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

Psalms Chapter 60


psa 60:0

Drill Psalm after a Lost Battle

This last of the Elohimic Michtammı̂m of David is dated from the time of the Syro-Ammonitish war: When he (David) waged war (Hiph. of נצה, to pull, to seize by the hair) with (את like על in Num 26:9; according to Ben-Asher, with Segol instead of Makkeph here, as in Psa 47:5, Pro 3:12, three passages which are noted by the Masora) Aram of the two rivers (the people of the land of the twin streams, Mesopotami'a) and with Aram Zobah (probably between the Euphrates and Orontes north-east of Damascus), and Joab returned (ויּשׁב, transition from the infinitive to the finite verb, Ges. 132, rem. 2) and smote Edom in the Valley of Salt (the Edomitish Ghor, i.e., the salt plain, some ten miles wide, at the southern extremity of the Dead Sea) with twelve thousand men. This historical inscription comes from an historical work which gave the Psalm in this connection. It is not take out of any of the histories that have been preserved to us. For both in Sa2 8:13 and in Ch1 18:12 we find the number eighteen thousand instead of twelve. In the former passage, in which עשׂה שׁם is substantially equivalent to the Roman triumphum agere, we have to read את־עדם after the inscription of our Psalm instead of את־ארם. It is, however, still more probable that the words ויּך את־עדם (lxx ἐπάταξε τὴν Ἰδουμαίαν) have accidentally fallen out. The fact that here in the Psalm the victory over the Edomites is ascribed to Joab, in the Chronicles to Abshai (Abishai), and in 2 Sam. to David, is a difference which may easily be reconciled by the consideration that the army of David was under the supreme command of Joab, and this battle in the Valley of Salt was fought against the Edomites by Joab indirectly through his brother (cf. Sa2 10:10).

The inscription carries us into the time of the greatest, longest, and most glorious of David's wars, that with the Ammonites, which, so far as these were concerned, ended in the second year in the conquest of Rabbah (vid., Psa 21:1-13), and with their Aramaean allies, among whom Hadadezer, the ruler of the powerful kingdom of Zobah, was defeated in the first year at Chlam on the other side the Jordan. Then when, in the second year, he endeavoured to fortify himself anew in the districts on the banks of the Euphrates, he was completely subjugated together with the Syrians who had come to his assistance. Thus are the accounts of Aramaean wars related in 2 Sam. 8 and Sa2 10:1 to be combined. Whilst, now, the arms of David were making such triumphant progress in the north, the Edomites in the south had invaded the land which was denuded of troops, and here a new war, which jeopardized all the results that had been gained in the north, awaited the victorious army. Psa 60:1-12 refers more especially to this Edomitish war. Hengstenberg is wrong when he infers from the inscription that it was composed after the victory in the Valley of Salt and before the conquest of Idumaea. The inscription only in a general way gives to the Psalm its historical setting. It was composed before the victory in the Valley of Salt, and presupposes the Israelitish south had been at that time grievously laid waste by the Edomites, against whom they were unable to oppose an adequate force. We may also infer from other indications how the occupation of the neighbouring and brother-country by the Edomites called for vengeance against them; vid., on Ps 44. That Korahitic Psalm may have been composed after the Davidic Psalm, and is designedly, by Psa 60:10, brought into relationship with it. In the cento Psalms 108:7-14 correspond to Psalms 60:7-14.

The Michtam character of the Psalm manifests itself both in the fact that a divine oracle is unfolded in it, and also in the fact that the language of complaint, "Elohim, Thou hast cast us off" (cf. Psa 44:10), is repeated as its favourite utterance. Concerning על־שׁוּשׁן עדוּת, after "A Lily is the testimony" (or "The Lily of the testimony"), vid., on Psa 45:1. The addition of ללמּד is to be interpreted according to ללמּד בּני־יהוּדה קשׁת, Sa2 1:18 : the song is thereby appointed to be sung in connection with the practice of the bow. The elegy on Saul and Jonathan was suited to this by reason of the praise which is therein given to the bow of Jonathan, the favourite weapon of that brave warrior, and by the indirect remembrance of the skilful Philistine archers, who brought a disgrace upon the name of Israel in the battle on Gilboa, that needed as speedily as possible to be wiped out. Psa 60:1-12, this most martial of all the Psalms, is also a song at the practice of arms, which was designed to inflame and to hallow the patriotic martial ardour of the young men when they were being exercised.

