Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
The psalmist shows the duty and advantage of praising God, Psa 92:1-3; speaks of the grandeur of God's works, Psa 92:4-6; the fall of the wicked, Psa 92:7-9; the happiness of the righteous, Psa 92:10-14; and all this founded on the perfections of God.
The title, A Psalm or Song for the Sabbath, gives no information concerning the time, oecasion, or author. The Chaldee, has "Praise, and a song which the first man spoke concerning the Sabbath:" but this is an idle conceit; and, though entertained by some rabbins, has been followed by none of the Versions. Calmet supposes the Psalm to have been composed by some of the Levites during or near the close of the Babylonish captivity, acknowledging the mercy of God, and foreseeing the desolation of their enemies, and their own return to Jerusalem, and their temple service.
It is a good thing to give thanks - This Psalm begins very abruptly. Good to confess unto the Lord. He had been acknowledging God's goodness, and praising him for his mercy; and now he breaks out and tells how good he felt this employment to be.
To show forth thy loving-kindness - חסדך chasdecha, thy abundant mercy, in the morning - that has preserved me throughout the night, and brought me to the beginning of a new day: and thy faithfulness in the night, that has so amply fulfilled the promise of preservation during the course of the day. This verse contains a general plan for morning and evening prayer.
Upon an instrument of ten strings - Eusebius, in his comment on this Psalm, says: Ψαλτηριον δε δεκαχορδον, ἡ του Ἁγιου Πνευματος δια των αισθητηριων πεντε μεν του σωματος, ισαριθμων δε της ψυχης δυναμεων, επιτελουμενη λατρεια· "The Psaltery of ten strings is the worship of the Holy Spirit, performed by means of the five senses of the body, and by the five powers of the soul." And, to confirm this interpretation, he quotes the apostle, Co1 14:15 : "I will pray with the spirit, and with the understanding also; I will sing with the spirit, and with the understanding also." "As the mind has its influence by which it moves the body, so the spirit has its own influence by which it moves the soul." Whatever may be thought of this gloss, one thing is pretty evident from it, that instrumental music was not in use in the Church of Christ in the time of Eusebius. which was near the middle of the fourth century. Had any such thing then existed in the Christian Church, he would have doubtless alluded to or spiritualized it; or, as he quoted the words of the apostle above, would have shown that carnal usages were substituted for spiritual exercises. I believe the whole verse should be translated thus: Upon the asur, upon the nebel, upon the higgayon, with the kinnor. Thus it stands in the Hebrew.
For thou, Lord, hast made me glad through thy work - I am delighted with thy conduct towards me; with the work of thy providence, the works of thy grace, and thy works of creation.
Hour great are thy works! - They are multitudinous, stupendous, and splendid: and thy thoughts - thy designs and counsels, from which, by which, and in reference to which, they have been formed; are very deep - so profound as not to be fathomed by the comprehension of man.
A brutish man knoweth not - איש בער ish baar, the human hog - the stupid bear - the boor; the man who is all flesh; in whom spirit or intellect neither seems to work nor exist. The brutish man, who never attempts to see God in his works.
Neither doth a fool understand this - כסיל kesil, the fool, is different from בער baar, the brutish man; the latter has mind, but it is buried in flesh; the former has no mind, and his stupidity is unavoidable.
When the wicked spring as the grass - This is a lesson which is frequently inculcated in the sacred writings. The favor of God towards man is not to be known by outward prosperity; nor is his disapprobation to be known by the adverse circumstances in which any person may be found. When, however, we see the wicked flourish, we may take for granted that their abuse of God's mercies will cause him to cut them off as cumberers of the ground; and, dying in their sins, they are destroyed for ever.
High for evermore - They are brought down and destroyed; but the Lord is exalted eternally, both for his judgments and his mercies.
Like the horn of a unicorn - ראים reeym, perhaps here, the oryx or buffalo. But the rhinoceros seems to be the real monoceros of the Scriptures.
I shall be anointed unth fresh oil - Perhaps the allusion is here not to any sacramental anointing, but to such anointings as were frequent among the Asiatics, especially after bathing, for the purpose of health and activity.
Mine eye also shall see, - and mine ears shall hear - Even in my own times my enemies shall be destroyed; and of this destruction I shall either be an eye-witness or have authentic information.
The righteous shall flourish like the palm-tree - Very different from the wicked, Psa 92:7, who are likened to grass. These shall have a short duration; but those shall have a long and useful life. They are compared also to the cedar of Lebanon, an incorruptible wood, and extremely long-lived. Mr. Maundrell, who visited those trees in 1697, describes them thus: "These noble trees grow among the snow, near the highest part of Lebanon. Some are very old, and of prodigious bulk. I measured one of the largest, and found it twelve yards six inches in girt, and yet sound; and thirty-seven yards in the spread of its boughs. At about five or six yards from the ground, it was divided into live limbs, each of which was equal to a large tree." Some of these trees are supposed to have lived upwards of one thousand years! The figure of the palm-tree gives us the idea of grandeur and usefulness. The fruit of the palm-tree makes a great part of the diet of the people of Arabia, part of Persia, and Upper Egypt. The stones are ground down for the camels; the leaves are made into baskets; the hard boughs, or rather strong leaves, some being six or eight feet in length, make fences; the juice makes arrack, the threads of the web-like integument between the leaves make ropes, and the rigging of small vessels; and the wood serves for slighter buildings and fire-wood. In short, the palm or date tree, and the olive, are two of the most excellent and useful productions of the forest or the field.
The cedar gives us the idea of majesty, stability. durableness, and incorruptibility. To these two trees, for the most obvious reasons, are the righteous compared. William Lithgow, who traveled through the holy land about a.d. 1600, describes the cedars of Mount Lebanon as "being in number twenty-four, growing after the manner of oaks, but a great deal taller straighter, and thicker, and the branches growing so straight, and interlocking, as though they were kept by art: and yet from the root to the top they bear no boughs, but grow straight and upwards like to a palm-tree. Their circle-spread tops do kiss or embrace the lower clouds, making their grandeur overlook the highest bodies of all other aspiring trees. The nature of this tree is, that it is always green, yielding an odoriferous smell, and an excellent kind of fruit, like unto apples, but of a sweeter taste, and more wholesome. The roots of some of these cedars are almost destroyed by the shepherds, who have made fires thereat, and holes where they sleep; yet nevertheless they flourish green above, in the tops and branches." - Lithgow's 17 years' Travels, 4th., London, 1640.
Those that be planted in the house of the Lord - I believe the Chaldee has the true meaning here: "His children shall be planted in the house of the sanctuary of the Lord, and shall flourish in the courts of our God." As these trees flourish in their respective soils and climates, so shall the righteous in the ordinances of God. I do not think there is any allusion to either palm-trees or cedars, planted near the tabernacle or temple.
They shall still bring forth fruit in old age - They shall continue to grow in grace, and be fruitful to the end of their lives. It is a rare case to find a man in old age full of faith, love, and spiritual activity.
To show that the Lord is upright - Such persons show how faithful God is to his promises, how true to his word, how kind to them who trust in him. He is the Rock, the Fountain, whence all good comes.
There is no unrighteousness in him - He does nothing evil, nothing unwise, nothing unkind. He is both just and merciful.