"he shall confirm his kingdom in the redemption or salvation of his children;''
and of the latter,
"it shall be said he is King over all, after he has executed judgment on the wicked in the valley of Jehoshaphat;''
even thy God, O Zion, unto, all generations; he who is Zion's God is Zion's King, head over all things to the church; and this is her joy and comfort in every age, that her God and her King reigns, and will reign for evermore; and especially in a glorious manner in the latter day; see Isaiah 52:7; and as all this is a solid ground and foundation of truth in the Lord, and serves to encourage saints to make him their help and hope; and shows how happy they are that have him as such; so it is matter of praise and thanksgiving: hence it follows,
praise ye the Lord; or "hallelujah"; and so the psalm ends as it began.
INTRODUCTION TO Psalm 147
This psalm is thought to be written by David, and according to Theodoret predicts the return of the Jews from Babylon, and the rebuilding of Jerusalem by Zerubbabel, which seems to be grounded on Psalm 147:2; though the words there agree well enough with the times of David; hence the title in the Septuagint, Ethiopic, Arabic, and Syriac versions, and Apollinarius, is as the preceding; the Syriac adds,
"concerning Zerubbabel and Joshua the priest, and Ezra, who were solicitous and diligent in building Jerusalem.''
Aben Ezra and other Jewish writers think it foretells the future rebuilding of Jerusalem, and the restoration of the Jews from their present captivity, and refer it to the times of the Messiah; and so far it may be right, that it respects Christ and the praise of him, on account of his nature and works; and may take in the conversion of the Jews. It seems to be written by the same person, and on the same account, as the preceding psalm.
for it is good to sing praises unto our God; it being agreeably to his revealed will, what he enjoins, approves of, and accepts, and is profitable to his people, as well as makes his glory; see Psalm 92:1. Some render it, "because he is good", as in Psalm 106:1; but the accents, and what follows, will not admit of this sense;
for it is pleasant; to our God; with which the Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, Ethiopic, and Arabic versions, join this clause; the sacrifice of praise is more pleasing to the Lord than any ceremonial sacrifice, especially when offered from a grateful heart in the name of Christ, and with a view to his glory; and it is pleasant to saints themselves, when grace is in exercise, and they make melody in their hearts to the Lord;
and praise is comely: is due to the Lord, and becomes his people to give it to him; it is but their reasonable service, and a beautiful and lovely sight it is to see the chosen, redeemed, and called of the Lamb, harping with their harps, and singing the song of redeeming love.
he gathereth together the outcasts of Israel; the exiles from Babylon, as some; or rather such who in the times of the judges had been carried captive by their neighbours, or fled from their cities, in the times of Saul for fear of the Philistines, and who were gathered to their own country, cities, and houses, when David began to reign. Spiritually this regards the whole Israel of God, the elect of God, whether Jews or Gentiles, and the outcasts of them; so called, not because ever cast out or cast off by the Lord, being received into his favour, covenant, and church; but either because cast out of the company of profane men, as evil and unworthy; or cast out of Israel, the church of God, very justly, for offences given; but, being brought to repentance, are restored and gathered in again: or rather this may represent the Lord's people as in a state of nature, like the wretched infant cast out into the open field, scattered up and down in the world, in a state of distance from God, Christ, and his people; these are gathered by Christ in redemption, who came to seek and collect them together; and by his spirit in conversion, when he gathers them to himself, and into his fold; and this, as it is an occasion of joy to angels and saints, is matter of praise and thanksgiving to the outcasts themselves, thus gathered in. The Septuagint render it, to the dispersion or dispersed of Israel; see John 7:35.
and bindeth up their wounds; or "griefs" (n); and so gives them ease, health, and peace, for which they have abundant reason to call upon their souls to bless his name and sing his praise; see Psalm 103:1; compare with this Isaiah 61:1.
