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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 1–6
Verses 1–6

The church is here triumphant even in the midst of its militant state. The psalmist, in the church’s name, triumphs here in God, the centre of all our triumphs.

I. In the revelation God had made of himself to them, Ps. 76:1. It is the honour and privilege of Judah and Israel that among them God is known, and where he is known his name will be great. God is known as he is pleased to make himself known; and those are happy to whom he discovers himself—happy people that have their land filled with the knowledge of God, happy persons that have their hearts filled with that knowledge. In Judah God was known as he was not known in other nations, which made the favour the greater, inasmuch as it was distinguishing, Ps. 147:19, 20.

II. In the tokens of God’s special presence with them in his ordinances, Ps. 76:2. In the whole land of Judah and Israel God was known and his name was great; but in Salem, in Zion, were his tabernacle and his dwelling-place. There he kept court; there he received the homage of his people by their sacrifices and entertained them by the feasts upon the sacrifices; thither they came to address themselves to him, and thence by his oracles he issued out his orders; there he recorded his name, and of that place he said, Her will I dwell, for I have desired it. It is the glory and happiness of a people to have God among them by his ordinances; but his dwelling-place is a tabernacle, a movable dwelling. Yet a little while is that light with us.

III. In the victories they had obtained over their enemies (Ps. 76:3): There broke he the arrows of the bow. Observe how threatening the danger was. Though Judah and Israel, Salem and Zion, were thus privileged, yet war is raised against them, and the weapons of war are furbished.

1. Here are bow and arrows, shield and sword, and all for battle; but all are broken and rendered useless. And it was done there, (1.) In Judah and in Israel, in favour of that people near to God. While the weapons of war were used against other nations they answered their end, but, when turned against that holy nation, they were immediately broken. The Chaldee paraphrases it thus: When the house of Israel did his will he placed his majesty among them, and there he broke the arrows of the bow; while they kept closely to his service they were great and safe, and every thing went well with them. Or, (2.) In the tabernacle and dwelling-place in Zion, there he broke the arrows of the bow; it was done in the field of battle, and yet it is said to be done in the sanctuary, because done in answer to the prayers which God’s people there made to him and in the performance of the promises which he there made to them, of both which see that instance, 2 Chron. 20:5, 14. Public successes are owing as much to what is done in the church as to what is done in the camp. Now,

2. This victory redounded very much, (1.) To the immortal honour of Israel’s God (Ps. 76:4): Thou art, and hast manifested thyself to be, more glorious and excellent than the mountains of prey. [1.] “Than the great and mighty ones of the earth in general, who are high, and think themselves firmly fixed like mountains, but are really mountains of prey, oppressive to all about them. It is their glory to destroy; it is thine to deliver.” [2.] “Than our invaders in particular. When they besieged the cities of Judah, they cast up mounts against them, and raised batteries; but thou art more able to protect us than they are to annoy us.” Wherein the enemies of the church deal proudly it will appear that God is above them. (2.) To the perpetual disgrace of the enemies of Israel, Ps. 76:5, 6. They were stouthearted, men of great courage and resolution, flushed with their former victories, enraged against Israel, confident of success; they were men of might, robust and fit for service; they had chariots and horses, which were then greatly valued and trusted to in war, Ps. 20:7. But all this force was of no avail when it was levelled against Jerusalem. [1.] The stouthearted have despoiled and disarmed themselves (so some read it); when God pleases he can make his enemies to weaken and destroy themselves. They have slept, not the sleep of the righteous, who sleep in Jesus, but their sleep, the sleep of sinners, that shall awake to everlasting shame and contempt. [2.] The men of might can no more find their hands than the stout-hearted can their spirit. As the bold men are cowed, so the strong men are lamed, and cannot so much as find their hands, to save their own heads, much less to hurt their enemies. [3.] The chariots and horses may be truly said to be cast into a dead sleep when their drivers and their riders were so. God did but speak the word, as the God of Jacob that commands deliverances for Jacob, and, at his rebuke, the chariot and horse were both cast into a dead sleep. When the men were laid dead upon the spot by the destroying angel the chariot and horse were not at all formidable. See the power and efficacy of God’s rebukes. With what pleasure may we Christians apply all this to the advantages we enjoy by the Redeemer! It is through him that God is known; it is in him that God’s name is great; to him it is owing that God has a tabernacle and a dwelling-place in his church. He it was that vanquished the strong man armed, spoiled principalities and powers, and made a show of them openly.