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God is celebrated for his wondrous works, Psalm 98:1, Psalm 98:2; for the exact fulfillment of his gracious promises, Psalm 98:3. The manner in which he is to be praised, Psalm 98:4-6. Inanimate creation called to bear a part in this concert, Psalm 98:7, Psalm 98:8. The justice of his judgments, Psalm 98:9.
In the Hebrew this is simply termed מזמור (mizmor), a Psalm. In the Chaldee, A prophetic Psalm. In the Vulgate, Septuagint, Ethiopic, A Psalm of David. In the Syriac it is attributed to David, and stated to be composed concerning the “Restoration of the Israelites from Egypt; but is to be understood spiritually of the advent of the Messiah, and the vocation of the Gentiles to the Christian faith.”
The Psalm in its subject is very like the ninety-sixth. It was probably written to celebrate the deliverance from the Babylonish captivity; but is to be understood prophetically of the redemption of the world by Jesus Christ.
A new song - A song of excellence. Give him the highest praise. See on Psalm 96:1 (note).
Hath done marvellous things - נפלאות (niphlaoth), “miracles,” the same word as in Psalm 96:3, where we translate it wonders.
His holy arm - His Almighty power: -
Hath gotten him the victory - הושיעה לו (hoshiah llo), “hath made salvation to himself.”
Made known his salvation - He has delivered his people in such a way as to show that it was supernatural, and that their confidence in the unseen God was not in vain.
He hath remembered his mercy - His gracious promises to their forefathers.
And his truth - Faithfully accomplishing what he had promised. All this was fulfilled under the Gospel.
With - the voice of a Psalm - I think זמרה (zimrah), which we translate Psalm, means either a musical instrument, or a species of ode modulated by different voices.
With trumpets - חצצרות (chatsotseroth). Some kind of tubular instruments, of the form and management of which we know nothing.
And sound of cornet - שופר (shophar), the word commonly used for what we call trumpet.
Let the sea roar - These are either fine poetic images; or, if we take them as referring to the promulgation of the Gospel, by the sea all maritime countries and commercial nations may be intended.
Let the floods clap their hands - נהרות (neharoth), properly the rivers - possibly meaning immense continents, where only large rivers are found; thus including inland people, as well as maritime stations, and those on the sea-coasts generally; as in those early times little more than the coasts of the sea were known. The Gospel shall be preached in the most secluded nations of the world.
Let the hills be joyful - All the inhabitants of rocky and mountainous countries.
For he cometh to judge the earth - He comes to make known his salvation, and show his merciful designs to all the children of men.
With righteousness shall he judge the world - His word shall not be confined; all shall know him, from the least to the greatest: he shall show that he is loving to every man, and hateth nothing that he hath made. See the notes on Psalm 96:1-13 (note). There is a very great similarity between this Psalm and the Song or Magnificat of the Blessed Virgin. I shall note some of the parallels, chiefly from Bishop Nicholson.
This Psalm is an evident prophecy of Christ‘s coming to save the world; and what is here foretold by David is, in the Blessed Virgin‘s song, chanted forth as being accomplished. David is the Voice, and Mary is the Echo.
1.David“O sing unto the Lord a new song.” (The Voice).
Mary“My soul doth magnify the Lord.” (The Echo).
2.David“He hath done marvellous things.” (The Voice).
Mary“He that is mighty hath done great things.” (The Echo).
3.David“With his own right hand and holy arm hath he gotten himself the victory.” (The Voice).
Mary“He hath showed strength with his arm and scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.” (The Echo).
4.David“The Lord hath made known his salvation; his righteousness hath he openly showed,” etc. (The Voice).
Mary“His mercy is on them that fear him, from generation to generation.” (The Echo).
5.David“He hath remembered his mercy and his truth toward the house of Israel.” (The Voice).
Mary“He hath holpen his servant Israel in remembrance of his mercy.” (The Echo).
These parallels are very striking; and it seems as if Mary had this Psalm in her eye when she composed her song of triumph. And this is a farther argument that the whole Psalm, whether it record the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, or the Jews from the Babylonish captivity, is yet to be ultimately understood of the redemption of the world by Jesus Christ, and the proclamation of his Gospel through all the nations of the earth: and taken in this view, no language can be too strong, nor poetic imagery too high, to point out the unsearchable riches of Christ.