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Psalm 68:13

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 13. Though ye have lien among the pots. Does he mean that the women at home, who had been meanly clad as they performed their household work, would be so gorgeously arrayed in the spoil, that they would be like doves of silver wing and golden plumage? Or, would he say that Israel, which had been begrimed in the brick kilns of Egypt, should come forth lustrous and happy in triumph and liberty? Or, did the song signify that the ark should be brought from its poor abode with Obededom into a fairer dwelling place? It is a hard passage, a nut for the learned to crack. If we knew all that was known when this ancient hymn was composed, the allusion would no doubt strike us as being beautifully appropriate, but as we do not, we will let it rest among the unriddled things. Alexander reads it, "When ye shall lie down between the borders, ye shall be like the wings," etc., which he considers to mean, "when settled in peace, the land shall enjoy prosperity;" but this version does not seem to us any more clear than our authorized one. Of making many conjectures there is no end; but the sense seems to be, that from the lowest condition the Lord would lift up his people into joy, liberty, wealth, and beauty. Their enemies may have called them squatters among the pots -- in allusion to their Egyptian slavery; they may have jested at them as scullions of Pharaoh's kitchen; but the Lord would avenge them and give them beauty for blackness, glory for grime.

Yet shall ye be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold. The dove's wing flashed light like silver, and anon gleams with the radiance of "the pale, pure gold." The lovely, changeable colours of the dove might well image the mild, lustrous beauty of the nation, when arrayed in white holiday attire, bedecked with their gems, jewels, and ornaments of gold. God's saints have been in worse places than among the pots, but now they soar aloft into the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 11-14. See Psalms on "Psalms 68:11" for further information.

Verse 13. It would neither be profitable nor possible to give the reader all the conjectures with which learned men have illustrated or darkened this passage. My aim has been to give a selection, not perhaps what may be called a judicious one, but a sort of sample selection, containing specimens of interpretations. Hammond, who is a very high authority, collects what are probably the best suggestions; we, therefore, give the substance of his long note upon this place. Solomon Jarchi and others see in the word the idea of boundaries, ways, and paths which serve as divisions of land, hence the divergence of the Septuagint into the meaning of portions and inheritances. The boundaries were usually heaps of stones, broken bricks, and rubbish, hence another meaning. But stones, bricks, etc., were often used to support pots in the open air cookery of the orientals, hence we come to the meaning of "among the pots." And, as Job on his dunghill sat among ashes, and scraped himself with a potsherd, we see that sitting among such rubbish was a conspicuous image of the most dejected and squalid condition. In the wings of a dove, Hammond sees an allusion to the golden cherubic wings which covered the ark, whereby God's presence was exhibited to his people, and their prosperity secured. His explanation of the whole is as follows: -- "The Israelites that were oppressed, and long lay in a sad and black, destitute, despised condition, were now at length advanced to all prosperity, splendour, and glory (as was remarkable in their coming out from the kilns of Egypt, with the jewels and wealth of the Egyptians, and afterward more illustriously at their enjoying of Canaan). And so, under Christ's kingdom, the heathenish idolaters that were brought to the basest and most despicable condition of any creatures, worshipping wood and stone, etc., and given up to the vilest lusts, and a reprobate mind (Romans 1), should from that detestable condition be advanced to the service of Christ, and practice of all Christian virtues, charity, meekness, etc., the greatest inward beauties in the world." C. H. S.

Verse 13. Though ye have lien among the pots etc. That is, probably, though ye have laboured and lain down between the brick kilns in Egypt, - - a poor, enslaved, and oppressed people, yet ye shall gradually rise to dignity, prosperity, and splendour; as a dove, which has been defiled with dirt, disordered, and dejected, by washing herself in a running stream, and trimming her plumage, gradually recovers the serenity of her disposition, the purity of her colour, and the richness and varied elegance of her appearance. W. Greenfield, in "Comp. Bible."

