THIS Psalm is the last of the Hallel psalms. According to Delitzsch, a festive procession led by priests and Levites sings verses 1-19 on its way to Jerusalem to the temple where it offers sacrificial animals. Verses 1-4 are sung as they start on their journey; verses 5-18 while on the journey; and verse 19, upon their arrival at the temple. In this last verse the worshipers request entrance to the temple by singing, "Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will enter into them, I will give thanks unto the Lord." Thereupon, the priests and the Levites in attendance at the temple welcome the procession, verses 20-27. In verse 28 the new arrivals respond by declaring that the Lord is their God. In verse 29 all present join in praise of God for His lovingkindness.

The personal pronoun "I" appears very prominently in verses 5-19. One would think that these verses recount the experiences of a single individual if it were not that the first four verses point clearly to the fact that it is the nation who is singing this Hallel. In these introductory verses, not only Israel, and the House of Aaron, but also those "that fear the Lord" are exhorted to praise God for His lovingkindness. Each one is to sing the following hymn on the way as an expression of his personal experience with God and confidence in Him. As they sang this song from year to year on their pilgrimages to the sacred shrine of the God of Israel, each pilgrim looked not only backward to the blessings that were wrought for him by the Lord through Moses when he led them out of Egyptian bondage, but also forward with great anticipation to the time when the nation shall be completely delivered from all of its distresses and "the voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tents of the righteous," which blessed and happy condition will come to pass after the "right hand of the Lord doeth valiantly." In the time of her deepest sorrow with the vision of deliverance, peace, and blessing before her mind, she shall sing by faith, "I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord. The Lord hath chastened me sore; But he hath not given me over unto death."


The expression "The gates of righteousness" in "Open to me the gates of righteousness" calls for investigation. It, doubtless, in this context refers to the temple gates. In Psa. 15:1,2 David asks, Who shall sojourn in the holy hill of Zion at the temple? and answers his question by saying, "He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness," etc. Since only the righteous are, according to this Psalm, permitted to dwell there, it is appropriate to speak of the gates through which they enter the temple site as the gates of righteousness. This same question is raised in Psa. 24:3 and is answered immediately; in which reply emphasis is laid upon righteousness. In confirmation of this position one reads in Isa. 26:1,2: בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא יוּשַׁר הַשִּׁיר־הַזֶּה בְּאֶרֶץ יְהוּדָה עִיר עָז־לָנוּ יְשׁוּעָה יָשִׁית חוֹמוֹת וָחֵל׃ פִּתְחוּ שְׁעָרִים וְיָבֹא גוֹי־צַדִּיק שֹׁמֵר אֱמֻנִים׃ "In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah: We have a strong city; salvation will he appoint for walls and bulwarks. Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth faith may enter in." The context of this passage shows that the prophet is speaking of Jerusalem, the capital city of Judah, when he speaks of the strong city, and the righteous nation's entering therein. The nation can be a righteous nation only after the Lord has purged out all the rebels and sinners and brought them into the bond of the covenant: וְהַעֲבַרְתִּי אֶתְכֶם תַּחַת הַשָּׁבֶט וְהֵבֵאתִי אֶתְכֶם בְּמָסֹרֶת הַבְּרִית׃ וּבָרוֹתִי מִכֶּם הַמֹּרְדִים וְהַפּוֹשְׁעִים בִּי מֵאֶרֶץ מְגוּרֵיהֶם אוֹצִיא אוֹתָם וְאֶל־אַדְמַת יִשְׂרָאֵל לֹא יָבוֹא וִידַעְתֶּם כִּי־אֲנִי יְהוָה׃ "I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant; and I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against me; I will bring them forth out of the land where they sojourn, but they shall not enter into the land of Israel: and ye shall know that I am the Lord" (Ezek. 20:37,38). The covenant to which reference is made in the expression "bond of the covenant" is the new covenant which God through Jeremiah promises to make with the house of Israel and Judah. הִנֵּה יָמִים בָּאִים נְאֻם־יְהוָה וְכָרַתִּי אֶת־בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאֶת־בֵּית יְהוּדָה בְּרִית חֲדָשָׁה׃ לֹא כַבְּרִית אֲשֶׁר כָּרַתִּי אֶת־אֲבוֹתָם בְּיוֹם הֶחֱזִיקִי בְיָדָם לְהוֹצִיאָם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם׃ "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt" (Jer. 31:31, 32).

