Psalm 138:2
I will worship toward your holy temple, and praise your name for your loving kindness and for your truth: for you have magnified your word above all your name.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(2) Notice that “loving-kindness” and “truth” are joined as inseparable attributes of Jehovah in His relation to the chosen race.

For thou hast magnified—i.e., the promise made for help and deliverance has been fulfilled, and more than fulfilled. The psalmist often speaks of Jehovah’s name, or reputation, or honour being at stake. Here the poet can say that the praise won is even beyond what might have been expected. It is true this would have been expressed more in accordance with our expectation by “Thou hast magnified Thy Name above Thy promise;” but comp. Psalm 48:10 for a similar thought, and for the language comp. Tennyson’s:

“I am “become a name.”

The LXX. and Vulg. felt the difficulty too great, and render “Thy holy one,” instead of “Thy word.”

138:1-5 When we can praise God with our whole heart, we need not be unwilling for the whole world to witness our gratitude and joy in him. Those who rely on his loving-kindness and truth through Jesus Christ, will ever find him faithful to his word. If he spared not his own Son, how shall he not with him freely give us all things? If God gives us strength in our souls, to bear the burdens, resist the temptations, and to do the duties of an afflicted state, if he strengthens us to keep hold of himself by faith, and to wait with patience for the event, we are bound to be thankful.I will worship - I will bow down and adore.

Toward thy holy temple - See the notes at Psalm 5:7. The word temple here undoubtedly refers to the tabernacle.

And praise thy name for thy loving-kindness - Praise thee for thy benignity; thy mercy; thy benevolence.

And for thy truth - Thy truthfulness; thy faithfulness to thy promises.

For thou hast magnified thy word - Thou hast made it great. Compare Isaiah 42:21. The reference here is to the promises of God, and especially to the promise which God had made to David that the Messiah would descend from him. Compare 2 Samuel 7.

Above all thy name - Above all else that thou hast done; above all the other manifestations of thyself to me or to the world. The word name here would refer properly to all that God had done to make himself known - since it is by the name that we designate or distinguish anyone; and, thus understood, the meaning would be, that the word of God - the revelation which he has made of himself and of his gracious purposes to mankind - is superior in clearness, and in importance, to all the other manifestations which he has made of himself; all that can be known of him in his works. Beyond all question there are higher and clearer manifestations of himself, of his being, of his perfection, of his purposes, in the volume of revelation, than any which his works have disclosed or can disclose. Compare Psalm 19:1-14. There are very many points in relation to God, of the highest interest to mankind, on which the disclosures of science shed no light; there are many things which it is desirable for man to know, which calmer be learned in the schools of philosophy; there are consolations which man needs in a world of trouble which cannot be found in nature; there is especially a knowledge of the method by which sin may be pardoned, and the soul saved, which can never be disclosed by the blow-pipe, the telescope, or the microscope. These things, if learned at all must be learned from revelation, and these are of more importance to man as a traveler to another world than all the learning which can be acquired in the schools of philosophy - valuable as that learning is.

2. (Compare Ps 5:7).

thy word above all thy name—that is, God's promise (2Sa 7:12-16), sustained by His mercy and truth, exceeded all other manifestations of Himself as subject of praise.

Toward thy holy temple, where the ark was. He saith

toward it, because he was not permitted to enter into it.

For thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name; for thou hast glorified thy word or promise, or thy faithfulness in fulfilling thy promises unto me, more than any other of thy glorious perfections by which thou art known. Not that one of God’s attributes is really and in itself more great or glorious than another, or can be made so, but because one may be more celebrated and admired by men than another, as here God’s gracious promise made to David, and the wonderful accomplishment thereof in spite of all those difficulties which stood in the way, and which seemed to men to be insuperable, was at this time more observed and admired than any other of his attributes or actions. But here we must remember, that amongst the rest of the promises made to David, one was that the Messias should come out of his loins, and that those parts of the promised mercies which David had actually received were pledges to assure him that he should receive the rest in due time, and especially that great and eminent word of promise concerning the Messias, which might well be said to be magnified above all God’s name. I will worship towards thy holy temple,.... Not the temple at Jerusalem, which was not yet built, though, when it was, the Jews in their devotions at a distance looked towards it, 1 Kings 8:38; but rather the tabernacle of Moses, in which was the ark, as Aben Ezra and Kimchi observe; and over that the mercy seat and cherubim, between which Jehovah dwelt; and this being a type of Christ's human nature, which was perfectly holy, and is called by himself a temple, and is the true tabernacle God pitched, and not man, John 2:19; he may be designed, and to him, as Mediator, should we look, and with him deal in all our devotions for acceptance with God; see Jonah 2:4; unless heaven itself is meant, which is the palace of Jehovah, the habitation of his holiness, his temple where he dwells, Psalm 11:4;

and praise thy name, for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth; which may primarily regard the goodness and grace of God in promising David the kingdom, and his faithfulness in making good the promise, and for both which he was under obligation to praise the name of the Lord; and holds good with respect to all other promises: and it may also signify the free favour and love of God to his people, which is from everlasting, is the source of all blessings, and is better than life; and the faithfulness of God to himself, his perfections, purposes and promises, council and covenant: it may be rendered, "for thy grace, and for thy truth" (m), which both come by Christ, John 1:17; grace may intend both the doctrine of grace, the Gospel of the grace of God preached by Christ, and the blessings of grace which come through him; as justification, pardon, adoption, sanctification, and eternal life, which are all of grace, and by Christ: and truth also may signify the word of truth, or solid substantial blessings, in distinction from typical ones; or the good things that come by Christ our High Priest, of which the law was only a shadow; and these are all of them things the name of the Lord is to be praised for;

for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name; or "above every name of thine" (n); which Aben Ezra interprets of the glorious name Jehovah; the word God spake to Moses, the name in which he made himself known to him, and to the Israelites, he had not to their fathers, Exodus 3:14; but rather it is to be understood of God's word of promise, and his faithfulness in fulfilling it; which, though not a greater attribute than any other, yet is made more known and more illustrious than the rest; and particularly may regard the promise of the coming of the Messiah, and of the blessings of grace by him; Jarchi interprets it particularly of the pardon of sin. It may with propriety be applied to Christ, the essential Word, that was made flesh, and dwelt among men; whom God has highly exalted, and not only given him a name above every name of men on earth, but also above any particular name or attribute of his: or however he has magnified him "according" (o) to every name of his, it being his will that men should honour the Son as they honour the Father; or "with" (p) every name along with each of them; or "besides" (q) every name; for all these senses the word will bear. Some render them, as Ben Melech, "thou hast magnified above all things thy name" and "thy word"; or, as others, "thy name by thy word" (r); see Psalm 8:1; The Targum is,

"the words of thy praise above all thy name;''

or "over all thy name": everything by which he has made himself known in creation and providence; "thou hast magnified thy word", all being done according to the word said in himself, his decrees and purposes; or declared in his word and promises, whereby he has glorified it.

(m) So Cocceius, Gejerus, Michaelis. (n) "super omne nomen tuum", Cocceius, Michaelis. (o) "Secundum omne nomen tuum", Gejerus. (p) "Cum toto nomine tuo", Junius & Tremellius. (q) "Vel praeter omne nomen tuum", Piscator. (r) "Nomen tuum sermone tuo"; so some in Piscator.

I will worship toward thy holy {b} temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.

