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Psalm 99

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Praise to the Lord for His Fidelity to Israel
No MT Intro
Praise to the Lord for His Holiness Hymn Celebrating God's Kingship God the Supreme King God, the Upright and Holy King
99:1-5 99:1-3 99:1-5 99:1-3 99:1-2a
        99:2b-3b
        99:3c-e
  99:4-5   99:4-5 99:4
        99:5
99:6-9 99:6-7 99:6-7 99:6-7 99:6
        99:6
  99:8-9 99:8-9 99:8-9 99:8
        99:9

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. This Psalm extolls YHWH's reign (cf. Ps. 93:1; 96:10; 97:1). Even Ps. 99:4 could, and probably does, refer to YHWH (i.e., the Mighty King). YHWH was Israel's true King (cf. 1 Sam. 8:7; Ps. 47:3; 48:2; 95:3).

B. This Psalm reflects the

1. wilderness wandering period

a. the ark (Ps. 99:1b, 5b)

b. Moses and Aaron (Ps. 99:6a)

c. the pillar of cloud (Ps. 99:7a)

d. the giving of the Law at Sinai (Ps. 99:7b,c)

e. forgiveness (Ps. 99:8, cf. Num. 14:20)

2. early united monarchy (cf. Ps. 99:6b, i.e., Samuel)

3. temple in Jerusalem

a. in Zion (Ps. 99:2a, see Special Topic: Zion)

b. His holy hill (Ps. 99:9b)

C. Psalm 99:8 is a key theological verse. It reflects the twin, inseparable truths of

1. YHWH's merciful, longsuffering character

2. human responsibility to hear and obey (cf. Exod. 34:6-7)

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 99:1-5
 1The Lord reigns, let the peoples tremble;
 He is enthroned above the cherubim, let the earth shake!
 2The Lord is great in Zion,
 And He is exalted above all the peoples.
 3Let them praise Your great and awesome name;
 Holy is He.
 4The strength of the King loves justice;
 You have established equity;
 You have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob.
 5Exalt the Lord our God
 And worship at His footstool;
 Holy is He.

99:1 "The Lord reigns" See notes at Ps. 96:10 and 97:1. All are perfects, which speak of completed actions, but the timeframe of Hebrew verbs must be determined from the context.

▣ "let the peoples tremble" This verb (BDB 919, KB 1182, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense) is parallel to "let the earth shake" (BDB 630, KB 680, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense; this word [BDB 630, KB 680] is found only here in the OT). Taken together, they form another universal emphasis. Here, it reflects YHWH's justice (cf. Ps. 99:4).

Both physical creation and human beings are affected by their Creator (cf. Exodus 19; Ps. 77:18; Rom. 8:18-25)!

▣ "He is enthroned above the cherubim" The verb (BDB 442, KB 444, Qal participle) means "sits on His throne" (cf. 1 Sam. 4:4; 2 Sam. 6:2; 2 Kgs. 19:15; 1 Chr. 13:6; Ps. 80:1; Isa. 37:16). The mention of "the cherubim" (see Special Topic: Cherubim) identifies this phrase as referring to Exod. 25:22. The ark was the earthly place of YHWH's presence (i.e., "footstool," Ps. 99:15b; 1 Chr. 28:2; the earth was called YHWH's footstool in Isa. 66:1; the temple was called His footstool in Ps. 132:7; Lam. 2:1). He dwelt between the wings of the cherubim above the mercy seat (i.e., lid of the ark). This special place (i.e., above the ark in the Holy of Holies) was where heaven and earth, the visible and invisible realms, met!

SPECIAL TOPIC: ARK OF THE COVENANT

99:2 "The Lord (YHWH) is great in Zion" This adjective (BDB (BDB 152) is used often of YHWH.

1. His person - Deut. 7:21; Neh. 1:5; 8:6; 9:32; Ps. 86:10; 145:3; 147:5; Isa. 12:6; Jer. 10:6; 32:18; Dan. 9:4

2. His name - Jos. 7:9; 1 Sam. 12:22; 1 Kgs. 8:42; 2 Chr. 6:32; Ps. 76:1; 99:3; Jer. 10:6; 44:26; Ezek. 36:23; Mal. 1:11

3. His works - Deut. 11:7; Jdgs. 2:7; Ps. 111:2

4. His glory - Ps. 21:5; 138:5

5. His mercy (hesed) - 1 Kgs. 3:6; 2 Chr. 1:8; Ps. 57:10; 86:13; 108:4

6. His goodness - Neh. 9:25

7. His compassion - Isa. 54:7

8. greater than all gods - Exod. 18:11; Deut. 10:17; 1 Chr. 16:25; 2 Chr. 2:5; Ps. 77:13; 95:3; 96:4; 135:5

The noun (BDB 152) is also used of YHWH in Deut. 3:24; 5:24; 9:26; 11:2; 32:3; Ps. 105:2.