In response to the request of the newly-arrived pilgrims the attendants at the temple in verse 20 respond by pointing to a certain gate and by saying, "This is the gate of the Lord; The righteous shall enter into it. I will give thanks unto thee; for thou hast answered me, And art become my salvation." In the prophetic vision the inspired Psalmist places himself in point of time beyond the time of Jacob's trouble when God has already become Israel's salvation, having suppressed all wickedness and sin and having made Jerusalem the center of righteousness from which justice and equity go to the four corners of the earth. In verses 22-24 the writer shows how God has become Israel's Salvation.


אֶבֶן מָאֲסוּ הַבּוֹנִים הָיְתָה לְרֹאשׁ פִּנָּה׃ מֵאֵת יְהוָה הָיְתָה זֹּאת הִיא נִפְלָאת בְּעֵינֵינוּ׃ זֶה־הַיּוֹם עָשָׂה יְהוָה נָגִילָה וְנִשְׂמְחָה בוֹ׃

"The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner. This is the Lord's doing; It is marvellous in our eyes. This is the day which the Lord hath made; We will rejoice and be glad in it." What or who is referred to by the אֶבֶן "stone?" This word is to be taken as a literal stone unless the context indicates clearly that it is used in a figurative or metaphorical sense. In the preceding verses, as seen above, God has become the salvation of the entire nation, for concerning this salvation each one of the nation sings praises to God. In the following verse he states, "This is from the Lord; it is a miracle in our eyes" (Accurate Tr.); The rejection of the stone by the builders and later its being accepted by them is the thing which is from the Lord and which is a wonder, or miracle, in the eyes of restored and blessed Israel. In the next verse the writer continues, "This is the day which the Lord hath made; We will rejoice and be glad in it." The continuity of thought proves beyond a doubt that the acceptance on the part of the builders of the stone which they had formerly rejected is the thing which God has miraculously wrought and in which the nation rejoices. This context reaches such sublime heights of spiritual grandeur and exaltation that it is impossible for one to conceive that the Psalmist is talking of builders of a literal temple and of their going back to the literal stone which they had formerly passed by as of no value, and placing it as the corner stone.

Let the reader for a moment place himself in his thinking at the time that the thousands of men were busily engaged in the building of Solomon's temple. Lying on the ground in every direction are timbers and stones of various shapes and sizes, and everywhere men are at work on different phases of the construction. The chief architect, after the ground has been plotted, looks for the corner stone which has already been hewn to the proper shape and size in the quarry. He, with his attendants, goes to one stone at which he looks and passes by, deciding that it is not the one for which they are looking. After a fruitless search among the many stones the architect and his builders return, re-examine this special stone and, to their amazement, discover the fact that this stone which they rejected is the real true corner stone. These very builders, who rejected it at first, now accept it and give it its rightful place as the head of the corner. It is quite probable according to the prediction that such an occurrence took place at the building of Solomon's temple; but the failure of the builders to recognize the corner stone at first and later their returning and seeing their mistake is not an event of such importance that would warrant the inspired singer to speak in such glowing terms of spiritual exaltation. Therefore the context suggests most clearly that the word "stone" is used in a symbolic or figurative meaning.

