Matthew Henry Complete CommentaryPsalms 76
on the Whole Bible
This psalm seems to have been penned upon occasion of some great
victory obtained by the church over some threatening enemy or other,
and designed to grace the triumph. The LXX. calls it, "A song
upon the Assyrians," whence many good interpreters conjecture that it
was penned when Sennacherib's army, then besieging Jerusalem, was
entirely cut off by a destroying angel in Hezekiah's time; and several
passages in the psalm are very applicable to that work of wonder: but
there was a religious triumph upon occasion of another victory, in
Jehoshaphat's time, which might as well be the subject of this psalm
(2 Chronicles 20:28),
and it might be called "a song of Asaph" because always sung by the
sons of Asaph. Or it might be penned by Asaph who lived in David's
time, upon occasion of the many triumphs with which God delighted to
honour that reign. Upon occasion of this glorious victory, whatever it
I. The psalmist congratulates the happiness of the church in having God
II. He celebrates the glory of God's power, which this was an
illustrious instance of,
III. He infers hence what reason all have to fear before him,
IV. What reason his people have to trust in him and to pay their vows
It is a psalm proper for a thanksgiving day, upon the account of public
successes, and not improper at other times, because it is never out of
season to glorify God for the great things he has done for his church
formerly, especially for the victories of the Redeemer over the powers
of darkness, which all those Old-Testament victories were types of, at
least those that are celebrated in the psalms.
To the chief musician on Neginoth. A psalm or song of Asaph.
1 In Judah is God known: his name is great in Israel.
2 In Salem also is his tabernacle, and his dwelling place in
3 There brake he the arrows of the bow, the shield, and the
sword, and the battle. Selah.
4 Thou art more glorious and excellent than the mountains
5 The stouthearted are spoiled, they have slept their sleep:
and none of the men of might have found their hands.
6 At thy rebuke, O God of Jacob, both the chariot and horse are
cast into a dead sleep.
The church is here triumphant even in the midst of its militant state.
The psalmist, in the church's name, triumphs here in God, the centre of
all our triumphs.
I. In the revelation God had made of himself to them,
It is the honour and privilege of Judah and Israel that among them
God is known, and where he is known his name will be
great. God is known as he is pleased to make himself known; and
those are happy to whom he discovers himself--happy people that have
their land filled with the knowledge of God, happy persons that have
their hearts filled with that knowledge. In Judah God was known as he
was not known in other nations, which made the favour the greater,
inasmuch as it was distinguishing,
II. In the tokens of God's special presence with them in his
In the whole land of Judah and Israel God was known and his name was
great; but in Salem, in Zion, were his tabernacle and
his dwelling-place. There he kept court; there he received the
homage of his people by their sacrifices and entertained them by the
feasts upon the sacrifices; thither they came to address themselves to
him, and thence by his oracles he issued out his orders; there he
recorded his name, and of that place he said, Her will I dwell, for
I have desired it. It is the glory and happiness of a people to
have God among them by his ordinances; but his dwelling-place is a
tabernacle, a movable dwelling. Yet a little while is that light
III. In the victories they had obtained over their enemies
There broke he the arrows of the bow. Observe how threatening
the danger was. Though Judah and Israel, Salem and Zion, were thus
privileged, yet war is raised against them, and the weapons of war are
1. Here are bow and arrows, shield and sword, and all for battle; but
all are broken and rendered useless. And it was done there,
(1.) In Judah and in Israel, in favour of that people near to God.
While the weapons of war were used against other nations they answered
their end, but, when turned against that holy nation, they were
immediately broken. The Chaldee paraphrases it thus: When the house of
Israel did his will he placed his majesty among them, and there he
broke the arrows of the bow; while they kept closely to his service
they were great and safe, and every thing went well with them. Or,
(2.) In the tabernacle and dwelling-place in Zion, there he broke the
arrows of the bow; it was done in the field of battle, and yet it is
said to be done in the sanctuary, because done in answer to the prayers
which God's people there made to him and in the performance of the
promises which he there made to them, of both which see that instance,
2 Chronicles 20:5,14.
Public successes are owing as much to what is done in the church as to
what is done in the camp. Now,
2. This victory redounded very much,
(1.) To the immortal honour of Israel's God
Thou art, and hast manifested thyself to be, more glorious
and excellent than the mountains of prey.
