Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
1 Praise ye the LORD:
For it is good to sing praises unto our God;
For it is pleasant; And praise is comely.
2 The LORD doth build up Jerusalem:
He gathereth together the outcasts of Israel.
3 He healeth the broken in heart,
And bindeth up their wounds.
4 He telleth the number of the stars;
He calleth them all by their names.
5 Great is our LORD, and of great power:
His understanding is infinite.
6 The LORD lifteth up the meek:
He casteth the wicked down to the ground.
7 Sing unto the LORD with thanksgiving;
Sing praise upon the harp unto our God;
8 Who covereth the heaven with clouds
Who prepareth rain for the earth,
Who maketh grass to grow upon the mountains.
9 He giveth to the beast his food,
And to the young ravens which cry.
10 He delighteth not in the strength of the horse:
He taketh not pleasure in the legs of a man.
11 The LORD taketh pleasure in them that fear him,
In those that hope in his mercy.
12 Praise the LORD, O Jerusalem.
Praise thy God, O Zion.
13 For he hath strengthened the bars of thy gates;
He hath blessed thy children within thee.
14 He maketh peace in thy borders,
And filleth thee with the finest of the wheat.
15 He sendeth forth his commandment upon earth:
His word runneth very swiftly.
16 He giveth snow like wool:
He scattereth the hoar frost like ashes.
17 He casteth forth his ice like morsels:
Who can stand before his cold?
18 He sendeth out his word, and melteth them:
He causeth his wind to blow, and the waters flow.
19 He sheweth his word unto Jacob,
His statutes and his judgments unto Israel.
20 He hath not dealt so with any nation:
And as for his judgments, they have not known them.
Praise ye the LORD.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
CONTENTS AND COMPOSITION.—The Psalm consists of three sections without any regular rhythmical structure: Psalm 147:1–6; 7–11; 12–20, each of which begins with an exhortation to praise Jehovah. The ground and matter of such praise is the gracious exercise of His power, and is so exhibited here to the Church. The poet introduces the subject by telling of the restoration of Jerusalem, and the gathering of Israel, and then describes the helpful acts of the Almighty as those of an infinitely wise God, who sets even the stars in order, and as those of a physician who heals and comforts mankind in its countless wounds. He then recounts proofs of His care over all creatures, in connection with the reflection that God takes pleasure, not in natural strength and beauty, but in those that fear Him and seek His salvation. Finally, he extols the aid which the Almighty has rendered to His people, who are advanced above all nations by the revelation of His law, by blessing the inhabitants of the newly strengthened city, and of the country whose boundaries are secured, and blessing the land itself by regulating the seasons of the year and the weather.
There is nothing to prove the supposition that the restoration of the walls by Hyrcanus is referred to (1 Macc. 16:23), and that Psalm 147:12 ff. are a later addition (Hitz.). The same remark applies to the division into two Psalms (Sept.) and to the opinion that this Psalm was sung at the Dedication (Neh. 12) of the walls completed by Nehemiah (6:15), a view maintained by Hengstenberg. It is enough to know that it was of late composition. [On the other hand Perowne: “It is not improbable, as Hengstenberg suggests, that not this Psalm only, but the rest of the Psalms, to the end of the Book, are all anthems originally composed for this occasion. The wall had been built under circumstances of no ordinary difficulty and discouragement (Neh. 2:17–4:23); its completion was celebrated with no common joy and thankfulness (Neh. 12:27–43).”—J. F. M.]
Psalm 147:1, 2. For it is good.—A change in the accents, and, to a certain extent, in the reading (Venema, Olshausen, Hupfeld) in order to get the sense: “praise Jehovah, for He is good; play to our God, for He is pleasant,” is not necessary, as is shown from Pss. 92:2; 133:1; 135:3. It is the less to be recommended here, as the passage before us is imitated from the one last named, and the last clause, which describes the appropriateness of such praise, is taken from 33:1. The mention of the outcasts (Psalm 147:2), that is, the exiles (Is. 11:12; 56:8), shows that it is not building in general that is alluded to, but the building of Jerusalem after its destruction. It is only the application which can justify the interpretation in a spiritual sense (Calvin, Stier).
Psalm 147:3–6. How easy it is for God to help men is illustrated after 40:26 f., by the fact that He has assigned a number to the stars which men cannot count (Gen. 15:5). This means that, in creating them, He called forth a number determined by Himself. It is also said that He calls them all by name, i.e., that He knows and names them according to their special features, and employs them in His service according to His will, in conformity with the names which correspond to such knowledge. The Omniscience and Omnipresence of God are thus presented at once to the soul, but in Psalm 147:5 they are mentioned separately, and these references are the more consoling, as the thought of the members of His Church, scattered in countless numbers through foreign lands, is clearly discerned through the figurative drapery of the expression itself. The greatness of God (Psalm 147:5) with respect to might (Job 37:23) corresponds to the fulness of His understanding (Ps. 145:3), which no number can express.
Psalm 147:6 then calls attention to the exercise of these Divine attributes in its love and justice. [PEROWNE: “The same Lord who, with infinite power and unsearchable wisdom, rules the stars in their courses, rules also the world of man. The history of the world is a mirror both of His love and of His righteous anger. His rule and order are a correction of man’s anarchy and disorder.”—J. F. M.]