With the conclusion, just arrived at as a clue, let the reader now follow an investigation concerning the use of the words
אֶבֶן ,צוּר "rock" and "stone." In Deut. 32:4,15,18, God is called a rock, "the rock, his work is perfect"; "then he forsook God Who made him, And lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation"; "Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, And hast forgotten God that gave thee birth." In Psalm 95:1 appears the statement, "Let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation." In each of these passages God is spoken of figuratively as a צוּר "Rock." וְהָיָה לְמִקְדָּשׁ וּלְאֶבֶן נֶגֶף וּלְצוּר מִכְשׁוֹל לִשְׁנֵי בָתֵּי יִשְׂרָאֵל לְפַח וּלְמוֹקֵשׁ לְיוֹשֵׁב יְרוּשָׁלִָם׃ "And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem" (Isa. 8:14). The context from which this quotation is taken most clearly shows that it is God who becomes a sanctuary to those who sanctify Him and fear Him. Not only, says the prophet, will God become a sanctuary to those of Israel who worship Him, but He will also become a Stone of stumbling and a Rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, that is, to all of the people of Israel who do not take refuge in Him. Therefore from this context, it is quite evident that God speaks of Himself under the figure of a stone. In some way which Isaiah in this connection does not mention God will become a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to the bulk of the Hebrew people. Further light is thrown upon the figurative use of the word "stone" in Isa. 28:16 לָכֵן כֹּה אָמַר אֲדֹנָי יֱהוִה הִנְנִי יִסַּד בְּצִיּוֹן אָבֶן אֶבֶן בֹּחַן פִּנַּת יִקְרַת מוּסָד מוּסָּד הַמַּאֲמִין לֹא יָחִישׁ׃ "Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner-stone of sure foundation: he that believeth shall not be in haste." The scoffers in Zion who mocked Isaiah and jeered at his message from the Holy One of Israel replied to his preaching by saying that they were very secure, having made lies their refuge and having hid themselves under falsehood. To their blasphemies he replied making the wonderful prediction concerning the foundation stone, the tried and precious corner stone. That the word "stone" is used in a spiritual sense is evident from the fact that "he that believeth shall not be in haste." This spiritual interpretation is confirmed further by the context. The scoffers ridiculed Isaiah's preaching and stated that they had made a covenant with death, with Sheol they were in agreement. They further spoke of their covenant with death as a place of refuge and safety; therefore shouted they that they would not fear any calamity nor disaster that might come upon the land. In reply to these blasphemers Isaiah called their attention to the real true refuge to which one may go for safety. This refuge which, says the prophet, God will lay in Zion for a foundation is, "A STONE, A TRIED STONE, A PRECIOUS CORNER-STONE OF SURE FOUNDATION." It is unthinkable to say that "stone" in this passage is to be taken literally, for a literal stone could not be a refuge nor shelter for the entire nation of Israel. But this stone stands symbolically for an individual in whom the nation can believe with absolute confidence. He is such a one whose goodness, righteousness, and power are such as to inspire unflinching trust in the heart of him who believes; therefore regardless of circumstances he who believes in Him will have no need of fear, for he realizes that this one is a present help in the time of trouble. This one, in other words, is the master of every situation regardless of how threatening or formidable the foe may be. Hence the one trusting is sure of complete protection and has no need of hasty flight. The thing which will inspire confidence in this individual is the fact that he has been tried with the severest tests and has proved to be worthy of all confidence; therefore he is the corner stone.

The symbolic interpretation of the stone in the passage of Isaiah just reviewed accords well with the context of Psa. 118 which is the subject of this chapter. In fact, the context demands such an interpretation. Since the stone symbolizes an individual, the expression "the builders" evidently is used in a symbolic sense. Since it was the nation Israel which built the temple and which worshipped there, this expression refers to the Hebrew race. Furthermore, since the "Stone" is an individual who at first is rejected by the nation but later on is accepted and accorded the highest place by it, it is quite evident that the writer is striking the same note which is given in Psa. 110:1,2, namely, the rejection by the Hebrew people of King Messiah at his first advent, His ascension to the right hand of the throne of God, and finally His return to Jerusalem a second time when the remnant of Israel shall accept Him and voluntarily pledge their allegiance to Him. This interpretation is the only one which will accord with the continuity of thought running through verses 21 and 22. In verse 21 God has become the salvation of Israel and verse 22 explains in what way God has become its salvation, namely, by her reversing her decision against the Messiah and by accepting Him with all her heart. These conclusions are furthermore confirmed by verse 23 which says that Israel's rejection of the Messiah and later her acceptance of Him are from the Lord and are a miracle in the eyes of the nation.