[1.] "Than the great and mighty ones of the earth in general, who are
high, and think themselves firmly fixed like mountains, but are really
mountains of prey, oppressive to all about them. It is their glory to
destroy; it is thine to deliver."
[2.] "Than our invaders in particular. When they besieged the cities of
Judah, they cast up mounts against them, and raised batteries; but thou
art more able to protect us than they are to annoy us." Wherein the
enemies of the church deal proudly it will appear that God is above
(2.) To the perpetual disgrace of the enemies of Israel,
They were stouthearted, men of great courage and resolution,
flushed with their former victories, enraged against Israel, confident
of success; they were men of might, robust and fit for service;
they had chariots and horses, which were then greatly valued and
trusted to in war,
But all this force was of no avail when it was levelled against
[1.] The stouthearted have despoiled and disarmed themselves (so
some read it); when God pleases he can make his enemies to weaken and
destroy themselves. They have slept, not the sleep of the
righteous, who sleep in Jesus, but their sleep, the sleep of
sinners, that shall awake to everlasting shame and contempt.
[2.] The men of might can no more find their hands than the
stout-hearted can their spirit. As the bold men are cowed, so the
strong men are lamed, and cannot so much as find their hands, to save
their own heads, much less to hurt their enemies.
[3.] The chariots and horses may be truly said to be cast into a
dead sleep when their drivers and their riders were so. God did but
speak the word, as the God of Jacob that commands deliverances for
Jacob, and, at his rebuke, the chariot and horse were both cast into a
dead sleep. When the men were laid dead upon the spot by the destroying
angel the chariot and horse were not at all formidable. See the power
and efficacy of God's rebukes. With what pleasure may we Christians
apply all this to the advantages we enjoy by the Redeemer! It is
through him that God is known; it is in him that God's name is great;
to him it is owing that God has a tabernacle and a dwelling-place in
his church. He it was that vanquished the strong man armed, spoiled
principalities and powers, and made a show of them openly.
|The Defence and Glory of Israel.
7 Thou, even thou, art to be feared: and who may stand in
thy sight when once thou art angry?
8 Thou didst cause judgment to be heard from heaven; the earth
feared, and was still,
9 When God arose to judgment, to save all the meek of the
10 Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of
wrath shalt thou restrain.
11 Vow, and pay unto the LORD your God: let all that be round
about him bring presents unto him that ought to be feared.
12 He shall cut off the spirit of princes: he is terrible to
the kings of the earth.
This glorious victory with which God had graced and blessed his church
is here made to speak three things:--
I. Terror to God's enemies
"Thou, even thou, art to be feared; thy majesty is to be
reverenced, thy sovereignty to be submitted to, and thy justice to be
dreaded by those that have offended thee." Let all the world learn by
this event to stand in awe of the great God.
1. Let all be afraid of his wrath against the daring impiety of
sinners: Who may stand in thy sight from the minute that thou art
angry? If God be a consuming fire, how can chaff and stubble stand
before him, though his anger be kindled but a little?
2. Let all be afraid of his jealousy for oppressed innocency and the
injured cause of his own people: "Thou didst cause judgment to be
heard from heaven, then when thou didst arise to save all the
meek of the earth
and then the earth feared and was still, waiting what would be
the issue of those glorious appearances of thine." Note,
(1.) God's people are the meek of the earth
the quiet in the land
that can bear any wrong, but do none.
(2.) Though the meek of the earth are by their meekness exposed to
injury, yet God will, sooner or later, appear for their salvation, and
plead their cause.
