Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
This psalm is without a title, and it is impossible to ascertain by whom, or on what occasion, it was composed. In the Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate, the title is, "Hallelujah. Of Haggai and Zechariah." But this is without authority, and it is not known how it came to be prefixed. The same title occurs in the Arabic Version. The Syriac Version has the title still more in full: "Spoken by Haggai and Zechariah the prophets, who ascended from the captivity at Babylon, concerning the morning ministration of the priests;" that is, to be used in their morning services. The tradition, therefore, would seem to be that this is a composition of those prophets. That it may have belonged to the times of Haggai and Zechariah is certainly possible, nor is there anything in the psalm inconsistent with that supposition, though there is no positive evidence that it is so. In this portion of the Psalms Ps. 146-150 all begin and end in the same manner, with a Hallelujah; they all belong to one group, and seem to pertain to the same occasion; and it is not inprobable that they constitute a series of psalms intended to commemorate the completion of the walls of Jerusalem, and the finishing of the temple. They would be eminently appropriate to such an event.
This psalm is a general psalm of praise which might be used at any time, containing thoughts such as are appropriately suggested by a contemplation of the character of God, and his dealings with people. The idea is that of the blessedness of trusting in God; the security of those who do it; the superiority of this confidence and peace over any which is reposed in princes; and the evidence that it will be safe to trust in him, furnished by his merciful interpositions in behalf of the oppressed, the hungry, the prisoner, the blind, the bowed down, the righteous, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. The psalm, then, has these parts:
I. An expression of a purpose to praise God; or, God as an object of praise, Psa 146:1-2.
II. Reliance is not to be put in man, even in princes, since all are mortal, Psa 146:3-4.
III. God is the only Being on whom we can rely, Psa 146:5-9.
(1) the happiness of that reliance, Psa 146:5.
(2) reasons for such reliance, Psa 146:6-9. He is the Creator of all things; he keeps truth; he executes judgment for the oppressed; he shows his kindness toward the hungry, the prisoner, the blind, the bowed down, the righteous, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow.
IV. God will reign for ever, and he is the God of Zion. His people, therefore, should praise him, Psa 146:10.
Praise ye the Lord - "Ye" - all people. Margin, Hallelujah. See Psa 104:35; Psa 106:1.
Praise the Lord, O my soul - See Psa 103:1, note; Psa 104:1, note.
While I live will I praise the Lord ... - See the notes at Psa 104:33, where the same language occurs substantially as in this verse: "I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being." The idea is, not merely that he would praise him during this life - short and fleeting as it is - but that as long as he had an existence - in the future world - forever he would praise him.
Through every period of my life
Thy goodness I'll pursue;
And after death, in distant worlds,
The glorious theme renew.
Through all eternity to Thee
A joyful song I'll raise;
But, oh! eternity's too short
To utter all thy praise."
Put not your trust in princes - Rely on God rather than on man, however exalted he may be. There is a work of protection and salvation which no man, however exalted he may be, can perform for you; a work which God alone, who is the Maker of all things, and who never dies, can accomplish. See the notes at Psa 118:8-9. Compare also the notes at Isa 2:22 : "Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils, for wherein is he to be accounted of?"
Nor in the son of man - Any son of man; any human being, no matter what his rank or power. The phrase is often used to denote man. See the notes at Psa 8:4. The appellation "Son of man" was often applied by the Saviour to himself to express emphatically the idea that he was a man - that he had a human nature; that he was identified with the race; that he was a brother, a fellow-sufferer, a friend of man: that he was not a cold and abstract being so exalted that he could not feel or weep over the sins and woes of a fallen and suffering world. The language here, however, it is scarcely necessary to say, does not refer to him. It is right to put our trust in him; we have no other trust.
In whom there is no help - Margin, salvation. So the Hebrew. The idea is, that man cannot save us. He cannot save himself; he cannot save others.
His breath goeth forth - He dies like other people, no matter how exalted he is. See the notes at Isa 2:22.
He returneth to his earth - See the notes at Psa 90:3. The earth - the dust - is "his" -
(a) It is his, as that from which he was made: he turns back to what he was. Gen 3:19 : "dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return."
(b) The earth - the dust - the grave is his, as it is his home - the place where he will abide.
(c) It is his, as it is the only property which he has in reversion. All that a man - a prince, a nobleman, a monarch, a millionaire - will soon have will be his grave - his few feet of earth. That will be his by right of possession; by the fact that, for the time being, he will occupy it, and not another man. But that, too, may soon become another man's grave, so that even there he is a tenant only for a time; he has no permanent possession even of a grave. How poor is the richest man!
In that very day - The very day - the moment - that he dies.
His thoughts perish - His purposes; his schemes; his plans; his purposes of conquest and ambition; his schemes for becoming rich or great; his plans of building a house, and laying out his grounds, and enjoying life; his design of making a book, or taking a journey, or giving himself to ease and pleasure. Luk 12:19-20 : "and I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry; but God said unto him, Thou fool! this night thy soul shall be required of time." Such are all the purposes of men!
Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help - Who may rely for protection on the God who defended Jacob in his travels and dangers. Or, perhaps the word Jacob is used here collectively to denote Israel - the Jewish people: the God whom they adore and worship, rather than the gods of the pagan. Compare Psa 144:15, note; Psa 54:4, note.
Whose hope is in the Lord his God - In Yahweh, worshipped as his God. That is, who truly worships Yahweh, or makes Yahweh his God.
Which made heaven and earth ... - Who is the true God, the Creator of all things. Happy is he who can address the God who called all this wondrous universe into being, and who sustains all by his power, as his God.
Which keepeth truth for ever - Who is always true to his promises. In this verse there are two reasons given why the lot of the people of God would be a happy one:
(1) That Yahweh is the true God, the Creator of all things, and, therefore, able to protect and provide for them.
(2) That he is faithful, and may always be relied on.
Idol-gods have no power, and every reliance placed on them is a vain reliance; people are often false and cannot be trusted, but Yahweh has infinite power, and every promise that he makes will be fulfilled; all that he says is eternally and unchangeably true. The reasons for trusting in him, or the reasons why they who trust in him are "happy," are further stated in the following verses.
Which executeth judgment for the oppressed - This is the third reason why the lot of those is a happy one who trust in God. It is because he has power to pronounce and execute a right judgment or sentence in regard to the oppressed and the wronged, and because it is characteristic of his nature that he does thus execute judgment. See the notes at Psa 103:6 : "The Lord executeth right. eousness and judgment for all that are oppressed."
Which giveth food to the hungry - See the notes at Psa 107:9 : "For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness." This is the fourth reason why they who confide in God are happy. Compare Luk 1:53 : "He hath filled the hungry with good things."
The Lord looseth the prisoners - This is the fifth reason why they who trust in the Lord are "happy." Compare the notes at Psa 68:6 : "He bringeth out those which are bound with chains." See also the notes at Psa 107:10 : "Being bound in affliction and iron." Compare Job 36:8-9.
The Lord openeth the eyes of the blind - This is the sixth reason for what is stated as to the blessedness of those who put their trust in the Lord. The language here would be applicable to bodily or to mental blindness. Compare the notes at Psa 119:18 : "Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law." See also the notes at Isa 35:5 : "Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened."
The Lord raiseth them that are bowed down - This is the seventh reason why they are happy who trust in the Lord. It is that those who are crushed and bowed down under the weight of care, trouble, and calamity, are raised up by him, or are sustained and comforted. See the notes at Psa 145:14 : "The Lord upholdeth all that fall, and raiseth up all those that be bowed down."
The Lord loveth the righteous - This is the eighth reason why those who trust in the Lord are happy. It is a characteristic of God, and a foundation for praise, that he loves those who obey law; who do that which is right.
The Lord preserveth the strangers - He regards them with interest; he defends and guides them. This is the ninth reason why those who trust in the Lord are happy. The stranger - away from home and friends; with no one to feel an interest in him or sympathy for him; with the feeling that he is forsaken; with no one on whom he can call for sympathy in distress - may find in God one who will regard his condition; who will sympathize with him; who is able to protect and befriend him. Compare Exo 12:49; Exo 22:21; Exo 23:9; Lev 19:33; Deu 1:16; Deu 10:18-19; Isa 56:3, Isa 56:6.
He relieveth the fatherless and widow - He is their friend. This is the tenth reason why those who put their trust in the Lord are happy. It is that God is the Friend of those who have no earthly protector. See the notes at Psa 68:5 : "A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation."
But the way of the wicked he turneth upside down - He overturns their plans; defeats their schemes; makes their purposes accomplish what they did not intend they should accomplish. The Hebrew word here means to bend, to curve, to make crooked, to distort; then, to overturn, to turn upside down. The same word is applied to the conduct of the wicked, in Psa 119:78 : "They dealt perversely with me." The idea here is, that their path is not a straight path; that God makes it a crooked way; that they are diverted from their design; that through them he accomplishes purposes which they did not intend; that he prevents their accomplishing their own designs; and that he will make their plans subservient to a higher and better purpose than their own. This is the eleventh reason why those who put their trust in God are happy. It is that God is worthy of confidence and love, because he has all the plans of wicked men entirely under his control.
The Lord shall reign for ever - See the notes at Psa 10:16 : "The Lord is King forever and ever" Compare Exo 15:18.
Even thy God, O Zion, unto all generations - As long as the world shall endure. There shall be no change of dynasty as there is in human governments; but the same King shall reign from age to age.
Praise ye the Lord - Hallelu-jah. The psalm closes as it commences. It is a call on all persons to unite in the praise of Yahweh.