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Psalm 149:1-4

1. Sing ye to Jehovah a new song: his praise is in the congregation of the merciful. 2. Let Israel rejoice in his Maker: let the sons of Zion rejoice their king. 300300     “The Jewish government was a Theocracy, which commenced at the time of the departure from Egypt; and continued in some degree till the coming of Christ, as had been foretold by Jacob, Genesis 49:10.” — Dimock. 3. Let them praise his name on the pipe, 301301     In our English Bible it is in the text, “in the dance;” and on the margin, “or with the pipe.” מחול machol, the Hebrew word employed, is often in our authorized version rendered “dance”; but this is not its meaning. It denotes, as Parkhurst states, “some fistular wind instrument of music, with holes, as a flute, pipe or fife, from חל, chal to make a hole or opening.” “I know no place in the Bible.” Says Dr. Adam Clark, “where מחול, mechol, and מחלת, mechalath, mean dance of any kind; they constantly mean some kind of pipe.” on the timbrel 302302     The Hebrew name for this kind of this musical instrument is תף, toph. The timbrel, tympanum, or tambourine, was used chiefly by women, and was employed in choral dances, or occasions of religious or festal processions. Thus we read in Exodus 15:20, 21, “And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and dances. And Miriam answered them, Sing ye to the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.” The principle of the פף, toph, or timbrel was that of a prepared skin stretched upon a hoop or frame. There were various kinds or forms of this instrument. “Our common tambourine, with small cymbals inserted in the frame, also appears in some paintings, [of Egyptian and European antiquity,] and is now very common in Western Asia. We are told that the frame was either of metal or wood and that the ass’s skin was usually employed for the covering. They were not always played by the naked hand; but were sometimes struck with small batons, or with a knotty whip with many thongs, instead of which, on particular festivals, a sprig of some tree or plant, considered suitable to the occasion, was sometimes employed.” — Illustrated Commentary upon the Bible. The timbrel is evidently of oriental origin. From the reference to it in Genesis 31:27, where תף is translated “tabret,” we learn that it was known in the time of Jacob, that is, ages previous to the existence of the great European nations of antiquity; and both the Greeks and Romans confessed that their instruments of this class were derived from Egyptians and Syrians. See volume 3 and the harp let them sing psalms to him. 4. Because Jehovah hath taken pleasure in his people; he will glorify the poor unto salvation.


1. Sing to Jehovah a new song. This exordium proves what I have just said, that the exhortation now given is addressed only to God’s people; for the singular goodness which is particularly extended to them affords more ample matter of praise. The probable conjecture is, that the Psalm was composed at the time when the people were begun to rejoice, or after they had returned to their native country from the Babylonish captivity. We will see from the context that a promise is given of recovery from their ruined condition. The object, I think, of the Psalmist, is to encourage them to expect the full and complete deliverance, some prelude of which had been suddenly and unexpectedly given in the permission to return. As the Church was not fully restored at once, but was with difficulty and only after a long period brought to a state of vigor, comfort such as this was much needed. The Spirit of God would also furnish a remedy for evils which were afterwards to break out; for the Church had scarcely begun to respire when it was again harassed with various evils, and oppressed by the cruel tyranny of Antiochus, which was followed up by a dreadful dispersion. The Psalmist had good reason therefore for animating the godly to look forward for the full accomplishment of the mercy of God, that they might be persuaded of divine protection until such time as the Messiah should arise who would gather all Israel. He calls this a new song, as we have noticed elsewhere, to distinguish it from those with which the saints commonly and daily praised God, for praise is their continued exercise. It follows that he speaks of some rare and unusual benefit, demanding signal and particular thanksgiving. And I am disposed to think that whoever may have been the author of the Psalm, he alludes to that passage in Isaiah, (Isaiah 42:10,) “Sing unto the Lord a new song,” when he speaks of the future restoration of the Church, and the eternal kingdom of Christ. In the second clause of the verse there is a promise implied. For though he proceeds to exhort the Lord’s people to sing God’s praises together, he hints along with this that the Church would coalesce again into one body, so as to celebrate God’s praises in the solemn assembly. We know that so scattered were the Israelites, that the sacred songs ceased to be sung, as elsewhere they complain of being called upon to sing —

“How shall we sing the songs of the Lord in a strange land?” (Psalm 137:4.)

He bids them prepare therefore after this sad dispersion for holding their sacred assemblies again.

2. Let Israel rejoice in his Maker. He insists upon the same point, that the Lord’s people should rest firmly persuaded that their family had not been chosen out in vain from the rest of the world, but that God would be mindful of his covenant, and not allow the mercies which he had extended to them to fail or become extinct. Although they had been temporarily deprived of the inheritance of the land of Canaan, which was the pledge of their adoption, the Psalmist calls God their Maker, and king of the sons of Zion, to remind them that when adopted to a pre-eminency above other nations, this was a species of new creation. So in Psalm 45:6, the Israelites are called “the work of God’s hands,” not merely because they were like other men created by him, but because he had formed them anew, and distinguished them with a new honor, that, of being separated front the whole human race. The name king has a wider signification, intimating that as this people was at first formed by God, so it was with the view of their being ever governed by his power. The musical instruments he mentions were peculiar to this infancy of the Church, nor should we foolishly imitate a practice which was intended only for God’s ancient people. But the Psalmist confirms what has been already mentioned, that their religious assemblies which had been for a time interrupted would soon be restored, and they would call upon the name of the Lord in the due order of his worship.

4. For God hath taken pleasure in his people. We have spoken elsewhere of the verb רצה, ratsah here it means free favor, the Psalmist saying that it was entirely of his good pleasure that God had chosen this people to himself. From this source flows what is added in the second clause, that God would give a new glory of deliverance to the afflicted. In the Hebrew ענוים, anavim, means poor and afflicted ones, but the term came afterwards to be applied to merciful persons, as bodily afflictions have a tendency to subdue pride, while abundance begets cruelty. The Psalmist accordingly mitigates the sadness of present evils by administering seasonable consolation, that God’s people, when oppressed by troubles, might look forward with hope to the glorious deliverance which was yet unseen. The sum of the passage is — that God, who had fixed his love upon his chosen people, could not possibly abandon them to such miseries as they now suffered under.

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