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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Psalms 113

Verse 1



This is another of the "Hallelujah Psalms," this time with the words "Praise Ye Jehovah" (Hallelujah) occurring both at the beginning and the end of the Psalm.

Psalms 113:1-9

The Text of the Psalm

"Praise ye Jehovah.

Praise, Oh ye servants of Jehovah.

Blessed be the name of Jehovah

From this time forth and forevermore.

From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same

Jehovah's name is to be praised.

Jehovah is high above all nations,

And his glory above the heavens.

Who is like unto Jehovah our God,

That hath his seat on high,

That humbleth himself to behold

The things that are in heaven and in the earth?

He raiseth up the poor out of the dust,

And lifteth up the needy from the dunghill;

That he may set him with princes,

Even with the princes of the people.

He maketh the barren woman to keep house,

And to be a joyful mother of children.

Praise ye Jehovah."

"In Judaism, Psalms 113-118 are known as the Egyptian Hallel (`Hallel' means `Praise'). Psalms 113 and Psalms 114 were sung before the Passover meal; and Psalms 115-118 were sung after it. They were also sung at the feasts of Pentecost, Tabernacles, and Dedication (Hanukkah, or the Feast of Lights)."[1] Delitzsch adds that, "The Hallel was also sung on New Year's Day and on the Day of Atonement."[2]

One of these customary closing songs (Psalms 115-118), "Must have been the one that Jesus and his apostles sang following the Last Supper (Matthew 26:30)."[3]

"From this time forth and forevermore" (Psalms 113:2). This expression also occurs in Psalms 115:8; 121:8; 125:2; 131:3. It means for one to praise God regularly and consistently throughout one's whole life.

"That humbleth himself to behold the things that are in heaven and in the earth." The marginal reading gives this: "That humbleth himself to regard the heavens and the earth." The RSV reads it, "Who looks far down upon the heavens and the earth."

"He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the needy from the dunghill" (Psalms 113:7). The RSV reads, "He raises the poor from the dust, and lifts the needy from the ash heap." This verse breathes the spirit of "The Magnificat," the marvelous song of the virgin Mary. "He hath put down princes from their thrones and exalted them of low degree." (Luke 1:52).

"The dunghill, or ash heap" (Psalms 113:7). This appears to have been the city dump, or its equivalent. Delitzsch tells us that, "In Syria and Palestine the man who has been shut out from society lies upon the mezbele (the dunghill, or ash heap), by day calling upon passers-by for alms, and by night hiding himself in the ashes that have been warmed by the sun."[4]

"He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children" (Psalms 113:9). The psalmist here has adopted some of the phrases from 1 Samuel 2:8, where they are found in the Song of Hannah, indicating that the psalmist was referring to her as an example of the "barren woman" who became the joyful mother of children.

This verse is also equally true of Sarah; and the plural "children" does not deny this. In the scriptures, "child" is sometimes understood as "children." In Genesis 21:7, Sarah is quoted as saying, "Who would have said unto Abraham, that Sarah should have given children suck? for I have borne him a son."

This usage of the word "children" is still current in the world. As E. M. Zerr stated it, "When the captain of a sinking ship orders that women and children should enter the lifeboats first; that cannot mean that a woman with only one child would be denied."[5]

Leupold declares that, "all commentators agree that the psalm is post-exilic."[6]

Also, he noted that "the barren woman" here is Israel, the nation itself. After Israel's return from Babylon, she could have been compared to a poor man sitting and begging on the city dump, or to a childless woman mourning her barrenness. "Thus the psalm is to be thought of as a word of comfort in evil and depressing times, that it was written for the `worm' Jacob (Isaiah 41:14), and for the `afflicted and storm-tossed one' (Isaiah 54:11)."[7]

Copyright Statement
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Psalms 113". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.