Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
Hymn in Praise of the All-Bountiful King
With Psa 144:1-15 the collection draws doxologically towards its close. This Psalm, which begins in the form of the beracha (ברוך ה), is followed by another in which benedicam (Psa 145:1-2) and benedicat (Psa 145:21) is the favourite word. It is the only Psalm that bears the title תּהלּה, whose plural תּהלּים is become the collective name of the Psalms. In B. Berachoth 4b it is distinguished by the apophthegm: "Every one who repeats the תהלה לדוד three times a day may be sure that he is a child of the world to come (בן העולם הבא)." And why? Not merely because this Psalm, as the Gemara says, אתיא באלף בית, i.e., follows the course of the alphabet (for Ps 119 is in fact also alphabetical, and that in an eightfold degree), and not merely because it celebrates God's care for all creatures (for this the Great Hallel also does, Psa 136:25), but because it unites both these prominent qualities in itself (משׁום דאית ביה תרתי). In fact, Psa 145:16 is a celebration of the goodness of God which embraces every living thing, with which only Psa 136:25, and not Psa 111:5, can be compared. Valde sententiosus hic Psalmus est, says Bakius; and do we not find in this Psalm our favourite Benedicite and Oculi omnium which our children repeat before a meal? It is the ancient church's Psalm for the noon-day repast (vid., Armknecht, Die heilige Psalmodie, 1855, S. 54); Psa 145:15 was also used at the holy communion, hence Chrysostom says it contains τὰ ῥήματα ταῦτα, ἅπερ οἱ μεμυημένοι συνεχῶς ὑποψάλλουσι λέγοντες· Οἱ ὀφθαλμοὶ πάντων εἰς σὲ ἐλπίζουσιν καὶ σὺ δίδως τὴν τροφὴν αὐτῶν ἐν εὐκαιρίᾳ.
Κατὰ στοιχεῖον, observes Theodoret, καὶ οὗτος ὁ ὕμνος σύγκειται. The Psalm is distichic, and every first line of the distich has the ordinal letter; but the distich Nun is wanting. The Talmud (loc cit.) is of opinion that it is because the fatal נפלה (Amo 5:2), which David, going on at once with סומך ה לכל־הנפלים, skips over, begins with Nun. On the other hand, Ewald, Vaihinger, and Sommer, like Grotius, think that the Nun-strophe has been lost. The lxx (but not Aquila, Symmachus, Theodotion, nor Jerome in his translation after the original text) gives such a strophe, perhaps out of a MS (like the Dublin Cod. Kennicot, 142) in which it was supplied: Πιστὸς (נאמן as in Psa 111:7) κύριος ἐν (πᾶσι) τοῖς λόγοις αὐτοῦ καὶ ὅσιος ἐν πᾶσι τοῖς ἔργοις αὐτοῦ (according with Psa 145:17, with the change only of two words of this distich). Hitzig is of opinion that the original Nun-strophe has been welded into Psa 141:1-10; but only his clairvoyant-like historical discernment is able to amalgamate Psa 145:6 of this Psalm with our Psalms 145. We are contented to see in the omission of the Nun-strophe an example of that freedom with which the Old Testament poets are wont to handle this kind of forms. Likewise there is no reason apparent for there fact that Jeremiah has chosen in Lam 2:1, Lam 3:1, and Lam 4:1 of the Lamentations to make the Ajin-strophe follow the Pe-strophe three times, whilst in Lam 1:1 it precedes it.
