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It is a characteristic of this final group of five hallelujah psalms, that in calling the universe, in its utmost bounds and variety of being, to praise Jehovah, the author advances the Church to the forefront of the grand chorus. The God of nature is the God in Zion. No stretch of human thought can transcend the sublime and majestic sweep of the devout author’s imagination, equalled only by the vision of John, as set forth in Revelation 5:11-14. The occasion of the psalm must be correspondingly great with the volume of praise called forth, and is indicated in Psalms 148:14. It is identical with that of the whole group, in which clear allusions to national restoration are made. See Psalms 146:7; Psalms 146:10; Psalms 147:2; Psalms 147:13; Psalms 147:20; Psalms 149:2; Psalms 149:7-9. The greatness of this work is seldom grasped, even by biblical students. The volume of prophecy, history, and lyrics relating to the captivity and restoration, as compared with other periods of Old Testament record, is amazingly full, and the political changes in the nations of Western Asia attending these events, have nothing to surpass them in ancient history. The restoration itself has not a parallel in the history of nations. It was the marvellous work of God. The restoration is also a type and example of what God will do for his Church throughout all ages. Psalms 146, 147, 148, are, in the Septuagint, ascribed to the prophets Haggai and Zechariah.
The psalm before us falls, in its most general division, into three parts: Psalms 148:1-6 contain a call upon celestial being to praise God; Psalms 148:7-13, a like call upon all terrestrial beings; Psalms 148:14 furnishes the reason, namely, his great and special providence toward his Church “the people near unto him.”
1. Praise ye the Lord Hebrew, Hallelujah. The praise of Jehovah is in the intelligent and devout rehearsal of his acts, in their wisdom, power, and goodness.
From the heavens His abode and throne, from whence come all deliverances. Thus, Psalms 18:16: “He sent from above, he took me,” etc. Psalms 102:19-20, etc. The address is to them that stand around the throne of God.
In the heights This is undoubtedly to be taken tropically for the highest ranks of glory and honour. In this sense God is “most high,” (Psalms 56:2; Micah 6:6,) and the dignitaries of earth are called the “high ones” that are “on high,” Isaiah 24:21. The psalmist begins his call for praise with those highest in rank and dignity, without specifying the kind of beings intended. In the next verse he distinguishes them by a general classification.
2. Angels The highest order of holy created beings in heaven, who immediately war on God.
Hosts Hebrew, Sab’aoth; literally, armies. The title primarily applies to the national army of Israel, whose captain and leader was God. Hence, the frequent title, “God of hosts,” or armies. The idea of the word is not merely that of multitude, but of order, organization, and active martial service. The psalmist seems to use it here for the inhabitants of heaven generally, under whatsoever title they may be revealed to us as of angel, archangel, seraph, cherub, principality, or power. As he mentions the “stars” in Psalms 148:3, it would seem they were not here included in the Sab’aoth, as they often are.
3. Having spoken of the highest heaven, with its celestial dignitaries, the author descends to the region of the visible heavens.
Sun, moon… stars The Hebrews were not acquainted with the relative distances of the heavenly bodies; and had they been, it were impossible to give a better classification, for our sun is but a star, and the stars are but suns. The language is comprehensive of all planetary and stellar worlds. Still descending toward our earth, he calls upon the waters that be above the heavens. These, according to the Hebrew meteorology, were above the lower heavens, that is, above the רקיע , ( rakia,) “firmament,” (Genesis 1:6-8,) in the superior region of the atmosphere. Here ends the enumeration of strictly celestial existences. They are called upon to praise God as their Creator.
For he commanded, and they were created The instantaneousness of the act of creation was a cause of wonder, adoration, and praise. It is the sublimest conception of power that ever entered the human mind. See on Genesis 1:0, and Psalms 33:6; Psalms 33:9
6. He hath also stablished them He hath constituted them. The heavenly bodies are here referred to. God has not only created brought into existence but he has firmly established the order and relation of all things in one vast harmonious system.
He hath made a decree which shall not pass Literally, He hath made a law they shall not transgress. So the word rendered “pass” often means. God’s laws in nature furnish the most perfect model of order and stability. From a world to an atom, nature never transgresses or passes beyond them. Miracles are not an exception. They only prove that nature is obedient to her Lord.
7. Praise the Lord from the earth Here begins the second division of the psalm. Having summoned the celestial beings and worlds to the grand chorus of the universe, the author now calls upon the earth. But he reverses the order. In the former he began with the highest heavens; in the latter, with the lowest depths.
Dragons, and all deeps Sea monsters and all unfathomed abysses of the ocean.
8. Fire, and hail; snow, and vapor It is not clear that “fire” refers exclusively to lightning, which in Palestine “often strikes and causes damage,” (Schwarz,) or that “vapour” means smoke, and not vapory clouds. The writer is noticing the most prominent and fearful accompaniments of a tropical storm, and the phenomena are classed as terrestrial (Psalms 148:7) because the sensible effects are realized by the dwellers on the earth. Hail and snow were the more formidable as the dwellings and clothing of the people generally offered but a frail protection against the cold. See Psalms 147:17.
Stormy wind Another imposing force in nature, indicating the power of God. Tempestuous winds are a common accompaniment of the winter rains.
Fulfilling his word Though in appearance the stormy winds are lawless and capricious, governed according to no fixed order, they are still subject to the immediate will and beneficent purposes of God. To the psalmist all seeming discord is
“ harmony not understood;
All partial evil, universal good.”
9, 10. If the classifications in these verses are not scientific, modernly considered, they are comprehensive, and not without reason.
Mountains As awakening thoughts of God through the emotions of sublimity, grandeur, and awe.
Hills For their beauty and utility covered with flocks and fertile fields.
Fruitful trees, and all cedars The division of all trees into fruitbearing and non-fruitbearing is very natural in a country where fruit is a staple reliance for support. As natural is it to place the princely cedar as the representative of the latter class.
Beasts… all cattle “Beasts,” here, stand for wild animals, and “cattle” for tame or domestic ones.
Creeping things, and flying fowl Classified according to a principle of contrariety as to spheres of life and modes of motion, but all showing the varied wisdom of God.
11, 12. The human family is here called upon, as such, to praise God. They alone of all the creatures inhabiting the earth are endued with intelligence to trace all existence to its primal cause and ultimate ends. Man, as the high priest of nature, is to offer the incense of praise for all the inferior creatures of God. The earth, with all its irrational tribes, was made in anticipation of man, through whose appreciative reason alone the fullest praise of the visible earth and heavens ascends.
Kings… people… princes… judges In looking upon universal human society, governments, nationalities, first strike the view. Officers of government represent God in their functions. It is fit they should lead the people in praise.
Young men… maidens; old men… children Families, with their varied grades of youth, age, and childhood appear next.
14. He also exalteth the horn of his people… a people near unto him The climax of Jehovah’s works, and of the praise due, is at length reached. Above created nature, above nations, above all human ranks of age or honour, near to the heart of God, stands the Church, the spiritual Israel, the fruit of his redeeming love. The allusion supposes Israel to have been recently exalted to honour from abasement. The language suits the restoration from captivity. The event astonished the nations, and became the theme of a “new song” of praise. Thus the moral government and redemption will for ever stand out the distinguishing glory of God.
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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 148". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
Eve of Ascension