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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Psalms 150

Verse 1

PSALM 150

CALL TO PRAISE GOD WITH MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS

"Praise ye Jehovah.

Praise God in his sanctuary:

Praise him in the firmament of his power.

Praise him for his mighty acts:

Praise him according to his excellent greatness.

Praise him with trumpet sound:

Praise him with psaltery and harp.

Praise him with timbrel and dance:

Praise him with stringed instruments and pipe. Praise him with loud cymbals;

Praise him with high sounding cymbals.

Let everything that hath breath praise Jehovah.

Praise ye Jehovah."

This is the last of the Hallelujah's and also the last of the Psalter, as it appears in our version. Other versions of the Bible, notably the Syriac and the Arabic have as many as fourteen other psalms which are added to the 150 psalms here.[1]

Addis noted that, "Each of the five books has a doxology. This is the doxology that closes Book V and the whole Psalter as well."[2] Miller agreed that, "It could easily serve as a doxology not only to the last section but to the entire Psalter."[3]

"Praise God in his sanctuary" (Psalms 150:1). "This is probably God's sanctuary in heaven not the temple on Zion.[4] In view of the fact that the second clause here, "Praise him in the firmament of his power," is parallel to the first clause, and since "the firmament of his power" is a reference to heaven, it is quite likely that Addis' comment is correct.

"Praise him with ... trumpet ... psaltery ... harp" (Psalms 150:3). "The trumpet here is the ram's horn."[5] "`Psaltery' is the same as viol."[6] The Douay Version renders "psaltery and harp," here as "harp and lyre."

"Praise him with timbrel ... dance ... stringed instruments ... and pipe" (Psalms 150:4). The timbrel was a percussion instrument made of skin stretched over a hoop, "something like a tambourine."[7]

"Dance" (Psalms 150:4). Adam Clarke insisted that the word here rendered dance "never means dance, but a species of violin."[8] All of the translations we have render it "dance".

Moffatt renders "timbrel" as "drum".

Stringed instruments would identify a number of different items such as harps, viols, guitars, violins, psalters, dulcimers, and perhaps the sackbut.

"Pipe" (Psalms 150:4). This identifies such instruments as organs and horns.

"Loud cymbals and high sounding cymbals" (Psalms 150:5). These were percussion instruments which made no music at all, but were valuable in the religious dances as marking the rhythm, or accenting highlights in the music. Their loudness and "high pitch" would seem to indicate that they were valued principally as aids in increasing the deafening decibels of the production.

"Let everything that hath breath praise Jehovah" (Psalms 150:6). Technically, this expression includes animals and all of the lower creations that breathe, but in the light of Mark 16:16, where "whole creation" has the restricted meaning of the "whole human creation," we must assume that the same restriction applies here.

Briggs made the following arrangement of this psalm:

Praise Yah.

Praise him for his sanctity:

Praise him for the spreading out of his strength:

Praise him for his great might:

Praise him for the abundance of his greatness:

Praise him with the blast of the horn:

Praise him with harp and lyre.

Praise him with timbrel and dance:

Praise him with strings and pipe:

Praise him with sounding cymbals:

Praise him with clashing cymbals:

Praise him all ye that have breath:

Praise Yah.[9]

The purpose of this arrangement is to emphasize the occurrence of the word's "Praise him (praise Yah)" thirteen times in this passage, corresponding to the thirteen attributes of God, "As the Jewish Rabbis reckoned them upon the basis of Exodus 34:6-7."[10]

There are some who view this psalm as giving instructions for the worship of God, but if that is what it is, the omission of any of these things mentioned would be sinful; and what proves too much proves nothing. To us, it appears that this doxology is a poetic production having a single message only: "that every man who breathes should praise God."

Of course, it is freely admitted that the use of all kinds of musical instruments prevailed in Jewish worship, along with a great many other things which are inappropriate and forbidden in Christian worship.

Regarding the use of such instruments in Christian worship, the reader is referred to my excursus on that subject which follows immediately.

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 150". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/psalms-150.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.