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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
Psalms 147

 

 

Verse 1

Psalms 147.

The prophet exhorteth to praise God for his care of the church, his power, and his mercy: for his providence: for his blessings upon the kingdom, for his power over the seasons, and for his ordinances in the church.

THIS psalm is supposed to have respect to the return of the Jewish nation from the Babylonish captivity, and the instauration of Jerusalem which followed upon it. It has been very probably conjectured that Nehemiah wrote it; and by the 2nd, 3rd, and 13th verses it seems to have been composed just after the restoration upon the rebuilding of Jerusalem; and at such a time especially praise must look becoming.


Verse 4

Psalms 147:4. He telleth the number of the stars, &c.— i.e. "He as distinctly and exactly knows them, how numerous soever they be, (see Genesis 15:5.) and how confusedly soever they seem to us to be scattered in the sky, as we do those things which we call by their proper names; and thus he knows how to gather the outcasts of Israel out of all their dispersions, and to find every one of them, wheresoever they are."


Verse 7

Psalms 147:7. Sing unto the Lord with thanksgiving Hebrew, Answer to the Lord in praise. "Sing alternately;" which may fairly be supposed to be the sense intended by the prophet, as it was the ancient practice to sing alternately. The precentor beginning with the voice, it was usual for the instruments to follow to the same tune and key. See Fenwick, and particularly Bishop Lowth's 19th Prelection.


Verse 9

Psalms 147:9. He giveth to the beast his food The Hebrew word indifferently signifies either a tame or a wild beast; but this passage of the Psalmist is to be understood only of wild beasts; those for whom God by his especial providence prepares food, and who have no other care taken of them. The beasts which live among men are taken care of by them; but the wild beasts that live upon the mountains, and in woods and desart places, are fed only from God. The rain that distils from the heavens, enriches those dry hills, and makes grass to grow thereon; and so God gives to these wild beasts their food, after the same manner of divine providence, as, at the end of the verse, he is said to provide for young ravens. Though what some tell us of these birds is not true, (for it is certain they are not less careful of their young than others are;) yet, as the rearing up the young of any species of animals, is a striking instance of the ordinary providence of God; and the cawing of a young raven in poetical speech may very beautifully be considered as a sort of natural prayer to God, in answer to which he supplies their wants; this certainly is sufficient to justify the Psalmist's expression.


Verse 10

Psalms 147:10. He delighteth not in the strength of the horse See Psalms 33:16-17. Mr. Green renders this, He delighteth not in the courage of the horse, nor is pleased with the agility of the warrior. The meaning seems to be, "The Lord, who fighteth for us, (see Nehemiah 4:20.) will not take part with our enemies, though they are superior to us in the strength of their cavalry and the agility of their infantry. These, though the natural causes of military success, are of no efficacy against the interposition of the Deity. The fear of him is a more certain assurance of conquest, than any or all human resources."


Verse 16-17

Psalms 147:16-17. He giveth snow, &c.— The winters in the east, in some years, and at some places, are remarkably cold and severe. Fulcherius Carnotensis saw the cold prove deadly to many. Jac. de Vitriaco informs us, that the same thing happened to many of the poor people engaged in an expedition, in which he himself was concerned, against mount Tabor: that he had suffered severely the preceding days, by cold; but on the 24th of December it was so sharp, that many of the poor people, and of the beasts of burthen, actually died. Albertus Aquensis tells us, that the same thing happened to thirty of the people who attended king Baldwin I. in the mountainous districts of Arabia, by the Dead Sea, where they had to conflict with horrible hail, with ice, and unheard-of snow and rain. We have sometimes, it may be, wondered that an eastern author, in a hymn composed for the use of those warmer climes, should say of God, as in these verses, He giveth the snow, &c. The preceding citations may remove that wonder. See Observations, p. 12 and Ezra 10:9.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, He takes up this psalm as he concludes the former, with Hallelujah! and abundant cause there is, why we should continually sing and give praise unto the Lord. He is our God; we have an interest in his favour: It is good to praise him, it is our bounden duty and highest interest. It is pleasant, for this service is especially its own reward: it is comely; pleasing to God, and most becoming us as his creatures, but especially as his children; in that relation we are particularly bound to praise him,

1. For his kindness and care towards his city and people. The Lord doth build up Jerusalem: he gathereth together the outcasts of Israel; literally, when David repaired the city, and those who had suffered with him as outlaws were restored; or spiritually, he buildeth up his gospel-church, and prepares the heavenly Jerusalem for the abode of his faithful ones, who by sin had made themselves outcasts, and whom the world, on their returning to God, rejected as the off-scouring of all things.

