Psalm 68

Psalm 68
God Shall Scatter His Enemies
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. A Song.

(1)God shall arise, his enemies shall be scattered; and those who hate him shall flee before him!
(2)As smoke is driven away, so you shall drive them away; as wax melts before fire, so the wicked shall perish before God!
(3)But the righteous shall be glad; they shall exult before God; they shall be jubilant with joy!

(4)Sing to God, sing praises to his name; lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts; his name is the LORD; exult before him!
(5)Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.
(6)God settles the solitary in a home; he leads out the prisoners to prosperity, but the rebellious dwell in a parched land.

(7)O God, when you went out before your people, when you marched through the wilderness,
(8)the earth quaked, the heavens poured down rain, before God, the One of Sinai, before God, the God of Israel.
(9)Rain in abundance, O God, you shed abroad; you restored your inheritance as it languished;
(10)your flock found a dwelling in it; in your goodness, O God, you provided for the needy.

(11)The Lord gives the word; the women who announce the news are a great host:
(12)"The kings of the armies--they flee, they flee!" The women at home divide the spoil--
(13)though you men lie among the sheepfolds--the wings of a dove covered with silver, its pinions with shimmering gold.
(14)When the Almighty scatters kings there, let snow fall on Zalmon.

(15)O mountain of God, mountain of Bashan; O many-peaked mountain, mountain of Bashan!
(16)Why do you look with hatred, O many-peaked mountain, at the mount that God desired for his abode, yes, where the LORD will dwell forever?
(17)The chariots of God are twice ten thousand, thousands upon thousands; the Lord is among them; Sinai is now in the sanctuary.
(18)You ascended on high, leading a host of captives in your train and receiving gifts among men, even among the rebellious, that the LORD God may dwell there.

(19)Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation.
(20)Our God is a God of salvation, and to GOD, the Lord, belong deliverances from death.
(21)But God will strike the heads of his enemies, the hairy crown of him who walks in his guilty ways.
(22)The Lord said, "I will bring them back from Bashan, I will bring them back from the depths of the sea, that you may strike your feet in their blood, that the tongues of your dogs may have their portion from the foe."

(24)Your procession is seen, O God, the procession of my God, my King, into the sanctuary--
(25)the singers in front, the musicians last, between them virgins playing tambourines:
(26)"Bless God in the great congregation, the LORD, O you who are of Israel's fountain!"
(27)There is Benjamin, the least of them, in the lead, the princes of Judah in their throng, the princes of Zebulun, the princes of Naphtali.

(28)Summon your power, O God, the power, O God, by which you have worked for us.
(29)Because of your temple at Jerusalem kings shall bear gifts to you.
(30)Rebuke the beasts that dwell among the reeds, the herd of bulls with the calves of the peoples. Trample underfoot those who lust after tribute; scatter the peoples who delight in war.
(31)Nobles shall come from Egypt; Cush shall hasten to stretch out her hands to God.

(32)O kingdoms of the earth, sing to God; sing praises to the Lord,
(33)to him who rides in the heavens, the ancient heavens; behold, he sends out his voice, his mighty voice.
(34)Ascribe power to God, whose majesty is over Israel, and whose power is in the skies.
(35)Awesome is God from his sanctuary; the God of Israel--he is the one who gives power and strength to his people. Blessed be God!

The Glory of God in His Goodness to Israel (NKJV). To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. A Song.

Commentators believe Moses first wrote some of these words, and that David took his words and added to them to celebrate a triumphant time in Jerusalem. All of the commentators I read say this is the most difficult psalm to discuss and write about. According to some, the translation of the song is messy and damaged over the years in the attempt to make it understandable in English.

The Psalm is at once surpassingly excellent and difficult. Its darkness in some stanzas is utterly impenetrable. Well does a German critic speak of it as a Titan very hard to master. Our slender scholarship has utterly failed us and we have had to follow a surer Guide.

Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892

But the song is a song exclaiming a great victory! It is a song proclaiming God’s faithfulness to His people. There is no denying that. Bible scholars agree that the great occasion that prompted the writing of this song was probably the ascension of the ark of the covenant into the city of Jerusalem. As David speaks of that happy day, he recounts God’s miracles and provision to His people in the past. David’s psalms are filled with pleas for God’s provision because of His faithfulness and His promises from the beginning.

And David danced before the Lord with all of his might, wearing a priestly garment. So David and all the people of Israel brought up the Ark of the Lord with shouts of joy and the blowing of rams' horns. 
2 Samuel 6:15-16 NLT

Read 2 Samuel 6 for the story of the ark’s journey into Jerusalem.

Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered; let those also who hate Him flee before Him. As smoke is driven away, so drive them away; as wax melts before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God. But let the righteous be glad; let them rejoice before God; yes, let them rejoice exceedingly.
Psalm 68:1-3 NKJV

Moses spoke these words in Number 10 as the people followed the cloud of God’s presence from Mount Sinai into the wilderness of Paran.

