John T. Willis

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Psalm 68:11-14

The first major section of Psalm 68 (verses 4-18) continues with these words in verses 11-14:

"The Lord [Yahweh] gives the command;
great is the company of those who bore the tidings:
'The kings of the armies, they flee, they flee!'
The women at home divide the spoil,
though they stay among the sheepfolds--
the wings of the dove covered with silver,
its pinions with green gold.
When the Almighty scattered kings there,
snow fell on Zalmon."

1. After describing Yahweh bringing his people into the land of Canaan to conquer the peoples there and settle there as their land (verses 9b-10a), the psalmist now describes victories over the Canaanites which the Israelites enjoyed because of Yahweh's intervention. As Yahweh led his armies (here the Israelites--see 1 Samuel 17:45), "commanding" them on the battlefield as a field general would command his troops, the "kings" of the different Canaanite city-states fled before them. See, for example, Israel's defeat of the five kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Yarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon described in Joshua 10.
2. When an army in the ancient Near East went off to battle, the wives and daughters of the fighting men waited anxiously at home for their husbands and fathers to return with spoil taken from their defeated foes--verse 12b. See the interesting description of Sisera's mother and her friends in Judges 5:28-30.
3. The identity of the "dove" mentioned in verse 13b-c is uncertain. It may refer to: (a) part of the spoils the Israelites took from their enemies--perhaps a "trinket" in the shape of a dove made of wood and covered with silver and gold; (b) Israel--as in Psalm 74:19; Hosea 7:11; 11:11; (c) the release of doves to celebrate the victory.
4. If "Zalmon" is a place, no one knows where it is located. On the other hand, "snow fell on Zalmon" may be a popular saying, like "stars fell on Alabama," denoting joy that accompanied Israel's victory over her enemies.
When God's people win victories over powerful enemies, it is never because of their weapons, superior strategy or planning, or personal ingenuity or fortitude; it is because Yahweh intervenes and gives his people the victory. Praise God, our universal king.

John T. Willis

Monday, June 13, 2005

Psalm 68:7-10

The first large section of Psalm 68 (verses 4-18) continues with these lines in verses 7-10:

"O God, when you went out before your people,
when you marched through the wilderness,
the earth quaked, the heavens poured down rain
at the presence of God, the God of Sinai,
at the presence of God, the God of Israel.
Rain in abundance, O God, you showered abroad;
you restored your heritage when it languished;
your flock found a dwelling in it;
in your goodness, O God, you provided for the needy."

1. Tracing Yahweh's mighty acts in Israel's history, the poet mentions: (a) the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt--verse 7a [like a military commander, Yahweh "went out before" his army, the Israelites, and "brought them out" of Egyptian bondage: Exodus 3:8, 17; 7:5; etc.]; (b) leading the Israelites safely through the dangerous wilderness--verse 7b [see Deuteronomy 32:10; Psalms 78:40; 106:14); (c) giving the Israelites the law at Mount Sinai--verse 8b [see Exodus 19-24; (d) giving the Israelites the promised land of Canaan--verses 9b-10a [God's "heritage" in v. 9b is the land of Canaan--see Joshua 11:23; 13:6; 23:4].
2. When Yahweh appears, "the earth quakes"--verse 8; see Judges 5:4-5; 2 Samuel 22:8; Joel 3:16; Haggai 2:6-7. His presence and power are awesome.
3. God blesses the earth with refreshing rain in abundance--verses 8a, 9a. The Bible affirms repeatedly that Yahweh sends rain on the earth--see, for example, Psalms 104:13; 147:8; Matthew 5:43-48.
4. God is a faithful, compassionate, protective shepherd over his flock--verse 10a. Psalm 95:7 says:
"For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand."
See also Psalms 23; 78:52; 100:3; Isaiah 40:11; John 10:1-18.
Praise God for all he has done and continues to do for needy human beings.

John Willis