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Bible Commentaries

Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms

Psalms 148

Psalms 148

The occasion of the Psalm is brought distinctly out in its conclusion. According to this, it was called forth by a great act of divine beneficence, whereby God had raised his people from the dust of depression, and filled them anew with power and energy. The grateful hearts of the people were thus opened to all other manifestations of the glory of God, and they praise him in the manner, that he ought to be glorified, for all that in heaven and on earth bears the traces of his glory. In respect to heaven, commencement is made with the angels, and then, passing through the intermediate stage of the stars, the clouds are at last discoursed of. In respect to the earth, the Psalmist begins with the deepest parts, the sea, the more appropriately, as, in the first part, the waters above the earth had last been spoken of; then he ascends up to the highest, to the manifestations in the region of air, Psalms 148:8, whence he again descends to the earth, beginning at the highest point, the mountains, and last of all discourses of man.

The Psalm consists of a main part of twelve verses, divided by six, containing the call addressed to all creatures to praise God, and a conclusion of two verses, announcing the occasion of the Psalm; so that the whole consists of fourteen verses. The call to praise God is delivered in all twelve times, in the first part nine times, three times three, and in the first verse three times.

Verses 1-6

Ver. 1. Halleluiah. Praise the Lord from the heavens, praise him in the heights. Ver. 2. Praise him, all his angels, praise him, all his hosts. Ver. 3. Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all shining stars. Ver. 4. Praise him, ye highest heavens, and ye waters which are above the heavens. Ver. 5. Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded, and they were created. Ver. 6. And he established them for ever and ever, gave them a law which they never transgress. To the expression: from the heaven, in Psalms 148:1, stands opposed that in Psalms 148:7: from the earth. It primarily determines only the place from whence the praise must issue; the persons celebrating the praise are first described more nearly afterwards.

The hosts of God, in Psalms 148:2, are the sun, moon, and stars, which in Psalms 148:3 are individually named—comp. on Psalms 103:21. In the first member the spiritual, in the second the material portion of the heavenly servants of God is given. The latter praise God through their very being—comp. on Psalms 103:21. The only thing peculiar here is the call to praise God. But this merely expresses the satisfaction of the Psalmist regarding that, which is done at any rate.

The heavens of heavens in Psalms 148:4, precisely as in Deuteronomy 10:14, 1 Kings 8:27, where they are named by way of gradation beside the heavens generally, Psalms 68:33, Nehemiah 9:6, are the highest heavens. The explanation: ye heavens everywhere, (Luther: “all heavenly regions, however vast and infinite,” Maurer) has no justification in the usus loquendi. We have the less reason for setting aside the allusion here to a gradation in the heavenly regions—comp. 2 Corinthians 12:2—since an indirect one already lies in the mention made of the angels, the stars, and the clouds, which cannot properly be ascribed to one and the same region. The waters above the heavens can only be, according to the original passage, Genesis 1:7, the clouds—comp. on Psalms 104:3. Of other heavenly waters scripture knows nothing; they know nothing of the “celestial fire-watery ether.” If, therefore, we hold it as certain, that in the first member, the highest heavens are mentioned, in the second, the clouds, we must also hold, that the parallelism is not a mere synonym, but that the highest regions of heaven and the lowest are set in opposition to each other. The mere heaven, as contradistinguished from the highest heaven, can only be the lower heaven.

Those, who must praise the Lord, are six, in unison with the number of verses in the half strophe. In Psalms 148:5-6, reference is made to the grounds on account of which they should praise.

The first member of Psalms 148:6 excludes all change in what has been made, that would be contrary to the will of the Creator, from whom the different parts of creation can never emancipate themselves to all eternity—comp. on Psalms 102:27. On the second member comp. Job 38:10: “And I gave it (the sea) an unchangeable law, and set bars and bolts;” and Job 14:5, where, in regard to the period of man’s life, it is said: “thou host made his law, which he does not transgress.” From allusion to the latter passage, it is probable, that the singular יעבור has arisen, in which the parts of creation mentioned are united into one whole. The law is, according to these parallel passages, the sphere of being, which is appointed to each part of creation, and in which it is held by the divine omnipotence; as, for example, the stars must pursue their course, the upper and lower waters must remain continually distinct. In regard to the reference of יעבור לא to the several parts of creation, comp. besides Psalms 104:9, Jeremiah 5:22.

Verses 7-12

Ver. 7. Praise the Lord from the earth, ye whales and all floods. Ver. 8. Fire and hail, snow and smoke, stormy wind which fulfils his word. Ver. 9. Mountains and all hills, fruit-trees and all cedars. Ver. 10. Wild beast and all cattle, creeping things and all feathered fowls. Ver. 11. Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes, and all, judges the earth. Ver. 12. Young men with young women, old with young.

Those, who should praise the Lord in the water and the air, are seven; those upon the land are four times four—the four being the signature of the earth.

In reference to תינים , in Psalms 148:7, comp. on Psalms 74:13. The reason of their being named in particular, is, that by their gigantic size they more especially proclaim the omnipotence of God’s creative power. The same end is served by the description of leviathan in the Book of Job.

In Psalms 148:8 fire and smoke, which elsewhere are inseparably united, are separated, in order to give to the fire as its attendant the cold hail, and to the dark smoke the white snow. The accompaniment to the fire shrews, that by the fire we are not to understand lightning, which would besides have been more closely described. קיטור is in accordance with the accompaniment of the fire, with Genesis 19:28, Psalms 119:83, and with the sig. of the verb, the common smoke, not fog, nor vapour,—as if the Psalm had been written in Westphalia! The stormy wind, which, with all its wild impetuosity, that apparently obeys no rule and no law, still executes the commands of God not less than the angels, Psalms 103:20.

The cedars are named in Psalms 148:9, because they especially proclaim the creative power of God through their greatness and majesty; on which account they are called the cedars of God in Psalms 80:10.

Kings are named in Psalms 148:11 at the head of men, because God has especially glorified himself in them. But they are not alone a living proof of the greatness of God, rather all, down even to the least, show forth his glory.

The old, Psalms 148:12, in whose long life is contained a series of proofs of the divine greatness, the young, whose fresh vigour is a matter-of-fact praise of God.

Verses 13-14

Ver. 13. Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is extolled, with his splendour earth and heaven are crowned. 14. And he lifted up the horn of his people, the renown of all his saints, the children of Israel, the people that is near to him. Halleluiah.

The expression in Psalms 148:13: earth and heaven, shows that the injunction: let them praise him, belongs not merely to Psalms 148:7-12, but to Psalms 148:1-12; comp. Psalms 104:27. On the second member comp. Psalms 8:2.

He lifted up the horn of his people, Psalms 148:14, which before was sunk in the dust, Job 16:15, comp. on Psalms 92:10. Instead of: he lifted up the renown of all his saints, which till now had been covered with shame, Luther falsely: all his saints must praise. The expression: the people that is near him, comp. Leviticus 10:3, Ezekiel 42:13, furnishes the ground of the divine goodness, as in Psalms 147 Psalms 147:19-20. The people that is near him, may indeed be left by the Lord for a short period, but he must constantly receive them again in his great goodness.

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Bibliographical Information
Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Psalms 148". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/heg/psalms-148.html.