Psalm 136 Study Notes


136:1-26 This psalm recollects events from creation to Israel’s conquest of Canaan. Each verse concludes with the refrain, His faithful love endures forever (cp. 118:1-4), which may have been sung by the congregation in response to the priests. On faithful love, see word study on chesed.

136:1-3 Compare these verses with 135:3.

136:4 On wonders, see 72:18; 75:1; 78:4; 96:3; 98:1; 105:5; 106:7,22; 107:8.

136:5 Skillfully is literally “through understanding” (78:72; Jb 26:12; Is 44:19; Jr 10:12; 51:15).

136:6-9 The psalmist summarized creation in terms of the separation of land and waters and the appointment of the sun . . . moon, and stars to regulate seasons and times (Gn 1:3-8,14-19). Noticeably absent are references to living things.

136:10 On firstborn of the Egyptians, see note at 135:8-9.

136:11-15 Strong hand and outstretched arm always refers to God’s power and the deliverance of Israel (Dt 4:34; 5:15; 26:8; Jr 32:21), but especially to Israel’s crossing of the Red Sea (Ex 14:2).

136:16 The wilderness refers to the forty years of wandering by the Israelites (Dt 8:2; 29:4-5).

136:17-22 Compare this with 135:10-11. These kings were famous for their military power. On Sihon and Og, see note at 135:10-12.


Hebrew pronunciation [KHEH sed]
CSB translation faithful love, kindness, loyalty
Uses in Psalms 129
Uses in the OT 249
Focus passage Psalm 136:1-26

The etymology of chesed is unknown. Half the word’s occurrences are in Psalms, where it is closely associated with God. Chesed is faithful love (Ex 34:6), love (Is 54:8) or constant love (Ps 40:10). It is a quality that binds people together: kindness (Gn 19:19), loyalty (Jb 6:14), goodness (Is 40:6), or faithfulness (Mc 6:8). Chesed implies favor (Est 2:9) and grace (Ezr 9:9). Adjectivally, it appears as gracious (Dn 9:4), kind (Pr 11:17), faithful (Is 57:1), and loving (Pr 31:26). It occurs with ‘asah (“do”) as deal kindly (1Sm 20:8), show kindness or loyalty (2Sm 9:1; 22:51), and show kindness (Jdg 1:24). The plural implies acts/deeds of faithful love (Ps 107:43) or good deeds (Neh 13:14). Chasiyd (34x) denotes faithful (Ps 86:2; 145:17; Mc 7:2) or loyal (Ps 89:19) and functions nominally. Chasad (2x) means prove oneself faithful (Ps 18:25).

136:23-25 The Lord encouraged the Israelites in the land of Canaan, providing abundant resources for their livelihood (104:14-15,27-28; 145:15-16; 146:7; 147:9).