An exhortation to give thanks to God for various mercies granted to all men, Psalm 136:1-9; particularly to the Israelites in Egypt, Psalm 136:10-12; at the Red Sea, Psalm 136:13-15; in the wilderness, Psalm 136:16-20; and in the promised land, Psalm 136:21, Psalm 136:22; for the redemption of the captives from Babylon Psalm 136:23, Psalm 136:24; and for his providential mercies to all, Psalm 136:25, Psalm 136:26.
This Psalm is little else than a repetition of the preceding, with the burden, כי לעולם חסדו ki leolam chasdo, "because his mercy endureth for ever," at the end of every verse. See below. It seems to have been a responsive song: the first part of the verse sung by the Levites, the burden by the people. It has no title in the Hebrew, nor in any of the Versions. It was doubtless written after the captivity. The author is unknown.
O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.O give thanks unto the Lord: for he is good - This sentiment often occurs: the goodness of the Divine nature, both as a ground of confidence and of thanksgiving.
For his mercy endureth for ever - These words, which are the burden of every verse, כי לעולם חסדו ki leolam chasdo, might be translated: "For his tender mercy is to the coming age:" meaning, probably, if the Psalm be prophetic, that peculiar display of his compassion, the redemption of the world by the Lord Jesus. These very words were prescribed by David as an acknowledgment, to be used continually in the Divine worship, see 1 Chronicles 16:41 : also by Solomon, 2 Chronicles 7:3, 2 Chronicles 7:6, and observed by Jehoshaphat, 2 Chronicles 20:21; all acknowledging that, however rich in mercy God was to them, the most extensive displays of his goodness were reserved for the age to come; see 1 Peter 1:10-12 : "Of which salvation the prophets have inquired, and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you, - unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us, they did minister the things which are now reported unto you by them that preached the Gospel unto you by the power of the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven," etc.
O give thanks unto the God of gods: for his mercy endureth for ever.The God of gods - לאדני האדנים ladonai haadonim. As adonai signifies director, etc., it may apply here, not to idols, for God is not their god; but to the priests and spiritual rulers; as Lord of lords may apply to kings and magistrates, etc. He is God and ruler over all the rulers of the earth, whether in things sacred or civil.
O give thanks to the Lord of lords: for his mercy endureth for ever.
To him who alone doeth great wonders: for his mercy endureth for ever.Who alone doeth great wonders - Miracles. No power but that which is almighty can work miracles, נפלאות niphlaoth, the inversion, or suspension, or destruction of the laws of nature.
To him that by wisdom made the heavens: for his mercy endureth for ever.By wisdom made the heavens - In the contrivance of the celestial bodies, in their relations, connexions, influences on each other, revolutions, etc., the wisdom of God particularly appears.
To him that stretched out the earth above the waters: for his mercy endureth for ever.Stretched out the earth above the waters - Or, upon the waters. This seems to refer to a central abyss of waters, the existence of which has not been yet disproved.
To him that made great lights: for his mercy endureth for ever:Great lights - See the notes on the parallel passages in Genesis 1:1, etc.
The sun to rule by day: for his mercy endureth for ever:
The moon and stars to rule by night: for his mercy endureth for ever.
To him that smote Egypt in their firstborn: for his mercy endureth for ever:Smote Egypt in their first-born - This was one of the heaviest of strokes: a great part of the rising generation was cut off; few but old persons and children left remaining.
And brought out Israel from among them: for his mercy endureth for ever:
With a strong hand, and with a stretched out arm: for his mercy endureth for ever.
To him which divided the Red sea into parts: for his mercy endureth for ever:Divided the Red Sea into parts - Some of the Jews have imagined that God made twelve paths through the Red Sea, that each tribe might have a distinct passage. Many of the fathers were of the same opinion; but is this very likely?
And made Israel to pass through the midst of it: for his mercy endureth for ever:
But overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red sea: for his mercy endureth for ever.
To him which led his people through the wilderness: for his mercy endureth for ever.Which led his people through the wilderness - It was an astonishing miracle of God to support so many hundreds of thousands of people in a wilderness totally deprived of all necessaries for the life of man, and that for the space of forty years.
To him which smote great kings: for his mercy endureth for ever:
And slew famous kings: for his mercy endureth for ever:
Sihon king of the Amorites: for his mercy endureth for ever:
And Og the king of Bashan: for his mercy endureth for ever:
And gave their land for an heritage: for his mercy endureth for ever:
Even an heritage unto Israel his servant: for his mercy endureth for ever.
Who remembered us in our low estate: for his mercy endureth for ever:Who remembered us in our low estate - He has done much for our forefathers; and he has done much for us, in delivering us, when we had no helper, from our long captivity in Babylon.
And hath redeemed us from our enemies: for his mercy endureth for ever.
Who giveth food to all flesh: for his mercy endureth for ever.Giveth food to all flesh - By whose universal providence every intellectual and animal being is supported and preserved. The appointing every living thing food, and that sort of food which is suited to its nature, (and the nature and habits of animals are endlessly diversified), is an overwhelming proof of the wondrous providence, wisdom, and goodness of God.
The Vulgate, Arabic, and Anglo-Saxon, add a twenty-seventh verse, by repeating here Psalm 136:3 very unnecessarily.
O give thanks unto the God of heaven: for his mercy endureth for ever.