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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 113

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament CommentaryKeil & Delitzsch


Hallelujah to Him Who Raiseth Out of Low Estate

With this Psalm begins the Hallel, which is recited at the three great feasts, at the feast of the Dedication ( Chanucca ) and at the new moons, and not on New Year's day and the day of Atonement, because a cheerful song of praise does not harmonize with the mournful solemnity of these days. And they are recited only in fragments during the last days of the Passover, for “my creatures, saith the Holy One, blessed be He, were drowned in the sea, and ought ye to break out into songs of rejoicing?” In the family celebration of the Passover night it is divided into two parts, the one half, Psalms 113:1-9, Psalms 114:1-8, being sung before the repast, before the emptying of the second festal cup, and the other half, Psalms 115:1, after the repast, after the filling of the fourth cup, to which the humnee'santes (Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26) after the institution of the Lord's Supper, which was connected with the fourth festal cup, may refer. Paulus Burgensis styles Psalms 113:1 Alleluja Judaeorum magnum . This designation is also frequently found elsewhere. But according to the prevailing custom, Psalms 113:1, and more particularly Psalms 115:1, are called only Hallel , and Ps 136, with its “for His mercy endureth for ever” repeated twenty-six times, bears the name of “ the Great Hallel ” ( הלּל הגּדול ).

(Note: Vid., the tractate Sofrim, xviii. §2. Apart from the new moons, at which the recitation of the Hallel κατ ̓ ἐξοχήν , i.e., Psalms 113-118, is only according to custom ( מנהג ), not according to the law, the Hallel was recited eighteen times a year during the continuance of the Temple (and in Palestine even in the present day), viz., once at the Passover, once at Shabuoth, eight times at Succoth, eight times at Chanucca (the feast of the Dedication); and now in the Exile twenty-one times, because the Passover and Succoth have received two feast-days and Shabuoth one as an addition, viz., twice at the Passover, twice at Shabuoth, nine times at Succoth. Instead of Hallel absolutely we also find the appellation “the Egyptian Hallel” ( הלּל המּצרי ) for Psalms 113-118. The ancient ritual only makes a distinction between this (Egyptian) Hallel and the Great Hallel, Ps 136 (see there).)

A heaping up, without example elsewhere, of the so-called Chirek compaginis is peculiar to Psalms 113:1-9. Gesenius and others call the connecting vowels i and o (in proper names also u ) the remains of old case terminations; with the former the Arabic genitive termination is compared, and with the latter the Arabic nominative termination. But in opposition to this it has been rightly observed, that this i and o are not attached to the dependent word (the genitive), but to the governing word. According to the more probable view of Ewald, §211, i and o are equivalent connecting vowels which mark the relation of the genitive case, and are to be explained from the original oneness of the Semitic and Indo-Germanic languages.

The i is found most frequently appended to the first member of the stat. constr., and both to the masc., viz., in Deuteronomy 33:16; Zechariah 11:17 (perhaps twice, vid., Köhler in loc.), and to the femin., viz., in Genesis 31:39; Psalms 110:4; Isaiah 1:21. Leviticus 26:42; Psalms 116:1 hardly belong here. Then this i is also frequently found when the second member of the stat. constr. has a preposition, and this preposition is consequently in process of being resolved: Genesis 49:11; Exodus 15:6, Obadiah 1:3 (Jeremiah 49:16), Hosea 10:11; Lamentations 1:1; Psalms 123:1, and perhaps Song of Solomon 1:9. Also in the Chethîb, Jeremiah 22:23; Jeremiah 51:13; Ezekiel 27:3. Thirdly, where a word stands between the two notions that belong together according to the genitival relation, and the stat. construct. is consequently really resolved: Psalms 101:5; Isaiah 22:16; Micah 7:14. It is the same i which is found in a great many proper names, both Israelitish, e.g., Gamaliel (benefit of God), and Phoenician, e.g., Melchizedek, Hanniba‛al (the favour of Baal), and is also added to many Hebrew prepositions, like בּלתּי (where the i however can, according to the context, also be a pronominal suffix), זוּלתי (where i can likewise be a suffix), מנּי (poetical). In אפסי , on the other hand, the i is always a suffix. The tone of the i only retreats in accordance with rhythmical rule (vid., Psalms 110:4), otherwise i is always accented. Psalms 112:8 shows how our Psalms 113:1-9 in particular delights in this ancient i , where it is even affixed to the infinitive as an ornament, a thing which occurs nowhere else, so that להושׁיבי excites the suspicion of being written in error for להושׁיבו .

