Psalm 111
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Psalms 111, 112 are closely connected in structure, contents, and language. Each consists of twenty-two lines, which begin with the letters of the alphabet in regular order, and are arranged in eight distichs and two tristichs. Psalms 111 celebrates the power, goodness, and righteousness of Jehovah; Psalms 112 describes the prosperity, beneficence, and righteousness of those who fear Him. Words and phrases applied to God in Psalms 111 are transferred in Psalms 112 with some modification of meaning, and sometimes with startling boldness, to the godly man, describing his character as the reflection of the character of Jehovah. Thus Psalm 112:1 a takes up the thought of Psalm 111:10 a: with Psalm 112:1 b (delighteth) cp. Psalm 111:2; Psalm 112:3 b, Psalm 111:9 b = Psalm 111:3 b; Psalm 112:4 b = Psalm 111:4 b: with Psalm 112:6 b cp. Psalm 111:4 a. The trustfulness of the godly man in Psalm 112:7-8 answers to the trustworthiness of Jehovah in Psalm 111:7-8. Other correspondences of thought and language may be noticed by the student.

Both Psalms draw largely from older Psalms and from Proverbs, and doubtless belong to the period after the exile, but to what part of it there is nothing to shew. Several MSS of the LXX, and the Vulgate, prefix to Psalms 112 the title, For the Return of Haggai and Zechariah (τῆς ἐπιστροφῆς Ἁγγαίου καὶ Ζαχαρίου): and the same title seems originally to have been prefixed to Psalms 111 in the LXX, though it is now found in the Syro-hexaplar version only.

Praise ye the LORD. I will praise the LORD with my whole heart, in the assembly of the upright, and in the congregation.
1. Praise ye the Lord] Heb. Hallelujah. This liturgical call to praise forms no part of the structure of the Psalm. See note on Psalm 104:35.

I will give thanks unto Jehovah with a whole heart,

In the council of the upright and in the congregation.

The word ṣôd denotes (1) the confidential intercourse of intimate friends, Psalm 25:14, &c., (2) a gathering or council of such persons (Psalm 89:7); and it has been thought by some that it is here contrasted with the congregation. Hence Coverdale (P.B.V.), secretly among the faithful and in the congregation. But the grammatical construction does not support the distinction. The congregation assembled for worship is termed council as being united by the sense of common fellowship, and its members are described as the upright, for it is presumed that they are actuated by true devotion. Cp. Psalm 33:1; Psalm 1:5.

The works of the LORD are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein.
2. The ground of praise. The doings of Jehovah of which the Psalmist is thinking are those which He has wrought for His people (Psalm 111:6), but for us they will include His works in Nature (Psalm 104:13; Psalm 104:24; Psalm 104:31) as well as in history. They are studied or to be studied (Jer. exquirenda) with loving diligence by all who delight in learning to understand His revelation of Himself (Psalm 1:2; Nehemiah 1:11). Less probable are the renderings in regard to all their desirableness (Proverbs 8:11); or, in regard to all their (LXX his) purposes.

His work is honourable and glorious: and his righteousness endureth for ever.
3. His work is majesty and splendour,

And his righteousness standeth fast for ever.

All His works are a revelation of those attributes of royal dignity with which He clothes Himself (Psalm 104:1), and at the same time they are the outcome of His eternal righteousness. With Him there is no divorce between might and right. Similarly “His counsel standeth fast for ever” (Psalm 33:11).

He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered: the LORD is gracious and full of compassion.
4. He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered] Lit. made a memorial for his wonderful works, particularly the deliverance of His people from Egypt, by the continuous tradition which they were charged to hand on from one generation to another (Psalm 78:3; Exodus 12:26; &c.), and by the festivals and ordinances which commemorated that deliverance, especially the Passover (Exodus 12:14). But the words may also be rendered, He hath made (himself) a memorial by his wonderful works, won for Himself honour by them[70]. Cp. Nehemiah 9:10, “So thou didst get thee a name”; Exodus 14:4; Exodus 14:17.

[70] Zçker, ‘memorial,’ is nearly equivalent to ‘name’ (Psalm 135:13, and often).

gracious and full of compassion] Cp. Psalm 103:8. Fundamental attributes of Jehovah (Exodus 34:6) illustrated in the Exodus, and in all His dealings with Israel (Nehemiah 9:17; Nehemiah 9:31).

