The Philistines lived by the sea to the west of the Jews. David was the king of the Jews. The Philistines and the Jews were enemies. In one of their fights, the Philistines took away the Ark of God. The Ark was a special box made of wood. It was a metre long and half a metre high and half a metre wide. The Jews kept things in it that gave them help to remember their *Covenant with God. In the *Covenant they agreed to love, serve and obey God. He agreed to give them help at all times. People that kept the *Covenant had a special name for God. It was Yahweh, which we translate *LORD. (There is another word *Lord that means master. It is Adonai in Hebrew, not Yahweh. Both names are in this psalm.)
Bad things happened to the Philistines when they took the Ark. So they sent it back to the Jews. For a long time, it was on a farm between Gath and Jerusalem. Gath was a Philistine city. Jerusalem did not belong to the Jews at this time, but David fought against it and won. He made it his capital city. Then he decided to take the Ark from where it was into Jerusalem. There was no *temple in Jerusalem at that time, only a *tent where people met God. A *tent is a building made of animal skins and other materials, but not stones.
So somebody wrote Psalm 68. It may have been David, or someone else wrote it for David. Everybody sang it while the Ark came into Jerusalem. They also sang other psalms, *like Psalm 24. The people all walked together in a *procession. A *procession is a number of people walking or marching together. They started where the Ark was, and took it to its new home in the *tent in Jerusalem.
But Psalm 68 starts long before that. It starts in Egypt, and describes the Jews coming to their new land. Because God had promised it to them, we often call it the Promised Land. They went through Sinai, where they built the Ark. They fought against the people that lived in their new land. In the end they lived at *peace, and brought the Ark into Jerusalem.
What Psalm 68 means
This is a long psalm, so we can study it most easily in 4 parts:
· verses 7 - 18 that tell us about God leading his people from Egypt to the Promised Land
· verses 19 - 31 that tell us more about God and the *procession
· verses 32 - 35 that tell us to *praise God for what he has done.
Verses 1 – 6: In verse 1, "God will rise up" means that he will start to do something for his people. This will make his enemies and their enemies run away before (in verse 2) he destroys them. Verse 1 is repeated from Numbers 10:35, which is about moving the Ark of God. In verse 3, "the *righteous" are God’s people. If you want to know more about the word "righteous" look after Psalm 5 (in Psalms 1-41). "See the face of God" means that they see that God is doing something. In verse 4 we have another name for God: the One that Rides on the Clouds, or Cloud Rider! This was the name of a false god in the land before the Jews came. The psalm says that God the *LORD is the real Cloud Rider, not the false god! In verses 5 and 6 we read about some of the good things that God does. These are really things that he has already done for the Jews! He has:
But he will always do this for his people, any time, anywhere!
Verses 7 – 18: You will see three *SELAHs in this psalm. They are after the first verse of each of the last three parts. Bible students think that this is because people should stop, think, make music and pray before reading the other verses in each part. In verse 8 we read that God came to Sinai. There he gave his people the rules they were to obey. We call them the Ten Commandments. They made the Ark there. When they reached the Promised Land in verse 9 God sent rain to make their food plants grow. Verses 11 - 14 confuse many Bible students. They are very difficult to translate. This is because we do not know what some of the Hebrew words mean. It gives us help to read the Song of Deborah in Judges 5. This is because many Bible students think that verses 11 - 14 are about the fight that is in the Song of Deborah. The Greek translation of verse 11 says "many women preached the gospel". Verse 13 may mean this:
· "even if you sleep", that is, even if you do not come to fight
· "the *dove will have *wings of *silver and *feathers of gold", that is, the women will wear beautiful clothes.
In the Song of Deborah, some men did not come to fight; and the women of other tribes had beautiful things from the (dead) enemy. In verse 14 Zalmon means "Black Mountain". We are not sure where it is. The snow may be real snow, or the white bones of the dead enemy. Verses 15 - 18 tell of the end of the journey. It is in Jerusalem, on a mountain or hill called Zion. *Higher mountains, *like Bashan, think that God should live in them. But God chose to live in Zion. He will "always live here", (verse 18).
Verses 19 – 31: In verse 21 "the hairy heads" make us remember pictures of people from David’s time. They had very long hair. Nobody will run away from God. He will find them, even down in the deep sea! Verse 23 means that David’s people will beat their enemies. Verses 24 - 27 tell us more about the *procession. It is now near Jerusalem. It is not the *procession from Egypt that we read about in verses 7 - 18. "The King" in verse 24 is David. God is with him, but nobody can see God. In verse 25 "the musicians" are the people that make music in many ways. One of them is hitting tambourines, little drums with bells on them. Other women did this in the Bible, examples are:
· Moses’ sister Miriam after God took the Jews from Egypt (Exodus 15:20)
· Jephthah’s daughter after God beat the enemies of the Jews (Judges 11:34).
In verse 27 we hear of four tribes of Israel: Benjamin, Judah, Zebulun and Naphtali. There were 12 tribes (or large families), but there is only room in the psalm for 4. Benjamin is first because Jerusalem is in the part of the Promised Land where Benjamin lived. Judah is next because it is David’s tribe, and he is king. The other 10 tribes come next, but we only read about two of them. Verse 29 is an important verse. There is more about it in Isaiah 60. Some of the kings are in verse 30. "The animals that live in the reeds" might be crocodiles. These live in the River Nile, in Egypt. "Bulls among the calves" are "strong kings among weak kings". All these kings will bring gifts to God. They will kneel (or "fall on their knees") and give God metals of value, *like *silver. In verse 31 Cush may be Sudan.
Verses 32 – 35: The psalm ends by telling everyone to *praise God. Again, he is the Cloud Rider. In verse 35 "your *temple" is *heaven, where God lives. It is not the *tent (*temple) in Jerusalem, as in verses 24 and 29.