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Commentary On Psalms Volume 3 by Jean Calvin


The prophet who wrote this psalm, whoever he was, in approaching the throne of grace to make supplication to God in behalf of the afflicted Church, lays down, as an encouragement both to himself and the rest of the faithful to cherish good hope, the covenant which God had made with David. He then adverts in general to the Divine power which is discerned in the whole government of the world. And next, he calls to remembrance the redemption in which God had given an everlasting testimony of his fatherly love towards his chosen people. Thence, he again returns to the covenant made with David, in which God had promised to continue his favor towards that people for ever, for the sake of their king. Finally, he subjoins a complaint that God, as if he had forgotten his covenant, abandoned his Church to the will of her enemies, and, in the midst of strange disaster and mournful desolation, withheld all succor and consolation.

An instruction of Ethan, the Ezrahite.

Who this Ethan was, to whom this psalm is ascribed, is somewhat uncertain. If we should consider him to have been one of the four eminent men to whom Solomon is compared for his distinguished wisdom, (1 Kings 4:31) the argument or subject of the poem will not agree with his time; unless we suppose him to have survived Solomon, and bewailed the sad and mournful division which occurred after the death of that monarch, and which proved the commencement and prelude of future ruin. The people, it is true, after being divided into two kingdoms, continued still to exist safe as before; but as that rupture dissolved the unity established by God, what ground of hope could any longer remain? Besides, the prosperity and welfare of the whole body depended upon their having one head, from their allegiance to whom the ten tribes had wickedly revolted. What a horrible spectacle was it to behold that kingdom, which might have flourished in unimpaired vigor, even to the end of the world, disfigured and miserably rent asunder, at the close of the life of one man! Who would not have thought that the holy oracle was deceptive and vain, the truth of which seemed to be overthrown in so short a time? If, therefore, the Ethan above referred to should be regarded as the author of this psalm, the complaints contained in it must be applied to that period, in which not only the throne of David was weakened, but in which also the great mass of the people apostatised from God, while those who were brethren proceeded to work each other's ruin by mutual and intestine discord. This certainly appears to me to be the most probable conjecture in this doubtful case. Some think that the author, speaking under the influence of the Spirit of prophecy, predicts the calamities which were to befall the people: but this opinion may be easily refuted by the context itself, where the inspired bard expressly bewails the first unhappy alteration which took place in the kingdom, in consequence of the conspiracy of Jeroboam.

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