New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary


Psa 146:1

Praise Yah! Praise Yahweh, my soul-
A case can be made that the whole of book 3 of the Psalter (Psalms 73-89) was written / edited in Babylon. The Psalms of Korah (83-87) seem to reflect the longing of the righteous remnant in Babylon for the temple services. And it is just possible that the entire Psalter was re-edited there in Babylon, under inspiration- for so many Psalms have elements of appropriacy to the exiles in Babylon and the restoration. The LXX titles of Psalm 56 [“Concerning the people that were removed from the Sanctuary”] and 71 [“Of the sons of Jonadab, and the first that were taken captive”] speak for themselves. Likewise the LXX attributes Psalms 146-148 to Haggai and Zechariah. Although I suggest they are all initially Psalms of David, relevant to his experiences, but used under inspiration in these later contexts.

Psa 146:2

While I live, I will praise Yahweh. I will sing praises to my God as long as I exist-
This is why David and Hezekiah asked to be preserved from death exactly because this life is the time to praise the Lord, and that was impossible in death. We see their implicit understanding that death is unconsciousness, and not praising God in heaven afterwards.

Psa 146:3

Don’t put your trust in princes, each merely a son of man in whom there is no help-
The parallel between princes and men is also found in Ps. 118:8,9. Princes are but men, no more than men, and nothing compared to Yahweh. I noted on Ps. 118:8 the application to Hezekiah. Yet he failed in putting confidence in princes, turning to Egypt for help. Yet he repented and was rewarded for his sole faith in Yahweh alone. And yet afterwards, he put his confidence in the princes of Babylon. His intensity of faith was not maintained. The relevance to the exiles (see on :1) would have been that the "princes" like Cyrus who appeared to have brought about the restoration were not of themselves to be trusted. They were mere men, used by Yahweh. There may also be some reference to a Jewish leader who tried to free the exiles but not in God's strength.

Psa 146:4

His spirit departs, and he returns to the dust. In that very day, his thoughts perish-
As noted on :2, the Psalmists clearly understood death to be unconsciousness. Whilst a specific "son of man" may be in view in :3, that individual is only human and shares the experience of mortality which all humans share. This would explain why the ambiguous term "son of man" is used, referring both to an individual as well as generic humanity.

Psa 146:5

Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in Yahweh his God-
This hope and happiness is posited in contrast to the mortality which affects all humanity in :4. By implication, therefore, we can assume that the hope in view is that of resurrection to eternal life in a bodily form, the ultimate victory over human mortality. The only other person claiming Yahweh as his "hope" [with this particular Hebrew word] is David under persecution by Saul (Ps. 119:166). In the context of the exiles (see on :1), the hope and help was in the ultimate restoration of the Kingdom and David's throne.

Psa 146:6

who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps truth forever-
As so often in the Psalms, God's creative power is seen as the guarantee that he will keep "truth", His covenant and His promises. It is no hard thing for the creator of all to raise the death (:5) or restore the exiles and His Kingdom. Encoded in creation all around us we therefore see the absolute ability of God to fulfil His promises of salvation. Disbelief in His creative power will therefore mean disbelief in our personal salvation.

Psa 146:7

who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. Yahweh frees the prisoners-
The word is used for the loosing or freeing / deliverance of Joseph by the edict of a powerful king, which looked forward to the deliverance of the captives by the decree of Cyrus (s.w. Ps. 105:20). "Freed" is "loosed". The exiles were prisoners who could have been loosed from Babylon- had they wished. The book of Esther makes clear that the Jews were far from impoverished prisoners. The imagery of being in prison and slavery is therefore in spiritual terms; and most of the exiles refused that great deliverance because they didn't perceive their condition. And that's exactly why folks today turn down the great offer of freedom made to them in Christ.

Psa 146:8

Yahweh opens the eyes of the blind, Yahweh raises up those who are bowed down, Yahweh loves the righteous-
The Psalms were likely rewritten by David over the years. The raising up of the bowed down could have referred initially to how he was exalted from the persecution under Saul, to be king of God's kingdom. It was at that time that he was "bowed down" (s.w. Ps. 57:6). But he was to be a pattern for the exiles, if they followed his later example of repentance and restoration.

Psa 146:9

Yahweh preserves the strangers, He upholds the fatherless and widow, but the way of the wicked He turns upside down-
This parallels Ps. 145:20 [see note there]: "Yahweh preserves all those who love Him, but all the wicked He will destroy". Those who love God are the marginal, the foreigners and widows; and in preaching the Gospel in wealthier areas, this truth is realized time and again. In the context of the exiles (see on :1), this was appropriate; for the exiles were treated as strangers in Babylon, and after the horrors of the Babylonian invasion there would have been many widows and fatherless amongst them.

 Psa 146:10

Yahweh will reign forever; your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise Yah!-
The exiles (see on :1) were to praise God that the God of Zion, the temple mount, would have an eternal kingdom. They were directed not to rejoice in any particular Davidic king, but in Yahweh who was their ultimate king. But the Psalm was originally David's reflections on his own Kingdom; he correctly perceives Yahweh and not himself as the ultimate king of Israel.

David saw his sufferings as being bound up with those of Israel; those who hated him hated Zion, those who blessed him blessed Zion, and God's salvation of Israel was being expressed through God's deliverance of him in the daily vicissitudes of life; as God had chosen Zion, so He had David His servant; David's joy was Zion's joy, and her exaltation would be David's  (Ps. 51:18; 69:35; 87:2; 106:5; 121:3,4; 125:1; 128:5; 146:10; 149:2). This is how we are to make sense of suffering- by understanding that it plays a role in the salvation of others, and is part of a wider nexus of Divine operation. We suffer so that we may be able to minister the comfort we receive to others (2 Cor. 1:4). Job likewise came to realize that his sufferings were not so much for his personal maturing, but for the teaching and salvation of the friends.