Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
O Give Thanks unto the Lord, for He Is Good
The cry Psalm 135:3, Praise ye Jāh, for good is Jahve, is here followed by a Hodu, the last of the collection, with "for His goodness endureth for ever" repeated twenty-six times as a versus intercalaris. In the liturgical language this Psalm is called par excellence the great Hallel, for according to its broadest compass the great Hallel comprehends Psalm 120-136,
whilst the Hallel which is absolutely so called extends from Psalm 113:1-9 to Psalm 118. Down to Psalm 136:18 the song and counter-song organize themselves into hexastichic groups or strophes, which, however, from Psalm 136:19 (and therefore from the point where the dependence on Psalm 135, already begun with Psalm 136:17, becomes a borrowing, onwards) pass over into octastichs. In Heidenheim's Psalter the Psalm appears (after Norzi) in two columns (like Deuteronomy 32), which it is true has neither tradition (vid., Psalm 18) nor MSS precedent in its favour, but really corresponds to its structure.
O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.Like the preceding Psalm, this Psalm allies itself to the Book of Deuteronomy. Psa 136:2 and Psalm 136:3 (God of gods and Lord of lords) are taken from Deuteronomy 10:17; Psalm 136:12 (with a strong hand and stretched-out arm) from Deuteronomy 4:34; Deuteronomy 5:15, and frequently (cf. Jeremiah 32:21); Psalm 136:16 like Deuteronomy 8:15 (cf. Jeremiah 2:6). With reference to the Deuteronomic colouring of Psalm 136:19-22, vid., on Psalm 135:10-12; also the expression "Israel His servant" recalls Deuteronomy 32:36 (cf. Psalm 135:14; Psalm 90:13), and still more Isaiah 40:1, where the comprehension of Israel under the unity of this notion has its own proper place. In other respects, too, the Psalm is an echo of earlier model passages. Who alone doeth great wonders sounds like Psalm 72:18 (Psalm 86:10); and the adjective "great" that is added to "wonders" shows that the poet found the formula already in existence. In connection with Psalm 136:5 he has Proverbs 3:19 or Jeremiah 10:12 in his mind; תּבוּנה, like חכמה, is the demiurgic wisdom. Psalm 136:6 calls to mind Isaiah 42:5; Isaiah 44:24; the expression is "above the waters," as in Psalm 34:2 "upon the seas," because the water is partly visible and partly invisible מתּחת לארץ (Exodus 20:4). The plural אורים, luces, instead of מארות, lumina (cf. Ezekiel 32:8, מאורי אור), is without precedent. It is a controverted point whether אורת in Isaiah 26:19 signifies lights (cf. אורה, Psalm 139:12) or herbs (2 Kings 4:39). The plural ממשׁלות is also rare (occurring only besides in Psalm 114:2): it here denotes the dominion of the moon on the one hand, and (going beyond Genesis 1:16) of the stars on the other. בּלּילה, like בּיּום, is the second member of the stat. construct.
O give thanks unto the God of gods: for his mercy endureth for ever.
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.
To him that by wisdom made the heavens: for his mercy endureth for ever.
To him that stretched out the earth above the waters: for his mercy endureth for ever.
To him that made great lights: for his mercy endureth for ever:
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:Up to this point it is God the absolute in general, the Creator of all things, to the celebration of whose praise they are summoned; and from this point onwards the God of the history of salvation. In Psalm 136:13 גּזר (instead of בּקע, Psalm 78:13; Exodus 14:21; Nehemiah 9:11) of the dividing of the Red Sea is peculiar; גּזרים (Genesis 15:17, side by side with בּתרים) are the pieces or parts of a thing that is cut up into pieces. נער is a favourite word taken from Exodus 14:27. With reference to the name of the Egyptian ruler Pharaoh (Herodotus also, ii. 111, calls the Pharaoh of the Exodus the son of Sesostris-Rameses Miumun, not Μενόφθας, as he is properly called, but absolutely Φερῶν), vid., on Psalm 73:22. After the God to whom the praise is to be ascribed has been introduced with ל by always fresh attributes, the ל before the names of Sihon and of Og is perplexing. The words are taken over, as are the six lines of Psalm 136:17-22 in the main, from Psalm 135:10-12, with only a slight alteration in the expression. In Psalm 136:23 the continued influence of the construction הודוּ ל is at an end. The connection by means of שׁ (cf. Psalm 135:8, Psalm 135:10) therefore has reference to the preceding "for His goodness endureth for ever." The language here has the stamp of the latest period. It is true זכר with Lamed of the object is used even in the earliest Hebrew, but שׁפל is only authenticated by Ecclesiastes 10:6, and פּרק, to break loose equals to rescue (the customary Aramaic word for redemption), by Lamentations 5:8, just as in the closing verse, which recurs to the beginning, "God of heaven" is a name for God belonging to the latest literature, Nehemiah 1:4; Nehemiah 2:4. In Psalm 136:23 the praise changes suddenly to that which has been experienced very recently. The attribute in Psalm 136:25 (cf. Psalm 147:9; Psalm 145:15) leads one to look back to a time in which famine befell them together with slavery.
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:
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.
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:
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.
O give thanks unto the God of heaven: for his mercy endureth for ever.