Psalm (Tehillah) 24
This information is compiled predominantly from an anthology of Orthodox Jewish commentary, written and arranged by Rabbi Avroham Chaim Feuer from the Artscroll Tanach Series Tehillim Volume 1. Some of the original text has been modified and expanded to include reference to Yahshua HaMoshiach. This and other additional material has been added for a Nazarene Israelite (Natsarim) perspective by Jason Jordan. Additional Tehillim translation by Rabbi Hillel Danziger
David dedicated his entire life to the goal of bringing mankind back to the purity of Adam before the sin. For this reason, Elohim commanded him to prepare for the construction of the Temple on Mount Moriah, the place from which Adam was created. This location was intended to serve as an inspiration for humanity to emulate the spotless virtue of the first man at the time of creation.
In this psalm, David sings, ‘Who can ascend the mountain of YHWH, and who can stand in His holy place? He whose hands are clean, and whose heart is pure’ (v.3-4).
Midrash Shocker Tov comments: Rav Shmuel said, David composed four psalms which were truly worthy of being written by Adam himself. One of them is Psalm 24, ‘The earth is YHWH’s.’
The psalm was composed on the day David purchased the land of the Temple site from Aravna, the Jebusite. At that time, David erected a temporary altar upon which he offered sacrifices of thanksgiving (II Samuel 24:18-25).
David’s intention was that this psalm should be recited on the day of the inauguration of the Temple. Elohim’s presence, which is spread throughout the entire world, would then be concentrated in the holiest place, to dwell upon the Holy Ark in permanent repose (Radak; Ibn Ezra). For this reason, this psalm is recited by the congregation as they accompany the Torah scroll back to the synagogue Ark following the reading of the portion (on all occasions except for the Sabbath morning when Psalm 29 is recited. Cf comm. ibid.).
So basic and profound is the message of this psalm, that it was chosen to be the ‘Song of the Day’ for the first day of the week.
1. “Of David – a song. YHWH’s is the earth and its fullness, the inhabited land and those who dwell in it. For He founded it upon seas, and established it upon rivers.”
“Of David – a song.” This is the one of the few psalms which begin with the superscription ‘Of David: A song’ instead of ‘A song of David.’ This introduction shows that David wrote this psalm not to raise his depressed spirit to sublime heights. Instead, he was already inspired and expressed his heavenly feelings through this song (Pesachim 117 a; see also comm. to 3:1). We can well imagine the pitch which David’s ecstasy reached before he sang this psalm, because its verses contain the most profound truths that any mortal lips were ever privileged to utter concerning the ways of Elohim in the history of the man (Hirsch).
“…the earth…” Radak says that this means the entire globe of the earth. However, Rashi says that in this case it refers to ‘the earth’ par excellence, which is Eretz Yisrael, ‘the land (earth) of Israel.’
[Although Elohim’s Presence pervades the entire globe, it saturates the atmosphere of the Holy Land. Furthermore, Eretz Yisrael is like a funnel through which all of the sanctity which descends from above is channeled and dispersed throughout the world.]
“…and its fullness…” Rabbi Akiva says, On the first day of the week, the Levites sang the psalm, ‘YHWH’s is the earth and its fullness.’ This teaches that Elohim took possession of the [newly created] world Himself, for the sake of transferring possession [to Mankind]. Yet, He alone remains the sole Master of the world (Rosh Hashanah 31a, Rashi, ibid.).
Midrash Shocker Tov comments: There is a man who owns a ship but he does not own the cargo it carries; and if the cargo is his, he does not own the ship. But the Holy One, Blessed be He is not so. He owns the earth and all which it contains. Furthermore, a mortal of flesh and blood builds a house fifty cubits high and he himself takes up a height of only three cubits. The Holy One, blessed be He, is not so. He created the world and He Himself fills it, as it says, ‘The whole earth is filled with His glory’ (Isaiah 6:3).
The Talmud (Berachos 35a) derives from here the principle that all of the earth is Elohim’s sanctuary and therefore even material objects have sanctity.
Rav Yehudah said in the name of Shmuel: ‘Whoever derives pleasure from this world without offering the appropriate blessing is as if he derived illegal pleasure from a sacred, dedicated object [which belongs to the Beis HaMikdash], as it says, ‘YHWH’s is the earth and its fullness.’
1 Corinthians 10:26; “…for ‘the earth and everything in it belong to the Lord.’”
1 Timothy 4:4; “For everything Elohim created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.”
2. “For He founded it upon seas, and established it upon rivers.”
At first the entire globe was covered with water until part of it became dry land. Then the dry land became a habitable place upon waters. All civilization is dependant on bodies of water (Ibn Ezra).
Wise men say that there is no inhabitable place in the world which is more than eighteen days distance from the sea, the moisture of which is essential for the survival of all creatures (Radak). Rashi (pursuing his opinion that the verse refers specifically to Eretz Yisrael) quotes the Talmud (Bava Basra 74b) that the Land of Israel was founded with seven seas surrounding it. They are the seas of the Tiberias (Kinneret), Sodom (The Dead Sea), Chillis, Chilta, Sivchi, Aspamia and the Great Sea (The Mediterranean).
