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Psalm 68

 

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The God of Sinai and of the Sanctuary
MT Intro
For the choir director; with stringed instruments. A Psalm of David. A Song
The Glory of God in His Goodness to Israel Liturgy for a Festival Celebration in the Temple A National Song of Triumph An Epic of Israel's Glory
68:1-4 68:1-3 68:1-3 68:1-3 68:1-2
        68:3-4
  68:4 68:4 68:4  
68:5-6 68:5-6 68:5-6 68:5-6 68:5-6
68:7-10 68:7-10 68:7-10 68:7-10 68:7-8
        68:9-10
68:11-14 68:11-14 68:11-14 68:11-14 68:11-12
        68:13-14
68:15-18 68:15-16 68:15-16 68:15-16 68:15-16
  68:17-18 68:17-20 68:17-18 68:17-18
68:19-23 68:19-20   68:19-20 68:19
        68:20-21
  68:21-23 68:21-23 68:21-23  
        68:22-23
68:24-27 68:24-27 68:24-27 68:24-27 68:24-25
        68:26-27
68:28-31 68:28-31 68:28-31 68:28-31 68:28-29
        68:30-31
68:32-35 68:32-35b 68:32-35c 68:32-35c 68:32-24a
        68:34b-35c
  68:35c 68:35d 68:35d 68:35d

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. It is difficult to find a unifying theme in this Psalm. It is possibly an anthology of YHWH's acts on Israel's behalf (i.e., Exodus, Conquest, establishment of temple in Jerusalem). The NASB Study Bible (p. 805) calls it "A processional liturgy celebrating the glorious and triumphant rule of Israel's God." If this is correct, this Psalm is similar to Nehemiah 9.

 

B. Some scholars see this Psalm as a composite with no theme.

1. NRSV, The New Oxford Annotated Bible (p. 728) says, "This is the most difficult of the psalms to interpret, and there is no general agreement either as to its meaning as a whole or in many of its details."

2. The UBS Handbook on Psalms (p. 577) says, "both as to text and meaning this psalm is the most difficult of all psalms to understand and interpret. There is no discernable unity in the composition."

3. The Jewish Study Bible (p. 1353) says, "Its vocabulary includes fifteen words found no where else in the Bible, plus other rare words, adding to the difficulty of interpreting it. Indeed, much of it remains obscure, and many consider it to be the most difficult psalm in the Psalter."

4. One reason for the supposition of composition is the numerous names for Deity (see Special Topic at Ps. 1:1) used.

a. Elohim (BDB 43), Ps. 68:1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 (twice), 9,10,15,16,17,18,21,24 (twice),26,28,31, 32,34,35 (twice).

b. Yah (BDB 43), Ps. 68:4,18

c. Eloah (BDB 43), Ps. 68:8,28 (singular of Elohim)

d. Adonai (BDB 10), Ps. 68:11,17,19,20,22,32

e. Shaddai (BDB 994), Ps. 68:14 (the name of YHWH for the Patriarchs, cf. Exod. 6:3)

f. El (BDB 42), Ps. 68:19,20 (twice), 35

g. YHWH (BDB 217), Ps. 68:20,26

h. King (BDB 572 II), Ps. 68:24

 

C. Possible outline by themes.

1. military victory

a. vv. 1-4 (unnamed enemies possibly Wilderness Wanderings, Ps. 68:4b)

b. vv. 11-14 (unnamed kings who invade but are defeated)

c. vv. 19-23 (unnamed enemies)

d. vv. 28-31 (Egypt)

2. covenant focus

a. help the least, Ps. 68:5-6

(1) orphans

(2) widows

(3) poor

(4) lonely

b. abundance, Ps. 68:7-10

c.  Sinai, Ps. 68:15-18

3. the temple

a. procession of King and people of Israel to the temple, Ps. 68:24-27

b. all peoples praise God (i.e., theme of Psalms 65-68) who reigns from the sanctuary (i.e., Jerusalem, Zion, Mt. Moriah, temple), Ps. 68:32-35

Therefore, I would guess this Psalm is denoting a military victory with a procession to the temple; date unsure!

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 68:1-4
 1Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered,
 And let those who hate Him flee before Him.
 2As smoke is driven away, so drive them away;
 As wax melts before the fire,
 So let the wicked perish before God.
 3But let the righteous be glad; let them exult before God;
 Yes, let them rejoice with gladness.
 4Sing to God, sing praises to His name;
 Lift up a song for Him who rides through the deserts,

Whose name is the Lord, and exult before Him.

68:1-4 This first strophe has several Qal imperfects which may be used in a jussive sense. The verbs "May. . ." and "Let. . ." are markers of this grammatical form.

1. let God arise — BDB 877, KB 1086, Qal imperfect

2. let His enemies be scattered — BDB 806, KB 918, Qal imperfect

3. let those who hate Him flee before Him — BDB 630, KB 681, Qal imperfect

4. let the wicked perish — BDB 1, KB 2, Qal imperfect

5. let the righteous be glad — BDB 970, KB 1333, Qal imperfect

6. let them exult before God — BDB 763, KB 836, Qal imperfect

7. let them rejoice with gladness — BDB 965, KB 1314, Qal imperfect

 

Notice the different ways of characterizing God's enemies.

1. enemies, Ps. 68:1a — BDB 33, KB 38, Qal active participle (lit. "those hostile to")

2. "those who hate Him," Ps. 68:1b — BDB 971, KB 1338, Piel participle

3. the wicked, Ps. 68:2c — BDB 957

They are to "be scattered," "flee," "driven away," "melted," "perish," but the righteous will

1. be glad, Ps. 68:3a

2. exult, Ps. 68:3a

3. rejoice with gladness, Ps. 68:3b

4. sing to God, Ps. 68:4a — BDB 1010, KB 1479, Qal imperative

5. sing praises to His name, Ps. 68:4a — BDB 274, KB 273, Piel imperative

6. cast up a highway for Him, Ps. 68:4b — BDB 699, KB 757, Qal imperative

7. exult before Him, Ps. 68:4c — BDB 759, KB 831, Qal imperative

 

68:1 "Let God (Elohim). . .arise" This could be understood in two senses.

1. arise from His throne so as to act

2. the ark of the covenant being carried into battle before the army of Israel (cf. Num. 10:35)

 

68:2 Several metaphors of defeat.

1. like smoke evaporating

2. like smoke before a strong wind

3. like wax melting at YHWH's presence (cf. Ps. 97:5; Micah 1:4)

4. perishing (i.e., cause to vanish, BDB 1)

 

68:4 This verse has four imperatives which denote the actions of the righteous.

1. sing to God — temple activity

2. sing praises to His name — temple activity

3. cast up a highway for Him — royal metaphor of preparation, cf. Isa. 35:6-10; 40:3-4; 57:14; 62:10

4. exult before Him — temple activity

The unifying theme of this Psalm is temple worship (cf. Ps. 68:5,24-27,29,35).

▣ "who rides through the deserts" The concept of YHWH riding on the clouds (cf. Ps. 68:33) is an allusion to Ba'al, the storm god of the Canaanite pantheon who brought rain. Often the titles of pagan gods are attributed to YHWH, who is the only true God (cf. Deut. 33:26; Isa. 19:1).

The MT has "deserts" (BDB 787) but KB 879 suggests "clouds" from Ugaritic root (cf. Ps. 104:3). This fits the context best (cf. NKJV, NRSV, TEV, NJB, JPSOA, REB, cf. Ps. 18:9-15).

The ASV takes the root ערב (BDB 787) as referring to "Arabia" (cf. 2 Chr. 17:11; 21:16; 22:1; 26:7). See Contextual Insights, C. 1.

The LXX takes the root מערב (BDB 591 II) meaning "west."

The Targums, followed by the Peshitta and late King James, has "heaven," cf. Ps. 68:33.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 68:5-6
 5A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows,
 Is God in His holy habitation.
 6God makes a home for the lonely;
 He leads out the prisoners into prosperity,
 Only the rebellious dwell in a parched land.

68:5-6 Notice the types of persons God acts as advocate on their behalf (i.e., Exod. 22:23).

1. orphans — Exod. 22:22; Deut. 14:29; 24:17; Ps. 146:9; Isa. 1:17; Jer. 7:6; James 1:27

2. widows — Exod. 22:22; Deut. 14:29; 24:17; Ps. 146:9; Isa. 1:17; Jer. 7:6; James 1:27

3. lonely — BDB 402, KB 405, from Arabic "to be alone"

4. poor — Job 31:16-20; Ps. 69:33 (lit. "bondman," BDB 64); YHWH provides for the "needy" (BDB 776) in Ps. 68:10

Notice that in verse 6 there is a distinction between the characteristic, ongoing actions of God

1. makes a home (lit. "causes to dwell") — BDB 442, KB 444, Hiphil participle

2. leads out — BDB 422, KB 425, Hiphil participle

for the poor and needy as contrasted with the permanent dwelling (BDB 1014, KB 1496, Qal perfect) of the stubborn/rebellious who will not change (BDB 710, KB 770, Qal participle) and who will dwell in a "parched land" (BDB 850, only here in the OT, but which is common imagery of the lack of YHWH's presence and a sign of His judgment, cf. Ps. 78:17; 107:34,40).

▣ "the rebellious dwell in a parched land" One wonders if these rebels are the same people referred to in verses 1-2. But the context of verses 5-6 implies they are unfaithful covenant Israelites.

Note that prosperity marks the faithful followers, while lack of rain marks the rebels. This type of theology based on covenant obedience (cf. Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 27-30) is known as "the two ways" (cf. Ps. 68:7-10; Deut. 30:15-20; Psalm 1).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 68:7-10
 7O God, when You went forth before Your people,
 When You marched through the wilderness,  Selah.
 8The earth quaked;
 The heavens also dropped rain at the presence of God;
 Sinai itself quaked at the presence of God, the God of Israel.
 9You shed abroad a plentiful rain, O God;
 You confirmed Your inheritance when it was parched.
 10Your creatures settled in it;
 You provided in Your goodness for the poor, O God.

68:7-10 The emphasis on "the two ways" continues. This strophe seems to merge

1. the Wilderness Wandering Period (i.e., Israel led by YHWH in the cloud, cf. Exod. 13:21; 14:19,24; Ps. 78:14; 105:39) and miraculously provided for (i.e., water, manna, quail)

2. the agricultural abundance of the Promised Land (i.e., the trans-Jordan and Canaan)

 

68:7 "when You went forth before Your people" This is an idiom of "holy war." The battles were YHWH's victory. He went before His people into battle (cf. Jdgs. 4:14; 2 Sam. 5:24). This was often symbolized as the ark of the covenant being carried by Levites at the head of the army.

▣ "When You marched through the wilderness" This implies the Wilderness Wandering Period (cf. Jdgs. 5:4-5). YHWH protected, guided, provided all Israel needed as they wandered some forty years before entering Canaan because of their unbelief (cf. Numbers 13-14). YHWH was so attentive to Israel during this time that the later rabbis called it "the honeymoon period between YHWH and Israel."

▣ "Selah" See note at Psalm 3:2 and Introduction to Psalms, VII.

68:8 "The earth quaked" This was both a metaphor for YHWH's presence (cf. Joel 2:10; Matt. 27:51) and a literal physical manifestation of His presence (cf. Exod. 19:16-18; Jdgs. 5:4-5).

Notice that "God of Sinai" (i.e., the giving of the law, cf. Exodus 19-20) is parallel with the "God of Israel." The author uses several different names for "God" (see Contextual Insights, B, 4). The uniqueness of Israel was the presence of YHWH (monotheism) and His revelation of Himself through deed, promise, and written revelation (the OT).

68:9 "Your inheritance" This term (BDB 635) could refer to

1. the covenant people (cf. Deut. 32:9; 1 Kgs. 8:51; Joel 3:2; Jer. 10:16)

2. the land of Canaan (cf. Ps. 79:1; Jer. 2:7)

The term "land" (BDB 75, KB 90) is used of all the earth (cf. Exod. 19:5) but especially of Canaan (cf. Lev. 25:23; Deut. 32:43; 2 Chr. 7:20; Isa. 14:2,25; Ezek. 36:5). See Special Topic at Psalm 1:2.

68:10

NASB"creatures settled in it"
NKJV"Your congregation dwelt in it"
NRSV"your flock found a dwelling in it"
TEV"your people made their home there"
LXX"your animals live in it"
NJB"Your family found a home"
JPSOA"Your tribe dwells there"

The LXX translated this as "animals," but the feminine (BDB 312) means "a related community" (cf. 2 Sam. 23:13; 1 Chr. 11:15).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 68:11-14
 11The Lord gives the command;
 The women who proclaim the good tidings are a great host:
 12"Kings of armies flee, they flee,
 And she who remains at home will divide the spoil!"
 13When you lie down among the sheepfolds,
 You are like the wings of a dove covered with silver,
 And its pinions with glistening gold.
 14When the Almighty scattered the kings there,
 It was snowing in Zalmon.

68:11-14 This strophe, like Ps. 68:1-4 and 19-23, has a military theme. Because of verses 11b and 12b it may refer to (1) Joshua's conquest of Canaan or (2) an invasion of Canaan/Israel that was defeated.

68:11-12 This refers to the news of the divinely-given victory. The quote of the women who bore the good news is recorded in verse 12. Women rejoicing over a military victory and shouting about God's acts is also recorded in the "Song of Miriam" in Exod. 15:20-21.

NASB, NKJV"she who remains at home"
NRSV, TEV,
NRSV, REB"the women at home"
NJB"the fair ones at home"
JPSOA"housewives"

The MT has "pastures" (BDB 627 II) but all English translations change the root to "women."

1. pastures — נוה

2. women — נצוה

 

68:13 This verse is understood in several ways.

1. the dove (cf. Ps. 68:13b-c) is a name for YHWH, as is Shaddai (i.e., Almighty) — NJB

2. it is a sarcastic allusion to the fact that some did not go to war (i.e., 13a, TEV; cf. Jdgs. 5:15-16)

3. it is a way of referring to victorious Israel

4. it is part of the spoils of battle (i.e., captured carved/molded treasure, possibly related to the worship of Ishtar, Astarte)

5. a reference to the clothing of the women messengers of verse 11 (Kidner, Tyndale Commentary, p. 259)

6. the war banners of the fleeing enemy (IVP Bible Background Commentary, p. 538)

7. the release of doves was part of the victory celebration (F. F. Bruce, Answers to Questions, pp. 23-24)

 

▣ "sheepfolds" This word (BDB 1046, KB 1637) is rare. This translation is based on Jdgs. 5:16. A similar word is found in Ezek. 40:43, translated "hooks." It could mean "cooking fire" or "cooking pot" (BDB 1046).

68:14 "the Almighty" See Contextual Insights, B, 4).

NASB, NRSV"there"
NKJV"in it"

The MT has a feminine preposition (BDB 88) which seems to link back to verse 10 (i.e., the place where the community of YHWH's inheritance dwells).

▣ "Zalmon" This is a mountain near Shechem (cf. Jdgs. 9:48). BDB suggests it refers to a mountain east of the Jordan. This is because of the name "Bashan" in Ps. 68:15.

The NJB translates it as "Dark Mountain," because of an Akkadian root related to one of David's men from the tribe Benjamin (cf. 2 Sam. 23:28).

The ABD (p. 1039) adds a third suggestion, that it comes from an Arabic root meaning "light" or "splendor."

The reference to "snowing" is also problematic. It could refer to

1. a divine act during the battle, like the rain of Judges 4-5

2. figurative of sowing a defeated place with salt (cf. Jdgs. 9:45)

3. figurative of he bleached bones of the dead soldiers (IDB, vol. 4, p. 933)

4. a way to designate the historical date of the defeat of the invaders

5. the verb "snow" is a Hiphil jussive in form, therefore, "let it snow on Zalmon" (i.e., a predictive sign of the divine victory)

6. the enemy's weapons lying on the ground abandoned as they fled (NASB Study Bible, p. 806)

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 68:15-18
 15A mountain of God is the mountain of Bashan;
 A mountain of many peaks is the mountain of Bashan.
 16Why do you look with envy, O mountains with many peaks,
 At the mountain which God has desired for His abode?
 Surely the Lord will dwell there forever.
 17The chariots of God are myriads, thousands upon thousands;
 The Lord is among them as at Sinai, in holiness.
 18You have ascended on high, You have led captive Your captives;
 You have received gifts among men,
 Even among the rebellious also, that the Lord God may dwell there.

68:15-18 This strophe is about Mt. Sinai (i.e., Mt. Horeb) as God's special dwelling place. Other mountains of other nations are jealous (cf. Ps. 68:16).

68:15

NASB, NKJV,
NJB, LXX"a mountain of God"
NRSV, TEV"O mighty mountain"
JPSOA"O majestic mountain"
REB"a lofty hill"

The Hebrew term Elohim (BDB 43) can be used in an intensive sense (#2c, cf. Job 1:16).

This same mountain is called "a mountain of many peaks" in the next line of poetry. This term (BDB 148, KB 174) is found only here in the OT. It may mean

1. many peaks (i.e., a mountain range)

2. round peak

 

68:16b,c Usually YHWH"s permanent dwelling place is the ark of the covenant, which came to abide in Jerusalem on Mt. Moriah (cf. Deut. 12:5; Ps. 87:1-2; 132:13-14), but here we are speaking of the Exodus. YHWH manifested Himself on Mt. Sinai/Mt. Horeb (cf. Exodus 19-20), where He gave the law to Moses before there was an ark of the covenant.

▣ "look with envy" This is a personification of the jealous mountains of Bashan. The verb (BDB 952, KB 1280, Piel imperfect) is found only here in the OT. It is used in a similar way in Ecclesiasticus 14:22 ("observe stealthily").

68:17 The imagery of this verse alludes to Deut. 33:2-5, where it denoted YHWH coming to Sinai with His holy angelic entourage (cf. Dan. 7:10; Rev. 5:11).

YHWH used Mt. Sinai as the location to meet Israel in a covenant-making revelation, but He chose Mt. Moriah in Jerusalem as the place for His presence (i.e., the ark of the covenant) to dwell permanently (cf. Ps. 68:16).

▣ "thousands upon thousands" This is a Hebrew construct of BDB 48 and 1041. The second word is found only here in the OT. BDB defines it as "repetition" or "redoubled." The context and parallelism help define the term.

68:18 In context this refers to God

1. going to the top of Mt. Sinai

2. as a military metaphor of tribute paid the victor

Paul quotes this verse in Eph. 4:8, but from a Targum translation that changes "received" to "give." This noticeably alters the meaning of the MT. The Peshitta has

"Thou has blessed men with gifts; but rebellious men shall not dwell before the presence of God."

It is surely possible that the implication of the MT is that God receives the gifts of the nations and redistributes them to His people (see Gleason Archer, Encyclopedia of Bibld Difficulties, pp. 404-405).

The rabbis saw Psalm 68 as related to YHWH giving the law to Moses on Mt. Sinai. They would have interpreted the "received/given" dynamic as referring to the Mosaic Law, but Paul saw it as the new age in Christ. He empowers His church with new revelation (cf. G. B. Caird, The Language and Imagery of the Bible, p. 170).

In the context of verses 15-18, verse 18 must refer to YHWH's "holy war," whereby the enemies of Israel, both in transit (i.e., wilderness wanderings) and the conquest of Canaan, are defeated. This may be an allusion to "the blessings of Moses" in Deuteronomy 33 being extended to the later conquest and habitation of Canaan.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 68:19-23
 19Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden,
 The God who is our salvation.  Selah.
 20God is to us a God of deliverances;
 And to God the Lord belong escapes from death.
 21Surely God will shatter the head of His enemies,
 The hairy crown of him who goes on in his guilty deeds.
 22The Lord said, "I will bring them back from Bashan.
 I will bring them back from the depths of the sea;
 23That your foot may shatter them in blood,
 The tongue of your dogs may have its portion from your enemies."

68:19-23 Because "Bashan" is mentioned in verse 15 and verse 22, there must be a connection between the military-oriented strophes of verses 11-14 and 19-23. There are several obvious truths.

1. God is with Israel 

2. God will deliver them from their enemies.

This strophe uses three names for Deity (see Special Topic at Ps. 1:1).

1. Adonai, Ps. 68:19,20,21

2. El, Ps. 68:19b (twice)

3. YHWH, Ps. 68:20

 

68:19 "who daily bears our burden" This may denote

1. YHWH's constant presence with Israel

2. Israel's constant need of a savior/salvation/deliverance (spiritually and/or physically, cf. Ps. 65:5)

The truth that YHWH carries His own is found in Ps. 55:22; Isa. 46:4.

68:20-23 These verses emphasize YHWH's deliverance of the Israelite army (some died but most were saved). Their enemies may run but they cannot escape (cf. Ps. 68:22; Amos 9:1-4).

Verse 23 contains idioms of defeat and shame.

1. bathe your feet in blood (cf. Ps. 58:10; common idiom in Canaanite literature used of Ba'al and Anath)

2. dogs eat the dead enemy soldiers (cf. 1 Kgs. 21:19; Jer. 15:3)

 

68:21 "the hairy crown" This is imagery for a person's scalp (cf. Deut. 32:42). Long hair was an OT symbol of dedication to God (cf. Numbers 6), but here of defeated enemies, possibly referring to their dedication to a pagan god and refusal to acknowledge YHWH.

68:22 "from Bashan" It is difficult to know if "Bashan" (BDB 143, בשׁן) should be

1. linked to verse 15 as a geographical location

2. emended to בתן, a Ugaritic root for "serpent," which would parallel "the depths of the sea"in the next line (NEB, cf. Amos 9:3, where the same parallelism occurs with the Hebrew word for "serpent"). The "depths" are also linked to the Exodus where YHWH split the sea and Pharaoh's elite bodyguard drowned (cf. Exod. 15:5; Neh. 9:11).

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 68:24-27
 24They have seen Your procession, O God,
 The procession of my God, my King, into the sanctuary.
 25The singers went on, the musicians after them,
 In the midst of the maidens beating tambourines.
 26Bless God in the congregations,
 Even the Lord, you who are of the fountain of Israel.
 27There is Benjamin, the youngest, ruling them,
 The princes of Judah in their throng,
 The princes of Zebulun, the princes of Naphtali.

68:24-27 This strophe describes a procession to the temple. Possibly the ark, which was taken into battle, is returned.

There are several groups mentioned or implied in the throng.

1. the Israeli king as a representative of YHWH, the true King

2. Levitical singers and musicians

3. maidens with tambourines (cf. Exod. 15:20; Jdgs. 11:34; Jer. 31:4)

4. the thirteen tribes represented by

a. Benjamin 

b. Judah

c. Zebulun

d. Naphtali

 

68:24

NASB, NKJV"They have seen"
NRSV"are seen"
TEV"seen by all"
NJB"for all to see"
JPSOA"Men see"

The question is, who sees? Is it the Israelite worshiper or all the opposing nations? The strophe implies Israel but the Psalm as a whole implies "the nations" (cf. Ps. 68:28-31, 32-35).

▣ "procession" The term (BDB 237) is used only here for

1. people of Israel coming to the temple

2. Deity coming to the temple

 

▣ "my King" The first specific mention of YHWH as King is 1 Sam. 8:4-9.

▣ "sanctuary" This term (BDB 871) is used of

1. places set apart as sacred by God's presence

2. the tabernacle and its courts

3. the temple and its surrounding areas

4. Jerusalem and its hills

 

68:26 "Bless God" This is a Piel imperative. Israel must praise YHWH for His character and His actions!

▣ "the fountain of Israel" This is a unique phrase. It seems to refer to YHWH's calling of the Patriarchs and His involvement in their barren wives having children. The only oblique possible parallel reference is found in Isa. 48:1.

68:27 There has been much speculation about why only some tribes are mentioned. I think there are three possibilities.

1. they represent the entire Promised Land

a. Judah and Benjamin the south (i.e., Judah)

b. Zebulun and Naphtali the north (i.e., Israel)

2. they represent the wives of Jacob (i.e., source of the 13 tribes)

a. Rachel

(1) Judah

(2) Benjamin

b. Leah — Zebulun

c. Bilhah — Naphtali

d. Zelph — no child listed

3. they represent the smallest tribe to the largest

 

▣ "the youngest" The MT has "the least of them" (BDB 859 I). This could mean

1. Benjamin the youngest son of Rachel

2. a small tribe, but Israel's first king, Saul, came from it

 

NASB"in their throng"
NKJV"and their company"
NRSV"in a body"
TEV"with their group"
NJB"in bright-colored robes"
JPSOA"who command them"

The MT has רגמתם (BDB 920), which could refer to

1. רגם — to kill by stoning ("sling," מרגמה, BDB 920)

2. רגמה — heap of stones or crowd of people (BDB 920)

3. רגשׁה — throng (BDB 921)

The NJB emends the word (1) to ברקמתם, "to embroidery" (BDB 140) or (2) "variegated stuff," רקמה (cf. Ps. 45:13b-14a). The UBS Text Project (p. 293) gives "crowd" a "B" rating (some doubt), but it is not specific about the root (i.e., #2 or #3).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 68:28-31
 28Your God has commanded your strength;
 Show Yourself strong, O God, who have acted on our behalf.
 29Because of Your temple at Jerusalem
 Kings will bring gifts to You.
 30Rebuke the beasts in the reeds,
 The herd of bulls with the calves of the peoples,
 Trampling under foot the pieces of silver;
 He has scattered the peoples who delight in war.
 31Envoys will come out of Egypt;
 Ethiopia will quickly stretch out her hands to God.

68:28-31 This strophe is somehow related to YHWH's defeat of Egypt. It is uncertain whether it is the Exodus or a later military invasion.

However, with the defeat comes a wonderful offer to come worship YHWH in Jerusalem (cf. Ps. 68:31; Isa. 19:19-22; 45:14). It is this universal emphasis (cf. Ps. 68:32-35) that links Psalm 65-68.

68:28 The power/strength (BDB 738) is God's and He has displayed it on behalf of His people to attract the nations to Himself.

68:29

NASB, NKJV,
NRSV"because"
TEV, NJB,
JPSOA"from"
LXX"resulting"
NET Bible"as you come out of"

The MT has a preposition that could be understood in several ways. It seems to allude to verse 1, where YHWH rises for action on behalf of Israel in battle.

68:30 "rebuke" This is a Qal imperative (BDB 172, KB 199). This term is used of God's judgment of the nations in Ps. 9:5; Isa. 17:13. It seems to be used here of Egypt (cf. Ezek. 29:3; 32:2; possibly Isa. 27:1). She and the nations to the south (i.e., Ethiopia/Cush) are both specifically named in verse 31.

