Psalm 138:1
Parallel Verses
English Standard Version
I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise;

King James Bible
A Psalm of David. I will praise thee with my whole heart: before the gods will I sing praise unto thee.

American Standard Version
I will give thee thanks with my whole heart: Before the gods will I sing praises unto thee.

Douay-Rheims Bible
I will praise thee, O lord, with my whole heart: for thou hast heard the words of my mouth. I will sing praise to thee in the sight of his angels:

English Revised Version
A Psalm of David. I will give thee thanks with my whole heart: before the gods will I sing praises unto thee.

Webster's Bible Translation
A Psalm of David. I will praise thee with my whole heart: before the gods will I sing praise to thee.

Psalm 138:1 Parallel
Commentary
Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament

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.

Psalm 138:1 Parallel Commentaries

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

A.M.

3485, B.C.

519. A Psalm of David. Five MSS. omit ledawid; and the Lxx, and Arabic prefix also the names of Haggai and Zechariah; and it is probable that it was composed to be sung at the dedication of the second temple.

I will praise

Psalm 9:1 I will praise you, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will show forth all your marvelous works.

Psalm 86:12,13 I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart: and I will glorify your name for ever more...

Psalm 103:1,2 Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name...

Psalm 111:1 Praise you the LORD. I will praise the LORD with my whole heart, in the assembly of the upright, and in the congregation.

1 Corinthians 14:15 What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit...

Ephesians 5:19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;

with my whole. The versions and several MSS. add Jehovah
before

Psalm 82:1,6 God stands in the congregation of the mighty; he judges among the gods...

Psalm 119:46 I will speak of your testimonies also before kings, and will not be ashamed.

Exodus 22:28 You shall not revile the gods, nor curse the ruler of your people.

John 10:34-36 Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, You are gods...

Acts 23:5 Then said Paul, I knew not, brothers, that he was the high priest: for it is written...

Hebrews 1:14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?

the gods. Or, God. Elohim

Cross References
Psalm 95:3
For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.

Psalm 96:4
For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods.

Psalm 97:7
All worshipers of images are put to shame, who make their boast in worthless idols; worship him, all you gods!

Psalm 111:1
Praise the LORD! I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation.

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