This psalm is called a “song” and is designated as being “for the day of the Sabbath.”
“It is good,” right, or most appropriate to give thanks to or gratefully to acknowledge YHWH for all that he had done. He is deserving of our thanks, and an appreciative disposition adds enjoyment to one’s life. To sing praises to the name of the Most High means to direct melodies of praise to him, the person bearing the name.
Upon rising in the morning, the godly person would consider it good or most fitting to make appreciative expression about God’s abiding love, compassionate care, or “mercy” (LXX). To the reverential person, rising refreshed in the morning to enjoy another day of life is an evidence of God’s loving care, and the individual’s thankful spirit contributes to his using each day in a manner that honors the Most High. Then, at night, particularly before retiring for bed, the time is appropriate for declaring God’s faithfulness, dependability, trustworthiness, or “truth” (LXX). It is a time for grateful reflection about how the Almighty has fulfilled his promises to be with all those who love him. Declaring YHWH’s faithfulness has a calming effect. It dispels the disturbing impact of worries or anxieties and promotes restful sleep.
The psalmist referred to instrumental music (that of a ten-stringed instrument, a lute, and a harp) as accompanying praise. In the Septuagint, only two instruments are mentioned — one having ten strings and the other being the harp, lyre, or cithara. The Hebrew word for “lute” (nével) could also mean “harp,” whereas the term for “harp” (kinnór) may designate a “lyre” or a “zither.”
YHWH’s activity, probably meaning his dealings with his people, made the psalmist rejoice. The deeds of God’s hands, which could include his creative works and his acts of deliverance, prompted the psalmist to shout for joy.
When contemplating God’s works, the psalmist, with a profound sense of wonderment, was moved to exclaim, “How great your works are, O YHWH!” In the Septuagint, this exclamation reads, “How your works have been magnified, O Lord!” The psalmist continued, “Very deep are your thoughts,” likely referring to God’s thoughts as reflected in his dealings with humans. This would include why he allows the wicked to prosper, as may be inferred from the words that follow (in verse 7).
God’s deep thoughts are beyond the grasp of the “brutish man” and the “senseless one.” Persons designated as “brutish” and “senseless” are morally corrupt, refusing to use their reasoning faculties and living a life that ignores God’s ways. They conduct themselves like unreasoning animals, completely disregarding any thought about accountability.
The wicked may appear to be successful, “sprouting like grass,” and the practicers of evil or lawlessness may flourish. Their prosperity, though, is temporary. Soon they are no more, destroyed forever. (Regarding the Septuagint rendering of verse 7, see the Notes section on this verse.)
YHWH is “on high forever.” As the eternal God from his exalted position in the heavens, he is fully aware of developments among humans. His enemies are destined to perish, and all workers of evil or lawlessness will be scattered (like a defeated army).
Possibly the psalmist, when describing what he would experience and be able to do when the wicked are destroyed, spoke for all the upright. The exalting of his “horn” would mean the exalting of the psalmist’s power (or that of all concerning whom he spoke representatively). Indicative of the degree to which God would exalt the “horn” or increase the power, elevating it from a low state, the psalmist declared, “You will exalt my horn like that of a wild bull [unicorn, LXX].”
The expression about “fresh oil” has been variously translated, including ways differing from the somewhat obscure Hebrew text. “You [YHWH] have poured rich oil upon me.” (NAB) “You anoint me with fresh oil.” (NJB) “I am soaked in freshening oil.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “Fine oils have been poured upon me.” (NIV) With reference to exaltation, the Greek text accompanying Brenton’s English translation of the Septuagint reads, “my old age with rich mercy.” Rahlfs’ text (like Codex Alexandrinus) says, “my old age with rich oil.”
The reference to the eye looking upon the “watchers” (enemies or persons watching with evil intent) would signify seeing or witnessing their overthrow. Similarly, the ears hearing about the evil ones, those rising up against the psalmist (or all who are representatively included as being assailed) would denote hearing about their defeat. Translations commonly insert words to make this meaning of verse 11(12) explicit. “I shall see the defeat of my watchful foes, hear of the downfall of the wicked who beset me.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “My eyes have seen the downfall of my enemies; my ears have heard the doom of my evil assailants.” (NRSV) “My eyes have seen the defeat of my adversaries; my ears have heard the rout of my wicked foes.” (NIV)
The upright thrive like a palm tree and grow like a majestic cedar of Lebanon. Planted in YHWH’s house or in the sacred courts, they, as his devoted servants, flourish and derive sustenance as from sacred soil.
These godly ones, even in old age, would be like trees growing in well-watered soil, bearing fruit and being “fat” or full of sap and “fresh” or green. According to the Septuagint, they, in flourishing old age, would increase and prosper, suggestive of a state of satisfaction and well-being.
Their enjoyment of a long and contented life would enable them to tell about YHWH’s uprightness or his unfailing dependability in keeping his promises. The psalmist says of him, “My rock, and there is no injustice in him.” Like a solid rock in mountainous terrain, the Most High grants security and protection to his servants. Never will he abandon them, but will, in their case, always act according to the ultimate standard of righteousness or justice. (See the Notes section for additional comments on verse 15.)
Regarding the divine name (YHWH), see Psalm 1.
In the Septuagint, verse 7(8) reads, “When sinners sprouted like grass, and all the workers of lawlessness looked on [or down], [it was] that they might be destroyed forever and ever.”
In verse 15(16), the Septuagint does not use the expression “my rock,” but reads “my God.”