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

Psalms Chapter 96


psa 96:0

A Greeting of the Coming Kingdom of God

What Psa 95:3 says: "A great God is Jahve, and a great King above all gods," is repeated in Psa 96:1-13. The lxx inscribes it (1) ᾠδὴ τῷ Δαυίδ, and the chronicler has really taken it up almost entire in the song which was sung on the day when the Ark was brought in (Ch1 16:23-33); but, as the coarse seams between vv. 22-23, vv. 33-34 show, he there strings together familiar reminiscences of the Psalms (vid., on Ps 105) as a sort of mosaic, in order approximately to express the festive mood and festive strains of that day. And (2) ὅτε ὁ οἶκος ᾠκοδομεῖτο (Cod. Vat. ᾠκοδόμηται) μετὰ τὴν αἰχμαλωσίαν. By this the lxx correctly interprets the Psalm as a post-exilic song: and the Psalm corresponds throughout to the advance which the mind of Israel has experienced in the Exile concerning its mission in the world. The fact that the religion of Jahve is destined for mankind at large, here receives the most triumphantly joyous, lyrical expression. And so far as this is concerned, the key-note of the Psalm is even deutero-Isaianic. For it is one chief aim of Isa 40:1 to declare the pinnacle of glory of the Messianic apostolic mission on to which Israel is being raised through the depth of affliction of the Exile. All these post-exilic songs come much nearer to the spirit of the New Testament than the pre-exilic; for the New Testament, which is the intrinsic character of the Old Testament freed from its barriers and limitations, is in process of coming into being (im Werden begriffen) throughout the Old Testament, and the Exile was one of the most important crises in this progressive process.

Psa 96:1 are more Messianic than many in the strict sense of the word Messianic; for the central (gravitating) point of the Old Testament gospel (Heilsverk@fcndigung) lies not in the Messiah, but in the appearing (parusia) of Jahve - a fact which is explained by the circumstance that the mystery of the incarnation still lies beyond the Old Testament knowledge or perception of salvation. All human intervention in the matter of salvation accordingly appears as purely human, and still more, it preserves a national and therefore outward and natural impress by virtue of the national limit within which the revelation of salvation has entered. If the ideal Davidic king who is expected even does anything superhuman, he is nevertheless only a man - a man of God, it is true, without his equal, but not the God-man. The mystery of the incarnation does, it is true, the nearer it comes to actual revelation, cast rays of its dawning upon prophecy, but the sun itself remains below the horizon: redemption is looked for as Jahve's own act, and "Jahve cometh" is also still the watchword of the last prophet (Mal 3:1).

The five six-line strophes of the Psalm before us are not to be mistaken. The chronicler has done away with five lines, and thereby disorganized the strophic structure; and one line (Psa 96:10) he has removed from its position. The originality of the Psalm in the Psalter, too, is revealed thereby, and the non-independence of the chronicler, who treats the Psalm as an historian.

Psalms 96:1

psa 96:1

Call to the nation of Jahve to sing praise to its God and to evangelize the heathen. שׁירוּ is repeated three times. The new song assumes a new form of things, and the call thereto, a present which appeared to be a beginning that furnished a guarantee of this new state of things, a beginning viz., of the recognition of Jahve throughout the whole world of nations, and of His accession to the lordship over the whole earth. The new song is an echo of the approaching revelation of salvation and of glory, and this is also the inexhaustible material of the joyful tidings that go forth from day to day (מיּום ליום as in Est 3:7, whereas in the Chronicles it is מיום אל־יום as in Num 30:15). We read Psa 96:1 verbally the same in Isa 42:10; Psa 96:2 calls to mind Isa 52:7; Isa 60:6; and Psa 96:3, Isa 66:19.