“…and established it upon rivers.” [The ‘foundation’ is the basic element, the most essential prerequisite. That is the sea which supplies the moisture and precipitation without which any form of survival is impossible. However, in order to establish a nation which thrives on a solid base of agriculture and commerce, riverways of fresh water are imperative.]
The Talmud (ibid.) interprets this as the four rivers of Eretz Yisrael; the Jordan, Yarmuk, Karmiyon and Figa (Rashi).
Job 38:4; “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding,”
3. “Who may ascend the mountain of YHWH, and who may stand in the place of His sanctity?”
Here the Psalmist tells of the unique sanctity of the Temple. Although Elohim’s glory is spread throughout the world, its greatest intensity is in the Temple. Only those who have undergone special purification can behold this splendor properly. Although all of the earth’s inhabitants are creations of Elohim, not all are worthy of coming close to Him (Rashi).
This verse refers to Mount Moriah. The special sanctity of this site is due to the fact that it directly faces the celestial throne of Elohim (Radak v.1).
“…and who may stand in the place of His sanctity?” [or: ‘His holy place’]
There is vast difference between the man who is ‘ascending’ and the one who is ‘standing.’ Often a person is capable of elevating his spirits in a brief spasm of enthusiasm and ecstasy, but he lacks the inner conviction, the emotional endurance, to make this inspiration last. After a short-lived burst, he falls. Only the sincere and devout person, makes a painstaking, systematic preparation, can gain a sturdy foothold and stand firm forever in the place of YHWH where the requirements for His service are so intense and demanding.
4. “One with clean hands and a pure heart, who has not sworn in vain by My soul nor has he taken an oath deceitfully.”
“One with clean hands…” [The Psalmist, speaking for Elohim in the first person, now answers the rhetorical question posed in the last verse.
The first prerequisite is that he be a man of impeccable integrity, his hands clean of all unlawful gain (Metzudas David).
Hirsch notes that the word “hand’ literally means the ‘palm,’ for it is there that one actually takes possession of an object and holds it firmly. The righteous man described here holds on to no ill-gotten gains.
Job 17:9; "Nevertheless the righteous will hold to his way, And he who has clean hands will grow stronger and stronger.”
“…a pure heart…” In his mind he harbours no impure ideas or beliefs (Malbim). His heart is permeated only with fear of YHWH and trembles before no other force (Metzudas David).
Matthew 5:8; "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see Elohim.”
“…who has not sworn in vain by My soul.” We find this phrase used to express ‘swearing in vain’ in the second of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:7): ‘You shall not swear in vain by the name of YHWH, your Elohim’ (Radak).
This man respects his own soul and does not use it improperly because he realises it belongs to YHWH and so it must be kept clean and unsullied (Hirsch).
“…nor has he taken an oath deceitfully.” Radak notes the inference that he has taken an oath in truth and righteousness, and that oath is a mitzvoth for those who fear Elohim, as it says, ‘You shall fear YHWH, your Elohim, and you shall serve Him, and you shall take an oath by His Name’ (Deuteronomy 10:20).
Radak goes on to say that this man has been found flawless in three major areas; speech (no false oaths), thoughts (pure of heart), and action (clean hands).
5. He will receive a blessing from YHWH and just kindness from the Elohim of his salvation.
Because he did not ‘lift up’ Elohim’s Name in a vain oath (v. 4) he deserves, measure for measure, to ‘lift up ‘a blessing from that very Name he sought to preserve from disgrace (Ibn Ezra).
“…and just kindness from the Elohim of his salvation.” This person can expect that Elohim will give him whatever will serve his genuine welfare. For this man looks to Elohim for salvation (Hirsch).
Psalm 115:13; “He will bless those who fear YHWH, The small together with the great.”
6. “This is the generation of those who seek Him, those who strive for Your Presence – Jacob. Selah.”
‘This man,’ and his like embody the generation of those who are completely dedicated to seeking out Elohim (Rashi).
David now addresses himself to the generation which followed his, the people who were privileged to ascend YHWH’s mountain to build the Temple (Ibn Ezra).
The Temple will have a universal role as a Messianic institution which unites mankind for a common purpose. Each nation while retaining its distinctive characteristics, must us them in obedience to Elohim’s supreme commandments. This subordination to Elohim unites all diverse peoples and cultures into one harmonious whole. Many seekers will become a single unified seeker after Elohim’s truth.
“…those who strive for Your Presence – Jacob.” This refers to Israel modelling themselves after Jacob, but not with their sovereign name, but their exile name ‘supplanter,’ because they will endure subservience and trial like Jacob did (Hirsch). The Torah testifies that Jacob was perfect (Genesis 25:27), therefore his face is etched in Elohim’s celestial throne of glory to represent mankind. Consequently, if one strives to seek out Elohim’s image in an effort to emulate Him perfectly, let him seek out the face of Jacob and make this patriarch his model.
7. “Raise up your heads, O gates, and be uplifted, you everlasting entrances, so that the King of Glory may enter.”
David speaks to the gates allegorically as if they were hosts about to receive a mighty and exalted king. ‘Raise your heads in honour of your distinguished guest’ (Radak).