Hengstenberg and others, who reckon according to the Masoretic verses, divide the Psalm into three strophes of four Masoretic verses each. The fact that the use made of Psa 60:1-12 in Psa 108:1-13 begins with Psa 60:7, למען יחלצון, lends some colour to this division, which is also strengthened by the Sela. Nevertheless Psa 60:6 and Psa 60:7 belong inseparably together.

Psalms 60:1

psa 60:1

This first strophe contains complaint and prayer; and establishes the prayer by the greatness of the need and Israel's relationship to God. The sense in which פּרצתּנוּ is intended becomes clear from Sa2 5:20, where David uses this word of the defeat of the Philistines, and explains it figuratively. The word signifies to break through what has hitherto been a compact mass, to burst, blast, scatter, disperse. The prayer is first of all timidly uttered in תּשׁובב לנוּ in the form of a wish; then in רפה (Psa 60:4) and הושׁיעה (Psa 60:7) it waxes more and more eloquent. שׁובב ל here signifies to grant restoration (like הניח ל, to give rest; Psa 23:3; Isa 58:12). The word also signifies to make a turn, to turn one's self away, in which sense, however, it cannot be construed with ל. On פּצמתּהּ Dunash has already compared Arab. fṣm, rumpere, scindere, and Mose ha-Darshan the Targumic פּצּם = פרע, Jer 22:14. The deep wounds which the Edomites had inflicted upon the country, are after all a wrathful visitation of God Himself - reeling or intoxicating wine, or as יין תּרעלה (not יין), properly conceived of, is: wine which is sheer intoxication (an apposition instead of the genitive attraction, vid., on Isa 30:20), is reached out by Him to His people. The figure of the intoxicating cup has passed over from the Psalms of David and of Asaph to the prophets (e.g., Isa 51:17, Isa 51:21). A kindred thought is expressed in the proverb: Quem Deus perdere vult, eum dementat. All the preterites as far as השׁקיתנוּ (Psa 60:5) glance back plaintively at that which has been suffered.

But Psa 60:6 cannot be thus intended; for to explain with Ewald and Hitzig, following the lxx, "Thou hast set up a banner for those who reverence Thee, not for victory, but for flight," is inadmissible, notwithstanding the fact that מפּני קשׁת nuwc is a customary phrase and the inscribed ללמּד is favourable to the mention of the bow. For (1) The words, beginning with נתתּ, do not sound like an utterance of something worthy of complaint - in this case it ought at least to have been expressed by עך להתנוסס (only for flight, not for victory); (2) it is more than improbable that the bow, instead of being called קשׁת (feminine of the Arabic masculine kaus), is here, according to an incorrect Aramaic form of writing, called קשׁט, whereas this word in its primary form קשׁט (Pro 22:21) corresponds to the Aramaic קוּשׁטא not in the signification "a bow," but (as it is also intended in the Targum of our passage) in the signification "truth" (Arabic ḳisṭ of strict unswerving justice, root קש, to be hard, strong, firm; just as, vice versa, the word ṣidḳ, coming from a synonymous root, is equivalent to "truth"). We therefore take the perfect predication, like Psa 60:4, as the foundation of the prayer which follows: Thou hast given those who fear Thee a banner to muster themselves (sich aufpanieren), i.e., to raise themselves as around a standard or like a standard, on account of the truth - help then, in order that Thy beloved ones may be delivered, with Thy right hand, and answer me. This rendering, in accordance with which Psa 60:6 expresses the good cause of Israel in opposition to its enemies, is also favoured by the heightened effect of the music, which comes in here, as Sela prescribes. The reflexive התנוסס here therefore signifies not, as Hithpal. of נוּס, "to betake one's self to flight," but "to raise one's self" - a signification on behalf of which we cannot appeal to Zac 9:16, where מתנוססות is apparently equivalent to מתנוצצות "sparkling," but which here results from the juxtaposition with נס (cf. נסה, Psa 4:7), inasmuch as נס itself, like Arab. naṣṣun, is so called from נסס, Arab. naṣṣ, to set up, raise, whether it be that the Hithpo. falls back upon the Kal of the verb or that it is intended as a denominative (to raise one's self as a banner, sich aufpanieren).

