and as for his judgments, they have not known them; by which are meant, not the providential dispensations of God, which are unsearchable, and past finding out, till made manifest; nor punishments inflicted on wicked men, unobserved by them; but the word of God, and the ordinances of it, which the Gentile world for many ages were unacquainted with; see Psalm 19:9;
praise ye the Lord: as literal Israel had reason to do, for those distinguishing instances of his favour and goodness; and as the spiritual Israel of God everywhere have; and particularly our British ones, who are highly favoured with the privileges of having the word of God purely and powerfully preached, and his ordinances truly and duly administered; at least in some parts of it, and that more than in any other nation under the heavens.
(b) "omni genti", Pagninus, Montanus, Gejerus; "omni nationi", V. L.
INTRODUCTION TO Psalm 148
This psalm seems to have been written about the same time, and by the same person, as the preceding; even by the psalmist David, when he was in profound peace, and at rest from all his enemies; and the kingdom of Israel was in a well settled and prosperous condition, both with respect to things civil and ecclesiastical, as appears from Psalm 148:14. And as it may respect future time, the times of the Messiah, of whom David was a type, it will have its accomplishment in the latter day, when there will be just occasion for all creatures, in heaven and earth, to praise the Lord; and which the Evangelist John, in vision, saw and heard them doing, Revelation 5:11. Aben Ezra says, this psalm is exceeding glorious and excellent, and has deep secrets in it; in which the psalmist speaks of two worlds, the upper and the lower. As for the title of this psalm, the Septuagint, Syriac, and Ethiopic versions, and Apollinarius, entitle it as the two preceding.
praise ye the Lord from the heavens; that is, those that are of the heavens; let their praises of the Lord, of his perfections, works, and benefits, resound from thence; the angels of heaven particularly, who have their habitation and residence there, and sometimes descend from thence on special business, by the order and appointment of their great Creator and Master: so the Targum,
"praise the Lord, ye holy creatures from heaven.''
Though some take the phrase, "from heaven", to be descriptive of the Lord, the object of praise, who is the Lord from heaven; the character of Christ, the second Adam, 1 Corinthians 15:47; who is from above; came down from heaven to do the will of God; and was in heaven, as to his divine Person, while here on earth in human nature, working out the salvation of men; for which he justly deserves the praise of all in heaven and in earth. But as all creatures are distinguished in this psalm into celestial and terrestrial, called upon to praise the Lord; this seems to be the general character of the celestial ones, persons, bodies, and things; as the phrase "from the earth", Psalm 148:7, includes all in the terraqueous globe;
praise him in the heights; either in the highest heavens where he dwells, or with the highest notes of praise that can be raised; see Psalm 149:6. The Targum is,
"praise him, all the hosts of angels on high:''
or the high hosts of angels: but these are particularly mentioned in Psalm 148:2.
praise ye him, all his hosts; meaning either the angels as before, sometimes called the hosts of heaven, and the heavenly host; there being armies and legions of them, and these encamping about the saints in a military way; see 2 Kings 19:35; or else the celestial bodies, the sun, moon, and stars, as follow, sometimes called the host of heaven; and who are represented as militant, Genesis 2:1, 2 Kings 21:3.
praise him, all ye stars of light; which are very beneficial in the night season, especially to mariners and travellers, and shed their benign influences upon the earth and things in it; which are a means of praising the Lord, and in their way they do it, Psalm 136:1. The Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions, read it, "stars and light", wrongly; the stars are luminous bodies, and shine in their own light (c), though the moon with a borrowed light from the sun.
(c) Macrob. in Somn. Scipion. l. 1. c. 19, 20.
and ye waters that be above the heavens; divided by the firmament from the waters below; and are no other than the thick clouds, in which the waters are bound up, and not rent, but at the pleasure of God, Genesis 1:7; so Seneca (d) calls the clouds the celestial waters. And these give men occasion to praise the Lord, that those vast bodies of water that are over their heads are not let down in such large quantities upon them as would destroy them; and that are carried about from place to place, and let down and gentle showers, to water and refresh the earth, and make it fruitful, so that it brings forth food for man and beast. The Targum is,
"ye waters, that by the Word (of the Lord) hang above the heavens;''
in which is displayed the glory of amazing power, wisdom, and goodness. The most ancient Syrians and Arabians were thoroughly persuaded, that beyond the bounds of the visible heavens there was a great sea, without any limits; which some (e) suppose to be the waters here meant.
(d) Nat. Quaest. l. 3. c. 23. (e) Vid. Steeb. Coelum Sephirot. Heb. c. 7. s. 3. p. 126, 127. and Gregory's Works, p. 110.
for he commanded, and they were created; they are all his creatures, and therefore should praise him: he is the "Father of spirits", of angelic spirits, as well as the spirits of men; and the "Father of lights", of all the luminaries of the heavens; and he has made the heavens themselves, and all their hosts, and the firmament dividing the waters above and below; and all this by an almighty "fiat", at a word of command; he spoke, and they came into being at once, Hebrews 12:9, James 1:17.
he hath made a decree which shall not pass; concerning those creatures and their duration, which shall never pass away, or be frustrated or made void; but shall always continue and have its sure and certain effect; see Jeremiah 31:35; and is true of every decree of God, which is eternal and not frustrable, and is always fulfilled, Isaiah 14:27.
