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God alone is to be glorified, 1-3.
The vanity of idols, 4-8.
Israel, the house of Aaron, and all that fear God, are exhorted
to trust it the Lord, 9-11.
The Lord's goodness to his people, and his gracious promises,
As the dead cannot praise him, the living should, 17, 18.
This Psalm is written as a part of the preceding by eighteen of Kennicott's and fifty-three of De Rossi's MSS.; by some ancient editions; the Septuagint, the Syriac, the Vulgate, the AEthiopic, the Arabic, and the Anglo-Saxon. The old Anglo-Scottish Psalter reads it consecutively with the foregoing. Who the author of both was, we know not, nor on what occasion it was written. It seems to be an epinikion or triumphal song, in which the victory gained is entirely ascribed to Jehovah.
Verse Psalms 115:1. Not unto us, O Lord — We take no merit to ourselves; as thine is the kingdom, and the power in that kingdom, so is thy glory.
For thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake. — Thy mercy gave thy promise, thy truth fulfilled it.
Verse Psalms 115:2. Wherefore should the heathen say — This appears to refer to a time in which the Israelites had suffered some sad reverses, so as to be brought very low, and to be marked by the heathen.
Verse Psalms 115:3. He hath done whatsover he hath pleased. — There was too much cause for his abandoning us to our enemies; yet he still lives and rules in heaven and in earth.
Verse Psalms 115:4. Their idols are silver, c. — They are metal, stone, and wood. They are generally made in the form of man, but can neither see, hear, smell, feel, walk, nor speak. How brutish to trust in such! And next to these, in stupidity and inanity, must they be who form them, with the expectation of deriving any good from them. So obviously vain was the whole system of idolatry, that the more serious heathens ridiculed it, and it was a butt for the jests of their freethinkers and buffoons. How keen are those words of Juvenal!
Jupiter, haec? nec labra moves, cum mittere vocem.
Debueras, vel marmoreus vel aheneus? aut cur
In carbone tuo charta pia thura soluta
Ponimus, et sectum vituli jecur, albaque porci
Omenta? ut video, nullum discrimen habendum est.
Effigies inter vestras, statuamque Bathylli.
SAT. xiii., ver. 113.
"Dost thou hear, O Jupiter, these things? nor move thy lips when thou oughtest to speak out, whether thou art of marble or of bronze? Or, why do we put the sacred incense on thy altar from the opened paper, and the extracted liver of a calf, and the white caul of a hog? As far as I can discern there is no difference between thy statue and that of Bathyllus."
This irony will appear the keener, when it is known that Bathyllus was a fiddler and player, whose image by the order of Polycrates, was erected in the temple of Juno at Samos. See Isaiah 41:1. c. Isaiah 46:7; Jeremiah 10:4-5, c. and Psalms 135:15; Psalms 135:16.
Verse Psalms 115:9. O Israel — The body of the Jewish people.
Verse Psalms 115:10. O house of Aaron — All the different classes of the priesthood.
Verse Psalms 115:11. Ye that fear the Lord — All real penitents, and sincere believers, trust in the Lord, in the almighty, omniscient, and infinitely good Jehovah.
He is their help and shield — He is the succour, support, guardian, and defence of all who put their confidence in him.
Verse Psalms 115:12. The Lord hath been mindful — He has never yet wholly abandoned us to our enemies.
He will bless the house of Israel — He will bless the people as a nation; he will bless the priesthood and Levites; he will bless all of them who fear him, great and small, in whatsoever station or circumstances found. There is a great deal of emphasis in this verse: several words are redoubled to make the subject the more affecting. I give a literal translation: -
Psalms 115:12: "The Lord has been mindful of us he will bless the house of Israel; she will bless the house of Aaron.
Psalms 115:13: He will bless them that fear Jehovah, the small with the great.
Psalms 115:14: Jehovah will add upon you, upon you and upon all your children.
Psalms 115:15: Blessed are ye of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. Ver. 16: The heavens of heavens are the Lord's: but the earth he hath given to the sons of Adam."
Jehovah is absolute Master of the universe. He has made the heavens of heavens, and also the earth; and this he gives to the children of Adam. When he exiled him from paradise, he turned him out into the earth, and gave it to him and his sons for ever, that they might dress, till, and eat of its produce all their days.
Verse Psalms 115:17. The dead praise not the Lord — המתים hammethim, those dead men who worshipped as gods dumb idols, dying in their sins, worship not Jehovah; nor can any of those who go down into silence praise thee: earth is the place in which to praise the Lord for his mercies, and get a preparation for his glory.