Psalm 147:7–14. Answer to Jehovah.—[E. V.: sing to the Lord]. There is no allusion here to an antiphonal choral song (Sept., Luther) as in Ex. 15:21, but a song of praise is called for as the answer of grateful men, to the honor of the Divine Giver (Ex. 32:18; Numb. 21:17; Is. 27:2). Psalm 147:9 recalls Job 38:41, as Psalm 147:8 f. Ps. 104:14. The strength of the steed and his own muscular power will not save the warrior; if God purposes to destroy him, he cannot escape from Him (Ps. 33:16 f.; Amos 2:14 f.); neither do these natural powers achieve the victory (Prov. 21:31). God is well pleased not with natural, but with spiritual advantages and power, especially with fear of and trust in Him. And they are followed by security and blessing in city, house, and land, as by Divine gifts. [Psalm 147:13a is taken by Dr. Moll, as by Hupfeld and those who do not perceive any special historical reference, as a figurative expression denoting security. Those who, like Hengstenberg, with whom Alexander, Perowne, and most agree, hold the view referred to in the Introduction and its addition above, understand it to refer to the restoration of the city walls, completed by Nehemiah.—J. F. M.]
Psalm 147:15–20. The word in Psalm 147:15 alludes to Gen. 1; Ps. 33:6–9. For the immediate reference is to the word as the messenger of God’s power and His active work in nature (Ps. 107:20). There is no mention before Psalm 147:19 f. of the historical word of revelation, whose sphere is Israel. The transition is not made by the enumeration of particular blessings of God in their universal exercise (Geier, Amyrald), but by the idea of His speaking. In the vicissitudes of nature here described there is perhaps presented an image of the period of suffering and of the returning deliverance (Hengstenberg). The comparison of the snow to wool is hardly based upon the circumstance that the snow covers the earth warmly and softly like wool, but alludes either to the small particles which fly away, or more probably to the white color common to both, (Is. 1:18; Ezek. 27:18; Dan. 7:9). The commandment or the word (Psalm 147:18) is described as God’s messenger also in Pss. 78:49; 105:17; 107:20. As in Psalm 147:19הִגּיד is used, and not מַּגּיד, expression is given to the thought that God continues to testify concerning Himself in prophecy, upon the ground of the Thora (Delitzsch). In the final sentence, according to Ps. 94:10; Acts 14:16 f.; Rom. 1:20, there is denied to the heathen not an absolute (Hengstenberg), but only a relative knowledge of the Divine judgment (Geier, et al.) The privilege of Israel is to possess the positive or historical revelation (Deut. 4:7 f.; 32 f.; Baruch 4:4). [DELITZSCH: “The joyful hallelujah is not sounded because these other nations do not possess such a positive knowledge of God’s judgments, but because Israel does possess it. It is declared abundantly in other places that this knowledge of Israel shall be the means of making salvation the common property of the whole world of nations.”—J. F. M.]
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
Praise to God for His blessings is due to Him and becoming to us.—God’s sovereign deeds in His dealings with His people, show the same omnipotence, wisdom, and goodness, as do His sovereign deeds in nature.—Among all God’s blessings, the gift of His word is to be ranked specially high, and to be praised by its right use. AUGUSTINE: Thou canst not be ever singing with thy voice; but thy life can and ought to be one unceasing song of praise to God.
STARKE: God’s praise is nothing but a thankful recital of His great blessings, for which the glory is due to Him alone.—If true songs of praise are to flow forth to God, the heart must first be filled with His knowledge and love.—The indolence of the heart is no excuse for the neglect of God’s praise.—If God’s government is incomprehensible, let us leave it uncensured.—The wicked, in their temporal prosperity and pride, stand, as it were, upon a round and slippery ball; God touches it, and they fall to the ground. But the salvation of believers is founded upon a firm rock.—The starry heavens are a true masterpiece of God’s wisdom.—Everything lies bare and unveiled under the eye of God; even thy name, thy heart, and thy deeds, are well known to Him; see to it that He may be able to remember thee in mercy.—The grace of God makes the pious strong in tribulation, so that they by faith triumph in Christ, and overcome the world.—He who has a voice to sing, let him use it to the praise of God.—A thankful heart is the true harp, which plays well before God.—To please God and enjoy His favor are better than all the honor and glory of the world.—The true strength, which is never put to shame, is on the side of those who fear the Lord, those who would rather give up their lives than offend God.—God’s almighty protection is the true defence of a country; without it all other defences can neither help or endure.—The best peace in a Christian Church is the union of its teachers in the true doctrine.—As God changes the weather, so does He regulate the vicissitudes of affliction. After the storm He makes the sun shine again.—God’s word is the greatest treasure on earth. Happy are the people and country who have received it pure and simple.
FRANKE: If there is anything that human strength cannot overcome, God needs but to speak a word, and all nature, as it were, is changed.—The matter of our praise is the glory of Jehovah; the motive to praise is given in the knowledge of that glory by the experience of faith.—What men do to the glory of God becomes a blessing to themselves; and the more they love to do what they should, the more is duty changed into blessing.
[MATT. HENRY: Praising God is work that is its own wages.—In giving honor to God, we really do ourselves a great deal of honor.—In the same heart and at the same time there must be both a reverence of God’s majesty, and a complacency in His goodness; both a believing dread of His wrath, and a believing expectation of His favor. Not that we must hang in suspense between hope and fear, but must act under the gracious influence of hope and fear. Our fear must save our hope from swelling into presumption, and our hope must save our fear from sinking into despair.—BP. HORNE: To exalt and reward the humble, penitent, believing, and obedient; to depress and punish the proud, impenitent, and unbelieving, and disobedient; these are the measures and ends of all the Divine dispensations. And as a man ranks himself in one or the other of these two divisions, he may expect from heaven storm or sunshine, mercy or judgment.—BARNES: The fact that the ancient people of God possessed His judgments was a sufficient reason for the Hallelujah with which the Psalm closes. The fact that we possess them is a sufficient reason why we should re-echo the shout of praise, and cry HALLELUJAH!—J. F. M.]
Praise ye the LORD: for it is good to sing praises unto our God; for it is pleasant; and praise is comely.