's #784 BDB #77


Translation:...[and] just as wax is melted by fire,... Another analogy is set up here—as wax is melted by fire. This parallels exactly the first half of this verse, but describes metaphorically v. 2c below.

 

Barnes comments: As wax is melted down by fire - wax loses all its hardness, its firmness, its power of resistance, so must the most mighty armies melt away before God. Footnote


Psalm 68:2c

Hebrew/Pronunciation

Common English Meanings

Notes/Morphology

BDB and Strong’s Numbers

âbad (דַבָא) [pronounced awb-VAHD]

to be lost, to lose oneself, to wander; to perish, to be destroyed; to be ready to perish, to be wretched [miserable or unfortunate]

3rd person masculine plural, Qal imperfect

Strong's #6 BDB #1

reshâ׳îym (מי.עָשר) [pronounced re-shaw-ĢEEM]

malevolent ones, lawless ones, criminals, the corrupt; wicked, wicked ones

masculine plural adjective (here, it acts like a noun)

Strong’s #7563 BDB #957

min (ן ̣מ) [pronounced min]

from, away from, out from, out of from, off, on account of, since, above, than, so that not, above, beyond, more than

preposition of separation

Strong's #4480 BDB #577

pânîym (םי̣נָ) [pronounced paw-NEEM]

face, faces, countenance; presence

masculine plural construct (plural acts like English singular)

Strong’s #6440 BDB #815

Together, min pânîym mean from before the face of; out from before the face, from the presence of. However, together, they can also be a reference to the cause, whether near or remote, and can therefore be rendered because of, because that; by.

Ělôhîym (מי̣הֹלֱא) [pronounced el-o-HEEM]

gods, foreign gods, god; God; rulers, judges; superhuman ones, angels; transliterated Elohim

masculine plural noun

Strong's #430 BDB #43


Translation: ...[so] the corrupt are destroyed because of Elohim [or, before Elohim]. This time, we have a different verb. In the previous half of this verse, we had the Niphal and then the Qal of the same verb. However, here we have two different verbs—we have wax melting in the analogy, which is how the corrupt (or malevolent) are destroyed or how they perish before God. The idea is, God’s enemies have no power against Him; they are unable to resist; they can no more resist God’s power than wax can resist fire.


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Sing Praises to God


And righteous ones rejoice;

they are joyful to faces of Elohim;

and they leap in joy.

Psalm

68:3

The righteous will rejoice;

they will exhibit [or, feel] joy before Elohim;

they will leap with joy.

The righteous will be glad and rejoice before God;

they will leap for joy.


Here is how others have translated this verse:


Ancient texts:

 

Masoretic Text                       And righteous ones rejoice;

they are joyful to faces of Elohim;

and they leap in joy.

Septuagint                              But let the righteous rejoice; let them exult before God: let them be delighted with joy.

 

Significant differences:           As has been the case throughout, we find the cohortative used again and again in the Greek, Latin and Syriac.


Thought-for-thought translations; paraphrases:

 

CEV                                       But let your people be happy and celebrate because of you.

EasyEnglish (Churchyard)     But the righteous will be happy.

They will rejoice when they see the face of God.

They will shout because they are so happy!

Good News Bible (TEV)         But the righteous are glad and rejoice in his presence; they are happy and shout for joy.

The Message                         When the righteous see God in action they'll laugh, they'll sing, they'll laugh and sing for joy.

New American Bible              Then the just will be glad;

they will rejoice before God;

they will celebrate with great joy.


Mostly literal renderings (with some occasional paraphrasing):

 

Bible in Basic English             But let the upright be glad; let them have delight before God; let them be full of joy.

God’s Word                         But let righteous people rejoice. Let them celebrate in God's presence. Let them overflow with joy.

NET Bible®                             But the godly are happy;

they rejoice before God

and are overcome with joy.


Literal, almost word-for-word, renderings:

 

The Amplified Bible                But let the [uncompromisingly] righteous be glad; let them be in high spirits and glory before God, yes, let them [jubilantly] rejoice!

MKJV                                     But the righteous are glad; they rejoice before God. Yes, let them exceedingly rejoice.

WEB                                      But let the righteous be glad. Let them rejoice before God. Yes, let them rejoice with gladness.

Young's Updated LT              And the righteous are merry, they rejoice before God, And they leap with gladness.


What is the gist of this verse? The righteous will exhibit great joy before God (this is in contrast to the wicked being blown away like the wind).


Psalm 68:3a

Hebrew/Pronunciation

Common English Meanings

Notes/Morphology

BDB and Strong’s Numbers

we (or ve) (ו) [pronounced weh]

and, even, then; namely; when; since, that; though

simple wâw conjunction

No Strong’s # BDB #251

tsaddîyqîym (םי.קי̣ַצ) [pronounced tsahd-dee-KEEM]

just ones, righteous ones, justified ones

masculine plural adjective, often used as a substantive

Strong’s #6662 BDB #843

sâmach (חַמָ) [pronounced saw-MAHKH]

to rejoice, to be glad, to be joyful, to be merry

3rd person masculine plural, Qal imperfect

Strong’s #8055 BDB #970

Just as we found in the previous 2 verses, the Greek, Latin and Syriac use the cohortative here; the Hebrew is a simple imperfect. So throughout this verse.


Translation: The righteous will rejoice;... It sounds as though the psalmist is saying the same thing 3 times in this psalm. I don’t know if that is really the intention of the psalmist. 3 different verbs are used and they are associated with a variety of other words; but the verbs all mean roughly the same thing. In this portion of the verse, we speak of the righteous, which is another name for those who have believed in Jesus Christ.


Righteous does not refer to people who act really moral; nor does it apply to those who are self righteous in all of their actions. This is not about some prissy nice person who is so nice, you just can’t stand them. This term righteous refers to those who have believed in Jesus Christ. From an eternal perspective, all believers in Jesus Christ will rejoice; when looking at believers in time, only a few of the mature believers will rejoice.


Psalm 68:3b

Hebrew/Pronunciation

Common English Meanings

Notes/Morphology

BDB and Strong’s Numbers

5 early printed editions, the Aramaic, the Septuagint, and the Vulgate all have a conjunction here. Footnote

׳âlats (ץ-לָע) [pronounced ģah-LAWTS]

to rejoice, to be joyful, to show [exhibit or feel] a triumphant [and lively] joy

3rd person masculine plural, Qal imperfect

Strong’s #5970 BDB #763

lâmed (ל) (pronounced le)

to, for, towards, in regards to

directional/relational preposition

No Strong’s # BDB #510

pânîym (םי̣נָ) [pronounced paw-NEEM]

face, faces, countenance; presence

masculine plural construct (plural acts like English singular)

Strong’s #6440 BDB #815

Together, they mean upon the face of, before, before the face of, in the presence of, in the sight of, in front of. When used with God, it can take on the more figurative meaning in the judgment of. This can also mean forwards; the front part [or, the edge of a sword]. Lepânîym (םי.נָפל) can take on a temporal sense as well: before, of old, formerly, in the past, in past times.

Ělôhîym (מי  ̣הֹלֱא) [pronounced el-o-HEEM]

gods, foreign gods, god; God; rulers, judges; superhuman ones, angels; transliterated Elohim

masculine plural noun

Strong's #430 BDB #43


Translation: ...they will exhibit [or, feel] joy before Elohim;... This is not entirely clear as to whether we are speaking of being in the actual presence of God in heaven or on earth; however, in whichever case, great joy is involved. the verb here refers to showing joy or exhibiting joy.


You will recall that this psalm had several interpretations. In war, men will rejoice when God gives them victory over those who are evil. Whether this is Israel’s army in the past or the United States’ army in Iraq or in Europe during World War II; when victory is announced, there is great rejoicing. Footnote In the Millennium, when Jesus Christ rules over the world, those who go into the Millennium with Him will rejoice; those who are believers and who are resurrected on the last day will also rejoice.

 

We have several parallels here: the righteous will rejoice before God; and in the previous verse, the wicked perish from before God, just as wax melts before fire. In v. 2, the Hebrew reads mipenêy Ělôhîym (מי  ̣הֹלֱא י̤נ.מ) [pronounced mihp-NAY el-o-HEEM]; in v. 3, the Hebrew reads lipenêy Ělôhîym (מי  ̣הֹלֱא י̤נ.ל) [pronounced lihp-NAY el-o-HEEM]. We have a parallelism of type, the righteous being contrasted with the wicked.


Psalm 68:3c

Hebrew/Pronunciation

Common English Meanings

Notes/Morphology

BDB and Strong’s Numbers

we (or ve) (ו) [pronounced weh]

and, even, then; namely; when; since, that; though

simple wâw conjunction

No Strong’s # BDB #251

sûs () [pronounced soos]

to leap, to spring [in joy], to jump [for joy]; to rejoice, to be glad, to display great happiness, to display joy

3rd person masculine plural, Qal imperfect

Strong’s #7797 BDB #965

be (׃) [pronounced beh]

in, into, at, by, near, on, with, before, upon, against, by means of, among, within

a preposition of proximity

Strong’s #none BDB #88

simechâh (הָח מ ̣) [pronounced sime-KHAW],

joy, gladness, mirth, great joy, rejoicing

feminine singular noun

Strong’s #8057 BDB #970


Translation: ...they will leap with joy. again, the word here is used for a very expressive joy and happiness.


Possibly, the idea here is stages of growth, similar to when Paul says, And again I say, rejoice (Philip. 4:4). We may be speaking of our three basic states as believers: (1) first, we are eternally saved, and we rejoice over our salvation; (2) we, as maturing believers, have wonderful lives, and we rejoice for that; and (3) in eternity, when this mortal life is behind us, we rejoice forever more. Whether David has this in mind or not, is unknown to us; however, these are legitimate stages of rejoicing: initial salvation, growth in the Christian life and eternity.


Sing [you all] unto Elohim,

make music [you all] praising His name.

Lift up [you all] to the rider in the [desert] Arabah.

In Yah, His name

[you all] rejoice to His faces.

Psalm

68:4

Sing unto Elohim,

make music which praises His name.

Construct [a highway] for the one riding in the [desert] Arabah.

His name [is] in Yah,

Rejoice before Him.

Sing unto God,

make music which praises His name.

Prepare the way for the one riding in the desert Arabah,

His name is in Jehovah,

Rejoice before Him.


Here is how others have translated this verse:


Ancient texts:

 

Latin Vulgate                          Sing you to God, sing a psalm to his name, make a way for him who ascends upon the west: the Lord is his name. Rejoice you before him: but the wicked shall be troubled at his presence.

Masoretic Text                       Sing [you all] unto Elohim,

make music [you all] praising His name.

Lift up [you all] to the rider in the [desert] Arabah.

In Yah, His name;

[you all] rejoice to His faces.

Peshitta                                  Sing unto God, sing praises to His name; extol him who rides upon the heavens; the Lord is His name, rejoice before Him.

Septuagint                              Sing to God, sing praises to his name: make a way for him that rides upon the west (the Lord is his name) and exult before him. They shall be troubled before the face of him.

Targum                                  Extol him who sits on the throne of glory, in the ninth heaven; Yah is His name; and rejoice before Him.

 

Significant differences:           In the MT, the One Who rides in the Arabah (the desert) is extolled; in the Syriac, this is the One riding in the heavens; in the Greek and Latin, the One riding in the west. In the Greek, the psalmist calls upon us to make a way for Him.

 

The Latin and the Greek add an additional line to this psalm, which lines are different, but both seem to deal with the wicked.


Thought-for-thought translations; paraphrases:

 

CEV                                       Our God, you are the one who rides on the clouds, and we praise you. Your name is the LORD, and we celebrate as we worship you.

EasyEnglish (Churchyard)     Sing to God, sing psalms to his name.

Praise the One that Rides on the Clouds.

His name is the *LORD! Shout for joy in front of him.

Good News Bible (TEV)         Sing to God, sing praises to his name; prepare a way for him who rides on the clouds. His name is the LORD ---be glad in his presence!

New Jerusalem Bible             Sing ot God, play music to his name,

build a road for the Rider of the Clouds,

rejoice in Yahweh, dance before him.


Mostly literal renderings (with some occasional paraphrasing):

 

Bible in Basic English             Make songs to God, make songs of praise to his name; make a way for him who comes through the waste lands; his name is Jah; be glad before him.

God’s Word                         Sing to God; make music to praise his name. Make a highway for him to ride through the deserts. The LORD is his name. Celebrate in his presence.

HCSB                                     Sing to God! Sing praises to His name. Exalt Him who rides on the clouds--His name is Yahweh--and rejoice before Him.

NET Bible®                             Sing to God! Sing praises to his name!

Exalt the one who rides on the clouds!

For the LORD is his name!

Rejoice before him!.


Literal, almost word-for-word, renderings:

 

Updated Emphasized Bible    Sing to God,

Make music of His Name,

Lift up (a song) [so the Oxford Gesenius; mos have “cast up a highway”] to Him who Rides through the waste places,

Since Yah is His name, rejoice before Him.

English Standard Version      Sing to God, sing praises to his name; lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts; his name is the LORD; exult before him!.

MKJV                                     Sing to God, sing praises to His name; praise Him who rides on the heavens by His name JEHOVAH, and rejoice before Him.

New King James Version       Sing to God, sing praises to His name;

Extol [or, praise] Him who rides on the clouds [Masoretic text: deserts; Targum: heavens],

By His name Yah, [this actually reads, by Yah His name in the Hebrew]

And rejoice before Him.

NRSV                                     Sing to God, sing praises to his name;

lift up a song to him who rises upon the clouds [or, cast up a highway for him who rides through the deserts]

his name is the Lord

be exultant before him.

A Voice in the Wilderness      Sing unto God, make music unto His name; exalt Him who rides in the wilderness by His name YAH, and rejoice before Him.

Young's Updated LT              Sing to God--praise His name, Raise up a highway for Him who is riding in deserts, In Jah is His name, and exult before Him.


There is one difficult verb in this verse and one place where the sentence structure is difficult. Therefore, the translation is going to be rather difficult to plow through.


As I have mentioned earlier, this psalm is quite difficult in parts, and this is the first line which will cause us some difficulties. The primary problems with this verse are (1) the ancient translations do not agree in part with the Hebrew in a moderately important place; and (2) the meaning of the Hebrew itself is fairly difficult to ascertain.


There are times when we can examine alternate readings and come to a reasonable conclusion—for instance, Saul, before a battle, appeared to call for the Ark of God, but it is really the Ephod of God which he called for. He was not taking it into battle, but he originally was going to ask for guidance (which he, incidentally, did not do). In that passage in 1Samuel, we may be reasonably assured that the correct reading is Ephod of God (this is 1Sam. 14:18, by the way). However, at the conclusion of this verse, I won’t be able to be as dogmatic. For some of us, this is frustrating, to mine the Scriptures, but come up somewhat empty. Do not despair. There is a lot in the Word of God which we know: the Person and Work of Jesus Christ, and all doctrines pertinent to our salvation are clearly spelled out in Scripture, and have stood firm over centuries of time. However, we must realize that, time and again, we will come across a passage here or there where the meaning is not nearly as easy to ascertain. We may fail entirely in our endeavor to understand this or that passage. At this point in time, I do not have a theory as to why this is; but I know enough not to obsess over what God has revealed to us and what He has left as an enigma. We will try to understand as best we can, and not lose sleep over a passage which cannot be completely explained. I have gone off on this tangent specifically for this psalm, given that this will not be the only verse which gives us trouble; and it will not be, by any stretch of the imagination, the most difficult verse that we will face.


What I will be doing throughout this psalm, as I have done already at the beginning, is thinking aloud. I’ll give you my reasoning process, the various alternate interpretations that I come up with, discuss them and how well they fit the verse itself, and, in the best case scenario, come up with an explanation which appears to fit well. Worse case scenario, there may be a lot of discussion, but no clear conclusions.


What is the gist of this verse? The psalmist is calling for great celebration and uses 4 imperatives in this verse. This appears to foreshadow the coming of John the Baptizer.


Psalm 68:4a

Hebrew/Pronunciation

Common English Meanings

Notes/Morphology

BDB and Strong’s Numbers

shîyr (רי ̣ש) [pronounced sheer]

to sing

2nd person masculine plural, Qal imperative

Strong’s #7891 BDB #1010

el (לא) [pronounced el]

unto, in, into, toward, to, regarding, against

directional preposition (respect or deference may be implied)

Strong's #413 BDB #39

Ělôhîym (מי̣הֹלֱא) [pronounced el-o-HEEM]

gods, foreign gods, god; God; rulers, judges; superhuman ones, angels; transliterated Elohim

masculine plural noun

Strong's #430 BDB #43


Translation: Sing unto Elohim,... The first two imperatives call for great celebration. Here, we are called upon to sing unto God. In the previous verse, 3 times we are told to rejoice before God; here, we express our inner joy in song.


By the way, there are well over a dozen Hebrew words which are translated sing.


Psalm 68:4b

Hebrew/Pronunciation

Common English Meanings

Notes/Morphology

BDB and Strong’s Numbers

zâmar (ר ַמָז) [pronounced zaw-MAHR]

to sing; to make music in praise of God, to make melody; properly to cut off (i.e., to divide up [a song] into its various parts)

2nd person masculine plural, Piel imperative

Strong’s #2167 & #2168 BDB #274

shêm (ם ֵש) [pronounced shame]

name, reputation, character

masculine singular noun with the 3rd person masculine singular suffix

Strong’s #8034 BDB #1027


Translation: ...make music which praises His name. I might have been able to reasonably shorten this second phrase to Praise His name. However, this verb is closely related to making music, so God’s character is celebrated with song here. When we have two verbs like this together, this indicates that something is coming which should cause man to greatly celebrate. Perhaps this emphasis upon celebration will help us understand the remainder of this verse.