He hath given meat unto them that fear him: he will ever be mindful of his covenant.
5. meat] As He made provision for Israel’s wants in the wilderness by the manna, so He provides for the wants of His people at all times (Psalm 34:9-10). Tereph, lit. prey of a lion, in later Heb. has the general sense of food (Proverbs 31:15; Malachi 3:10). The unusual word is chosen here for the sake of the acrostic.

he will remember his covenant for ever] The deliverance from Egypt was a proof that Jehovah remembered His covenant with the patriarchs (Exodus 2:24; Exodus 6:5), and a pledge that He would never be unmindful of it. Cp. Psalm 105:8; Psalm 105:10.

He hath shewed his people the power of his works, that he may give them the heritage of the heathen.
6. that he may give them &c.] R.V., In giving them the heritage of the nations. By dispossessing the Canaanites and giving Israel their land for its inheritance Jehovah most signally demonstrated His might (Deuteronomy 4:38 and often). That gift was the pledge of a still wider sovereignty, to be fulfilled only in a spiritual way (Psalm 2:8; Isaiah 60:14).

The works of his hands are verity and judgment; all his commandments are sure.
7. verity and judgment] Truth and right. Jehovah’s actions are manifestations of His eternal attributes of truth and justice (Deuteronomy 32:4). He is constantly true to His promises, unfailingly just in His moral government of the world. The gift of Canaan to Israel was the fulfilment of His promise to the patriarchs, while the expulsion of its former inhabitants was a just retribution for their sins (Deuteronomy 9:4-5).

his commandments] R.V. his precepts, the various special injunctions in which man’s duties are set forth. These are sure, trustworthy, not mutable or arbitrary. By a natural transition the Psalmist passes from the mighty works which Jehovah has done for His people to the commandments which He has given them. The memories of Sinai naturally follow those of the Exodus. This verse is a reminiscence of Psalm 19:7-9 : cp. also Psalm 111:3 b with Psalm 19:9 a. The word for precepts is peculiar to the Psalter: Psalm 19:8; Psalm 103:18; Psalms 119 (21 times).

They stand fast for ever and ever, and are done in truth and uprightness.
8. Stablished for ever and ever,

Made in truth and uprightness.

This verse further characterises Jehovah’s precepts, and to suit his acrostic the poet uses the word ‘ăsûyîm in the sense of ‘made,’ ‘enacted,’ not in its common sense of ‘done,’ ‘performed’ (Psalm 103:18).

He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name.
9. He hath sent redemption] The primary reference is to the deliverance from Egypt (Deuteronomy 7:8 and often), and the ratification of the covenant at Sinai: but the restoration from exile in Babylon had been a second and scarcely less notable act of redemption. By it Jehovah had given proof of His faithfulness to His covenant, which in the dark days of the Exile might have seemed abrogated for ever (Jeremiah 33:20 ff.; Isaiah 49:14).

holy and reverend is his name] To be feared (Psalm 96:4); elsewhere rendered fearful (Deuteronomy 28:58) or terrible (Psalm 99:3). By these deliverances and acts of grace Jehovah has revealed Himself as a God Who is holy and must be feared (Exodus 15:11; Isaiah 29:23; Isaiah 8:13).

9, 10. A final summary of God’s love and man’s duty.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.
10. The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of wisdom] The fundamental principle of the ‘Wisdom’ or religious philosophy of Israel (Proverbs 9:10; Proverbs 1:7; Job 28:28; Sir 1:20). The A.V. reverend in Psalm 111:9 obscures the close connexion between this verse and Psalm 111:9. Jehovah has revealed Himself as One Who is to be feared; to fear Him therefore is the starting point of all true wisdom; and Psalms 112 developes the thought of the happiness of the man whose life is governed by this principle. In connexion with the attribute holy in Psalm 111:9 c it may be noted that Proverbs 9:10 adds, “and the knowledge of the Holy One is discernment.”

a good understanding] A.V. marg. good success, R.V. marg. good repute. The cognate verb often denotes success resulting from intelligence, and in Proverbs 3:4 the word approximates to the meaning repute, but it is best to retain the rendering understanding. Cp. Proverbs 13:15.

that do his commandments] Heb. that do them; i.e. all that is implied in the fear of Jehovah. Insight is the reward of obedience. Cp. John 7:17. R.V. restores Coverdale’s that do thereafter.

his praise standeth fast for ever] All the attributes of Jehovah which demand man’s praise are, like His righteousness (Psalm 111:3), eternal. Thus the Psalmist rounds off his song by returning to the thought with which he began it, and gives the reason for the Hallelujah prefixed to it.

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