Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
The Book of Praises fitly ends with this full-toned call to universal praise with every accompaniment of jubilant rejoicing. It may have been composed as a closing doxology for the whole Psalter, corresponding to the doxologies at the end of the first four books; but it would seem rather to have been intended primarily, like the other Psalms of this group, for liturgical use, and to have been placed at the end of the Psalter on account of its inherent fitness.
“This noble close of the Psalter rings out one clear note of praise, as the end of all the many moods and experiences recorded in its wonderful sighs and songs. Tears, groans, wailings for sin, meditations on the dark depths of Providence, fainting faith and foiled aspirations, all lead up to this. The Psalm is more than an artistic close of the Psalter; it is a prophecy of the last result of the devout life, and in its unclouded sunniness as well as in its universality, it proclaims the certain end of the weary years for the individual and the world. ‘Everything that hath breath’ shall yet praise Jehovah” (Maclaren).
Praise ye the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power.1. God] El, the God of sovereign power (Psalm 90:2).
in his sanctuary] This may mean the temple (cp. Psalm 63:2, &c.), and the verse will then be a call to men to praise Jehovah in His earthly abode, and to angels to praise Him in heaven above. Cp. Psalms 148. But it is better to understand it to mean heaven (cp. Psalm 11:4). The whole verse will then be a Sursum Corda. Praise the holy God who dwells in His holy heaven (Psalm 20:6), the firmament which is His handiwork and the witness to His omnipotence. This, and not in his strong or indestructible firmament (ἐν τῷ στερεώματι τῷ ἀκαθαιρέτῳ αὐτοῦ Symm.), seems to be the meaning of the firmament of his power. The P.B.V. in his holiness is in itself possible, but contrary to the parallelism.
Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness.2. for his mighty acts] Cp. Psalm 106:2; Psalm 145:4; Psalm 145:11-12.
according to the abundance of his greatness] Cp. 1 Chronicles 29:11, “Thine is the greatness and the might.”
Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp.3. with the sound of the trumpet] With blast of cornet. The ‘cornet,’ originally a ram’s or cow’s horn, perhaps in later times a metal instrument of the same shape, was mainly employed for secular purposes, while the instrument generally used in religious ceremonies was the chatsôtserâh or straight metal trumpet. Cp. however Psalm 47:5; Psalm 81:3; Psalm 98:6. It was ordinarily the work of the priests to blow the trumpet (1 Chronicles 15:24; Nehemiah 12:35; Nehemiah 12:41; and often); Levites are often described as playing psalteries and harps and cymbals (1 Chronicles 25:1; 1 Chronicles 25:6; Nehemiah 12:27); tambourines were beaten by women as they danced (Psalm 68:25); the terms used for stringed instruments and pipes are not elsewhere connected with religious ceremonies. Thus the call to praise is addressed to priests, Levites, and people; and every kind of instrument is to be enlisted in the service.
psaltery and harp] Or, harp and lyre. The nçbhel and the kinnôr were both stringed instruments, but the precise distinction between them is unknown. There are some reasons for thinking that the nçbhel (A.V. psaltery in the Historical Books and Psalms, viol in the Prophets) was the larger and more elaborate instrument. See Driver’s Joel and Amos, p. 234; and for illustrations of ancient lyres and harps, see Stainer, Music of the Bible, Chaps. i, ii.
 These books were in the hands of the Westminster and Cambridge companies, and the Westminster company consisted mainly of Cambridge scholars, while the Prophets were in the hands of an Oxford company. In the Apocrypha also, which was revised by a Cambridge company, psaltery is used, but not viol.
Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs.4. with the timbrel and dance] See on Psalm 149:3. The P.B.V. cymbals seems to be a slip of Coverdale’s, which was not corrected in the Great Bible, as he renders tôph correctly by tabret, i.e. a small drum, in Psalm 149:3.
with stringed instruments and pipes] The word minnîm, ‘stringed instruments,’ occurs in Psalm 45:8 (R.V.): the ugâbh, mentioned in Genesis 4:21; Job 21:12; Job 30:31, was probably the syrinx or Pan’s-pipes, a wind instrument consisting of a collection of reeds or pipes. See Stainer, Music of the Bible, Ch. vi. The two terms may include string and wind instruments generally, as “harp and pipe” in Genesis 4:21; and as the words are not elsewhere used in connexion with religious ceremonies, they may be meant to suggest that all instruments, secular as well as sacred, should be enlisted in this service of praise. The A.V. organs follows the LXX and Vulg.
Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals.5. the loud cytubals … the high sounding cymbals] The clear sounding cymbals … the clanging cymbals. Two kinds of cymbals are obviously meant: the first, lit. cymbals of hearing, may have been a smaller kind, producing a sharp, clear sound, possibly castanets: the second may have been a larger kind, producing a clanging, booming sound. “The Arabs have two distinct varieties, large and small.… They use their large cymbals in religious ceremonies, but the smaller kind seem to be almost limited to the accompaniment of dancers.” Stainer, p. 137. For cymbals of hearing cp. 1 Chronicles 15:19, “with cymbals of bronze, to sound aloud,” lit. to cause to hear; Psalm 16:5, “Asaph with cymbals, sounding aloud,” lit. causing to hear. With the Sept. of the second phrase, ἐν κυμβάλοις ἀλαλαγμοῦ, cp. κύμβαλον ἀλαλάζον ‘a clanging cymbal’ (1 Corinthians 13:1).
Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD.6. every thing that hath breath] Heb. all breath, Vulg. omnis spiritus, Jer. omne quod spirat. Cp. Deuteronomy 20:16, Joshua 10:40. Neshâmâh most commonly denotes the breath of man; but it may include all animals. Not priests and Levites only but all Israel, not Israel only but all mankind, not all mankind only but every living thing, must join in the chorus of praise. The universe is Jehovah’s Temple, and all its inhabitants should be His worshippers.
The Psalmist’s words find their echo in the vision of the Apocalypse:
“Every created thing which is in the heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and on the sea, and all things that are in them, heard I saying,
“Unto him that sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb, be the blessing, and the honour, and the glory, and the dominion, for ever and ever.”