PSALM 113 OVERVIEW
TITLE AND SUBJECT. This Psalm is one of pure praise, and contains but little which requires exposition; a warm heart full of admiring adoration of the Most High will best of all comprehend this sacred hymn. Its subject is the greatness and condescending goodness of the God of Israel, as exhibited in lifting up the needy from their low estate. It may fitly be sung by the church during a period of revival after it has long been minished and brought low. With this Psalm begins the Hallel, or Hallelujah of the Jews, which was sung at their solemn feasts: we will therefore call it THE COMMENCEMENT OF THE HALLEL. Dr. Edersheim tells us that the Talmud dwells upon the peculiar suitableness of the Hallel to the Passover, "since it not only recorded the goodness of God towards Israel, but especially their deliverance from Egypt, and therefore appropriately opened with Praise ye Jehovah, ye servants of Jehovah, -- and no longer servants of Pharaoh." Its allusions to the poor in the dust and the needy upon the dunghill are all in keeping with Israel in Egypt, and so also is the reference to the birth of numerous children where they were least expected.
Division. No division need be made in the exposition of this Psalm, except it be that which is suggested by the always instructive headings supplied by the excellent authors of our common version: an exhortation to praise God, for his excellency, 1-5; for his mercy, 6-9.
Verse 1. Praise ye the LORD, or Hallelujah, praise to JAH Jehovah. Praise is an essential offering at all the solemn feasts of the people of God. Prayer is the myrrh, and praise is the frankincense, and both of these must be presented unto the Lord. How can we pray for mercy for the future if we do not bless God for his love in the past? The Lord hath wrought all good things for us, let us therefore adore him. All other praise is to be excluded, the entire devotion of the soul must be poured out unto Jehovah only.
Praise, O ye servants of the LORD. Ye above all men, for ye are bound to do so by your calling and profession. If God's own servants do not praise him, who will? Ye are a people near unto him, and should be heartiest in your loving gratitude. While they were slaves of Pharaoh, the Israelites uttered groans and sighs by reason of their hard bondage; but now that they had become servants of the Lord, they were to express themselves in songs of joy. His service is perfect freedom, and those who fully enter into it discover in that service a thousand reasons for adoration. They are sure to praise God best who serve him best; indeed, service is praise.
Praise the name of the LORD: extol his revealed character, magnify every sacred attribute, exult in all his doings, and reverence the very name by which he is called. The name of Jehovah is thrice used in this verse, and may by us who understand the doctrine of the Trinity in Unity be regarded as a thinly veiled allusion to that holy mystery. Let Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, all be praised as the one, only, living, and true God. The close following of the words, "Hallelujah, Hallelu, Hallelu," must have had a fine effect in the public services. Dr. Edersheim describes the temple service as responsive, and says, "Every first line of a Psalm was repeated by the people, while to each of the others they responded by a Hallelu Jah or Praise ye the Lord" thus --
The Levites began: Hallelujah (Praise ye the Lord).
The people repeated: Hallelu Jah.
The Levites: Praise (Hallelu), O ye servants of Jehovah.
The people responded: Hallelu Jah.
The Levites: Praise (Hallelu) the name of Jehovah.
The people responded: Hallelu Jah.
These were not vain repetitions, for the theme is one which we ought to dwell upon; it should be deeply impressed upon the soul, and perseveringly kept prominent in the life.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. With this Psalm begins the Hallel, which is recited at the three great feasts, at the feast of the Dedication (Chanucca) and at the new moons, and not on New Year's day and the day of Atonement, because a cheerful song of praise does not harmonise with the mournful solemnity of these days. And they are recited only in fragments during the last days of the Passover, for "my creatures, saith the Holy One, blessed be He, were drowned in the sea, and ought ye to break out into songs of rejoicing?" In the family celebration of the Passover night it is divided into two parts, the one half, Psalm 113-114, being sung before the repast, before the emptying of the second festal cup, and the other half, Psalm 115-118, after the repast, after the filling of the fourth cup, to which the umnhsantej ( Matthew 26:30 14:26 ), or singing a hymn, after the institution of the Lord's Supper, which was connected with the fourth festal cup, may refer. Paulus Burgensis styles Psalm 113 to Psalm 118 Alleluja Judaeorum magnum. (The great Alleluiah of the Jews). This designation is also frequently found elsewhere. But according to the prevailing custom, Psalm 113-118, and more particularly Psalm 115-118, are called only Hallel, and Psalm 136, with its "for his mercy endureth for ever" repeated twenty-six times, bears the name of "The Great Hallel" (lwdgh llh). --Frank Delitzsch.
Whole Psalm. The Jews have handed down the tradition, that this Psalm, and those that follow on to the 118th, were all sung at the Passover; and they are denominated "The Great Hallel." This tradition shows, at all events, that the ancient Jews perceived in these six psalms some link of close connection. They all sing of God the Redeemer, in some aspect of his redeeming character; and this being so, while they suited the paschal feast, we can see how appropriate they would be in the lips of the Redeemer, in his Upper Room. Thus --
In Psalm 113, he sang praise to him who redeems from the
In Psalm 114, he sang praise to him who once redeemed
Israel, and shall redeem Israel again.
In Psalm 115, he uttered a song -- over earth's fallen
idols -- to him who blesses Israel and the world.
