Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
The author of this psalm is unknown; nor can the occasion on which it was composed be ascertained with any degree of certainty. In the Septuagint, the Arabic, and the Syriac versions, it is ascribed, like the previous psalm, to the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. The Syriac has this title: "A Psalm of Haggai and Zechariah, when they urged the completion of the temple of Jerusalem." It is quite manifest, from Psa 147:2, Psa 147:13-14, that the psalm was written after the return from the Babylonian captivity, and that probably on the completion of the temple after that return, with a view to be employed at its dedication. See Introduction to Psa 146:1-10.
This psalm comprises two themes: praise to God for his goodness to his creatures generally; and special praise for his goodness to his people. These topics are intermingled in the psalm, but the former is more prominent in the first part of the psalm; the latter in the close. Both were proper themes at the rebuilding of the temple and the walls of the city, after the return from the exile. Both are proper now, and will be so always.
Praise ye the Lord - Hallelu-jah. See Psa 146:1.
For it is good to sing praises unto our God - See the notes at Psa 92:1 : "It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord."
For it is pleasant - See the notes at Psa 135:3 : "Sing praises unto his name, for it is pleasant." The Hebrew word is the same.
And praise is comely - Becoming; proper. See the notes at Psa 33:1 : "praise is comely for the upright." The Hebrew word is the same. If these psalms were composed for the rededication of the temple, it would not be unnatural that much of the language employed should be borrowed from earlier psalms with which the people were familiar.
The Lord doth build up Jerusalem - He builds up the walls; he restores the city; he has caused the temple to be reconstructed. This language would be applicable to a return from the captivity. There may be an allusion here to the language in Psa 102:16 : "When the Lord shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory." See the notes at that passage. What is there spoken of as what would be in the future is here spoken of as accomplished, and as a ground of praise.
He gathereth together the outcasts of Israel - Those who have been exiled from their native land, and who have been scattered as outcasts in a foreign country. This is appropriate language to use on the supposition that the psalm was composed after the return from the exile, for it is in such language that that return was predicted by the prophets. Isa 11:12 : "and he shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah," etc. Isa 56:8 : "the Lord God which gathereth the outcasts of Israel," etc.
He healeth the broken in heart - Referrring primarily to the fact that he had healed those who were crushed and broken in their long captivity, and that he had given them comfort by returning them to their native land. At the same time, however, the language is made general, as describing a characteristic of God that he does this; that it is his character to do this. See the notes at Psa 34:18. See also Psa 51:17. Compare Isa 61:1; Luk 4:18.
And bindeth up their wounds - See the notes at Isa 1:6. Margin, griefs. The word refers to those who are afflicted with griefs and troubles. The reference is to mental sorrows; to a troubled spirit; to a heart made sad in any way. God has provided healing for such; on such he bestows peace.
He telleth the number of the stars - He counts them all. God only can do this. The stars are so numerous that no astronomer can count them; they lie so far in the depths of space, and are so remote from each other, that no man can be so presumptuous as to suppose that he has even seen any considerable part of them, even by the aid of the most powerful telescopes.
He calleth them all by their names - As if each one had a name, and God could call them forth one by one by their names, like the muster-roll of an army. This language seems to be taken from Isa 40:26 : "Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by numbers; he calleth them all by names, by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth." See the notes at that passage.
Great is our Lord - See the notes at Psa 48:1.
And of great power - This seems to be added, as in Isa 40:28, in view of the power required in making the heavens, and in guiding and numbering the stars: "Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary?"
His understanding is infinite - Margin, Of his understanding there is no number. That is, This corresponds with his power to number the stars. There is no limit to it. It is not bounded; there is no point reached where it can be said that there is no more; that it is exhausted. See the notes at Isa 40:28 : "There is no searching of his understanding."
The Lord lifteth up the meek - The humble; the poor; the bowed down; the oppressed. See the notes at Psa 146:8 : "The Lord raiseth them that are bowed down."
He casteth the wicked down to the ground - See the notes at Psa 146:9 : "The way of the wicked he turneth upside down."
Sing unto the Lord with thanksgiving - Accompany the praise of God - the expression of worship - with a grateful remembrance of the past. The one will aid the other, and the two will constitute acceptable and proper worship. The first word here means properly to answer, or respond; and the idea would seem to be, that we are to make a suitable response or answer to the manifold layouts which we have received at the hand of God.
Sing praise upon the harp unto our God - On the word harp, see the notes at Isa 5:12. The harp was an instrument commonly employed in divine worship. See the notes at Psa 33:2 : "Praise the Lord with harp." Compare Psa 43:4; Psa 49:4; Psa 57:8; Psa 71:22.
Who covereth the heaven with clouds - Clouds that are designed to convey refreshing rain to the earth. The reasons for praise here stated Psa 147:8-9 are derived from the goodness of God as exhibited in his providential arrangements for the good of man.
Who prepareth rain for the earth - By causing it to be taken from the sea, carried by the clouds, and conveyed through the air to the places where it is needed, and then gently sprinkled on the earth. Compare the notes at Psa 104:13 : "He watereth the hills from his chambers." See also Job 5:10, note; Job 28:26, note; Job 36:27-28, notes; Job 38:28, note; Job 38:37, note.
Who maketh grass to grow upon the mountains - Which would be barren but for the rain. Who conveys the water thus to the very tops of the mountains, and causes it to descend on their sides, so that even the mountains are clothed with verdure and beauty. Compare the notes at Psa 104:14 : "He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle."
He giveth to the beast his food - To the wild beast; to the animals that cannot toil for it themselves, as man does. Compare Psa 104:21, note; Psa 104:27-28, notes.
