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THE EIGHTEENTH DAY.
A Notion has existed from very ancient times, that Moses was the
author of this Psalm, and that he hereby designed to bewail the afflictions, but, especially, the premature deaths, with which God visited the rebellious Israelites in the wilderness. He may, therefore, have composed it, either immediately after the decree had been issued against his brethren, by which they were sentenced to die without entering into the promised land (Num. xiv. 29, &c); or, when the forty years of their wandering were nearly ended, and he saw the divine threatenings completely fulfilled, as well as perceived how small a portion of those, whom he had led out of Egypt, still survived. Num. xxvi. 63, &c. A remarkable circumstance belonging to the Psalm is, that, whatever particular allusion it may bear to the events, which occasioned it, most of the sentiments contained it, are now as applicable to the state of the human race, as they were then, more than three thousand years ago, inasmuch as they chiefly refer
to the mortal and transitory existence of man on earth. LORD, thou hast been our refuge from one (Deut. 22. 23
. to . 2 Before the mountains were brought forth, Prov. 8. 22, &c. or ever the earth and the world were made, thou Ephes. 1. 4. art God from everlasting, and world without end:
3 Thou turnest man to destruction : again Job 10. 9. thou sayest, Come again, ye children of men.
Eccles. 12. 7.
1 Thou hast been, fc. This image seems to have an especial connexion with the unsettled condition of the Israelites, whilst not yet established in the land of promise.“ Strangers and pilgrims” as we have hitherto been, in every preceding generation from the days of Abraham, we, nevertheless, always find the comfort of a sure refuge and home in Thy miraculous protection.
2 The mountains. They are mentioned, for one reason, at least, because, continually standing in the same position, they appear to be eternal. Deut. xxxiii. 15. Hab. iii. 6. Se salm Lxxii. 3.World. See on Psalm xli, 13.
3 Thou turnest, fc. Thine own existence, indeed, endures “ from everlasting to everlasting,” but mankind thou hast sentenced to destruction in the grave. The reference may be to God's absolute and irresistible dominion over us.- - Again thou sayest, &c. Apparently, an opposition is intended between the work of creation and the decree of death. By thy word thou didst give them being, again
Ecclus. 18. 10. 2 Pet. 3. 8.
Isai. 29. 7, 8. 1 Pet. 1. 24.
Job 14. 2. Isai. 40.6, 7.
4 For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday, seeing that is past, as a watch in the night.
5 As soon as thou scatterest them [carriest them away as with a flood), they are even as a sleep, and fade away suddenly like the grass.
6 In the morning it is green, and groweth up; but in the evening it is cut down, dried up, and withered.
7 For we consume away in thy displeasure; and are afraid at [troubled] by thy wrathful indignation.
8 Thou hast set our misdeeds before thee, and our secret sins in the light of thy countenance.
9 For, when thou art angry, all our days are gone; we bring our years to an end, as it were a tale that is told.
Num. 17. 12.
Jer. 16. 17.
Ps. 78. 33.
thou speakest the word, and “the children of men” are reduced to that dust, out of which they originally sprung. Gen. iii. 19.
4 For a thousand years, fc. For, though we lived, like our forefathers, to a very great age, and even to a thousand years, we yet should not escape death, since that long period would quickly come to an end, appearing, when put in comparison with thine own eternal duration, merely“ as a watch in the night.”- -A watch, &c. It is clear, that the Israelites knew, and that, probably, by some public notice, how the night was passing away, but still we cannot determine by what means the information was communicated to them. Psalm cxix. 148. It has been questioned, whether the time from sun-set to sunrise was divided by them into three or four parts. The middle watch, however, occurs, Judg. vii. 19, which circumstance doubtless shews, that originally there were only three, though, in the days of our Saviour, a fourth had evidently been added. Mark vi. 48: xiii. 35.
5 They are, fc. They vanish out of this world“ like as a dream, when one awaketh” suddenly from sleep. Or, simply,—they sleep the sleep of death. Psalm xiii. 3.
