The author of this psalm is unknown. The occasion on which it was composed was probably the same as that on which the two previous psalms and the two following were written - each commencing and closing with a Hallelujah. That occasion was, most probably, as before remarked, the rebuilding of Jerusalem after the captivity, and the dedication of the temple.
The psalm is, in general, a call on all parts of the universe to praise the Lord. It is properly divided into two portions. In the first Psalm 148:1-6, the call is addressed to the heavens - to all that is above the earth - to praise Yahweh; in the second Psalm 148:7-14, the call is addressed to all the dwellers on the earth to unite in that praise. The psalm is most animated and triumphant. The language accords with the sentiment. It is adapted to the most animating and spirit-stirring music; and these psalms - this and the two preceding and the two following - in style, in sentiment, in poetic beauty, in sublimity, in their adaptedness to fill the soul with lofty emotions - are eminently suited to close the whole collection - the entire Book of Psalms. Little can be needed, or can be added, in illustration of the sentiments of the psalm.
Praise ye the LORD. Praise ye the LORD from the heavens: praise him in the heights.Praise ye the Lord - See the notes at Psalm 146:1.
Praise ye the Lord from the heavens - On the part of the heavens. Let those who dwell in heaven begin the song.
Praise him in the heights - All that are in the heights; to wit, in the highest parts of the universe, or the heavens.
Praise ye him, all his angels: praise ye him, all his hosts.Praise ye him, all his angels - Dwelling in the heavens. Compare the notes at Psalm 103:20.
Praise ye him, all his hosts - See the notes at Psalm 103:21 and the notes at Isaiah 1:9. All his armies - referring to the angels considered as marshalled into hosts, of which God is the Head and Leader.
Praise ye him, sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars of light.Praise ye him, sun and moon - The most conspicuous and glorious objects in the heavens, as apparent to the eyes of people.
Praise him, all ye stars of light - A poetical expression to denote bright or shining stars. The phrase embraces all the stars as they strike the eyes of people. Each one has something special to it for which to praise God: and the entire groups - the immense multitudes, as such - should join in one chorus of praise.
Praise him, ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that be above the heavens.Praise him, ye heavens of heavens - Referring to the idea that there is one heaven rising above another. See the notes at Psalm 68:33. See 1 Kings 8:27 : "Behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee." Compare 2 Chronicles 2:6.
And ye waters that be above the heavens - Genesis 1:7 : "And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament." The allusion here is to the waters which seem to be above the lower heaven, that is, the air, and which seem to come from some higher region - some higher heaven. See the notes at Psalm 104:3 : "Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters."
Let them praise the name of the LORD: for he commanded, and they were created.Let them praise the name of the Lord - That is, Let them praise Yahweh himself - the name being often put for the person or thing referred to.
He hath also stablished them for ever and ever: he hath made a decree which shall not pass.He hath also stablished them forever and ever - He has made them firm, stable, enduring. That they may be eternal is possible; that they will not be, no one can prove. Matter, when created, has no necessary tendency to decay or annihilation; and the universe - the stars, and suns, and systems - which have endured so many million of ages may continue to exist any number of million of ages to come. Of course, however, all this is dependent on the will of God. On the meaning of this passage, compare Psalm 119:90, note; Psalm 72:5, note; Psalm 89:2, note; Psalm 89:36-37, note. See also 2 Peter 3:7, note; 2 Peter 3:10, note; 2 Peter 3:13, note.
He hath made a decree which shall not pass - He has given a law or statute which they cannot pass. The word rendered decree here seems to be used in the sense of limit or bound; and the idea is, that he has bound them by a fixed law; he has established laws which they are compelled to observe. The fact is, in regard to them, that he has established great laws - as the law of gravitation - by which they are held from flying off; he has marked out orbits in which they move; he has so bound them that they perform their revolutions with unerring accuracy in the very path which he has prescribed. So accurate are their movements that they can be predicted with exact precision; and so uniform, that any succession of ages does not vary or affect them.
Praise the LORD from the earth, ye dragons, and all deeps:Praise the Lord from the earth - From among those who dwell on the earth. In respect to terrestrial objects, let these also unite in the praise of God.
Ye dragons - On the meaning of this word, see Psalm 91:13, note; Isaiah 13:22, note. The word may mean a great fish, a whale, a sea monster, or a serpent. It would seem to refer here to whales and sea monsters. See the notes at Revelation 12:3.
And all deeps - All that are in the depths of the sea. Not merely the "dragons" or sea monsters, but all that inhabit the oceans.
The cedars of Lebanon - (note, Isaiah 10:34). The cedars of Lebanon were much celebrated for building; and it is not impossible that the king of Babylon had obtained timber from that mountain with which to construct his palaces at Babylon. They are now represented as rejoicing that he is fallen, since they would be safe and undisturbed. A similar figure of speech occurs in Virgil, "Ecl." v. 68:
Peace, peace, mild Daphnis loves; with joyous cry.
The untill'd mountains strike the echoing sky;
And rocks and towers the triumph spread abroad -
'A god! Menalcas! Daphnis is a god!'
It is a beautiful figure; and is a fine specimen of the poetry of the Hebrews, where everything is animated, and full of life.
