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Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at

Psalms Chapter 111


psa 111:0

Alphabetical Song in Praise of God

With Psa 111:1-10 begins a trilogy of Hallelujah-Psalms. It may be appended to Psa 110:1-7, because it places the "for ever" of Psa 110:4 in broader light in relation to the history of redemption, by stringing praise upon praise of the deeds of Jahve and of His appointments. It stands in the closest relationship to Psa 112:1-10. Whilst Psa 111:1-10, as Hitzig correctly says, celebrates the glory, might, and loving-kindness of Jahve in the circle of the "upright," Psa 112:1-10 celebrates the glory flowing therefrom and the happiness of the "upright" themselves, of those who fear Jahve. The two Psalms are twin in form as in contents. They are a mixture of materials taken from older Psalms and gnomical utterances; both are sententious, and both alphabetical. Each consists of twenty-two lines with the twenty-two letters of the alphabet at the beginning,

(Note: Bttcher transposes the verses in Psa 111:1-10, and in Psa 112:5 corrects יכלכל into וכלכל; in the warmth of his critical zeal he runs against the boundary-posts of the letters marking the order, without observing it.)

and every line for the most part consists of three words. Both songs are only chains of acrostic lines without any strophic grouping, and therefore cannot be divided out. The analogous accentuation shows how strong is the impression of the close relationship of this twin pair; and both Psalms also close, in Psa 111:9 and Psa 111:10, with two verses of three members, being up to this point divided into verses of two members.

Psalms 111:1

psa 111:1

That which the poet purposes doing in Psa 111:1, he puts into execution from Psa 111:2 onwards. ועדה, according to Psa 64:7; Psa 118:14, is equivalent to ועדתם. According to Psa 111:10, הפציהם in Psa 111:2 apparently signifies those who find pleasure in them (the works of God); but חפצי = חפצי (like שׂמחי, Isa 24:7 = שׂמחי) is less natural than that it should be the construct form of the plural of חפץ, that occurs in three instances, and there was no need for saying that those who make the works of God the object of their research are such as interest themselves in them. We are led to the right meaning by לכל־חפצו in Kg1 9:11 in comparison with Isa 44:28; Isa 46:10, cf. Isa 53:10, where חפץ signifies God's purpose in accordance with His counsel: constantly searched into, and therefore a worthy object of research (דרשׁ, root דר, to seek to know by rubbing, and in general experimentally, cf. Arab. drâ of knowledge empirically acquired) according to all their aims, i.e., in all phases of that which they have in view. In Psa 111:4 זכר points to the festival which propagates the remembrance of the deeds of God in the Mosaic age; טרף, Psa 111:5, therefore points to the food provided for the Exodus, and to the Passover meal, together with the feast of unleavened bread, this memorial (זכּרון, Exo 12:14) of the exemption in faithfulness to the covenant which was experienced in Egypt. This Psalm, says Luther, looks to me as though it had been composed for the festival of Easter. Even from the time of Theodoret and Augustine the thought of the Eucharist has been connected with Psa 111:5 in the New Testament mind; and it is not without good reason that Psa 111:1-10 has become the Psalm of the church at the celebration of the Lord's Supper. In connection with הגּיד one is reminded of the Pesach-Haggada. The deed of redemption which it relates has a power that continues in operation; for to the church of Jahve is assigned the victory not only over the peoples of Canaan, but over the whole world. The power of Jahve's deeds, which He has made known to His people, and which they tell over again among themselves, aims at giving them the inheritance of the peoples. The works of His hands are truth and right, for they are the realization of that which is true and which lasts and verifies itself, and of that which is right, that triumphantly maintains its ground. His ordinances are נאמנים (occasionally pointed נאמנים), established, attested, in themselves and in their results authorizing a firm confidence in their salutariness (cf. Psa 19:8). סמוּכים, supported, stayed, viz., not outwardly, but in themselves, therefore imperturbable (cf. סמוּך used of the state of mind, Psa 112:8; Isa 26:3). עשׂוּים, moulded, arranged, viz., on the part of God, "in truth, and upright;" ישׂר is accusative of the predicate (cf. Psa 119:37), but without its being clear why it is not pointed וישׁר. If we have understood Psa 111:4-6 correctly, then פּדוּת glances back at the deliverance out of Egypt. Upon this followed the ratification of the covenant on Sinai, which still remains inviolable down to the present time of the poet, and has the holiness and terribleness of the divine Name for a guarantee of its inviolability. The fear of Jahve, this holy and terrible God, is the beginning of wisdom - the motto of the Chokma in Job (Job 28:28) and Proverbs (Pro 1:7; Pro 9:10), the Books of the Chokma. Psa 111:10 goes on in this Proverbs-like strain: the fear of God, which manifests itself in obedience, is to those who practise them (the divine precepts, פקודים) שׂכל טּוב (Pro 13:15; Pro 3:4, cf. Ch2 30:22), a fine sagacity, praiseworthy discernment - such a (dutiful) one partakes of everlasting praise. It is true, in glancing back to Psa 111:3, תּהלּתו seems to refer to God, but a glance forward to Psa 112:3 shows that the praise of him who fears God is meant. The old observation therefore holds good: ubi haec ode desinit, sequens incipit (Bakius).

Next: Psalms Chapter 112