Verse 13. Though ye have lien among the pots; or, between two rows of stones (understand hearth stones), as in camps, and elsewhere also, which even to this day used to be laid and disposed to make fire between them to dress meat by, setting on or hanging over it pots and kettles, etc. Others, between or among dripping pans, or pots, the sense being one, and this -- though you should be cast or thrust out into the uttermost slavery, or vilest condition (as in Egypt), all besmoked and besmutted, like cooks and scullions, yet shall God through his gracious blessing make you to shine again like a goodly flying dove, which glistens as if it were of silver and gold. Theodore Haak's "Translation of the Dutch Annotations, as ordered by the Synod of Dort in 1618." London, 1657.

Verse 13. Though ye had lain among the folds. Though ye had been treated by the Egyptians as a company of contemptible shepherds, and were held in abomination by them as such. See Genesis 46:34 . William Green, in "A New Translation of the Psalms, with Notes," etc. 1762.

Verse 13. (first clause). German, "lie a field," i.e., though you thus, in deep peace, lie among the sheepfolds. T. C. Barth.

Verse 13. Will ye lie down among the sheepfolds? A sharp remonstrance. Will ye lie at ease, in the quiet of your pastoral life, as the dove with unsoiled plumage in her peaceful nest, while your brethren are in the tumult and dust of the conflict! Compare Judges 5:16-17 (from which this allusion is taken). Thomas J. Conant.

Verse 13. Though ye have lien among the pots, etc. Here is one Hebrew word in the original which especially renders the Scripture intricate; namely, ~ytpf, shephattajim; which, being a word of divers significations and translations, occasions various interpretations. It is rendered,

  1. limits or bounds;
  2. lots or inheritances;
  3. pots or pot ranges.
  • Some render it two limits, or two bounds (the word being in the dual number); viz., the two limits, bounds or coasts of the enemies, ready to attack, vex, and infest them on each hand. Or, two confines of the country where they fortified themselves against their enemies. This sense some later writers embrace: and it's one of the interpretations which Ainsworth gives, though not in the first place. But this version seems here very unsuitable, for that it quite destroys the elegance and fitness of the opposition between the two metaphors, representing Israel's different conditions, before and under David's government.
  • Some render it two lots, or two inheritances. So the LXX, ana meson twn klhrwn; that is, amidst the lots, or between the inheritances; inheritances, as in Canaan, being anciently set out by lots. This Hierom seems to follow, turning it Si dormiatis inter medios cleros: and thus he expounds it: "When thou believest the two Testaments, in both thou shalt find the Holy Ghost." And though there be a beauty, even according to the letter, to know what thou readest, the force of all the comeliness is in the sense. Therefore, the outward ornament of the words is demonstrated by the name of silver; but the more secret mysteries are contained in the hidden gifts of gold, etc. So that, with him, the two lots are the two Testaments; the dove is the Holy Ghost; her wings covered with silver, the outward letter of the Testaments, the feathers of yellow gold, the inward, spiritual, and mysterious sense. But this is rather a witty allegorical allusion, than a judicious and solid exposition. Augustine also expounds the words much to this effect, but altogether as unsatisfactorily. The ancient Fathers are not always the best expositors.
  • But most do render the word pots or pot ranges. Thus: "Although ye have lien among the pots (or, between the pot ranges; or, between the two banks or rows -- viz., of stones to hang pots on in the camp or leaguer), yet shall ye be as the wings of a dove covered (or decked) with silver, and her feathers with yellow greenish gold." And they observe in the words a double metaphor: (1). The one of Israel's lying among the pots, as scullions lie among the pots, kettles, or cauldrons in the camp or leaguer in time of war, and so are blacked, soiled, smutted, deformed; denoting Israel's abject, low, mean, sullied, deformed, and despicable condition under afflictions and extreme distresses in time past in Egypt, the wilderness, Canaan, and in the time of the Judges.