7 And are afraid, fc. And become full of fearful apprehensions, when thou art “wrathfully displeased at us.” If Moses really wrote this Psalm, he now turns from describing the common fate of the whole human race, to the consideration of the peculiar provocations and chastisements of the Israelites themselves. Besides, from what was then passing among his own people, he would seem desirous of proving the truth of his former general assertions respecting the suddenness of man's destruction, when God sees fit to call him hence.
8 Thou hast set, fic. This verse ought, perhaps, to be included within brackets, as a parenthesis.
9 A tale, &c. Is there any allusion here to the custom, so prevalent in the East at the present day, of beguiling the tedium of a long 10 The days of our age are threescore years Job 9. 25, 26. and ten; (and though men be so strong, that Jam. 4. 14. they come to fourscore years, yet is their strength then but labor and sorrow;) so soon passeth it away, and we are gone.
il But who regardeth the power of thy Deut. 28. 58, &c. wrath ? for, even thereafter as a man feareth, Heb. 12. 29. so is thy displeasure.
12 0 teach us to number our days, that we Ps. 39. 6. may apply our hearts unto wisdom.
Prov. 23. 12, 23. 13 Turn thee again, O Lord, at the last, and Deut. 32. 36. be gracious unto (let it repent thee concerning] Ephes. 2. 4, &c. thy servants.
journey, or the leisure hours at home, by listening to a tale from men, who make it their regular business thus to minister to the pleasures of any one, who will pay them for their trouble? The tale, though filled with imaginary circumstances, is “ soon told and soon forgotten;" and such is our life.
10 The days, fc. The present verse has been conceived to furnish a strong argument against the ancient opinion, by which the composition of the Psalm is ascribed to Moses. For, it is said, the life of man appears to be thereby fixed to that length, in general, to which, in his days it was not reduced, but which we know it to have had in, and since, the time of David. 2 Sam. xix. 32. The writer, however, is manifestly not speaking of the duration of the human existence, which was then common to all mankind; he is only declaring, as it would seem, the utmost term, which God, in his anger at their disobedience, permitted the Israelites who murmured, to reach in the wilderness: they were cut off untimely, and even afflicted with the evils of a premature old age, as a punishment for their sins, instead of living in health and strength, which they might otherwise have done, much longer, perhaps to more than one hundred and twenty years. Deut. xxxiv. 7.
11 But who regardeth, fc. The Psalmist now earnestly laments the insensibility and indifference of his countrymen under the judgments of God. They saw him, in his wrath, continually sweeping numbers away by reason of their transgressions, still no one strove to avert its dreadful consequences, if it were yet possible so to do, by fearing him as they ought. Nevertheless his anger, it is added, is exactly proportioned to man's piety or disobedience: the less he is honored, the greater is the severity of his chastisements; as, the more he is reverenced, by so much is his displeasure diminished. This truth, however, the Israelites would not attend to; wherefore God is entreated, in the following verse, to teach them to consider the fewness of their remaining days, that they may feel disposed to apply their hearts to the acquirement of the only wisdom, which could benefit them, even heavenly wisdom.
13 Turn thee, fc. At length, turn, O Lord, from the fierceness of
Zech. 9. 16, 17.
Deut. 2. 14, 15.
14 0 satisfy us with thy mercy, and that, soon; so shall we rejoice, and be glad, all the days of our life.
15 Comfort us again now after [according to] the time, that thou hast plagued us, and for the years, wherein we have suffered adversity.
16 Shew thy servants thy work, and their children thy glory.
17 And the glorious majesty of the Lord our God be upon us : prosper thou the work of our hands upon us, 0 prosper thou our handy-work.
Hab. 3. 2.
Isai. 26. 12.
PSALM XCI. The safety of the righteous man, whilst under the care and protec
tion of divine providence, is here celebrated, together with the great rewards, which will be assuredly vouchsafed to him. The Jews themselves allow, that the Psalm relates to the Messiah:
thine indignation, and, being in some measure reconciled to us, “make us glad with the joy of thy countenance.” Psalm xxi. 6.