Psalms 96:4

psa 96:4

Confirmation of the call from the glory of Jahve that is now become manifest. The clause Psa 96:4, as also Psa 145:3, is taken out of Psa 48:2. כל־אלהים is the plural of כּל־אלוהּ, every god, Ch2 32:15; the article may stand here or be omitted (Psa 95:3, cf. Psa 113:4). All the elohim, i.e., gods, of the peoples are אלילים (from the negative אל), nothings and good-for-nothings, unreal and useless. The lxx renders δαιμόνια, as though the expression were שׁדים (cf. Co1 10:20), more correctly εἴδωλα in Rev 9:20. What Psa 96:5 says is wrought out in Isa 40, Isa 44, and elsewhere; אלילים is a name of idols that occurs nowhere more frequently than in Isaiah. The sanctuary (Psa 96:6) is here the earthly sanctuary. From Jerusalem, over which the light arises first of all (Isa. 60), Jahve's superterrestrial doxa now reveals itself in the world. הוד־והדר is the usual pair of words for royal glory. The chronicler reads Psa 96:6 עז וחדוה בּמקמו, might and joy are in His place (הדוה( ecalp siH ni era yoj d a late word, like אחוה, brotherhood, brotherly affection, from an old root, Exo 18:9). With the place of God one might associate the thought of the celestial place of God transcending space; the chronicler may, however, have altered במקדשׁו into במקמו because when the Ark was brought in, the Temple (בית המקדשׁ) was not yet built.

Psalms 96:7

psa 96:7

Call to the families of the peoples to worship God, the One, living, and glorious God. הבוּ is repeated three times here as Psa 29:1-11, of which the whole strophe is an echo. Isaiah (ch. 60) sees them coming in with the gifts which they are admonished to bring with them into the courts of Jahve (in Chr. only: לפניו). Instead of בּהדרת קדשׁ here and in the chronicler, the lxx brings the courts (חצרת) in once more; but the dependence of the strophe upon Psa 29:1-11 furnishes a guarantee for the "holy attire," similar to the wedding garment in the New Testament parable. Instead of מפּניו, Psa 96:9, the chronicler has מלּפניו, just as he also alternates with both forms, Ch2 32:7, cf. Ch1 19:18.

Psalms 96:10

psa 96:10

That which is to be said among the peoples is the joyous evangel of the kingdom of heaven which is now come and realized. The watchword is "Jahve is King," as in Isa 52:7. The lxx correctly renders: ὁ κύριος ἐβασίλευσε

(Note: In the Psalterium Veronense with the addition apo xylu, Cod. 156, Latinizing ἀπὸ τῷ ξύλῳ; in the Latin Psalters (the Vulgate excepted) a ligno, undoubtedly an addition by an early Christian hand, upon which, however, great value is set by Justin and all the early Latin Fathers.)

for מלך is intended historically (Rev 11:17). אף, as in Psa 93:1, introduces that which results from this fact, and therefore to a certain extent goes beyond it. The world below, hitherto shaken by war and anarchy, now stands upon foundations that cannot be shaken in time to come, under Jahve's righteous and gentle sway. This is the joyful tidings of the new era which the poet predicts from out of his own times, when he depicts the joy that will then pervade the whole creation; in connection with which it is hardly intentional that Psa 96:11 and Psa 96:11 acrostically contain the divine names יהוה and יהו. This joining of all creatures in the joy at Jahve's appearing is a characteristic feature of Isa 40:1. These cords are already struck in Isa 35:1. "The sea and its fulness" as in Isa 42:10. In the chronicler Psa 96:10 (ויאמרו instead of אמרו) stands between Psa 96:11 and Psa 96:11 - according to Hitzig, who uses all his ingenuity here in favour of that other recension of the text, by an oversight of the copyist.

Psalms 96:12

psa 96:12

The chronicler changes שׂדי into the prosaic השּׂדה, and כל־עצי־יעל with the omission of the כל into עצי היּער. The psalmist on his part follows the model of Isaiah, who makes the trees of the wood exult and clap their hands, Psa 55:12; Psa 44:23. The אז, which points into this festive time of all creatures which begins with Jahve's coming, is as in Isa 35:5. Instead of לפני, "before," the chronicler has the מלּפני so familiar to him, by which the joy is denoted as being occasioned by Jahve's appearing. The lines Psa 96:13 sound very much like Psa 9:9. The chronicler has abridged Psa 96:13, by hurrying on to the mosaic-work portion taken from Ps 105. The poet at the close glances from the ideal past into the future. The twofold בּא is a participle, Ew. 200. Being come to judgment, after He has judged and sifted, executing punishment, Jahve will govern in the righteousness of mercy and in faithfulness to the promises.

Next: Psalms Chapter 97