ye dragons, and all deeps; either land dragons, or rather sea dragons, the water or sea being the proper place of them, Psalm 44:19; these, as cruel, as poisonous, and pernicious as they are, are made to honour and praise the Lord, Isaiah 43:20; and such as are mystically signified by, them, as Satan, tyrannical and persecuting princes, and antichristian ones, as Pharaoh king of Egypt, Rome Pagan and Papal; out of whom the Lord has or will get himself praise in the deliverance of his people from them, and in the destruction of them, and in the confessions they have been obliged to make of him, Revelation 12:3; these seem to be set in contrast with the angels. The word is used for the great whales the Lord made, which are thought to be the same with the "leviathan" of Job; of whom so many things are said, which declare the power and wisdom of God in the formation of it, Genesis 1:21, &c. and these may be put for the innumerable creatures in the sea, which in their way show forth the praise and glory of God, Psalm 102:24; as "all deeps" do, deep waters, especially the depths of the sea, and the inhabitants of them; where the wonders of God are to be seen, and give occasion to those that go down to the sea in ships to praise his name, Psalm 107:23.
snow, and vapour; the former is a gift of God, and very beneficial to the earth, and the cause of praise and thankfulness to God; See Gill on Psalm 147:16; the word (f) for "vapour" signifies smoke, and is what rises out of the earth like smoke, as Kimchi and Ben Melech observe; and is hot and dry, and forms lightnings and winds, and has its place among things that occasion praise;
stormy wind fulfilling his word; which is raised up by a word of his command; he creates it, brings it out of his treasures, holds it in his lists, and lets it go out at his pleasure to fulfil his will; either, as at some times in a way of mercy, as to dry up the waters of the flood, to make a way for Israel through the Red sea, to bring quails to them in the wilderness, and rain to the land of Israel in Ahab's time; and sometimes in a way of judgment, to drown Pharaoh and his host in the Red sea, to break the ships of Tarshish, to fetch Jonah the disobedient prophet back, and to distress him afterwards; see Psalm 107:25; to do all this is an argument of divine power, and a proof of deity, as it is of our Lord's, Matthew 8:27. The Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, and Arabic versions, read it in the plural number, "which do his word"; referring it not to the stormy wind only, but to fire and hail, snow and vapour; but the Hebrew text restrains it to the stormy wind.
(f) "vapor seu fumus", Piscator, Muis, Gejerus.
fruitful trees, and all cedars; trees bearing fruit are the fig trees, pomegranates, vines, and olives, with which the land of Canaan abounded; and such as bear lemons, oranges, plums, pears, apples, cherries, &c. which produce fruit for the use, pleasure, and delight of man, and so a means of praising God: and "cedars", the trees of the Lord which he hath planted; though they bear no fruit, yet very useful in building, and were of great service in the temple at Jerusalem; and which are put for all others of like usefulness, and minister just occasion of praise; see Psalm 96:12.
creeping things, and flying fowl: of "creeping things" some belong to the sea and others to the land; see Psalm 104:25; and there is not the least creature on the sea or land, the meanest reptile or worthless worm, but is of such exquisite workmanship as gives praise and glory to the Creator; and so do every fly and every insect, as well as "flying fowl" of the greatest size, as the eagle, vulture, &c. these, though they fly in the air, had their original from the waters, Genesis 1:20.
princes, and all judges of the earth: the sons of kings, princes of the blood, heirs of the crown; or nobles, ministers of state, counsellors, and, all subordinate magistrates, who are in high places of honour, profit, and trust, and so should praise the Lord, by whom they are brought to such honour; and when they fill up their places, and discharge their trust aright, the people have reason to be thankful for them; and especially for the "judges of the earth", when they are men fearing God and hating covetousness, and impartially minister justice and judgment; see Psalm 2:10.
old men, and children; the former have had a large experience of the providential goodness of God, and, if good men, of the grace of God, and are under great obligation to praise the Lord for all that he has done for them; for they have known him that is from the beginning, and have seen many of his wonderful works, which they should not forget to declare to their children, to the honour and glory of God; and even out of the mouth of "children", of babes and sucklings, who have less knowledge, and less experience, God sometimes does ordain strength and perfect praise to himself; see Psalm 8:2; compared with Matthew 21:15.
for his name alone is excellent; the name of the Lord is himself, who is excellent in power, wisdom, goodness, truth, and faithfulness, and in all other perfections of his nature; his works, by which he is known, are excellent, both of nature and of grace, and proclaim his glory; his Son, in whom his name is, and by whom he has manifested himself, is excellent as the cedars; and so are all his precious names by which he is called; and such is the Gospel, by which he is notified to the world: nay, the Lord's name is alone excellent; all creature excellencies are nothing in comparison of him, in heaven or in earth, those of angels and men; and therefore should be praised by all, and above all;
his glory is above the earth and heaven; there is the glory of celestial and terrestrial bodies, which differ; the glory of the sun, moon, and stars, and of one star from another; but the glory of the divine Being, the Creator of them, infinitely exceeds the glory of them all: his glorious Majesty resides above heaven and earth; the heaven is the throne be sits upon, and the earth the footstool he stands on; and Christ, who is sometimes called his glory, and is the brightness of it, Psalm 63:2; is exalted above every name on earth, and is made higher than the heavens, and so is exalted above all blessing and praise; see Psalm 8:1.