In Psalm 116, he sang his resurrection song of
thanksgiving by anticipation.
In Psalm 117, he led the song of praise for the great
In Psalm 118 (just before leaving the Upper Room to go to
Gethsemane), he poured forth the story of his suffering,
conflict, triumph and glorification. --A. A. Bonar.
Whole Psalm. An attentive reader of the Book of Psalms will observe that almost every one of them has a view to Christianity. Many, if not most of the psalms, were without doubt occasioned originally by accidents of the life that befell their royal author; they were therefore at the same time both descriptive of the situation and life, the actions and sufferings, of King David, and predictive also of our Saviour, who was all along represented by King David, from whose loins he was descended according to the flesh. But this Psalm appears to be wholly written with a view to Christianity. It begins with an exhortation to all true servants and zealous worshippers of God, to "praise his name," at all times, and in all places; "from this time forth and for evermore," and "from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof." And the ground of this praise and adoration is set forth in the following verses to be, -- first, the glorious majesty of his Divine nature; and next, the singular goodness of it as displayed to us in his works of providence, particularly by exalting those who are abased, and his making the barren to become fruitful. His lifting the poor out of the mire, and making the barren woman to become fruitful, may, at first sight, seem an odd mixture of ideas. But a right notion of the prophetic language will solve the difficulty; and teach us, that both the expressions are in fact very nearly related, and signify much the same thing. For by the "poor" are here meant those who are destitute of all heavenly knowledge (the only true and real riches) and who are sunk in the mire and filth of sin. So, again, his making "the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children," is a prophetic metaphor, or allusion to the fruitfulness of the Church in bringing forth sons or professors of the true religion. My interpretation of both these expressions is warrantable from so many parallel passages of Scripture. I shall only observe that here the profession of the Christian faith throughout the whole earth is foretold; as also the particular direction or point of the compass, toward which Christianity should by the course of God's providence be steered and directed, viz., from East to West, or "from the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same." -- James Bate, 1703-1775.
Verse 1. Praise ye the LORD. Praise. The wllh is repeated. This repetition is not without significance. It is for the purpose of waking us up out of our torpor. We are all too dull and slow in considering and praising the blessings of God. There is, therefore, necessity for these stimuli. Then this repetition signifies assiduity and perseverance in sounding forth the praises of God. It is not sufficient once and again to praise God, but his praises ought to be always sung in the Church. --Mollerus.
Verse 1. Praise ye the Lord. This praising God rests not in the mere speculation or idle contemplation of the Divine excellence, floating only in the brain, or gliding upon the tongue, but in such quick and lively apprehensions of them as to sink down into the heart, and there beget affections suitable to them; for it will make us love him for his goodness, respect him for his greatness, fear him for his justice, dread him for his power, adore him for his wisdom, and for all his attributes make us live in constant awe and obedience to him. This is to praise God, without which all other courting and complimenting of him is but mere flattery and hypocrisy ... God Almighty endowed us with higher and nobler faculties than other creatures, for this end, that we should set forth his praise; for though other things were made to administer the matter and occasion, yet man alone was designed and qualified to exercise the act of glorifying God ... In short, God Almighty hath so closely twisted his own glory and our happiness together, that at the same time we advance the one we promote the other. --Matthew Hole, 1730.
Verse 1. Praise, O ye servants of the LORD. From the exhortation to praise God, and the declaration of his deserving to be praised; learn, that as it is all men's duty to praise the Lord, so in special it is the duty of his ministers, and officers of his house. First, because their office doth call for the discharge of it publicly. Next, because as they should be best acquainted with the reasons of his praise, so also should they be the fittest instruments to declare it. And lastly, because the ungodly are deaf unto the exhortation, and dumb in the obedience of it; therefore when he hath said, "Praise ye the Lord," he subjoins, "Praise, O ye servants of the Lord." --David Dickson.
Verse 1. Ye servants of the LORD. All men owe this duty to God, as being the workmanship of his hands; Christians above other men, as being the sheep of his pasture; preachers of the word above other Christians, as being pastors of his sheep, and so consequently patterns in word, in conversation, in love, in spirit, in faith, in pureness. 1Ti 4:12. --John Boys.
Hallelujah, praise the Lord!
Praise, ye servants, praise his name!
Be Jehovah's praise adored,
Now and evermore the same!
Where the orient sunbeams gleam.
Where they sink in ocean's stream,
Through the circuit of his rays
Be your theme Jehovah's praise.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Whole Psalm. The psalm contains three parts:
- An exhortation to God's servants to praise him.
- A form set down how and where to praise him, ver. 2, 3.
- The reasons to persuade us to it.
- By his infinite power, ver. 4, 5.
- His providence, as displayed in heaven and earth, verse 6. --Adam Clarke.
Verse 1. The repetitions show,
- The importance of praise.
- Our many obligations to render it.
- Our backwardness in the duty.
- The heartiness and frequency with which it should be rendered.
- The need of calling upon others to join with us.
- To whom praise is due: "the Lord."
- From whom it is due: "ye servants of the Lord."
- For what is it due: his "name."
a. For all names descriptive of what he is in himself. b. For all names descriptive of what he is to his servants. --G. R.
Verse 1,. 9. Praise ye the Lord.
- Begin and end life with it, and do the same with holy service, patient suffering, and everything else.
- Fill up the interval with praise. Run over the intervening verses.