Psalm 135
Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
Four-Voiced Hallelujah to the God of Israel, the God of Gods

Psalm 135 is here and there (vid., Tsefth Pesachim 117a) taken together with Psalm 134:1-3 as one Psalm. The combining of Psalm 115 with Psalm 114:1-8 is a misapprehension caused by the inscriptionless character of Psalm 115, whereas Psalm 135 and Psalm 134:1-3 certainly stand in connection with one another. For the Hallelujah Psalm 135 is, as the mutual relation between the beginning and close of Psalm 134:1-3 shows, a Psalm-song expanded out of this shorter hymn, that is in part drawn from Psalm 115.

It is a Psalm in the mosaic style. Even the Latin poet Lucilius transfers the figure of mosaic-work to style, when he says: quam lepide lexeis compostae ut tesserulae omnes... In the case of Psalm 135 it is not the first time that we have met with this kind of style. We have already had a glimpse of it in Psalm 97:1-12 and Psalm 98:1-9. These Psalms were composed more especially of deutero-Isaianic passages, whereas Psalm 135 takes its tesserulae out of the Law, Prophets, and Psalms.

Praise ye the LORD. Praise ye the name of the LORD; praise him, O ye servants of the LORD.
The beginning is taken from Psalm 134:1; Psalm 135:2 recalls Psalm 116:19 (cf. Psalm 92:14); and Psalm 135:4 is an echo of Deuteronomy 7:6. The servants of Jahve to whom the summons is addressed, are not, as in Psalm 134:1., His official servants in particular, but according to Psalm 135:2, where the courts, in the plural, are allotted to them as their standing-place, and according to Psalm 135:19-20, those who fear Him as a body. The threefold Jahve at the beginning is then repeated in Jāh (הללוּ־יהּ, cf. note 1 to PsPsa 104:35), Jahve, and Jāh. The subject of כּי נעים is by no means Jahve (Hupfeld), whom they did not dare to call נעים in the Old Testament, but either the Name, according to Psalm 54:8 (Luther, Hitzig), or, which is favoured by Psalm 147:1 (cf. Proverbs 22:18), the praising of His Name (Appolinaris: ἐπεὶ τόδε καλὸν ἀείδειν): His Name to praise is a delightful employ, which is incumbent on Israel as the people of His choice and of His possession.

Ye that stand in the house of the LORD, in the courts of the house of our God,
Praise the LORD; for the LORD is good: sing praises unto his name; for it is pleasant.
For the LORD hath chosen Jacob unto himself, and Israel for his peculiar treasure.
For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods.
The praise itself now begins. כּי in Psalm 135:4 set forth the ground of the pleasant duty, and the כי that begins this strophe confirms that which warrants the summons out of the riches of the material existing for such a hymn of praise. Worthy is He to be praised, for Israel knows full well that He who hath chosen it is the God of gods. The beginning is taken from Psalm 115:3, and Psalm 135:7 from Jeremiah 10:13 (Psalm 51:16). Heaven, earth, and water are the three kingdoms of created things, as in Exodus 20:4. נשׂיא signifies that which is lifted up, ascended; here, as in Jeremiah, a cloud. The meaning of בּרקים למּטר עשׂה is not: He makes lightnings into rain, i.e., resolves them as it were into rain, which is unnatural; but either according to Zechariah 10:1 : He produces lightnings in behalf of rain, in order that the rain may pour down in consequence of the thunder and lightning, or poetically: He makes lightnings for the rain, so that the rain is announced (Apollinaris) and accompanied by them. Instead of מוצא (cf. Psalm 78:16; Psalm 105:43), which does not admit of the retreating of the tone, the expression is מוצא, the ground-form of the part. Hiph. for plurals like מחצרים, מחלמים, מעזרים, perhaps not without being influenced by the ויּוצא in Jeremiah, for it is not מוצא from מצא that signifies "producing," but מוציא equals מפיק. The metaphor of the treasuries is like Job 38:22. What is intended is the fulness of divine power, in which lie the grounds of the origin and the impulses of all things in nature.

