Psalm 95
Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

The LXX. prefix a title ascribing this psalm to David, and in quoting it the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 4:7) uses the expression “in David.” This, however, is only a mode of saying “in the Psalms.” We may conjecture, from the contents, that some danger to religion was observed by the author, since the disobedience and perversity of the early history of the race are recalled. Beyond this we only perceive that the psalm was composed for the congregational use.[17] From earliest times it has played the part of an invitatory psalm in the Christian Church, as it does in the English morning service now. The rhythm is fine and varied.

[17] Psalms 95-100 appear to form a group (to which 93 is also closely related) of songs composed for the celebration of the Return from Exile. (See the coincidences of thought and expression pointed out in the Notes and comp. the Introduction to Psalms 98)

O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.
(1) O come.—The invitation is general, and may be contrasted with the heathen warning to the uninitiated, procul este profani. This exhortation to worship God, not with penitence, but with loud thanksgiving, is, as Perowne notes, the more remarkable considering the strain in which the latter part of the psalm is written.

Make a joyful noise.—There is no one English expression for the full burst of instrumental and vocal music which is meant by the Hebrew word here applied to the Temple service. Vulg., jubilemus.

Rock of our salvation.—As in Psalm 89:26. (Comp. “rock of refuge,” Psalm 94:22.)

Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.
(2) Come before.—Literally, go to meet. It is the word rendered “prevent” in Psalm 18:5, where see Note.

For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.
(3) Above all gods.—Not here angelic beings, but the gods of surrounding tribes, as accurately explained in Psalm 96:4-5. (Comp. Exodus 15:11; Exodus 18:11.) Commentators vex themselves with the difficulty of the ascription of a real existence to these tribal deities in the expression,” King above all gods.” But how else was Israel constantly falling into the sin of worshipping them? It was in the inspired rejection of them as possessing any sovereign power, and in the recognition of Jehovah’s supremacy shown by the psalmists and prophets, that the preservation of Israel’s religion consisted.

In his hand are the deep places of the earth: the strength of the hills is his also.
(4) Deep places.—From a root meaning “to search,” perhaps by digging. Hence either “mines” or “mineral wealth.”

Strength of the hills.—The Hebrew word rendered “strength” is rare, found only here and Numbers 23:22; Numbers 24:8 (“strength of an unicorn”), and Job 22:25 (“plenty of silver;” margin, “silver of strength”). The root to which the word is usually assigned means “to be weary,” from which the idea of strength can only be derived on the lucus a non lucendo principle. Keeping the usual derivation, we may, with many critics, give the word the sense of “mines” or “treasures,” because of the labours of extracting metal from the earth. This suits Job 22:25, and makes a good parallelism. But the LXX. and Vulg. have “heights,” and by another derivation the Hebrew may mean shining, and so “sunny summit.” With this agrees the rendering of the LXX. in Numbers 23:22; Numbers 24:8, and the rhythm is preserved by an antithetic parallelism, as in next verse.

O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker.
(6) Worship.—Properly, prostrate ourselves.

Kneel.—The practice of kneeling low in the East, only used in moments of deep humiliation, is first mentioned in 2Chronicles 6:13. It was also Daniel’s practice (Daniel 6:10).

For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To day if ye will hear his voice,
(7) To-day if . . .—In joining this clause with Psalm 95:8-9 the Authorised Version follows the LXX. The Masoretic text connects it with the preceding part of the verse, and there seems no good reason for departing from that arrangement. Indeed, the change from the third person, “his voice,” to the first, “tempted me,” in the same sentence is intolerable even in Hebrew poetry. Nor is there any necessity to suppose the loss of a line. Render: “For He is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, the sheep of his hand. Today would that ye would hearken to his voice.” The Oriental custom of leading flocks by the voice is doubtless alluded to, as in John 10:4. Notice the resemblance in Psalm 95:6-7 to Psalm 100:3-4.

Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness:
(8) The mention of the guiding voice suggests to the poet to make God Himself address His people, and with this verse the Divine warning begins.

Provocation . . . temptation.—It is better to keep here the proper names Meribah and Massah (Exodus 17:1-7; Numbers 20:13 : comp. Deuteronomy 33:8).

When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work.
(9) Proved me.—Properly, of trying metals. This term is used of man’s attitude towards Providence, both in a good and bad sense (Malachi 3:10; Malachi 3:15).

And saw my work.—Better (as in Isaiah 49:15), Yea, they saw my works, watched, that is, God’s dealings with ever the same readiness to murmur and repine, and try the Divine patience.

Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways:
(10) See Notes, Hebrews 3:17, New Testament Commentary.

I grieved.—Better, I loathed.

A people that do err.—Literally, a people of wanderers in heart. They are morally astray through ignorance of God’s paths.

Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest.
(11) I sware.Numbers 14:21-27.

Rest.—This is, of course, the Promised Land, as the context unmistakably shows. The freedom taken with the passage by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, in order to make the psalm point us to a “future” rest, was such as Jewish doctors ordinarily used, and of which other instances occur in the New Testament—notably St. Paul’s argument in Galatians 3:16.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

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