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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 146

Coffman's Commentaries on the BibleCoffman's Commentaries



We have already reviewed Psalms 113-118, which are called a “Hallel” in the Jewish tradition; and that collection also includes the last five psalms in the Psalter.(F1)

Each of these last five psalms begins and ends with the words, “Praise ye the Lord” (KJV), “Praise ye Jehovah” (American Standard Version), “Praise the Lord” (RSV, the Good News Bible), or “Praise the Eternal” (Moffatt). All of these renditions are derived from a single Hebrew word, “Hallelujah”. All of these are called “The Hallelujah Psalms.”

There is a double emphasis in the psalm: (1) an admonition not to put confidence in men; and (2) an emphasis upon trusting in the Lord. This stress of both negative and positive elements is characteristic of practically all Biblical teaching. Even the Sermon on the Mount carries a heavy charge of both elements.

Nothing is positively known of either the author or the occasion of Psalms 146.

Regarding the date, there seems to be a consensus of opinions placing all of these last five psalms in the post-exilic period. This may very well be true. Writing near the beginning of this century (1907) Briggs stated that, “The psalm has three Aramaisms; it belongs to the late Greek period.”(F2) Such a comment was excusable in 1907, a full generation before the Ras Shamra discoveries which absolutely nullified Aramaisms as a criterion for determining date. There always remains the question of whether or not current scholars may be merely repeating the false conclusions of an older generation of “higher” critics.

We follow here the paragraphing suggested by Leupold: (1) A summons to praise God (Psalms 146:1-2); (2) the negative warning, “put no trust in princes” (Psalms 146:3-4); (3) positive counsel to trust in the Lord (Psalms 146:5-9); and (4) the everlasting kingdom of the Lord (Psalms 146:10).(F3) On this 10th verse, Delitzsch regarded it as a part of the third paragraph,(F4) and we prefer this arrangement.

Regarding the nature of all five of these Hallelujah Psalms, McCaw noted that:

“They have no word of petition or any suggestion of personal need; and there is a minimum of historical allusion. All is focused upon God who alone is worthy to be praised. Each of the five brings to light some particular aspect of the praise of God; and Psalms 146 strikes the characteristic note of individualism. `If I do not praise God, then the praise of God is incomplete.’“(F5)

Verses 1-2


“Praise ye Jehovah. Praise Jehovah, O my soul. While I live will I praise Jehovah: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being.”

The “Hallelujah” with which the psalm begins is usually understood as an invitation for “congregational praise,” but, “Far from being a mere observer of others worshipping, this psalmist determines to share in it personally.”(F6)

“While I have any being” “The idea here is not that he will praise God during his lifetime, but as long as he has an existence. In the future world, forever, he would praise him.”(F7) The poet Addison caught something of this meaning in these lines.

“Through every period of my life Thy goodness I’ll pursue;
And after death, in distant worlds,
The glorious theme renew.
Through all eternity to Thee
A joyful song I’ll raise;
But oh, eternity’s too short
To utter all thy praise!”
- Addison

It is also of interest that Psalms 104:33 b is identical with Psalms 146:2 b here.

Verses 3-4


“Put not your trust in princes, Nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; In that very day his thoughts perish.”

“Put not your trust in princes” “`Princes’ is from a word that means conspicuous or influential ones.”(F8) The idea is that men, even though they are princes, cannot be trusted for “help.” This does not mean that men cannot be trusted for ordinary assistance. Rhodes assures us that the word “help” here is “literally salvation.”(F9) In this light, the negative counsel of this verse becomes one of the most important imperatives in the whole Bible. It simply means, “Do not trust human beings, no matter how powerful or well-known, to instruct you in matters of salvation.” Let God be true, and every man a liar.

What a shame it is that so many of earth’s fine religious souls are trusting “the words of men” instead of the Word of God regarding matters of faith.

“Nor in the son of man” This is not a reference to the Son of Man, who is Christ. “The Prayer-book paraphrase, `nor in any child of man,’ brings out the sense.”(F10) McCaw cautioned us that, “These verses should not be understood as a cynical command never to trust anyone.”(F11) The prohibition is against trusting any human being as an authority in matters of faith and salvation. McCaw gave three reasons why men should not be trusted in such matters: (1) their lack of ability; (2) their ephemeral nature; “here today, and gone tomorrow”; and (3) their unreliability.(F12)

A current fad in religious matters is the Lutheran doctrine of “salvation by faith alone,” a contradiction of James 2:24, and an invention of “a man” more than a millennium after the Christian religion began. Concerning such man-originated doctrines, Baigent has this: “Any man, or group of men, are transitory, and so are their philosophies and panaceas.”(F13)

“He returneth to his earth” This is a grim reminder of the words so often heard among the dying members of the race of Adam, “Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” The pitiful mortality of our dying race thunders in our ears; and we should never allow the attractiveness, popularity, power, wealth, position, or any other earthly endowment of any man to silence that thunder, enabling us to trust his theories of salvation. He and his doctrine alike are certain to perish.

