New European Commentary


About | PDFs | Mobile formats | Word formats | Other languages | Contact Us | What is the Gospel? | Support the work | Carelinks Ministries | | The Real Christ | The Real Devil | "Bible Companion" Daily Bible reading plan

Deeper Commentary


Psa 115:1

Not to us, Yahweh, not to us, but to Your name give glory, for Your the sake of Your grace and truth-
It 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. As with Ps. 114, the context appears to be an encouragement to the exiles to not lose heart, even though they couldn't keep the feasts as strictly required. This opening request is for God to glorify the Yahweh Name in order to fulfil His "grace and truth", a phrase often used of the promises to Abraham. The Psalm is asking God to fulfil those promises, which would glorify His Name, in the restoration of the exiles to Zion. Perhaps the request not to glorify the exiles may have in view how popular the exiles became in exile, as witnessed by the end of the book of Esther.

Psa 115:2

Why should the nations say, Where is their God now?-
The way Moses pleaded with God to change His mind and not destroy Israel for the sake of what the surrounding nations would say is indeed inspirational to us all. It surely inspired the psalmist here to pray likewise. The request would be appropriate to the Jewish exiles in Babylon / Persia, mocked for having been forsaken by their God, and the prophecies of restoration apparently not coming true (Ps. 137:3).

Psa 115:3

But our God is in the heavens. He does whatever He pleases-
The implication may be that this was the answer of the faithful exiles to the mocking observation of the Gentiles that their God was apparently inactive because He was invisible. His visibility however is not related to His activity; and that is the huge difference between the true God and all idols. There may also be the admission that God is active according to His will / pleasure, and as He is omnipotent, that is often going to be above what we can explain to others. There is no shame in our making the same response to those who demand to 'see' our God in more visible action.

Psa 115:4

Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands-
This is grammatically not addressed to those who mocked the exiles in :2. Rather is this comfort to the exiles, that the idols of Babylon / Persia were indeed dumb. And yet according to Ezekiel and the implications of the book of Esther, idolatry was rife amongst the exiles. So this may have been also an appeal to the exiles to see the idols for what they were.

Psa 115:5

they have mouths, but they don’t speak, they have eyes, but they don’t see-
The implication is that Yahweh has all these faculties. This implies that Yahweh is a personal God, and we are made in His image physically, although not morally.

Psa 115:6

They have ears, but they don’t hear, they have noses, but they don’t smell-
See on :5. This mockery of idolatry is similar of that addressed to the exiles in Is. 44:9-20; and the context is the same. The exiles are being recalled from idolatry (see on :4). 

Psa 115:7

They have hands, but they don’t feel; they have feet, but they don’t walk, neither do they speak through their throat-
The implication is that the God of Israel doesn't just have a dead semblance of human form, but actually is real and living, in human form; for we are made in His image. His word is spoken through His throat, and elsewhere He is presented as speaking through lips (Job 23:12).

Psa 115:8

Those who make them will be like them; yes, everyone who trusts in them-
This is an abiding principle. We become like that which we worship and trust in. The process of trusting Yahweh will make us like Him. The requirement for faith and worship is therefore for our benefit. The idols have been portrayed as only appearing human; effectively they are dead, with eyes etc. which don't function. And those who worship them become likewise- not really alive as intended, not sensing reality as they are intended. Those who worship vanities become vain (Jer. 2:5). This was exactly the message to the exiles (Is. 44:9).    

Psa 115:9

Israel, trust in Yahweh! He is their help and their shield-
As discussed above, this was an appeal for Israel to quit idolatry and trust in Yahweh alone. Thereby they would show themselves to be the true seed of Abraham, for whom Yahweh was His shield (Gen. 15:1), and of David likewise (Ps. 28:7).