Psalm 68:4c

Hebrew/Pronunciation

Common English Meanings

Notes/Morphology

BDB and Strong’s Numbers

çâlal (ל-לָס) [pronounced saw-LAHL]

to lift up, to elevate, to exalt; to gather [up]; to cast up; to move to and fro, to waver

2nd person masculine plural, Qal imperative

Strong’s #5549 BDB #699

lâmed (ל) (pronounced le)

to, for, towards, in regards to

directional/relational preposition

No Strong’s # BDB #510

râkab (בַכָר) [pronounced raw-KAHBV]

the one riding, rider

Qal active participle with the definite article

Strong’s #7392 BDB #938

be (׃) [pronounced beh]

in, into, at, by, near, on, with, before, in the presence of, upon, against, by means of, among, within

a preposition of proximity

Strong’s #none BDB #88

׳ărâbâh (הָבָרֲע) [pronounced guh-raw-VAW]

plain; arid, sterile region; a desert; transliterated Arabah with the definite article

feminine singular noun; with the definite article

Strong’s #6160 BDB #787

With the definite article, ׳ărâbâh often refers to the valley which runs from the Sea of Chinnereth (the Sea of Galilee) down to the Gulf of Aqaba.

He is ascending in the west in the Greek and Latin; He is riding in the heavens in the Syriac. Many translations followed the Syriac here, and perhaps because there is a similar line in v. 33.

Barnes comments on this: The word used here never means either heaven, or the clouds. It properly denotes an arid tract, a sterile region, a desert; and then, a plain. It is rendered desert in Isa. 35:1, 6 40:3 41:19 51:3 Jer. 2:6 17:6 50:12 Ezek. 47:8; and should have been so rendered here. So it is translated by DeWette, Prof. Alexander, and others. The Septuagint renders it, “Make way for him who is riding westward.” So the Latin Vulgate. The Chaldee renders it, “Extol him who is seated upon the throne of his glory in the north heaven.” The reference, doubtless, is to the passage through the desert over which the Hebrews wandered for forty years. The Hebrew word which is employed here is still applied by the Arabs to that region. The idea is that of Yahweh marching over those deserts at the head of his armies, and the call is to prepare a way for him on his march, compare Psalm 68:7–8 (O God, when You marched before Your people, when You walked through the wilderness; Selah. The earth shook, the heavens also dropped at the presence of God; Sinai itself was moved at the presence of God, the God of Israel). Footnote

Some see the preposition and the noun ărâbâh as being one word, and that meaning heavens. Clarke writes: baaraboth, which we render in the high heavens, is here of doubtful signification. As it comes from the root ערב arab, to mingle, (hence ereb the evening or twilight, because it appears to be formed of an equal mixture of light and darkness; the Septuagint translate it dusmwn, the west, or setting of the sun; so does the Vulgate and others); probably it may mean the gloomy desert, through which God, in the chariot of his glory, led the Israelites. If this interpretation do not please, then let it be referred to the darkness in which God is said to dwell, through which the rays of his power and love, in the various dispensations of his power and mercy, shine forth for the comfort and instruction of mankind. Footnote

Such an interpretation would be in line with Deut. 33:26: There is none like the God of Jeshurun, who rides on the heaven to your help, and in His majesty on the clouds. This would further agree with Matt. 26:64: Jesus said, "You will see the Son of man sitting to the right of God. And He will come on the clouds in the sky." It would also be in line with Psalm 68:33, which reads: To Him who rides upon the highest heavens, which are from ancient times...

The NET Bible® writes: Traditionally the Hebrew term ׳ărâbâh (הָבָרֲע) [pronounced guh-raw-VAW] is taken as “steppe-lands” (often rendered “deserts”), but here the form is probably a homonym meaning “clouds.” Verse 33, which depicts God as the one who “rides on the sky” strongly favors this (see as well Deut 33:26), as does the reference in v. 9 to God as the source of rain. The term עֲרָבָה (’aravah, “cloud”) is cognate with Akkadian urpatu/erpetu and with Ugaritic ’rpt. The phrase rkb ’rpt (“one who rides on the clouds”) appears in Ugaritic mythological texts as an epithet of the storm god Baal. The nonphonemic interchange of the bilabial consonants b and p is attested elsewhere in roots common to Hebrew and Ugaritic, though the phenomenon is relatively rare. Footnote

I should add that, no such Hebrew word exists, insofar as I know. After reading the arguments above, and even though I would like this to refer to Jesus Christ as the Rider of the Clouds, I remain unconvinced. There is simply not enough evidence to change the meaning of a common Hebrew word. If rider of the clouds was found in the Greek, then I might be more easily convinced.

The closest Hebrew word to this is ׳âb (בָע) [pronounced ģawbv], and it is even a little closer in form when found in the plural construct, which is not how it is found here.

Now, you may think that I have gone overboard in this one word, and you may be wondering, just what is the big deal? The big deal is, we have a very common Hebrew word here which is found over 60 times in the Old Testament; yet we have translators who render this clouds, heavens, without good reason.

Puluka renders this clouds, with the short footnote MT Hebrew term is hzbre, steppelands or desert but is emended to hbre, clouds in most translations given the context of verse 33 “to Him who rides the ancient highest heavens”. NET Bible, p 978. Footnote Now, someone who does not know the original languages at all, will see this footnote, conclude that the words are very similar, and possibly even think that this is one of the 18 (or so) emendations. These are not even the correct transliterated English letters in Puluka’s footnote. Now, I don’t know who Puluka is, and he is probably a very nice guy; but he has depended upon a footnote from the NET Bible® which sounds great and logical, but when you look at the actual word that is found here and compare that to any Hebrew word for clouds there is only a slight similarity, and not enough of one to suggest that a copyist screwed this up.

I want you to know that I am sitting here with the volumes of Gesenius and New Englishman’s Hebrew Concordance of the Old Testament before me, along with the various footnotes and translations which want to render this word clouds or heavens and I cannot come up with a single reason for taking that position, apart from the fact that we have a similar phrase later on in this psalm.

Finally, the verb used here (which I will cover in great detail below) makes a lot of sense when used with the word desert; it makes no sense if used with the word clouds.


Translation: Construct [a highway] for the one riding in the [desert] Arabah. This is a difficult verb. Therefore, we ought to pause for a moment and examine the verb çâlal.


This is the abbreviated version of the Doctrine of Çâlal. Çâlal is the word which I have rendered construct [a highway].

Çâlal

Headline

Commentary/Explanation

Pronunciation and spelling

çâlal (ל-לָס) [pronounced saw-LAHL].

Suggested meanings from BDB, Gesenius, etc.

BDB translations: 1) to lift up, cast up, exalt; 1a) (Qal); 1a1) to cast up a highway; 1a2) to cast up a way; 1a3) to lift up (of song); 1b) (Pilpel) to exalt, esteem highly, prize; 1c) (Hithpoel) to exalt oneself. BDB #699.


Gesenius translations: Qal: to lift up, to elevate, to exalt, to gather, to cast up [into a heap]; to make a level way by casting up a bank, to embank. From the notion of being exalted, lofty, has sprung the meanings to move to and fro, to waver; used of things that are lofty, tall and slender, which are easily shaken (e.g., boughs and twigs of trees, such as willows and palms. Somehow, Gesenius extends this to baskets and brooms made of these items, although it is not clear in Gesenius if this verb is actually involved in the action. BDB lists to plait, to curl, to weave [?] as the meanings of a verb which is spelled the same, but has its own cognates. Pilpel: to lift up, to elevate, to exalt; metaphorical use: exalt her [wisdom] [with praises]. Hithpolel: to oppose oneself as a mound, to resist.

Passages

Ex. 9:17 Psalm 68:4 Prov. 4:8 15:19 Isa. 57:14 62:10 Jer. 18:15 30:12 50:26

Concluding points

1.      The cognates (mound, highway) seem to give the general sense that this word is related to the building of a highway or thoroughfare.

2.      Most of the time when we build a road in the mountains, we cut a path into the dirt; in the ancient world, as this seems to suggest, stones and dirt and debris were piled up or put into a mound in order to flatten out a road for use. The modern equivalent of this is to lay asphalt; to lay a road of concrete.

3.      The only place where we seem to have the idea of elevating, exalting or lifting up something is in our passage, Psalm 68:4, and that, only because there are other verbs which mean that in the same verse.

4.      I think that the most likely meaning that we can take from this is to construct [a road, a highway]; to mound up [dirt, debris] to make [a road, highway]. The NIV Study Bible suggests prepare the way for Him Who rides through the deserts. Footnote

5.      There seems to be an unused verb which yields a whole other set of meanings, which has two cognates found in Scripture, the masculine and feminine nouns for basket (Strong’s #5552 & #5536).

Barnes comments

The word here rendered “extol” —çâlal (ל–לָס) [pronounced saw–LAHL]—means to lift up, to raise, to raise up, as into a heap or mound; and especially to cast up and prepare a way, or to make a way level before an army by casting up earth; that is, to prepare a way for an army. See the notes at Isa. 40:3. Compare also Isa. 57:14 62:10; Job. 19:12 30:12 Prov. 15:19 (margin) Jer. 18:15. This is evidently the idea here. It is not to “extol” God in the sense of praising him; it is to prepare the way before him, as of one marching at the head of his armies, or as a leader of his hosts. The allusion is to God as passing before his people in the march to the promised land; and the call is to make ready the way before him – that is, to remove all obstructions out of his path and to make the road smooth and level. Footnote

I believe that we may reasonably conclude that the idea of this verb is to build up [a highway]; to construct [a road]. Every occasion of its use is found in the complete Doctrine of Çâlal.

Given the reasonable meaning of this word, it seems more apropos for God to be a rider in the desert, as that is where a road might be constructed.


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Now, typically, roads are constructed so that larger forms of transportation can move along the road—carriages, wagons, people on quadrupeds. Here, the psalmist calls for a road to be constructed so that the rider of the Arabah, the desert, can ride along the newly constructed road. What I am doing here, quite frankly, is thinking out loud. Since we are moderately certain of the meaning of the verb here, it makes less sense for this rider to be in the heavens or in the clouds. So, in this way, we can have more faith in the Masoretic text and not have to look to other ancient texts to understand this verse.


This is an odd statement to be made here, and I find it to be parallel to the coming of John the Baptizer, who said: “The voice of the one crying in the wilderness, make ready the way of the Lord; make His paths straight!” (Matt. 3:3b Isa. 40:3). We find similar statements made throughout the Old and New Testaments. Perhaps what we are looking at here is a prophecy of John the Baptizer; or, at the very least, a wink by God the Holy Spirit, Who could see down the corridors of time. However, bear in mind, for most prophecies, there is an alternate understanding or an alternate meaning that we ought to be aware of. Since much of this psalm appears to be an historic appraisal of Israel’s history, it is more likely that David is alluding to God being with Israel and riding along with them through the desert. However, this does not preclude God the Holy Spirit speaking to us about our Lord coming in time to His people.


Prior to our Lord’s formal ministry, He was preceded by John the Baptizer, who proclaimed, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight." (Matt. 3:3b Isa. 40:3). Although the language here is not exactly the same as we find in our passage, perhaps the general idea is the same—the psalmist is proclaiming the coming of our Lord, as a road built in the desert proclaims the coming of people and goods being transported across the desert. Such a road promises trade throughout the desert region, a bringing of foods and supplies from one place to another, so perhaps that is the concept here.


The problem with applying this verse to John the Baptizer is, there are several masculine singular suffixes in this verse which cannot logically be applied to John the Baptizer—previously, we are enjoined to sing praises to His name, which could only logically be applied to God. Immediately after, we will have the phrase in Yah [is] His name. It would not be logical to first be speaking of God’s name and then to suddenly shift to John the Baptizer’s name. Finally, at the end of this verse, we are commanded to rejoice before Him. Again, this is reasonably applied to God, but not reasonably applied to John the Baptizer. We don’t want to become involved in anything which even approximates the adoration of Mary, as is found in Romanism—that’s just wrong; and context seems to reasonably be that we are speaking of God; we are speaking of Jesus Christ.


Now, let’s look back on what John the Baptizer said, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight." (Matt. 3:3b Isa. 40:3). He is the voice crying in the wilderness; what he cries out is “Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.” John is not speaking of himself; the paths are not being made straight for him; nor is he even the one preparing the way of the Lord. My point is, the psalmist can be saying essentially the same thing that John the Baptizer is saying, yet not alluding to John the Baptizer, as John did not speak of himself.


Quite frankly, I do not know why our Lord is referred to as a rider in the desert; at least, not in His incarnation. However, we might more reasonably apply this to our Lord traveling with the Exodus generation in the desert, as He rode above them in the skies as a cloud by day. Barnes suggests that our Lord is riding at the front of a great army, as a commander would do in the ancient world. In this regard, we have Israel making a pathway or highway through the land east of the Jordan, with God guiding and leading them, as a general or king might do.


Constructing a road or a highway in the desert perhaps refers to them preparing a way for our Lord in the desert wilderness of their hearts. In terms of putting any sort of meaning to this phrase, this is the best I can come up with, which is not an illogical explanation. They are called upon to make a highway through the desert, ostensibly to them, and the reasons why our Lord is worthy follow in the next few verses. May I add that, when our Lord first came to the Jews in His 1st Advent, some had prepared the way for Him and some (the religious types) had not.


However, the sense may be, prepare a way for the Lord as He leads His great army through the desert, which could simply be the image of Jesus Christ leading the Exodus generation through the desert. This appears to be confirmed by Psalm 68:7–8: O God, when You marched before Your people, when You walked through the wilderness; Selah. The earth shook, the heavens also dropped at the presence of God; Sinai itself was moved at the presence of God, the God of Israel. Although Old Testament saints did not necessarily differentiate between the members of the Trinity, the Bible clearly did. This could be a call to God the Father to prepare a path—in this case, a highway—for Jesus Christ to lead His people, the children of Israel. The idea is, God the Father planned this and His Son executes the plan, leading all Israel. I believe that this is the most accurate understanding of this verse so far.


I should add a few comments as to the other translations (our Lord riding the heavens or riding through the west): this would take a commonly used preposition and noun—in the desert wilderness—and make it into a word which is not found in BDB’s lexicon nor does it have any clear cognates in his lexicon (Clarke’s example seems to be quite a stretch to me). This interpretation seems to be build upon Deut. 33:26, whereas, we ought to be more concerned with this verse being in line with vv. 7–8 of this psalm rather than with a passage elsewhere. For these reasons, the more common reading, the One riding in [through] the desert is the more likely translation. The strongest argument in favor of this riding the heavens rendering is Psalm 68:33, which speaks of our Lord riding upon the high heavens. I think the idea here is a progression, from riding in the desert with Israel to riding upon the heavens. My opinion is, some translators read our passage, which troubled them, read v. 33, which seems to parallel this verse, and then simply suggested that in the desert must means the heavens instead. However, given the context of this verse and the meaning of the verb found here, we may reasonably assume that God is spoken of here as a rider of the desert wilderness, as He is down with Israel, guiding, leading and, at times, righting for Israel. That God would later be seen as among the clouds reasonably refers to His resurrection and ascension.


Because there is so much confusion about this passage, primarily due to the translation of the KJV, let me suggest the Doctrine of the Arabah to you (PDF version).


Since brevity is the soul of wit, let me reduce this doctrine in size.

A Summary of the Doctrine of the Arabah

1.      ʿĂrâbâh (עֲרָבָה) [pronounced guh-rawb-VAW] is transliterated arabah. In general, the Arabah is the unpopulated and desert area extending up from the northeastern tip of the Red Sea, on up along the eastern site of the Dead Sea on up to the Sea of Galilee. This also takes in the area around the Jordan River and some portions in southern Judæa. The first 6 or 7 uses below are subsets of that land mass. The context of the passage will indicate just exactly what portion is being referred to.

2.      Arabah is found 61 times in the Old Testament, but only translated Arabah twice in the KJV. In the KJV, this word is translated 9 different ways (3 of which are quite different from what we would expect—champaign, evenings, and heavens).

3.      The meanings given this word:

         a.       BDB: desert plain, steppe, desert, wilderness.

         b.      Gesenius: an arid, sterile region, a desert. With the definite article, this refers to that low region into which the valley of the Jordan runs near Jericho, and which extends as far as the Ælanitic gulf. It is also used to refer to a city in Benjamin (Beth Arabah).

         c.      Strong’s: From H6150 (in the sense of sterility); a desert; especially (with the article prefixed) the (generally) sterile valley of the Jordan and its continuation to the Red Sea. Strong’s #6160 BDB #787.

         d.      ISBE: This word indicates in general a barren district, but is specifically applied in whole or in part to the depression of the Jordan valley, extending from Mount Hermon to the Gulf of Aqaba. Endnote

4.      The root word is ʿârab (עָרַב) [pronounced ģaw-RAHBV], which means to be arid, to be sterile (we recognize this word as Arab). This verb form and meaning is not found in the Old Testament (there are 4 verbs wit this same spelling, some which are used and some which are not). You may recognize the transliteration of this word and its substantive cognate as Arab. Strong’s #none (related to #6152) BDB #787.

5.      One possible key appears to be the use of the definite article in front of this word; then it seems to signify a particular area. Without that definite article, it appears to designate an area with those same characteristics (this is a theory; I have not examined all of the passages yet). In the plural construct, it is generally associated with Moab or Jericho (as in, the plains of Moab).

arabahmap.jpgAlthough this map seems to indicate that the Arabah is only south of the Dead Sea, it takes in much of the area around the

Dead Sea on up along the River Jericho to the Sea of Galilee. From http://www.seektheoldpaths.com/Maps/012.jpg


 

Although the graphic above only has the section between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba denoted as the Arabah, this actually extends further north, all the way up the Jordan River to the southern tip of the Sea of Galilee (neither of which is shown on this map).