(n) "dolores eorum", Pagninus, Montanus, Cocceius, Gejerus.
he calleth them all by their names; not that he calls one Jupiter and another Verus, &c. as the Heathens have done; but the sense is, that he has as perfect, distinct, and exact knowledge of them, as we have of any persons or things that we can call by name, and more so; see Isaiah 40:26. This may be applied to the saints, who are like to stars for the light they receive from Christ the sun of righteousness, and are a number which no man can number; but Christ knows them all distinctly and exactly, and can call them by name, and holds them in his right hand, and will preserve them; and they shall shine for ever like stars, yea, like the sun in the kingdom of his Father; so Arama interprets this of the righteous, who are compared to stars; see Daniel 12:4.
(o) Vid. Augustin de Civ. Dei, l. 16. c. 23.
his understanding is infinite; it reaches to all things, not to the stars of heaven only, as in Psalm 147:4, but to the fowls of the air, to the beasts of the field, and cattle upon a thousand hills; to all on the surface of the earth, or in the bowels of it; and to the fishes of the sea: it reaches to all men, and to all the thoughts of their hearts, the words of their mouths, and the actions of their lives; it reaches to all things past, that have been, to everything present, and to whatsoever is to come; it includes not only the knowledge of all things that are, or certainly will be, but of all things possible, or which he could bring into being if he would; it is concerned not only with the quality and nature of things it perfectly understands, but with the quantity of them; even all things in creation and providence, which are without number and past finding out by men; and so his understanding is without number, and cannot be declared, as the word signifies.
he casteth the wicked down to the ground; or "humbles them to the ground" (p); he abases the proud and brings them into a low estate, sometimes in this world; however in the next he casts them down to hell, even into the lowest hell, which is the portion of all wicked men, of all proud and haughty sinners; see Isaiah 26:5; compare with these expressions Luke 1:51. Aben Ezra by the "meek" understands the outcasts of Israel, and by the "wicked" the kings of the Gentiles, subject to Israel.
(p) "humiliaus", V. L. Montanus; "humiliat", Pagninus, Cocceius, Michaelis.
sing praise upon the harp unto our God; an instrument of music used in the times of the Old Testament; an emblem of the heart, and of making melody in it to the Lord: the hearts of believers are the harps of God, on and with which they sing unto him, when they sing aright, and these are in proper tune.
(q) "respondete", Montanus, Cocceius; "alternis canite", Tigurine version, Piscator, Michaelis.
who prepareth rain for the earth; which is purely his preparation, production, and gift, to water the earth and make it fruitful, and is what none of the vanities or idols of the Gentiles could give; and what he prepares in the clouds, the heavens are covered with: to this the word of God and the evangelic doctrine is compared, because of its original; it is of God, and from heaven; it is dispensed and falls by divine direction, and sometimes in one place, and sometimes in another; and often in great plenty, as at the first, so in the last times of the Gospel dispensation; and brings many blessings of grace and goodness with it; and, like rain, is cooling, softening, refreshing, and fructifying; and this is prepared of God, and ordained by him before the world was, for the good of his people; see Deuteronomy 32:2, 1 Corinthians 2:6;
who maketh grass to grow upon the mountains; which would be otherwise dry and barren; but, by the clouds letting down rain upon them, grass grows on them for the cattle on a thousand hills. "Mountains", in a figurative sense, signify churches, high, strong, well-rounded, visible, and where God makes a feast of fat things for his people, Isaiah 25:6; "grass" denotes true believers, they of the city which flourish like grass; to which they are like, for their weakness in themselves, their number, verdure, and fruitfulness, and for their growth in the church; which is greatly owing to the Gospel and ordinances as means, the ram of Gospel doctrine, the pure, sincere, and unadulterated word of God; by which souls grow in grace, and in the knowledge of divine things; see Psalm 72:16.
and to the young ravens which cry: which are particularly mentioned, because contemptible creatures, and of no use and service to men, and by the ceremonial law were impure to the Jews; and the rather, because, as naturalists observe, they are very early turned out of their nests, or forsaken by their dams: and this particular instance of the care of Providence is elsewhere observed, Job 38:41. Arama takes notice of the preservation of this creature in the ark, and the use of it to Elijah. The Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, Ethiopic, and Arabic versions, render it, "that call upon him"; that is, upon God and to him; they are expressly said to cry, Job 38:41. The ancient fathers interpret this figuratively; and by the "ravens" understand the Gentiles; and by their "young ones" Christians that spring from them, who call upon the true God.