(3.) When God comes to save all the meek of the earth, he will
cause judgment to be heard from heaven; he will make the world
know that he is angry at the oppressors of his people, and takes what
is done against them as done against himself. The righteous God long
seems to keep silence, yet, sooner or later, he will make judgment to
(4.) When God is speaking judgment from heaven it is time for the earth
to compose itself into an awful and reverent silence: The earth
feared and was still, as silence is made by proclamation when the
court sits. Be still and know that I am God,
Be silent, O all flesh! before the Lord, for he is raised up to
Those that suppose this psalm to have been penned upon the occasion of
the routing of Sennacherib's army take it for granted that the descent
of the destroying angel, who did the execution, was accompanied with
thunder, by which God caused judgment to be heard from heaven,
and that the earth feared (that is, there was an earthquake), but it
was soon over. But this is altogether uncertain.
II. Comfort to God's people,
We live in a very angry provoking world; we often feel much, and are
apt to fear more, from the wrath of man, which seems boundless. But
this is a great comfort to us,
1. That as far as God permits the wrath of man to break forth at any
time he will make it turn to his praise, will bring honour to himself
and serve his own purposes by it: Surely the wrath of man shall
praise thee, not only by the checks given to it, when it shall be
forced to confess its own impotency, but even by the liberty given to
it for a time. The hardships which God's people suffer by the wrath of
their enemies are made to redound to the glory of God and his grace;
and the more the heathen rage and plot against the Lord and
his anointed the more will God be praised for setting his King
upon his holy hill of Zion in spite of them,
When the heavenly hosts make this the matter of their thanksgiving-song
that God has taken to himself his great power and has reigned,
though the nations were angry
then the wrath of man adds lustre to the praises of God.
2. That what will not turn to his praise shall not be suffered to break
out: The remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain. Men must never
permit sin, because they cannot check it when they will; but God can.
He can set bounds to the wrath of man, as he does to the raging sea.
Hitherto it shall come and no further; here shall its proud waves be
stayed. God restrained the remainder of Sennacherib's rage, for he
put a hook in his nose and a bridle in his jaws
and, though he permitted him to talk big, he restrained him from doing
what he designed.
III. Duty to all,
Let all submit themselves to this great God and become his loyal
1. The duty required of us all, all that are about him, that have any
dependence upon him or any occasion to approach to him; and who is
there that has not? We are therefore every one of us commanded to do
our homage to the King of kings: Vow and pay; that is, take an
oath of allegiance to him and make conscience of keeping it. Vow to be
his, and pay what you vow. Bind your souls with a bond to him (for
that is the nature of a vow), and then live up to the obligations you
have laid upon yourselves; for better it is not to vow than to vow
and not to pay. And, having taken him for our King, let us bring
presents to him, as subjects to their sovereign,
1 Samuel 10:27.
Send you the lamb to the ruler of the land,
Not that God needs any present we can bring, or
can be benefited by it; but thus we must give him honour and own that
we have our all from him. Our prayers and praises, and especially our
hearts, are the presents we should bring to the Lord our God.
2. The reasons to enforce this duty: Render to all their due, fear
to whom fear is due; and is it not due to God? Yes;
(1.) He ought to be feared: He is the fear (so the word is); his
name is glorious and fearful,; and he is the proper object of our fear;
with him is terrible majesty. The God of Abraham is called the fear
and we are commanded to make him our fear,
When we bring presents to him we must have an eye to him as greatly to
be feared; for he is terrible in his holy places.
(2.) He will be feared, even by those who think it their own sole
prerogative to be feared
He shall cut off the spirit of princes; he shall slip it off as
easily as we slip off a flower from the stalk or a bunch of grapes from
the vine; so the word signifies. He can dispirit those that are most
daring and make them heartless; for he is, or will be, terrible to
the kings of the earth; and sooner or later, if they be not so wise
as to submit themselves to him, he will force them to call in vain to
rocks and mountains to fall on them and hide them from his
Since there is no contending with God, it is as much our wisdom as it
is our duty to submit to him.