(Note: This expression wel illustrates the power of the German language in coining words, so that the language critically dealt with may be exactly reproduced to the German mind. The meaning will at once be clear when we inform our readers that Panier is a banner of standard; the reflexive denominative, therefore, in imitation of the Hebrew, sich aufpanieren signifies to "up-standard one's self," to raise one's self up after the manner of a standard, which being "done into English" may mean to rally (as around a standard). We have done our best above faithfully to convey the meaning of the German text, and we leave our readers to infer from this illustration the difficulties with which translators have not unfrequently to contend. - Tr.])

It is undeniable that not merely in later (e.g., Neh 5:15), but also even in older Hebrew, מפּני denotes the reason and motive (e.g., Deu 28:20). Moreover Ps 44 is like a commentary on this מפּני קשׁט, in which the consciousness of the people of the covenant revelation briefly and comprehensively expresses itself concerning their vocation in the world. Israel looks upon its battle against the heathen, as now against Edom, as a rising for the truth in accordance with its mission. By reason of the fact and of the consciousness which are expressed in Psa 60:6, arises the prayer in Psa 60:7, that Jahve would interpose to help and to rescue His own people from the power of the enemy. ימינך is instrumental (vid., on Psa 3:5). It is to be read ענני according to the Ker, as in Psa 108:7, instead of עננוּ; so that here the king of Israel is speaking, who, as he prays, stands in the place of his people.

Psalms 60:6

psa 60:6

A divine utterance, promising him victory, which he has heard, is expanded in this second strophe. By reason of this he knows himself to be in the free and inalienable possession of the land, and in opposition to the neighbouring nations, Moab, Edom, and Philistia, to be the victorious lord to whom they must bow. The grand word of promise in Sa2 7:9. is certainly sufficient in itself to make this feeling of certainty intelligible, and perhaps Psa 60:8-10 are only a pictorial reproduction of that utterance; but it is also possible that at the time when Edom threatened the abandoned bordering kingdom, David received an oracle from the high priest by means of the Urim and Thummim, which assured him of the undiminished and continued possession of the Holy Land and the sovereignty over the bordering nations. That which God speaks "in His holiness" is a declaration or a promise for the sure fulfilment and inviolability of which He pledges His holiness; it is therefore equal to an oath "by His holiness" (Psa 89:36; Amo 4:2). The oracle does not follow in a direct form, for it is not God who speaks (as Olshausen thinks), to whom the expression אעלזה is unbecoming, nor is it the people (as De Wette and Hengstenberg), but the king, since what follows refers not only to the districts named, but also to their inhabitants. כּי might have stood before אעלזה, but without it the mode of expression more nearly resembles the Latin me exultaturum esse (cf. Psa 49:12). Shechem in the centre of the region on this side the Jordan, and the valley of Succoth in the heart of the region on the other side, from the beginning; for there is not only a [Arab.] sâkût (the name both of the eminence and of the district) on the west side of the Jordan south of Beisn (Scythopolis), but there must also have been another on the other side of the Jordan (Gen 33:17., Jdg 8:4.) which has not as yet been successfully traced. It lay in the vicinity of Jabbok (ez-Zerka), about in the same latitude with Shechem (Sichem), south-east of Scythopolis, where Estori ha-Parchi contends that he had found traces of it not far from the left bank of the Jordan. Jos 13:27 gives some information concerning the עמק (valley) of Succoth. The town and the valley belonged to the tribe of Gad. Gilead, side by side with Manasseh, Psa 60:9, comprehends the districts belonging to the tribes of Gad and Reuben. As far as Psa 60:9, therefore, free dominion in the cis-and trans-Jordanic country is promised to David. The proudest predicates are justly given to Ephraim and Judah, the two chief tribes; the former, the most numerous and powerful, is David's helmet (the protection of his head), and Judah his staff of command (מחקק, the command-giving = staff of command, as in Gen 49:10; Num 21:18); for Judah, by virtue of the ancient promise, is the royal tribe of the people who are called to the dominion of the world. This designation of Judah as the king's staff or sceptre and the marshal's baton shows that it is the king who is speaking, and not the people. To him, the king, who has the promise, are Joab, Edom, and Philistia subject, and will continue so. Joab the boastful serves him as a wash-basin;

(Note: A royal attendant, the tasht-dâr, cup-or wash-basin-bearer, carried the wash-basin for the Persian king both when in battle and on a journey (vid., Spiegel, Avesta ii. LXIX). Moab, says the Psalmist, not merely waits upon him with the wash-basin, but himself serves as such to him.)