6.      ISBE’s description: The southern portion, which still retains the name of Arabah, is included in the wilderness of Zin (Num. 34:3). According to the survey of Lord Kitchener and George Armstrong made in 1883, under the auspices of the Palestine Exploration Fund, its length from the head of the Gulf of Akabah to the Dead Sea is 112 miles. The lowest point of the watershed is 45 miles from Akabah, and 660 feet above tide (1,952 above the Dead Sea). The average width of the valley up to this point is about 6 miles, but here a series of low limestone ridges (called Er Risheh) rising 150 feet above the plain runs obliquely across it for a distance of 10 miles, narrowing it up to a breadth of about one–half mile. North of this point, opposite Mount Hor, the valley widens out to 13 miles and then gradually narrows to 6 miles at the south end of the Dead Sea. At Ain Abu Werideh, 29 miles north of the watershed, the valley is at the sea–level – 1,292 feet above that of the Dead Sea. North of the watershed, the main line of drainage is the Wady el–Jeib, which everywhere keeps pretty close to the west side of the valley. At Ain Abu Werideh it is joined by numerous wadies descending from the Edomite mountains on the east, which altogether water an oasis of considerable extent, covered with a thicket of young palms, tamarisks, willows and reeds. Twenty–four miles farther north the Arabah breaks down suddenly into the valley of the Dead Sea, or the Ghôr, as it is technically called. Lord Kitchener's report is here so vivid as to be worthy of literal reproduction. “The descent to the Ghôr was down a sandy slope of 300 feet, and the change of climate was most marked, from the sandy desert to masses of tangled vegetation with streams of water running in all directions, birds fluttering from every tree, the whole country alive with life; nowhere have I seen so great and sudden a contrast” (Mount Seir, 214). The descent here described was on the eastern side of the semicircular line of cliffs formed of sand, gravel, and marl which enclose the Ghôr at the south end, and which are probably what are referred to in Joshua 15:3 as the “ascent of Akrabbim.” The ordinary route, however, leading to the plain of the Arabah from the Dead Sea is up the trough worn by the Wady el–Jeib along the west side of the valley. But this route would be impracticable during the rainy season after the cloudbursts which occasionally visit this region, when torrents of water pour down it, sufficient to roll boulders of considerable size and to transport an immense amount of coarse sediment. South of the Dead Sea a muddy plain, known as the Sebkah, extends 6 miles, filling about one–half of the width of the Ghôr. During most of the year the mud over this area is so thin and deep that it is impossible to cross it near its northern end. This whole area between the “ascent of Akrabbim” and the Dead Sea has evidently been greatly transformed by the sedimentary deposits which have been brought in by the numerous tributary wadies during the last 4,000 years, the coarser material having encroached upon it from either side, and the fine material having been deposited over the middle portion, furnishing the clay which is so embarrassing to travelers Footnote .

7.      Even though we are going to find this word used in several different ways, the various writers of Scripture clearly had these uses separate in their minds when they wrote.

8.      ZPEB Footnote breaks the Arabah into 3 geographical regions: the Jordan Valley, the Dead Sea region and the area south of the Dead Sea down to the Gulf of Aqaba (the latter of which is called Arabah on the map above).

9.      We have one possible passage which takes in most of this area. The psalmist calls for the reader to Sing to God, sing praise to His name; lift up a song for Him who rides in the arabah’s, by His name Jehovah; yea, exult in His presence in Psalm 68:4. The plural use of arabah may purposely include the various regions which are given that name. This, at first, can be a very difficult passage to interpret, mostly because of the KJV’s poor translation here (they translate arabah as heavens here). Because of this, many other translations follow suit. The exegesis of Psalm 68 is found here: http://kukis.org/Psalms/Psalm068.htm

10.    We find it used several times to refer to the plains of Moab in Num. 22:1 26:3, 63 31:12 33:48–50 35:1 36:13 Deut. 2:8 34:1 Joshua 13:32. In most of these passages, the Jews had moved northward parallel to the Dead Sea on its east side. We seem to have a more generic use of the word Arabah here, which indicates that they are in an arid, unpopulated area in Moab, which is in stark contrast to the Land of Promise, which is a land flowing with milk and honey.

11.    Arabah came to be used of the area east of the Dead Sea (which is mostly equivalent to the plains of Moab) and northward to take in the area east of the Jordan. This described, in part, the land given over to the tribe of Reuben (this would have been pastures, primarily). Deut. 1:1–2 3:17, 20, 25 4:49 34:1, 8

12.    The arabah is the valley area around the Jordan River. 2Sam. 2:29 4:7 2Kings 25:4–5 Jer. 39:4– 5 52:7–8 Amos 6:14

13.    The southern Judæan desert area.

         a.      When David was looking to get away from Saul, he moved into southern Judæa, which is called the Arabah in 1Sam. 23:24. This would be west of the Salt Sea in southern Judah.

         b.      In the Millennium, the waters of the Arabah will flow eastward into the Salt Sea, which will become a vibrant sea filled with fish. Flowing eastward indicates that we are talking about the Judæan area. Ezek. 47:6–10 (compare Zech. 14:8)

14.    The Sea of the Arabah is another name for the Salt Sea (the Dead Sea). Deut. 3:17 4:49 Joshua 3:16 12:3 2Kings 14:25 The equivalence is made clear in Deut. 3:17 Joshua 12:3.

15.    The way of the Arabah or the Arabah Road is found in 3 passages: Deut. 2:8 2Sam. 4:7 2Kings 25:4

         a.      I have checked several maps, and very few actually show where this is. Of the two which I found, both place the Way of the Arabah in the southern Arabah (south of the Dead Sea); but one has it going north-south (which was the intuitive location for me) but the MacMillan Bible Atlas has it going east-west.

         b.      Deut. 2:8 reads: So we passed by from our brothers the sons of Esau, who dwell in Seir, from the way of the Arabah from Elath and from Ezion Geber. We turned and passed by the way of the wilderness of Moab. Moses first mentions the sons of Esau, who would be directly below the Dead Sea. The Jews got to here by the Arabah Road from Elath and Ezion-Geber. These cities are on the northern tip of the Red Sea, which, if the Jews are traveling in a direct route, would be moving from south to north, making the connecting road (the way of the Arabah) north-south.

         c.      2Sam. 4:7–8 reads: Now when they came into the house, as he lay on his bed in his bedchamber, they struck him, and killed him, and beheaded him, and took his head, and went by the way of the Arabah all night. They brought the head of Ish-bosheth to David to Hebron, and said to the king, Behold, the head of Ish-bosheth, the son of Saul, your enemy, who sought your life; and Yahweh has avenged my lord the king this day of Saul, and of his seed. Hebron is about 25 miles south of Jerusalem. Ishbosheth is probably up in the area of Benjamin, so the Way of the Arabah in this passage would have been a north-south route, along the west side of the Dead Sea,

         d.      2Kings 25:4–5 reads: Then a breach was made in the city, and all the men of war fled by night by the way of the gate between the two walls, which was by the king's garden (now the Chaldeans were against the city round about); and the king went by the way of the Arabah. But the army of the Chaldeans pursued after the king, and overtook him in the plains of Jericho; and all his army was scattered from him. So here, we are at Jerusalem, the Israeli army escapes going due north, where they are finally caught up in Jericho. So, this route is in keeping with the route named above.

         e.      What would seem to be the case is, the Way of the Arabah starts down at the northern tip of the Red Sea and then moves northward to Edom, and continues to move northward west of the Dead Sea. This is the most logical approach to me.

16.    The word arabah simply means plains, wilderness, desert, unpopulated area (Joshua 4:13 5:10 8:14 11:2 Isa. 33:9 Jer. 5:6). It is also used in a metaphorical sense, which matches the desert wilderness of the land with the condition of men’s souls and motivations (Isa. 51:3).

         a.      In Job 39:6, this is the area where the wild ass lives.

         b.      Arabah seems to just indicate a type of geographical area in Joshua 12:7–8.

arabah.jpgHere is a photo which seems to convey the idea of the Arabah; it is taken from www.bible.ca

http://www.bible.ca/archeology/wilderness-of-zin-ascent-of-akrabbim-arabah-valley-west2.jpg

         c.      In Isa. 35:1–2, we see a changing of the desert wilderness area into great beauty, which is a description of the land of promise and how it changes in the Millennium. See also Isa. 35:6–7 41:19. God will take the barrenness of the Land of Promise in the future (future to Isaiah) and transform it.  

         d.      Jesus will come to a world which is a metaphorical desert wilderness in Isa. 40 (arabah is found in 40:3).

         e.      Jeremiah uses arabah in a metaphorical way in Jer. 17:5–7 Thus says the LORD: "Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD. He is like a shrub in the arabah, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. "Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD.

         f.       God blasts Israel for its unfaithfulness and promises that Babylon would come and destroy them, but then warns Babylon of its eventual desolation as a nation in Jer. 50:11–13 (“Though you [Babylon] rejoice, though you exult, O plunderers of My heritage [Israel], though you frolic like a heifer in the pasture, and neigh like stallions, your mother shall be utterly shamed, and she who bore you shall be disgraced. Behold, she shall be the last of the nations, a wilderness, a dry land, and a desert [= arabah]. Because of the wrath of the LORD she shall not be inhabited but shall be an utter desolation; everyone who passes by Babylon shall be appalled, and hiss because of all her wounds.”). Babylon is situated in modern-day Iraq. We find this same theme in Jer. 51:41–43 “How Babylon is taken, the praise of the whole earth seized! How Babylon has become a horror among the nations! The sea has come up on Babylon; she is covered with its tumultuous waves. Her cities have become a horror, a land of drought and a desert [= arabah], a land in which no one dwells, and through which no son of man passes.”

17.     Miscellaneous uses:

         a.      Arabah is also given to name the area west of the Jordan where the Canaanites live. Deut. 11:30

         b.      Arabah is used in an interesting way in Joshua 11:16. All of the areas which Joshua has conquered is listed in Joshua 11:16–17, which includes the Arabah, which would reasonably understood as taking the land east of the Jordan, which was then given to Reuben.

18.    There is a city in northern Judah called Beth-Arabah, which is on the border of Judæa and Benjamin. It has this name, more than likely, because of its proximity to the Arabah around the Jordan River. Joshua 15:6 18:18

The complete doctrine can be found at: http://kukis.org/Doctrines/Arabah.htm and the pdf version is at http://kukis.org/Doctrines/Arabah.pdf .


Psalm 68:4d

Hebrew/Pronunciation

Common English Meanings

Notes/Morphology

BDB and Strong’s Numbers

be (׃) [pronounced beh]

in, into, at, by, near, on, with, before, in the presence of, upon, against, by means of, among, within

a preposition of proximity

Strong’s #none BDB #88

The NET Bible® suggests that the preposition here should be:

kîy (י̣) [pronounced kee]

for, that, because; when, at that time, which, what time

explanatory or temporal conjunction; preposition

Strong's #3588 BDB #471

Yâh (ָי) [pronounced yaw]

an abbreviated form of YHWH, the proper name for God in the Old Testament

proper masculine noun

Strong’s #3050 BDB #219

Clarke writes: Yah, probably a contraction of the word הוהי (Yehovah), at least so the ancient Versions understood it. It is used but in a few places in the sacred writings. It might be translated The Self existent. Footnote

shêm (ם ֵש) [pronounced shame]

name, reputation, character

masculine singular noun with the 3rd person masculine singular suffix

Strong’s #8034 BDB #1027

There will be a great deal of discussion on this text below. The NET Bible® suggests: Heb “in the Lord his name.” If the MT is retained, the preposition -בְ (bet) is introducing the predicate (the so-called bet of identity), “the Lord is his name.” However, some prefer to emend the text to כִּי יָהּ ש ְמוֹ (ki yah shÿmo, “for Yah is his name”). This emendation, reflected in the present translation, assumes a confusion of bet (ב) and kaf (כ) and haplography of yod (י). And, in case you did not get that, they are simply suggesting that this should have a kaph (כ) here rather than a beyth (ב). Let me add that, in the original, pre-Masoretic text, there were no vowels, so they would not play a part here. If this confounding did occur, this would properly read as Jah [is] His name. The easy way out is to accept that there was a confounding of the letters; and the easier way out is to ignore the preposition altogether.


Translation: His name [is] in Yah,... We are to sing to God, praising His name, and His name is Yah. Again and again, God is called Jehovah or, in this case, Yah. The idea is, the one riding in the desert is said to be with Yah or by Yah. The addition of the preposition here means that “his name is not Yah” but associated with Yah. My thinking is, this is associated with the Trinity, and that we are speaking of Jesus Christ, Who is in the Father and the Father is in Him (John 17:21).

 

With regards to the name Yah, the Treasury of Scriptural Knowledge says: JAH, is an abbreviation of הוהי, JEHOVAH and signifies self-existence. - He who derives his being from none, but gives being to all. Footnote


Now, I have inserted the verb to be here, and was uncertain how to deal with this phrase.

Alternate Ways of Organizing Psalm 68:4

The Most Common

Alternate #1

Alternate #2

Sing unto Elohim,

make music which praises His name.

Construct [a highway] for the one riding in the [desert] Arabah.

His name [is] in Yah,

Rejoice before Him.

Sing unto Elohim,

make music which praises His name.

Construct [a highway] for the one riding in the [desert] Arabah by means of [or, in, with, before] Yah.

Rejoice [in] His name before Him.

Sing unto Elohim,

make music which praises His name.

Construct [a highway] for the one riding in the [desert] Arabah in [or, by means of, with, before] Yah, His name;

Rejoice before Him.

We have the additional statement that His name is in Yah.

An additional word must be added (in), in order for the verb to sound right (which may not actually be an issue in the Hebrew).

This could be similarly understood as alternate #2—that construction of the highway is by means of Yah—and we simply add, this is His name.

This is probably the easiest and least complex way to understand this verse. Jesus Christ is in the Father and the Father is in Him (John 17:21).


My only problem with this interpretation is, Church Age doctrine is not generally covered in the Old Testament; we find clear references to the 1st Advent in Old Testament prophecies, but we do not find, for the most part, Church Age doctrines. Now, although the Trinity is a part of all dispensations and taught in all dispensations, that we are in Christ and Christ is in the Father is not something I recall from the Old Testament, apart from this particular passage.

Here, the one riding in the desert is in or with Yah, which is perfectly acceptable, as the Trinity is taught in the Old Testament.


The phrase, rejoice [in] His name before Him is somewhat clunky and I don’t believe it to be accurate.

In this interpretation, we are simply saying that Yah is His name. It does seem to just hang there, almost without purpose, however.


The one riding in the desert would be Jesus Christ, who does so before God or by means of God the Father.

In any of these approaches, we are speaking of the Trinity.

The KJV and the NKJV, among others, have by His name Yah. This makes much better English sense, and still appears to allude to the Trinity. On the other hand, this does not exactly match the wording of the Hebrew, which is by Yah His name. The options I gave above were those which remained faithful to the Hebrew.


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In dealing with this tiny bêyth preposition, I probably caused more confusion than I solved here. My point was to give you several reasonable alternatives. I want you to notice that, no matte what alternate reading/understanding that you choose, the meaning does not conflict with accepted doctrine. We run into difficult readings throughout Scripture, and fairly often in this particular psalm. What I find amazing is, no matter which approach we take to these difficult passages, this does not open up the door to some weird doctrine. You simply cannot take all these questionable passages as a group, give them whatever reasonable spin that you want to give them, and end up with a whole new set of doctrines which contradict that faith that has been handed down to us. For instance, there is a way to interpret this verse which suggests that two members of the Trinity are found here. What we do not have here is, a negation of the Trinity or proof that the Trinity should be 4 members. My point is, despite the many difficulties that we have with specific passages, none of these difficulties will take us outside the realm of accepted doctrines.


However (and I am on a tangent now), we can take the accepted and accurate rendering of verses and twist them to mean something outside the realm of accepted doctrine, as long as we ignore a boatload of verses elsewhere. Let me just take an example: a person believes in Jesus Christ and they become a new creation. Catholics and Pentecostals understand this to mean, we become better persons. Grace is seen as being infused into our souls so that, as Christians, we end up being much nicer and better people. Reform theology tells us that, we now have a human spirit which is capable of fellowship with God and capable of storing spiritual information. We may act better and we may not. This is one of the reasons that we find biographies of so many men in Scripture: Jacob, David, Solomon, Paul, Mark, Timothy—men who are spoken of favorably in Scripture, men who are definitely believers in Jesus Christ, and men who had some spectacular failures. With Jacob, it is hard to find many instances in his life where he did anything right; and if you set him toe to toe with Esau, his twin brother, Esau seems to win out almost every time. But, Jacob believed in Jesus Christ and Esau did not. Jacob is the line of regeneration and Esau is not. When you examine the lives and particularly the failures of these believers, it becomes clear that we do not have some sort of infused grace which makes us automatically behave more righteously. These men did not automatically act more righteously; often times, their sins and failures were so great that they are often used by unbelievers as examples of Christian hypocrisy. David is a man after God’s own heart? Are we talking about the same David who commits adultery and then has the woman’s husband killed? If that is Christianity, then give me atheism any time. Since the Bible never speaks of re-dedicating our lives to Christ; nor does it ever speak of being born-again, again, we have a number of options here: (1) those believers already named were regenerated, and some still made tremendous mistakes with their lives; (2) they had head beliefs to begin with and eventually developed a heart belief (which means that spiritual life of these believers did not mean anything prior to their failures, as they weren’t really believers then); (3) they were saved, lost their salvation, got saved again, lost their salvation, got saved again (which position does not find any support in Scripture—not even a verse of support).


What is often missing in the variety of theologies found out there is simple, deductive logic. You believe thus and so; what logically does that lead us to? For instance, it is reasonable to suppose that Mary, the mother of the humanity of Jesus, was something special, as God chose her to bear our Lord. Furthermore, we find no indication of any failures on her part in Scripture. Now, we take this hypothesis further: how would Mary be different from you or I, apart from possibly leading a better life than you or I have? Is she so different as to be worshiped? Suddenly, our hypothesis has led us into some very problematic territory. We have an instance of angels refusing to be worshiped, even though we may reasonably assume that these are elect angels being used by God. We have no indication anywhere in Scripture that any human being is to be worshiped, and when that occurs, we are dealing with evil, So our hypothesis that Mary is just a cut above the rest of us leads us into doctrines which are logically indefensible. Now was her experiential life better than mine? Probably and she will probably receive greater rewards in heaven than I will. But, Mary was born with a sin nature just like me; she had free will, just like me. She made bad decisions now and again, just like me. Furthermore, Mary has to be 100% fully human in all respects; otherwise, Jesus Christ is not fully man. Jesus Christ can only die for our sins if He is fully man, as well as a man without sin.


Now, to try to bring this back to where I started: good men of sound doctrine can take this verse and possibly interpret it in several different ways (I offered 3 alternatives). If those men have the fundamentals of doctrine in their souls then, the implication of this verse with respect to accepted theology is, it will fit into a reasonable, theological framework. God the Holy Spirit may have meant for this verse to be understood in one way, and yet, a man with a good, solid foundation, understands it in a different way. Still, that is not going to conflict with the fundamentals of the faith. Only when someone gives a spin to a verse which results in a doctrine which falls outside reform theology should we become concerned.


