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 135:1

Praise Yah! Praise the name of Yahweh! Praise Him, you servants of Yahweh-
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. 113:1.

Psa 135:2

you who stand in the house of Yahweh, in the courts of our God’s house-
This therefore could be a Davidic psalm reused later when the temple was built. But the sanctuary could still be called God's house, and it had courts. Perhaps :2 refers to the worshippers in the outer court, and :1 to the priests and Levites.

Psa 135:3

Praise Yah, for Yahweh is good. Sing praises to His name, for that is pleasant-
The grammar could imply that God's Name is "pleasant". Praise is to be motivated by appreciating what we are praising. And the essence of Yahweh is summarized in His Name.

Psa 135:4

For Yah has chosen Jacob for Himself; Israel for His own possession-
An inheritance / possession was the most personal, intimate possession a man could have. And for Yahweh, the God of infinite possession, His wayward, tiny people were His "own possession". Yet they would only be this if they were obedient and loyal to Him (Dt. 7:6 cp. Ex. 19:5). They weren't; but here we see the triumph of His absolute love and the grace of imputed righteousness. For He counted them as "His own possession" anyway. And it is that grace which is to be praised (:1,2).

Psa 135:5

For I know that Yahweh is great, that our Lord is above all gods-
The invitation of :1 and :2 was for a mass of priests, Levites and ordinary worshippers to praise God together, en masse. But that praise was to be essentially personal; and so it should be or us today. The reference to Yahweh's supremacy above all other gods was because this Psalm was to be used when the exiles had been restored, and there was an appeal to the Gentiles to repent and accept Israel's God. 

Psa 135:6

Whatever Yahweh pleased, that He has done, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps-
The reference to the seas is emphasized because they are representative of the Gentile nations. This Psalm is an appeal to them to repent; and to accept and perceive how God had worked His pleasure or will amongst the nations in history. And that was according to the same word of purpose which had created all things, towards the final outworking of His saving purpose.

Psa 135:7

who causes the clouds to rise from the ends of the land; who makes lightnings with the rain; who brings forth the wind out of His treasuries-
God's causative power in the natural creation was just as much at work in the path of the nations. "The ends of the eretz", the land promised to Abraham, were specifically Assyria and Babylon, the classical abusers of God's people. And His word could work amongst those peoples just as much as it caused the clouds and winds from those areas to come upon Israel. The Hebrew word for "clouds" is that elsewhere translated "prince", "governor" or "ruler". God's activity in the natural creation was to be seen in His work amongst people.

Psa 135:8

who struck the firstborn of Egypt, both of man and animal-
This otherwise awful act was to be the object of Israel's praise, just as the destruction of the Egyptians in the Red Sea is to be praised as an example of God's grace enduring for ever (Ps. 136:15). One take on the situation is that God foreknew that if He had not killed those Egyptians, they would have killed the Israelites.

Psa 135:9

who sent signs and wonders into the midst of you, Egypt, on Pharaoh, and on all his servants-
We enquire why "Egypt" is addressed specifically, as if present. Perhaps the idea is that this Psalm was to be used when the exiles had been restored, and there was an appeal to the Gentiles to repent and accept Israel's God. They were being asked to perceive the wonder of God's hand in history and the rightness of His judgments upon them.

Psa 135:10

who struck many nations, and killed mighty kings-
The nations in view are presumably those of Canaan (:11), alluding to Dt. 7:1. Josh. 12:24 lists 31 nations / kings destroyed by Joshua.

Psa 135:11

Sihon king of the Amorites, Og king of Bashan and all the kingdoms of Canaan-
If this Psalm was used in the context of the exiles, the encouragement was that no matter how strong the Samaritan opposition appeared to be it would crumble easily. For no local peoples of the land would stop God's purpose to give the land to His people.

Psa 135:12

and gave their land for a heritage, a heritage to Israel, His people-
Israel were God's heritage (:4), and the land was their heritage. The idea of giving a heritage suggests the inheritance first belonged to the One who gave it. This would suggest God considered the land of Canaan as personally His in a way the rest of the planet wasn't. And He in turn gave it to Israel His people. Psalms 135 and 136 are clearly paired, and the parallel here is in the invitation to praise God for His grace in giving Israel the land as an inheritance (Ps. 136:21). It was by grace because they weren't obedient to the covenant, they didn't act as God's children and rejected Him for their idols; but still He gave them what was really the inheritance for His loving children.

Psa 135:13

Your name, Yahweh, endures forever; Your renown, Yahweh, throughout all generations-
God's Name is clearly not simply the lexical item "Yahweh". His Name is His "renown", His reputation and character expressed throughout history; and always characterized by His saving of His people by grace.

Psa 135:14

For Yahweh will judge His people, and be sorry for His servants-
We note the parallel between God's judgment of His people, and His saving pity for them. There is no need to fear judgment day; David in the Psalms often looks forward to it rather than fears it. Judgment day will be the articulation of God's Name or character (:13); which is dominated by His saving pity for people.  This verse is read by some as meaning that God will firstly judge His people with punishment, and then be sorry for them. But that is to miss the parallelism in the Hebrew poetry here. His judging is His "being sorry for His people".

Psa 135:15

The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands-
The idea is that the Canaanite nations were destroyed because of their idolatry. But Ezekiel records that Israel left Egypt with the idols of Egypt; and we know they carried the tabernacle of their god Remphan as well as that of Yahweh, all through the wilderness. This is why the parallel Ps. 136 invites praise of Yahweh's grace for all these things. In the context of the exiles, 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, and to consider how they had been historically defeated at the conquest of Canaan.

Psa 135:16

They have mouths, but they can’t speak; they have eyes, but they can’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 135:17

They have ears, but they can’t hear; neither is there any breath in their mouths-
See on :16. 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. 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 (Ps. 115:7), and elsewhere He is presented as speaking through lips (Job 23:12). His word has true breath / Spirit.

Psa 135:18

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 135:19

House of Israel, praise Yahweh! House of Aaron, praise Yahweh!-
As explained on :20, the house of Aaron are paralleled with that of all Israel. It could be that this Psalm looks ahead to the day of the new covenant promised to the exiles, when there would be a new priesthood no longer simply predicated upon descent from Aaron.

Psa 135:20

House of Levi, praise Yahweh! You who fear Yahweh, praise Yahweh!-
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). 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).

Psa 135:21

Blessed be Yahweh from Zion, He who dwells at Jerusalem. Praise Yah!-
The blessing of Yahweh coming out of Zion was what was possible in the restored Kingdom of God; it would be associated with Yahweh Himself dwelling in Zion (Ps. 128:5; 134:3; 135:21). This would be the time when the temple vision of Ez. 40-48 was obeyed by the exiles, and the city called Yahweh Shammah, "Yahweh is there". But at the time of the exiles' return, it was precluded by their impenitence and refusal to build the temple and city according to the commands of Ez. 40-48, and the fact the majority refused to participate in the program and remained in Persia / Babylon.