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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Psalms 136

 

 

Verses 1-26

Psalm 136

1 O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good:

For his mercy endureth for ever.

2 O give thanks unto the God of gods:

For his mercy endureth for ever.

3 O give thanks to the Lord of lords:

For his mercy endureth for ever.

4 To him who alone doeth great wonders:

For his mercy endureth for ever.

5 To him that by wisdom made the heavens:

For his mercy endureth for ever.

6 To him that stretched out the earth above the waters:

For his mercy endureth for ever.

7 To him that made great lights:

For his mercy endurethfor ever:

8 The sun to rule by day:

For his mercy endureth for ever:

9 The moon and stars to rule by night:

For his mercy endureth for ever.

10 To him that smote Egypt in their first-born:

For his mercy endureth for ever:

11 And brought out Israel from among them:

For his mercy endureth for ever:

12 With a strong hand, and with a stretched out arm:

For his mercy endureth for ever.

13 To him which divided the Red sea into parts:

For his mercy endureth for ever:

14 And made Israel to pass through the midst of it:

For his mercy endureth for ever:

15 But overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red sea:

For his mercy endureth for ever.

16 To him which led his people through the wilderness:

For his mercy endureth for ever.

17 To him which smote great kings:

For his mercy endureth for ever:

18 And slew famous kings:

For his mercy endureth for ever:

19 Sihon king of the Amorites:

For his mercy endureth for ever:

20 And Og the king of Bashan:

For his mercy endureth for ever:

21 And gave their land for a heritage:

For his mercy endureth for ever:

22 Even a heritage unto Israel his servant:

For his mercy endureth for ever.

23 Who remembered us in our low estate:

For his mercy endureth for ever:

24 And hath redeemed us from our enemies:

For his mercy endureth for ever.

25 Who giveth food to all flesh:

For his mercy endureth for ever.

26 O give thanks unto the God of heaven:

For his mercy endureth for ever.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Contents and Composition.—This Psalm is an exhortation to give thanks to Jehovah, the true God and the real Lord of the universe, and of all its powers and dominions ( Psalm 136:1-3) who, by mighty deeds in nature, has displayed His greatness as the Creator of the world ( Psalm 136:4-9), and by deeds of deliverance and judgment in history, His pre-eminence as the Redeemer, Guide. and Guardian of His people ( Psalm 136:10-25), for which they are to offer their thanksgiving.—It is essentially a repetition of the foregoing, with some insertions, full of allusions to passages in Deuteronomy and the second part of Isaiah, and adapted by antiphonal arrangement for liturgical use, after the analogy of Exodus 15:51; Deuteronomy 27:14 f. For the introduction see Psalm 106, 118; on the name great Hallel applied to it, see Psalm 113.

[The conjecture of Delitzsch in his first edition that the Psalm originally consisted of 22 verses, corresponding to the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet, Psalm 136:19-22 being interpolated from Psalm 135, is considered possible by Perowne, but is wisely withdrawn by Delitzsch himself in his last edition.—Alexander: “The grand peculiarity of form in this Psalm, by which it is distinguished from all others, is the regular occurrence at the end of every verse of a burden or refrain, like the responses in the Litany, but carried through with still more perfect uniformity. … It has been a favorite idea with interpreters that such repetitions necessarily imply alternate or responsive choirs. But the other indications of this usage in the Psalter are extremely doubtful, and every exegetical condition may be satisfied by simply supposing that the singers in some cases answered their own questions, and that in others, as in the case before us, the people united in the burden or chorus, as they were wont to do in the Amen.”—J. F. M.]

Psalm 136:2-4. God of gods is an expression after Deuteronomy 10:17. It sets forth His creative and providential power by His strong hand and His outstretched arm ( Deuteronomy 4:34; Deuteronomy 5:15, compare Jeremiah 32:21). The term great ( Psalm 136:4), applied to the wonders which God alone does, recalls Psalm 72:18 (comp. Psalm 86:10.

Psalm 136:5-7. The term תְּבוּנָה ( Psalm 136:5), applied to the wisdom which made the world, is taken from Proverbs 3:19 or Jeremiah 10:12. רֹקַע ( Psalm 136:6) is an epithet of God, Isaiah 42:5; Isaiah 44:24, as of Him who spreads out the earth like a plain upon the waters or over the waters ( Exodus 20:4; Psalm 24:2). [Delitzsch: “Because the water is partly visible and partly invisible.”—J. F. M.] It does not mean: He who makes firm (De Wette). Elsewhere God is called: יֹסֵד = sterneus. The plural: אוֹרִים=luces, for מְאֹרוֹת=lumina, occurs only here.