Psalm 68:4e

Hebrew/Pronunciation

Common English Meanings

Notes/Morphology

BDB and Strong’s Numbers

׳âlaz (ז-לָע) [pronounced ģaw-LAHZ]

to exult, to rejoice; to triumph

2nd person masculine plural, Qal imperative

Strong’s #5937 BDB #759

lâmed (ל) (pronounced le)

to, for, towards, in regards to

directional/relational preposition

No Strong’s # BDB #510

pânîym (םי̣נָ) [pronounced paw-NEEM]

face, faces countenance; presence

masculine plural noun (plural acts like English singular); with the 3rd person masculine singular suffix

Strong’s #6440 BDB #815

Together, they mean before him, before his face, in his presence, in his sight, in front of him.


Translation: ...Rejoice before Him. This verse calls upon us to sing unto God and to rejoice before Him.


Psalm 68:4 reads:                                          Sing unto Elohim,

make music which praises His name.

Construct [a highway] for the one riding in the [desert] Arabah in [or, by means of, with, before] Yah, His name;

Rejoice before Him.

Concluding Remarks about Psalm 68:4

1.      In v. 3, we have 3 different ways of saying that we ought to rejoice before God. Here, twice we are called upon to sing to God, and, at the end, to rejoice before Him.

2.      I believe the first two portions of this verse refer to singing to God and then the making of music before Him as well. This is pretty much a guess on my part, as there are over a dozen Hebrew words which are translated to sing.

3.      God the Father is called upon to make a way for our Lord leading the Exodus generation through the desert in the third line. This is done by Yah, Who is God the Father.

4.      The idea is, God the Father planned the movement of the Exodus generation, just as He has a plan for each and every one of us. God the Son executed this plan by leading Israel, as a general on horseback leads His army.

5.      We might also see this as a call for those in the Exodus generation (and all succeeding generations) to prepare their own hearts to be guided and led by our Lord. The ability to open oneself up to the guidance of God is done by means of Yah, which would refer to God the Holy Spirit.

6.      Finally, because we are singing and making music to Him, and because He leads us through the desert, we are enjoined to rejoice before Him.

I think that these remarks reasonably present what we are supposed to understand from v. 4.


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A Father of fatherless

and a defender of widows [is] Elohim

in a habitation of His holiness.

Psalm

68:5

Elohim [is] a Father to the fatherless

and an advocate of the widows

in His holy habitation.

God is the Father of the fatherless and

He is an advocate for the widows

in His holy palace.


Here is how others have translated this verse:


Ancient texts:

 

Masoretic Text                       A Father of fatherless and a defender of widows [is] Elohim

in a habitation of His holiness.

Septuagint                              ...who is the father of the orphans, and judge of the widows: such is God in his holy place..

 

Significant differences:           No significant differences.


Thought-for-thought translations; paraphrases:

 

CEV                                       Our God, from your sacred home you take care of orphans and protect widows.

EasyEnglish (Churchyard)     God is the father of those that have no father.

He gives help to women whose husbands have died.

(He does this) from the *holy place where he lives.

Good News Bible (TEV)         God, who lives in his sacred Temple, cares for orphans and protects widows.

New American Bible              Father of the fatherless, defender of widows —

this is the God whose abode is holy.


Mostly literal renderings (with some occasional paraphrasing):

 

Bible in Basic English             A father to those who have no father, a judge of the widows, is God in his holy place.

Complete Apostles’ Bible      ...who is the Father of the orphans, and Judge of the widows; such is God in His holy place.

God’s Word                         The God who is in his holy dwelling place is the father of the fatherless and the defender of widows.

HCSB                                     A father of the fatherless and a champion of widows is God in His holy dwelling.

NET Bible®                             He is a father to the fatherless

and an advocate for widows.

God rules from his holy palace.

The Scriptures 1998              Father of the fatherless, And Right-ruler of widows, Is Elohim in His set-apart dwelling.


Literal, almost word-for-word, renderings:

 

Updated Emphasized Bible    The father of the fatherless,

And the advocate of the widows

Is God in His holy habitation.

A Voice in the Wilderness      In His holy dwelling God is a father to the fatherless, and a judge for the widows.

Young's Literal Translation     Father of the fatherless, and judge of the widows, Is God in His holy habitation.


What is the gist of this verse? In the previous verse, we are called upon to sing to God and to rejoice before Him; here, we are told why we should do these things: God is a father to orphans and an advocate of widows, even from His holy place.


Psalm 68:5a

Hebrew/Pronunciation

Common English Meanings

Notes/Morphology

BDB and Strong’s Numbers

âb (ב ָא) [pronounced awbv]

father, both as the head of a household, clan or tribe

masculine singular construct

Strong’s #1 BDB #3

yâthôwm (םתָי) [pronounced yaw-THOM]

orphan; fatherless

masculine plural noun

Strong’s #3490 BDB #450


Translation: Elohim [is] a Father to the fatherless... The name Elohim actually occurs with the next portion of this verse, but seems to fit better up front, as we would say it in English. God is a Father to those without fathers. Psalm 10:14, 17–18: But You Yourself have seen trouble and grief, observing it in order to take the matter into Your hands. The helpless entrusts himself to You; You are a helper of the fatherless. LORD, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will strengthen their hearts. You will listen carefully, doing justice for the fatherless and the oppressed, so that men of the earth may terrify them no more.


Throughout Scripture, God is seen as a Father to believers, and is so spoken of by Jesus Christ on many occasions.


Psalm 68:5b

Hebrew/Pronunciation

Common English Meanings

Notes/Morphology

BDB and Strong’s Numbers

we (or ve) (ו) [pronounced weh]

and, even, then; namely; when; since, that; though

simple wâw conjunction

No Strong’s # BDB #251

dayyân (ןָ-) [pronounced dahy-YAWN]

judge, defender, advocate

masculine singular construct

Strong’s #1781 BDB #193

almânâh (הָנ ָמל-א) [pronounced ale-maw-NAW]

widow; desolate house, desolate place

feminine plural noun

Strong’s #490 BDB #48

The spelling in this case would be: almânôwth (תנ ָמל-א) [pronounced ale-maw-NֹOHTH].

Ělôhîym (מי̣הֹלֱא) [pronounced el-o-HEEM]

gods, foreign gods, god; God; rulers, judges; superhuman ones, angels; transliterated Elohim

masculine plural noun

Strong's #430 BDB #43

Although the Hebrew places the subject of these phrases at the end of this phrase, we would naturally place it at the beginning of the first two phrases, which is what I did in my translation.


Translation: ...and an advocate of the widows... God cares for the helpless; in this case, He defends and protects the widow. In both cases, the father is gone or the husband has died, and God stands in for them. Human nature is to take advantage of the helpless, which some would do with a widow; and God is the advocate of widows. Jer. 49:11 reads: [If you] Abandon your orphans; I will preserve them; let your widows trust in Me.


Recall that in the previous verse, we are called upon to sing to God and to rejoice before Him; some of the reasons that we should do so is, God is a father to orphans and He is an advocate of widows.

 

Barnes writes: [God] will see justice done them; he will save them from oppression and wrong. No persons are more liable to be oppressed and wronged than widows. They are regarded as incapable of defending or vindicating their own rights, and are likely to be deceived and betrayed by those to whom their property and rights may be entrusted. Hence, the care which God manifests for them; hence, his solemn charges, so often made to those who are in authority, and who are entrusted with power, to respect their rights; hence, his frequent and solemn rebukes to those who violate their rights. Footnote


From the very beginning, God required honest and just treatment to those who were less able to fend for themselves: Ex. 22:22–24: "You must not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. If you do mistreat them, they will no doubt cry to Me, and I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will burn, and I will kill you with the sword; then your wives will be widows and your children fatherless.” Deut. 10:17–18: For the LORD your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, mighty, and awesome God, showing no partiality and taking no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreign resident, giving him food and clothing. Deut. 14:29: Then the Levite, who has no portion or inheritance among you, the foreign resident, fatherless, and widow within your gates may come, eat, and be satisfied. And the LORD your God will bless you in all the work of your hands that you do. Deut. 24:17: Do not deny justice to a foreign resident or fatherless child, and do not take a widow's garment as security. Here, the idea is, a widow has nothing which is an asset that she can give as collateral for a loan, and God warns not to take her clothing as collateral. See also Job 24:3, 21 Psalm 10:14, 18 82:3–4 146:7–9 147:6 Isa. 1:17 Jer. 7:6 Mal. 3:5 James 1:27. Again, the idea is, you take care of the helpless (the passages from the Law were God’s instructions to a theocratic nation).


I want you to notice the stark contrast between this and the previous verse. In the previous verse, God is spoken of as the Leader of the people of Israel, an impression one must take away from reading almost any portion of the Old Testament. Here, God is seen as the One Who protects the helpless, Whose concern is as much with those who have not as it is with those who have. The God of the Bible is always presented as being simultaneously powerful and yet concerned with the lowest and weakest of His people.


Application: As you have no doubt understood from some of the things that I write, I have conservative values. This does not mean that I am opposed to welfare nor does this mean that I believe that government should not be in the business of helping the helpless. As is clearly seen above, in a theocracy, God demanded fair treatment for orphans and widows. There were circumstances under the Law where the poor were allowed to glean produce from private fields and orchards, where a portion of the produce was to be left behind on the trees. So, you will notice, there is an exchange here. God did not require a farmer to pick the produce and give it to the poor; but they were allowed to come and work somewhat in order to take the produce from his land. They did not actually work for the landowner; nor did he simply cut them a check. When it comes to someone being helpless, God had a provisions for them, so that society did not neglect them. Now, if God required that system in a theocracy, should not our nation, with Christian values, do essentially the same? Some provision should be made for those who are helpless. Personally, I have no problem with a check being written to those in dire situations, e.g., the abandoned mother with cancer and 4 children. On the other hand, I am less inclined to approve a simply writing a check to a single mother with 4 children, which is exactly what our welfare system does. She should certainly spend some time in the field, so to speak. For instance, I know of a mother and a daughter who live together, and the daughter is unmarried with 2 or 3 children. It is debatable whether the mother is able to hold a job, but the daughter is young and reasonably intelligent. Welfare should not simply cut them a check—the mother is physically capable of watching her grandchildren and the daughter is capable of working. We have to have a balance here. Furthermore, this is important to the mental health of the daughter. A person whose primary function in life is to get up in the morning and sit down in front of the television is going to be an unfulfilled, unhappy individual. We are made in the image of God, a God Who creates; and it is our desire to create as well. This sort of thing is satisfying and work for most people is satisfying and fulfilling.


Application: One of the great problems of our welfare system is, women are paid to have children and to remain single. Worse case scenario is, the government is going to pick up their tab and give them just enough sustenance to keep them in poverty. One political party is seen as the champion of the poor in this way, so their goal is to maintain people in poverty. A single mother is far more likely to remain in poverty for most of her life; and her children are likely to be poverty stricken as well. These are votes for liberals and liberals therefore must keep them in this situation. Government also attempts to pick up the slack here when it comes to raising the child, the same liberal party asking to get into the education of children at an earlier and earlier age. One politician wrote the book It Takes a Village (to raise a child). It doesn’t take a village—optimal condition is one woman and one man. Our society is based upon this, and deviating from this model, even if unintentionally, is a bad idea. If the government is going to do any social engineering at all, it should be to encourage nuclear families and to encourage productivity. Instead, our government encourages fatherless families and women who will not work.


Application: In the same vein, our government appears to do this for one particular group of people (or, that is how things are in Texas, where I encounter this). During the time that I have been associated with the welfare system and non-nuclear families, I have come across 1 Hispanic single mother with children, 1 white single mother with children and hundreds of Black single mother families, many with 3 or more children, and virtually all of those with a variety of last names. Anyone apart from an ideologue will realize that when you perpetuate single-mother households with a handful of children, there are going to be difficulties much greater than those faced by the traditional nuclear family, and these problems will be disproportionate to whichever group the government appears to favor and to perpetuate.


Psalm 68:5c

Hebrew/Pronunciation

Common English Meanings

Notes/Morphology

BDB and Strong’s Numbers

be (׃) [pronounced beh]

in, into, at, by, near, on, with, before, in the presence of, upon, against, by means of, among, within

a preposition of proximity

Strong’s #none BDB #88

mâ׳ôwn (ןעָמ) [pronounced maw-ĢOHN]

dwelling, habitation; refuge

masculine singular construct

Strong’s #4583 BDB #732

qôdesh (שדֹק) [pronounced koh-DESH]

holiness, sacredness, apartness, that which is holy, holy things

masculine singular noun with the 3rd person masculine singular suffix

Strong's #6944 BDB #871


Translation: ...in His holy habitation. This is an interesting addition to this verse, and cannot be understood as God being a protector and defender of widows and orphans in heaven; nor do we have the preposition from to indicate that God does this from heaven. I believe the idea is, when God’s Word is obeyed, the helpless are taken care of. In the Mosaic Law, we find instance after instance where the Law is written to protect those who cannot protect themselves.

 

Barnes has an interesting take on this, saying that a man’s character is better known within his own home, and that God’s character—that He is concerned with the widows and the orphans—reveals essential elements of His character which may not be known outside of His holy habitation That is, the outside world knows of whirlwinds and storms, but does not necessarily perceive of God as a Helper to the helpless. The entire quote is: The design of the psalmist seems to be to take us at once up to God; to let us see what he is in his holy home; to conduct us into his very presence, that we may see him as he is. What a man is we see in his own home - when we get near to him; when we look upon him, not on great or state occasions, when he is abroad, and assumes appearances befitting his rank and office, but in his own house; as he is constantly. This is the idea here, that if we approach God most nearly, if we look upon him, not merely in the splendor and magnificence in which he appears in governing the worlds, in his judgments, in storm and tempest, riding on the clouds and controlling the ocean, but, as it were, in his own dwelling, his quiet heavens - if we look most closely at his character, we shall find that character best represented by the kind and benignant traits of a father - in his care for widows and orphans. In other words, the more we see of God - the more we become intimately acquainted with his real nature - the more evidence we shall find that he is benevolent and kind. Footnote


I believe that part of what is being conveyed is, God is presented as the Rider in the desert wilderness, as One Who leads all of the Exodus generation; however, even as their great leader, He still looks out for the widows and orphans, as the many passages which I have already quoted from the Law so indicate.

 

The NET Bible® simply says, He occupies His throne, and [from there He] carries out His royal responsibilities. Footnote These royal responsibilities would include being a Father to the orphans and an advocate of the oppressed widow.


Application: I believe that some nations are judged according to how they deal with the helpless in that nation. However, lest we become too fatheaded, our system of welfare has become a system to buy votes for one particular party while many people who are nearly helpless or totally helpless are left out of the system. I have known of many families who could have taken care of themselves; who could have pulled together and made things work, but, because of welfare and government assistance, did nothing but sit around and take money. Furthermore, this robs people of their dignity and their desire to work. On the other hand, I knew one woman who had 4 children, she was diagnosed with cancer, and her husband left her—she is a woman who needed help, and she got very little help from our government. Obviously, no system will ever be 100% fair; however, easily half of those whom I know have received governmental assistance could have made it without the assistance.


Application: When governmental assistance has the hidden agenda to purchase votes for one party or the other, there are a number of negative results—in the case of African-Americans, welfare has destroyed the Black family, where ¾ ths of the African-American children born today are born into either a single-mother home or to a couple who are not married (if memory serves, in the 60's, 3% of children were born out of wedlock). The foundation and stability of our society is the family, and that has been destroyed for the Black race. Footnote Remove the father from the home and you remove the child’s great stabilizing and guiding factor. And all of the marching in the world is not going to solve this problem; it is both based upon individual choices as well as imposed by a mis-guided government (I am giving government the benefit of the doubt here). As long as single Black women are rewarded and taken care of by our government, that model of a Black family will be the dominant form.


Application: Again, this does not mean that we should remove all governmental programs nor is it a complete, all-out indictment of welfare; where God’s Word is taught, there should be protection afforded to the helpless.


Elohim [is] a Father to the fatherless

and an advocate of the widows

in His holy habitation.

Psalm 68:5 Summarized

1.      In the previous verse, we are called upon to sing to God and to exalt Him. In this verse, we are told of His character—essentially telling us why we ought to sing praises to Him.

2.      God is a Father to the orphans. God, in His provisions to Israel, a theocracy, He protects the helpless.

3.      God is an advocate of the widows. Women in a society are often taken advantage of, and God required of Israel to avoid that sort of behavior; God required that widows be treated fairly. We today are, as believers and as representatives, to be honest and we are to take care of the helpless. This is an individual responsibility, to be done as an individual and through private organizations.

4.      This does not mean we should develop a welfare system in our government which makes parasites out of those in need.

5.      Furthermore, this does not mean that we reach into the pockets of others, through our vote, and require them to pay for the social programs which we deem important. It is not charity to give away someone else’s money.

6.      This does not mean that we should not support a government-run welfare system; however, this welfare should help the helpless; and enable those in temporary need to receive some temporary help. In all cases where it is possible, work should be exchanged for welfare.

7.      Finally, God is said to be in His holy habitation, which is generally interpreted as being heaven, from which He dispenses grace and justice. This does not negate God being omnipresent. Apparently, God establishes a special presence in various places, and one of those places is the 3rd heaven.

All things require some sort of balance; obeying God’s requirements for dealing with the helpless requires some careful balance as well. That is, we don’t simply dole out money, particularly the money which others have worked hard to earn. That the United States has a welfare system is a good thing; that this system is more apt to make people more and more dependent upon the government is a very evil thing.


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Elohim causes to dwell solitary ones house-ward;

He is leading out prisoners into prosperity [or, freedom];

but stubborn ones have tabernacled in a parched region.

Psalm

68:6

Elohim causes those who are solitary to live in a household;

He leads captives [possibly, slaves] into freedom [or, prosperity];

but those who are willful [and headstrong] have settled into a scorched region.

God takes those who are alone and places them into households;

God leads those who are enslaved into freedom and prosperity;

however, those who are willful and headstrong choose to live in scorched regions.


Here is how others have translated this verse:


Ancient texts:

 

Latin Vulgate                          God who makes men of one manner to dwell in a house: Who brings out them that were bound in strength; in like manner them that provoke, that dwell in sepulchers.

Masoretic Text                       Elohim causes to dwell solitary ones house-ward;

He is leading out prisoners into prosperity [or, freedom];

but stubborn ones have tabernacled in a parched region.

Peshitta                                  God sets the solitary child in families; He triumphantly releases those who are bound with chains; but the rebellious dwell in waste places.

