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Psalm 66

 

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Praise for God's Mighty Deeds and for His Answer to Prayer
MT Intro
For the choir director. A Song. A Psalm
Praise to God For His Awesome Works Liturgy of Praise and Thanksgiving A Song of Praise and Thanksgiving Corporate Prayer of Thanksgiving
66:1-4 66:1-4 66:1-4 66:1-4 66:1-3a
        66:3b-4
66:5-7 66:5-7 66:5-7 66:5-9 66:5-6b
        66:6c-7
66:8-15 66:8-12 66:8-12   66:8-9
      66:10-12 66:10-12
  66:13-15 66:13-15 66:13-15 66:13-14
        66:15
66:16-20 66:16-19 66:16-19 66:16-19 66:16-19
  66:20 66:20 66:20 66:20

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. Derek Kidner, in the Tyndale Old Testament Commentary series (p. 251) entitles this Psalm,

"The God of All. . .of Many. . .of One." This seems to be a wonderful way of catching the essence of this Psalm. It starts out with a universal emphasis and moves to the praise of Israel and finally to the exaltation of one worshiper.

B. This Psalm is very much like its neighbors, Psalms 65 and 67. They all speak of the universal love of God for all humans. In this way they are very similar to the prophets Isaiah and Jonah.

 

C. The historical setting of this Psalm is uncertain. It is true that the Arabic translation says "a Psalm of David," but it seems that this Psalm fits better into the life of Hezekiah. There is a national disaster and a personal crisis. It seems that the invasion of Assyria under Sennacherib in besieging Jerusalem and the illness of Hezekiah would have led to his death without his prayerful intervention to God fits this Psalm well.

 

D. The eight imperatives in this Psalm are not prayers to God but exhortations to

1. all the peoples of the earth (cf. Ps. 66:1,4,8)

2. all who fear/awe/revere God (cf. Ps. 66:16)

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 66:1-4
 1Shout joyfully to God, all the earth;
 2Sing the glory of His name;
 Make His praise glorious.
 3Say to God, "How awesome are Your works!
 Because of the greatness of Your power Your enemies will give feigned obedience to You.
 4All the earth will worship You,
 And will sing praises to You;
 They will sing praises to Your name."  Selah.

66:1 "Shout" This Hiphil imperative is plural and verse 1 is similar to Psalm 100 and reminds me of the beautiful choir of Rev. 7:9. Notice the plural speaks that all the earth is to shout joyfully to God (cf. Ps. 66:1,4,8; Ps. 65:2,5,8; 67:17).

Notice this Psalm includes the general name for God, Elohim (see Special Topic at Ps. 1:1), and not the covenant name for God, YHWH. It is all the earth that is to respond (cf. Psalm 67); the praise of Israel is not enough (cf. Ps. 103:19-22; 145:21; 150:6). If it is true there is only one God and He created the whole world and made man in His image (see SPECIAL TOPIC: MONOTHEISM at Ps. 2:7), then it is obviously true that He wants all humans to come to know Him. Israel was meant to be only a kingdom of priests to bring the world to God (see Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan at Psalm 2 Introduction).

66:2 "Sing the glory of His name" The idea or the concept of singing in worship can be documented from verses like this is the Psalter. It is interesting that in Eph. 5:19, where it speaks of being filled with the Spirit, that three of the five following participles speak of music. Praise is an appropriate activity in the worship of our God.

The term "name" is a way in Hebrew to reflect one's character. It may be a circumlocution of the Hebrew's fear to mention the name of God Himself, and that is why the concept of His name is so often substituted (see Special Topic at Ps. 5:11-12).

Faithful followers are to glorify YHWH's character and action (cf. Ps. 29:2; 79:9, 96:8). The "name" represents YHWH Himself (see Special Topic at Ps. 5:11-12).

For the term "glory" see Special Topic at Ps. 19:1.

66:3 "Say to God" This is the fourth imperative of verses 1-3 directed to all humans.

