Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
The Breaking Through of the Kingdom of God, the Judge and Saviour
This Psalm, too, has the coming of Jahve, who enters upon His kingdom through judgment, as its theme, and the watchword "Jahve is King" as its key-note. The lxx inscribes it: τῷ Δαυίδ ὅτε ἡ γῆ αὐτοῦ καθίσταται (καθίστατο); Jerome: quando terra ejus restituta est. The τῷ Δαυίδ is worthless; the time of restoration, from which it takes its rise, is the post-exilic, for it is composed, as mosaic-work, out of the earlier original passages of Davidic and Asaphic Psalms and of the prophets, more especially of Isaiah, and is entirely an expression of the religious consciousness which resulted from the Exile.
We have here nothing but echoes of the older literature: Psa 97:1, cf. Isa 42:10-12; Isa 51:5; Psa 97:2, cf. Psa 18:10, Psa 18:12; Psa 97:2 = Psa 89:15; Psa 97:3, cf. Psa 50:3; Psa 18:9; Psa 97:3, cf. Isa 42:25. Beginning with the visible coming of the kingdom of God in the present, with מלך ה the poet takes his stand upon the standpoint of the kingdom which is come. With it also comes rich material for universal joy. תּגל is indicative, as in Psa 96:11 and frequently. רבּים are all, for all of them are in fact many (cf. Isa 52:15). The description of the theophany, for which the way is preparing in Psa 97:2, also reminds one of Hab. 3. God's enshrouding Himself in darkness bears witness to His judicial earnestness. Because He comes as Judge, the basis of His royal throne and of His judgment-seat is also called to mind. His harbinger is fire, which consumes His adversaries on every side, as that which broke forth out of the pillar of cloud once consumed the Egyptians.
Again we have nothing but echoes of the older literature: Psa 97:4 = Psa 77:19; Psa 97:4, cf. Psa 77:17; Psa 97:5, cf. Mic 1:4; Psa 97:5, cf. Mic 4:13; Psa 97:6 = Psa 50:6; Psa 97:6, cf. Isa 35:2; Isa 40:5; Isa 52:10; Isa 66:18. The poet goes on to describe that which is future with historical certainty. That which Psa 77:19 says of the manifestation of God in the earlier times he transfers to the revelation of God in the last time. The earth sees it, and begins to tremble in consequence of it. The reading ותּחל, according to Hitzig (cf. Ew. ֗232, b) traditional, is, however, only an error of pointing that has been propagated; the correct reading is the reading of Heidenheim and Baer, restored according to MSS, ותּחל (cf. Sa1 31:3), like ותּבן, ותּקם, ותּרם, and ותּשׂם. The figure of the wax is found even in Psa 68:3; and Jahve is also called "Lord of the whole earth" in Zac 4:14; Zac 6:5. The proclamation of the heavens is an expression of joy, Psa 96:11. They proclaim the judicial strictness with which Jahve, in accordance with His promises, carries out His plan of salvation, the realization of which has reached its goal in the fact that all men see the glory of God.
When the glory of Jahve becomes manifest, everything that is opposed to it will be punished and consumed by its light. Those who serve idols will become conscious of their delusion with shame and terror, Isa 42:17; Jer 10:14. The superhuman powers (lxx ἄγγελοι), deified by the heathen, then bow down to Him who alone is Elohim in absolute personality. השׁתּחווּ is not imperative (lxx, Syriac), for as a command this clause would be abrupt and inconsequential, but the perfect of that which actually takes place. The quotation in Heb 1:6 is taken from Deu 32:43, lxx. In Psa 97:8 (after Psa 48:12) the survey of the poet again comes back to his own nation. When Zion hears that Jahve has appeared, and all the world and all the powers bow down to Him, she rejoices; for it is in fact her God whose kingship has come to the acknowledge. And all the daughter-churches of the Jewish land exult together with the mother-church over the salvation which dawns through judgments.
This distichic epiphonema (Psa 97:9 = Ps 83:19; Psa 97:9, cf. Psa 47:3, 10) might close the Psalm; there follows still, however, a hortatory strophe (which was perhaps not added till later on).
It is true Psa 97:12 is = Psa 32:11, Psa 97:12 = Psa 30:5, and the promise in Psa 97:10 is the same as in Psa 37:28; Psa 34:21; but as to the rest, particularly Psa 97:11, this strophe is original. It is an encouraging admonition to fidelity in an age in which an effeminate spirit of looking longingly towards lit. ogling heathenism was rife, and stedfast adherence to Jahve was threatened with loss of life. Those who are faithful in their confession, as in the Maccabaean age (Ἀσιδαῖοι), are called חסדיו. The beautiful figure in Psa 97:11 is misapprehended by the ancient versions, inasmuch as they read זרח (Psa 112:4) instead of זרע. זרע does not here signify sown = strewn into the earth, but strewn along his life's way, so that he, the righteous one, advances step by step in the light. Hitzig rightly compares ki'dnatai ski'dnatai, used of the dawn and of the sun. Of the former Virgil also says, Et jam prima novo spargebat lumine terras.