New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

Psa 84:1

How lovely are Your dwellings, Yahweh of Armies!-
This appears to be a psalm of David whilst in exile either from Saul or Absalom, longing to be back in the sanctuary. But it has likely been reused and reapplied under inspiration to the exiles.

Psa 84:2

My soul longs and even faints for the courts of Yahweh. My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God-
David's desire for the sanctuary has been rewritten with reference to the "courts" of the temple, which didn't exist in his time. "The living God" can be 'the God of the living ones', perhaps a reference to the glory of the cherubim seen over the ark. Yet in the wilderness Psalms, David often says that he lives under the shadow of those cherubic wings, as if even without seeing the ark and whilst far from the sanctuary, he felt as if he lived beneath God's glory, under the shadow of the cherubic wings, over the blood of atonement on the cover of the ark. But despite that awareness, he still longs for the physical, external symbols of faith, and so longs to be at the sanctuary again. It was this failure to learn his lesson that led to his obsession with building a physical temple, which God responded to negatively, initially. And it became a stumbling block for later generations because of the emphasis upon the physical symbols of religion, rather than the essence.


Psa 84:3

Yes, the sparrow has found a home and the swallow a nest for herself where she may have her young, near Your altars, Yahweh of Armies, my King, and my God-
David recalls how wild birds flew into the sanctuary and even nested there. And he in his exile is jealous of them. He often likens himself to a bird, which is being hunted. Often David likens his enemies' plans to catch him as snares, gins etc. set for birds (e.g. Ps. 84:3; 102:6; 124;7; 140:5)- all the language of hunting birds. He had probably done plenty of this as a youngster caring for the sheep, and the influence of those formative years remained. But extending the likeness of himself to a bird, he now wishes he could just fly into the sanctuary and nest there.

Psa 84:4

Blessed are those who dwell in Your house; they are always praising You. Selah-
David seems to assume that those who lived in the temple precincts were blessed because they were always praising God. But he is overlooking the principle so often expressed in his wilderness Psalms- that he could continually praise God wherever he was. It seems that like us, he learned the lesson at the time and in theory, but failed to apply it in later life, such was his human hankering after the external symbols of religion.

Psa 84:5

Blessed are those whose strength is in You; who have set their hearts on a pilgrimage-
"In whose hearts are the highways (to Zion)". The LXX has "goings up", an idea always associated with 'going up' to Zion and 'coming down' from it after attending a feast. This idea would have been appropriate for the exiles; all whose heart was set on the way back to Zion would be blessed. But most preferred to remain in Babylon.

Psa 84:6

Passing through the valley of Weeping, they make it a place of springs. Yes, the autumn rain covers it with blessings-
This valley of Baca (AV) was some "waterless and barren valley through which pilgrims passed on their way to Jerusalem". But it was transformed by the autumn rains, bursting forth into life. The same language is used for what could have happened to the exiles if they followed David's path of restoration. For Is. 35:6; 41:18 use the same ideas concerning the restoration, whereby dry valleys would come alive with water and new growth. LXX "The lawgiver shall give blessings". In Ps. 23 David likens his exile to passing through the valley of the shadow of death, and yet confidently hopes for restoration.

Psa 84:7

They go from strength to strength-
This again is language appropriate to the returning exiles, who would "renew their strength" (Is. 40:31). 

Each one of them appears before God in Zion-
Appearing before God is the language of attending a feast, and it was also David's desire in Ps. 42:2. And yet the wilderness Psalms claim that he felt just as close to God as ever before, even though he could not keep the feasts whilst on the run. But he seems to be jealous of those who could. The power of religion and the desire to perform religious ritual is seen very strongly in David, and as with us, the pole of religiosity struggles against that of personal spirituality.


Psa 84:8

Yahweh, God of Armies, hear my prayer; listen, God of Jacob. Selah-
The reference to "Armies" may suggest an understanding that God's Angels would guide David back to the sanctuary; "God of Jacob" is likewise an Angelic phrase (Gen. 48:16).

Psa 84:9

Behold, God our shield, look at the face of Your anointed-
It was David who was the anointed of God, and so this Psalm likely originated whilst he was anointed but not crowned, on the run from Saul, in exile therefore from the sanctuary. The reference to God as shield is another reminder to himself that he was of the true seed of Abraham (Gen. 15:1).

Psa 84:10

For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the tent of my God-
This reflects the feelings of the righteous remnant in Babylon- e.g. the thought that just one day in God's temple is better than a thousand days in Babylon's "tents of wickedness" (Ps. 84:10). Doorkeepers in the house of their God was exactly what the sons of Korah were (1 Chron. 9:19; 26:1,12-19); perhaps this Psalm was appropriated by them whilst in Babylon. Dwelling in the tents of wickedness would be therefore a disassociation from their ancestor Korah (Num. 16:26).

Than to dwell in the tents of wickedness-
Perhaps the reference is the same as in Ps. 120:5, where David laments that he must dwell among the tents of Kedar, when he would far rather be in the sanctuary. Kedar was the second son of Ishmael (Gen. 25:13), one of the wild roaming tribes whose hand was against every man (Gen. 16:13). Perhaps there was a time when fleeing from Saul when David had to live amongst them, and he longs to be back in Zion. Or perhaps he simply means that he has to live among hostile and barbarous people, who are characterized as the wild Kedar and Meshech.

Whatever the primary reference of this Psalm, it is a reworking of David's feelings when persecuted by Saul and likewise on the run from him. For circumstances repeat in our lives, and it would be natural for David to reconsider Psalms written at the time of one exile and apply them to another, just as these Psalms were also used for others in their times of exile. "Wickedness" is the word used about Saul's persecution in 1 Sam. 24:13. Perhaps he felt that whilst working as a musician in Saul's palace he was living in tents of wickedness.

Psa 84:11

For Yahweh God is a sun and a shield-
Another reminder to himself that he was of the true seed of Abraham (Gen. 15:1).

Yahweh will give grace and glory. He withholds no good thing from those who walk blamelessly-
We wonder at David's possible arrogance in assuming that he or any man can walk blamelessly. Only the Lord Jesus fits this. And yet this is the phrase used in God's command to Abraham and his seed (Gen. 17:1). It was only possible for Abraham to do so by his faith in imputed righteousness, by grace through faith. But it's questionable as to whether David at this point realized that; he had to learn it through reflection upon the wonder of how God had counted him righteous after the sin with Bathsheba.

Psa 84:12

Yahweh of Armies, blessed is the man who trusts in You-
Ps. 2:12 has David saying the same. Despite all the longing for being physically present in the temple, David concludes that the greatest blessing is not that, but rather having a heart which trusts in Yahweh and His armies of Angels for restoration in the end. And this was the lesson for the exiles, and for us too.