    (2). The other of Israel's being like the wings of a dove (which is of very speedy flight for escape), of bright silver and beauteous golden colour; representing their escape and deliverance at last out of all their blacking, smutting, and deforming afflictions, into the contrary, beauteous, prosperous, and happy state under the kingdom of David, especially of Jesus Christ the true David. Blackness notes extreme affliction, affliction and misery; doves' wings, escape; white silver colour and beauteous golden colour, prosperity and felicity. Thus the metaphors are elegantly opposed one to another, and very significantly set forth the several conditions of Israel; first, as lying among the pots of deep afflictions in former times, but after as assured of deliverance, of better days, and that they should be as a silver winged and golden feathered dove, full of beauty, comeliness, prosperity, and felicity. To this effect R. David Kimchi, Pagnin, Calvin, Muis, Foord, Ainsworth, and others expound these words.

    Francis Roberts, in a Sermon entitled "The Checquer work of God's Providences, towards His Own People, made up of Blacks and Whites," etc. 1657.

    Verse 13. Though ye have lien among the pots, etc. Miss Whately, in her work, "Ragged Life in Egypt," describing some of the sights witnessed from the flat roofs of the houses in Cairo, among other interesting objects, states: -- The roofs are usually in a great state of litter, and were it not that Hasna, the seller of geeleh, gets a palm branch, and makes a clearance once in a while, her roof would assuredly give way under the accumulation of rubbish. One thing never seemed cleared away, and that was the heaps of old broken pitchers, sherds, and pots, that in these and similar houses are piled up in some corner: and there is a curious observation in connection with this. A little before sunset, numbers of pigeons suddenly emerge from behind the pitchers and other rubbish, where they have been sleeping in the heat of the day, or pecking about to find food. They dart upwards, and career through the air in large circles, their outspread wings catching the bright glow of the sun's slanting rays, so that they really resemble bright "yellow gold;" then, as they wheel round, and are seen against the light, they appear as if turned into molten silver, most of them being pure white, or else very light coloured. This may seem fanciful, but the effect of light in these regions is difficult to describe to those who have not seen it; and evening after evening, we watched the circling flight of the doves, and always observed the same appearance. It was beautiful to see these birds, rising clean and unsoiled, as doves always do, from the dust and dirt in which they had been hidden, and soaring aloft in the sky till nearly out of sight among the bright sunset clouds. Thus a believer, who leaves behind him the corruptions of the world, and is rendered bright by the Sun of Righteousness shining upon his soul, rises higher and higher, nearer and nearer to the light, till, lost to the view of those who stay behind, he has passed into the unknown brightness above! Miss Whately, in "Ragged Life in Egypt."

    Verse 13. Silver and yellow gold. The changing colours of the dove's plumage are here described. Mant reads it --

    "Whose wings, a silver light illumes,
    And gleams of verdant gold play over her burnished plumes!"

    It will illustrate the variety of the translations, if we add that of Keble:


    "His plumes inlaid with silvery sheen,

    His pinions of the pale pure gold."

    Personally, I have had cause to remark the flash of the wings of a pigeon, for, in passing before my study window, that bird has often led me to imagine that some unusual light had flashed across the sky; in every case, a mild and silvery light. As to the varying hues of the plumage of birds, Mr. Gosse, after quoting from Sonnerat's Voyage in New Guinea, says, "In reference to the brilliant metallic hues of the epimachus and other birds, the traveller takes occasion to notice the iridescent effect which is produced by the different angles at which light falls on the feathers. The emerald green, for instance, will often fling out rays of its two constituent primary colours, at one time being blue green, at another gold green, while in certain lights all colour vanishes, and a velvet black is presented to the eye." This it seems to me is a very natural and complete explanation of the poetic language here employed. C. H. S.

     

    HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

    Verse 13.

    1. The contrast.
      1. Instead of humiliation, exaltation.
      2. Instead of pollution, purity.
      3. Instead of inertness, activity.
      4. Instead of deformity, beauty.
      5. Its application.
      6. To penitence and pardon.
      7. To depravity and regeneration.
      8. To affliction and recovery.
      9. To desertion and consolation.
      10. To death and glory. G. R.
  • Read Psalm 68:13