So they departed from the mountain of the LORD on a journey of three days; and the ark of the covenant of the LORD went before them for the three days' journey, to search out a resting place for them. And the cloud of the LORD was above them by day when they went out from the camp. So it was, whenever the ark set out, that Moses said:

"Rise up, O LORD! Let Your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate You flee before You."
Numbers 10:33-35 NKJV

Every morning, Moses would shout these words as the ark would go first, ahead of the people as they followed the Lord’s commanding presence into the wilderness. David took these words and tied them to the ark’s movement into the city of Jerusalem. It is a confidence in the power and the safety of God’s promises and faithfulness.

Wickedness is blown away like “smoke in the wind,” like “wax in a fire.” When we keep God as the beacon ever before us, everything else melts away to nothing. All that is left is to rejoice.

Sing to God, sing praises to His name; extol Him who rides on the clouds, by His name YAH, and rejoice before Him. A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy habitation. God sets the solitary in families; He brings out those who are bound into prosperity; but the rebellious dwell in a dry land.
Psalm 68:4-6 NKJV

David gives two reasons to praise and rejoice in the Lord. One, He rides on the clouds before the people. He goes before us, always. Within the storms of life, when we find ourselves lost and scared, He is already there holding out His hand. The second reason, is by His covenant name; Yahweh (or JAH, Jehovah).

Yah, probably a contraction of the word Yehovah; at least so the ancient version understood it. It is used but in a few places in the sacred writings. It might be translated The Self existent.

Adam Clarke, English scholar, 1762-1832

Our God is set apart in these ways from kings and great men throughout history and certainly from the gods of the pagans living around ancient Israel. He loves all people and desires all of His children to know Him and walk beside Him.

Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
James 1:27 NLT

To this day and for ever, God is, and will be, the peculiar guardian of the defenceless. He is the President of Orphanages, the Protector of Widows. He is so glorious that he rides on the heavens, but so compassionate that he remembers the poor of the earth. How zealously ought his church to cherish those that are here marked out as Jehovah’s especial charge.

Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892

God doesn’t desire any of His children to be alone. He gives them families in the body of His church. He calls us as believers to make sure this happens.

O God, when you led your people out from Egypt, when you marched through the dry wasteland, 
the earth trembled, and the heavens poured down rain before you, the God of Sinai, before God, the God of Israel. You sent abundant rain, O God, to refresh the weary land. There your people finally settled, and with a bountiful harvest, O God, you provided for your needy people. 
Psalm 68:7-10 NLT

David and the people are celebrating the ark’s arrival into the tabernacle in Jerusalem, and he is comparing that procession to the Exodus from Egypt. He sees God as commander going before His people. God led the people by day and protected them by night. He rained down water and food to sustain them. The earth trembled and shook when Moses was directed by God on Mount Sinai.

There is no doubt, that the people of Israel needed to remember the miraculous things that God did for them at that time in their history. And what better way to remember these things, but to sing about them, especially on days of celebration. As the ark makes its way slowly up the hill, the people dance and sing and shout for joy remembering where they have been and Who has been faithful and seen them through it all.

The Lord gives the word, and a great army brings the good news. Enemy kings and their armies flee, while the women of Israel divide the plunder. Even those who lived among the sheepfolds found treasures--doves with wings of silver and feathers of gold. The Almighty scattered the enemy kings like a blowing snowstorm on Mount Zalmon.
Psalm 68:11-14 NLT

The New King James version says this:

The Lord gave the word; great was the company of those who proclaimed it

The Hebrew word for “company” is feminine. Some Bible scholars say it’s because as the men returned from battle, the women would rush out to meet them in celebration. That a victory was won by the Lord and the women proclaimed it in celebration! How beautiful is that?

The Lord announces the word, and the women who proclaim it are a mighty throng: "Kings and armies flee in haste;" the women at home divide the plunder.
Psalm 68:12 NIV

Did the women of Israel celebrate ahead of the ark of the covenant as well?

Verses 13 and 14 are confusing for Bible scholars. If you read different translations, note the italicized words and notes. The italicized words are “emended” which means added to help clarify a meaning. But some believe the meaning is unknowable and therefore, emending just adds to confusion and possible misunderstanding of God’s Word.

We will leave these two verses with these words from one of my favorite 19th century commentators…

Whatever may be the precise meaning, it was intended to pourtray the glory and completeness of the divine triumph over the greatest foes. In this let all believers rejoice.

Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892
The mountains of Bashan are majestic, with many peaks stretching high into the sky. Why do you look with envy, O rugged mountains, at Mount Zion, where God has chosen to live, where the LORD himself will live forever? 

Surrounded by unnumbered thousands of chariots, the Lord came from Mount Sinai into his sanctuary. When you ascended to the heights, you led a crowd of captives. You received gifts from the people, even from those who rebelled against you. Now the LORD God will live among us there. 
Psalm 68:15-18 NLT

Mount Bashan is a mountain in northern Israel and a much bigger mountain than Zion. But God chose Zion to be where the ark rested, where His people called home, and where He would someday sit upon His throne.

God chose Jerusalem even though there were higher and more spectacular mountains. Yet as He often chooses the weak to confound the strong and the foolish to mystify the wise, He chose Zion over Bashan.