The AB suggests that the comparative preposition (KB 825, #1) in Ps. 99:2b suggests a possible comparative in 99:2a, which would denote YHWH's greatness over Israel/Judah, as it is over/above "all the peoples" (p. 368). It think this fits the parallel best. Israel was first, but not the only, one (cf. Matt. 28:18-20; Luke 24:46-48; Acts 1:8; Rom. 1:16).

▣ "He is exalted above all the peoples" This phrase implies that YHWH is exalted (BDB 926, KB 1202, Qal participle) above the gods of the nations (i.e., their idols, cf. Ps. 97:9; 113:4; also note Exod. 18:11; Deut. 10:17; 1 Chr. 16:25; 2 Chr. 2:5; Ps. 77:13; 95:3; 96:4; 135:5).

99:3 "Let them praise Your great and awesome name" This is the third imperfect used in a jussive sense (cf. Ps. 99:1a,b).

For YHWH's "great name," see the notes at Ps. 99:2.

YHWH's "awesome" name is from the verb (BDB 431, KB 432, Niphal participle) "to fear" or "awe." It is used often of YHWH (cf. Deut. 7:21; 10:17,21; 28:58; Ps. 111:9; Mal. 1:14).

The words "great" and "awesome" are often used together to describe YHWH (cf. Neh. 1:5; 4:8; 9:32; Dan. 9:4).

The "them" refers to all non-Israelites (i.e., "peoples," Ps. 99:1a; "the earth," Ps. 99:1b; "all the peoples," Ps. 99:2b.

▣ "Holy is He" Notice this is repeated in Ps. 99:5c and alluded to in 99:9c, which looks like a purposeful parallel. For "holy" see SPECIAL TOPIC: HOLY.

99:4 I think this verse applies to YHWH Himself (see Contextual Insights A). Notice how His reign (Ps. 99:1) is characterized.

1. loves (BDB 12; KB 17, Qal perfect) justice (BDB 1048)

2. established (BDB 465, KB 464, Polel perfect) equity (lit. uprightness, BDB 449)

3. executed (BDB 793, KB 889, Qal perfect) justice (BDB 1048) and righteousness (BDB 842, see SPECIAL TOPIC: RIGHTEOUSNESS)

Notice they are all three perfects, but NASB, NJB, and NKJV translate the first as present and the next two as past. The time element of Hebrew verbs must be determined by context. So, do these describe who YHWH is or what He will do?

The terms "justice" and "righteousness" are often used together to designate the appropriate reign of kings.

1. YHWH Himself - Ps. 99:4; Is. 33:5; Jer. 4:2; 9:24

2. David - 1 Chr. 18:14

3. Solomon - 1 Kgs. 10:9; 2 Chr. 9:8

4. Judean kings - Jer. 22:3,15; Ezek. 45:9

5. Israeli kings - Amos 5:9,24

6. Messiah (i.e., line of David) - Isa. 9:7; 32:1,16; 59:9,14; Jer. 33:15

 

99:5 "Exalt the Lord our God" This is the first of two imperatives which close out the first strophe.

1. exalt - BDB 926, KB 1202, Polel imperative, same verb used in Ps. 99:2b

2. worship (lit. "bow down") - BDB 1005, KB 295, Hishtaphel imperative, cf. Ps. 132:7

Notice how the full covenant title, "the Lord our God" (lit. YHWH Elohim, cf. Gen. 2:4; Exod. 20:2) is repeated three more times in Ps. 99:8a, 9a,c. YHWH is uniquely related to Abraham's descendants.

1. in Zion, Ps. 99:2 (i.e., the temple)

2. in Jacob, Ps. 99:4c (i.e., Israel)

3. in Moses and Aaron, Ps. 99:6a (exodus and wilderness wandering period)

4. in Samuel, Ps. 99:6b (United Monarchy)

5. His law, Ps. 99:7b,c (Exodus 19-20)

6. His holy hill, Ps. 99:9b

 

▣ "His footstool" See note at Ps. 99:1b. The verb "tremble" (BDB 919) is similar to the noun "footstool" (BDB 919). This may be an opening and closing sound play.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 99:6-9
 6Moses and Aaron were among His priests,
 And Samuel was among those who called on His name;
 They called upon the Lord and He answered them.
 7He spoke to them in the pillar of cloud;
 They kept His testimonies
 And the statute that He gave them.
 8O Lord our God, You answered them;
 You were a forgiving God to them,
 And yet an avenger of their evil deeds.
 9Exalt the Lord our God
 And worship at His holy hill,
 For holy is the Lord our God.

99:6-9 This strophe covers the period of the exodus, wilderness wanderings, conquest, and institution of the monarchy.

