Psalm 99sn Psalm 99. The psalmist celebrates the Lord’s just rule and recalls how he revealed himself to Israel’s leaders.
1 The Lord reigns!
The nations tremble.tn The prefixed verbal forms in v. 1 are understood here as indicating the nations’ characteristic response to the reality of the Lord’s kingship. Another option is to take them as jussives: “let the nations tremble…let the earth shake!”
He sits enthroned above the winged angels;sn Winged angels (Heb “cherubs”). Cherubs, as depicted in the OT, possess both human and animal (lion, ox, and eagle) characteristics (see Ezek 1:10; 10:14, 21; 41:18). They are pictured as winged creatures (Exod 25:20; 37:9; 1 Kgs 6:24-27; Ezek 10:8, 19) and serve as the very throne of God when the ark of the covenant is in view (Ps 99:1; see Num 7:89; 1 Sam 4:4; 2 Sam 6:2; 2 Kgs 19:15). The picture of the Lord seated on the cherubs suggests they might be used by him as a vehicle, a function they carry out in Ezek 1:22-28 (the “living creatures” mentioned here are identified as cherubs in Ezek 10:20). In Ps 18:10 the image of a cherub serves to personify the wind.
the earth shakes.tn The Hebrew verb נוּט (nut) occurs only here in the OT, but the meaning can be determined on the basis of the parallelism with רָגַז (ragaz, “tremble”) and evidence from the cognate languages (see H. R. Cohen, Biblical Hapax Legomena [SBLDS], 121).
2 The Lord is elevatedtn Heb “great.” in Zion;
he is exalted over all the nations.
3 Let them praise your great and awesome name!
Hetn The pronoun refers to the Lord himself (see vv. 5, 9). is holy!
4 The king is strong;
he loves justice.tn Heb “and strength, a king, justice he loves.” The syntax of the Hebrew text is difficult here. The translation assumes that two affirmations are made about the king, the Lord (see v. 1, and Ps 98:6). The noun עֹז (’oz, “strength”) should probably be revocalized as the adjective עַז (’az, “strong”).
You ensure that legal decisions will be made fairly;tn Heb “you establish fairness.”
you promote justice and equity in Jacob.
5 Praisetn Or “exalt.” the Lord our God!
Worshiptn Or “bow down.” before his footstool!
He is holy!
6 Moses and Aaron were among his priests;
Samuel was one of those who prayed to him.tn Heb “among those who called on his name.”
Theytn Heb “those who.” The participle is in apposition to the phrase “those who called on his name” in the preceding line. prayed to the Lord and he answered them.
7 He spoke to them from a pillar of cloud;sn A pillar of cloud. The psalmist refers to the reality described in Exod 33:9-10; Num 12:5; and Deut 31:15.
they obeyed his regulations and the ordinance he gave them.
8 O Lord our God, you answered them.
They found you to be a forgiving God,
but also one who punished their sinful deeds.tn Heb “a God of lifting up [i.e., forgiveness] you were to them, and an avenger concerning their deeds.” The present translation reflects the traditional interpretation, which understands the last line as qualifying the preceding one. God forgave Moses and Aaron, but he also disciplined them when they sinned (cf. NIV, NRSV). Another option is to take “their deeds” as referring to harmful deeds directed against Moses and Aaron. In this case the verse may be translated, “and one who avenged attacks against them.” Still another option is to emend the participial form נֹקֵם (noqem, “an avenger”) to נֹקָם (noqam), a rare Qal participial form of נָקַה (naqah, “purify”) with a suffixed pronoun. In this case one could translate, “and one who purified them from their [sinful] deeds” (cf. NEB “and held them innocent”).
9 Praisetn Or “exalt.” the Lord our God!
Worship on his holy hill,
for the Lord our God is holy!