(b) Both the temple and ceremonial service at Christ's coming were abolished: so that now God will be worshipped only in spirit and truth, Joh 4:23.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Verse 2. - I will worship toward thy holy temple. The term "temple" here must designate the tabernacle (comp. Psalm 5:8). And praise thy Name for thy loving-kindness and for thy truth. "Mercy" and "truth" are God's two highest attributes (Exodus 34:6). They were especially shown to Israel in God's promises and his fidelity to them. For thou hast magnified thy Word above all thy Name. Some would amend the text, and read אמתך, "thy truth," for, אמרתך "thy Word." But if we keep the text, and understand אמרתך as "thy promises," the sense will not be very different. God has magnified his promise, and his faithfulness to it, above all his other revealed attributes. Beginning with perfects, the Psalm has the appearance of being a Psalm not belonging to the Exile, but written in memory of the Exile. The bank of a river, like the seashore, is a favourite place of sojourn of those whom deep grief drives forth from the bustle of men into solitude. The boundary line of the river gives to solitude a safe back; the monotonous splashing of the waves keeps up the dull, melancholy alternation of thoughts and feelings; and at the same time the sight of the cool, fresh water exercises a soothing influence upon the consuming fever within the heart. The rivers of Babylon are here those of the Babylonian empire: not merely the Euphrates with its canals, and the Tigris, but also the Chaboras (Chebar) and Eulaeos ('Ulai), on whose lonesome banks Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:3) and Daniel (ch. Daniel 8:2) beheld divine visions. The שׁם is important: there, in a strange land, as captives under the dominion of the power of the world. And גּם is purposely chosen instead of ו: with the sitting down in the solitude of the river's banks weeping immediately came on; when the natural scenery around contrasted so strongly with that of their native land, the remembrance of Zion only forced itself upon them all the more powerfully, and the pain at the isolation from their home would have all the freer course where no hostilely observant eyes were present to suppress it. The willow (צפצפה) and viburnum, those trees which are associated with flowing water in hot low-lying districts, are indigenous in the richly watered lowlands of Babylonia. ערב (ערבה), if one and the same with Arab. grb, is not the willow, least of all the weeping-willow, which is called ṣafsâf mustahı̂ in Arabic, "the bending-down willow," but the viburnum with dentate leaves, described by Wetzstein on Isaiah 44:4. The Talmud even distinguishes between tsaph-tsapha and ‛araba, but without our being able to obtain any sure botanic picture from it. The ערבה, whose branches belong to the constituents of the lulab of the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:40), is understood of the crack-willow [Salix fragilis], and even in the passage before us is surely not distinguished with such botanical precision but that the gharab and willow together with the weeping-willow (Salix Babylonica) might be comprehended under the word ערבה. On these trees of the country abounding in streams the exiles hung their citherns. The time to take delight in music was past, for μουσικὰ ἐν πένθει ἄκαιρος διήγησις, Sir. 22:6. Joyous songs, as the word שׁיר designates them, were ill suited to their situation.

In order to understand the כּי in Psalm 137:3, Psalm 137:3 and Psalm 137:4 must be taken together. They hung up their citherns; for though their lords called upon them to sing in order that they might divert themselves with their national songs, they did not feel themselves in the mind for singing songs as they once resounded at the divine services of their native land. The lxx, Targum, and Syriac take תּוללינוּ as a synonym of שׁובינוּ, synonymous with שׁוללינוּ, and so, in fact, that it signifies not, like שׁולל, the spoiled and captive one, but the spoiler and he who takes other prisoners. But there is no Aramaic תּלל equals שׁלל. It might more readily be referred back to a Poel תּולל ( equals התל), to disappoint, deride (Hitzig); but the usage of the language does not favour this, and a stronger meaning for the word would be welcome. Either תּולל equals תּהולל, like מהולל, Psalm 102:9, signifies the raving one, i.e., a bloodthirsty man or a tyrant, or from ילל, ejulare, one who causes the cry of woe or a tormentor, - a signification which commends itself in view of the words תּושׁב and תּלמיד, which are likewise formed with the preformative ת. According to the sense the word ranks itself with an Hiph. הוליל, like תּועלת, תּוכחה, with הועיל and הוכיח, in a mainly abstract signification (Dietrich, Abhandlungen, S. 160f.). The דּברי beside שׁיר is used as in Psalm 35:20; Psalm 65:4; Psalm 105:27; Psalm 145:5, viz., partitively, dividing up the genitival notion of the species: words of songs as being parts or fragments of the national treasury of song, similar to משּׁיר a little further on, on which Rosenmller correctly says: sacrum aliquod carmen ex veteribus illis suis Sionicis. With the expression "song of Zion" alternates in Psalm 137:4 "song of Jahve," which, as in 2 Chronicles 29:27, cf. 1 Chronicles 25:7, denotes sacred or liturgical songs, that is to say, songs belonging to Psalm poesy (including the Cantica).