To the young ravens which cry - Compare the notes at Job 38:41. See also Psa 145:15.
He delighteth not in the strength of the horse - The horse is among the noblest works of God - perhaps the noblest of all the animals that he has made. See the notes at Job 39:19-25. Yet God regards with more interest and pleasure humble piety than he does any mere power, however great and wonderful it may be.
He taketh not pleasure in the legs of a man - Not the same pleasure as in piety; he prefers the humble heart to this. The reference is to man as capable of rapid marches, of quick movements in assaulting an enemy; the allusion being, perhaps, to an army prepared for war - cavalry and infantry - the horse moving on with resistless force - the foot-soldiers with rapid motion.
The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him - In those who truly worship him, however humble, poor, and unknown to people they may be; however unostentatious, retired, unnoticed may be their worship. Not in the "pride, pomp, and circumstance of war" is his pleasure; not in the march of armies; not in the valor of the battlefield; not in scenes where "the garments of the warrior are rolled in blood," but in the closet, when the devout child of God prays; in the family, when the group bend before Him in solemn devotion; in the assembly - quiet, serious, calm - when his friends are gathered together for prayer and praise; in the heart that truly loves, reverences, adores Him.
In those that hope in his mercy - It is a pleasure to him to have the guilty, the feeble, the undeserving hope in Him - trust in Him - seek Him.
Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem ... - In addition to this general praise in which all may unite, there are special reasons why Jerusalem and its inhabitants should praise God: just as now, in addition to the general reasons pertaining to all people why they should praise God, there are special reasons why Christians - why his redeemed people - should do it. What those reasons, as pertaining to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, were, is specified in the following verses.
For he hath strengthened the bars of thy gates - He has made thee safe and secure - as if he had given additional strength to the fastenings of the gates of the city. Cities were surrounded by walls. They were entered through gates. Those gates were fastened by bars passed across them, to which the gates were secured. The language here might be applicable to any period, but it is probable that there is particular reference to Jerusalem as made strong in rebuilding it after the return from Babylon.
He hath blessed thy children within thee - The inhabitants, by giving them safety and peace.
He maketh peace in thy borders - Margin, he maketh thy border peace. The word border here refers to a boundary, and stands for all the domain or territory included within the boundaries of a country. The idea is that peace prevailed throughout the land.
And filleth thee with the finest of the wheat - Margin, as in Hebrew, fat of wheat. Literally, "He satisfies thee with the fat of wheat." There is no want of wheat, and that of the best kind. Compare the notes at Psa 132:15 : "I will satisfy her poor with bread."
He sendeth forth his commandment upon earth - That is, with reference to the productions of the earth; to the changes which occur; to the seasons; to snow, frost, ice, cold, heat, wind; and he is universally and immediately obeyed. Nature everywhere yields a ready acquiescence to his will.
His word runneth very swiftly - As if it hastened to obey him. There is no delay. Compare the notes at Psa 33:9 : "He spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast." Snow, and frost, and ice, and cold, and heat, and wind, are entirely obedient to him. There is no reluctance in obeying him; there is no delay.
He giveth snow like wool - He covers the earth with snow, so that it seems to have a clothing of wool. Compare the notes at Job 37:6 : "For he saith to the snow, Be thou on the earth."
He scattereth the hoarfrost like ashes - As if ashes were strewed over the earth; or, as easily as one strews ashes.
He casteth forth his ice like morsels - The word rendered morsels means properly a bit, a crumb, as of bread, Gen 18:5; Jdg 19:5. The allusion here would seem to be to hail, which God sends upon the earth as easily as one scatters crumbs of bread from the hand.
Who can stand before his cold? - Or, hail. The word is the same, except in pointing, as the preceding word rendered ice. The idea is that no one can stand before the peltings of the hail, when God sends it forth, or scatters it upon the earth.
He sendeth out his word - He commands: or, he speaks.
And melteth them - Melts the snow and the ice. Compare the notes at Job 37:10-12 : "By the breath of God frost is given," etc. The idea is, that they are entirely under his control. They obey him when he speaks.
He causeth his wind to blow - The warm south wind: "his" wind, because he directs it, and causes it to perform his will.
And the waters flow - The snow and the ice melt.
He showeth his word unto Jacob - Margin, words. His commands; his promises; his laws. The things which were before adverted to, pertain to the world in general. All people see his works; all enjoy the benefits of his arrangements in the seasons - in the changes which occur upon the earth; but he has especially favored his own people by giving them his laws - his revealed will. This distinguishes them above all other nations of the earth, and gives them special occasion for gratitude.
His statutes and his judgments unto Israel - His laws; his written word. The word judgments here refers to the law of God as being that which he judges or determines to be right.
He hath not dealt so with any nation - He has favored Israel more than any other people by giving them his revealed truth. This was so. There was no nation in the ancient world so favored as the Hebrew people in this respect. There is no nation now so favored as the nation that has the revealed will of God - the Bible. The possession of that book gives a nation a vast superiority in all respects over all others. In laws, customs, morals, intelligence, social life, purity, charity, prosperity, that book elevates a nation at once, and scatters blessings which can be derived from nothing else. The highest benevolence that could be shown to any nation would be to put it in possession of the word of God in the language of the people.
And as for his judgments, they have not known them - Other nations are ignorant of his laws, his statutes, his revealed will. They are consequently subjected to all the evils which arise from ignorance of those laws. The fact that the ancient people of God possessed them was a sufficient reason for the Hallelujah with which the psalm closes. The fact that we possess them is a sufficient reason why we should re-echo the shout of praise, and cry Hallelujah.