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Commentary On Psalms Volume 2 by Jean Calvin

Psalm 60:4-8

4. Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed before the truth. Selah.5. That thy beloved may be delivered, save with thy right hand, and hear me.6. God hath spoken in his holiness; I will rejoice: I will divide Shechem, and mete out the valley of Succoth.7. Gilead is mine, and Manasseh is mine; Ephraim also is mine strength of my head; Judah is my lawgiver. 8. Moab is my washpot; over Edom will I cast my shoe: Palestina, triumph over me.

4 Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee. Some interpreters would change the past tense, and read the words as if they formed a continuation of the prayers which precede -- O that thou wouldst give a banner to them that fear thee! But it is better to suppose that David diverges to the language of congratulation, and, by pointing to the change which had taken place, calls attention to the evident appearances of the divine favor. He returns thanks to God, in the name of all the people, for having raised a standard which might at once cheer their hearts, and unite their divided numbers. It is a poor and meagre interpretation which some have attached to the words, before the truth, that God showed favor to the Jews because he had found them true-hearted, and sound in his cause. Those in the higher ranks had, as is well known, proved eminently disloyal; the common people had, along with their king, broken their divine allegiance: from the highest to the lowest in the kingdom all had conspired to overthrow the gracious purpose of God. It is evident, then, that David refers to the truth of God as having emerged in a signal manner, now that the Church began to be restored. This was an event which had not been expected. Indeed, who did not imagine, in the desperate circumstances, that God's promises had altogether failed? But when David mounted the throne, his truth, which had been so long obscured, again shone forth. The advantage which ensued extended to the whole nation; but David intimates that God had a special respect to his own people, whose deliverance, however few they might be in number, he particularly contemplated.

He next proceeds to address God again in prayer; although, I may observe in passing, the words which follow, that thy beloved may be delivered, are read by some in connection with the preceding verse. I am myself inclined to adopt that construction; for David would seem to magnify the illustration which had been given of the divine favor, by adverting to the change which had taken place, God having inspirited his people so far as to display a banner; where, formerly, they were reduced to a state of extremity, from which it seemed impossible to escape without a miracle. In the previous verse he calls them fearers of the Lord, and now his beloved; implying that, when God rewards such as fear and worship him, it is always with a respect to his own free love. And prayer is subjoined: for however great may be the favors which God has bestowed upon us, modesty and humility will teach us always to pray that he would perfect what his goodness has begun.

6. God hath spoken in his holiness; I will rejoice. Hitherto he has adverted to the proofs which had come under their own observation, and from which they might easily see that God had manifested his favor in a manner new, and for many years unprecedented. He had raised the nation from a state of deep distress to prosperity, and had changed the aspect of affairs so far, that one victory was following another in rapid succession. But now he calls their attention to a point of still greater importance, the divine promise -- the fact that God had previously declared all this with his own mouth. However numerous and striking may be the practical demonstrations we receive of the favor of God, we can never recognize them, except in connection with his previously revealed promise. What follows, although spoken by David as of himself individually, may be considered as the language adopted by the people generally, of whom he was the political head. Accordingly, he enjoins them, provided they were not satisfied with the sensible proofs of divine favor, to reflect upon the oracle by which he had been made king in terms the most distinct and remarkable. He says that God had spoken in his holiness, not by his Holy Spirit, as some, with an over-refinement of interpretation, have rendered it, nor by his holy place, the sanctuary; for we read of no response having been given from it to the prophet Samuel. It is best to retain the term holiness, as he adverts to the fact of the truth of the oracle having been confirmed, and the constancy and efficacy of the promise having been placed beyond all doubt by numerous proof, of a practical kind. As no room had been left for question upon the point, he employs this epithet to put honor upon the words which had been spoken by Samuel. He immediately adds, that this word of God was the chief ground upon which he placed his trust. It might be true that he had gained many victories, and that these had tended to encourage his heart; but he intimates, that no testimony which he had received of this kind gave him so much satisfaction as the word. This accords with the general experience of the Lord's people. Cheered, as they unquestionably are, by every expression of the divine goodness, still faith must ever be considered as holding the highest place -- as being that which dissipates their worst sorrows, and quickens them even when dead to a happiness which is not of this world. Nor does David mean that he merely rejoiced himself. He includes, in general, all who feared the Lord in that Kingdom. And now he proceeds to give the sum of the oracle, which it is observable that he does in such a way as to show, in the very narration of it, how firmly he believed in its truth: for he speaks of it as something which admitted of no doubt whatsoever, and boasts that he would do what God had promised. I will divide Shechem, he says, and mete out the valley of Succoth The parts which he names are those that were more late of coming into his possession, and which would appear to have been yet in the hands of Saul's son, when this psalm was written. A severe struggle being necessary for their acquisition, he asserts that, though late of being subdued, they would certainly be brought under his subjection in due time, as God had condescended to engage this by his word. So with Gilead and Manasseh As Ephraim was the most populous of all the tribes, he appropriately terms it the strength of his head, that is, of his dominions. To procure the greater credit to the oracle, by showing that it derived a sanction from antiquity, he adds, that Judah would be his lawgiver, or chief; which was equivalent to saying, that the posterity of Abraham could never prosper unless, in agreeableness to the prediction of the patriarch Jacob, they were brought under the government of Judah, or of one who was sprung from that tribe. He evidently alludes to what is narrated by Moses, (Genesis 49:10,) |The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come.| The same word is there used, mchvqq, Mechokek, or legislator. It followed, that no government could stand which was not resident in the tribe of Judah, this being the decree and the good pleasure of God. The words are more appropriate in the mouth of the people than of David; and, as already remarked, he does not speak in his own name, but in that of the Church at large.

8 Moab is my wash-pot In proceeding to speak of foreigners, he observes a wide distinction between them and his own countrymen. The posterity of Abraham he would govern as brethren, and not as slaves; but it was allowable for him to exercise greater severities upon the profane and the uncircumcised, in order to their being brought under forcible subjection. In this he affords no precedent to conquerors who would inflict lawless oppression upon nations taken in war; for they want the divine warrant and commission which David had, invested as he was not only with the authority of a king, but with the character of an avenger of the Church, especially of its more implacable enemies, such as had thrown off every feeling of humanity, and persisted in harassing a people descended from the same stock with themselves. He remarks, in contempt of the Moabites, that they would be a vessel in which he should wash his feet, the washing of the feet being, as is well known, a customary practice in Eastern nations. With the same view he speaks of casting his shoe over Edom. This is expressive of reproach, and intimates, that as it had once insulted over the chosen people of God, so now it should be reduced to servitude. What follows concerning Palestina is ambiguous. By some the words are taken ironically, as if David would deride the vain boastings of the Philistines, who were constantly assaulting him with all the petulance which they could command. And the Hebrew verb rv, ruang, though it means in general to shout with triumph, signifies also to make a tumult, as soldiers when they rush to battle. Others, without supposing any ironical allusion, take the words as they stand, and interpret them as meaning servile plaudits; that much and obstinately as they hated his dominion, they would be forced to hail and applaud him as conqueror. Thus in Psalm 18:44, it is said, |The sons of the strangers shall feign submission to me.|

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