David Guzik, pastor,

The Israelites did not have battle chariots. God warned the Israelites not to accumulate chariots (or wives or gold) early on in the Bible…of course the people didn’t always listen…

The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the LORD has told you, "You are not to go back that way again." He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold.
Deuteronomy 17:16-17

The Israelites never had an army of chariots, although nations that came against them did. God was enough for them, and He demanded that they remember this and trust Him on this. He was the many “thousands of chariots” that they needed.

Interestingly, Paul speaks of Jesus using verse 18 in his book to the church in Ephesus:

But to each of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: "When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people."
Ephesians 4:7-8

As the ark ascended on Mount Zion, so did Jesus. As the people followed the ark in a celebration of breaking free of captivity, so we follow Jesus and are free.

Praise the Lord; praise God our savior! For each day he carries us in his arms.
Our God is a God who saves! The Sovereign LORD rescues us from death. 

But God will smash the heads of his enemies, crushing the skulls of those who love their guilty ways. The Lord says, "I will bring my enemies down from Bashan; I will bring them up from the depths of the sea. You, my people, will wash your feet in their blood, and even your dogs will get their share!"
Psalm 68:19-23 NLT

Blessed be the Lord! Praise to the Lord our Savior! Each day He loads us with benefits (NKJV), He daily bears us up (ESV), day after day He bears our burdens (HCSB)! Each day He carries us in His arms (NLT)!


Then the tone changes to a reminder of God’s vengeance.

The terminology here, as in the imprecatory psalms, seems very harsh and offensive to Christians, but this is due to a general blindness to the Biblical revelation that God’s anger against wickedness is no light thing at all, but that the most terrible penalties that the mind of man can visualize shall at last be executed against all mortals who make themselves enemies of God.

James Burton Coffman, preacher, 1905-2006
Your procession has come into view, O God--the procession of my God and King as he goes into the sanctuary. Singers are in front, musicians behind; between them are young women playing tambourines. Praise God, all you people of Israel; praise the LORD, the source of Israel's life. Look, the little tribe of Benjamin leads the way. Then comes a great throng of rulers from Judah and all the rulers of Zebulun and Naphtali.
Psalm 68:24-27 NLT

The ark ascends Mount Zion into the tabernacle in a great parade and celebration, some commentators even refer to this day as the “end of the Exodus.” Finally, the people are home.

So David went to bring up the ark of God from the house of OBed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing. When those who were carrying the ark of the LORD had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calk. Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the LORD with all his mighty, while he and all Israel were bring up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets.
2 Samuel 6:12b-13

The Psalm mentions only four of the tribes; Benjamin, Judah, Zebulun, and Naphtali. Scholars believe this to be poetic license, nothing more. The song would be cumbersome if all twelve were listed. Interestingly, the tribe of Benjamin was listed first, although at this point in Israel’s history, the tribe was small. Some believe David chose Benjamin first as a tribute to his predecessor on the throne, Saul, who was of the tribe.

Summon your might, O God. Display your power, O God, as you have in the past. The kings of the earth are bringing tribute to your Temple in Jerusalem. Rebuke these enemy nations--these wild animals lurking in the reeds, this herd of bulls among the weaker calves. Make them bring bars of silver in humble tribute. Scatter the nations that delight in war. Let Egypt come with gifts of precious metals; let Ethiopia bring tribute to God. Sing to God, you kingdoms of the earth. Sing praises to the Lord. 
Psalm 68:28-31 NLT

As the ark arrives upon the hill, David calls upon the faithfulness of God throughout time. He also foresees the completion of the house of God on Zion, although David knew he would not be the one to build the temple, that his son would.

The palace of God, which towered above Jerusalem, is prophesied as becoming a wonder to all lands, and when it grew from the tabernacle of David to the temple of Solomon, it was so.

Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892

David calls upon judgment of the ancient enemies of Israel; Egypt and Cush. Interestingly, both of those will pay tribute in some way in the near future: Solomon will marry a daughter of Pharaoh, and the Queen of Sheba possibly came from Ethiopia to see the temple and meet Solomon, bringing extravagant gifts.

Sing to the one who rides across the ancient heavens, his mighty voice thundering from the sky. Tell everyone about God's power. His majesty shines down on Israel; his strength is mighty in the heavens. God is awesome in his sanctuary. The God of Israel gives power and strength to his people. 

Praise be to God!
Psalm 68:33-35 NLT

This last paragraph is calling upon the God of the universe, that He is the God of all nations. All nations and all peoples should worship Him now, or they will bow to Him in the future as His enemies.

The voice of God is mighty power, a thundering in the sky. This psalm/song is filled with things that we don’t quite understand, except for this one thing: God is faithful.

For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.
Zephaniah 3:17 NLT

Father in heaven, may we rejoice in your faithfulness and love like your people did as the ark made its way into Jerusalem. May we remember your promises and your faithfulness every morning. You are in our presence. Your Spirit dwells among those who love you. Thank you. Strengthen us today. Give us hope and joy. Amen.


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