99:6 "those who called on His name" This would denote an act of worship in the temple/tabernacle (cf. Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21; Rom. 10:9-13; see Special Topic: What Does It Mean to "Receive," "Believe," "Confess/Profess," and "Call Upon?"). In Jer. 33:3 it denotes prayer (i.e., personal relationship).

Notice they called and YHWH answered (Ps. 99:8a)!

99:7 "the pillar of cloud" This refers to the special cloud ("pillar," BDB 765) representing YHWH's personal presence that led and protected the Hebrew slaves as they left Egypt and wandered in the wilderness (cf. Exod. 13:21-22; 14:19,24; 33:9,10; Deut. 1:33; Neh. 9:12,19; Ps. 78:14; 105:39).

This cloud/pillar disappeared after the Israelites crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land.

SPECIAL TOPIC: COMING ON THE CLOUDS

▣ "testimonies. . .statute" See SPECIAL TOPIC: TERMS FOR GOD'S REVELATION.

▣ "that He gave them" This verse is about God's revelation (i.e., "He spoke to them". . ."He gave them") and His peoples' obedience to it (cf. Ps. 99:7b, i.e., "they kept").

The "them" of Ps. 99:7 seems to refer to Moses (cf. Exod. 33:9) and Aaron (cf. Num. 12:4-8). It could also refer to all of Israel (cf. Exodus 19-20).

This is one of the central issues of Christianity/Judaism! How has the one true God revealed Himself

1. in creation

2. in promises

3. in actions

4. #1-3 recorded them in the OT

5. in His Son

6. #5 recorded them in the NT

 

SPECIAL TOPIC: INSPIRATION

SPECIAL TOPIC: ILLUMINATION

See the three video sermons online at www.freebiblecommentary.org in the Introductory Paragraph on the home page.

1. Why I Trust the OT

2. Why I Trust the NT

3. Is Christianity True?

 

99:8 "You did answer them" This relates to the issue of prayer. I have three Special Topics (see below) that address this issue. "Them" follows the use of "they" in Ps. 99:6. Both refer to the priestly prayers of Moses, Aaron, and Samuel, the great intercessors of the OT (cf. Jer. 15:1).

1. Moses - Exod. 32:9-14,31-32; Num. 14:13-19; 21:7; Deut. 9:18-20,25-29; Ps. 106:23

2. Samuel - 1 Sam. 7:5,8-9; 12:19,23

 

SPECIAL TOPIC: EFFECTIVE PRAYER

SPECIAL TOPIC: INTERCESSORY PRAYER

SPECIAL TOPIC: PRAYER, UNLIMITED YET LIMITED

God's response took two forms.

1. forgiveness (i.e., Exod. 34:6-7; Num. 14:17-19; Neh. 9:17; Ps. 78:32; 86:15; 103:6-14)

2. avenger of their evil deeds (i.e., Exod. 32:28; Num. 20:12; Ps. 95:11; 107:12)

These go together because obedience (cf. Ps. 99:7b) is crucial. Judgment is both punitive (i.e., Exile) and redemptive (cf. Heb. 12:5-13). The NIDOTTE, vol. 3, p. 155, has a great statement, "forgiveness and vengeance, lawfulness and grace, love and wrath are not contradictions in YHWH." They reflect the tension of a grace covenant with demands for human response. For a full discussion of "retribution," see NIDOTTE, vol. 4, pp. 1140-1149.

99:9 The NKB has Ps. 99:9 as a separate strophe, and it may be because it switches to two imperatives directed to Israel.

1. exalt the Lord our God - BDB 926. LB 1202, Polel imperative, cf. Ps. 99:5

2. worship at His holy hill (i.e., temple) - BDB 1005, KB 295, Hishtaphel, cf. Ps. 99:5

However, notice the purposeful structure of strophe one, ending in these same imperatives (Ps. 99:5) and then strophe two, ending in the same imperatives. Remember, strophe divisions are not inspired. Often modern western people analyze this OT poetry in ways that reflect our culture and literary models, not ancient Hebrew and ANE models. This may especially be true of Ugarit models.

▣ "For holy is the Lord our God" A similar phrase closes Ps. 99:5.

There are some English versions that see the threefold repetition of this phrase (cf. Ps. 99:3,5,9) as the author's way of dividing his Psalm into three strophes (cf. NKJV, TEV); JPSOA has four (Ps. 99:1-3, 4-5, 6-8, 9).

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. Describe the significance of the ark of the covenant.

2. Does this Psalm, like the previous ones, have a universal element?

3. Is Ps. 99:4 talking about an ideal Davidic king or YHWH Himself?

4. Why are Moses, Aaron, and Samuel mentioned in Ps. 99:6?

5. How can YHWH be both forgiving and avenging?