16 Shew thy servants, 8c. Perform, on behalf of us “thy servants,” those works of thy providential care for the people, in which thou most delightest; and let the glory accruing to thee therefrom not only appear to ourselves, and excite our praise, but let it form also to our descendants the object of their grateful remembrance. The sentence respecting their exclusion from Canaan was irreversible, yet their souls might be filled with the comforts of the divine mercy and grace, which would enable them to spend the short period of life remaining to them in holy joy, and counterbalance their long continued afflictions. Perhaps the Psalmist designed to supplicate, that the exercise of God's attributes of power and mercy, at that period, for the benefit of his nation, might be an earnest of those more glorious displays of them, which were to be hereafter afforded to their children, when “the times of refreshing” should come by means of the Messiah.
17 Prosper thou, gc. The particular instance of mercy sought after is, that he would conduct, at least, their posterity in safety to Canaan, and, according to his promise, give success to their arms in taking possession of the country. But, if this verse is to be regarded, as containing merely the prayers of Moses himself and, perhaps, of Aaron, these individuals especially desire, that the Lord would prosper and establish the work, to which he has graciously appointed them, though they must die and leave it unfinished themselves; that their pious and zealous endeavors to further his designs may have their full effect, by rendering the Israelites a holy and a happy people, since they will thus be best prepared for the conquest of Canaan, and for the enjoyment of the blessings, which he had there engaged to bestow on the nation.
besides, the devil, when he tempted our Lord in the wilderness, cited two verses from it, as universally known and acknowledged to have been written of Him. From the internal evidence, David, to whom its composition is usually assigned, is sometimes thought to have addressed it originally to Solomon, that he might encourage him to persevere in his allegiance to the “King of kings.” i Chron. xxviii. 9. This Psalm contains more changes of person than any other; which circumstance has given rise to an opinion, that two companies of singers are answering each other through the greater part of it; one, consisting of persons devoutly trusting in God, though overwhelmed with adversity; the othet, of such as excite their brethren to nourish confident hopes of deliverance, and who rejoice by anticipation in the recompense, which will certainly be allotted to them. The first sings ver. 1, 2, 9; the second ver. 3—8, 10–13;
the remainder comprises the words of God himself. WHOSO dwelleth
under the defence [in the Ps. 31.22. secret place] of the most High, shall 1 John 4. 15, 16. abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say unto the Lord, Thou art my Luke 20. 38. hope [refuge], and my stronghold, my God'; Heb. 11. 16. in him will I trust.
3 For [Surely] he shall deliver thee from the 2 Tim. 2.25, 26. snare of the hunter, and from the noisome pestilence.
He shall defend thee under his wings, and Ps. 18. 1. thou shalt be safe under his feathers: his faith- Matt. 23. 37. fulness and truth shall be thy shield and buckler.
5 Thou shalt not be afraid for any terror by Job 5. 19. night, nor for the arrow that flieth by day;
Prov. 3. 23, 24.
1 Whoso dwelleth, &c. They who, fleeing to God for safety, have once been received, as inmates, into his house, will be sure to abide there in security and comfort, for he will vouchsafe to protect them from all harm by his almighty care. Gen. xix. 8. The figurative expressions are derived from the customs of Eastern hospitality.
3 For he shall, 8c. Should the supposition, mentioned in the introduction, relating to the two companies of singers, be disallowed, the Psalmist must be thought abruptly and poetically to proceed to address, as if he were present, the person, whose enviable privilege, in the first verse, he had described, and whose unhesitating faith he seems, in the second, to have resolved to imitate, instead of merely pointing out the happiness, which such a pious individual might fully expect to enjoy.
4 His faithfulness and truth. The former of these words has nothing corresponding to it in the original. But, because “ truth” can be taken in several senses, "faithfulness” was, probably, inserted by our old translators to shew, that, as respects God, it is designed to mean an unfailing performance of promises.
5 The arrow, fc. The pestilence may, of course, be figuratively