Whatsoever the LORD pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places.
He causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth; he maketh lightnings for the rain; he bringeth the wind out of his treasuries.
Who smote the firstborn of Egypt, both of man and beast.
Worthy is He to be praised, for He is the Redeemer out of Egypt. בּתוככי as in Psalm 116:19, cf. Psalm 105:27.

Who sent tokens and wonders into the midst of thee, O Egypt, upon Pharaoh, and upon all his servants.
Who smote great nations, and slew mighty kings;
Worthy is He to be praised, for He is the Conqueror of the Land of Promise. in connection with Psalm 135:10 one is reminded of Deuteronomy 4:38; Deuteronomy 7:1; Deuteronomy 9:1; Deuteronomy 11:23; Joshua 23:9. גּוים רבּים are here not many, but great peoples (cf. גּדלים in Psalm 136:17), since the parallel word עצוּמים is by no means intended of a powerful number, but of powerful might (cf. Isaiah 53:12). As to the rest also, the poet follows the Book of Deuteronomy: viz., לכל ממלכות as in Deuteronomy 3:21, and נתן נחלה as in Deuteronomy 4:38 and other passages. It is all Deuteronomic with the exception of the שׁ, and the ל e in Psalm 135:11 as the nota accus. (as in Psalm 136:19., cf. Psalm 69:6; Psalm 116:16; Psalm 129:3); the construction of הרג is just as Aramaizing in Job 5:2; 2 Samuel 3:30 (where 2 Samuel 3:30-31, like 2 Samuel 3:36-37, are a later explanatory addition). The הרג alternating with הכּה is, next to the two kings, also referred to the kingdoms of Canaan, viz., their inhabitants. Og was also an Amoritish king, Deuteronomy 3:8.

Sihon king of the Amorites, and Og king of Bashan, and all the kingdoms of Canaan:
And gave their land for an heritage, an heritage unto Israel his people.
Thy name, O LORD, endureth for ever; and thy memorial, O LORD, throughout all generations.
This God who rules so praiseworthily in the universe and in the history of Israel is the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever. Just as Psalm 135:13 (cf. Psalm 102:13) is taken from Exodus 3:15, so Psalm 135:14 is taken from Deuteronomy 32:36, cf. Psalm 90:13, and vid., on Hebrews 10:30-31.

For the LORD will judge his people, and he will repent himself concerning his servants.
The idols of the heathen are silver and gold, the work of men's hands.
For the good of His proved church He ever proves Himself to be the Living God, whereas idols and idol-worshippers are vain - throughout following Psalm 115:4-8, but with some abridgments. Here only the אף used as a particle recalls what is said there of the organ of smell (אף) of the idols that smells not, just as the רוּח which is here (as in Jeremiah 10:14) denied to the idols recalls the הריח denied to them there. It is to be rendered: also there is not a being of breath, i.e., there is no breath at all, not a trace thereof, in their mouth. It is different in 1 Samuel 21:9, where אין ישׁ (not אין) is meant to be equivalent to the Aramaic אין אית, num (an) est; אין is North-Palestinian, and equivalent to the interrogatory אם (after which the Targum renders אלּוּ אית).

They have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see not;
They have ears, but they hear not; neither is there any breath in their mouths.
They that make them are like unto them: so is every one that trusteth in them.
Bless the LORD, O house of Israel: bless the LORD, O house of Aaron:
A call to the praise of Jahve, who is exalted above the gods of the nations, addressed to Israel as a whole, rounds off the Psalm by recurring to its beginning. The threefold call in Psalm 115:9-11; Psalm 118:2-4, is rendered fourfold here by the introduction of the house of the Levites, and the wishing of a blessing in Psalm 134:3 is turned into an ascription of praise. Zion, whence Jahve's self-attestation, so rich in power and loving-kindness, is spread abroad, is also to be the place whence His glorious attestation by the mouth of men is spread abroad. History has realized this.

Bless the LORD, O house of Levi: ye that fear the LORD, bless the LORD.
Blessed be the LORD out of Zion, which dwelleth at Jerusalem. Praise ye the LORD.
Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch [1857-78].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

Bible Hub
Psalm 134
Top of Page
Top of Page