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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Psalms 147

In this psalm we see God’s people, made up entirely of righteous, in Jerusalem and Zion in the time of the realm of peace (Psa 147:12). God, the Creator, Who cares for His entire creation, stands in a special relationship with His people. His people know Him as righteous, full of compassion and good. Thus they have come to know Him in His ways with them.

After the previous psalm sings of the LORD as God Who is King, the song of praise now continues with a song of praise for the works of the LORD. It is He Who rebuilds Jerusalem; it is He Who brings back the outcast of Israel, the lost ten tribes (Psa 147:2); it is He Who with balm from Gilead cares for the brokenhearted of His people (Psa 147:3; Jer 8:22).

Division of the psalm

The occasion of the song of praise is that the LORD
1. restores (Psa 147:1-6),
2. sustains (Psa 147:7-11), and
3. gives peace (Psa 147:12-20).

Each section begins with an exhortation to praise the LORD:
Psa 147:1 “Hallelujah!” (= Praise the LORD).
Psa 147:7 “Sing to the LORD …, sing praises to our God … “
Psa 147:12 “Praise the LORD, O Jerusalem! Praise your God, O Zion!”

Verses 1-6

God Restores and Cares For His People


Before the psalmist lists the reasons to praise the LORD, he first makes it clear that it is good, pleasant and becoming to praise the LORD (Psa 147:1). The psalm begins with the exclamation “hallelujah” or “praise the LORD”. Immediately following this, the psalmist motivates his call: “For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant.” Singing psalms to God is good for God’s people and pleasant for God. God is “our God”. This is how He has made Himself known to His people. He has delivered them from all misery and brought them into the blessing of the realm of peace. Therefore “praise is becoming”.

A pre-fulfillment of what is written in Psa 147:2 happened after a remnant returned to Israel from the Babylonian exile. Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the city. We find the description of this in the book of Nehemiah. Here we read that “the LORD builds up Jerusalem”. It is His work. He worked it all into Nehemiah’s heart and gave him the strength and wisdom to do that work. The remnant learned that the builders labor in vain at the house if the LORD does not build it.

At the same time, it is clear that it is not the complete fulfillment of what is being sung here. It is a prophetic psalm, the fulfillment of which takes place when the Messiah reigns (Psa 102:16; Isa 61:4; Jer 30:18; Amos 9:14). “The outcasts of Israel” are not yet gathered by Him. The ten tribes are still largely in the scattering up to this point, but He will gather them (Deu 30:3; Isa 11:12; Isa 56:8; Hos 1:11; Eze 37:22; Mt 24:31). When He will have gathered them and brought them back – we have seen this in Psalms 120-121 – the happy situation described here will begin.

For this, the LORD not only brings the outcast – not only of the ten tribes, but also those of the two tribes – back to Jerusalem, but He heals them (Psa 147:3). They are “the brokenhearted”, for they have acknowledged that their removal from the land was justified because of their sins. Those sins are their idolatry and rejection of Christ – the latter applies only to the two tribes.

By their confession of it, they are in a mind that is after the heart of God. With them He wants to dwell, in their heart and in His city (Isa 57:15; Hos 6:1; Lk 4:18). They have suffered much, but now God relieves their suffering with His love. He binds up the wounds that He Himself had to cause (Job 5:18).

That God is able to bring back every member of His people is evident from the fact that “He counts the number of the stars” and “gives names to all of them” (Psa 147:4; cf. Isa 40:26). He told Abraham that He would make his descendants as numerous as the stars of heaven in multitude (Gen 15:5).

He, the mighty Ruler of the universe, knows exactly where this offspring, scattered as it is, is. He knows their number and knows the name of each one. The LORD is omniscient; He does not overlook any star. Therefore, He will never overlook the suffering of His own (Psa 147:3) either.

That God knows the number of stars and the name of each star shows that He is “great … and abundant in strength” (Psa 147:5). He is called here “the Lord”, that is Adonai, the sovereign Ruler of the universe. Everything outside of Him is created by Him and limited, even though their number or size is so great that we cannot count or calculate it. However, He Himself is unlimited: “His understanding is infinite.” The number of stars is bounded, the stars are countable, although we do not see their boundary and cannot count them. He, however, is immeasurable or ‘uncountable’.

If a human being feels small in anything, it is in comparison to the immeasurable universe with its countless stars. That overwhelming universe was created by God. He is not a part of it, but is exalted above it and sustains it by the word of His power.

