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Psalms 66 Summary - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

Another Psalm of thanksgiving, probably intended, like Psalms 65, for use at the Passover, but evidently owing its origin to special circumstances which called for more than ordinary rejoicings. It consists of two parts, distinguished by the use of the first person plural (Psa 66:1-12) and the first person singular (Psa 66:13-20) respectively; and it contains five stanzas of nearly equal length, marked off (except where the division is obvious at the end of the first part and of the whole) by Selah.

i. 1. All the inhabitants of the world are summoned to praise God and acknowledge His sovereignty (Psa 66:1-4).

2. They are bidden to contemplate His mighty works on behalf of His people in the past, and to recognise that His sovereignty is still exercised in the government of the world (Psa 66:5-7).

3. They are invited to praise God for His recent deliverance of His people from a calamity which had threatened to prove their ruin (Psa 66:8-12).

ii. 1. The people’s representative enters the Temple to pay the vows which he had made in the hour of distress (Psa 66:13-15).

2. He invites all who fear God to listen to his grateful acknowledgement of God’s answer to his prayer, and concludes with an ascription of praise to God for His goodness (Psa 66:16-20).

The reader is at once struck by the abrupt change from the first person plural in Psa 66:1-12 to the first person singular in Psa 66:13-20. How is it to be accounted for, and who is the speaker in Psa 66:13 ff?

(1) Some critics have supposed that portions of two Psalms, the one national, the other personal, have been combined. But would not the incongruity, if it exists, have been felt by the compiler? and the similarity of the situation ( Psa 66:9 ff, Psa 66:14 ff), and of the style ( Psa 66:5 ; Psa 66:8 ; Psa 66:16) in both parts is strongly in favour of the unity of the Psalm.

(2) In spite of the personal turn of the language in Psa 66:13 ff, it might be the congregation assembled for worship which lifts up its voice as one man in that consciousness of national solidarity which was so vivid a reality to the mind of ancient Israel.

(3) But this view does not account for the transition from the plural to the singular; and it seems best to hear in these verses the voice of the responsible and representative leader of the nation (not necessarily himself the author of the Psalm), who identifies its fortunes and interests with his own.

Who then was this leader and what was the occasion? The language of Psa 66:9 ff clearly refers to some wonderful interposition by which God had delivered the nation from a danger which threatened its very existence. Was it the termination of the Assyrian tyranny by the destruction of Sennacherib’s army? or was it the restoration from the Babylonian captivity? If it was the latter, the Psalm must be placed after b.c. 516, for the Temple is standing, and sacrificial worship is being carried on. But there is no distinct reference to the Exile; the language points to a short and sharp crisis rather than to a prolonged humiliation; and the whole Psalm admits of a far more satisfactory explanation in connexion with the earlier occasion, ( a) The Assyrian oppression was certainly sufficiently severe, and the danger to Judah sufficiently great, to justify the language of Psa 66:9 ff. It must have seemed as though Jerusalem’s last hour was come, and the Southern Kingdom must inevitably share the fate of the Northern Kingdom. ( b) A distinctive feature of the Psalm is the appeal to the nations to recognise Jehovah as the ruler of the world. In just such a spirit Hezekiah prays for deliverance from Sennacherib “that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the Lord, even thou only” (Isa 37:20); and in God’s name Isaiah bids those who are afar off to hear what He has done and those who are near to acknowledge His might (Psa 33:13) ( c) The parallel obviously suggested between the Exodus and the recent deliverance might seem to point to the Return from Babylon which is so often spoken of as a second Exodus: but the parallel between the Egyptian oppression and the Assyrian oppression is constantly present to Isaiah’s mind (Isa 10:24, &c.), and he expressly compares the rejoicings with which the deliverance will be celebrated to the rejoicings of the Passover (Isa 30:29). ( d) The Psalm contains some striking parallels of thought and language with Isaiah 1, and with Psalms 46, 48, 75, 76, which belong to that time.

If then the Psalm is a song for the Passover festival, celebrating the deliverance of Jerusalem from the tyranny of the Assyrians and the menaces of Sennacherib, the speaker in Psa 66:13 ff (though not necessarily the composer of the Psalm) will be Hezekiah. This may explain the personal, and yet more than personal, character of the language. He speaks as the representative and mouthpiece of the nation in its trial and deliverance; and in Psa 66:16 ff not without allusion to his own restoration from sickness, which was to him a type and pledge of the nation’s escape from death (Isa 38:5 ff). His prayer in his sickness (Isa 38:3) presents a striking parallel to the profession of integrity in Psa 66:18.

This Psalm and Psalms 57 are the only anonymous Psalms which have For the Chief Musician prefixed. It is doubly described as A Song, a Psalm, or perhaps A Song for Music. The LXX adds ἀναστάσεως , of resurrection, probably with reference to Psa 66:9 ; Psa 66:16.

Consult other comments:

Psalms 66:0 - Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible

Psalms 66:0 - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

Psalms 66:0 - Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers (Old and New Testaments)

Psalms 66:0 - John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

Psalms 66:0 - Matthew Henry's Whole Bible Commentary

Psalms 66:0 - Jamieson, Fausset and Brown's Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Psalms 66:0 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament

Psalms 66:0 - English Annotations on the Holy Bible by Matthew Poole

Psalms 66:0 - Whedon's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges