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Psalm 97

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Lord's Power and Dominion
No MT Intro
A Song of Praise To the Sovereign Lord Hymn Celebrating God's Kingship God the Supreme Ruler The Triumph of Yahweh
97:1-6 97:1 97:1-5 97:1-6 97:1-2
  97:2-6      
        97:3-4
        97:5-6
    97:6-9    
97:7-9 97:7-9   97:7-9 97:7
        97:8
        97:9
97:10-12 97:10-12 97:10-12 97:10-12 97:10
        97:11-12

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. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. This Psalm, like Psalm 96, has a worldwide emphasis (eschatological).

1. the earth, Ps. 97:1 (see Special Topic: Land, Country, Earth)

2. the world, Ps. 97:4

3. the Lord (Adon) of the whole earth, Ps. 97:5b (cf. Jos. 3:13; Mic. 4:13)

4. all the peoples, Ps. 97:6b

5. You are the Lord Most High over all the earth, Ps. 97:9a

6. You are exalted far above all gods (Elohim), Ps. 97:9b

B. The imagery could come from

1. Mt. Sinai, Exodus 19 (i.e., blessings, cf. Exod. 19:9; Deut. 4:11)

2. Psalm 18:7-15 (i.e., judgment)

YHWH's presence for blessing or judgment causes the physical creation to convulse (cf. Psalm 97:4-5).

C. The last strophe highlights the obedience aspect to covenant faith. I often say that A MATURE biblical faith is

1. a person to be welcomed

2. truths about that person to be believed

3. a life like that person to be lived

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 97:1-6
 1The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice;
 Let the many islands be glad.
 2Clouds and thick darkness surround Him;
 Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.
 3Fire goes before Him
 And burns up His adversaries round about.
 4His lightnings lit up the world;
 The earth saw and trembled.
 5The mountains melted like wax at the presence of the Lord,
 At the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.
 6The heavens declare His righteousness,
 And all the peoples have seen His glory.

97:1-6 See Contextual Insights A and B.

97:1 "The Lord reigns" The verb is Qal perfect (BDB 573 II, KB 590, cf. 1 Chr. 16:31; Ps. 93:1; 96:10; 97:1; 99:1), which denotes completed action. In one sense YHWH has always reigned, is reigning and, will forever reign (i.e., He is God, cf. Exod. 15:18; Ps. 10:16; 29:10; 1 Cor. 15:24-28), but the evidence of this is often missing in this fallen world. Faith sees and affirms but one day all will recognize and affirm.

The imperfect is used in Ps. 146:10 and the future reign is denoted in Isa. 24:23; Ezek. 20:23 and Micah 4:7. We know now from NT revelation that the Messiah's reign (cf. Zech. 9:9) is included in the Father's reign (cf. Jer. 23:5; Phil. 2:6-11; 1 Cor. 15:24-28). Things may look bad but believers know, "Our God reigns!" (CF. Isa. 52:7)

In light of YHWH's reign,

1. let the earth rejoice - BDB 162, KB 189, Qal jussive; this refers to

a. faithful followers in all nations

b. the conversion of the nations to faith in YHWH

2. let the many islands be glad - BDB 970, KB 1333, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense; the "islands" (lit. "coastlands," BDB 15) denotes a universal emphasis (cf. Psalm 96), often referring to the known world (i.e., those ports near and far visited by Phoenician commerce , i.e., Ps. 72:8-10). "The earth" of line 1 is parallel to "the many islands" of line 2.

 

97:2 The imagery of Ps. 97:2a could come from two sources. See Contextual Insights, B. In this strophe it seems to reflect the God of revelation (i.e., a theophany), not judgment. His adversaries are defeated but the faithful of the whole earth rejoice at His "light" and presence!

▣ "cloud" The use of "clouds" in both the OT and the NT is very interesting. I have included notes from Deut. 4:11 and Rev. 1:7

Deut. 4:11 "darkness, cloud and thick gloom" YHWH's physical presence can be understood in two ways:

1. volcanic activity - Exod. 19:18; Ps. 68:7-8; 77:18; 97:2-5; Jdgs. 5:4-5; 2 Sam. 22:8; Isa. 29:6; Jer. 10:10

2. storm - Exod. 19:16,19; Ps. 68:8; 77:18; Jdgs. 5:4; Isa. 29:6; Nahum 1:3

Therefore, the deep darkness (cf. 5:22; 2 Sam. 22:10; 1 Kgs. 8:12; 2 Chr. 6:1) might be:

1. ash clouds

2. rain clouds

This covering was for Israel's protection (cf. Exod. 19:18). They thought that if humans looked upon God they would die (cf. Gen. 16:13; 32:30; Exod. 3:6; 20:19; 33:20; Jdgs. 6:22-23; 13:22).

See SPECIAL TOPIC: COMING ON THE CLOUDS.

Rev. 1:7 "Behold, He is coming with the clouds" This verse may have been an exclamation by the angel of Rev. 1:1. It is an obvious reference to the Second Coming of Christ.

▣ "Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne" "Throne" is an idiom for reign/kingship.

YHWH's reign has an ethical dimension, as does His creation (cf. Ps. 97:10-12).

This very phrase is used in Ps. 89:14. We must be careful not to separate justification from sanctification (cf. Matt. 28:18-20).

97:3 "Fire" See SPECIAL TOPIC: FIRE.

▣ "and burns up His adversaries round about" AB suggests that the MT's last phrase in Hebrew can be revocalized to read "and blazes round His back" (p. 361). It suggests this best explains Ps. 50:3 and Joel 2:3. This fits the parallelism of Ps. 97:4 better.

97:4 "the earth" Like so many other nouns in this Psalm, this is a personification, a common Hebrew poetic technique.

97:6 This verse is theologically and lexically related to Ps. 19:1-6. The universal aspect of YHWH's revelation is revealed in creation/nature (i.e., natural revelation, cf. Rom. 1:19-20; 2:14-15). See notes at Ps. 19:1-6.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 97:7-9
 7Let all those be ashamed who serve graven images,
 Who boast themselves of idols;
 Worship Him, all you gods.
 8Zion heard this and was glad,
 And the daughters of Judah have rejoiced
 Because of Your judgments, O Lord.
 9For You are the Lord Most High over all the earth;
 You are exalted far above all gods.

97:7-9 Three persons are addressed in this strophe.

1. idolaters, Ps. 97:7

a. let them be ashamed (BDB 101, KB 116, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense)

b. who boast (lit. "glory," BDB 237, KB 248, Hithpael)

c. even their false gods must worship YHWH (BDB 1005, KB 295, Hishtaphel imperative, quoted in Heb. 1:6 from LXX, cf. Deut. 32:43 in LXX)

2. Judeans (or Israelites), Ps. 97:8

a. Zion was glad (BDB 970, KB 1333, Qal imperfect with waw, cf. Ps. 48:11)

b. daughters of Judah rejoiced (BDB 162, JKB 189, Qal imperfect with waw) because of YHWH's judgments

c. it is surely possible that #a above stands for Jerusalem and #b for the surrounding unwalled villages

3. Israel's Deity, Ps. 97:9

a. YHWH (BDB 217

b. Most High (Elyon, BDB 75, cf. Ps. 47:2)

c. exalted (BDB 748, KB 828, Niphal perfect) far above all gods (elohim, see note at Ps. 95:3)

 

97:7 "graven images. . .idols" These are in a parallel poetic relationship.

1. graven images - BDB 820; the basic meaning is that which is hewn into a shape (cf. Exod. 20:4; Deut. 4:16,23,25; 5:8; 27:15; Jdgs. 18:31; Isa. 40:19,20; 42:17; 44:9,10,17; 45:20). It is found only here in the Psalter but a related root is in Ps. 78:58.

2. idols - BDB 47; the basic meaning is that which is weak, insufficient, worthless (cf. 1Chr. 16:26; Job 13:4; Ps. 96:5; Isa. 2:8,18,20; Jer. 14:14). It is found only twice in the Psalter.

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 97:10-12
 10Hate evil, you who love the Lord,
 Who preserves the souls of His godly ones;
 He delivers them from the hand of the wicked.
 11Light is sown like seed for the righteous
 And gladness for the upright in heart.
 12Be glad in the Lord, you righteous ones,
 And give thanks to His holy name.

97:10-12 This strophe describes the appropriate way to exalt YHWH. He is the One who

1. preserves the souls (nephesh, BDB 659, see note at Gen. 35:18 online) of His godly ones (BDB 339, see note at Ps. 31:23)

2. delivers them from the hand of the wicked

3. sows light for the righteous (cf. Ps. 97:4a)

4. sows gladness for the upright in heart

How then should His godly ones respond?

1. hate evil - BDB 971, KB 1338, Qal imperative

2. love YHWH - BDB 12, KB 17, Qal participle

3. be glad in the Lord - BDB 970, KB 1330, Qal imperative, cf. Ps. 32:11

4. give thanks to His holy name - BDB 392, KB 389, Hiphil imperative, cf. Ps. 30:4

 

97:11 "light is sown" The MT has "sown" (זרע, BDB 281, KB 282) but the LXX, Peshitta, and Vulgate have "dawn" (ורח, BDB 280), which seems to fit the imagery better (NRSV, TEV, REB, cf. Ps. 112:40).

The UBS Text Project (p. 371) gives "sown" a "C" rating (i.e., considerable doubt).

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 this Psalm related to the previous Psalm?

2. What is Ps 97:2a describing?

3. How are Ps. 97:4a and 6 related to "Natural Revelation"?

4. Who are "the gods" of Ps. 97:9b?

5. What does YHWH tell His faithful followers to do in the last strophe?