Israel's rejection of Messiah when He comes the first time is due to the fact that she fails to heed the admonition of the prophet who forewarns the nation:
כֹּה אָמַר יְהוָה שִׁמְרוּ מִשְׁפָּט וַעֲשׂוּ צְדָקָה כִּי־קְרוֹבָה יְשׁוּעָתִי לָבוֹא וְצִדְקָתִי לְהִגָּלוֹת׃ אַשְׁרֵי אֱנוֹשׁ יַעֲשֶׂה־זֹּאת וּבֶן־אָדָם יַחֲזִיק בָּהּ שֹׁמֵר שַׁבָּת מֵחַלְּלוֹ וְשֹׁמֵר יָדוֹ מֵעֲשׂוֹת כָּל־רָע׃ "Keep ye justice, and do righteousness; for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed. Blessed is the man that doeth this, and the son of man that holdeth it fast; that keepeth the Sabbath from profaning it, and keepeth his hand from doing any evil" (Isa. 56:1,2). Sin and wrong-doing in the life separates from God (Isa. 59:1-4) Who calls to a life of purity and holiness. When man refuses to live such a life and God calls him to repentance, if he refuses the call, he is held responsible (see Isa. 22:12-14). Man's persistent refusal to hearken to the voice of God necessitates God's bringing judicial blindness and spiritual darkness upon him. Thus Jeremiah warned Israel: שִׁמְעוּ וְהַאֲזִינוּ אַל־תִּגְבָּהוּ כִּי יְהוָה דִּבֵּר׃ תְּנוּ לַיהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם כָּבוֹד בְּטֶרֶם יַחְשִׁךְ וּבְטֶרֶם יִתְנַגְּפוּ רַגְלֵיכֶם עַל־הָרֵי נָשֶׁף וְקִוִּיתֶם לְאוֹר וְשָׂמָהּ לְצַלְמָוֶת יְשִׁית לַעֲרָפֶל׃ "Hear ye, and give ear; be not proud; for the Lord hath spoken. Give glory to the Lord your God, before he cause darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains, and, while ye look for light, he turn it into the shadow of death, and make it gross darkness" (Jer. 13:15,16). When one persists in sin, God, according to this passage, brings darkness so that the sinner stumbles, spiritually speaking, and knows not whither he is going.

Furthermore, when one's religion ceases to grip the heart and to control the life, but develops into a cold dead mechanical observance of religious rites and ceremonies, even though they be in accordance with the law of God, his religion is unacceptable to God and necessitates God's bringing spiritual darkness and blindness upon him. Isaiah (29:9-12) speaks of his people's staggering like a drunken man and in verse 10 explains the unusual sight by saying "for the Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and has closed your eyes, the prophets; and your heads, the seers, hath he covered." Continuing to explain the reasons for the spiritual blindness of the people, he says:
וַיֹּאמֶר אֲדֹנָי יַעַן כִּי נִגַּשׁ הָעָם הַזֶּה בְּפִיו וּבִשְׂפָתָיו כִּבְּדוּנִי וְלִבּוֹ רִחַק מִמֶּנִּי וַתְּהִי יִרְאָתָם אֹתִי מִצְוַת אֲנָשִׁים מְלֻמָּדָה׃ לָכֵן הִנְנִי יוֹסִף לְהַפְלִיא אֶת־הָעָם הַזֶּה הַפְלֵא וָפֶלֶא וְאָבְדָה חָכְמַת חֲכָמָיו וּבִינַת נְבֹנָיו תִּסְתַּתָּר׃
"And the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw nigh
unto me, and with their mouth and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment of men which hath been taught them; therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people, even a marvelous work and a wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid" (Isa. 29:13,14).


In this passage the first coming of the Messiah and His rejection by the elders of His people are clearly stated; the period intervening between the first and the second coming is omitted; but His second coming is implied in the statement that the rejected stone becomes the head of the corner. Likewise, the glorious reign of the Messiah is stated in the words, "This is the day which the Lord hath made." Therefore the facts presented in this Psalm coincide with other passages which have been investigated.

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