Septuagint                              God settles the solitary in a house; leading forth prisoners mightily, also them that act provokingly, even them that dwell in tombs.

 

Significant differences:           In the Hebrew, Greek and Latin, solitary ones are made to live in a house; in the Syriac, solitary children are placed into families. In the Hebrew, God leads out prisoners to freedom. In the Latin and Greek, this is related to strength; possibly by means of strength. In the Syriac, the are bound with chains. The problem here is the Hebrew word is found nowhere else, so its definition is difficult to ascertain. We will say more about that in the exegesis of this verse.

 

In the Hebrew and Syriac, stubborn ones dwell in a parched region or in waste places; the Latin and Greek have them dwelling in tombs or sepulchers. Furthermore, it is not apparent that God makes them live in tombs in the Greek and Latin.

 

We’ve done a lot of work in the book of Samuel, where there were considerable differences in the ancient texts. In most cases, the differences meant very little when the verse was understood in context; here, where interpreting the psalm is so difficult to begin with, these changes could greatly affect the understanding of each verse.

 

We should recognize that, when a text is translated, often there is an attempt to make the text understandable, if the translator is confused as to its meaning. Our paraphrased Bibles do this constantly. Therefore, this must be kept in mind when reviewing the ancient translations. However, also bear in mind, if an ancient text is just as difficult to figure out as the Masoretic text (which is certainly the case in the final phrase of this verse), then it is less likely that an ancient translator got creative or interpretive with the Hebrew text, and more likely that he simply translated the Hebrew text before him, which differs from our Hebrew text. Again, this compounds the difficulty of understanding the meaning of each phrase.


Thought-for-thought translations; paraphrases:

 

CEV                                       You find families for those who are lonely. You set prisoners free and let them prosper, but all who rebel will live in a scorching desert.

EasyEnglish *Churchyard)     God gives a home to lonely people.

He leads people out of prison (and they hear) music.

But people that do not obey (God) will continue to live in a land where the hot sun burns the ground.

Good News Bible (TEV)         He gives the lonely a home to live in and leads prisoners out into happy freedom, but rebels will have to live in a desolate land.

The Message                         God makes homes for the homeless, leads prisoners to freedom, but leaves rebels to rot in hell.

New American Bible              Who gives a home to the forsaken,

who leads prisoners out to prosperity,

while rebels live in the desert.

Revised English Bible            God gives the friendless a home

and leads the prisoner out in all safety,

but rebels must remain in the scorching desert.


Mostly literal renderings (with some occasional paraphrasing):

 

Bible in Basic English             Those who are without friends, God puts in families; he makes free those who are in chains; but those who are turned away from him are given a dry land.

Complete Apostles’ Bible      God settles the solitary in a house; leading forth prisoners mightily, also them that act provokingly, even them that dwell in tombs.

God’s Word                         God places lonely people in families. He leads prisoners out of prison into productive lives, but rebellious people must live in an unproductive land.

HCSB                                     God provides homes for those who are deserted. He leads out the prisoners to prosperity, but the rebellious live in a scorched land.

NET Bible®                             God settles those who have been deserted in their own homes;

he frees prisoners and grants them prosperity.

But sinful rebels live in the desert.

New International Version      God sets the lonely in families,

he leads forth the prisoners with singing;

but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.

The Scriptures 1998              Elohim makes a home for the lonely; He brings out into prosperity Those who are bound with chains; Only the rebellious shall dwell in a dry land.


Literal, almost word-for-word, renderings:

 

Updated Emphasized Bible    God is He who causes the solitary to live in a home [Ginsburg thinks this should be “...who brings absent ones home”]

Who brings out prisoners into prosperity,

But [so 3 early printed editions; but the Septuagint, Syriac and Vulgate all have moreover or yea] the rebellious have made their homes in a sunburnt land.

Hebrew Names Version         God sets the lonely in families. He brings out the prisoners with singing, but the rebellious dwell in a sun-scorched land.

New King James Version       God sets the solitary in families;

He brings out those who are bound into prosperity;

But the rebellious dwell in a dry land.

NRSV                                     God gives the desolate a home to live in;

he leads out the prisoners to prosperity,

but the rebellious live in a parched land.

Updated Bible Version 2.11   God sets the solitary in families: He brings out the prisoners into prosperity; But the rebellious stay in a parched land.

A Voice in the Wilderness      God causes those who are alone to live in households; He delivers those who are bound into prosperity; but the rebellious dwell in a dry land.

Young's Literal Translation     God--causing the lonely to dwell at home, Bringing out bound ones into prosperity, Only--the refractory have inhabited a dry place.


What is the gist of this verse? God takes the child who is alone and places that child in a home; God takes captives (from war) and brings them into prosperity; but the rebellious choose to live in a parched, dry land.


Psalm 68:6a

Hebrew/Pronunciation

Common English Meanings

Notes/Morphology

BDB and Strong’s Numbers

Ělôhîym (מי̣הֹלֱא) [pronounced el-o-HEEM]

gods, foreign gods, god; God; rulers, judges; superhuman ones, angels; transliterated Elohim

masculine plural noun

Strong's #430 BDB #43

yâshab (בַשָי) [pronounced yaw-SHAHBV]

to cause to remain [stay, inhabit, sit, dwell]; to cause [a woman] to live [with someone]; to cause [a land] to be inhabited

Hiphil participle

Strong's #3427 BDB #442

yâchîd (די  ̣חָי) [pronounced yaw-KHEED]

single, solitary, only one [as in only-begotten, only child]

masculine plural adjective/substantive

Strong's  #3173 BDB #402

bayith (ת̣י ַ) [pronounced BAH-yith]

house, household, habitation as well as inward

masculine singular noun with the directional hê

Strong's #1004 BDB #108


Translation: Elohim causes those who are solitary to live in a household;... God takes those who are alone and He places them into households. One might interpret that God gives them a family (which might be why the Syriac text says that God places the solitary child into families. This phrase should be seen as an extension of what God does, and why we ought to praise Him. Previously, He is said to be a father to orphans and an advocate of widows; here, God takes those who are solitary (one might reasonably understand these to be orphans), and God places them into families.


We are not given any mechanics here, so let me suggest that God cuts off the womb of some women who desire children, in order that they may adopt a child. God works in complicated ways, and I don’t mean to suggest that, every now and then, God looks down, and chooses a hundred thousand women that He makes childless. God set this earth in motion, with a myriad of events, which continue to affect all that occurs today; still respecting man’s volition.


Application: When a couple appears to be unable to have children, this may indicate that they ought to adopt. Whereas, I do recognize that science can step in at this point, and, for a considerable sum of money, possibly cause parents to have children; some of their methods could be questionable (harvesting and freezing eggs; fertilizing eggs outside the womb and implanting them, etc.). I’ve got nothing against science; but when fertilization results in embryos which are experimented on (and often, when a couple is childless, and a set of methods do not work, then several eggs are fertilized), then we are entering into an area where we are experimenting with life. I have no problems if that is done with animals; I am concerned when this is done with human embryos. At the very least, this cheapens life, which is the exact opposite of what the parents intend to happen.


Application: Life continually throws a person curves; there are times when we are to resist the changes, and there are definitely times that we should adapt to the changes which we face. I’ve faced a number of life-changing events; and I had one, where I was asked to leave a job, where I faced it one way at one point in my life, and another way at another point in my life. In retrospect, I believe that I responded correctly in both cases, even though my response was different. In the first instance, I fought to retain my job, which ended up being very rewarding; and in the latter, I walked away from the job, which also ended up being very rewarding. Let me suggest that, if you are childless couple and you want children, then you ought to consider adoption as a viable alternative, rather than creating viable life which may end up getting experimented on. I realize, there are a lot of steps between infertility and creating viable life outside the womb; but, sometimes, God nudges us in this or that direction, and we ought to go in this or that direction. Parents have had wonderful families with adopted children; and God has even, under certain circumstances, made a previously infertile couple fertile. My application here is, if God seems to be nudging you in any direction, then that ought to be the direction in which you go. Obviously, the more doctrine that is in your soul, the easier it is for God to guide you.


Application: Let me take this tangent one more step. As I have testified to in other chapters of exegesis, one of the easiest things in the Christian life is divine guidance. It may appear to be obscure and difficult to nail down, but let me assure you that, God has a plan for your life; this plan involves changes now and again; and God can lead you in the way you ought to go. The more your mind is tuned to divine viewpoint, the easier it is for God to guide you. In the context of our psalm, God is guiding solitary children into families by working in the hearts and lives of a number of people (more than just the lives of the principals involved). Furthermore, God has reasons from moving a child from family A to family B. These are not simply arbitrary actions. God is not arbitrary; God’s plan has purpose. Again, when God throws you a curve, then you adapt to that curve.


Psalm 68:6b

Hebrew/Pronunciation

Common English Meanings

Notes/Morphology

BDB and Strong’s Numbers

yâtsâ (אָצָי) [pronounced yaw-TZAWH]

to cause to go out, to lead out, to bring out, to carry out, to draw out, to take out; [of money:] to put forth, to lay out, to exact; to promulgate; to produce

Hiphil participle

Strong's #3318 BDB #422

âçîyr (רי.ָא) [pronounced aw-SEER]

prisoner, captive, bondman

masculine plural noun

Strong’s #615 BDB #64

be (׃) [pronounced beh]

in, into, at, by, near, on, with, before, in the presence of, upon, against, by means of, among, within

a preposition of proximity

Strong’s #none BDB #88

kôwshârâh (הָרָש) [pronounced koh-shaw-RAW]

prosperity; freedom (?); singing (?)

feminine plural noun with the definite article

Strong’s #3574 BDB #507

In the Greek and Latin, God leads the captives by might or in strength.

Part of the problem is, this feminine plural noun occurs only here. Its verbal cognate means to be advantageous, to be proper, to succeed. A masculine noun cognate for the verb means skill, success. Therefore, interpreting this noun to mean prosperity or even freedom is more likely than strength.

If we look at this portion of v. 6 as being somewhat parallel with the previous portion of v. 6, then my translation has the most to recommend it. We are going from one status to another essentially opposite status in both cases; therefore, God’s ability is not being highlighted (i.e., His strength), but what He does is being highlighted (taking a captive and making them prosperous).


Translation: ...He leads captives [possibly, slaves] into freedom [or, prosperity];... Those who are taken prisoner in war often became slaves; God leads these into freedom and prosperity.


In these past two phrases, we are speaking of changes which God causes in the life of another. In the previous phrase, God places an orphan (by interpretation) into a family. In this phrase, God leads a captive into freedom. First off, we should recognize that a captive or a prisoner in the ancient world was not always the result of criminal behavior; in fact, most of the time, a captive had not committed a crime, but was on the losing side of a war. So, when we speak of captives or prisoners in the Scriptures, recognize that we are referring to those who have been enslaved in warfare. So we are speaking of God bringing an enslaved person into freedom here; He is not letting some criminal loose early.


Application: Again, we are dealing with a person in a difficult circumstance, and God changes that person’s status. Nothing could be worse than to be taken as a slave in warfare, and then treated as a possession. In time, God has led many slaves into freedom. Through the United States, many nations whose people were enslaved to a doctrine, to the very nation in which they were born, many of these were set free. Through our efforts throughout the world, even places where we should have had a better showing, even those places have developed some freedom—e.g., Vietnam, where Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) is a bastion of free enterprise. We left prematurely, and millions of people died because of our lack of resolve; but, free enterprise remained simply because we had been there. Greater freedoms would have result and fewer would have died, had we stayed and defeated the North Vietnamese; but God still took these circumstances and worked them for good.


We have a Scriptural example of this. Joseph, a strong believer in Jehovah Elohim, was sold into slavery by his brothers, and he ended up in Egypt. God not only worked this for the good of Joseph, but for the good of those who had sold him into slavery. Furthermore, Joseph revealed no bitterness or anger over what had happened, a testimony to the grace in his soul.


Now, bear in mind, God does not do this for every person taken into captivity. This is not a promise that God will set all captives free; this tells us that God can and does move those who are captive into prosperity, as in the case of Joseph.


Let’s go back to the author and the time that this psalm was written. Recall that David tried unsuccessfully to move the Ark and this resulted in the death of one of the Ark’s caretakers. David stopped that procession, but, 3 months later, David moves the Ark again. As we have studied, David learned some doctrine since then. He studied the Scriptures and found how to move the Ark. I think what we have here is, David, in reading the Scriptures, wrote this psalm as a result, quoting things which God had done. So here, David is very likely thinking about Joseph, whom he had read about, and about how God led this captive Joseph into great prosperity. Or David may have been thinking of Israel, taken out of Egypt, taken out of slavery, and brought into a land flowing with milk and honey, so that they might enjoy houses which they did not build and wells which they had not dug.

 

Spurgeon also applies this to the Exodus generation: “God places the solitary in families.” The people had been sundered and scattered over Egypt; family ties had been disregarded, and affections crushed; but when the people escaped from Pharaoh they came together again, and all the fond associations of household life were restored, This was a great joy. “He brings oat those which are bound with chains.” The most oppressed in Egypt were chained find imprisoned, but the divine Emancipator brought them all forth into perfect liberty. He who did this of old continues His gracious work. The solitary heart, convinced of sin and made to pine alone, is admitted into the family of the First-born; the fettered spirit is set free, and its prison broken down, when sin is forgiven; and for all this, God is to be greatly extolled, for He has done it, and magnified the glory of his grade. Footnote


We have ample parallel verses as well: Psalm 107:10–14: Those who live in the darkness, and in the shadow of death, being prisoners in affliction and iron, because they rebelled against the Words of God, and despised the counsel of the Most High; and He humbled their heart by toil; they stumbled, and none were helping; and they cried to Jehovah in their distress; He saved them out of their distresses; He brought them out from darkness and the shadow of death; and He broke their bonds apart. Psalm 146:5–7: Blessed is he who has the God of Jacob in his help; his hope is on Jehovah his God, who made the heavens and the earth, the seas and all that is in them; who keeps truth forever; who executes judgment for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry; Jehovah sets free the prisoners. Luke 4:17–21 (Isa. 61:1–2): And the scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to Him. And unrolling the book, He found the place where it was written: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me. Because of this He anointed Me to proclaim the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim remission to captives, and to the blind to see again, to send away the ones being crushed, in remission, to preach an acceptable year of the Lord." And rolling up the scroll, returning it to the attendant, He sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your ears.


One might also interpret these words spiritually, if you will. The solitary one, the one without, is the unbeliever who turns to God; he is without God, and he turns to God. God blesses him with a house or a household. Furthermore, in eternity, God blesses him with a place in heaven. John 14:2: “In My Father's house are many dwelling places. But if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you!” On this earth, we are subject to our sin nature. We are tempted to do wrong and we often give in to the temptation. We are, in this way, enslaved to sin. God will lead us from temptation on earth, and He will remove the sin nature from us in eternity.


Psalm 68:6c

Hebrew/Pronunciation

Common English Meanings

Notes/Morphology

BDB and Strong’s Numbers

ake ( ַא) [pronounced ahke]

surely, certainly, no doubt, only, but; only now, just now, scarcely; only this once; nothing but, merely [before a substantive]; quite, altogether [before an adjective]

adverb of restriction, contrast, time, limitation, and exception. Also used as an affirmative particle. Expanded meanings given here.

Strong’s #389 BDB #36

çârar (רַרָס) [pronounced saw-RAHR

stubborn, rebellious, willful, headstrong [and uncontrollable]

masculine plural, Qal active participle

Strong’s #5637 BDB #710

shâkan (ן ַכ ָש) [pronounced shaw-KAHN]

to tabernacle, to pitch a tent; to dwell, to reside, to live in, to domicile at, to settle, to settle down, to encamp

3rd person masculine plural, Qal perfect

Strong’s #7931 BDB #1014

tsechîychâh (הָחי.חצ) [pronounced tseh-khee-KHAW]

scorched [parched] land, an arid region [area]

feminine singular noun

Strong’s #6707 BDB #850

The Greek and Latin have even to those who dwell in tombs at the end here, which makes little sense.


Translation: ...but those who are willful [and headstrong] have settled into a scorched region. This is the contrasting line to the previous two. There are those who are headstrong, willful, stubborn and uncontrollable. This indicates that we are speaking of unbelievers here. One important difference between this and the previous two lines is, here we have the Qal, and in the previous two lines, we have the Hiphil (the causal stem). In the previous two lines, God caused things to happen for those who are solitary and for those who were captives; however, here, the stubborn are not caused to live in an arid, scorched region; they themselves pitch a tent there; they themselves choose to live there. This line is both parallel to the previous lines, as well as contrasted with the previous lines.

 

Gill gives a slightly different, but reasonable interpretation: but the rebellious dwell in a dry land; meaning the Jews, to whom Christ came, and whom they rejected, reviled, hated, and would not have him to reign over them, and were a gainsaying and disobedient people; for which their land was smitten with a curse, and in the time of their wars became a dry land; when famine and pestilence were everywhere, and such tribulation as was never known, (Isa. 8:21—And they shall pass through it, hard pressed and hungry. And it shall be, they shall be hungry; he will rave and curse his king and his God, and face upward). Moreover, the nations of the world, among whom they are dispersed, are a dry land to them; and even such places as are become fruitful through the preaching of the Gospel are no other to them, who neither do hear it, nor will they hear it; and they are like persons in a dry and thirsty land, vainly expecting a Messiah, who will never come. This may also be applied to all that obey not the Gospel of Christ, who will be punished with everlasting destruction from his presence, and shall not have a drop of cold water allowed them to cool their tongue. The allusion may be thought to be to the Jews, that murmured and rebelled against God, and vexed his Spirit in the wilderness, where their carcasses fell; and so dwelt in a dry land, and entered not into rest, or the land of Canaan. Footnote


Application: It is normal to feel compassion for men, women and children whom we see as innocent in Arabic countries. There is often internal unrest, warring factions and suppression of thought. But, bear in mind, they choose to be Muslim. Muslim countries tend to be poor, oppressive and filled with violence. Iraq and Lebanon both elected Muslim leaders, and Lebanon, despite being a prosperous thriving democracy, has sunk into internal warfare since the last election. You may protest, they don’t have any choice; they are born into this! However, in the United States, in a country which is very prosperous, where there are almost unlimited opportunities, Muslims are attempting to impose Muslim ways on our country. At this point in time (2007), these are small things: cab drivers who do not want to pick up people who are morally offensive to them; some who have insisted on specific prayer rooms and foot baths at airports; those who have put on big shows at US airports, and have then sued when people became concerned about their erratic behavior. These things in themselves seem innocuous, but this is a movement which is getting larger and wanting to have more privileges and more religious areas and things at their disposal in secular places. A recent survey (the Pew Survey) shows that 26% of American Muslims under 30 believe that, under some circumstances, suicide bombings are justified. That is a mindset; that is a way of thinking; that is a stubborn person choosing to live in a scorched and arid region. A further example of being willful and stubborn: a significant number of newspapers either did not report this particular fact or they buried it deep into a story about this Pew Survey.