Among those things which make God worthy to be praised the Psalm gives prominence to the condescension of the infinitely exalted One towards the lowly one. It is the lowliness of God lowering itself fro the exaltation of the lowly which performs its utmost in the work of redemption. Thus it becomes explicable that Mary in her Magnificat breaks forth into the same strain with the song of Hannah (1 Sam. 2) and this Psalm.

Verses 1-3

The call, not limited by any addition as in Psalms 134:1, or eve, after the manner of Psalms 103:20., extended over the earth, is given to the whole of the true Israel that corresponds to its election by grace and is faithful to its mission; and its designation by “servants of Jahve” (Ps 69:37, cf. Ps 34:23), or even “servant of Jahve” (Psalms 136:22), has come into vogue more especially through the second part of Isaiah. This Israel is called upon to praise Jahve; for the praise and celebration of His Name, i.e., of His nature, which is disclosed by means of its manifestation, is a principal element, yea, the proper ground and aim, of the service, and shall finally become that which fills all time and all space. מהלּל laudatum ( est ), is equivalent to ἀινετόν , laudabile (lxx, Vulgate), and this does not differ greatly from laudetur . The predictive interpretation laudabitur is opposed to the context (cf. moreover Köhler on Malachi 1:11).

Verses 4-6

This praiseworthiness is now confirmed. The opening reminds one of Psalms 99:2. Pasek stands between גוים and יהוה in order to keep them apart. The totality of the nations is great, but Jahve is raised above it; the heavens are glorious, but Jahve's glory is exalted above them. It is not to be explained according to Psalms 148:13; but according to Psalms 57:6, 12, רם belongs to Psalms 113:4 too as predicate. He is the incomparable One who has set up His throne in the height, but at the same time directs His gaze deep downwards (expression according to Ges. §142, rem. 1) in the heavens and upon earth, i.e., nothing in all the realm of the creatures that are beneath Him escapes His sight, and nothing is so low that it remains unnoticed by Him; on the contrary, it is just that which is lowly, as the following strophe presents to us in a series of portraits so to speak, that is the special object of His regard. The structure of Psalms 113:5-6 militates against the construction of “in the heavens and upon the earth” with the interrogatory “who is like unto Jahve our God?” after Deuteronomy 3:24.

Verses 7-9

The thoughts of Psalms 113:7 and Psalms 113:8 are transplanted from the song of Hannah. עפר , according to 1 Kings 16:2, cf. Psalms 14:7, is an emblem of lowly estate (Hitzig), and אשׁפּת (from שׁפת ) an emblem of the deepest poverty and desertion; for in Syria and Palestine the man who is shut out from society lies upon the mezbele (the dunghill or heap of ashes), by day calling upon the passers-by for alms, and by night hiding himself in the ashes that have been warmed by the sun ( Job, ii. 152). The movement of the thoughts in Psalms 113:8, as in Psalms 113:1, follows the model of the epizeuxis. Together with the song of Hannah the poet has before his eye Hannah's exaltation out of sorrow and reproach. He does not, however, repeat the words of her song which have reference to this (1 Samuel 2:5), but clothes his generalization of her experience in his own language. If he intended that עקרת should be understood out of the genitival relation after the form עטרת , why did he not write מושׁיבי הבּית עקרה ? הבּית would then be equivalent to בּיתה , Psalms 68:7. עקרת הבּית is the expression for a woman who is a wife, and therefore housewife, הבּית ( בּעלת ) נות , but yet not a mother. Such an one has no settled position in the house of the husband, the firm bond is wanting in her relationship to her husband. If God gives her children, He thereby makes her then thoroughly at home and rooted-in in her position. In the predicate notion אם הבּנים שׂמחה the definiteness attaches to the second member of the string of words, as in Genesis 48:19; 2 Samuel 12:30 (cf. the reverse instance in Jeremiah 23:26, נבּאי השּׁקר , those prophesying that which is false), therefore: a mother of the children. The poet brings the matter so vividly before him, that he points as it were with his finger to the children with which God blesses her.

Bibliographical Information
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Psalms 113". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kdo/psalms-113.html. 1854-1889.
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