Psalms 147PSALM CXLVII The psalmist praises God for his goodness to Jerusalem, 1-3; shows his great mercy to them that trust in him, 4-6; he extols him for his mercies, and providential kindness, 7-11; for his defence of Jerusalem, 12-15; For his wonders in the seasons, 16-18; and his word unto Jacob, 19, 20. NOTES ON PSALM CXLVII This Psalm, which is without title in the Hebrew, Chaldee, and Vulgate, is attributed by the other Versions to Haggai and Zechariah. It was probably penned after the captivity, when the Jews were busily employed in rebuilding Jerusalem, as may be gathered from the second and thirteenth verses. It may be necessary to remark that all the Versions, except the Chaldee, divide this Psalm at the end of the eleventh verse, and begin a new Psalm at the twelfth. By this division the numbers of the Psalms agree in the Versions with the Hebrew; the former having been, till now, one behind. Verse 1. Praise is comely.] It is decent, befitting, and proper that every intelligent creature should acknowledge the Supreme Being: and as he does nothing but good to the children of men, so they should speak good of his name. Verse 2. The Lord doth build up] The psalmist appears to see the walls rising under his eye, because the outcasts of Israel, those who had been in captivity, are now gathered together to do the work. Verse 3. He healeth the broken in heart] , the shivered in heart. From the root shabar, to break in pieces, we have our word shiver, to break into splinters, into shivers. The heart broken in pieces by a sense of God's displeasure. Verse 4. He telleth the number of the stars] He whose knowledge is so exact as to tell every star in heaven, can be under no difficulty to find out and collect all the scattered exiles of Israel. Verse 5. His understanding is infinite.] To his intelligence there is no number: though he numbers the stars, his understanding is without number. It is infinite; therefore, he can know, as he can do, all things. Verse 6. The Lord lifteth up the meek] The humbled, the afflicted. Verse 7. Sing unto the Lord] enu, sing a responsive song, sing in parts, answer one another. Verse 8. Who covereth the heaven with clouds] Collects the vapours together, in order to cause it to rain upon the earth. Even the direction of the winds, the collection of the clouds, and the descent of the rain, are under the especial management of God. These things form a part of his providential management of the world. Maketh grass to grow upon the mountains.] After this clause the Vulgate, the Septuagint, AEthiopic, Arabic, and Anglo-Saxon, add, and herb for the service of man. It appears that a hemistich, or half-line, has been lost from the Hebrew text; which, according to the above Versions, must have stood thus: veeseb laabodath haadam, as in Ps 104:14: "And herbage for the service of mankind." Verse 10. He delighteth not] The horse, among all animals, is most delighted in by man for beauty, strength, and fleetness. And a man's legs, if well proportioned, are more admired than even the finest features of his face. Though God has made these, yet they are not his peculiar delight. Verse 11. The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him] That are truly religious. In those that hope is his mercy.] Who are just beginning to seek the salvation of their souls. Even the cry of the penitent is pleasing in the ear of the Lord. With this verse the hundred and forty-sixth Psalm ends in all the Versions, except the Chaldee. And the hundred and forty-seventh commences with the 12th verse. I believe these to be two distinct Psalms. The subjects of them are not exactly the same, though something similar; and they plainly refer to different periods. Verse 13. He hath strengthened the bars of thy gates] He has enabled thee to complete the walls of Jerusalem. From the former part of the Psalm it appears the walls were then in progress; from this part, they appear to be completed, and provisions to be brought into the city, to support its inhabitants. The gates were set up and well secured by bars, so that the grain, &c., was in safety. Verse 14. He maketh peace] They were now no longer troubled with the Samaritans, Moabites, &c. Verse 15. He sendeth forth his commandment] His substantial word. It is here personified, meymra, Chaldee; and appears to be a very active agent running every where, and performing the purposes of his will. Verse 16. He giveth snow like wool] Falling down in large flakes; and in this state nothing in nature has a nearer resemblance to fine white wool. Scattereth the hoar frost like ashes.] Spreading it over the whole face of nature. Verse 17. He casteth forth his ice] korcho, (probably hailstones,) like crumbs. Who can stand before his cold?] At particular times the cold in the east is so very intense as to kill man and beast. Jacobus de Vitriaco, one of the writers in the Gesta Dei per Francos, says, that in an expedition in which he was engaged against Mount Tabor, on the 24th of December, the cold was so intense that many of the poor people, and the beasts of burden, died by it. And Albertus Aquensis, another of these writers, speaking of the cold in Judea, says, that thirty of the people who attended Baldwin I. in the mountainous districts near the Dead Sea, were killed by it; and that in that expedition they had to contend with horrible hail and ice, with unheard-of snow and rain. From this we find that the winters are often very severe in Judea; and in such cases as the above, we may well call out, "Who can stand against his cold!" Verse 18. He sendeth out his word] He gives a command: the south wind blows; the thaw takes place; and the ice and snow being liquefied, the waters flow, where before they were bound up by the ice. Verse 19. He showeth his word unto Jacob] To no nation of the world beside had God given a revelation of his will. Verse 20. And as for his judgments] The wondrous ordinances of his law, no nation had known them; and consequently, did not know the glorious things in futurity to which they referred. ANALYSIS OF THE HUNDRED AND FORTY-SEVENTH PSALM The parts of this Psalm are two:- I. An exhortation to praise God, Ps 147:1, which is repeated, Ps 147:7, 12. II. The arguments to persuade to it: God's bounty, wisdom, power, providence, justice, and mercy, dwelt on through the whole Psalm. I. The exhortation is briefly proposed, "Praise the Lord." Which the prophet, as the chanter of the choir, begins; and then more fully repeats, "Sing unto the Lord," &c. And again "Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem," &c., Ps 147:12, where the Arabic, Greek, and Latin translators begin a new Psalm: but in the Hebrew they are conjoined, and form but one hymn. The prophet, having ended his exhortation, adds his reasons for it. 1. It is pleasant and becoming. 