"he delighteth not in the strength of those that ride on horses;''
that are well mounted, and pride themselves in it; and are equipped for war, and are mighty to engage in it, and prepared to make their escape in danger: Kimchi's note is,
"he delighteth not in man, who puts his confidence in the strength of the horse;''
see Psalm 20:8;
he taketh not pleasure in the legs of a man; in which his strength lies, and of which he is apt to glory; but should not, it being displeasing to God; who delights not therein, but in lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, Jeremiah 9:23; not in the legs of a man of war, as Arama; which are strong to stand his ground, or swift to flee away when hard-pressed; see Amos 2:14; so the Targum,
"he takes no pleasure in the legs of men that run;''
that are swift to run races, or to flee in battle; to this sense are the notes of Jarchi and Kimchi. It seems to intend the infantry in an army, as the cavalry before; and both intimate that neither horse nor foot are to be trusted in for safety, how pleasing or promising they may be, since God seeth not as man does: or reference may be had to athletic exercises of horse and foot races, of wrestling, combats, &c. men may delight in, but God does not. What are pleasing to him are exercises of a spiritual kind; such as fleeing to Jesus, the strong tower; running the Christian race, to obtain the incorruptible crown; wrestling against principalities and powers, and such acts of grace as are next mentioned.
in those that hope in his mercy; not general, but special; not in the absolute mercy of God, but as displayed in Christ; and great encouragement there is to hope in it, from the plenty of it in his heart, from the instances of it among men, and from the blessings of grace and salvation that spring from it: and in such the Lord takes pleasure; hope is his own grace, and mercy is his delight; and he is pleased with those that exercise hope upon it: not that the graces of fear and hope, and the exercise of them, are the cause and motives of God's delight in his people, which, as they were considered in Christ, was before the world was, or those graces were in them; but these describe and point out the persons who are openly and manifestly the objects of his delight and pleasure. Plutarch (r), an, Heathen writer, seems to have been acquainted with this and Psalm 147:10, and to refer to them, when he says,
"it is somewhere said, that God is not a lover of horses, nor of birds, but of men, and desires to dwell with those that are eminently good; nor does he refuse nor despise the familiar converse of a man divine and wise.''
(r) In Vita Numae, vol. 1. p. 62.
praise thy God, O Zion; not the house and family of David, as R. Obadiah; nor the priests and Levites in the temple, as others; but the same as before, the church and people of God; the Mount Zion God has loved and chose for his habitation; the city of our solemnities in Gospel times; the perfection of beauty and joy of the whole earth; whose God and King is Christ; and whom Zion and all her children should praise, being her incarnate God, Immanuel, God manifest in the flesh. With this verse, the Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions, begin the psalm.
he hath blessed thy children within thee; multiplied them and made them fruitful, increased the number of them; even the spiritual children of the church, brought forth to Christ by her; born in her, through the ministry of the Gospel; and brought up by her, with the ordinances of it. These in the first times of the Gospel were very numerous, and will be so again in the latter day, like the drops of the morning dew; and are and will be blessed with all spiritual blessings, with pardoning, justifying, adopting, and sanctifying grace, and with eternal life; for which the Lord's name is to be praised.
