Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
1 Praise ye the LORD.
Praise ye the LORD from the heavens:
Praise him in the heights.
2 Praise ye him, all his angels:
Praise ye him, all his hosts.
3 Praise ye him, sun and moon.
Praise him, all ye stars of light.
4 Praise him, ye heavens of heavens,
And ye waters that be above the heavens.
5 Let them praise the name of the LORD:
For he commanded, and they were created.
6 He hath also stablished them for ever and ever:
He hath made a decree which shall not pass.
7 Praise the LORD from the earth,
Ye dragons, and all deeps:
8 Fire, and hail; snow, and vapour;
Stormy wind fulfilling his word:
9 Mountains, and all hills;
Fruitful trees, and all cedars;
10 Beasts, and all cattle;
Creeping things, and flying fowl:
11 Kings of the earth, and all people;
Princes, and all judges of the earth:
12 Both young men, and maidens;
Old men, and children:
13 Let them praise the name of the LORD:
For his name alone is excellent;
His glory is above the earth and heaven.
14 He also exalteth the horn of his people,
The praise of all his saints:
Even of the children of Israel, a people near unto him.
Praise ye the LORD.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
CONTENTS AND COMPOSITION.—All heavenly creatures are to praise from heaven the name of Jehovah (Psalm 148:1–4), for God has created them, and granted to them perpetual existence, within firmly established limits (Psalm 148:5, 6). And all earthly creatures are to do the same from earth (Psalm 148:7–12), because Jehovah is exalted alone above everything in heaven and upon earth, and has exalted His peculiar people (Psalm 148:13–14).
The two halves are in structure and course of thought parallel throughout, except that each of the last two verses consists of three lines. In the former half the praise is to be directed to God as the Creator and the Lord of nature; in the latter as the Controller of the destinies of all creatures, and as the God of help and salvation for His people. The individualizing of the departments of creation and instancing of creatures that exist in each, illustrate the all-comprehensiveness of God’s dominion, and the universal obligation to praise God, which lies naturally upon every creature, after its kind and according to the manner of its special sphere of life. The poetical figure of personification is not unusual in the Prophets and Psalms. Delitzsch thinks that the Psalm is intended to set forth the truth that the glorious transformation of nature in connection with the transformation of mankind, through the Church, shall become a clear mirror of the Divine glory, and a living, thousand-tongued hymn of praise. But this idea is imported into the text; for in the first half the ground of praise is different from that presented in the second, and nowhere is there any allusion to the universal significance which the experiences of the Church have with relation to the whole of created life. The comparison with Rom. 8:18 f., and the related passages in Isaiah is not quite suitable. The conjecture that the Psalm was composed at the accession of Aristobulus to the throne, B. C. 107 (Hitzig), is far-fetched. [The view assigned above to Delitzsch has been held from an early period. It was held by Hilary (quoted by Perowne) in a somewhat different form. On the beauty of this and of similar Hebrew anthems, see Isaac Taylor, Spirit of the Hebrew Poetry, pp. 157, 158.—J. F. M.]
Psalm 148:1–6. Heights are here the heights of heaven (Job 16:19; 25:2; 31:2), as the place whence the praise issues forth. It is not the Church above (Delitzsch) that is named thereafter; but the angels are mentioned first as messengers of God, then the host of heaven generally, one portion of which comprises the angels (Jos. 5:14; 1 Kings 22:10), and the other the stars (Deut. 4:19). The latter may be alluded to here in connection with the sun and moon, but they are elsewhere (e.g.Job 38:7) also connected with the angels. Next the heavens of heavens (Deut. 10:14; 1 Kings 8:27; Neh. 9:6; Ps. 68:34; Sir. 16:18) are introduced. This expression does not apply to the third (2 Cor. 12:2) or the seventh (Rabbins) heaven, but is equivalent to the heights of the heights, the highest and sublimest parts. Finally, the water above the heavens, after Gen. 1:7, is invoked. The Septuagint have inserted in Psalm 148:5b. the second member of Ps. 33:6. The heavenly bodies and the angels are not to change the positions which God has assigned them, but retain them for ever (Ps. 111:8), nor overstep the limits imposed upon them. This thought is given in Job 14:5; 38:10; Jer. 5:22; Ps. 104:9 (Delitzsch, Hupfeld). That God does not interfere with this law, is expressed in a different manner in Jer. 30:31; 33:20 (Hitzig). That the law does not pass away, but is eternal (Septuagint, Itala, Jerome, Kimchi, Maurer, Ewald), is proper to the thought, but does not agree with the usage of עָבַר, when employed with חֹק. [HENGSTENBERG: “The law is, according to the parallel passages, the sphere of being, which is appointed to each part of the creation, and in which it is held by the Divine omnipotence; as, for example, the stars must pursue their course, the upper and lower waters must remain continually distinct.”—J. F. M.] [Translate Psalm 148:7a.: Yea, sea monsters, etc.]
