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361

PSALM CXXXV.

1 Hallelujah!

Praise the name of Jehovah,

Praise, ye servants of Jehovah,

2 Who stand in the house of Jehovah,

In the courts of the house of our God.

3 Praise Jah, for Jehovah is good;

Harp to His name, for it is pleasant.

4 For Jah has chosen Jacob for Himself,

Israel for His own possession.

5 For I—I know that Jehovah is great,

And [that] our Lord is above all gods.

6 Whatsoever Jehovah wills He has done,

In the heaven and in the earth,

In the seas and all depths;

7 Who makes the vapours go up from the end of the earth,

He makes lightnings for the rain,

Who brings forth wind from His storehouses.

8 Who smote the first-born of Egypt,

Both of man and of cattle;

9 He sent signs and wonders into thy midst, O Egypt,

On Pharaoh and all his servants.

10 Who smote many nations,

And slew mighty kings;

11 Sihon, king of the Amorites,

And Og, king of Bashan;

12 And gave their land [as] an inheritance,

An inheritance to Israel His people.

13 Jehovah, Thy name [endures] for ever,

Jehovah, Thy memorial [endures] to generation after generation.

14 For Jehovah will right His people,

And will relent concerning His servants.

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15 The idols of the nations are silver and gold,

The work of the hands of men.

16 A mouth is theirs—and they cannot speak;

Eyes are theirs—and they cannot see;

17 Ears are theirs—and they cannot give ear;

Yea, there is no breath at all in their mouths.

18 Like them shall those who make them be,

[Even] every one that trusts in them.

19 House of Israel, bless ye Jehovah;

House of Aaron, bless ye Jehovah;

20 House of Levi, bless ye Jehovah;

Ye who fear Jehovah, bless ye Jehovah.

21 Blessed be Jehovah from Zion,

Who dwells in Jerusalem!

Hallelujah!

Like Psalms xcvii. and xcviii., this is a cento, or piece of mosaic work, apparently intended as a call to worship Jehovah in the Temple. His greatness, as manifested in Nature, and especially in His planting Israel in its inheritance, is set forth as the reason for praise; and the contemptuous contrast of the nothingness of idols is repeated from Psalm cxv., and followed, as there, by an exhortation to Israel to cleave to Him. We have not here to do with a song which gushed fresh from the singer's heart, but with echoes of many strains which a devout and meditative soul had made its own. The flowers are arranged in a new bouquet, because the poet had long delighted in their fragrance. The ease with which he blends into a harmonious whole fragments from such diverse sources tells how familiar he was with these, and how well he loved them.

Vv. 1-4 are an invocation to praise Jehovah, and largely consist of quotations or allusions. Thus Psalm cxxxiv. 1 underlies vv. 1, 2. But here the reference to nightly praises is omitted, and the summons is363 addressed not only to those who stand in the house of Jehovah, but to those who stand in its courts. That expansion may mean that the call to worship is here directed to the people as well as to the priests (so in ver. 19). Ver. 3 closely resembles Psalm cxlvii. 1, but the question of priority may be left undecided. Since the act of praise is said to be "pleasant" in Psalm cxlvii. 1, it is best to refer the same word here to the same thing, and not, as some would do, to the Name, or to take it as an epithet of Jehovah. To a loving soul praise is a delight. The songs which are not winged by the singer's joy in singing will not rise high. True worship pours out its notes as birds do theirs—in order to express gladness which, unuttered, loads the heart. Ver. 4 somewhat passes beyond the bounds of the invocation proper, and anticipates the subsequent part of the psalm. Israel's prerogative is so great to this singer that it forces utterance at once, though "out of season," as correct critics would say. But the throbs of a grateful heart are not always regular. It is impossible to keep the reasons for praise out of the summons to praise. Ver. 4 joyfully and humbly accepts the wonderful title given in Deut. vii. 6.

In vv. 5-7 God's majesty as set forth in Nature is hymned. The psalmist says emphatically in ver. 5 "I—I know," and implies the privilege which he shared, in common with his fellow-Israelites (who appear in the "our" of the next clause), of knowing what the heathen did not know—how highly Jehovah was exalted above all their gods. Ver. 6 is from Psalm cxv. 3, with the expansion of defining the all-inclusive sphere of God's sovereignty. Heaven, earth, seas, and depths cover all space. The enumeration of the provinces of His364 dominion prepares for that of the phases of His power in Nature, which is quoted with slight change from Jer. x. 13, li. 16. The mysterious might which gathers from some unknown region the filmy clouds which grow, no man knows how, in the clear blue; the power which weds in strange companionship the fire of the lightning flash and the torrents of rain; the controlling hand which urges forth the invisible wind,—these call for praise.

But while the psalmist looks on physical phenomena with a devout poet's eye, he turns from these to expatiate rather on what Jehovah has done for Israel. Psalmists are never weary of drawing confidence and courage for to-day from the deeds of the Exodus and the Conquest. Ver. 8 is copied from Exod. xiii. 15, and the whole section is saturated with phraseology drawn from Deuteronomy. Ver. 13 is from Exod. iii. 15, the narrative of the theophany at the Bush. That Name, proclaimed then as the basis of Moses' mission and Israel's hope, is now, after so many centuries and sorrows, the same, and it will endure for ever. Ver. 14 is from Deut. xxxii. 36. Jehovah will right His people—i.e., deliver them from oppressors—which is the same thing as "relent concerning His servants," since His wrath was the reason of their subjection to their foes. That judicial deliverance of Israel is at once the sign that His Name, His revealed character, continues the same, unexhausted and unchanged for ever, and the reason why the Name shall continue as the object of perpetual adoration and trust.

Vv. 15-20 are taken bodily from Psalm cxv., to which the reader is referred. Slight abbreviations and one notable difference occur. In ver. 17b, "Yea, there is no breath at all in their mouths," takes the place365 of "A nose is theirs—and they cannot smell." The variation has arisen from the fact that the particle of strong affirmation (yea) is spelt like the noun "nose," and that the word for "breath" resembles the verb "smell." The psalmist plays upon his original, and by his variation makes the expression of the idols' lifelessness stronger.

The final summons to praise, with which the end of the psalm returns to its beginning, is also moulded on Psalm cxv. 9-11, with the addition of "the house of Levi" to the three groups mentioned there, and the substitution of a call to "bless" for the original invitation to "trust." Ver. 21 looks back to the last verse of the preceding psalm, and significantly modifies it. There, as in Psalm cxviii., Jehovah's blessing comes out of Zion to His people. Here the people's blessing in return goes from Zion and rises to Jehovah. They gathered there for worship, and dwelt with Him in His city and Temple. Swift interchange of the God-given blessing, which consists in mercies and gifts of gracious deliverance, and of the human blessing, which consists in thanksgiving and praise, fills the hours of those who dwell with Jehovah, as guests in His house, and walk the streets of the city which He guards and Himself inhabits.

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