Psalm 66

Submitted by admin on Sun, 2007-01-07 15:12.

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The Hebrew expression natsách (preceded by the preposition “to”) is commonly thought to signify “to the musical director” or “leader.” In the Septuagint, the rendering is “to the end.” An ancient Latin translation of the Hebrew Psalter reads victori (“to the victor”), probably because of linking the Hebrew expression to a root meaning “to defeat.” This suggests that considerable uncertainty exists about the significance of natsách.

Like the previous psalm, Psalm 66 is designated as a “song.” The superscription does not identify the composer. In the Septuagint, this composition is called “psalm of resurrection,” but the inclusion of the word “resurrection” is regarded as a Christian addition.

“All the earth” or all the inhabitants of the land are encouraged to shout joyfully to God.

The imperative to “sing the glory of his name” would mean to make God’s marvelous deeds the subject of song, revealing him to be the glorious One. For people to “give glory to his praise” would signify that their praise would be glorious or befitting God’s greatness and his awe-inspiring acts of deliverance.

“Say to God, ‘How awe-inspiring [are] your deeds!’” These words constitute an acknowledgment that God’s acts give rise to wonderment and awe. So incomprehensibly great is his might that his enemies “cringe” fearfully before him. The Hebrew word kachásh, commonly rendered “cringe” in verse 3, basically means to “deceive” and thus includes the thought of feigning obedience. This explains why the Septuagint reads, “your enemies will lie to you.”

For “all the earth” to bow down to the Most High would mean for all the inhabitants of the land to worship him, acknowledging him as God. The words “sing praises to you” parallel “they sing praises to your name.” To sing praises to God’s name means to praise him, the one bearing the name.

The psalmist invites those who would worship and praise God to take note of his deeds, his wondrous deeds, carried out among the “sons of man,” humans, or earthlings. He changed the “sea into dry land,” effecting the deliverance of the Israelites from their Egyptian pursuers in the time of Moses. (Exodus 14:21-28) “Through the river,” the people “passed on foot.” Although the Jordan was at flood stage, the miraculous damming up of the river enabled the Israelites to cross it. (Joshua 3:14-17) These awe-inspiring events occasioned rejoicing in God or joyous praising directed to him.

By his might (as revealed in his fear-inspiring acts of deliverance), God would continue to rule for all time to come. His “eyes keep watch on the nations,” indicating that their actions would not escape his notice. This serves as a warning for them not to be rebellious and arrogantly to exalt themselves, as that would lead to their certain downfall.

Based on God’s awe-inspiring activity, non-Israelite peoples are urged to bless him or to speak well of him (the one whom the psalmist called “our God”). They were also to let his praise resound.

God had preserved the Israelites alive (literally, “placed our [my, LXX] soul in life”), not allowing their (my, LXX) feet to slip to a calamitous fall from which recovery would have been impossible.

Nevertheless, the Israelites did experience difficulties and hardships. Therefore, the psalmist could say that God had tested the people and refined them like silver through the affliction he permitted them to experience.

He allowed them to suffer reversals comparable to letting them be caught in a hunter’s net. God placed “pressure” (“afflictions,” LXX) on their “loins” (“back,” LXX). This suggests that the Israelites were under tremendous stress on account of their enemies.

God let men ride over the heads of the Israelites. This is evidently a portrayal of people lying wounded while chariot wheels would roll over them. The dangers and hardships the Israelites experienced were comparable to going “through fire [as when conquered cities were burned] and through water [as when raging at flood stage].” Yet the Almighty came to their rescue, bringing them out of the distressing situation into a condition of well-being or relief.

Evidently because of what God has done for him, the psalmist determined to go to God’s house or temple, there to present holocausts and to pay his vows or oath-bound promises. The psalmist uttered these promises when he found himself in trouble and pleaded for God’s assistance. His holocausts would be fatlings or choice, well-fed animals, and the smoke (or the aroma) of burning rams would accompany his offering. According to the Septuagint, the psalmist’s holocausts would be full of marrow and be offered “with incense and rams.” He would also sacrifice bulls and goats.

The psalmist invited all fearers of God or those having a reverential regard for the Most High to “come” and “hear,” placing themselves in a position to listen to what God had done for him. In his distress, the psalmist cried aloud to God and used his tongue to extol or highly praise the Most High. If, in his heart or in his deep inner self, he had harbored badness or entertained evil thoughts, the psalmist recognized that his prayer would not have been heard. But God did hear him or respond to his cry for aid. He did listen to his voice as he prayed. Thankfully, the psalmist blessed or praised God for not rejecting his prayer and not withdrawing his steadfast love, compassionate concern, or “mercy” (LXX) from him.

Note: Verses 4, 7, and 15 conclude with the Hebrew expression “selah,” the meaning of which is uncertain. The Septuagint rendering is diápsalma, thought to mean “pause” or “musical interlude.”