2. For his compassion towards the miserable. He healeth the broken in heart, whose souls by sin were sore troubled, and, shocked at the remembrance of past transgressions, were ready to lie down in despair, and perish. These he healeth, pouring in the oil of his blood which cleanseth from all sin; and with the tender hand of his grace bindeth up their wounds, speaking peace to their consciences, and filling them with his divine consolations.

3. For his infinite power and wisdom. Innumerable as the stars are, to him they are known; for they are indeed his own workmanship, and he calleth them all by their names, appoints them their place; and they as servants are obedient to his orders. So great and glorious is the Lord; so great his power, so infinite his understanding. His saints are the stars in his right hand; he knoweth them, and is their friend and their God.

4. For his dealings towards the sons of men. The Lord lifteth up the meek; who in their own eyes are little, and patiently endure the afflictions of providence, or the provocations of men. These he comforts, and will exalt to the inheritance among the saints in light; but he casteth the wicked down to the ground, with strokes of heavy judgment in this world, by sudden and untimely death, and at last will cast them down into the pit of everlasting destruction.

5. For his providential regard towards all his creatures. Drawn up in copious exhalations, thick clouds of water cover the skies: formed by his power into drops of rain, they empty themselves on the mountains, causing the grass to spring, and providing thereby plenty of food for all animals, the meanest and most useless of which are not forgotten or neglected; but even the cry of the young ravens is heard and answered. Note; (1.) The clouds of affliction, when darkest, serve but to prepare us for greater fruitfulness in our souls. (2.) If the raven's cry is heard, surely our prayer shall not be disregarded; he who feedeth them, will much more provide all needful supplies for his own people. For,

6. In them is his delight, and therefore they owe him praise. God delights not in the strength of the horse, or in any man's legs: the finest cavalry, or the firmest infantry, are vain things to save a man without God's blessing; but the Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, and in those that hope in his mercy; filial fear and holy hope being the distinguishing characters of God's people.

2nd, Jerusalem and Zion, the figures of the gospel-church, are called upon to praise the Lord their God,

1. For their prosperity under the divine protection. He hath strengthened the bars of thy gates: his salvation, his power, and faithfulness, stronger than walls and bulwarks, surround his believing people. He hath blessed thy children within thee—the spiritual seed of the church begotten through the ministry of the gospel, and enriched with all the spiritual blessings of grace in Christ Jesus. He maketh peace in thy borders; quieting all his Zion's enemies without, and bestowing abundance of peace within; spiritual peace in their souls, and great union and harmony among each other; and filleth thee with the finest of the wheat; all needful temporal good, or the bread of life in the gospel, by which the souls of believers are supported and strengthened. Mercies inestimable! and calling for louder praise than any merely temporal good vouchsafed to the inhabitants of Judaea.

2. For God's providential government in the kingdom of nature. He sendeth forth his commandment upon earth, and his will all things obey. His word runneth very swiftly: he speaks, and it is done; which may respect either the word of his providence, directing the rain and the snow to fall; or the word of his gospel, which by the preaching of the apostles was quickly spread through the world. He giveth snow like wool, for whiteness, and conveys warmth to the earth on which it falls. He scattereth the hoar-frost like ashes; the dew of night congealing, and covering, as ashes spread abroad, the plants and trees. He casteth forth his ice like morsels; either in hailstones that fall, or when the isicles shoot in the incrusted waters. Who can stand before his cold? the intenseness of which would instantly destroy us, if God was pleased to expose us to its extremity. He findeth out his word, and melteth them: he causeth his wind to blow, and the waters flow, dissolving the ice and snow, and making the verdure and flowers of spring succeed to the cold and dreary scenes of winter. Note; Like the frozen earth is the sinner's heart, till God's Spirit breathes upon it; then softened into deep contrition, the penitential tears begin to flow, and soon the whole soul puts on a new aspect, filled with the blossoms of grace and fruits of righteousness, which are, through Jesus Christ, to the praise and glory of God.

3. For that divine revelation, with which they were peculiarly favoured. He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel. Israel was peculiarly distinguished by those oracles of God committed to them, containing the promises and precepts, moral and ceremonial. He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments they have not known them: as therefore peculiarly favoured of heaven, they of all others were bound to fidelity, blessing, and praise. Note; The case is our own: this happy land enjoys in its purity the gospel-word: may we know our mercies, improve them, and be thankful; lest, by the neglect of our Bibles, it should be more tolerable in the day of judgment for Sodom and Gomorrah than for us!

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 147:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/psalms-147.html. 1801-1803.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, December 14th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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