Application: Going on a tangent from above, some news organizations defended their approach to this story by alleging that the big story is, most Muslims in the US are better integrated, more Americanized and less radical that Muslims outside of the States. Such news organizations tend to ignore or bury stories or under-report aspects of stories which do not fit with their world view. It is not news that most Muslims in the US are temperate and law-abiding and live-and-let-live individuals. We see this day after day in the lack of Muslim violence inside our country. So, that most Muslims in the US are not crazy radicals is not news! The fact that there is a significant percentage of US Muslims who believe that killing innocent men, women and children in order to make a political statement is sometimes justified—that is news. That is shocking.


Application: Our news organizations are intentionally slanting a huge portion of the news: All one has to do is to read the headlines for most stories. Marines struggle against Insurgents. Two Marines killed. reads the liberal paper's headline. The conservative paper reads: Marines take rest of Najaf. Enemy routed. Footnote This was taken from a forum; and, unbelievably enough, there were arguments from liberals that it is important that 2 Marines were killed and that should be in the headline. These are people who choose to live in an arid region. God does not place them there; they choose that place for themselves.


Application: It is clear from an examination of the U.A.E. or of Dubai that not only do Arab nations sit on enough oil in order to make the entire nation prosperous, but that this can be done—it is realistic and achievable. But, instead, Arabs choose to live in arid, scorched regions; God does not place them there.


Back to the understanding of this verse: ...but those who are willful [and headstrong] have settled into a scorched region. Perhaps David first considered Joseph, as in the previous line, and how is thinking about those who were living in the Land of Promise for the 7 years of drought. The sons of Jacob did go to Egypt for food, and were eventually brought with their families to stay with Joseph during the famine which followed; but others—the willful and stubborn—remained in the land, which, for 7 years, was a scorched region. The application which I gave above is apt; but, I also wanted to give this from David’s viewpoint; taking what he probably read and translating it thousands of years ago into poetry.


Furthermore, bear in mind that, even in the desert, God brought food and water to Israel for 40 years. God would have let their negative attitudes die off completely in the desert, had not Moses, their intercessor, stand between them and God’s wrath. Because of Moses, these people were led from the desert wilderness into the Land of Promise, a land flowing with milk and honey.


By the way, what differentiates a desert from a land flowing with milk and honey? Rain. Simple rain (or snow). Who controls that? God does. With all the science and weather information which we have gathered over the past 50 years, our weathermen still have difficulty determining when it will rain or how much. In the city of Houston, where I live, there have been at least two instances of 35 inches of rain falling on some parts of this general area in one 24 hour period; and, although the weathermen were able to predict rain, no one had any idea as to how much rain we were going to get. Throughout this past week, where I live, we have been given anywhere from a 30 to a 60% chance of rain. Does this mean that it is going to actually rain? We really don’t know. Although there are definitely some days where a weatherman can unequivocally predict rain or sunshine, there are as many days where you might as well just toss a coin in the air. God has set up an extremely complex set of laws into place which govern our weather. He knows, with 100% accuracy, where it will rain and where it won’t; and He knows, to whatever precision is required, how much rain will fall over this or that place. God can (and will) make the desert into a lush, green forest, simply by adding rain. But, those who are willful and headstrong, they will be placed into a scorched region. Psalm 105:33–35: He sets rivers to a wilderness, and water springs to thirsty ground; a fruitful land to a salty desert; because of the wickedness of those who live in it. He puts the wilderness into pools of water; and dry land into water-spring.


There are parallel verses as well to this portion of the psalm: Deut. 28:23–24: And your heavens over your head shall become bronze, and the earth under you iron. Jehovah shall make the rain of your land be dust and ashes. It shall come down on you from the heavens until you are destroyed. Mal. 1:3: I have hated Esau and have made his mountains a desolation, and his inheritance to be for the jackals of the wilderness.


Again, we might reasonably interpret this verse spiritually: those who spend their lives against God, being willful and stubborn, never believing in His Son, will spend eternity in the Lake of Fire. By the way, let me add, rarely does the Old Testament speak of the Lake of Fire (or Hell); and there are few passages in the New which speak of it. We find the place where the Lake of Fire is mentioned the most often is in the gospels by our Lord. No one is more fit to speak of hell than the One Who gives us life, than the One Who delivers us from hell, than the One Who experienced hell on our behalf.

 

Barnes sums up this verse: The idea is, that the condition of the rebellious as contrasted with that of those whom God has under his protection would be as a fertile and well-watered field compared with a desert. For the one class he would provide a comfortable home; the other, the wicked, would be left as if to dwell in deserts and solitudes: In other words, the difference in condition between those who are the objects of his favor, and those who are found in proud rebellion against him, would be as great as that between such as have comfortable abodes in a land producing abundance, and such as are wretched and homeless wanderers in regions of arid sand. While God be-friends the poor and the needy, while he cares for the widow and the orphan, he leaves the rebel to misery and want. The allusion here probably is to his conducting his people through the desert to the land of promise and of plenty; but still the passage contains a general truth in regard to the principles of his administration. Footnote


You may ask, which of these interpretations is accurate? No doubt, David was thinking of Joseph or he was thinking of the Jews when it came to God taking a solitary one and giving him a house; and he must have been thinking about Joseph or about the Exodus generation when he wrote of being led from slavery into freedom (or, into prosperity); contrasting this with the negative volition of the Egyptians when God required them to let His people go. However, God the Holy Spirit, Who inspired David, would have in His mind the other interpretations which I have offered. The idea is, God did not just do these things only one time in human history; what is spoken of here is what God does often with His people. In other words, whether David’s focus was narrow or broad, we may broadly apply this verse. Furthermore, we find the participle used twice in this verse, which would indicate what God typically does. Therefore, we are not speaking of one incident alone, but of God’s modus operandi. However, when it comes to those whom God makes live in a parched, dry area, David uses the Qal perfect, which indicates a completed action, a finality. If we choose against God—if we spend every moment of our lives rejecting Jesus Christ as our Savior—God assigns us to a parched land, to the Lake of Fire, and this assignment is forever.


Application: We need to think when we apply this verse. Take some homeless man—any homeless man wandering the streets of this or that city. Most of the time, he finds himself in that position because he has abused drugs and/or alcohol. If any homeless person turns toward God—if he believes in Jesus Christ—and is positive toward the teaching of God’s Word after that, we may reasonably assume that, at some point, God will lead this man away from the parched places into a home; away from his captivity to drugs and alcohol, into freedom. However, realize that there is also the promise to the homeless man who is wilful and stubborn—he will continue to occupy parched places. The key is that man’s volition.


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This next verse is going to be a bit of an odd duck. The structure clearly associates this verse with a main verb or a set of main verbs (the bêyth preposition along with the infinitive construct usually sets a temporal marker to be associated with a main verb). It does not appear that this temporal relationship belongs with the verse which we just covered; however, if this is to be associated with the verse that follows, then it is odd that we find a musical interlude between this and verse after. However, this is not unheard of in the realm of music. I can think of one particular song where a stanza ended with a particular word, but that word was not spoken; then there was a musical interlude and that word was the first word in the next stanza. Footnote An unusual thing to do, just as what David will do here is unusual.


God with Israel in Sinai


Elohim, in Your going forth to faces of Your people;

in Your marching in desert;..

Selah!

Psalm

68:7

O Elohim, when You went forth before Your people;

when You marched in the desert wasteland;..

[Musical] Pause [or, musical interlude; lit., Selah!]

O God, when You went out in front of Your people;

and when you marched before them in the desert wasteland;...

[Musical interlude].


Here is how others have translated this verse:


Ancient texts:

 

Masoretic Text                       Elohim, in Your going forth to faces of Your people;

in Your marching in desert;..

Selah!

Septuagint                              O God, when You went forth before your people, when You went through the wilderness; Pause.

 

Significant differences:           No significant differences.


Thought-for-thought translations; paraphrases:

 

CEV                                       You set your people free, and you led them through the desert.

The Message                         God, when you took the lead with your people, when you marched out into the wild,...

Revised English Bible            God, when at the head of your people

you marched out through the barren waste,... [Selah


Mostly literal renderings (with some occasional paraphrasing):

 

Bible in Basic English             O God, when you went out before your people, wandering through the waste land; Selah.

Complete Apostles’ Bible      O God, when You went forth before Your people, when You went through the wilderness; Pause:

God’s Word                         O God, when you went in front of your people, when you marched through the desert, Selah

JPS (Tanakh)                         O God, when You went at the head of Your army,

when You marched through the desert,..Selah.

NET Bible®                             O God, when you lead your people into battle,

when you march through the desert,.. (Selah).

The Scriptures 1998              O Elohim, when You went out before Your people, When You stepped through the wilderness, Selah.


Literal, almost word-for-word, renderings:

 

The Amplified Bible                O God when You went forth before Your people, when You marched through the wilderness, Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]!

LTHB                                     O God, when You marched before Your people, when You walked on through the wilderness. Selah.

Updated Bible Version 2.11   O God, when you went forth before your people, When you marched through the wilderness; Selah.

Young’s Updated LT             O God, in Your going forth before Your people, In Your stepping through the wilderness, Selah.


What is the gist of this verse? V. 7 sets up the next verse. The psalmist is speaking to God, and he says “When You went forth in front of Your people, when You marched [before them] through the wilderness...” However, the psalmist leaves the listener hanging at this point, and apparently breaks into a musical interlude.


Psalm 68:7a

Hebrew/Pronunciation

Common English Meanings

Notes/Morphology

BDB and Strong’s Numbers

Ělôhîym (מי̣הֹלֱא) [pronounced el-o-HEEM]

gods, foreign gods, god; God; rulers, judges; superhuman ones, angels; transliterated Elohim

masculine plural noun

Strong's #430 BDB #43

be (׃) [pronounced beh]

in, into, at, by, near, on, with, before, in the presence of, upon, against, by means of, among, within

a preposition of proximity

Strong’s #none BDB #88

yâtsâ (אָצָי) [pronounced yaw-TZAWH]

to go out, to come out, to come forth; to rise; to flow, to gush up [out]

Qal infinitive construct with the 2nd person masculine singular suffix

Strong's #3318 BDB #422

The infinitive construct, when combined with the bêyth preposition, can often take on a temporal meaning and may be rendered when [such and such happens]. It can serve as a temporal marker that denotes an event which occurs simultaneously with the action of the main verb.

lâmed (ל) (pronounced le)

to, for, towards, in regards to

directional/relational preposition

No Strong’s # BDB #510

pânîym (םי̣נָ) [pronounced paw-NEEM]

face, faces, countenance; presence

masculine plural construct (plural acts like English singular)

Strong’s #6440 BDB #815

Together, they mean upon the face of, before, before the face of, in the presence of, in the sight of, in front of. When used with God, it can take on the more figurative meaning in the judgment of. This can also mean forwards; the front part [or, the edge of a sword]. Lepânîym (םי.נָפל) can take on a temporal sense as well: before, of old, formerly, in the past, in past times.

׳am (ם ַע) [pronounced ģahm]

people; race, tribe; family, relatives; citizens, common people; companions, servants; entire human race; herd [of animals]

masculine singular collective noun with the 2nd person masculine singular suffix

Strong’s #5971 BDB #766


Translation: O Elohim, when You went forth before Your people;... As most translators agree, we have a temporal phase here, which we will need to affix to a main verb—one which comes before or after this verse. This is a phrase used to indicate a general going out before his army, as we find similar phrasing in Judges 4:14 9:39 2Sam. 5:24


We also should determine what period of time is under consideration here? The quick and easy answer is, when God led His people through the desert, which is in keeping with what follows and with what has preceded this. God led the Exodus generation as a cloud by day and God remained with Israel as a pillar of fire by night (Ex. 13:21).


Psalm 68:7b

Hebrew/Pronunciation

Common English Meanings

Notes/Morphology

BDB and Strong’s Numbers

be (׃) [pronounced beh]

in, into, at, by, near, on, with, before, in the presence of, upon, against, by means of, among, within

a preposition of proximity

Strong’s #none BDB #88

tsâ׳ad (ד-עָצ) [pronounced tzaw-ĢAHD]

to step, to march; to mount up

Qal infinitive construct with the 2nd person masculine singular suffix

Strong’s #6805 BDB #857

The infinitive construct, when combined with the bêyth preposition, can often take on a temporal meaning and may be rendered when [such and such happens]. It can serve as a temporal marker that denotes an event which occurs simultaneously with the action of the main verb.

be (׃) [pronounced beh]

in, into, at, by, near, on, with, before, in the presence of, upon, against, by means of, among, within

a preposition of proximity

Strong’s #none BDB #88

yeshîymôwn (ןמי̣ש׃י) [pronounced ye-shee-MOAN]

desert, wasteland, waste-place; transliterated Jeshimon

masculine singular noun

Strong’s #3452 BDB #445


Translation: ...when You marched in the desert wasteland;.. The time and place referred to here is, when God led Israel through the desert wilderness on their march from Egypt to the Land of Promise. As has been previously stated, when the Ark of God was going to move with Israel behind, Moses would speak the first line of this psalm (see Num. 10:35), and they would move out.


Now, interestingly enough, there is a pause here—a musical interlude—so the listener is thinking about when God leads His people through the desert wasteland, while there is music being played. Normally, we would expect a musical pause, and then another segment of the psalm is begun, but here, we think about God leading Israel through the desert and how this is going to be tied to what is coming—and we do this thinking during a musical interlude.

 

Gill comments: ...when You didst march through the wilderness; at the head of the Israelites, leading, guiding, and directing them; providing for them all things necessary, and protecting them against their enemies. And so Christ goes before his people, as they pass through the wilderness of this world; and does the like good offices for them, until he, as the great Captain of their salvation, brings them safe to glory: for what is here said is taken notice of as a resemblance of what he now does, or has done, under the Gospel dispensation, to which this psalm belongs; particularly of his marching through the wilderness of the Gentile world, in the ministry of the word by his apostles, wherein he went forth conquering and to conquer. Footnote


Psalm 68:7c

Hebrew/Pronunciation

Common English Meanings

Notes/Morphology

BDB and Strong’s Numbers

çelâh (הָל∵ס) [pronounced seh-LAW]

to lift up, to elevate, to exalt [with one’s voice], to gather, to cast up [into a heap]; it is transliterated Selah

interjection

Strong’s #5542 BDB #699

The verbal cognate is ׳âlâh (הָלָס) [pronounced saw-LAW], which means to lift up and toss aside. In the Piel stem, it means to weigh, which involves lifting up the object and placing it upon the balance. Gesenius gives the meaning of çelâh as rest, silence, pause, as çelâh does not necessarily have to match the meaning of its cognates. My thinking, which is a combination of BDB and Gesenius, is that the voices build up to a crescendo here, and, very likely, they are then followed by a vocal (but not necessarily, musical) silence. This would reconcile the points made by Gesenius and still make this compatible with its cognates. Footnote Another very reasonable possibility is that the instruments are lifted up for a musical interlude. The NLT translation of Interlude is very good.


Translation: [Musical] Pause [or, musical interlude; lit., Selah!] As described in the exegesis, this word çelâh comes from a verb which means to lift up. It is reasonable to assume that those who are playing musical instruments are to lift up these instruments and play during a pause in the singing. I believe that this is called the bridge in modern music? Keil and Delitzsch suggest: The music, as Sela directs, here becomes more boisterous; it gives intensity to the strong cry for the judgment of God; and the first unfolding of thought of this Michtam is here brought to a close. Footnote Let me suggest that this also is a time where David takes a break from writing, and concentrates on his run. Obviously, he is formulating this as he runs; he does not stop to scratch out a few verses on a rock or a tree; but this represents a break in his thinking, and the music intensifies as he simply runs.


This, as has been noted, is placed in an odd spot. We would expect this verse to continue into the next, to inform us as to what happened when God led His people through the wilderness. However, instead of getting that answer, the singing stops, and music is played. Perhaps the idea is, grab the listeners attention, and then put him on hold for a moment.


Interestingly enough, although I would have expected several commentators to say something about the odd placement of the musical pause, Spurgeon is the only one I recall who made a comment on it. Footnote


As you will notice, a majority of the translations simply have the next verse continued after the previous. Let me suggest that, David is quoting from Deborah (more on that to come) from Judges 5:4–5; so, he wants those hearing these familiar words to stop and think about where they come from and by whom the word were written. The idea is, the people will recognize Deborah’s psalm, and be thinking about Deborah and Barak, and about Moses, about whom, in part, the psalm was written.


Earth quaked—

in fact, [two] heavens dropped down from faces of Elohim.

This Sinai from faces of Elohim,

Elohim of Israel.

Psalm

68:8

The earth quaked;

furthermore, the heavens poured down [rain] from Elohim.

This Sinai [quaked] because of Elohim,

the Elohim of Israel.

The earth quaked and the heavens poured down rain from Elohim.

In fact, all that occurred in the Sinai desert came from God, the God of Israel.


Here is how others have translated this verse:


Ancient texts:

 

Masoretic Text                       Earth quaked—

in fact, [two] heavens dropped down from faces of Elohim.

This Sinai from faces of Elohim,

Elohim of Israel.

Peshitta                                  The earth shook, the heavens also lowered at the presence of God; even Sinai itself was moved at the presence of God, the God of Israel.

Septuagint                              ...the earth quaked, yea, the heavens dropped water at the presence of the God of Sina, at the presence of the God of Israel.

 

Significant differences:           The Greek tells us that the heavens dropped down rain, which is implied but not stated in the Hebrew. I have inserted the proper verb for the 3rd phrase; the Greek and Latin translators were confused, so they connected God with Sinai.

 

The Syriac speaks of the heavens being lowered, which is not necessarily different from the Hebrew; a difference connotation and interpretation, perhaps, but which probably has its root in the same Hebrew text. Secondly, the Syriac text does add a verb to the third phrase where Sinai is moved at the presence of God, which is quite similar to my insertion of the verb to quake.


