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The psalmist praises the Lord, and extols his works as great,
honourable, glorious, and magnificent, 1-4;
his providence and kindness to his followers, 5-8;
the redemption he has granted to his people, 9.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, 10.
This is one of the alphabetical or acrostic Psalms: but it is rather different from those we have already seen, as the first eight verses contain each two members; and each member commences with a consecutive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. But the two last verses are composed of three members each, characterized the same way, making twenty-two members or hemistichs in the whole, to each of which a consecutive letter of the alphabet is prefixed. But this division is not proper: it should follow the arrangement in the Hebrew poetry, where every hemistich stands by itself, and each contains a complete sense. The Psalm has no title in the Hebrew, unless the word Hallelujah be considered as such; and the thanksgivings which it contains were probably composed for the benefit of the Jews after their return from captivity.
Verse Psalms 111:1. I will praise the Lord with my whole heart — If we profess to "sing to the praise and glory of God," the heart, and the whole heart, without division and distraction, must be employed in the work.
In the assembly — בסוד besod, in the secret assembly - the private religious meetings for the communion of saints. And in the congregation, עדה edah, the general assembly - the public congregation. There were such meetings as the former ever since God had a Church on the earth; and to convey general information, there must be public assemblies.
Verse Psalms 111:2. The works of the Lord are great] גדלים gedolim, vast in magnitude; as רבים rabbim signifies their multitude and variety.
Sought out — Investigated, carefully examined.
Of all them that have pleasure therein. — By all that delight in them: by every genuine philosopher; every lover of nature; he who traces out the great First Cause by means of his works. And the man that does so will be astonished at the perfections of the Creator, and admire all the operations of his hands.
Verse Psalms 111:3. His work is honourable, c. — He has done nothing in nature or grace that does not redound to his own honour and glory and because all is done in righteousness, it endureth for ever.
Verse Psalms 111:4. He hath made his wonderful works — He who seeks them out will never forget them; and every thing of God's framing is done in such a way, as to strike the imagination, interest the senses, and charm and edify the intellect. But the psalmist may here intend principally the works of God in behalf of the Jewish people; and particularly in their deliverance from the Babylonish captivity, which this Psalm is supposed to celebrate.
Verse Psalms 111:5. He hath given meat — טרף tereph, PREY. This may allude to the quails in the wilderness. The word signifies what is taken in hunting-wild beasts, venison, or fowls of any kind; particularly such as were proper for food. It also signifies spoil taken from enemies. And he may also refer to the wondrous manner in which they were fed and supported during their captivity; and by his support he proved that he was mindful of his covenant. He had promised such blessings; he was faithful to his promises.
Verse Psalms 111:6. The power of his works — They have seen that these things did not arrive in the common course of nature, it was not by might nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord of hosts they were done. And it required a display of the power of God to give them the heritage of the heathen.
Verse Psalms 111:7. Verity and judgment — His works are verity or truth, because they were wrought for the fulfilment of the promises he made to their fathers. And they were just; for their punishment was in consequence of their infidelities: and the punishment of the Babylonians was only in consequence of their gross iniquities; and in both respects he had proved his work to be according to justice and judgment.
Verse Psalms 111:8. They stand fast for ever — סמוכים semuchim, they are propped up, buttressed, for ever. They can never fail; for God's power supports his works, and his providence preserves the record of what he has done.
Verse Psalms 111:9. He sent redemption — He sent Moses to redeem them out of Egypt; various judges to deliver them out of the hands of their oppressors; Ezra, Nehemiah, and Zerubbabel, to deliver them from Babylon; and the Lord Jesus to redeem a whole lost world from sin, misery, and death.
Holy and reverend is his name. — The word reverend comes to us from the Latins, reverendus, and is compounded of re, intensive, and vereor, to be feared; and most or right reverend, reverendissimus, signifies to be greatly feared. These terms are now only titles of ecclesiastical respect, especially in the Protestant ministry; but there was a time in which these were no empty titles. Such was the power of the clergy, that, when they walked not in the fear of the Lord, they caused the people to fear, and they themselves were to be feared; but, when the secular power was added to the spiritual, they were then truly reverendi and reverendissimi, to be feared and greatly to be feared. But reverend is not applied to God in this way; nor does the word nora bear this signification; it rather means terrible: Holy and terrible, or holy and tremendous, is his name. This title belongs not to man; nor does any minister, in assuming the title reverend, assume this. Indeed, the word reverend, as now used, gives us a very imperfect conception of the original term. Holy and tremendous is God's name. He is glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders, both in the way of judgment and in the way of mercy.
Verse Psalms 111:10. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom — The original stands thus: ראשית חכמה יראת יהוה reshith chokmah, yirath Yehovah, The beginning of wisdom is the fear of Jehovah. Wisdom itself begins with this fear; true wisdom has this for its commencement. It is the first ingredient in it, and is an essential part of it. In vain does any man pretend to be wise who does not fear the Lord; and he who fears the Lord departs from evil: he who lives in sin neither fears God, nor is wise.
