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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Psalms 136


The resemblance of this psalm to the one preceding indicates a common authorship and occasion. Both refer to the same general facts, following the same line of argument. Rosenmuller and others suppose the occasion might have been Ezra 3:11; but this cannot be certainly inferred from the occurrence of the refrain, “For his mercy endureth for ever,” for David appointed to be sung psalms of this chorus, and they were not infrequent. 1 Chronicles 16:41; 2 Chronicles 7:6. See also 2Ch 7:3 ; 2 Chronicles 20:21; Psalms 106:1; Psalms 107:1; Psalms 118:1-4; 1 Chronicles 16:34. Thrupp finds coincidences between this psalm and Nehemiah 9:0, and thinks they “leave little doubt” that it was written at that time; but the tone of the psalm does not fit an assembly for “fasting, and with sackcloth, and earth upon them:” Nehemiah 9:1. The first grand achievement of the returned exiles was the completion of the second temple, and to its dedication we may more safely assign it. Ezra 6:16-17. The psalm is responsive, each verse is a distich, with the final clause a chorus, sung probably by the congregation. The theme, like the one preceding, is praise to God for his works in nature and in history. Its strophic divisions may be put down at four, Psalms 136:1-3, of six lines; the second, Psalms 136:4-9, of twelve lines; the third, Psalms 136:10-22, of twenty-six lines; and the fourth, Psalms 136:23-26, of eight lines. The first is praise to Jehovah as the “God of gods and Lord of lords;” the second recites his works in creation; the third his special providences toward his people of old; the fourth, his recent wonderful deliverance of his Church from bondage. Thrupp thinks perhaps Psalms 136:0 was designed to present the chief contents of Psalms 135:0 in a somewhat more popular form.

Verse 1

1. A common and favourite form of praise. Psalms 118:1.

For his mercy endureth for ever A popular refrain, probably given by the congregation. See above in introduction.

Verses 2-3

2, 3 .

God of gods… Lord of lords Quoted from Deuteronomy 10:17. Compare “King of kings and Lord of lords,” Revelation 19:16. It is the highest ascription of absolute supremacy to the true God, the title “God” denoting his absolute power, and “Lord” his sovereign dominion. The plural form, “gods, lords,” (Hebrew, eloheem, adoneem,) whether applied to idols or human rulers, comprehends all that the nations conceived of power and government, in heaven and earth, over which is enthroned God the supreme. As his goodness is declared Psalms 136:1, so here his majesty, following the order of Psalms 135:3; Psalms 135:5-6. In his government they harmonize. The call to give praise thrice, Psalms 136:1-3, is emphatic, but not an occult intimation of the holy Trinity, as some have supposed.

Verse 4

4. Doeth great wonders See Psalms 72:18; Psalms 135:6. The superior works of God declare him supreme. The phraseology shows that his works are above both comprehension and description.

Verse 6

6. Stretched out the earth above the waters Another instance wherein external nature is described, not scientifically, but popularly, as it appears to the senses. So the scriptures speak of the sun’s rising and going down; and so philosophers themselves still speak, despite the philosophical absurdity of the expression. Psalms 136:6-9 follow the record of Genesis 1:8.

Verses 10-15

10-15 are a rehearsal of the exodus from Egypt. Compare Psalms 136:10 and Psalms 135:8. See, also, notes on Psalms 78, 105.

Overthrew Pharaoh Hebrew, Shook out, or tossed “Pharaoh” into the sea. Same word Nehemiah 5:13, and Psalms 109:23

Verse 16

16. See Exodus 13:18; Deuteronomy 8:15. Leading the people in the desert was as great a miracle as the exodus or the overthrow of the kings.

Verses 17-21

17-21. On these verses see notes on Psalms 135:10-12. It is possible, as some have hinted, that Sihon and Og, with their powerful kingdoms, are here specially alluded to, because these rich trans-Jordanic regions were, at this date, lost to the Jewish territory, and, with Samaria and Galilee on the west, were never fully restored until after the captivity. But faith in their restoration the exiles sought to cherish and strengthen by the rehearsal of their ancient conquest by Moses and Joshua.

Verse 23

23. The remainder of the psalm recites their recent history.

Our low estate An evident allusion to their Babylonian exile; as is also redeemed us from our enemies, Psalms 136:24

Verse 25

25. Food Naturally this thought comes to them in the pressure and want of their newly restored condition and imperfectly cultivated fields and vineyards.

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 136". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.