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Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, [1834], at

Psalms Chapter 113


psa 113:0

The author of this psalm, as of those which immediately precede it, is unknown. It is very general in its character, and has no allusion to any circumstances by which one could determine the name of the author, or the occasion on which it was written. In connection with the five following psalms, it constitutes what was known among the Hebrews as the "Hallel'; that is, the song of praise, sung on great occasions, at the annual festivals, and especially at the Passover and the Feast of tabernacles. Buxtorf, Lexicon. Tal., p. 613, et al.

This psalm, which is expressive of the majesty of God, as having a claim to universal praise, consists essentially of two parts:

I. The general statement that God is to be praised, and a call on all to engage in that service, Psa 113:1-3.II. Reasons why he should be praised, Psa 113:4-9.

(1) he is exalted above all nations, Psa 113:4;

(2) None can be compared with him, Psa 113:5;

(3) he is condescending, and looks with interest on the things in heaven and on earth, Psa 113:6;

(4) He exalts the poor to positions of honor and influence, Psa 113:7-8;

(5) He constitutes and appoints families, with all that is tender and joyous in the domestic relation, Psa 113:9.

Psalms 113:1

psa 113:1

Praise ye the Lord - Margin, as in Hebrew, "Hallelujah." See the notes at Psa 106:1.

Praise, O ye servants of the Lord - You who profess to serve and obey him; who acknowledge him as your God. In the original this is also the word "Hallelu," הללוּ halelû.

Praise the name of the Lord - Still the same word "Hallelu." The name of the Lord is put here, as it is often, for the Lord himself.

Psalms 113:2

psa 113:2

Blessed be the name of the Lord - Blessed be the Lord; or; Let the name of the Lord be blessed.

From this time forth and for evermore - Now and forever. He is worthy of praise now, and he ever will be. What he is now, he will always continue to be; and as praise is proper now, it will be forever and ever. An eternal God has claims to eternal praise.

Psalms 113:3

psa 113:3

From the rising of the sun ... - From the farthest east to the farthest west - the sun in its rising and setting being the remotest object that we see in the horizon.

The Lord's name is to be praised - This does not mean that it "will" be - though that is true; but that it "ought" to be - that it is worthy of universal praise. All people in the east and in the west - everywhere - "should" praise and adore that name.

Psalms 113:4

psa 113:4

The Lord is high above all nations - Hebrew, Exalted above all nations is Yahweh. That is, he rules over all nations; he directs their affairs; he is their sovereign king. As a matter of fact, and from the necessity of the case, he is on a throne which is elevated above all the kings and kingdoms of the world. He is the Sovereign not only of one nation, but of all; and it is meet that this should be acknowledged by them all.

And his glory above the heavens - That which renders him glorious. The manifestations of his glorious character are not confined to the earth; they extend to the heavens; they are not confined to the visible heavens; they extend far beyond, in the regions of illimitable space. The universe - the earth and the starry worlds - all are full of the manifestations of his glory; and far beyond the bounds of created things (if they have a boundary), God is there - without limit - the same God - worthy there of universal praise! Who can comprehend such a God? Compare the notes at Psa 8:1.

Psalms 113:5

psa 113:5

Who is like unto the Lord our God? - Who can be compared with Yahweh our God? See the notes at Isa 40:17-25. The meaning is, that no creature - no idol - can be compared with Yahweh. The remark here has special reference to his attributes as immediately specified - his humbling himself to behold the things in heaven and in earth; his raising up the poor, etc. It is true "in general," in regard to God, that no creature can be compared with him; it is true, in regard to each one of his attributes, that they are far above all created excellence.

Who dwelleth on high - Margin, "exalteth himself to dwell." Literally, "The one making high to sit." The language is applicable to one who is seated on a lofty throne. Compare Psa 8:1. He has his dwelling - his throne - his permanent seat - in the heavens: so high and exalted that it requires infinite condescension to look upon the earth, or even upon the heavens.

Psalms 113:6

psa 113:6

Who humbleth himself ... - So high that it is necessary he should stoop even to behold the things which seem most lofty to us; and who actually does stoop thus to regard the things which he has made in heaven and on earth.

To behold the things that are in heaven, and in the earth! - More literally, "to look in heaven and in earth." Even to look on heaven, high as it is to us - still more to look on earth, so insignificant as compared with the vast bodies in the heavens - is condescension on the part of God. It requires him to stoop - even to look on the sun - the stars - the distant worlds! Yet he does this. There is not a world which he does not survey constantly; not a creature whose interests he does not regard; not an insect - a flower - an atom - that he does not regard with as much minute attention as though there were nothing else to demand his care.

Psalms 113:7

psa 113:7

He raiseth up the poor out of the dust - From the most humble condition in life. He exalts them to conditions of wealth, rank, honor. He has power to do this; he actually does it. This is not intended to be affirmed as a universal truth, or to assert that it is always done, but that it is among the things which show his majesty, his power, and his goodness, and which lay the foundation for praise.

And lifteth the needy out of the dunghill - From the condition of lowest poverty. Instances are sufficiently abundant in which this is done, to justify such an assertion, and to show that it is a proper foundation of praise to God.

Psalms 113:8

psa 113:8

That he may set him with princes - May give him a rank - a position - with nobles and great people upon the earth. Many instances of this nature have occurred in the history of the world. Not a few of the nobles of England, including several of its lord chancellors, have been raised thus from very humble life; and in every nation God shows that he has power to give to those of humblest rank a name and place which no hereditary titles and honors can bestow: thus Shakespeare was the son of a glover and woolstapler. God has power to come into the humblest cottage of poverty, and to bring forth those who shall stand foremost in their generation as people of genius and power. Nothing is more absolute than the power which God thus holds over the nations of the earth, and it is meet that a Being who has this power, and who exercises it, should be praised and honored.

Even with the princes of his people - Among those who are selected to preside over the people whom he has chosen for himself. It is implied here that this would be a higher honor than to be exalted to power among a pagan people - a people ignorant of the true God. It is a higher honor to be counted worthy to rule a Christian nation than a pagan people; it is a higher honor to be a ruler in the church - over those whom God has redeemed for himself - than it is to administer a secular government.

Psalms 113:9

psa 113:9

He maketh the barren woman to keep house ... - Margin, as in Hebrew, "to dwell in a house." That is, to be at the head of a family. See the notes at Psa 68:6. Compare Sa1 2:5. This, too, is suggested as a reason why God should be praised and adored. In instances where all hope of posterity is cut off, he interposes, and diffuses joy through a dwelling. We may look abroad, and see abundant occasion for praising God, in his condescension to human affairs - in his lifting up the poor from the humblest condition - in his exalting those of lowly rank to places of honor, trust, wealth, and power; but, after all, if we wish to Find occasions of praise that will most tenderly affect the heart, and be connected with the warmest affections of the soul, they will be most likely to be found in the domestic circle - in the mutual love - the common joy - the tender feelings - which bind together the members of a family. In such a family, the words with which this psalm begins and ends, "Hallelujah," "Hallelujah," are especially appropriate; and if any community on earth should apply these words to itself it should be such a family, called upon by everything tender, holy, and lovely, to "praise the" Lord.

Next: Psalms Chapter 114