The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Psalm 118

Psa 118:1

CONTEXT: Hezekiah.

Psa 118:4

THOSE WHO FEAR THE LORD: An expression used in Acts of Gentile believers (Act 10:2,22,35; 13:16; 16:38; 19:17; cp Rev 11:18; 19:5).

Psa 118:5

BY SETTING ME FREE: "In a large place" (AV): Psa 18:18,19. A roomy place, so pleasant to one who had been shut up because of his sickness. The temple court (vv 19,20).

Psa 118:6

The Assyrian threat against Jerusalem coincided with the king's sickness (Isa 38:5,6).

Psa 118:8

TO TRUST IN MAN: The Assyrians and Hezekiah's own counselors were alike "treacherous dealers" (Isa 21:2; 24:16; 33:1).

Psa 118:10

ALL THE NATIONS SURROUNDED ME: The Assyrians, like the Romans, boosted their military strength by enrolling mercenaries from other nations (Psa 47:3; 48:4; 76:12; 79:6; Isa 5:26,30; 29:7; 30:28; 34:1,2; Mic 4:11).

(NT) All nations = the Jew Caiaphas, the Roman Pilate, and the Edomite Herod (Psa 2:1,2; cp Luk 23:12; Act 4:25-28).

Psa 118:12

THEY SWARMED AROUND ME LIKE BEES: "The bee that is in the land of Assyria" (Isa 7:14; cp Deu 1:44). Or, by a small change, could read "they assaulted me with words." Rabshakeh's sustained propaganda (Psa 42:10; 44:13,14,16; 74:10; 102:8; 2Ki 19:4,16,22,23; Isa 37:4,17,23,24).

BURNING THORNS: Gathered as fuel in the ANE. Make a quick, hot fire. Thus, quick and sudden destruction (2Sa 23:6,7; Psa 58:9; Ecc 7:6,7; Isa 9:18; 10:17; Nah 1:10).

Psa 118:14

MY SONG: (NT) This most important part of the "Passover Hallel" was quite prob the final hymn sung by Jesus at the Last Supper (Mat 26:30).

Psa 118:15

SHOUTS OF JOY AND VICTORY: The Assyrians besieged Jerusalem at Passover (Isa 30:29,31; 31:5; 33:19,20; cp Isa 26:20,21 with Exo 12:22; and Isa 37:36 with Exo 12:23).

THE LORD'S RIGHT HAND HAS DONE MIGHTY THINGS: The angel of the Lord destroying the Assyrians (Isa 37:36).

RIGHT HAND: Strength (Exo 15:6; Psa 20:6; 63:8; 118:15,16); righteousness (Psa 48:10); authority (Isa 62:8); honor (Gen 48:13-18; 1Ki 2:19); salvation (Psa 17:7; 60:5); and fellowship (Psa 16:11).

Psa 118:17

I WILL NOT DIE BUT LIVE: The triumphant reversal of Isaiah's words, in God's message to Hezekiah: "Thou shalt die, and not live" (Isa 38:1).

This v was quoted by John Wycliffe to his enemies on his deathbed -- words fulfilled, of course, in the continued success of the English Bible.

Psa 118:19

OPEN FOR ME THE GATES OF RIGHTEOUSNESS: The gates closed by Hezekiah's unrighteous father (2Ch 29:3; Isa 38:22).

(NT) Hezekiah celebrated his recovery by a special thanksgiving in the house of the Lord. So also Jesus, on the day of his resurrection, ascended to his Father's presence (Joh 20:17). This he did to show the tokens of his sacrifice (the wounds in his hands and feet and side), fulfilling the type of the High Priest going once yearly into the presence of God on the Day of Atonement, bearing the blood of sacrifice for the sins of the nation.

(Henry Sulley writes: "Ecclesiasticism makes a fearful travesty of this psalm in the ceremony of a bishop knocking with his jeweled crook at a cathedral door.")

And in days to come Jerusalem will see "the gates of righteousness" opened so that a King of Righteousness, a King of Glory, may come in (Psa 110:4; 24:7,10; Isa 26:2).

Psa 118:22

(NT) This "stone" is specifically interpreted as the Messiah in Mat 21:42-44: "Jesus saith unto them, 'Did ye never read the scriptures, "The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes"? Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder' " (cp Mar 12:10,11; Luk 20:17).

To his quotation of Psa 118 Jesus adds (in Mat 21:44) an allusion to the "stone of stumbling" of Isa 8:14,15 -- equating both the rejected stone and the stone of stumbling to himself. Peter confirms this, and also joins Isa 8 together with the tried and precious cornerstone of Isa 28:16: "To whom [ie, to the Lord] coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed [ie, rejected: Psa 118:22] indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, ye also, as lively [living] stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, 'Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded' [Isa 28:16]. Unto you therefore which believe he is precious {Isa 28:16]: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner [Psa 118:22], and a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence [Isa 8:14], even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient" (1Pe 2:4-8).

The repeated use by Jesus and the apostles (cp Paul in Rom 9:32,33 and Eph 2:20-22) of these Old Testament "stone" prophecies calls for special attention. Undoubtedly they saw the great altar-stone of Zion as emblematic of the sacrificial work of the Messiah.

The One who came to offer his life as the perfect sacrifice was rejected in that task by the would-be spiritual heads of Israel (Act 4:11); but it was through that very rejection, and only because of it, that Jesus was actually offered as the sacrifice for the sins of all men. And so the cross of Christ, while precious to some, became at the same time a source of confusion and offence, or stumbling, to others (1Co 1:18-29, especially v 23). But, like the original altar-stone, Christ too can never be moved or replaced (1Co 3:11). He is, and will be, the sure foundation of all the apostles and prophets, and in and around him the whole "building" of God's holy temple has been, is being, and will be framed (Eph 2:20-22; cp Dan 2:34,35,44).

Psa 118:24

THIS IS THE DAY THE LORD HAS MADE: A Passover deliverance outstripping that in the time of Moses.

"Thank God for every new day. Make each one a fresh, thankful, enthusiastic new beginning. Yesterday's follies, failures, fleshlinesses, weaknesses, time-wastings, are all gone with the night: analyzed, and self-searchingly and prayerfully -- ever conscious of its own weakness and limitation and need" (GVG).

Psa 118:25

The Land was devastated, crops and herds destroyed by the invaders. yet within a few months, there was to be a great recovery to more than normal prosperity (Psa 67:6; 81:16; 85:12; 96:12; Isa 35:1,6,7; 41:18; 43:19; 44:23).

(NT) "Hosanna" = "save", related to Jesus (Savior). These words were quoted by the people at the time of Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem (Mat 21:9,15; Mar 11:9,10; Joh 12:13).

Psa 118:26

BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD: The priests in the temple throw open the gates for the king to enter in solemn procession, to offer a special sacrifice of thanksgiving.

(NT) By NT times, the "Coming One" had become a well-recognized title of Messiah (Mat 3:11; 11:3; 23:39; Luk 3:15,16; 13:35; 19:38; Joh 1:39; 6:14; 11:27; 12:13; Rev 1:7).

FROM THE HOUSE OF THE LORD WE BLESS YOU: The High Priest blessing of Num 6:23-27.

Psa 118:27

"Bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar" (cp Psa 116:3; Gen 22:9). Or simply, "Bring the sacrifice, bound with cords, to..." The NIV -- "join in the festal procession" -- is related to "Palm Sunday" (Mat 21:8)?

Jesus used a scourge of small cords to cleanse the temple by driving out the animals and money-changers. It was this action which settled the fate of Jesus. Now he would be bound with cords and led away to crucifixion.

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