The NET Bible (p. 934) translates it as "war cry."

NASB, NRSV"trampling under foot"
NKJV"Til everyone submits"
TEV"until they all bow down"
NJB"who bow down"
JPSOA"till they come cringing"

The MT has "stamp," "tread," "foul by stamping/treading" (BDB 952, KB 1279, cf. Pro. 25:26). The same root (in an imperative form) means "to humble yourself." Possibly both meanings allude to Ezek. 32:2 or 34:18, where this same verb is used of Egypt being humbled.

▣ "the pieces of silver" Again rare words or textual corruptions have caused the English translations to be uncertain.

The word "pieces," רץ, which BDB suggests means "piece" or "bar").

It is possible to emend it to בצר (BDB 131 I), which means "precious ore" (cf. Job 22:24, cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 1, pp. 699-700), possibly "gold." If so, then a translation of the line of poetry (Ps. 68:30c) would be "bowed down with gold and silver" (i.e., a tribute to YHWH).

68:31

NASB, NKJV,
REB, LXX"Envoys will come out of Egypt"
NRSV"Let bronze be brought from Egypt"
TEV"Ambassadors will come from Egypt"
NJB"from Egypt nobles will come"
JPSOA"tribute bearers shall come from Egypt"

The UBS Text Project (p. 297) gives "things of bronze" (BDB 365) a "B" rating (some doubt). It occurs only here in the OT. The other translations follow ancient versions and rabbinical speculation.

It is possible to see Ps. 68:30c and Ps. 68:31a,b as referring to tribute brought to God by North African nations (JPSOA).

1. gold

2. silver

3. bronze

▣ "will quickly stretch out her hands to God" This fits the understanding of the previous note. There is no need to emend the verb "run" (BDB 930, KB 1207, Hiphil imperfect) to "stretch out" (NEB) when the MT is an idiom of the same reality.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 68:32-35
 32Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth,
 Sing praises to the Lord,  Selah.
 33To Him who rides upon the highest heavens, which are from ancient times;
 Behold, He speaks forth with His voice, a mighty voice.
 34Ascribe strength to God;
 His majesty is over Israel
 And His strength is in the skies.
 35O God, You are awesome from Your sanctuary.
 The God of Israel Himself gives strength and power to the people.
 Blessed be God!

68:32-35 This strophe reinforces the universal worship of YHWH in Jerusalem alluded to in verse 31.

Notice the imperatives.

1. sing to God — BDB 1010, KB 1479, Qal imperative

2. sing praises to the Lord — BDB 274, KB 273, Piel imperative

3. ascribe strength to God — BDB 678, KB 733, Qal imperative, cf. Ps. 29:1-2; 1 Chr. 16:28-29

YHWH is described as

1. who rides upon the brightest heavens (i.e., on the storm clouds)

2. who speaks forth with a mighty voice (i.e., thunder, cf. Isa. 30:30; Rev. 11:19; 14:2; 16:17-18)

3. majesty is over Israel

4. strength is in the skies

5. awesome from the temple

6. gives strength and power to His people

7. is blessed by them

 

68:33a This imagery goes back to Deut. 33:26 and is alluded to in Ps. 18:10, also note Ps. 68:4b.

The "highest heavens" denotes the clouds of earth (cf. Ps. 68:34c), not the dwelling place of God.

His mighty voice is an allusion to creation by the spoken word in Genesis 1.

69:35 "awesome" This description goes back to Deut. 7:21; 10:17, also note Ps. 47:2 and 66:5. It refers to YHWH's holy character and deeds of covenant deliverance.

▣ "gives strength and power to the people" This may be another allusion to

1. the Exodus

2. the Wilderness Wanderings

3. the Conquest of Canaan

4. His ongoing presence with Israel