Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
In the place of the short doxology, such as concludes each of the former books of the psalter, this psalm was fitly composed or selected to close the whole collection. It has been well called “the finale of the spiritual concert,” and no doubt afforded a good musical display, music performed with full orchestra and choir, every kind of instrument known to the Hebrews, wind, string, and percussion, being mentioned, and in the last verse all who had breath and voice being invited to join. The form of the invocation embracing heaven and earth, and putting forward as the object of praise both Jehovah’s majesty and His great works wrought for Israel, is also exactly suited for a conclusion to the great collection of Israelite song. The parallelism is perfect.
Praise ye the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power.(1) Sanctuary—That is, the temple. Some take it in direct parallelism with firmament, and understand the “heavenly palace,” or “Temple” (comp. Psalm 11:4); but, as in Psalms 148, the invocation to praise includes heaven and earth; so here, but in the reverse order, the earthly sanctuary first, and the sublime things done on earth (Psalm 150:2), then heaven and the exalted greatness there.
Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness.(2) Mighty acts . . . excellent greatness.—The one displayed on earth, the other manifested in heaven. (See preceding Note.)
Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp.(3) Trumpet.—Heb., shôphar. (See Psalm 81:3; Psalm 98:6. LXX., σάλπιγξ.) It was the crooked horn, sometimes also called keren. (Bïble Educator, 2:231.)
Psaltery and harp.—See Note, Psalm 33:2.
Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs.(4) Timbrel and dance.—See Psalm 149:3.
Stringed instruments.—Minnîm. Literally, parts, so threads, so here, as in LXX. and Vulg., “with” or “on strings.” (See Note, Psalm 45:9.)
Organs.—Heb., ‘ugab, which has been variously identified with the syrinx, or Pan’s pipes, of the Greeks, with the “bagpipe,” and even with a rude instrument embodying the principle of the modern organ. (See Bible Educator, 2:70, 183, 229.)
Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals.(5) Cymbals.—Heb., tseltselîm (2Samuel 6:5), a word evidently formed to express the sound of the instrument. Two kinds are evidently indicated in this verse, the “loud” cymbals (literally, cymbals of hearing), and “high-sounding” (literally, of tumult). As the Arabs use at present a larger and smaller instrument (see Bible Educator, 2, 211, 311), it is possible that the same distinction is made here, but which would be the larger instrument it is impossible from the Hebrew to determine.
Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD.(6) Everything that hath breath.—LXX. “every breath;” Vulg., “every spirit;” literally, all breath. We naturally wish to give these words their largest intent, and to hear the psalter close with an invocation to “the earth with her thousand voices” to praise God. But the psalm so distinctly and positively brings us into the Temple, and places us among the covenant people engaged at their devotions, that we are compelled to see here a hymn specially suited to close the collection of hymns of the covenant, as the first and second were to begin it. It is, therefore, not all breathing beings, but only all assembled in the sanctuary, that are here addressed; and the loud hallelujah with which the collection of psalms actually closes rises from Hebrew voices alone.