Introduction to Psalms 60

To the chief Musician upon Shushaneduth, Michtam of David, to teach; when he strove with Aramnaharaim, and with Aramzobah, when Joab returned, and smote of Edom in the valley of Salt twelve thousand. The words "shushaneduth" are thought, by Aben Ezra, to be the beginning of a song, to the tune of which this psalm was set; though others, as he observes, take them to be the name of a musical instrument, on which it was sung. Some take "shushan" to be an instrument of six chords, an hexachord; and "eduth," which signifies a "testimony," to be the title of the psalm, it being a testimony, or lasting memorial, of the victory obtained over the Syrians and Edomites; though rather they may be considered as expressing the subject matter of the psalm; and so the Targum interprets them, "concerning the ancient testimony of the sons of Jacob and Laban;" referring to Genesis 31:47; they may be rendered, as they are by some, "concerning the lily of the testimony" {a}; and be applied to the Gospel, the testimony of our Lord Jesus, the pure, lily white, and unblemished testimony it bears to him, his person, office, and grace; and particularly to salvation as alone in him, and to which witness is borne in this psalm, Psalm 60:11. This psalm is a "michtam," or golden psalm of David, and its use is "to teach." It is of the instructive kind, and teaches where help and salvation are to be expected; see Colossians 3:16; it was written when David "strove," or fought, with Aramnaharaim, the Syrians of Mesopotamia, which lay between the two rivers, Tigris and Euphrates, from whence is the name; hence the Septuagint render it Mesopotamia of Syria; and the Targum is, "he made war with Aram, which is by Euphrates;"

and at the same time David also fought with Aramzobah, or the Syrians of Zobah, as they are called in 2 Samuel 10:6; with Josephus {b}, Zobah is the same with Sophene; but wrongly, as is thought by learned men {c}: for though this is a name which some part of Syria goes by in Mela {d}; and Ptolemy {e} makes mention of a place of this name; yet that was beyond Euphrates, and in Armenia; whereas this must be nearer the land of Israel; for it is said {f} that Aramzobah is the country of Syria, which David subdued, and joined to the land of Israel; concerning which the Jews so often say, that in some things it was the same with it: according to Hillerus {g}, it is the same country which the Arabians call Kinnosrina, the chief city of which is Haleb, or Aleppo; and R. Benjamin Tudelensis {h} making mention of Haleb, says, this is Aramzobah. Moreover, this psalm was written "when Joab returned, and smote of Edom in the valley of salt twelve thousand"; the "valley of salt" was near the Dead Sea, and upon the borders of Idumea; the battle fought here by Joab was either the same with the former, or different from it, at or about the same time; and accounts seemingly different from this are given in 2 Samuel 8:13; in the first of these the number is said to be eighteen thousand Syrians, and the victory is ascribed to David; and in the latter the same number as there, but said to be Edomites, as here, and the slaughter ascribed to Abishai. The note of R. Abendana {i}, for the reconciling of this, is worth transcribing: Our Rabbins of blessed memory say there were two battles; that Abishai, the son of Zeruiah, slew eighteen thousand, and after that Joab came and smote of them twelve thousand; and this is what is said; and "Joab returned," &c. the sense is, he returned after Abishai: and in the book of Samuel the battle is ascribed to David, because he was the root or chief (that is, under whom Joab and Abishai fought); but R. David Kimchi writes, that there were between them all eighteen thousand only; that Abishai began the battle, and smote of them six thousand, and after that Joab returned, and smote of them twelve thousand; but of a truth the wise R. Joel Ben Sueb gives the right sense of this affair, which is this; when David was fighting with the Syrians of Naharaim and Zobah, it was told him that Edom was come out to meet him, and help the Syrians; and then he veiled himself in prayer, and said this psalm; and Joab returned from the army, and went to meet the Edomites, that they might not pass over to help the Syrians, and join them, and he smote of them twelve thousand; and David was left fighting with the Syrians of Naharaim and Zobah, and subdued them under him, and he turned to help Joab; and Abishai, the son of Zeruiah was over the army, and he smote of them eighteen thousand, and they were in all thirty thousand, according to our Rabbins of blessed memory; and the text in 2 Samuel 8:13; should be inverted and explained thus; "when he returned from smiting the Syrians, he got him in the valley of salt a name; for his fame went abroad, because he smote there eighteen thousand, and this was in Edom."

The Targum very wrongly renders it, "and there fell of the armies of David and Joab twelve thousand." The title of this psalm, in the Syriac version, is, "which David gave out, saying, if I should come into the hands of Saul, I shall perish; and he fled, and those that were with him: but to us it declares the conversion of the Gentiles, and the rejection of the Jews." The former part of which is quite foreign; but the latter seems to be right; for reference is had to both in this psalm, and to Christ, the banner displayed, or ensign lifted up, and to his dominion over Jews and Gentiles in the latter day, and to that salvation which is alone in him.

{a} "Super rosa testimonii," Tigurine version; "super flore testimonii," Musculus. {b} Antiqu. l. 7. c. 5. s. 1. and l. 8. c. 7. s. 6. {c} Vid. Hudson. Not in ibid. {d} De Orbis Situ, l. 1. c. 6. {e} Geograph. l. 5. c. 13. {f} Gloss. in T. Bab. Cetubot, fol. 25. 1. {g} Onomast. Sacr. p. 586. {h} Itimerar. p. 59. {i} In Miclol Yophi in loc.