Psa 115:10

House of Aaron, trust in Yahweh! He is their help and their shield-
This can be read as an appeal to the house of Aaron separately to Israel (:9). But often "Israel" are paralleled with the house of Aaron / Levi. And this seems an example of that. Ps. 135:19,20 parallels all Israel with the priestly family: “Bless the Lord, O house of Israel: bless the Lord, O house of Aaron: bless the Lord, O house of Levi: ye that fear the Lord, bless the Lord... praise ye the Lord”. All Israel were to aspire to the spirit of priesthood. Indeed, the Psalms often parallel the house of Aaron (i.e. the priesthood) with the whole nation (Ps. 115:9,10,12; 118:2,3).

As it was God’s intention that Israel were to be a nation of priests to the rest of the world, so the new Israel likewise are to all discharge the priestly functions of teaching their brethren (Ex. 19:6 cp. 1 Pet. 2:5; Rev. 1:6; 5:9,10). Under the new covenant, we should all teach and admonish one another (Col. 3:16). Indeed, God told Israel [unrecorded in the historical records]: “Ye are gods [elohim] and all of you are sons of the Most High” (Ps. 82:6 RV). Further, Ps. 96:9 makes the paradigm breaking statement that even the Gentiles could come before Yahweh of Israel in holy, priestly array- they too could aspire to the spirit of priesthood (Ps. 96:9 RVmg.). Moses spoke of how all Israel should pray that God would establish the work of their hands (Ps. 90:17)- but this was in fact his special request for the blessing of Levi, the priestly tribe (Dt. 33:11).

Psa 115:11

You who fear Yahweh, trust in Yahweh! He is their help and their shield-
Israel professed to "fear Yahweh", to respect Him as their God; but that's not necessarily the same as trusting in Him as help and shield. They are appealed to here, as we are, to go far beyond mere religion, in name only making a religious profession. As discussed on :4 and above, the exiles were veering towards idolatry, whilst claiming to still have Yahweh as their God.

Psa 115:12

Yahweh remembers us; He will bless us, He will bless the house of Israel, He will bless the house of Aaron-
The exiles had not in fact been forgotten, as they feared; they could experience the blessing of restoration when they received the blessing of forgiveness from Yahweh. But that required repentance. The allusion is perhaps to the blessing A of Num. 6:24; but this Psalm was used at the feasts (:1), which were to remember / commemorate God's blessing of His people (Dt. 16:15). Yahweh would "remember" His people after punishing them in exile (Lev. 26:45 s.w.), and the psalmist asks for that moment to now come. 

Psa 115:13

He will bless those who fear Yahweh, both small and great-
The "small" perhaps especially thought that they were too insignificant to experience Yahweh's blessings. But the nature of Yahweh's covenant is that He doesn't respect the persons of all who are within it. The blessing of those who fear Yahweh would specifically be at the time when Zion was restored (Ps. 128:4,5), and that is what is here in view, in the context of the exiles.

Psa 115:14

May Yahweh increase you more and more, you and your children-
This alludes to the blessings promised to Abraham, to multiply his seed or children; and Yahweh would "increase more" His people after their exile (s.w. Is. 26:15). The exiles had broke the old covenant, and the prophets had invited them to accept a "new covenant", based upon the promises to Abraham rather than the law of Moses.

Psa 115:15

Blessed are you by Yahweh, who made heaven and earth-
The God powerful enough to create all things can easily focus that power to the blessing of His people.

Psa 115:16

The heavens are the heavens of Yahweh; but the earth has He given to the children of men-
The reference may be specifically to the eretz promised to Abraham; it had been promised to Israel, "the children of men".

Psa 115:17

The dead don’t praise Yah, neither any who go down into silence-
This may be a request to restore the Kingdom in the lifetime of the exiles, or the psalmist in exile; so that they could praise Yahweh for it now, rather than die without seeing it. But all the same the point is established that death is not a conscious state; for even the righteous cannot praise Yahweh in death, which is a place of "silence".  

Psa 115:18

but we will bless Yah, from this time forth and forevermore. Praise Yah!-
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.