In His unlimitedness, He bows down to the little man who bows before His majesty. As He supports the universe, He supports the afflicted or meek (Psa 147:6). The meek have learned of Him, for He is meek and humble in heart (Mt 11:29). As a result, they are like Him. Therefore, they have not taken the law into their own hands, but have endured suffering and waited, like Christ, for God’s time for blessing. They have been supported by God, and now they may share with Christ in the blessing of the realm of peace.

With “the wicked” He deals very differently. The afflicted have humbled themselves under the powerful hand of God. The wicked have exalted themselves and sought to enrich themselves at the expense of the afflicted. Now the time of retribution has come. The afflicted are exalted, while God “humbles the wicked to the ground” (Lk 14:11; Lk 18:14).

The LORD uses His omnipotence (Psa 147:5) to support the remnant, represented in the afflicted, in the midst of the heaviest tribulation, while He humbles the wicked, that is, the antichrist and the enemies of the people, to the ground.

Verses 7-11

God’s Care for His Creation


A second call to sing to the LORD follows (Psa 147:7; Psa 147:1). The occasion is the faithfulness of the LORD, both toward creation and toward those in Israel who fear Him. The psalmist now says to do so – as the original shows – in a turn on turn song of thanksgiving. One group sings a question about God’s actions and the other group sings a response to it. It reinforces the thanksgiving. The lyre support gives the whole a lovely sound. Everything happens from the relationship that exists with “our God”. The hearts are full of Him and focused on Him.

It is becoming for the righteous to sing psalms to Him because His majesty is great. Of this His creation testifies. It can be said of no one else but of Him that He “covers the heavens with clouds” (Psa 147:8). Then from these clouds He provides rain for the earth, by which He “makes the grass to grow on the mountains”.

In this way He gives “to the beast its food” (Psa 147:9). He also gives food “to the young ravens which cry” (cf. Job 38:41; Mt 6:26; Mt 10:29-31). God provides all that wait on Him with what they need. He delights in giving this care to His creatures (Psa 145:15-16).

Those who count on other strength, represented in “the strength of the horse” (Psa 147:10), and expect their provisions from it, need not count on His support. In them He does not delight. Also “in the legs of the man”, that is, in people who count on their own strength and attribute everything to their own merit, He does not take pleasure (cf. Amos 2:14-15).

The strength of the horse and the legs of the man are needed during battle. Man is inclined to rely on other resources than God. Therefore, a king of Israel was not to possess many horses (Deu 17:16), so that he would not put his trust in his own strength, but in the LORD (cf. Psa 20:7).

What the LORD does find delight and takes pleasure in are “those who fear Him” and “those who wait for His lovingkindness” (Psa 147:11). He “favors” them because they are in awe of Him, without fear of Him. It is an awe that goes along with trust in His lovingkindness, that is, in His faithfulness toward His covenant and His promise, without claiming it. It is His joy to give.

Verses 12-14

God’s Care for Jerusalem


The third call to praise is made to Jerusalem and Zion (Psa 147:12; Psa 147:1; 7). Jerusalem is the city of the great King. Jerusalem means ‘city of peace’. Now that the Prince of peace is King over Israel, Jerusalem finally lives up to her name. The true Melchizedek, who is called king of Salem, which is king of peace (Heb 7:1-2), reigns.

That city He has chosen to dwell there in order to rule from there in righteousness in accordance with the promises made by the LORD to His people. All glory is for the LORD alone. Zion is also Jerusalem, but more connected to grace as the foundation upon which the city can be the dwelling place for God’s people. Zion is called to praise her God, for the inhabitants of the city have been brought in there by God’s great grace.

The occasion of the glory and praise, indicated by the word “for”, is multiple (Psa 147:13). First of all, God takes charge of the protection of the city. As a result, the safety of all who are in it is completely guaranteed.

Nehemiah literally restored the walls, gates, and bolts of Jerusalem; here, figuratively, the LORD does so (Zec 2:5). Gog, the prince of Great Russia, is blind to this protection by God. He sees that the cities of Israel are “without walls and having no bars or gates” and therefore dares to attack Israel, to his own detriment (Eze 38:11; 22).

The first to benefit from the LORD’s protection – and this is a second reason to praise and glorify Him – are the sons within the city. They are blessed by Him.

A third reason for praising and giving thanks to God is that He makes “peace” to reign in their area (Psa 147:14). The Lord Jesus is the Prince of peace. Through Him, peace reigns in the realm of peace. He has made that peace possible through His work on the cross. That is the basis for all peace, personally, in the intercourse among believers, and later, in the realm of peace, worldwide (Rom 5:1; Eph 2:14-17; Col 3:15; Isa 9:5-6).