Thought-for-thought translations; paraphrases:

 

CEV                                       God of Israel, the earth trembled, and rain poured down. You alone are the God who rules from Mount Sinai.

Good News Bible (TEV)         ...the earth shook, and the sky poured down rain, because of the coming of the God of Sinai, the coming of the God of Israel.

The Message                         Earth shook, sky broke out in a sweat; God was on the march. Even Sinai trembled at the sight of God on the move, at the sight of Israel's God.


Mostly literal renderings (with some occasional paraphrasing):

 

Bible in Basic English             The earth was shaking and the heavens were streaming, because God was present; even Sinai itself was moved before God, the God of Israel.

Complete Apostles’ Bible      ...the earth quaked; yea, the heavens dropped water at the presence of the God of Sinai, at the presence of the God of Israel.

God’s Word                         ...the earth quaked and the sky poured in the presence of the God of Sinai, in the presence of the God of Israel.

HCSB                                     ...the earth trembled, and the skies poured down rain before God, the God of Sinai, before God, the God of Israel.

JPS (Tanakh)                         ...the earth trembled, the sky rained because of God,

you Sinai, because of God, the God of Israel.

NET Bible®                             ..the earth shakes,

yes, the heavens pour down rain

before God, the God of Sinai,

before God, the God of Israel.

The Scriptures 1998              The earth shook and the heavens dropped before Elohim, This Sinai, shook before Elohim, the Elohim of Yisra’ĕl.


Literal, almost word-for-word, renderings:

 

The Amplified Bible                The earth trembled, the heavens also poured down [rain] at the presence of God; yonder Sinai quaked at the presence of God, the God of Israel.

A Conservative Version         ...the earth trembled, the heavens also dropped at the presence of God, Sinai at the presence of God, the God of Israel.

Updated Bible Version 2.11   The earth trembled, The heavens also dropped [rain] at the presence of God: This Sinai [trembled] at the presence of God, the God of Israel.

WEB                                      The earth trembled. The sky also poured down rain at the presence of the God of Sinai -- At the presence of God, the God of Israel.

Young's Updated LT              The earth shook, Yea, the heavens have dropped before God, This Sinai--before God, the God of Israel.


What is the gist of this verse? While God leads Israel through the desert, the earth shook and it rained in Sinai in the presence of God leading Israel.


Psalm 68:8a

Hebrew/Pronunciation

Common English Meanings

Notes/Morphology

BDB and Strong’s Numbers

erets (ץ ר א) [pronounced EH-rets]

earth (all or a portion thereof), land

feminine singular noun

Strong's #776 BDB #75

râ׳ash (ש-עָר) [pronounced raw-ĢAHSH]

to quake, to tremble, to shake; to be moved [shaken]

3rd person feminine singular, Qal perfect

Strong’s #7493 BDB #950


Translation: The earth quaked;... As the Jews crossed the desert, before Sinai, this great mountain quaked and shook—the very mountain which Moses went up upon. God made His presence known by the quakes which the Israelites experienced (Ex. 19:18).


That God’s presence is made known by earthquakes is found in several passages: Ex. 19:18: And the mountain of Sinai was smoking, all of it, because Jehovah came down on it in fire. And its smoke went up like the smoke of a furnace; and the mountain quaked exceedingly. Psalm 77:18: The voice of Your thunder in the tempest; lightning flashes lit up the world; the earth trembled and quaked! Psalm 114:6–8: O mountains, that you skip like rams? O little hills, like lambs? Tremble, O earth, from the face of the Lord, from the face of the God of Jacob; who turned the rock into a pool of water, the flint into a fountain of waters. Isa. 64:1–4: Oh that You would tear the heavens and come down, that mountains would quake before You. As the brushwood fire burns and fire causes water to boil, make known Your name to Your foes, that nations might tremble before You. When You did terrifying things which we did not look for, You came down; mountains flowed down before You. Obviously, these passages refer not only to earthquakes, but to volcanic eruptions and to great rainstorms; interesting activity for David to note. Heb. 12:26: ...whose voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, "Yet once I will shake not only the earth, but also the heavens" (Haggai 2:6). Rev. 11:19: And the temple of God in Heaven was opened, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple, and lightning flashes, and voices, and thunders, and an earthquake, and a great hail occurred.


Psalm 68:8b

Hebrew/Pronunciation

Common English Meanings

Notes/Morphology

BDB and Strong’s Numbers

aph (ף ַא) [pronounced ahf]

in fact, furthermore, also, yea, even, indeed; even though

a conjunction which signifies addition or emphasis

Strong’s #637 BDB #64

This word appears to have two different purposes: (1) A surprise is then mentioned or the unexpected is said. (2) A reference is made to a preceding sentence and it is expanded or emphasized and we would translate this word yea, à fortiori, the more so, how much more (following an affirmative clause), how much less (following a negative clause), furthermore, in fact.

shâmayîm (ם̣י ַמ ָש) [pronounced shaw-MAH-yim]

heavens, skies

masculine dual noun

Strong’s #8064 BDB #1029

nâţaph (ף-טָנ) [pronounced naw-TAHF]

to drop, to fall in drops, to drip

3rd person plural, Qal perfect

Strong’s #5197 BDB #642

min (ן ̣מ) [pronounced min]

from, away from, out from, out of from, off, on account of, since, above, than, so that not, above, beyond, more than

preposition of separation

Strong's #4480 BDB #577

pânîym (םי̣נָ) [pronounced paw-NEEM]

face, faces, countenance; presence

masculine plural construct (plural acts like English singular)

Strong’s #6440 BDB #815

Together, min pânîym mean from before the face of; out from before the face, from the presence of. However, together, they can also be a reference to the cause, whether near or remote, and can therefore be rendered because of, because that; by.

Ělôhîym (מי̣הֹלֱא) [pronounced el-o-HEEM]

gods, foreign gods, god; God; rulers, judges; superhuman ones, angels; transliterated Elohim

masculine plural noun

Strong's #430 BDB #43


Translation: ...furthermore, the heavens poured down [rain] from Elohim. Rain poured down from the heavens while the mountain quaked. Ex. 19:16–18: And on the third day, it being morning, it happened: There was thunder and lightning, and a heavy cloud on the mountain, and the sound of a ram's horn, very strong! And all the people in the camp trembled. And Moses caused the people to go up from the camp to meet God. And they took their stand at the lower part of the mountain. And the mountain of Sinai was smoking, all of it, because Jehovah came down on it in fire. And its smoke went up like the smoke of a furnace; and the mountain quaked exceedingly. Bear in mind that this is the Middle East, where rain is rare; and rainstorms are even more rare. And all of this occurs in the midst of an almost unlivable desert and it all came from Jehovah God.


Although the Exodus generation saw both rain and manna drop down from heaven, I believe that our context here dictates that we are speaking of rain. However, the principle is the same, as God is behind both.


In one of Moses’ two psalms, we read: Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak. And hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. My doctrine shall drop as the rain; my speech shall drop down as the dew, as the small rain on the tender plant, and as the showers on the grass; because I will proclaim the name of Jehovah and ascribe greatness to our God. He is the Rock; His work is perfect. For all His ways are just, a God of faithfulness, and without evil; just and upright is He (Deut. 32:1–4). Just as the rain and dew change a desert into a garden, so doctrine works in our soul, turning us from angry, wayward individuals to much happier servants.


It is interesting that, we have no records in Moses’ writings of quakes or of heavy rainfall when they were in the desert (except for Mount Sinai quaking). However, this passage and Judges 5:4 (Jehovah, when You went out of Seir, when You marched out of the field of Edom, the earth trembled and the heavens dropped, the clouds also dropped water) both allude to rainstorms and earthquakes during the moving of the people from Egypt to Israel (the passage in Judges specifically alludes to Mount Seir, which would have been when Israel regrouped and began to march to the Land of Promise with the real intent of going in).


Application: Let’s consider the conditions of the desert wandering for a moment. Israel had the chance to enter into the Land of Promise within 2 years of leaving Egypt, and they chose not to (see Num. 13–15). God let them sweat out this choice in the desert for the next 38½ years. God kept the younger generation alive (the generation of promise) and He killed the older generation (Gen X) by the sin unto death. Living and dying in the desert was a metaphor which these people lived day in and day out for 38 years; God gave them enough to keep the younger generation alive, but they received no Word from God during this time. They just dropped one by one in the desert until God had removed the cancerous element of Gen X. When the new generation got up off their butts and began to move toward the Land of Promise, God again made Himself manifest to them through these quakes and storms. They were about to invade a country of vicious, child-sacrificing heathen; they needed to see overwhelming manifestations of God’s power as they moved toward combat.


Now, quite frankly, I do not know why Moses did not speak of these storms and earthquakes; however, Deborah wrote of them in Judges 5, and that was close enough in time for her to record these things. That is, Deborah would have been one or two generations removed from the Generation of Promise, but she would have heard stories passed down through these generations about the rainstorms and the quakes. It is also close enough to the desert movement, that it would preclude Deborah from simply making it up. But, again, I am not sure why Moses did not allude to these storms and quakes.


Psalm 68:8c

Hebrew/Pronunciation

Common English Meanings

Notes/Morphology

BDB and Strong’s Numbers

zeh (הז) [pronounced zeh]

here, this, this one; thus; possibly another

demonstrative adjective

Strong’s #2088, 2090 (& 2063) BDB #260

Çîynai (י-ני.ס) [pronounced see-NAH-ee]

thorny; transliterated Sinai

singular proper noun

Strong’s #5514 BDB #696

min (ן ̣מ) [pronounced min]

from, away from, out from, out of from, off, on account of, since, above, than, so that not, above, beyond, more than

preposition of separation

Strong's #4480 BDB #577

pânîym (םי̣נָ) [pronounced paw-NEEM]

face, faces, countenance; presence

masculine plural construct (plural acts like English singular)

Strong’s #6440 BDB #815

Together, min pânîym mean from before the face of; out from before the face, from the presence of. However, together, they can also be a reference to the cause, whether near or remote, and can therefore be rendered because of, because that; by.

Ělôhîym (מי̣הֹלֱא) [pronounced el-o-HEEM]

gods, foreign gods, god; God; rulers, judges; superhuman ones, angels; transliterated Elohim

masculine plural noun

Strong's #430 BDB #43


Translation: This Sinai [quaked] because of Elohim,... I think the gist of this line is, all of this occurred at the foot of Mount Sinai, and it occurred because of Jehovah God and that Sinai itself quaked. We may also gather this from comparing this to Judges 5:4–5, which David is obviously quoting. Normally, when a verb is lacking, but clearly needed, we generally insert the verb to be; however, in this instance, however, our context (v. 8a), where this passage came from (Judges 5:4–5), and the need for a verb (a need to be does not satisfy), all demand the verb to quake. Because God’s concentrated presence was on Sinai, the mountain quaked and there were great rainstorms, along with thunder and lightning (Ex. 19:16–18).


Why didn’t Deborah before or David at this time supply the verb to quake? Let me offer two possible reasons: (1) when it comes to meter and poetry, perhaps not only was to quake obviously the verb here, but the sound of the verse as poetry was smoother without the verb. (2) Perhaps the emphasis was upon Sinai, where God first revealed Himself and His Law to the Jews. God’s power and presence are no doubt in view, but the original writer wanted to recognize the importance of Sinai, even though that is not the thrust of this psalm.


Psalm 68:8d

Hebrew/Pronunciation

Common English Meanings

Notes/Morphology

BDB and Strong’s Numbers

Ělôhîym (מי̣הֹלֱא) [pronounced el-o-HEEM]

gods, foreign gods, god; God; rulers, judges; superhuman ones, angels; transliterated Elohim

masculine plural construct

Strong's #430 BDB #43

Yiserâêl (ל ֵא ָר  ׃  ̣י) [pronounced yis-raw-ALE]

transliterated Israel

masculine proper noun

Strong’s #3478 BDB #975


Translation: ...the Elohim of Israel. And, as is a theme often presented in the Old and New Testaments: the God of Israel is the God Who controls the universe.


Interestingly enough, David is quoting Deborah from the book of Judges.

David Quotes Judges 5:4–5

Judges 5:4–5

Psalm 68:7–8

O Jehovah, when You went forth out of Seir,

when You marched out of the fields of Edom,

the earth trembled,

and the heavens dropped.

Yea, the clouds dropped water.

The mountains quaked before the face of Jehovah,

this Sinai [quaked] from before Jehovah the God of Israel.

O Elohim, when You went forth before Your people;

when You marched in the desert wasteland;..

[Musical] Pause

The earth quaked;

furthermore, the heavens poured down [rain] from Elohim.

This Sinai [quaked] because of Elohim,

the Elohim of Israel.

Note the differences; Deborah speaks of God marching out of Seir and our of the fields of Edom; this is where the Israelites swung around the southern tip of the Dead Sea, after 39–40 years in the desert, when they were going to come up the east side of the Dead Sea and the Jordan River. Deborah is focusing upon the Generation of Promise, children when Israel left Egypt, and their march to take the Land of Promise. After Gen X died out, this moving out of Seir and the fields of Edom represents positive volition on the part of the remaining Israelites, the generation of promise, in their march to take Israel. David instead focuses on God’s guidance to Israel during his time.

David also emphasizes that the rain which poured down was from God, which we do not find in Deborah’s song.

Deborah speaks of the heavens dropping [rain], and then tells us that the clouds dropped water. David summarizes that in one phrase.

Finally, Deborah speaks of mountains quaking before (or because of) God, which line supplies the verb for the following line. David leaves out the line and quotes the next line verbatim. We insert the verb to quake.

Finally, thrice in Deborah’s psalm, God is called Jehovah; and in these same places, David calls Him Elohim.

Obviously, David wants to quote Deborah, but he takes artistic license and makes a few changes.

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David made some alterations when he adapted Deborah’s words for his psalm. Why did he do this?

Why Did David Alter Deborah’s Words?

1.      David is writing a psalm to be sung while the Ark is being carried from Obed-edom’s home to Jerusalem.

2.      Deborah was celebrating the victory God gave to Barak and to her.

3.      So David more generically to God leading Israel, which certainly is represented by the Ark moving forward in front of the congregation of Israel.

4.      Deborah looks back to God leading Israel to victory, as God had done for Deborah and Barak; David looks to God simply leading Israel.

5.      At some point in time, people seemed to shift from using God’s proper name, Jehovah, and began to use Elohim more often. The change in this tradition appears to have taken place between the time of Deborah and David. We only know that this occurred, and we have the theory that, because God is holy, His name was considered holy; and therefore, it was spoken aloud fewer and fewer times by His people. At some point in time, we even lost the pronunciation of God’s name.

6.      I should add that, when we read Elohim, we may be speaking of one member of the Trinity; but, more reasonably, this would refer to all the members of the Trinity. When we use the name Jehovah (or, Yehowah), we are referring to one particular member of the Trinity—and most of the time, this is a reference to Jesus Christ in His pre-incarnate form. Let me offer one off-the-wall suggestion: during the time of David, or prior to this time, there was a debate about saying Jehovah aloud. So, if a song contains the name Jehovah, some might not sing His name aloud, causing a drop in volume when the opposite should occur. David solves this problem by using Elohim instead. I say this is an off-the-wall suggestion, because David certainly uses the name Jehovah in v. 20. Perhaps v. 20 is handled by a soloist? I am thinking out loud here.

7.      David quotes enough from Deborah’s words to indicate that he knew Scripture, and he makes enough changes so that these words are now applied to his circumstances and, apparently, to his culture.

8.      Deborah speaks of great rain twice and the ground quaking twice; David speaks of these two things once each. I suspect that David is speaking of two incidents—what happened in Sinai and what happened when she and Barak stood up to the Canaanites (Judges 4). David is speaking merely of God’s power and involvement in our lives; Deborah is speaking of parallel instances.

9.      David quotes Deborah closely enough so that, those who know her psalm, recognize it; and remember the great victories which God gave to Moses and to Deborah and Barak. David is not speaking of victories in his own experience, but of those clearly from the past. The Ark symbolizes these victories from the past.

10.    This helps to explain David’s musical pause in the middle of a thought; the people of Israel, hearing this sung, and some of them singing it, would pause and recall where these words came from, and, therefore, the historical incidents that they pointed to.

11.    This is known as artistic license; there is nothing which requires David to quote Deborah word-for-word. Hundreds of years later, Apostles would quote from the Old Testament in a similar fashion, not always giving an exact quotation and not always applying the verse quoted with its original intention. One might even argue that David is, in a manner of speaking, giving the Apostles the freedom to adjust the Old Testament passage to their circumstance or to their doctrine. Let me quickly add, we do not have the same privilege, as the Apostles wrote Scripture by the Holy Spirit. So, when an Apostle, to make a point, quotes an Old Testament passage, he does not always use it in the same way that it was originally meant to be used..

This is an historical reference which recognizes God’s power and God’s actions on behalf of Israel throughout history. David tailors these words to the occasion of transporting the Ark of God, a clear symbol of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

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Rain freely You scatter, O Elohim;

Your inheritance—and he is wearied—You set her up.

Psalm

68:9

You have scattered rain freely [or, in abundance], O Elohim;

You established Your inheritance, when it [the rain] was wearied.

You have cast down rain in great abundance, O God;

You established Your inheritance when the rain stopped.


Here is how others have translated this verse:


Ancient texts:

 

Latin Vulgate                          You will set aside for Your inheritance a free rain, O God: and it was weakened, but You have made it perfect.

Masoretic Text                       Rain freely You scatter, O Elohim;

Your inheritance—and he is wearied—You set her up.

Peshitta                                  You, O God, sent a plentiful rain, whereby You confirmed Your inheritance when it was weary.

Septuagint                              O God, You will grant to Your inheritance a gracious rain; for it was weary, but You refreshed it.

 

Significant differences:           God’s inheritance appears to be in the second line in the Hebrew; the Greek and Latin both make it a part of the first line, calling the rain something which God granted or set aside for His inheritance.

 

Although the Hebrew does not appear to make a lot of sense at first, but the gender of the pronominal suffixes helps to tell us who is who. The Greek, Latin and Syriac all appear to apply the suffixes to inheritance.


Thought-for-thought translations; paraphrases:

 

CEV                                       When your land was thirsty, you sent showers to refresh it.