Since thou art laid down - Since thou art dead.
No feller - No one to cut us down. Jowett ("Chris. Res.") makes the following remarks on this passage on his visit to Lebanon: 'As we passed through the extensive forest of fir trees situated between Deir-el-Karat and Ainep, we had already heard, at some distance, the stroke of one solitary axe, resounding from hill to hill. On reaching the spot, we found a peasant, whose labor had been so far successful, that he had felled his tree and lopped his branches. He was now hewing it in the middle, so as to balance the two halves upon his camel, which stood patiently by him waiting for his load. In the days of Hiram, king of Tyre, and subsequently under the kings of Babylon, this romantic solitude was not so peaceful; that most poetic image in Isaiah, who makes these very trees vocal, exulting in the downfall of the destroyer of nations, seems now to be almost realized anew - "Yea, the fir trees rejoice at thee, and the cedars of Lebanon, saying, Since thou art laid down, no feller is come up against us."'
Fire, and hail; snow, and vapour; stormy wind fulfilling his word:Fire, and hail - Fire, when accompanied by hail; that is, the lightning. See Psalm 18:12.
Snow, and vapors - Snow and clouds. It was not unnatural that these should be combined, or suggested together to the mind.
Stormy wind - The storm; the tempest.
Fulfilling his word - Obeying his command; accomplishing his purpose. Let the storm-wind, which seems to be so little under any control, speak his praise by showing how obedient it is to his will, and how exactly it carries out his designs. Its perfect submission to his laws - the exactness with which, though apparently so fierce, raging, and lawless, it carries out his plans, and pauses when he commands it - is in fact an act of praise or homage, as it proclaims his majesty, his supremacy, and his power. On the sentiment here expressed, compare Psalm 107:29, note; Psalm 89:9, note.
Mountains, and all hills; fruitful trees, and all cedars:Mountains, and all hills - As being among the loftiest objects of earth, raising their heads highest toward the heavens.
Fruitful trees, and all cedars - Fruitful trees, not as distinguished from those which are barren, but as distinguished from forest-trees, those whose nature is that they do not bear fruit. Of the latter, the cedar was the most prominent, and, therefore, is made the representative of the whole.
Beasts, and all cattle; creeping things, and flying fowl:Beasts, and all cattle - Wild beasts and tame; those which roam the forest, and those which have been domesticated for the service of man. As fruitful trees and cedars might include all the trees, so the "beasts and cattle" here might include the whole of those that were wild and tamed.
Creeping things, and flying fowl - Margin, as in Hebrew, Birds of wing. These are grouped together for a reason similar to that for which fruitful trees and cedars, and beasts and cattle, are grouped together, to embrace the whole. The expression embraces the loftiest and lowest; those which ascend farthest above the earth, and those which creep upon its surface. The word rendered creeping things would properly embrace the smaller animals which creep along upon the ground; both those which have four feet or more, as mice, lizards, crabs, etc., and those without feet, which glide or drag themselves upon the ground, as worms and serpents. (Gesenius, Lexicon) These, in their lowly condition, and in their humble way, are called on to unite in the general chorus of praise. Accomplishing the purpose for which they are made, they will, with the most lofty of created beings, contribute to proclaim the wisdom, the power, and the goodness of God.
Kings of the earth, and all people; princes, and all judges of the earth:Kings of the earth, and all people - This would embrace all, as all are included in the idea of the rulers and the ruled.
Princes, and all judges of the earth - Those of exalted rank; those high in authority. This is proper in itself considered, as they are people like other people; and proper as an example to the rest. None of any rank are exempt from the obligation to praise God; none are cut off from the privilege.
Both young men, and maidens; old men, and children:Both young men, and maidens - Those in the morning of life, just entering on their career; just forming their character: with ardor, elasticity, cheerfulness, hope; let them consecrate all this to God: let all that there is in the buoyancy of their feelings, in the melody of their voices, in their ardor and vigor, be employed in the praise and the service of God.
Old men, and children - Old men, with what remains of life, and children, with all that there is of joyousness - let all unite in praising God. Life, as it closes - life, as it begins - let it all be devoted to God.
Let them praise the name of the LORD: for his name alone is excellent; his glory is above the earth and heaven.Let them praise the name of the Lord - Let them praise Yahweh - the name being often put for the person.
For his name alone is excellent - Margin, as in Hebrew, exalted. He only is exalted as God. See the notes at Psalm 8:1 : "O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!"
His glory is above the earth and heaven - Compare the notes at Psalm 113:4 : "The Lord is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens." See also the notes at Psalm 8:1 : "Who hast set thy glory above the heavens."
He also exalteth the horn of his people, the praise of all his saints; even of the children of Israel, a people near unto him. Praise ye the LORD.He also exalteth the horn of his people - He gives them power and prosperity. See the notes at Psalm 89:17 : "And in thy favor our horn shall be exalted." Compare Psalm 92:10; Psalm 112:9.
The praise of all his saints - That is, "he has raised up praise for all his saints;" or, has given them occasion for praise. He has so blessed them with special mercies as to make praise especially appropriate for them.
Praise ye the Lord - Hallelu-jah. Let all unite in his praise.