Psalm 99
Pulpit Commentary
The LORD reigneth; let the people tremble: he sitteth between the cherubims; let the earth be moved.
Verse 1. - The Lord reigneth (see the comment on Psalm 93:1). Let the people tremble; literally, the peoples; i.e. all the nations upon earth. He sitteth between the cherubim; rather, he hath his seat upon the cherubim (comp. Psalm 80:2). The imagery is taken from the internal economy of the Jewish temple, where the Shechinah was enthroned above the cherubic forms that overshadowed and guarded the ark. Let the earth be moved; or, quake (comp. Psalm 114:7).
The LORD is great in Zion; and he is high above all the people.
Verse 2. - The Lord is great in Zion. Primarily great among his faithful ones, among whom his greatness is especially shown. And he is high above all the people (or rather, peoples). Secondarily great, or "high," among the nations which do not acknowledge him, but are forced to tremble before him (see ver. 1).
Let them praise thy great and terrible name; for it is holy.
Verse 3. - Let them praise thy great and terrible Name. Even the Gentiles, after conversion, will praise the Lord, sing of him, and bless his Name. (On the "greatness" and "terribleness" of God, see Exodus 15:11; Deuteronomy 7:21; Deuteronomy 10:17; Nehemiah 1:5; Nehemiah 4:14; Psalm 68:35, etc.) For it is holy; rather, holy is he. This may be a suggestion to those about to praise God - a putting of words into their mouth; or it may be an almost involuntary outburst of praise on the part of the psalmist.
The king's strength also loveth judgment; thou dost establish equity, thou executest judgment and righteousness in Jacob.
Verse 4. - The King's strength also loveth judgment. "The king" is here the Lord, Jehovah (see Psalm 98:3). His "strength," or might, "loves," and is always combined with, right (comp. Isaiah 61:8, "I the Lord love judgment"). Thou dost establish equity. The pronoun is emphatic: "Thou, even thou" - nearly equivalent to "thou only" - "dost establish equity." Thou - again emphatic - "thou, even thou" - executest judgment and righteousness in Jacob; i.e. governest thy people Israel with strict and absolute justice.
Exalt ye the LORD our God, and worship at his footstool; for he is holy.
Verse 5. - Exalt ye the Lord our God (comp. ver. 9; and see also Psalm 118:20 and Isaiah 25:1). And worship at his footstool. The "footstool of God" is everywhere (except in Isaiah 66:1) the ark of the covenant, which he that sat upon the cherubim touched, as it were, with his feet (see 1 Chronicles 28:2; Psalm 132:7; Lamentations 2:1; Isaiah 60:13). Israel is called upon to worship God as he sits in his holy temple, enthroned above the cherubim, with his feet upon the mercy seat. For he is holy; rather, as in ver. 3, holy is he.
Moses and Aaron among his priests, and Samuel among them that call upon his name; they called upon the LORD, and he answered them.
Verse 6. - Moses and Aaron among his priests. Moses, though not called a priest in the Pentateuch, performed many priestly acts, such as sprinkling the blood of the covenant at Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:6-8), setting in order the tabernacle (Exodus 40:18-33), consecrating Aaron and his sons (Leviticus 8:6-30), interceding for the people (Exodus 32:30-32; Numbers 14:13-19), etc. He is therefore, not improperly, here included among God's priests. And Samuel among them that call upon his Name. Samuel was not a priest, but a simple Levite (1 Chronicles 6:16-28). He was, however, a powerful intercessor with God, a righteous man whose effectual fervent prayer availed much. He is united with Moses by Jeremiah, as having weight with God through his prayers (Jeremiah 15:1; see also 1 Samuel 12:19-22). They called upon the Lord, and he answered them (see Deuteronomy 11:19; Deuteronomy 10:10; 1 Samuel 12:17, etc.).
He spake unto them in the cloudy pillar: they kept his testimonies, and the ordinance that he gave them.
Verse 7. - He spake unto them in the cloudy pillar (see Exodus 33:9, "And it came to pass, as Moses entered into the tabernacle, the cloudy pillar descended, and stood at the door.., and the Lord talked with Moses"). They kept his testimonies, and the ordinance that he gave them. Moses was known as "the servant of the Lord" (Deuteronomy 34:5; Joshua 1:1, 2, etc.). He was "faithful in all his house, as a servant" (Hebrews 3:5). Aaron was "the saint of the Lord" (Psalm 106:16). This general obedience was, however, departed from in some few instances (see the comment on ver. 8).
Thou answeredst them, O LORD our God: thou wast a God that forgavest them, though thou tookest vengeance of their inventions.
Verse 8. - Thou answeredst them, O Lord our God (comp. ver. 6, ad fin.). Thou wast a God that forgavest them; literally, a forgiving God wast thou to them. Both Moses and Aaron "angered God at the waters of strife" (Psalm 106:32; Numbers 20:12, 13). Aaron angered him still more by sanctioning the idolatry of the golden calf (Exodus 32:1-24). God pardoned both of them these and other sins, but not without inflicting punishment for the sins. Though thou tookest vengeance of their inventions. God's "severity" extended even to these blessed saints, Moses, Aaron, and Samuel. The former two were expressly excluded from the land of promise for their conduct at Meribah (Numbers 20:12); and Samuel's judgeship seems to have been brought to an end through his undue leniency towards his sons Joel and Abiah (1 Samuel 8:1-5).
Exalt the LORD our God, and worship at his holy hill; for the LORD our God is holy.
Verse 9. - Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at his holy hill. Repeated from ver. 5, with the slight variation that "his holy hill" is substituted for "his footstool" - Zion, on which the temple stood, for the sanctuary of the temple itself. For the Lord our God is holy; rather, for holy is the Lord our God (comp. vers. 3 and 5).

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