Psalms 136

PSALM CXXXVI

An exhortation to give thanks to God for various mercies

granted to all men, 1-9;

particularly to the Israelites in Egypt, 10-12;

at the Red Sea, 13-15;

in the wilderness, 16-20;

and in the promised land, 21, 22;

for the redemption of the captives from Babylon, 23, 24;

and for his providential mercies to all, 25, 26.

NOTES ON PSALM CXXXVI

This Psalm is little else than a repetition of the preceding,

with the burden, ki leolam chasdo, "because his

mercy endureth for ever," at the end of every verse. See below. It

seems to have been a responsive song: the first part of the verse

sung by the Levites, the burden by the people. It has no title in

the Hebrew, nor in any of the Versions. It was doubtless written

after the captivity. The author is unknown.

Verse 1. O give thanks unto the Lord: for he is good] This

sentiment often occurs: the goodness of the Divine nature, both as

a ground of confidence and of thanksgiving.

For his mercy endureth for ever] These words, which are the

burden of every verse, ki leolam chasdo, might be

translated: "For his tender mercy is to the coming age:" meaning,

probably, if the Psalm be prophetic, that peculiar display of his

compassion, the redemption of the world by the Lord Jesus. These

very words were prescribed by David as an acknowledgment, to be

used continually in the Divine worship, see 1Ch 16:41: also by

Solomon, 2Ch 7:3, 6, and observed by

Jehoshaphat, 2Ch 20:21; all acknowledging that, however rich in

mercy God was to them, the most extensive displays of his goodness

were reserved for the age to come; see 1Pe 1:10-12: "Of which

salvation the prophets have inquired, and searched diligently, who

prophesied of the grace that should come unto you,-unto whom it

was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us, they did

minister the things which are now reported unto you by them that

preached the Gospel unto you by the power of the Holy Ghost sent

down from heaven," &c.

Verse 2. The God of gods] ladonai haadonim. As

adonai signifies director, &c., it may apply here, not to idols,

for God is not their god; but to the priests and spiritual rulers;

as Lord of lords may apply to kings and magistrates, &c. He is

God and ruler over all the rulers of the earth, whether in things

sacred or civil.

Verse 4. Who alone doeth great wonders] MIRACLES. No power but

that which is almighty can work miracles, niphlaoth, the

inversion, or suspension, or destruction of the laws of nature.

Verse 5. By wisdom made the heavens] In the contrivance of the

celestial bodies, in their relations, connexions, influences on

each other, revolutions, &c., the wisdom of God particularly

appears.

Verse 6. Stretched out the earth above the waters] Or, upon the

waters. This seems to refer to a central abyss of waters, the

existence of which has not been yet disproved.

Verse 7. Great lights] See the notes on the parallel passages in

Genesis, &c.

Verse 10. Smote Egypt in their first-born] This was one of the

heaviest of strokes: a great part of the rising generation was cut

off; few but old persons and children left remaining.

Verse 13. Divided the Red Sea into parts] Some of the Jews have

imagined that God made twelve paths through the Red Sea, that each

tribe might have a distinct passage. Many of the fathers were of

the same opinion; but is this very likely?

Verse 16. Which led his people through the wilderness] It was an

astonishing miracle of God to support so many hundreds of

thousands of people in a wilderness totally deprived of all

necessaries for the life of man, and that for the space of forty

years.

Verse 23. Who remembered us in our low estate] He has done much

for our forefathers; and he has done much for us, in delivering

us, when we had no helper, from our long captivity in Babylon.

Verse 25. Giveth food to all flesh] By whose universal

providence every intellectual and animal being is supported and

preserved. The appointing every living thing food, and that sort

of food which is suited to its nature, (and the nature and habits

of animals are endlessly diversified,) is an overwhelming proof of

the wondrous providence, wisdom, and goodness of God.

The Vulgate, Arabic, and Anglo-Saxon, add a twenty-seventh

verse, by repeating here Ps 136:3 very unnecessarily.

ANALYSIS OF THE HUNDRED AND THIRTY-SIXTH PSALM

This Psalm has the same argument with the preceding. It is

divided into three parts:-

I. A general exhortation to praise God for his goodness and

majesty, Ps 136:1-3.

II. A declaration of that goodness and majesty in their effects,

Ps 136:4-10.

III. A conclusion fit for the exordium, Ps 136:26.

1. Of his creation, Ps 136:4-10.

2. Of his providence in preserving the Church, and punishing her

enemies, Ps 136:10-25.

3. That his providence extends to all his creatures, Ps 136:25.

I. In the three first verses the prophet invites us to praise

God for his mercy and goodness. And in these three verses

expositors find the Trinity:-

1. Jehovah. God the Father, who is the Fountain of being.

2. God the Son. Who is God of gods, and over all.

3. The Holy Ghost. Who is Lord of lords.

The psalmist's reasons for calling upon us thus to praise him

are, "for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever."

The prophet now begins to praise God for his wonderful works,

and which he alone was able to do.

1. "Who hath done wonderful things." Such as the work of

creation.

2. "For his mercy endureth for ever." In sustaining and

preserving all things.

"To him give thanks" for the wisdom manifested in the heavens;

for, contemplate them as we may, they appear full of beauty,

order, and splendour.

Praise him for the formation of the earth, as the mansion of

man.

Give thanks "to him that stretched out," &c. Naturally this

could not be, because the earth is heavier than water: but God

hath made furrows for the waters to flow into, that man and beast

might live on the earth.

"For his mercy endureth for ever." In this there was a threefold

mercy:-

1. In reference to the earth. To make it something of nothing.

2. As respects the water. To prepare for it a settled place.

3. In regard to man. To whom he gave the earth uncovered from

water, and yet plentifully supplied with rivers and fruits.

The third instance is the two great luminaries and the stars, in

the three following verses. These do astonishingly adorn the

heaven, and profit the earth. The sun and moon illuminate the

earth, and comfort us. Perhaps the prophet instances these because

they are alike blessings bestowed upon and shared by all the

world.

II. From the wonderful works of the creation the prophet

descends to those of his providence, in the preservation of the

Church; and instances it in the redemption of his people Israel

from the land of Egypt, &c., dwelling at large upon it,

Ps 136:10-22.

In these verses the prophet records how God performed to Israel

all the offices of a good Captain, Guide, Leader, and even Father;

for he fed them with bread from heaven, gave them water out of the

rock, caused that their clothes wore not out, cured their sick,

defended them from their enemies, &c.

All this God did for them before they entered Canaan. And then

the prophet reminds them how they rebelled against God, and he

humbled them by bringing the Philistines and the Babylonian kings

against them, who conquered and subjected them: but when they

cried to him, he turned their captivity; for "he remembered us

when we were in our low estate," &c.; "and hath redeemed us from

our enemies," &c.

Lastly, that his goodness is not only extended over his people,

but his creatures; to all flesh, which word signifies every thing

that hath life.

III. He concludes as he began, "O give thanks unto the God of

heaven," &c. The prophet calls him the God of heaven, because he

alone made the heavens, and has his throne there, having the whole

world under him; and by his wisdom and providence he preserves,

moderates, and governs all things.

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