PSALM 60 OVERVIEW
Title. Here is a lengthy title, but it helps us much to expound the Psalm. To the Chief Musician upon Shushaneduth, or the Lily of Testimony. The forty-fifth was on the lilies, and represented the kingly warrior in his beauty going forth to war; here we see him dividing the spoil and bearing testimony to the glory of God. Tunes have strange names apparently, but this results from the fact that we do not know what was in the composer's mind, else they might seem to be touchingly appropriate; perhaps the music or the musical instruments have more to do with this title than the Psalm itself. Yet in war songs, roses and lilies are often mentioned, and one remembers Macaulay's Song of the Hugenots, though perhaps we err in mentioning so carnal a verse --
"Now by the lips of those ye love, fair gentlemen of France,
Charge for the golden lilies now, upon them with the lance."
Michtam of David, to teach. David obeyed the precept to teach the children of Israel; he recorded the Lord's mighty acts that they might be rehearsed in the ears of generations to come. Golden secrets are to be told on the house tops; these things were not done in a corner and ought not to be buried in silence. We ought gladly to learn what inspiration so beautifully teaches. When he strove with Aramnaharaim and with Aramzobah. The combined Aramean tribes sought to overcome Israel, but were signally defeated. When Joab returned. He had been engaged in another region, and the enemies of Israel took advantage of his absence, but on his return with Abishai the fortunes of war were changed. And smote of Edom in the valley of salt twelve thousand. More than this appear to have fallen according to 1 Chronicles 18:12 , but this commemorates one memorable part of the conflict. Terrible must have been the battle, but decisive indeed were the results, and the power of the enemy was utterly broken. Well did the Lord deserve a song from his servant.
Divisions. Properly the song may be said to consist of three parts: the complaining verses, Psalms 60:1-3 ; the happy, Psalms 60:4-8 ; the prayerful, Psalms 60:9-12 . We have divided it as the sense appeared to change.
Verse 1. Before the days of Saul, Israel had been brought very low; during his government it had suffered from internal strife, and his reign was closed by an overwhelming disaster at Gibeon. David found himself the possessor of a tottering throne, troubled with the double evil of factions at home, and invasion from abroad. He traced at once the evil to its true source, and began at the fountainhead. His were the politics of piety, which after all are the wisest and most profound. He knew that the displeasure of the Lord had brought calamity upon the nation, and to the removal of that displeasure he set himself by earnest prayer.
O God, thou hast cast us off. Thou hast treated us as foul and offensive things, to be put away; as mean and beggarly persons, to be shunned with contempt; as useless dead boughs, to be torn away from the tree, which they disfigure. To be cast off by God is the worst calamity that can befall a man or a people; but the worst form of it is when the person is not aware of it and is indifferent to it. When the divine desertion causes mourning and repentance, it will be but partial and temporary. When a cast off soul sighs for its God it is indeed not cast off at all.
Thou has scattered us. David clearly sees the fruits of the divine anger, he traces the flight of Israel's warriors, the breaking of her power, the division in her body politic, to the hand of God. Whoever might be the secondary agent of these disasters, he beholds the Lord's hand as the prime moving cause, and pleads with the Lord concerning the matter. Israel was like a city with a breach made in its wall, because her God was wroth with her. These first two verses, with their depressing confession, must be regarded as greatly enhancing the power of the faith which in the after verses rejoices in better days, through the Lord's gracious return unto his people.
Thou hast been displeased. This is the secret of our miseries. Had we pleased thee, thou wouldst have pleased us; but as we have walked contrary to thee, thou hast walked contrary to us.
O turn thyself to us again. Forgive the sin and smile once more. Turn us to thee, turn thou to us. Aforetime thy face was towards thy people, be pleased to look on us again with thy favour and grace. Some read it, "Thou wilt turn to us again," and it makes but slight difference which way we take it, for a true hearted prayer brings a blessing so soon that it is no presumption to consider it already obtained. There was more need for God to turn to his people than for Judah's troops to be brave, or Joab and the commanders wise. God with us is better than strong battalions; God displeased is more terrible than all the Edomites that ever marched into the valley of salt, or all the devils that ever opposed the church. If the Lord turn to us, what care we for Aramnaharaim or Aramzobah, or death, or hell? but if he withdraw his presence we tremble at the fall of a leaf.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Title. There are some difficulties attendant upon the title of this Psalm, when it is compared with the contents. We naturally expect after such as inscription, joy, congratulation, and praise for victory; but the psalmist breaks out into lamentations and bitter complaints: his strains are, however, changed, when he has proceeded as far as verse three, where he begins to feel confidence, and to employ the language of exultation and triumph. The best means of removing this discrepancy seems to be by remarking, that this Psalm was written after some of the battles of which mention is made in the title, but that the author does not restrict himself to those events without taking a wider range, so as to embrace the afflictive conditions both of Israel and Judah during the latter part of Saul's life, and the former years of David's reign. In the concluding years of Saul, the Philistines obtained a superiority over him, and finally destroyed him with his army. Subsequently to these events the whole land was in a very disturbed and agitated condition, arising out of the contentions between the partisans of Saul's family, and those who were attached to David. The nations which inhabited the regions adjacent to the land of Canaan were at all times inimical to the Jews, and seized every opportunity of attacking and injuring them. But when David had succeeded in uniting the whole nation under his authority, he proceeded to avenge the injuries and insults that had been inflicted upon his countrymen by the Philistines, Edomites, Moabites, and Syrians; and God was pleased to give him signal success in his undertakings. He appears, therefore, to have combined all these transactions, and made them the subject of this Psalm. William Walford.