The strains with which this hymn opens are familiar Psalm-strains. We are reminded of Psa 30:2, and the likewise alphabetical song of praise and thanksgiving Psa 34:2. The plena scriptio אלוהי in Psa 143:10; Psa 98:6. The language of address "my God the King," which sounds harsh in comparison with the otherwise usual "my King and my God" (Psa 5:3; Psa 84:4), purposely calls God with unrelated generality, that is to say in the most absolute manner, the King. If the poet is himself a king, the occasion for this appellation of God is all the more natural and the signification all the more pertinent. But even in the mouth of any other person it is significant. Whosoever calls God by such a name acknowledges His royal prerogative, and at the same time does homage to Him and binds himself to allegiance; and it is just this confessory act of exalting Him who in Himself is the absolutely lofty One that is here called רומם. But who can the poet express the purpose of praising God's Name for ever? Because the praise of God is a need of his inmost nature, he has a perfect right to forget his own mortality when engaged upon this devotion to the ever-living King. Clinging adoringly to the Eternal One, he must seem to himself to be eternal; and if there is a practical proof for a life after death, it is just this ardent desire of the soul, wrought of God Himself, after the praise of the God of its life (lit., its origin) which affords it the highest, noblest delight. The idea of the silent Hades, which forces itself forward elsewhere, as in Psa 6:6, where the mind of the poet is beclouded by sin, is here entirely removed, inasmuch as here the mind of the poet is the undimmed mirror of the divine glory. Therefore Psa 145:2 also does not concede the possibility of any interruption of the praise: the poet will daily (Psa 68:20) bless God, be they days of prosperity or of sorrow, uninterruptedly in all eternity will he glorify His Name (אהללה as in Psa 69:31). There is no worthier and more exhaustless object of praise (Psa 145:3): Jahve is great, and greatly to be praised (מהלּל, taken from Psa 48:2, as in Psa 96:4, cf. Psa 18:4), and of His "greatness" (cf. Ch1 29:11, where this attribute precedes all others) there is no searching out, i.e., it is so abysmally deep that no searching can reach its bottom (as in Isa 40:28; Job 11:7.). It has, however, been revealed, and is being revealed continually, and is for this very reason thus celebrated in Psa 145:4 : one generation propagates to the next the growing praise of the works that He has wrought out (עשׂה מעשׁים), and men are able to relate all manner of proofs of His victorious power which prevails over everything, and makes everything subject to itself (גּבוּרת as in Psa 20:7, and frequently). This historically manifest and traditional divine doxa and the facts (דּברי as in Psa 105:27) of the divine wonders the poet will devoutly consider. הדר stands in attributive relation to כּבוד, as this on its part does to הודך. Thy brilliantly gloriously (kingly) majesty (cf. Jer 22:18; Dan 11:21). The poet does not say גּם אני, nor may we insert it, either here in Psa 145:5, or in Psa 145:6, where the same sequence of thoughts recurs, more briefly expressed. The emphasis lies on the objects. The mightiness (עזוּז as in Psa 78:4, and in Isa 42:25, where it signifies violence) of His terrible acts shall pass from mouth to mouth (אמר with a substantival object as in Psa 40:11), and His mighty acts (גּדלּות, magnalia, as in Ch1 17:19, Ch1 17:21) - according to the Ker (which is determined by the suffix of אספּרנּה; cf. however, Sa2 22:23; Kg2 3:3; Kg2 10:26, and frequently): His greatness (גּדלּה) - will he also on his part make the matter of his narrating. It is, however, not alone the awe-inspiring majesty of God which is revealed in history, but also the greatness (רב used as a substantive as in Psa 31:20; Isa 63:7; Isa 21:7, whereas רבּים in Psa 32:10; Psa 89:51 is an adjective placed before the noun after the manner of a numeral), i.e., the abundant measure, of His goodness and His righteousness, i.e., His acting in inviolable correspondence with His counsel and order of salvation. The memory of the transcendent goodness of God is the object of universal, overflowing acknowledgement and the righteousness of God is the object of universal exultation (רנּן with the accusative as in Psa 51:16; Psa 59:17). After the poet has sung the glorious self-attestation of God according to both its sides, the fiery and the light sides, he lingers by the light side, the front side of the Name of Jahve unfolded in Exo 34:6.
This memorable utterance of Jahve concerning Himself the writer of Ps 103, which is of kindred import, also interweaves into his celebration of the revelation of divine love in Psa 145:8. Instead of רב־חסד the expression here, however, is וגדול חסד (Kerמ, as in Nah 1:3, cf. Psa 89:29, with Makkeph וּגדל־). The real will of God tends towards favour, which gladly giving stoops to give (חנּוּן), and towards compassion, which interests itself on behalf of the sinner for his help and comfort (רחוּם). Wrath is only the background of His nature, which He reluctantly and only after long waiting (ארך אפּים) lets loose against those who spurn His great mercy. For His goodness embraces, as Psa 145:9 says, all; His tender mercies are over all His works, they hover over and encompass all His creatures. Therefore, too, all His works praise Him: they are all together loud-speaking witnesses of that sympathetic all-embracing love of His, which excludes no one who does not exclude himself; and His saints, who live in God's love, bless Him (יברכוּכה written as in Kg1 18:44): their mouth overflows with the declaration (יאמרוּ) of the glory of the kingdom of this loving God, and in speaking (ידבּרוּ) of the sovereign power with which He maintains and extends this kingdom. This confession they make their employ, in order that the knowledge of the mighty acts of God and the glorious majesty of His kingdom may at length become the general possession of mankind. When the poet in Psa 145:12 sets forth the purpose of the proclamation, he drops the form of address. God's kingdom is a kingdom of all aeons, and His dominion is manifested without exception and continually in all periods or generations (בּכל־דּור ודר as in Ps 45:18, Est 9:28, a pleonastic strengthening of the expression בּדר ודר, Psa 90:1). It is the eternal circumference of the history of time, but at the same time its eternal substance, which more and more unfolds and achieves itself in the succession of the periods that mark its course. For that all things in heaven and on earth shall be gathered up together (ἀνακεφαλαιώσασθαι, Eph 1:10) in the all-embracing kingdom of God in His Christ, is the goal of all history, and therefore the substance of history which is working itself out. With Psa 145:13 (cf. Dan. 3:33, Dan 4:31, according to Hitzig the primary passages) another paragraph is brought to a close.