Verse Psalms 115:18. But we will bless the Lord — Our fathers, who received so much from thy bounty, are dead, their tongues are silent in the grave; we are in their place, and wish to magnify thy name, for thou hast dealt bountifully with us. But grant us those farther blessings before we die which we so much need; and we will praise thee as living monuments of thy mercy, and the praise we begin now shall continue for ever and ever.
The Targum, for "neither any that go down into silence," has "nor any that descend into the house of earthly sepulture," that is, the tomb. The Anglo-Saxon: [A.S.], neither all they that go down into hell. Nogh the dede sal loue the Lorde, ne al that lyghtes in hell. Old Psalter. The word hell among our ancestors meant originally the covered, or hidden obscure place, from helan, to cover or conceal: it now expresses only the place of endless torment.
The prophet, being zealous of God's honour, which the heathens were solicitous to give to their idols, earnestly beseeches God to manifest that power which belongs to him alone, and which he will not give to another.
This Psalm, has four parts: -
I, His petition for God's honour, Psalms 115:1; which belongs to no idol, Psalms 115:3-9.
II. An exhortation to praise God, and hope in him, Psalms 115:10-12.
III. The benefit that will arise from it, a blessing, Psalms 115:12-16.
IV. A profession, that for the blessing they will bless God, Psalms 115:17-18.
1. Some join this Psalm to the former, conceiving that the prophet, having expressed the goodness of God in the deliverance of his people from Egypt, would not have any of the glory attributed to Moses or Aaron, but wholly to God. Therefore he begins: -
1. "Not unto us," c. Or any leader among us.
2. "But unto thy name," &c. We seek it not take it wholly to thyself.
And this, for these reasons, he desires might always be shown to his people.
1. "Give glory to thy name," c. For the manifestation of his mercy.
2. "Do it for thy truth's sake." As a promise-keeping God.
3. "Wherefore should the heathen say," &c. Give them not occasion to blaspheme, as if thou hadst forsaken thy people. Should the heathen ask, we can answer: "As for our God, he is in the heavens, which his miracles testify. He can deliver or afflict his people as he pleases."
But where are their gods?
1. "Their idols are silver and gold." The mere productions of the earth.
2. "The work of men's hands." Works, and not makers of works.
3. They are of no use or power, though formed like men: "For they have mouths," &c. "They have hands, but they handle not," &c. They have not the power of articulating sounds they are lower than even the beasts that perish.
The prophet, having thus described the idols, now notices their makers.
1. "They that make them," c. Quite senseless people.
2. "So is every one that puts his trust," &c. Christ says, "Having eyes," &c. Mark 8:18
II. The prophet, having passed this sarcasm upon the idols and idolaters, leaves them, and exhorts the Israelites.
1. "O Israel, trust thou," &c. You are God's servants and to encourage them he adds, "He is their help," c. The protector of the whole nation.
2. "A house of Levi," &c. You are the leaders and guides in religion and therefore, you ought especially to trust in him who is the shield of your tribe.
3. "Ye that fear the Lord," c. In whatever nation you live for all who fear him, and do righteously, are accepted of him.
III. That this exhortation might be the deeper rooted, he puts them in mind that God "hath been mindful of us," by his special providence.
1. "He will bless the house of Israel" as a nation.
2. "He will bless the house of Aaron" as the priesthood.
3. "He will bless them that fear the Lord," c., without distinction.
The prophet, taking his example from God, pours his blessing upon them also, and upon their children.
1. "The Lord shall increase you," &c.
2. "Ye are the blessed of the Lord," &c. Though the world speak evil of you.
3. "The Lord which made heaven and earth." Which words are added that they may be assured that their blessings are real, and come forth from his hand directly and alone.
4. They come from one able to bless for, 1. The heaven, even the heavens, c. In them he especially shows his presence, majesty, and glory but sends his dews and rain upon the earth. 2. As for the earth, he hath given it, c., that by his blessing upon their labours they might have food and raiment therefore praise him.
IV. For this is the true end of their being: which he illustrates by an antithesis.
1. "For the dead praise not the Lord," c. These temporal blessings are not felt by the dead - they need them not: but the living should render continual thanks for them to God their author.
2. But we that are upon earth enjoy his protection and temporal care of us, and besides we have his far richer spiritual blessings therefore, "we will bless the Lord," &c., by ourselves while we live, and aim by our instructions and prayers that our posterity may do the same when we are gone down into silence.
3. However, ye that are alive this day, "praise ye the Lord."
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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Psalms 115". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14