Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
1 Praise ye the LORD.
I will praise the LORD with my whole heart,
In the assembly of the upright, and in the congregation.
2 The works of the LORD are great,
Sought out of all them that have pleasure therein.
3 His work is honourable and glorious:
And his righteousness endureth for ever.
4 He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered:
The LORD is gracious and full of compassion.
5 He hath given meat unto them that fear him:
He will ever be mindful of his covenant.
6 He hath shewed his people the power of his works,
That he may give them the heritage of the heathen
7 The works of his hands are verity and judgment;
All his commandments are sure.
8 They stand fast for ever and ever,
And are done in truth and uprightness.
9 He sent redemption unto his people:
He hath commanded his covenant for ever:
Holy and reverend is his name.
10 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.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
CONTENTS AND COMPOSITION.—The Psalmist expresses his purpose to praise the Lord in the narrower circle of the upright and in the Church (Psalm 111:1), for the great and memorable deeds (Psalm 111:2) in which He reveals His never-changing glory and righteousness (Psalm 111:3), and, as the God of mercy, establishes the memory of His wonders (Psalm 111:4), and, mindful of His covenant, cares for His servants (Psalm 111:5), so that His people have experienced the power of His works in being placed in the possessions of the heathen (Psalm 111:6), and, at the same time, the reliableness of His ordinances and regulations (Psalm 111:7, 8) for the highest good of the people of His covenant (Psalm 111:9), whose wisdom proceeds from the fear of Jehovah to His eternal praise. These thoughts are, as it were, linked together like proverbs, and in short stichs, containing usually only three words. These are arranged in such a manner that every line begins with a Hebrew letter following the alphabetical order, and the last two verses consist of three stichs, while all the rest contain but two. This latter phenomenon was due to an unwillingness that the verses should exceed ten, the number of completeness. All this corresponds exactly with the following Psalm, and indicates a late composition, though we have no grounds for the determination of the exact date. The superscription is purely liturgical. The application of Psalm 111:5 to the eucharist is very ancient. It is found even in Theodoret and Augustine; and thus this Psalm has become the Eucharist-Psalm of the Church, and has been adopted by the Romish Church as one of its daily vesper-psalms.
Psalm 111:1. In the circle of the upright [E. V., assembly of the upright].—סוֹד is a more select assembly (being equivalent to intimacy), distinguished from the whole Church (Aben Ezra, Geier and others), a distinction which, with other designations, occurs also in Ps. 107:32. It has been denied without ground by some who understand by the upright the Israelites generally. [ALEXANDER: “The word means properly a circle of confidential friends. See Ps. 25:14; 55:15; 64:3; 83:4. It is here applied to the church or chosen people as constituting such a company or circle in opposition to the world without. It is not therefore really distinct from the congregation mentioned in the last clause, but another name for it. The upright (or straightforward) is a title given to the true Israel, from the days of Balaam downwards. See Numb. 24:10.”—J. F. M.]
Psalm 111:2. The sense of Psalm 111:2b is doubtful. If we compare 1 Kings 9:11 with Isa. 24:7; 44:28; 46:10, we discover how untenable is the translation: asked for or sought according to all their desires (Heng.). But it may be possible to translate: remarkable in all their connections, that is, in every respect (Hitzig), or: investigated in all their designs (Del.) Yet the usual explanation appears to be best assured (Hupfeld). The reference to God: sought out for His purposes (Sept., Vulg.), or: according to His will (Schegg) is altogether false.
Psalm 111:5–10. In Psalm 111:5. meat is not to be restricted to the feeding in the wilderness (most). Nor is the literal meaning: prey, booty, to be adopted in allusion to the gold and silver vessels taken away from the Egyptians (the Rabbins).—The redemption in Psalm 111:9 is not to be limited to that from the land of Egypt. Psalm 111:10 follows Job 28:28; Prov. 1:7; 9:10. The expression: excellent understanding is derived from Prov. 3:4; 12:15. The suffix in עשֵׁיהֶם refers back to the commandments of Psalm 111:7. The final clause does not speak of the praise of understanding (Aben Ezra) or of the doer, the expression being taken collectively (Kimchi, Geier, and others), or, by anticipation, of the man praised in the next Psalm (Bake, Delitzsch), but of the praise of God, comp. Psalm 111:5b.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. The righteous ever have occasion to give heartfelt praise to God, whether in the familiar circle of a few kindred minds, or in the public assembly of the whole church, when meditating upon His great deeds, in which He displays His own glory, helps His covenant people, and thus prepares for Himself eternal praise.