Edom the crafty and malicious is forcibly taken possession of by him and obliged to submit; and Philistia the warlike is obliged to cry aloud concerning him, the irresistible ruler. סיר רחץ is a wash-pot or basin in distinction from a seething-pot, which is also called סיר. The throwing of a shoe over a territory is a sign of taking forcible possession, just as the taking off of the shoe (חליצה) is a sign of the renunciation of one's claim or right: the shoe is in both instances the symbol of legal possession.

(Note: The sandal or the shoe, I as an object of Arab. wt'̣, of treading down, oppressing, signifies metaphorically, (1) a man that is weak and incapable of defending himself against oppression, since one says, ma kuntu na‛lan, I am no shoe, i.e., no man that one can tread under his feet; (2) a wife (quae subjicitur), since one says, g'alaa‛ na‛lahu, he has taken off his shoe, i.e., cast off his wife (cf. Lane under Arab. ḥiḏa'â', which even signifies a shoe and a wife). II As an instrument of Arab. wṭ‛, tropically of the act of oppressing and of reducing to submission, the Arab. wa‛l serves as a symbol of subjugation to the dominion of another. Rosenmller (Das alte und neue Morgenland, No. 483) shows that the Abyssinian kings, at least, cast a shoe upon anything as a sign of taking forcible possession. Even supposing this usage is based upon the above passage of the Psalms, it proves, however, that a people thinking and speaking after the Oriental type associated this meaning with the casting of a shoe upon anything. - Fleischer. Cf. Wetzstein's Excursus at the end of this volume.)

The rendering of the last line, with Hitzig and Hengstenberg: "exult concerning me, O Philistia," i.e., hail me, though compelled to do so, as king, is forbidden by the עלי, instead of which we must have looked for לי. The verb רוּע certainly has the general signification "to break out into a loud cry," and like the Hiph. (e.g., Isa 15:4) the Hithpal. can also be used of a loud outcry at violence.

Psalms 60:9

psa 60:9

The third strophe reverts to prayer; but the prayer now breathes more freely with a self-conscious courage for the strife. The fortified city (עיר מצור) is not Rabbath Ammon; but, as becomes evident from the parallel member of the verse and Kg2 14:7, the Idumaean chief city of Sela' (סלע) or Petra (vid., Knobel on Gen 36:42, cf. Psa 31:22; Ch2 8:5; Ch2 11:5 together with Psa 14:5). The wish: who will conduct me = Oh that one would conduct me (Ges. 136, 1)! expresses a martial desire, joyful at the prospect of victory; concerning מי נחני, quis perduxerit me, vid., on Psa 11:3. What follows is not now to be rendered: Not Thou (who but Thou), Elohim, who...(Hitzig) - for in order to have been understood thus and not as in Psa 60:3, Psa 44:10, the poet could not have omitted אשׁר - on the contrary, the interrogatory הלא is the foundation on which the supplicatory הבה is raised. The king of Israel is hard pressed in the battle, but he knows that victory comes from above, from the God who has hitherto in anger refused it to His people, inasmuch as He has given power to Edom to break through the defensive forces of Israel (vid., Psa 44:10). עזרת (not עזרת = עזרה) is, as in Psa 108:13, equivalent to עזרתה. The view that it is equal to עזרתי, the suffix being cast away, is not confirmed in this instance, vid., on Psa 16:6, cf. Psa 3:3. How vain is human succour, has been seen only very recently in the case of the kings of Zobah and Ammon, who have succumbed in spite of their confederates. Israel prays for its victorious power from above, and also obtains it thence, as is most confidently expressed in v. 14. עשׂה חיל, to do valiantly, to show valour, is equivalent to: to be victorious, as in Psa 118:16. In God does Israel conquer, and God, who is in Israel, will by means of Israel tread down Edom in accordance with its deserts.

Next: Psalms Chapter 61