Before Psalm 137:4 we have to imagine that they answered the request of the Babylonians at that time in the language that follows, or thought thus within themselves when they withdrew themselves from them. The meaning of the interrogatory exclamation is not that the singing of sacred songs in a foreign land (חוצה לארץ) is contrary to the law, for the Psalms continued to be sung even during the Exile, and were also enriched by new ones. But the shir had an end during the Exile, in so far as that it was obliged to retire from publicity into the quiet of the family worship and of the houses of prayer, in order that that which is holy might not be profaned; and since it was not, as at home, accompanied by the trumpets of the priests and the music of the Levites, it became more recitative than singing properly so called, and therefore could not afford any idea of the singing of their native land in connection with the worship of God on Zion. From the striking contrast between the present and the former times the people of the Exile had in fact to come to the knowledge of their sins, in order that they might get back by the way of penitence and earnest longing to that which they had lost Penitence and home-sickness were at that time inseparable; for all those in whom the remembrance of Zion was lost gave themselves over to heathenism and were excluded from the redemption. The poet, translated into the situation of the exiles, and arming himself against the temptation to apostasy and the danger of denying God, therefore says: If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, ימיני תּשׁכּח. תּשׁכּח has been taken as an address to Jahve: obliviscaris dexterae meae (e.g., Wolfgang Dachstein in his song "An Wasserflssen Babylon"), but it is far from natural that Jerusalem and Jahve should be addressed in one clause. Others take ימיני as the subject and תּשׁכּח transitively: obliviscatur dextera mea, scil. artem psallendi (Aben-Ezra, Kimchi, Pagninus, Grotius, Hengstenberg, and others); but this ellipsis is arbitrary, and the interpolation of מנּי after ימיני (von Ortenberg, following Olshausen) produces an inelegant cadence. Others again assign a passive sense to תשׁכח: oblivioni detur (lxx, Italic, Vulgate, and Luther), or a half-passive sense, in oblivione sit (Jerome); but the thought: let my right hand be forgotten, is awkward and tame. Obliviscatur me (Syriac, Saadia, and the Psalterium Romanum) comes nearer to the true meaning. תּשׁכּח is to be taken reflexively: obliviscatur sui ipsius, let it forget itself, or its service (Amyraldus, Schultens, Ewald, and Hitzig), which is equivalent to let it refuse or fail, become lame, become benumbed, much the same as we say of the arms of legs that they "go to sleep," and just as the Arabic nasiya signifies both to forget and to become lame (cf. Gesenius, Thesaurus, p. 921b). La Harpe correctly renders: O Jerusalem! si je t'oublie jamais, que ma main oublie aussi le mouvement! Thus there is a correspondence between Psalm 137:5 and Psalm 137:6 : My tongue shall cleave to my palate if I do not remember thee, if I do not raise Jerusalem above the sum of my joy. אזכּרכי has the affixed Chirek, with which these later Psalms are so fond of adorning themselves. ראשׁ is apparently used as in Psalm 119:160 : supra summam (the totality) laetitiae meae, as Coccejus explains, h.e. supra omnem laetitiam meam. But why not then more simply על כּל, above the totality? ראשׁ here signifies not κεφάλαιον, but κεφαλή: if I do not place Jerusalem upon the summit of my joy, i.e., my highest joy; therefore, if I do not cause Jerusalem to be my very highest joy. His spiritual joy over the city of God is to soar above all earthly joys.

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