1. shout joyfully to God — BDB 929, KB 1206, Hiphil imperative, cf. Ps. 47:2; 81:2; 98:4,6 (cohortative in Ps. 95:1,2)

2. sing the glory of His name — BDB 274, KB 273, Piel imperative, cf. Ps. 9:11; 30:4; 47:6-7 [five]; 105:2; 135:3 (cohortative in Ps. 18:49; 27:6; 59:16; 71:22; 75:9; 101:1; 104:33; 146:1)

3. make His praise glorious — BDB 962, KB 1321, Qal imperative (lit. "put," "set," or "place"), cf. Isa. 42:12

4. say to God — BDB 55, KB 65, Qal imperative

 

▣ "How awesome are Your works" The term is "terrible" or "terrifying" (BDB 431, Niphal participle, cf. Ps. 45:4; 65:5). Some translators, such as the Jerusalem Bible, translate this, "what dread you inspire," but it seems that because of verse 5 that we are talking not of God's character, but about God's acts (cf. Exod. 34:10; Deut. 10:21; Ps. 65:5; 139:14; 145:6). God has acted in history (cf. the Exodus in Ps. 66:5-7). His acts are acts of deliverance and revelation of His purposes (see Special Topic at Psalm 2 Intro.).

▣ "Because of the greatness of Your power Your enemies will give feigned obedience to You" This is a very difficult sentence in Hebrew to translate. It is obvious that God's power draws even the reluctant praise of His enemies (cf. Ps. 18:44). The Hebrew seems to imply a "pretended obedience" (BDB 471, KB 469, Piel imperfect). The Septuagint even translates it, "a lie." The Hebrew word has the connotation of something that has grown small, pride that has been reduced, or insincerity (cf. Ps. 81:15). Which connotation was intended is simply uncertain here.

66:4 "All the earth will worship You" This seems to speak along the same lines as Phil. 2:9-11, that one day both friend and foe, both child and enemy, will acknowledge YHWH. On that day, all will sing praises to Him (cf. Ps. 22:27; 46:10; 65:2,5,8; 67:1-7; 86:9; Zech. 14:16). This has eschatological implications (cf. Micah 5:2-5a).

▣ "Selah" This term (BDB 699) also occurs at the end of verses 7 and 15. See note at Ps. 3:2 and Introduction to Psalms, VII.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 66:5-7
 5Come and see the works of God,
 Who is awesome in His deeds toward the sons of men.
 6He turned the sea into dry land;
 They passed through the river on foot;
 There let us rejoice in Him!
 7He rules by His might forever;
 His eyes keep watch on the nations;
 Let not the rebellious exalt themselves.  Selah.

66:5 "Come and see" These two Qal imperatives match with the two Qal imperatives, "come and hear" of verse 16. God is a God who acts in history, who has chosen humans to record and explain His acts. We can know God by what He has done, as well as by what He has said. See SPECIAL TOPIC: INSPIRATION at Ps. 19:7-9.

SPECIAL TOPIC: ILLUMINATION

▣ "Who is awesome in His deeds" Because a related term to "awesome" (BDB 431) is used in Deut. 4:34 (BDB 432) to describe the plagues of Egypt, and because there seem to be many allusions to the wilderness wandering in this Psalm, most would refer these deeds to the Exodus period.

▣ "towards the sons of men" This literal phrase, "sons of Adam," reflects God's concern with all humans. Genesis 3:15 is not a promise to Israel (which does not come into being until the call of Abram in Genesis 12), but to all humanity. Psalms 65-67 reflect this great truth, as do Isaiah and Jonah.

66:6 "He turned the sea into dry land" This could refer to the Exodus, Exodus 14 (cf. Ps. 106:9), or to the splitting of the Jordan River in Joshua 3 (cf. Jos. 4:23).

66:7 "He ruled by His might forever" This is a concept that God is ruling and reigning over all of His world, not just Israel (i.e., Deut. 32:8; Ps. 47:7-8; Acts 17;26; and the sections in the Major Prophets of God's judgment on the nations).

▣ "forever" See Special Topic at Psalm 9:5.