and filleth thee with the finest of the wheat; or, "fat of the wheat" (s); the best of it; see Deuteronomy 32:14; which is the choicest of grain, and makes the best of bread, and especially the finest flour of it; and to be filled and satisfied with this, or to have enough of it, is a great temporal blessing. Here it may be understood spiritually of the Gospel, which may be compared to wheat, and the finest of it, for its excellency and purity, for its solidity and substantiality; with which the chaff of human doctrine is not to be mentioned, Jeremiah 23:28; and for its salutary nourishing and strengthening virtue; and especially of Christ, the sum and substance of it, sometimes compared to a corn of wheat, John 12:24; for his superior excellency to all others, and the purity of his nature; for his great fruitfulness, and for being suitable food to his people; the bread of life, for which he is prepared by his sufferings and death; which may be signified by the beating out of the corn, and grinding the wheat, and making it into bread, fit for use: and for this spiritual food believers are abundantly thankful, and have reason to praise the Lord.
(s) "adipe", Montanus, Pagninus, Tigurine version, Musculus, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Cocceius, Gejerus, Michaelis.
his word runneth very swiftly; so the Gospel did in the first times of it, like lightning, from one end of the heaven to the other; the words of it went into all the world, and the sound of it unto the ends of the earth; it had a free course, and was glorified: and so it will in the latter day, when many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased; see Romans 10:18.
he scattereth the hoar frost like ashes; which is the dew congealed by the intense cold of the air in the night season (z): this for its colour looks like ashes, and for its infinite number of particles may be compared to them; which are spread here and there, and everywhere; over gardens, fields, lands, herbs, plants, and trees, as if they were strewed with ashes. And to hot ashes it may be compared, because of its burning nature, shrivelling up leaves, herbs, and plants, as if burnt; hence called "pruina" in the Latin tongue (a). The manna is compared to this for its smallness, Exodus 16:14; which was typical of Christ, the hidden manna, and of the ministry of the Gospel; little, mean, and contemptible, in the eyes of carnal men; torturing and tormenting to them, as the fire that came out of the mouths of the witnesses; and is the savour of death unto death to some, while it ii the savour of life unto life to others.
(t) Eustathius in Dionys. Perieget. p. 91. (u) Epigram. l. 4. Ephesians 3. (w) Aristoph. Nubes, p. 146. (x) Nat. Hist. l. 17. c. 2.((y) Orosii Hist. l. 7. c. 32. p. 131. (z) lsidor. Origin. l. 13. c. 10. (a) "Frigora nec tantum cana concreta pruina", Virgil. Georgic. l. 2. v. 376.
who can stand before his cold? which he has purposed and promised shall be; for he has said, that "cold and heat shall not cease, as long as the earth remains"; and which he appoints and orders to be, for "by the breath of God frost is given", Genesis 8:22; and this is sometimes and in some places so very vehement, that it is intolerable; men are obliged to keep within doors, to make them fires, and put on more clothes; and the "hands" of every man are sealed up from business; even "the beasts go into their dens, and remain in their places", or get what shelter they can; see Job 37:7. And if there is no standing before his cold, who can stand before the heat of his anger, or his furious wrath and indignation, when it is poured out like fire? see Psalm 76:7.
he causeth his wind to blow, and the waters to flow: the south wind particularly; then the waters, which were still and motionless, flow as before, or more abundantly. Thus the hearts of men in a state of nature are like frozen earth or waters; they are cold, and without the heat of love, and affection to God and Christ, and spiritual things; they are as hard as a stone, and without any motion or desire after things divine and heavenly: but when the Lord sends his word, attended with a divine power and efficacy, it breaks and melts them; when the south wind of the blessed Spirit blows upon them, or his grace becomes effectual in convincing them of sin, righteousness, and judgment; and when the sun of righteousness arises on them with healing in his wings; with which being warmed, they are loosened, and flow to the Lord and his goodness for all spiritual blessings.
his statutes and his judgments unto Israel; the ordinances of divine worship under the former dispensation, which were peculiar to literal Israel; and those of the Gospel dispensation, which belong to the spiritual Israel, Jews and Gentiles; and which are shown and directed to in the word, to be observed by them; and both the Gospel and the ordinances of it are instances of divine favour, for which the Lord is to be praised.