Psalm 148:7–12. The vapor (Psalm 148:8) is not mist, as the vapor of the heights (Rabbins, Geier, et al., De Wette), but smoke answering to fire [as snow to hail.—J. F. M.] The cedars (Psalm 148:9) represent the forest-trees in distinction from fruit-trees. The birds (Psalm 148:10) have the same appellation as in Deut. 4:17, comp. Gen. 8:14; Ezek. 39:17.
Psalm 148:13, 14. The exaltation of God’s name is single, incomparable (Is. 2:11; Ps. 72:18 [E. V.: His name is excellent]. His glorious testimony of Himself is above heaven and earth (Ps. 8:2). Psalm 148:14b. does not mean that the exaltation of the horn, i.e., the gift of strength and power tends to the renown of his people (Is. 61:11; 62:7), as though תְּהִלָּה were the second object (Hengstenberg), but that it is the subject of the praise of God on the part of the saints (Septuagint, Jerome, Kimchi, Luther, Calvin), who are the people near to God as His kingdom and inheritance, the holy (Deut. 4:7) and priestly (Lev. 10:3) nation.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
He who knows the majesty of God, is not only to acknowledge it, and submit himself to it, but also to proclaim what he knows and maintains concerning it.—The Creator and Lord of the universe is also the Deliverer and Helper of His people; hence it is the highest duty of the Church to set forth to the world how great a blessing it is to be near to God.—Unreasoning creatures praise God by their being, upon which the law of the Divine will is impressed; what they do unconsciously, we are to do intelligently and voluntarily, and while we give to God the glory that is His due, obtain blessing for ourselves.
STARKE: Men should not be turned away from God by inferior creatures, but be stirred up to know and praise Him. No creature is so great and none so small, as that it should not animate and encourage them to His praise.—When God commands the inferior creatures, they execute His bidding at once; man alone is disobedient and refractory.—The third petition of the Lord’s prayer is offered up by many, but very few seek to act in accordance with it.—A blind man does not know how to make the right use of those things that are the most beautiful to the sight, and an unenlightened man may gaze upon the greatest works of nature and not think once of God, their almighty Creator.—All created things must serve believers, if we only have the favor of God; but all creation must be opposed to us, if God is angry.—No period of life should be spent without praising God, who portions out His blessings during them all.—Kings and princes should be God’s praise, and all in authority His glory, for they are God’s vicegerents.—If we are to continue to praise God rightly, we must be truly united to Him and come near to Him.
FRISCH: God’s creatures have a threefold voice. The first is: accept, O man! the blessings which thy Creator conveys to thee through us. The second is: render, O man! to Him the thanks that are due. The third is: beware, O man, lest thou give occasion to our Creator, by sin and ingratitude towards Him, to employ us against thee.—TAUBE: When men find engraved everywhere the royal signature of God, they may be expected to learn that the name of the Lord alone is exalted. But this is given only to those who have the deeper, the profoundest experience in their own hearts of Jehovah’s name, of the revelation of salvation, of the mercy of redemption. And such mercy is experienced by Israel, the people near to God, through long paths of humiliation, and yet blessed paths of grace.
[MATT. HENRY: When, in singing this Psalm, we call upon the angels to praise God, as we did in Ps. 103:20, we mean that we desire God to be praised by the ablest hands, and in the best manner, and that we have a spiritual communion with those that dwell in His house above, and are still praising Him, and that we are come, by faith, hope, and holy love, to the innumerable company of angels, Heb. 12:22.—All the creatures that praised God at first for their creation, must praise Him still for their continuance. And we have reason to praise Him that they are kept within the bounds of a decree, for to that it is owing that the waters above the heavens have not a second time drowned the earth.—Those that will not fulfil God’s word, but rise up in rebellion against it, show themselves to be more violent and head-strong than the stormy winds; for they fulfil it.—BARNES (Psalm 148:12): Those in the morning of life; just entering upon their career; just forming their character; with ardor, elasticity, cheerfulness and hope: let them consecrate all this to God; let all that is in them of the buoyancy of their feelings, of the melody of their voices, of their ardor and vigor, be employed in the praise and service of God. Old men, with what remains of life, and children, with all that there is of joyousness—let all unite in praising God. Life as it closes, and life as it begins, let it all be devoted to God.—J. F. M.]
Praise ye the LORD. Praise ye the LORD from the heavens: praise him in the heights.