New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

Psa 113:1

Praise Yah! Praise, you servants of Yahweh, praise the name of Yahweh-
This is part of the "Hallel Psalms" (Ps. 111-118), chants sung at the feasts of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles, which consist of Psalm 113-118. This opening verse is an invitation to the Levites or priests as Yahweh's servants to begin the praise at a feast, used also in Ps. 135:1.

Psa 113:2

Blessed be the name of Yahweh, from this time forth and forever-
The idea may be that we will eternally be praising the name of Yahweh; in the sense of appreciating and praising His characteristics. For the declaration of His Name to Moses involved the listing of His characteristics which combine to make up His personality. We can begin living the eternal life now, in that we can now act as we shall eternally. We shall be eternally appreciating, trusting, loving and praising God's Name- and we can begin that now. This is an Old Testament form (also in Ps. 113:2; 115:18; 121:8; 125:2; 131:3) of the Lord's teaching as recorded in John's Gospel, that we can have and live the eternal life right now. We have that life not in the sense that we shall never die, but in that we can begin living and being now as we shall eternally live and be.

Psa 113:3

From the rising of the sun to the going down of it, Yahweh’s name is to be praised-
This could mean from the east to the west, but equally from the dawn to dusk, every day. The vision here is of Gentiles coming to Yahweh and praising His Name. Usually, nations changed their gods only because they had been subjugated by other nations by force, and made to worship the gods of their conquerors. But Yahweh isn't like that. The appeals of the Psalms are constantly for people to decide themselves to come to Him, attracted by His grace to His people, who are to be the parade, showcase examples of what covenant relationship with Yahweh means.

Psa 113:4

Yahweh is high above all nations, His glory above the heavens-
This could be part of the vision of :3, of "all nations" lifting Yahweh up as high above them. As His glory was over the ark and the blood covered mercy seat in particular, so now the Gentiles are envisaged as being there on the ark, just as Israel were intended to be. But the idea may also be that Yahweh is above all nations, His glory is there above them all- but they are to seek after Him and find Him.

Psa 113:5

Who is like Yahweh our God, who has His seat on high-
As explained on :3, this is an invitation from Israel to the nations to accept Yahweh our God. This Psalm has clear connections with the restoration prophecies (here to Is. 40:18,25). The idea was that the exiles would repent, and along with repentant Gentiles, return to form a multiethnic people of God in the restored Kingdom of God in Israel.

Psa 113:6

who stoops down to view both heaven and earth?-
Ps. 113:6,7 speaks of how the God who humbles Himself to behold the things in Heaven and earth, is the same God who "raises up the poor out of the dust". His grace at a cosmic level is reflected in the way that on earth He choses to work with the poor rather than the mighty. As we reflect on the ‘Wow!’ factor in God’s calling of us, we need to learn this deeply- that we are the nobodies whom God has called and chosen. That Yahweh has the feature of humility was something totally and radically different to all conceptions of deities amongst the nations; their gods claimed to be proud and invincible, with none of the sensitivity to the lowly which is a part of humility.

The more we begin to even faintly grasp the height of Yahweh's holiness and spirituality, the more we will be awed by His humility in dealing with us. It requires humility from Him to even behold the Angels (perhaps referred to by "heaven"). And yet He lets them discuss His will and come up with their own schemes for executing it, many of which he rejects as somehow inappropriate (2 Chron. 18:17-20).

Psa 113:7

He raises up the poor out of the dust and lifts up the needy from the ash heap-
David had seen himself as "poor and needy", needing grace after his sin with Bathsheba and its consequences (Ps. 40:17; 70:5; 86:1; 109:16,22). He wished Solomon to likewise have pity on the "poor and needy" amongst the Gentiles, those who had likewise repented (Ps. 72:13). And David was especially desirous to himself see the "poor and needy" blessed and accepted as he had been (Ps. 82:3,4; 113:7). It is our personal experience of needing grace which leads us to have a heart for those like us, the poor and needy. Any other motivation will ultimately not abide. Solomon appears to glorify his mother Bathsheba for likewise pitying the poor and needy (Prov. 31:9,20).

These are the words of Hannah in 1 Sam. 2:8, and Hannah's song is alluded to throughout Ps. 113:7-9. She is presented here as representative of Israel, particularly the exiles in Babylon. Her hope was that Samuel would be not only a priest [although he was not strictly a Levite] but also a prince / king. This is all similar to the idea of Ps. 110:4, where the Messiah was to be a king-priest, not a Levite, but a priest "after the order of Melchizedek".

Psa 113:8

that He may set him with princes, even with the princes of His people-
The implication could be that the lowly person lifted up is a Gentile, or at least not from the ruling tribe of Judah, who is lifted up to be a prince amongst the princes of Israel God's people. As noted on :7, this is what Hannah had in mind for her son Samuel (1 Sam. 2:8). The language of the man exalted from the dunghill (:7 AV) is also that of Job, who was himself a Gentile. The exaltation of the lowly to be with princes recalls Joseph with Pharaoh, Daniel with Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus, Mordecai with Ahasuerus. The latter two were relevant to the exiles, for whom this Psalm appears to have been rewritten.

He settles the barren woman in her home, as a joyful mother of children. Praise Yah!-
The allusion to Hannah continues; but she was representative to the "barren woman" of Israel in exile (Is. 54:1), who was to be blessed with many children (Is. 49:12,18,20; 54:2,3; 60:5; Gal. 4:27).