▣ "His eyes keep watch on the nations" Because this seems to personify the nations, many have thought this referred to the concept of national angels (cf. the Septuagint's translation of Deut. 32:8). This also may be affirmed by the idea of them rebelling, as in verse 7c, and also that possibly "keeps us alive" in verse 9 is a corporate reference to Israel. In the interbiblical period, the heavenly council was made up of the angels of the nations. In Jewish literature they seem to be hostile to Israel and it is only God's love for Israel that keeps her from being destroyed. See Appendix XIII and XIV in Alfred Edersheim's The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah."

▣ "Let not the rebellious exalt themselves" The MT has the Hiphil imperfect used in a jussive sense, but the Masoretic scholars suggested in the margin it be read (Qere) as a Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense. The Anchor Bible translates this phrase as, "lest the rebels rise up against Him." The Revised Standard Version translates this phrase as, "the rebellious cannot rise against Him." This is very similar to Psalm 2.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 66:8-15
 8Bless our God, O peoples,
 And sound His praise abroad,
 9Who keeps us in life
 And does not allow our feet to slip.
 10For You have tried us, O God;
 You have refined us as silver is refined.
 11You brought us into the net;
 You laid an oppressive burden upon our loins.
 12You made men ride over our heads;
 We went through fire and through water,
 Yet You brought us out into a place of abundance.
 13I shall come into Your house with burnt offerings;
 I shall pay You my vows,
 14Which my lips uttered
 And my mouth spoke when I was in distress.
 15I shall offer to You burnt offerings of fat beasts,
 With the smoke of rams;
 I shall make an offering of bulls with male goats.  Selah.

66:8-15 This strophe refers to YHWH's treatment of rebellious Israel. He judged her, to restore her. All the peoples should rejoice because YHWH's redemptive purposes through Israel to all the nations is still viable (see Special Topic at Psalm 2 Introduction).

66:9 "Who keeps us in life" This could be (1) a historical reference to Hezekiah as he was about to die of a boil and prayed for God to spare him. Through Isaiah he was given ten more years of life (cf. 2 Kings 20). Or (2) a reference to the national life of Israel as she was invaded again and again by enemies from the Fertile Crescent. Whatever its exact allusion, it is obvious that God's moment-by-moment care for faithful followers is the essence of our gift of life. And that God is the only one who possesses life and He gives it to those who trust in Him (i.e., Ps. 65:5).

▣ "And does not allow our feet to slip" The Hebrew term "slip" (lit. "totter," "shake," or "slip," BDB 557) can be used for

1. carrying something on a pole (cf. Num. 4:10,12; 13:23)

2. a yoke of a prisoner around the neck (cf. Nahum 1:13)

3. here it is imagery of security. One's feet do not slip on the path of faith (cf. Ps. 55:22; 121:3; verb in Ps. 15:5; 112:6).

This phrase is exactly opposite to the connotation of the Hebrew word for "faith" (see Special Topic at Ps. 12:1), which originally meant "a steady stance" (cf. Ps. 17:5; 38:16; 121:3).

66:10 "For You have tried us, O God" This is the concept of testing that comes from the metal processing industry (cf. Ps. 66:10b). God does test His children (cf. Gen. 22:1; Matt. 4:1). He does so to refine us, to purify us, and to make us stronger (cf. Zech. 13:9; 1 Pet. 1:7). See Special Topic at Ps. 11:4b-5.

66:11 "You brought us into the net" Notice the number of times "You" appears in verses 10-12 (cf. Ps. 65:9-11). The psalmist is chronicling YHWH's acts of judgment that were designed to bring His people to a place of repentance so that He could bless them (cf. Ps. 66:12c).

"Net" (BDB 845) comes from a root that means "to hunt" (BDB 844 II, cf. Ezek. 13:21) and is often used of an animal snare (cf. Ezek. 12:13; 17:20). This term is used in Habakkuk 1:15-17 to describe the military machine of the Babylonians. Therefore, it may be a reference to the invasion of the land of Israel.

Another use of this term is the idea of "fortress" (BDB 845 II, cf. Ps. 31:3; 71:3; 91:2; 144:2). This would convey a totally different meaning when translated into verse 11.