Psalm 136:9-15.—The dominions ( Psalm 136:9) [the dominions of the night; E. V.: to rule the night] do not mean ruling powers, but the two-fold exercise of ruling ( Psalm 114:2); here those of the moon and of the stars. In Psalm 136:13גזר is used of the dividing of the Red Sea, as of something cut into two parts, Genesis 15:17, instead of בקע, Psalm 78:13; Nehemiah 9:11, which follow Exodus 14:21. But נִעֵר ( Psalm 136:15) is the established term taken from Exodus 14:27.

Psalm 136:26.—The name God of heaven Isaiah, as in Nehemiah 1:4; Nehemiah 2:4, an appellation of God which originated in a late period. The language, also, employed after Psalm 136:17 conveys a strong impression of the same age. [Alexander: “The God of heaven is a new description as to form, but substantially equivalent to that in Psalm 7:8; Psalm 11:4; Psalm 14:2; Psalm 33:13-14.”—J. F. M.]

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

God will have a people in the world which belongs to Him alone and serves Him; for this He has created the world and preserves it with its inhabitants.—It is well, in considering all the wonderful works and great deeds of God in nature and history, to regard mercy as their divine source: by this we learn to thank God most fervently and to trust Him most firmly.—We have ever reason enough to praise God with gratitude, and occasion enough, also, as we are so often urged to do; but, alas! we have not always delight in that service, and too often but little zeal.—God’s power is incomparable, His wisdom boundless, His love infinite. Alas! that men begin so late to know God and cease so soon to thank Him, that they falter so much in their faith, and exercise themselves so little in the obedience of love.

Starke: God is goodness itself: therefore as long as God remains, goodness remains. He is a stronghold in distress.—He who would praise God’s goodness worthily must have had some experience, some tokens of it, and have retained them still further in blissful enjoyment.—The world ascribes nothing to God’s goodness. With it everything depends upon fortune; but be thou of a different mind. Let it not so often be said in vain to thee: His goodness endureth forever.—The work of creation is so full of depths of God’s omnipotence and wisdom that a mortal becomes lost in reflecting upon it and must take His stand upon the everlasting goodness of God.—God will perform in His Church works which supersede the laws of nature, rather than allow her to succumb and perish in her afflictions.—He who will oppose God’s will, as Pharaoh did, need expect nothing else than that the mighty hand of God will urge him on to destruction.—Whenever we eat a morsel of bread or take a reviving draught, we can taste and see how kind God is.—If God were to portion out His goodness to us according to the measure of our recognition and acknowledgment of it, it might well not linger with us another hour, for no manifestation of it comes to us which we do not sin away.

Richter: God, while showing special favor towards Israel, His chosen people, His first-born, is also gracious and merciful to all. He it is who has adapted and arranged the whole heavens for the good of the earth and of all created things.—Guenther: O that every deliverance here below were an earnest of the last great deliverance from the enemy of all enemies, and that the assurance of the children of God were unchangeably firm!—Taube: It must and will be Israel that leads the song of thanksgiving, inspired by that nearer revelation given to them in the history of redemption, which gave them the key to the knowledge of the works of God.

[Matt. Henry: We are never so earnestly called upon to pray and repent as to give thanks. For it is the will of God that we should abound most in the most pleasant exercises of religion, in that which is the work of heaven.—It is good to enter into the detail of God’s favors, and not to view them in the gross, and in each instance to observe and own that God’s mercy endureth forever.—We should trace each stream to the fountain. This and that particular mercy may perhaps endure for a while; but the mercy that is in God endures forever: it is an inexhaustible fountain.—Bp. Horne: How many of those for whom the works of creation, providence, and redemption have been wrought think none of them worthy their attention! Angels admire and adore when man will not deign to cast an eye or employ a thought.—Be God’s praise as universal and lasting as His mercy!—Scott: Repetitions, disgustful to the fastidious, are often salutary and necessary, because we are so prone to overlook or forget the Lord’s goodness and mercy; yet they convey a severe reproof and should cause us to unite humiliation with our gratitude to our condescending Instructor.—Barnes: Mere power might fill us with dread; power, mingled with mercy and able to carry out the purposes of mercy, must lay the foundation for praise.—J. F. M.]

 


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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition available at BibleSupport.com. Public Domain.

Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 136:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/psalms-136.html. 1857-84.

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Sunday, December 8th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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