A good understanding have all they that do his commandments] These last words we add as necessary to make up the sense; but there is no need of this expedient, as the words of the original literally read thus: "The beginning of wisdom is the fear of Jehovah; good discernment to the doers." That is, They who act according to the dictates of wisdom, the commencement of which is the fear of Jehovah, have a sound understanding, discern their duty and their interest, and live to secure their own peace, their neighbour's good, and God's glory.
It is supposed that this hymn was set by the author to be sung at the passover; and that it might be the more readily learned and remembered, the colons are in number as many as, and arranged in the order of, the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. It is an exhortation to praise God for his wonderful benefits bestowed on the world at large, and especially on Israel and the Church.
There are three parts in this Psalm: -
I. A resolution of the psalmist to praise God; the manner in which he would do so; and the company with whom he would do it, Psalms 111:1.
II. An expression of the reasons which moved him to praise God, viz., his admirable benefits, special and general, Psalms 111:2-9.
III. An inference from the premises by way of sentiment in which he commends the fear of God, Psalms 111:10.
I. The title of this Psalm is, "Hallelujah, praise ye the Lord;" and he adds, -
1. "I will praise the Lord." And shows how it should be done.
2. Not hypocritically; not with the lips only, but "with the heart."
3. "With the whole heart."
4. Not only secretly, but also "in the assembly of the upright," c. 1. Both in the assembly, where these good and upright men are. 2. And also in a mixed multitude, and secretly among good men.
II. And, having made a pious confession of his readiness to practise the duty, he next sets down the ground and matter of his praise.
First. His works of power, in the creation and conservation of the world, or the favours shown to the Church: "And these works of the Lord are great." 1. Great, not only for variety and beauty, but also in base creatures his wisdom is admirable, and to be admired. 2. Great for it was great to take to himself a people out of another people, to make a covenant with them, and to reveal his promises, and give them a law, to settle among them a policy for Church and state. 3. Fools and impious men, indeed, but little consider these works; they think not of their Author: but in the eyes of all wise men "they are sought out," c.
Secondly. His works of wisdom, in governing the creatures he has created, and in guiding and collecting his Church. 1. It is honourable and much more so its Author. 2. And glorious; far above the works of princes. 3. And righteous: "He is a righteous God, and his righteousness endureth for ever." For he never departs from the exact rule of justice.
Which record must be kept: -
"He hath made his wonderful works," c. As in the Jewish hosts.
Thirdly. His works of mercy. They proceed from mere mercy: "For the Lord is gracious," c. 1. "Gracious," in doing these works. 2. "Full of compassion," as a father towards his children.
Of these the prophet gives several instances: -
1. "He hath given meat," &c. He nourished his people for forty years in the wilderness, giving them meat from heaven.
2. "He will ever be mindful," &c. Notwithstanding their provocations.
3. "He hath showed his people," &c. As in the turning of Jordan backwards, overthrowing Jericho, staying the sun and moon, &c.
4. "That he might give them," &c. By the expulsion of the Canaanites: "The works of the Lord are great," &c.
He now uses an acclamation: "The works of his hands are," -
1. Verity. Making good his promise to Abraham.
2. Judgment. Executed on idolaters and profane persons.
And shows unto all the world that, -
1. "All his commandments are sure." That his laws, especially his moral laws, are of everlasting obligation on all.
2. That these commands "stand fast for ever" for they are established in truth, equity, justice, and reason.
The prophet next speaks of a mercy far exceeding all the rest, the work of human redemption by Christ. This may be thus expounded, and better than in reference to the redemption of Israel out of Egypt.
1. "He sent redemption," c. A Redeemer so long promised.
2. "He hath commanded his covenant," &c. Which is still extant.
III. The prophet, having enumerated many of God's works of power, wisdom, and mercy, concludes the Psalm with three acclamations.
"Holy and reverend," &c. Either in his service, or whenever he is signified.
1. Holy - unpolluted by hypocrisy. The command is, "Be ye holy, for I am holy."
2. Reverend - not rashly or negligently performed. Or, as some read it, terrible and it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
The second acclamation follows upon the preceding: -
1. This fear "is the beginning of wisdom." For these men begin to be wise "to eschew evil, and do good."
2. This fear, if it be right, will be practical: "For a good understanding," c.
The third acclamation is, "His praise endureth for ever." Which some refer to God, others to man but both are true. For the praise must continue for ever: "His power, mercy," c.
If referred to man then the sense will be, -
1. "His praise." For "they that dwell in thy house," &c., Psalms 84:4.
2. Or "His praise." The commendation of a good man "will be had in everlasting remembrance," Psalms 112:6. "The name of the wicked shall rot," &c. Proverbs 10:7. "Well done, thou good and faithful servant," c. Matthew 25:21. His praise is in this world lasting, but in the world to come everlasting.
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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Psalms 111". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12