▣ "You laid an oppressive burden upon our loins" The term for "burden" (BDB 734, KB 558, found only here in the OT) is more of a restraint than the idea of a weight. BDB defines it as "compression" or "distress." The loins were the strongest muscles of the human body and were often used as a metaphor for a human's power (cf. Deut. 33:11).

66:12 "You made men ride over our heads" This is a metaphor describing evil people's (i.e., the pagan nations) control of God's people (cf. Isa. 51:23).

▣ "We went through fire and through water" These are both metaphors that speak of hard trials. See the beautiful statement in Isa. 43:2 that God will not leave us in the midst of our trials.

NASB"a place of abundance"
NKJV"to rich fulfillment"
NRSV"to a spacious place"
TEV"to a place of safety"
NJB"to breathe again"
JPSOA"to prosperity"
REB"into a place of plenty"
LXX"to remind" or "refreshment"

This term (BDB 924, KB 1201) is very difficult to translate. The basic meaning is to saturate. It is the same term that is used in Ps. 23:5 for "cup overflowed." It has sometimes been translated "a wide place" (cf. Ps. 18:19; 31:8; 118:5), meaning a place of rest, or "a fruitful place," referring to the Promised Land. Those translations that include the word "rest" here are basing this on a change of one Hebrew letter in this word (see NET Bible, p. 931, #7).

The UBS Text Project (p. 287) gives "to saturate" a "B" rating (some doubt) and mentions that it has two connotations.

1. abundance

2. rest or free breathing

 

66:13-15 This is where the author (cf. Ps. 66:16b, or Israel in a collective sense) comes to offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving and pay a vow (cf. Num. 30:2; Deut. 23:21-23).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 66:16-20
 16Come and hear, all who fear God,
 And I will tell of what He has done for my soul.
 17I cried to Him with my mouth,
 And He was extolled with my tongue.
 18If I regard wickedness in my heart,
 The Lord will not hear;
 19But certainly God has heard;
 He has given heed to the voice of my prayer.
 20Blessed be God,
 Who has not turned away my prayer
 Nor His lovingkindness from me.

66:16 "Come and hear, all who fear God" This phrase starts off with two Qal imperatives (see note at Ps. 66:5). The Bible does not teach universalism, but it does teach God's universal offer of grace to those who respond (cf. John 1:12; 3:16,36; 6:40; 11:25-26; Rom. 10:9-13). God responds to those who respond to Him. But notice the condition, "all who fear God."

▣ "And I will tell of what He has done for my soul" As verse 9 expressed the corporate life of Israel, so verses 13-15 and 16-20 express the individual life of this one worshiper (i.e., the psalmist). He describes his prayer life. Usually the Psalms start out with an individual and end in corporate praise but this Psalm is the opposite.

66:17 As there was no silent reading in the ANE, so too, no silent prayers (note 1 Sam.1:13).

66:18 Attitude is crucial. See Special Topic: Prayer Unlimited, Yet Limited at Ps. 64:1. Human unconfessed sin blinds the individual to God's presence and love. There are consequences in time and eternity to sin for both the believer and the unbeliever.

66:19 Faithful followers believe that God hears (cf. Ps. 18:6) and will respond appropriately! This is a faith assurance, not a certainty (see SPECIAL TOPIC: ASSURANCE at Ps. 51:11b).

66:20 "Blessed be God" Blessing (BDB 138, KB 159, Qal passive participle, cf. Ps. 68:35) comes from God and to God. There is no blessing apart from Him. He should be blessed/praised for

1. who He is (cf. Ps. 66:10-12; 2 Cor. 1:3)

2. what He has done (cf. Ps. 66:1-3)

3. what He is doing

4. what He will bring to pass (cf. Ps. 66:4,8)!

 

▣ "lovingkindness" See Special Topic at Psalm 5:7.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. How is Psalm 66 related to 65 and 67?

2. Why is verse 3 so difficult to translate?

3. Is there any biblical evidence for national angels (cf. Daniel 10)?

4. Why does God test individuals and nations?

5. List the items that relate to prayer in verses 17-20.