“…you everlasting entrances.” Until the construction of the Temple, the Ark had no permanent abode. Now it was passing through the Temple gates in order to find eternal repose in the Holy of Holies. For this reason those gates are called ‘everlasting entrances’ (Radak). Furthermore the sanctity of those gates and entrances is for all time (Rashi).
The Midrash (Eichah Rabbasi 2:13) offers a unique explanation: ‘Her gates are sunk into the ground (Lamentations 2:9) Rav Huna said, in the name of Rabbi Yosi, The gates gave honour to the Ark as it says, ‘Raise your heads O gates, and be uplifted you everlasting entrances.’ Therefore, the hand of no enemy was permitted to grasp and destroy them, rather they sank into the ground [protected forever.]
These gates exemplify the main purpose of the Temple. This temporary, material world is known as ‘temporary existence.’ The eternal spiritual existence of the Hereafter is called the ‘everlasting existence.’ The function of the Temple was to serve as a channel through which eternal spiritual forces can filter down from this world from above, serving as a source of sacred inspiration to all mankind.
8. “Who is this King of Glory? – YHWH, the mighty and strong, YHWH, the strong in battle.”
The gates ask, ‘Who is this exalted king to whom we are to pay homage? (Radak).
“YHWH, the mighty and strong, YHWH, the strong in battle.” [With this description David provides an answer to the preceding question.] The Psalmist describes Elohim who dwells upon the Holy Ark in martial terms because until then, the Ark always accompanied them into battle and its presence assured them of victory over their enemies for Elohim’s mighty spirit travelled with it (Radak).
9. “Raise up your hands, O gates, and raise up, you everlasting entrances, So that the King of Glory may enter.”
These words are already mentioned in v. 7. This repetition alludes to the fact that the Ark was destined to be removed from the Holy of Holies and then to be returned through these very same gates at a later time. The Ark was not returned at the time of the Second Temple (Yoma 21b), so this must allude to its return in the days of the Messiah (Ibn Ezra).
“…and raise up, you everlasting entrances…” This terminology implies that the gates will lift up voluntarily, whereas the earlier wording, ‘and be uplifted’ (v.7), suggests that the gates must be uplifted against their will. Ohel Yaakov explains that previously the Psalmist discussed the Temple in the pre-Messianic world of violence and force, a world wherein Elohim appears as mighty and strong in battle (v. 8) to force the wicked to bend to His will. Therefore, the spiritual splendour of Elohim does not enter the portals of this world easily. Israel must figuratively force open the gates and coerce them to be lifted in order to allow the Holiness to enter. This can only be accomplished by Israel’s own holy actions. However, the future Messianic world will be so saturated with human spirituality that the gates will open by themselves to welcome Elohim who no longer needs to appear as a mighty Elohim of vengeance. Now He appears as Lord of obedient Hosts which willingly accompany Him. [See Shiurei Da’as, Menuchas HaNefesh, by Harav E. M. Bloch.]
10. “Who then is the King of Glory? YHWH, of legions, He is the King of Glory. Selah!”
“Who then is…” [lit. ‘Who is he?’]
[This differs from v. 8 where the wording is simply ‘Who is’? The usage here adds greater emphasis to the rhetorical question and stresses that Elohim is the one and only ‘King of Glory.’ This realization will become completely clear in the future.]
“YHWH, of legions…” This answer also differs from the one given in v. 8, where Elohim is described as mighty and strong in battle. No such temporal force is necessary because the verse describes the divine revelation in the time of Messiah, when all nations will voluntarily flock to serve Elohim. The words of the prophet will come true, ‘And they shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks, nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore’ (Michah 4:3). The ‘legions’ mentioned here refer not to armies, but to the heavenly bodies (Ibn Ezra).
Nehemiah 9:6; "You alone are YHWH. You have made the heavens, The heaven of heavens with all their host, The earth and all that is on it, The seas and all that is in them. You give life to all of them And the heavenly host bows down before You.”
Radak agrees that the term ‘YHWH of legions’ cannot be given a militaristic connotation. Once the Ark was brought to rest in the Temple it was never again removed and so it was no longer associated with war.
“He is the King of Glory.” [The purpose of this psalm is to demonstrate that Elohim saturated this world with endless opportunities to recognise His glory and mastery. This idea becomes most evident when we see that Elohim is prepared to share His own splendour and glory with human beings.]
Why is Elohim called ‘King of glory’? Because He gives His glory to those who fear Him. A mortal king lets no one sit on his throne nor ride his steed. Yet, the Holy One, Blessed be He, let Solomon sit on His throne and mounted Elijah on the stormy wind which is His steed. He allowed Moshe to use His scepter, he cloaked Israel in His royal mantle and he will allow King Messiah Yahshua to wear His crown. Finally no mortal king would let anyone use his title, but YHWH addressed Moshe by His own title, saying, ‘Behold I have made you ‘Elohim,’ [judge] over Pharaoh’ (Exodus 7:1).Therefore, Elohim is correctly called the ‘King of Glory’ because He shares His glory with others (Shemos Rabba 18:1).