The fourth reason for praise is mentioned that God satisfies them “with the finest of the wheat” (cf. Psa 81:16). In this salutary atmosphere of peace, “the finest of the wheat” is enjoyed. The wheat brings to mind the life of the Lord Jesus that has become the portion of all who are united to Him through His death on the cross. He is the grain of wheat that fell into the earth and died, resulting in a rich harvest of those who received Him as their life (Jn 12:24).

Verses 15-20

The Working of God’s Word


Psa 147:15-18 are about ‘freezing’ (Psa 147:15-17) and ‘melting’ (Psa 147:18). This section tells us that what man cannot do, God in His omnipotence can do. God does that by sending His Word. That same Word the LORD sends to Israel and to no other people (Psa 147:19-20). It is the mighty Word of God doing His work in the hearts of man.

God established heaven and earth by His Word (Psa 33:6; 9; Heb 11:3). By that same Word He works on earth (Psa 147:15). His Word is His act. When He sends His command to earth, it is for the benefit of man in general and His people in particular. Every command is carried out immediately without hesitation: “His word runs very swiftly.” His Word is represented here as a messenger who carries out his master’s command instantaneously (Isa 55:11). His Word is not static, but dynamic, even for us (1Thes 2:13; 2Thes 3:1).

When it snows and the earth is covered as with wool, it is done at His command (Psa 147:16; Job 37:6; cf. Isa 55:10-11). When He commands, the frozen dew is scattered like ashes. Similarly, He casts “His ice as fragments”, where we can think of hailstones, on the earth (Psa 147:17). The second part of Psa 147:17 is asked as a question. It is a question to which no answer is expected. For everyone knows that against the coldness of ice, which is “His cold” because He causes it to come by His word, no one can stand.

He can also send His word to put an end to the snow, hoarfrost and ice (Psa 147:18). Then His word works to melt everything and make His coldness disappear. Then He causes “His wind to blow”. This causes everything that has melted and become “waters to flow”, so that wherever the waters come, it provides refreshment.

These natural phenomena symbolize God’s dealings with His people. He had to bring His cold judgments upon them because of their rebellion against Him, as He foretold in His Word. Hailstones are used by God to strike the earth (Exo 9:18-25; Job 38:22-23; Eze 13:13; Hag 2:17; Rev 16:21). He also brought those judgments to an end. His people, that is, those who acknowledged the justice of His judgments, He then brought into the refreshing blessing of the realm of peace. After the icy wind of His wrath, they now felt the gentle breeze of His love.

As for Israel, we might add the following. The LORD sent His mighty word to transform the ice into water (Psa 147:18). He is also mighty to send His word to transform Jacob into Israel (Psa 147:19). The same effect the Word of the LORD has on the remnant of Israel, which He thereby transforms into His people, the true Israel (Jer 31:33). He has done this only with Israel and with no other nation (Psa 147:20).

God’s Word is not only a Word of commands, but also a Word of announcements. “He declares His words to Jacob”, that is all Israel, all twelve tribes, that is, He communicates to His people what His plans for them are (Psa 147:19). “Jacob” is the name for the people that recalls the aberrations of God’s Word. There is also mention of “Israel”, which is the name for the people as blessed by God. God makes known to Israel “His statutes and His ordinances”.

He has favored Israel more than any other nation by giving them His revealed truth (Rom 9:4). There is no nation in the ancient world as privileged as Israel, which has the revealed will of God: the written Word of God. This Book with its good laws, customs, morals, intelligence, social life, purity, charity, prosperity, exalts this people above all other nations and spreads around them blessings that can come from nowhere else. The highest benefit that can be done to any people is to give them the Word of God in their own language.

In nature, in creation, God makes Himself known to all nations (Rom 1:19-20). In His Word, He makes Himself known to His people in a special way. His Word is His revelation to His people as their God. “He has not dealt thus with any nation” (Psa 147:20). That God has given His people His ‘Word revelation’ (Deu 4:6-8; Rom 3:2) underscores their enormous privilege as God’s people.

God has given to His people “just ordinances and true laws, good statutes and commandments” (Neh 9:13). Because the peoples do not know “His statutes” in His Word, they are subject to all forms of evil to which they are led by demonic powers (cf. 1Cor 12:2). The great contrast with the nations who do not know God’s statutes does not make God’s people haughty, but very grateful. They are no better than the nations. This realization leads them to the exclamation with which the psalm concludes: “Hallelujah!” All praise belongs to the LORD alone.

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Psalms 147". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/psalms-147.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.