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Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at

Psalms Chapter 33


psa 33:0

Praise of the Ruler of the World as Being the Defender of His People

The Davidic Maskl, Psa 32:1-11, is followed by an anonymous congregational song of a hymnic character, which begins just like the former closes. It owes its composition apparently to some deliverance of the nation from heathen oppression, which had resulted from God's interposition and without war. Moreover it exhibits no trace of dependence upon earlier models, such as might compel us to assign a late date to it; the time of Jeremiah, for instance, which Hitzig adopts. The structure is symmetrical. Between the two hexastichs, Psa 33:1, Psa 33:20, the materia laudis is set forth in eight tetrastichs.

Psalms 33:1

psa 33:1

The call contained in this hexastich is addressed to the righteous and upright, who earnestly seek to live a godly and God-pleasing life, and the sole determining rule of whose conduct is the will and good pleasure of God. These alone know God, whose true nature finds in them a clear mirror; so on their part they are joyfully to confess what they possess in Him. For it is their duty, and at the same time their honour, to praise him, and make their boast in Him. נאוה is the feminine of the adjective נאוה (formed out of נאוי), as in Psa 147:1, cf. Pro 19:10. On כּנּור (lxx κιθάρα, κινύρα) and נבל (lxx ψαλτήριον, νάβλα, ναῦλα, etc.) vid., Introduction @a7II. נבל is the name given to the harp or lyre on account of its resemblance to a skin bottle or flash (root נב, to swell, to be distended), and נבל עשׂור, "harp of the decade,"' is the ten-stringed harp, which is also called absolutely עשׂור, and distinguished from the customary נבל, in Psa 92:4. By a comparison of the asyndeton expressions in Psa 35:14, Jer 11:19, Aben-Ezra understands by נבל עשור two instruments, contrary to the tenour of the words. Gecatilia, whom he controverts, is only so far in error as that he refers the ten to holes (נקבים) instead of to strings. The בּ is Beth instrum., just like the expression κιθαρίζειν ἐν κιθάραις, Rev 14:2. A "new song" is one which, in consequence of some new mighty deeds of God, comes from a new impulse of gratitude in the heart, Psa 40:4, and frequently in the Psalms, Isa 42:10, Judith 6:13, Rev 5:9. In היטיבוּ the notions of scite and strenue, suaviter and naviter, blend. With בּתרוּעה, referring back to רננו, the call to praise forms, as it were, a circle as it closes.

Psalms 33:4

psa 33:4

Now beings the body of the song. The summons to praise God is supported (1) by a setting forth of His praiseworthiness

(Note: We have adopted the word "praiseworthiness" for the sake of conciseness of expression, in order to avoid an awkward periphrasis, in the sense of being worthy to be praised. - Tr.)

(a) as the God of revelation in the kingdom of Grace. His word is ישׂר, upright in intention, and, without becoming in any way whatever untrue to itself, straightway fulfilling itself. His every act is an act in אמוּנה, truth, which verifies the truth of His word, and one which accomplishes itself. On אהב, equivalent to אהב הוּא, vid., Psa 7:10; Psa 22:29. צדקה is righteousness as conduct; משׁפּט is right as a rule of judgment and a state or condition. חסד is an accusative, as in Psa 119:64 : misericordia Domini plena est terra (the introit for Misercordias Sunday or the second Sunday after Easter).

Psalms 33:6

psa 33:6

God's praiseworthiness (b) as the Creator of the world in the kingdom of Nature. Jahve's דּבר is His almighty "Let there be;" and רוח פּיו (inasmuch as the breath is here regarded as the material of which the word is formed and the bearer of the word) is the command, or in general, the operation of His commanding omnipotence (Job 15:30, cf. Job 4:9; Isa 34:16, cf. Psa 11:4). The heavens above and the waters beneath stand side by side as miracles of creation. The display of His power in the waters of the sea consists in His having confined them within fixed bounds and keeping them within these. נד is a pile, i.e., a piled up heap (Arabic nadd), and more especially an inference to harvest: like such a heap do the convex waters of the sea, being firmly held together, rise above the level of the continents. The expression is like that in Jos 3:13, Jos 3:15, cf. Exo 15:8; although there the reference is to a miracle occurring in the course of history, and in this passage to a miracle of creation. כּנס refers to the heap itself, not to the walls of the storehouses as holding together. This latter figure is not introduced until Psa 33:7: the bed of the sea and those of the rivers are, as it were, אוצרות, treasuries or storehouses, in which God has deposited the deep, foaming waves or surging mass of waters. The inhabitants (ישׁבי, not יושׁבי) of the earth have cause to fear God who is thus omnipotent (מן, in the sense of falling back from in terror); for He need only speak the word and that which He wills comes into being out of nothing, as we see from the hexameron or history of Creation, but which is also confirmed in human history (Lam 3:37). He need only command and it stands forth like an obedient servant, that appears in all haste at the call of his lord, Psa 119:91.