Title. Shushaneduth. The lilies of the testimony -- means, that this Psalm has for its chief subject something very lovely and cheering in the law; namely, the words of promise quoted in the beginning of verse six, according to which the land of Canaan belonged to the Israelites, upon which is thus established the confidence expressed in Psalms 60:6-8 , with respect to their right of property over the land, and their possession of it. This promise, not to cite many other passages, which occur in the Five Books of Moses, and even so early as the patriarchs, is contained in Genesis 49, and Deuteronomy 33. It is evident of what value and importance this promise was, and particularly the remembrance of it at this time. T. C. Barth's "Bible Manual," 1865.
Title. The only other eduth or "testimony" in the Psalter, Psalm 80, makes mention by name of the tribes of Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh, and is a witness against those tribes for forsaking the Shepherd of Israel who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt. Joseph Francis Thrupp, M.A., in "An Introduction to the Study and Use of the Psalms," 1860.
Title. Aramnaharaim. The name Aram corresponds to Syria in its widest and vaguest sense, and is joined with other names to designate particular parts of that large country. It even includes Mesopotamia, which is a term of physical rather than political geography, and denotes the space between the Tigris and Euphrates, corresponding to Aram Naharaim, or Syria of the Two Rivers, in the verse before us. The king of this country was tributary to the king of Aram Zobah, as appears from the account of David's second Aramean war ( 2 Samuel 10:16 2 Samuel 10:19 ). Joseph Addison Alexander.
Title. When he strove with Aramnaharaim and with Aramzobah. An insult offered to David's ambassadors by Hanun, king of the Ammonites, led to a serious war. Hanun obtained mercenaries from Syria to reinforce his army, Joab and Abishai his brother, David's generals, gave them battle. Joab, opposed to the Syrians, gained the first success, and the Ammonites, seeing their allies routed, took to flight into their town. But this defeat provoked a great coalition, embracing all the people between the Jordan and the Euphrates. David, however, fearlessly marched against them at the head of his army; he vanquished all his enemies, and made himself master of the small Aramaean kingdoms of Damascus, Zobah, and Hamath, and subjugated the Eastern Idumaeans, who met their final defeat in the Valley of Salt. Francois Lenormant and E. Chevallier, in "A Manual of the Ancient History of the East," 1869.
Title. Joab returned and smote of Edom in the valley of salt twelve thousand, compared with 2 Samuel 8:13 , "David gat him a name when he returned from smiting of the Syrians in the valley of salt, being eighteen thousand men," and 1 Chronicles 18:12 , where this very service was performed by Abishai. Answer. It is one thing to attribute the victory for the honour of the king that was the cause. But the mentioning of these chief generals, by whom the service was performed, is another. David, under God, must have the honour of the work, for the increase of his name, being set for the typing out of Christ, who must have all the glory of the day, whatever conquest he gets by instruments of that service here, who likewise are typed out in David's worthies, of whom Joab and Abishai were chief. By these he obtained that great victory over Hadadezer. In returning from which service Joab found his brother Abishai engaged in the valley of salt against eighteen thousand Edomites or Syrians (all one), whose valour the Almighty looked on, as he attributes the whole slaughter to him, because first attempting it. Joab, it seems, took this in his return from the former slaughter, and fell in for the assistance of his brother Abishai (for that was their usual course: though they divided their armies, they did not divide their hearts). But if the enemies were too strong, one would help the other. 1Ch 19:12. And of this eighteen thousand attributed to David and Abishai before, Joab slew twelve thousand of them; the memory of which service is here embalmed with a Psalm; first showing the extremes they were in, doubtful at first they should not get the victory. Secondly, applying it to the kingdom of Christ. Lastly, ascribing all the honour of the conquest to God; saying, through God this valiant service was done; it was he that trod down our enemies; and will do (last verse). William Streat, in "The Dividing of the Hoof," 1654.
Title. The Valley of Salt. The ridge of Usdum exhibits more distinctly its peculiar formation; the main body of the mountain being a solid mass of rock salt... We could at first hardly believe our eyes, until we had several times approached the precipices, and broken off pieces to satisfy ourselves, both by the touch and taste. The salt, where thus exposed, is everywhere more or less furrowed by the rains. As we advanced, large lumps and masses broken off from above, lay like rocks along the shore, or were fallen down as debris. The very stones beneath our feet were wholly salt... The position of this mountain at the south end of the sea, enables us also to ascertain the place of The Valley of Salt mentioned in Scripture, where the Hebrews under David, and again under Amaziah, gained decisive victories over Edom. This valley could have been no other than the Ghor south of the Dead Sea, adjacent to the mountain of salt; it separates indeed the ancient territories of Judah and Edom. Edward Robinson's "Biblical Researches in Palestine," 1867.
Title. The historic record mentions eighteen thousand slain, and here but twelve thousand. The greater of course includes the less. The discrepancy may be explained by supposing that the title contains the numbers slain by one division of the army, or that the twelve thousand were slain in the battle, and the residue in the flight. Or an error may have crept into the text. Every scholar admits that there is sometimes serious difficulty in settling the numbers of the Old Testament. In this place Calvin has two and twenty thousand, the common version twelve thousand, while the original is two ten thousand, which taken in one way would mean twenty thousand, i.e., two tens of thousands. Hammond refers the number slain to different battles, and so avoids the difficulty. William S. Plumer.
Verse 1. O God, thou hast cast us off. The word here used means properly to be foul, rancid, offensive; and then, to treat anything as if it were foul or rancid; to repel, to spurn, to cast away. It is strong language, meaning that God had seemed to treat them as if they were loathsome of offensive to him. Albert Barnes.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
- Prayer of a church in low condition.
- Left of God's Spirit.
- Cause. Something displeasing to God. Neglect or actual sin; a subject for self examination.
- Cure. The Lord's return to us and ours to him. In our version it is a prayer; in the Septuagint an expression of faith -- "Thou wilt return."