EasyEnglish (Churchyard)     God, you gave plenty of rain.

It made your Promised Land fresh again when it was dry.

Good News Bible (TEV)         You caused abundant rain to fall and restored your worn-out land;...

New American Bible              There you poured abundant rains, God,

graciously given to the poor in their need. [This is v. 11 in the NAB].

New Jerusalem Bible             God, you rained down a shower of blessings,

when your heritage was weary you gave it strength.

New Living Testament           You sent abundant ain, O God,

to refresh the weary Promised Land.

Revised English Bible            You, God, send plenteous rain;

when your own land languishes you restore it.


Mostly literal renderings (with some occasional paraphrasing):

 

Bible in Basic English             You, O God, did freely send the rain, giving strength to the weariness of your heritage.

Complete Apostles’ Bible      O God, You will grant to Your inheritance a gracious rain; for it was weary, but You have refreshed it.

God’s Word                         You watered the land with plenty of rain, O God. You refreshed it when your land was exhausted.

HCSB                                     You, God, showered abundant rain; You revived Your inheritance when it languished.

JPS (Tanakh)                         You released a bountiful rain, O God,

when Your own land languished, You sustained it.

NET Bible®                             O God, you cause abundant showers to fall on your chosen people.

When they are tired, you sustain them,...

New International Version      You gave abundant showers, O God;

you refreshed your weary inheritance.


Literal, almost word-for-word, renderings:

 

The Amplified Bible                You, O God, did send a plentiful rain, You did restore and confirm Your heritage when it languished and was weary.

A Conservative Version         Thou, O God, sent a plentiful rain. Thou confirmed thine inheritance when it was weary.

Updated Emphasized Bible    A plentiful rain You shed abroad, O God, upon Your inheritance,

When exhausted, You Yourself supported it.

English Standard Version      Rain in abundance, O God, you shed abroad; you restored your inheritance as it languished;...

King James 2000 Version      You, O God, did send a plentiful rain, by which you did confirm your inheritance, when it was weary.

MKJV                                     You, O God, sent a plentiful rain, by which You upheld Your inheritance when it was weary.

Updated Bible Version 2.11   You, O God, sent a plentiful rain, You confirmed your inheritance, when it was weary.

A Voice in the Wilderness      You, O God, sent a plentiful rain, by which You established Your inheritance when it was weary.

Young’s Updated LT             A shower of free-will gifts you shake out, O God. Your inheritance, when it has been weary, You have established it.


What is the gist of this verse? God sends a great deal of rain to the Jews while they are walking through the desert; however, once He establishes them, this plentiful rain comes to an end.


Psalm 68:9a

Hebrew/Pronunciation

Common English Meanings

Notes/Morphology

BDB and Strong’s Numbers

geshem (מ∵ש∵) [pronounced GHEH-Shem]

rain, showers; violent rain, heavy shower

masculine singular noun

Strong’s #1653 BDB #177

When we have nouns of different number and gender placed together like this, we would expect the first to be in the construct form; however, Owen does not list it as a construct. Sometimes, the difference between a construct and its absolute form is merely a change of vowel points, which would have been added centuries after this was written. However, since this was read over and over in the Temple and later in the synagogues, it would seem reasonable that tradition would have presented this as a construct. Therefore, I admit to being confused by these nouns being thrown together like this.

nedâbâh (הָבָדנ) [pronounced ne-DAWb-VAW]

freewill, readiness of mind [to give], freely, with a willing mind, willing to volunteer; a spontaneous offering, a freewill sacrifice; largeness, abundance

feminine plural noun

Strong’s #5071 BDB #621

The relationship between these two nouns is unclear. Owen does not list rain as being in the construct; and the nouns do not match in number or in gender (they would match if one modified the other).

Another option is, this should be an adverb which modifies the verb in this phrase (I do not find an adverbial form for this word).

nûwph (ףנ) [pronounced noof]

to wave, to shake [e.g., the hand to beckon someone]; to scatter, to shake forth [rain]

2nd person masculine singular, Hiphil imperfect

Strong's #5130 BDB #631

Ělôhîym (מי̣הֹלֱא) [pronounced el-o-HEEM]

gods, foreign gods, god; God; rulers, judges; superhuman ones, angels; transliterated Elohim

masculine plural noun

Strong's #430 BDB #43


Translation: You have scattered rain freely [or, in abundance], O Elohim;... The Israelites—possibly as many as 2 million—spent 40 years in the desert wilderness, and the only thing which slowed them down was their own negative volition. What God did provide for them was water. We have two incidents where there was no water, but that indicates that most of the time, there was water enough to sustain them. This would made much greater than normal rainfall for this area, which God provided. Since we do not hear of continual rains upon the Israelites, we must reasonably assume that God caused it to rain in that general vicinity, and that streams and rivers brought water to the Jews. For this reason, the verb to scatter is quite appropriate, where God scattered rain upon the desert lands. God did this freely and abundantly. Although the noun which appears to define rain can mean abundance, according to the lexicons, it appears to have this meaning only in this verse. The rest of the time, it means freely, willingly. Despite Israel’s bad attitude and negative volition, God continued to provide for them in His faithfulness. We apply this interpretation to this portion of v. 9a simply because of the context; apart from the context, making sense out of v. 9a would be quite difficult.


God continued to give the rain to Israel freely, which indicates that they had abundant rain. Barnes interprets this as God giving the people manna. Footnote Although I do not know if I agree entirely, God did provide Israel with water and with manna, both of which had their origins from on high (even when water was given to Israel after Moses struck the rock, the water had to come from somewhere; I tend to lean toward a more natural explanation for this water Footnote ). That this could refer to the manna and quail as well, could be confirmed with Psalm 78:21–28: Therefore, when the LORD heard, He was full of wrath; a fire was kindled against Jacob; His anger rose against Israel, because they did not believe in God and did not trust His saving power. Yet He commanded the skies above and opened the doors of heaven, and He rained down on them manna to eat and gave them the grain of heaven. Man ate of the bread of the angels; He sent them food in abundance. He caused the east wind to blow in the heavens, and by His power He led out the south wind; He rained meat on them like dust, winged birds like the sand of the seas; He let them fall in the midst of their camp, all around their dwellings. In any case, this rain simply refers to the provisions of God for His people.


Now, why would Moses mention the striking of the rocks, but not rainstorms? This is an easy answer: the striking of the rock and receiving water from the rock was extremely important, as it spoke of Jesus dying for our sins. We learn from that, that Jesus would be struck one time for our sins. Throwing in additional rainstorms would simply confuse this issue. So God gave Moses a narrow focus when recalling these incidents. What we read in Judges 5 and in our passage is evidence that God provided logistical grace for His people in the desert. What we read in Exodus and Numbers about the Moses striking the rock, informs us about Jesus Christ dying for our sins (in those passages, I have gone into much greater detail).


Psalm 68:9b

Hebrew/Pronunciation

Common English Meanings

Notes/Morphology

BDB and Strong’s Numbers

nachălâh (ה ָל ֲחַנ) [pronounced nah-khuh-LAW]

inheritance, possession, property, heritage

feminine singular noun with the 2nd person masculine singular suffix

Strong’s #5159 BDB #635

we (or ve) (ו) [pronounced weh]

and, even, then; namely; when; since, that; though

simple wâw conjunction

No Strong’s # BDB #251

lââh (הָאָל) [pronounced law-AW]

to be wearied, to be exhausted, [fatigued, worn out, worn down], to be wearied [tired, worn out] [from anything]

3rd person masculine singular, Niphal perfect

Strong’s #3811 BDB #521

attâh (הָ-א) [pronounced aht-TAW]

you (often, the verb to be is implied)

2nd person masculine singular, personal pronoun

Strong’s #859 BDB #61

kûwn (ן) [pronounced koon]

to set up, to erect; to confirm, to establish, to maintain; to found [a city, the earth, etc]; to direct [e.g., arrows], metaphorically to turn one’s mind [to anything]

2nd person masculine singular, Pilel (Polel) perfect; with the 3rd person feminine singular suffix

Strong’s #3559 BDB #465

The Polel is not acknowledged in Mansoor’s book nor in Zodhiates; it comes from Owen’s book. However, it is essentially the same as the Piel (intensive) stem with a different conjugation. It appears to be called the Pilel in Gesenius and BDB.


Translation: ...You established Your inheritance, when it [the rain] was wearied. After 40 years in the desert, and after God wiped out by the sin unto death the strongly negative Gen X, God brought their sons and daughters into the Land of Promise and they took the land by force, as God directed them to. In this way, God established His inheritance, the Jews—nation Israel, in the land. The phrase when it was wearied refers back to the rain (this is where gender and number come into play). God apparently took all of the water out of the sky in that region in order to sustain the exodus Jews.


Your inheritance refers to the Jews, as we find in Psalms 28:9 33:12 74:2 78:62, 71 79:1 94:5, 14 106:40.


The very literal translation is Rain freely You scatter, O Elohim; Your inheritance—and he is wearied—You set her up. The verb is wearied is a 3rd person masculine singular, which would refer to the 3rd person masculine singular noun rain. The 3rd person feminine singular suffix affixed to the final verb (to erect, to set up, to establish) would refer to the nearest feminine singular noun, which is [Your] inheritance. In both phrases, I obviously had a difficult time taking the Hebrew and giving it a reasonable translation—I had to take some liberties here. And, again, the context helps to explain the meaning of these words.

 

Barnes interprets this differently: You strengthened Your people when they were exhausted, or were in danger of fainting. In other words, God sent a supply of food - manna, quails, etc. - when they were in the pathless wilderness, and when they were ready to perish. Footnote Although Barnes’ interpretation here makes perfect sense, he confounds a feminine singular suffix with a 3rd person masculine singular verb. What is wearied is a 3rd person masculine singular noun, to properly correspond with the verb. The nearest masculine singular noun would be rain (v. 9a). What God establishes, confirms, sets up is a 3rd person feminine singular suffix; and the closest feminine singular noun is inheritance.

 

Matthew Henry gives us a short, concise approach to this and the next verse: [God] provided very comfortably for them both in the wilderness (Psalm 68:9—You have cast down rain in great abundance, O God; You established Your inheritance when Israel was worn out) and in Canaan (Psalm 68:10—Your people then lived in the land; You, O God, established the grace-oriented by means of Your good character). Footnote That is an excellent summary of these two verses.


Your community remained in her;

You established in Your good to the poor, Elohim.

Psalm

68:10

Your community lived in it [the land];

You, O Elohim, established the humble [or, possibly, the grace oriented] in Your goodness.

Your people then lived in the land;

You, O God, established the grace-oriented by means of Your good character.


Here is how others have translated this verse:


Ancient texts:

 

Latin Vulgate                          In it shall Your animals dwell; in Your sweetness, O God, You have provided for the poor.

Masoretic Text                       Your community remained in her;

You established in Your good to the poor, Elohim.

Peshitta                                  Your living creatures have lived there; You, O God, have proved of Your goodness for the poor.

Septuagint                              Your creatures dwell in it; You have in your goodness prepared for the poor.

 

Significant differences:           The first noun could refer either to an animal or to community; so there is no differences with that noun. The second line is simply a matter of interpretation. Therefore, there are no significant differences in any of the ancient texts.


Thought-for-thought translations; paraphrases:

 

CEV                                       Your people settled there, and you were generous to everyone in need.

EasyEnglish (Churchyard)     Your people came to live in it.

God, you gave good things to the poor people that needed them.

You made them strong.

Good News Bible (TEV)         ...your people made their home there; in your goodness you provided for the poor.

The Message                         For your people to camp in and enjoy. You set them up in business; they went from rags to riches.

New Jerusalem Bible             Your family found a home, which you

in your generosity provided for the humble.

New Living Testament           There your people finally settled,

and with a bountiful harvest, O God,

you provided for your needy people.


Mostly literal renderings (with some occasional paraphrasing):

 

Bible in Basic English             Those whose resting-place was there, even the poor, were comforted by your good things, O God.

God’s Word                         Your flock settled there. Out of your goodness, O God, you provided for oppressed people.

HCSB                                     Your people settled in it; by Your goodness You provided for the poor, God.

JPS (Tanakh)                         Your tribe dwells there;

O God, in Your goodness You provide for the needy.

NET Bible®                             ...for you live among them. [The meaning of the Hebrew text is unclear; it appears to read, “your animals, they live in it,” but this makes little, if any, sense in this context. Some suggest that khayah is a rare homonym here, meaning “community” (BDB 312 s.v.) or “dwelling place” (HALOT 310 s.v. III). In this case one may take “your community/dwelling place” as appositional to the third feminine singular pronominal suffix at the end of v. 9, the antecedent of which is “your inheritance.” The phrase (yashvu-vah, “they live in it”) may then be understood as an asyndetic relative clause modifying “your community/dwelling place.” A literal translation of vv. 9b-10a would be, “when it [your inheritance] is tired, you sustain it, your community/dwelling place in [which] they live.”] Footnote

You sustain the oppressed with your good blessings, O God.


Literal, almost word-for-word, renderings:

 

A New Conservative Version Your congregation dwelt in it. You, O God, prepared for the poor from Your goodness.

Updated Emphasized Bible    You living host has remained there,

You provide in Your country for the humbled one [plainly, the humbled people], O God!

LTHB                                     Your flock lived in it. You, O God, have prepared for the poor in Your goodness.

A Voice in the Wilderness      Your community has dwelt in it; You, O God, have provided from Your goodness for the poor.

Young’s Updated LT             Your company dwells in it, You prepare in Your goodness for the poor, O God.


What is the gist of this verse? God’s people (community) dwell in the Land of Promise. God’s good nature is shown to those who are humble, which should probably be interpreted as grace-oriented, meaning that we are speaking here of believers.


Psalm 68:10a

Hebrew/Pronunciation

Common English Meanings

Notes/Morphology

BDB and Strong’s Numbers

chayyâh (הָ ַח) [pronounced khay-YAWH]

living thing, animal, life, organisms, lifeform; appetite, revival, renewal; community, family, assembled group, allied families, bands

feminine singular noun with the 2nd person masculine singular suffix

Strong’s #2416 BDB #312

yâshab (בַשָי) [pronounced yaw-SHAHBV]

to remain, to stay, to inhabit, to sit, to dwell

3rd person plural, Qal perfect

Strong's #3427 BDB #442

be (׃) [pronounced beh]

in, into, at, by, near, on, with, before, in the presence of, upon, against, by means of, among, within

a preposition of proximity; with the 3rd person feminine singular suffix

Strong’s #none BDB #88


Translation: Your community lived in it [the land];... We have two things to deal with here: several ancient translations have beasts living wherever; and then we must deal with the 3rd person feminine singular suffix, and to what it refers.

 

Barnes explains the noun: The word tendered “congregation” – chayyâh (הָ ַח) [pronounced khay-YAWH] – means properly a beast, an animal (Gen. 1:30 2:19 8:19 37:20). Then it comes to be used as a collective noun, meaning a herd or flock; thus, a troop of people, an array or host (2Sam. 23:11, 13 Psalm 74:19); and it is applied here to the people, under the idea so common in the Scriptures that God is a Shepherd. Footnote Couldn’t have said it better myself. Barnes explanation makes much more sense than Clarke’s, who equivocates chayyâh to the quail with which God fed the Israelites. Footnote


After 40 years in the desert wilderness, and after the Israelites took the land, they lived in the land where God placed them. Do you recall Matthew Henry’s summary? V. 9 is God’s care for Israel in the wilderness; this verse is His care for Israel in the land. Understanding that basic differentiation makes this a much easier verse to unravel.


Now, although there are admittedly many feminine singular nouns scattered throughout this psalm, the one which makes the most sense to go to here is the land (v. 8), even though the land spoken of in that verse is actually different from the land spoken of here. In v. 8, we are speaking of the Sinai desert and here we are speaking of the land of Canaan, which is Israel’s inheritance (even though, when we spoke of Your inheritance, this was a reference to God and His inheritance, which would be the believers of the earth in general and Israel in context). Now, I will admit, this is a little weird to draw associations with nouns that do not refer to exactly that with which we are associating the suffixes with. I don’t know if this means that my interpretation is way off or if this is the sense in which the psalm is meant to be strung together. However, there is a clear historical chronology in this psalm. Beginning with v. 6, God brings His people toward the Land of Promise while leaving the hard-hearted Egyptians back in a dry land. God preserves and guides Israel in the desert vv. 7–9. Here, we speak of God’s community dwelling in it, so we stay with the logical and chronological order, and those who know barely a thimbleful of Old Testament history know that Jews walked to and then lived in the Land of Promise.


David is writing this song for his people who know their own history—at least portions of it; therefore, he does not have to spell out every single line of his song. One of the characteristics of poetry is, the writer says a lot with very few words. That is a characteristic of art in general: great art, great poetry can be returned to again and again without becoming weary of experiencing it. In fact, in later readings, sometimes nuances are uncovered, giving additional meaning and depth to the poem.


I’ve used the term poetic license before, and, at some point in time, I need to define what this means. However, in this case, David is using a 3rd person feminine singular suffix and going back to a feminine singular noun being used in one way, and he appropriates that noun in this verse to be used in a different way. It is poetic license and those who are listening to this psalm being sung understand what David is saying, as it is their history.

 

Barnes concurs on the reference, reasoning his position in a slightly different manner: The idea of the writer all along pertains to that land, and to the mercy which God had shown to it. After showing by an historical reference what God had done for the people in the wilderness, he returns here, though without expressly mentioning it, to the land of promise, and to what God had done there for his people. Footnote

 

John Wesley summarizes this half of v. 10: This land for the use of thy people: which God did by designing it for them, and expelling the old inhabitants; by furnishing it with all sorts of provisions, and making it fruitful by his special blessing. Footnote


Psalm 68:10b

Hebrew/Pronunciation

Common English Meanings

Notes/Morphology

BDB and Strong’s Numbers

kûwn (ן) [pronounced koon]

to erect (to stand up perpendicular), to set up, to establish, to prepare, to strengthen, to be stabilized

2nd person masculine singular, Hiphil imperfect

Strong’s #3559 BDB #465

be (׃) [pronounced beh]

in, into, at, by, near, on, with, before, in the presence of, upon, against, by means of, among, within

a preposition of proximity

Strong’s #none BDB #88

ţôwb (בט) [pronounced tohbv]

pleasant, pleasing, agreeable, good, better