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Bible Commentaries

Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms

Psalms 146

Introduction

Psalms 146

It is happy for Israel that he trusts, not like the heathen upon men, but upon the Lord his God, Psalms 146:1-5, for God alone can and will help, he is a deliverer of the poor and needy, and governs for ever, Psalms 146:6-10. The whole number of verses, ten, is divided by the five. The predicates of God are twelve, four times three. The name Jehovah occurs thrice in the first half, thrice in Psalms 146:7, and thrice in the remaining verses of the second half.

That this Psalm forms the close of the dodecade, beginning with Psalms 135, has already been mentioned. That it is not contemporaneous with the immediately preceding Davidic Psalm, with which it is placed in intentional connection through the borrowing here in Psalms 146:8, of Psalms 135:14 there, but was only set next to it in order, is clear from the ceasing of what is so usual there, the resting on the Davidic Psalms, and from the traces it contains of a late post-exile period—the halleluiah: which is never found in Psalms that bear the name of David—comp. Introd. to Psalms 104, where it first occurs, and Psalms 105, the borrowing of Psalms 146:1-2 from Psalms 104, which was composed after the exile, and of Psalms 146:3 from Psalms 118, which was sung at the laying of the foundation of the second temple. That the Psalm was composed in a period of depression for the people of God, is indicated by the predicates given to God, which are all of a kind fitted to elevate the distressed, to console the afflicted, and give them confidence in their God. The right, view regarding the time of composition was already recognized by the LXX. in their: Haggaei et Sachariae, which both the Vulgate and the Syriac repeat. Still, much stress cannot be laid on this, as they give the same superscription also to the following Psalms.

Verses 1-5

Ver. 1. Halleluiah. Praise, my soul, the Lord. Ver. 2. I will praise the Lord, while I live, play to my God, so long as I am in being. Ver. 3. Trust not in princes, in the son of man, in whom there is no salvation. Ver. 4. Goes his breath forth, then he returns back to his earth, on the same day his thoughts perish. Ver. 5. Happy he, whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God.

As the halleluiah, so also the expression: praise the Lord, my soul, in Psalms 146:1, is taken from Psalms 104. Psalms 146:2 also rests upon Psalms 104:33 of that Psalm.

On Psalms 146:3 comp. Psalms 118:8-9. According to this fundamental passage, the princes are to be regarded as heathenish, the possessors of the world’s power; and the address is not directed to Israel, who rather appears here as the speaker, but to the world, comp. Psalms 75:4-5. A dissuasion from something, to which the Israelites from the circumstances of the time had no temptation, has also an unnatural appearance. In the second member the folly of confidence in princes is shown by allusion to the evanescent species of beings to which they belong, however loftily they may carry themselves. In whom there is no salvation, neither for themselves, nor for others: man, be he beggar or king, has no salvation in himself, but must first receive it from above—comp. Psalms 144:10.

On Psalms 146:4 compare Psalms 104:29: “Thou gatherest their breath, then they expire, and return again to their dust.” The reference to this passage is put beyond a doubt by the peculiar expression: to his earth. According to this fundamental passage we are not to explain: it goes forth, but goes forth. The thoughts which go to the grave with the dying man, are his vain projects. Calvin: “Like that frenzied Macedonian Alexander, when he heard there were more worlds, wept that he had not yet obtained the mastery of one, but shortly afterwards had to content himself with a sarcophagus.” With the descent to the grave perishes also the hope placed on him.

Happy he, Psalms 146:5, = happy I, in opposition to the world. The בעזרו is to be explained, according to the fundamental passage, Psalms 118:7: under his help, for, among the number of his helpers. אל properly strength, in contradistinction to human weakness and evanescence.

Verses 6-10

Ver. 6. Who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that therein is, who truth keeps eternally. Ver. 7. Who executes judgment for those who suffer oppression, who gives bread to the hungry. The Lord looses the prisoners. Ver. 8. The Lord opens the eyes of the blind, the Lord raises up the bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous. Ver. 9. The Lord protects the strangers, widow and orphan he raises up, and the way of the wicked he bends. Ver. 10. The Lord reigns eternally, thy God, Zion, for ever and ever. Hallelujah.

With Psalms 146:6 begins the grounding of the אשרי in allusion to what the Lord is to his own, and grants to them, first by unfolding that which is contained in “the God (strength) of Jacob, and Jehovah his God”—his power to help them, according to his almightiness, as displayed in the creation of the world, against the sheer impotence of the highest earthly powers—and then his will. The latter is pledged to the people, to whom he has given such precious declarations and such glorious promises, through his truth—comp. on Psalms 85:10.

On the first member of Psalms 146:7 comp. Psalms 103:6. By the persons oppressed is meant here also, his own people in all their oppressions. On the second member comp. Psalms 37:19, Psalms 107:5, Psalms 107:9. The hungry represent generally all who stand in need of help. Those in prison or chains are such in the proper sense, and those also who are in the prison of distress, Psalms 107:10.

The first member of Psalms 146:8 alludes to Isaiah 35:5. To open the blind, stands here for, to open their eyes, which comes the more naturally out, as פקח is most commonly used of the eyes. (according to Stier twenty-one times). The blind are the naturally blind, and such as cannot discern the way of salvation, without wisdom and help; blindness occurs as an image of want of wisdom and support in Deuteronomy 28:29, Isaiah 59:10, Job 12:15. The second member is from Psalms 145:14.

In reference to the stranger, the widow and the orphan as representatives of persons in a miserable condition, Psalms 146:9, comp. on Psalms 68:6-7. In the background stands: and therefore also his poor people. The way is the lot, the fate, comp. on Psalms 1:6. He bends their lot, q. d., he transfers them into a depressed condition.

It is by no means accidental, that Psalms 146:10 begins with the tenth letter of the alphabet. The first member is taken from Exodus 15:18. The everlasting kingdom of God is presented, in contrast to the short continuance of the kingdoms of this world. The people who have such a king, can already behold great realities, and should not presently sink into despair, if all does not go according to their wish. All’s well that ends well.

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Bibliographical Information
Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Psalms 146". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/heg/psalms-146.html.