Psalms 33:10

psa 33:10

His praiseworthiness (c) as the irresistible Ruler in the history of men. Since in Sa2 15:34; Sa2 17:14, and frequently, הפר עצה is a common phrase, therefore heepiyr as in Psa 89:34, Eze 17:19, is equivalent to הפר (Ges. ֗67, rem. 9). The perfects are not used in the abstract, but of that which has been experienced most recently, since the "new song" presupposes new matter. With Psa 33:11 compare Pro 19:21. The עצת of God is the unity of the "thoughts of His heart," i.e., of the ideas, which form the inmost part, the ultimate motives of everything that takes place. The whole history of the world is the uninterrupted carrying out of a divine plan of salvation, the primary object of which is His people, but in and with these are included humanity at large.

Psalms 33:12

psa 33:12

Hence the call to praise God is supported (2) by a setting forth of that which His people possess in Him. This portion of the song is like a paraphrase of the אשׁרי in Deu 33:29. The theme in Psa 33:12 is proved in Psa 33:13 by the fact, that Jahve is the omniscient Ruler, because He is the Creator of men, without whose knowledge nothing is undertaken either secretly or openly, and especially if against His people. Then in Psa 33:16 it is supported by the fact, that His people have in Jahve a stronger defence than the greatest worldly power would be. Jahve is called the fashioner of all the hearts of men, as in Zac 12:1, cf. Pro 24:12, as being their Maker. As such He is also the observer of all the works of men; for His is acquainted with their origin in the laboratory of the heart, which He as Creator has formed. Hupfeld takes יחד as an equalisation (pariter ac) of the two appositions; but then it ought to be וּמבין (cf. Psa 49:3, Psa 49:11). The lxx correctly renders it καταμόνας, singillatim. It is also needless to translate it, as Hupfeld does: He who formed, qui finxit; for the hearts of men were not from the very first created all at one time, but the primeval impartation of spirit-life is continued at every birth in some mysterious way. God is the Father of spirits, Heb 12:9. For this very reason everything that exists, even to the most hidden thing, is encompassed by His omniscience and omnipotence. He exercises an omniscient control over all things, and makes all things subservient to the designs of His plan of the universe, which, so far as His people are concerned, is the plan of salvation. Without Him nothing comes to pass; but through Him everything takes place. The victory of the king, and the safety of the warrior, are not their own works. Their great military power and bodily strength can accomplish nothing without God, who can also be mighty in the feeble. Even for purposes of victory (תּשׁוּעה, cf. ישׁוּעה, Psa 21:2) the war-horse is שׁקר, i.e., a thing that promises much, but can in reality do nothing; it is not its great strength, by which it enables the trooper to escape (ימלּט). "The horse," says Solomon in Pro 21:31, "is equipped for the day of battle, but התּשׁוּעה לה, Jahve's is the victory," He giveth it to whomsoever He will. The ultimate ends of all things that come to pass are in His hands, and - as Psa 33:18. say, directing special attention to this important truth by הנּה - the eye of this God, that is to say the final aim of His government of the world, is directed towards them that fear Him, is pointed at them that hope in His mercy (למיחלים). In Psa 33:19, the object, לחסדּו, is expanded by way of example. From His mercy or loving-kindness, not from any acts of their own, conscious of their limited condition and feebleness, they look for protection in the midst of the greatest peril, and for the preservation of their life in famine. Psa 20:8 is very similar; but the one passage sounds as independent as the other.

Psalms 33:20

psa 33:20

Accordingly, in this closing hexastich, the church acknowledges Him as its help, its shield, and its source of joy. Besides the passage before us, חכּה occurs in only one other instance in the Psalter, viz., Psa 106:13. This word, which belongs to the group of words signifying hoping and waiting, is perhaps from the root חך (Arab. ḥk', ḥkâ, firmiter constringere sc. nodum), to be firm, compact, like קוּה from קוה, to pull tight or fast, cf. the German harren (to wait) and hart (hard, compact). In Psa 33:20 we still hear the echo of the primary passage Deu 33:29 (cf. Deu 33:26). The emphasis, as in Psa 115:9-11, rests upon הוּא, into which בּו, in Psa 33:21, puts this thought, viz., He is the unlimited sphere, the inexhaustible matter, the perennial spring of our joy. The second כּי confirms this subjectively. His holy Name is His church's ground of faith, of love, and of hope; for from thence comes its salvation. It can boldly pray that the mercy of the Lord may be upon it, for it waits upon Him, and man's waiting or hoping and God's giving are reciprocally conditioned. This is the meaning of the כּאשׁר. God is true to His word. The Te Deum laudamus of Ambrose closes in the same way.

Next: Psalms Chapter 34