2. His bounty in building Jerusalem, and bringing back the dispersed, Ps 147:2. In comforting the distressed, Ps 147:3. For his wisdom, Ps 147:4. For his power, Ps 147:5. For his mercy and justice, Ps 147:6. His first arguments are drawn from the thing itself. I. Good: "For it is good," &c. For many reasons this may be called good. 1. For it is God's command, and must not be neglected. 2. It elevates the heart from earth to heaven. 3. Good again, because we are bound to it by obligations. II. "To praise God is pleasant." 1. Because it proceeds from love. 2. Because it is pleasant to perform our duty, and the end of our creation. 3. Because God is pleased with it: "He that offereth me praise, glorifieth me," &c. 4. Because God is pleased with the virtues of faith, hope, charity, humility, devotion, &c., of which praise is the effect. III. "It is comely." There is no sin greater than that of ingratitude. These are the first arguments the prophet uses, and they are drawn from the nature of the thing itself: they may apply to all ages of the Church. He dwells upon the deliverance of Israel from captivity. 1. "The Lord doth build up" his Church, the seat of his sanctuary. He hath restored our policy and religion. 2. "He gathereth together," &c. The banished and scattered ones; the Gentiles. 3. "He healeth the broken in heart," &c. Oppressed by captivity or sin. 4. "And bindeth up," &c. Like a good surgeon. The second argument is drawn from his wisdom. 1. "He telleth the number of the stars," &c. A thing to man impossible, 2. "He calleth them," &c. They are his army, and he knows them. By the stars in this place some understand God's saints. 1. The stars are infinite in number. So are the saints. 2. Among them are planets. Saints have their circuits; and always revolve round him, the Sun of righteousness. 3. The stars shine clearest in the night. The saints in persecution. 4. One star differeth from another in glory. Some saints excel others in piety. 5. The stars are above. The saints' conversation is in heaven. 6. The stars are obscured by clouds. The Church is sometimes obscured by affliction and persecution. His third argument is drawn from God's power: "Great is the Lord," &c. His fourth argument is drawn from God's justice and mercy. 1. His mercy: "The Lord lifteth up the meek," &c. Sustains and exalts them. 2. His justice: "He casteth the wicked down," &c. They shall not always triumph. But, before the prophet proceeds farther, he repeats:- 1. "Sing unto the Lord with thanksgiving." Do it in words. 2. "Sing praises upon the harp," &c. Do it in works. Then he proceeds to argue from God's providence. 1. "Who covereth the heaven," &c. Not to obscure, but fructify the earth. 2. "Who maketh grass to grow," &c. By his blessing on the most barren places. 3. "He giveth to the beast," &c. They gather it from his supplies. 4. "And to the young ravens," &c. No bird suffers its young so soon to provide for themselves, but God hears and sends them food. Christ himself uses this argument to encourage us to rely on God's providence, Mt 6:26. Should the distrustful Jew argue, Alas, we have no strength, ammunition, horse, or armour, the prophet replies:- 1. "He delighteth not," &c. When used as a warlike creature. 2. "He taketh not pleasure," &c. In the nimbleness of man, when used for warlike preparations. But he delights in his servants. 1. "The Lord taketh pleasure," &c. In those who obey and love him. 2. "In those that hope," &c. Have faith and confidence in him. 3. He again repeats his proposition, and calls upon the Church to perform it: "Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem," &c. "Thy God, O Zion." Should others be negligent, be not ye. He then adds four reasons why Zion should praise him: 1. Security and defence. 2. Benediction. 3. Peace. 4. Substance. 1. Security: "For he hath strengthened," &c. 2. Benediction: "He hath blessed," &c. His officers with wisdom, &c. 3. Peace: "He maketh peace." The vision of peace is the literal interpretation of the word Jerusalem. 4. Provision: "Filleth thee with the finest of the wheat," &c. That God has done this for Jerusalem, is evident from his general providence over the world. And this argument the prophet uses: "He sendeth forth his commandment upon earth," &c. For, 1. "He giveth snow like wool." Beautiful in appearance, and in order to preserve vegetables from the nipping but necessary frost, when long continued. 2. "He scattereth the hoar frost," &c. Thickening the air with it like ashes; freezing all the vapours that float in it. 3. "He casteth forth his ice," &c. Fragments of ice. 4. "Who can stand before his cold?" Endure it unprovided. But having described all these powerful agents, the prophet next shows how easily they are governed by his word. 1. "He sendeth out his word, and melteth them." 2. "He causeth his wind to blow," &c. And the ice and snow return to water. All these are his, and on him we must depend for safety and comfort. By these God teaches alike nations to acknowledge him. But there are particular acts which refer to his people; for, 1. "He showeth his word," &c. By Moses and the prophets. 2. "He hath not dealt so," &c. None at that time, but since to his Church. 3. "As for his judgments," &c. His evangelical precepts. He is sending forth his word; the nations could not find out his precepts otherwise: therefore for this praise ye the Lord.
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