Barnes has this comment on the phrase, “his earth”:

The earth is man’s: (a) It is his in that he was made from the earth and to the earth shall return (Genesis 3:19). (b) the earth (grave) is his. There he shall abide. (c) It is “his” in the sense that it is the only property that he shall ever possess. All that a man - prince, noble, pauper, billionaire, monarch or slave - will soon have is his grave, his few feet of earth. That will be “his” by right of possession; by the fact that for the time being, he shall occupy it, and not another man.(F14)

Verses 5-10


“Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, Whose hope is in Jehovah his God: Who made heaven and earth, The sea, and all that in them is; Who keepeth truth forever. Who executeth justice for the oppressed; Who giveth food to the hungry. Jehovah looseth the prisoners; Jehovah openeth the eyes of the blind; Jehovah raiseth up them that are bowed down; Jehovah loveth the righteous; Jehovah preserveth the sojourner; He upholdeth the fatherless and widow; But the way of the wicked he turneth upside down. Jehovah will reign forever, Thy God, O Zion, unto all generations. Praise ye Jehovah.”

It was upon the basis of this paragraph that we entitled this psalm, “Praise the Lord for What he Does.” Some of the psalms praise God for what he has done, but the emphasis here is rather upon what he is doing. A mere list of these is impressive.

  • The Lord keepeth truth forever (Psalms 146:6).

  • He executeth judgment for the oppressed (Psalms 146:7).

  • He giveth food to the hungry (Psalms 146:7).

  • He looseth the prisoners (Psalms 146:7).

  • He openeth the eyes of the blind (Psalms 146:8).

  • He raises up them that are bowed down (Psalms 146:8).

  • He loveth the righteous (Psalms 146:8).

  • He preserveth the sojourners (Psalms 146:9).

  • He upholdeth the fatherless and widow (Psalms 146:9).

  • He turns the way of the wicked upside down (Psalms 146:9)

  • He reigns forever, unto all generations (Psalms 146:10).

Rhodes gave voice to a popular error, writing that, in the light of this passage, “According to both Testaments, personal gospel and social gospel are one gospel.”(F15) The truth is that what men today call the “social gospel” is nothing but a thinly-veneered “humanism,” utterly void of the eternal salvation available “in Christ” as the Lord’s devoted follower.

“The God of Jacob” In time, this expression came to be the virtual equivalent of “The God of Israel.” It is by no means enough to praise “deity.” One must praise the true God, even the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God revealed in the Holy Bible.

This final paragraph cannot be read without an acute consciousness of the fact that our Lord Jesus Christ stressed all of these things during his earthly ministry.

“Looseth the prisoners” “Deliverance from the bondage of sin may be intended here.”(F16)

“Openeth the eyes of the blind” “The spiritually blind, rather than the physically blind may be meant, because there was no healing of the physically blind in the Old Testament.”(F17)

“These verses belong to the `God of Jacob’ exclusively and to no other. He is the God known to Israel and to Zion. This is the exclusivism of the Old Testament. The abstract concept of `deity’ is not enough for a man to trust; nor is any other claimant to the title, `God.’ Only one God is worthy of trust. He is to be found only in Jacob (Israel) and Zion.”(F18)

“Who keepeth truth forever” Barnes pointed out that two reasons are here given for trusting God: (1) He is the one and only true God, the Creator, able indeed to help those whom he loves. (2) He is faithful and may always be relied upon.(F19)

“Turneth the way of the wicked upside down” Dummelow explained this as meaning that, “God turns aside the way of the wicked into the trackless desert where it disappears.”(F20)

“Jehovah will reign forever, Thy God, O Zion, unto all generations” Briggs pointed out that 10a here is a quotation from Exodus 15:18, and that 10b is a quotation from Psalms 147:12.(F21)

One of the most interesting comments we have seen on this psalm is that of Rawlinson, who identified the “Zion of this passage as that of Hebrews 12:22, adding that, “God is the God of Zion and will remain so unto all generations, since the Church of Christ is now the true Zion of Hebrews 12:22.”(F22) It is also a fact that the Church of Christ is the true “Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16).

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Psalms 146". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/psalms-146.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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