2. He who has pleasure in the works of the Lord, always turns to them in a renewed search. They remain to him ever new and great, wonderful and worthy, deserving of study and most precious, affording an assurance of Divine help, and being a cause why the pious yield themselves to God, and the lasting objects of their praise.
3. For God has manifested His glory, that is, His might, His goodness, and His righteousness, to His people, not merely once in the days of old: He has made it known to them as essential to Him, and as eternally displayed. He has established a covenant forever with them, and fixed in it the memory of the wonders which He performed, in founding and preserving them.
4. In His works God reveals His power; in His ordinances, whether commands or promises, His will; in His name, His nature; but in them all there are displayed the immutability, truth, and holiness of that God, who is as just as He is merciful, as faithful as He is true, as dreadful as He is holy. Hence it is that all true and saving wisdom arises from the fear of Jehovah, and is exhibited in the fulfilment of His commands.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
The praise of God the joy of the pious.—God does more good to His people than they can thank Him for.—What God has done for the Church is to be proclaimed in it, and praised by it.—God’s deeds in behalf of His people, (1) as the objects of their praise, (2) as monuments of His glory, (3) as the security of the covenant entered into with us.—God, besides unveiling to us what He is, has shown us what He can do, and announced to us what He will do.—The saving wisdom of a life spent in God’s fear.—It is easier to contemplate the glory of God’s works than to rely upon the truth of His word, and build up, in faithfulness to the covenant, His kingdom of righteousness.
STARKE: The heart is to be the altar, upon which the fire of Divine love, of praise, and of thanksgiving, should never be extinguished, even under affliction.—Against the great God, what is that which the world calls great?—We must regard it as an act of great mercy and compassion, that God has obviated the consequences of our neglect and forgetfulness, by causing His wonders and gracious works to be remembered.—God does not let His works preach for entertainment; His people are to learn to discover Him therein, and to draw comfort therefrom in His appointed way.—God’s commandments and works agree well together, for they are both truth and justice.—The covenant of God is the ground of the expectation of final and perfect redemption.—The world abounds in unwise and foolish persons, because they are without the foundation of true wisdom: they do not seek the fear of God.
OSIANDER: The promises of the Gospel show us what a faithful and paternal heart our heavenly Father bears towards us.—There is nothing hard in them; we are only required to accept with faith the offered grace of God.—ŒTINGER: All the works and ordinances of God are directed towards deliverance, and redemption, and the glory of God and of His name.—RIEGER: What a blessing it is, when we can always gather a few friends together to speak with them of God’s works and sing His praise! We would otherwise overlook many things from which we could strengthen our faith.—THOLUCK: God comes to meet deluded men in a thousand ways; for each of His works and deeds, if seriously regarded, directs us to Him.—RICHTER: The heathen themselves are bequeathed to God’s people, and they must take possession of this inheritance to draw them to themselves.—GUENTHER: All would like to have the credit of sagacity, and it is counted the greatest insult to affirm the contrary of any one; many would be learned, and the opposite is not very agreeable to any; but only a few strive to be wise in the true sense; and folly is most widely spread in the world.—DIEDRICH: God’s word and His guidance by it are sources of consolation.—TAUBE: The experience of God’s mercy and compassion in the miracle of redemption, is and ever must be, the result of the most penetrating search into God’s works, and the most profound knowledge of His greatness, both in its glory and in its righteousness.—The fear of God is the fundamental idea of the Old Testament. Godliness answers to it in the New.—L. HARMS: There are two things which make the Church the dearest of all objects to true Christians: (1) the works of God; (2) the ordinances of God.
[BARNES: One great error of the friends of God is to neglect to study His works.—J. F. M.]
Praise ye the LORD. I will praise the LORD with my whole heart, in the assembly of the upright, and in the congregation.