The poet now celebrates in detail the deeds of the gracious King. The words with ל are pure datives, cf. the accusative expression in Psa 146:8. He in person is the support which holds fast the falling ones (נופלים, here not the fallen ones, see Psa 28:1) in the midst of falling (Nicephorus: τοὺς καταπεσεῖν μέλλοντας ἑδραιοῖ, ὥστε μὴ καταπεσεῖν), and the stay by which those who are bowed together raise themselves. He is the Provider for all beings, the Father of the house, to whom in the great house of the world the eyes (עיני with the second ê toneless, Ew. 100, b) of all beings, endowed with reason and irrational, are directed with calm confidence (Mat 6:26), and who gives them their food in its, i.e., in due season. The language of Psa 104:27 is very similar, and it proceeds here, too, as there in Psa 104:28 (cf. Sir. 40:14). He opens His hand, which is ever full, much as a man who feeds the doves in his court does, and gives רצון, pleasure, i.e., that which is good, which is the fulfilling of their desire, in sufficient fulness to all living things (and therefore those in need of support for the body and the life). Thus it is to be interpreted, according to Deu 33:23 (after which here in the lxx the reading varies between εὐδοκίας and εὐλογίας), cf. Act 14:17, ἐμπιπλών τροφῆς καὶ εὐφροσύνης τάς καρδίας ἡμῶν. השׂבּיע is construed with a dative and accusative of the object instead of with two accusatives of the object (Ges. 139. 1, 2). The usage of the language is unacquainted with רצון as an adverb in the sense of "willingly" (Hitzig), which would rather be ברצונך. In all the ways that Jahve takes in His historical rule He is "righteous," i.e., He keeps strictly to the rule (norm) of His holy love; and in all His works which He accomplishes in the course of history He is merciful (חסיד), i.e., He practises mercy (חסד, see Psa 12:2); for during the present time of mercy the primary essence of His active manifestation is free preventing mercy, condescending love. True, He remains at a distance from the hypocrites, just as their heart remains far from Him (Isa 29:13); but as for the rest, with impartial equality He is nigh (קרוב as in Psa 34:19) to all who call upon Him בּאמת, in firmness, certainty, truth, i.e., so that the prayer comes from their heart and is holy fervour (cf. Isa 10:20; Isa 48:1). What is meant is true and real prayer in opposition to the νεκρὸν ἔργον, as is also meant in the main in Joh 4:23. To such true praying ones Jahve is present, viz., in mercy (for in respect of His power He is everywhere); He makes the desire of those who fear Him a reality, their will being also His; and He grants them the salvation (σωτηρία) prayed for. Those who are called in Psa 145:19 those who fear Him, are called in Psa 145:20 those who love Him. Fear and love of God belong inseparably together; for fear without love is an unfree, servile disposition, and love without fear, bold-faced familiarity: the one dishonours the all-gracious One, and the other the all-exalted One. But all who love and fear Him He preserves, and on the other hand exterminates all wanton sinners. Having reached the Tav, the hymn of praise, which has traversed all the elements of the language, is at an end. The poet does not, however, close without saying that praising God shall be his everlasting employment (פּי ידבּר with Olewejored, the Mahpach or rather Jethib sign of which above represents the Makkeph), and without wishing that all flesh, i.e., all men, who αρε σὰρξ καὶ αἷμα, בּשׂר ודם, may bless God's holy Name to all eternity. The realization of this wish is the final goal of history. It will then have reached Deu 32:43 of the great song in Deut. 32 - Jahve one and His Name one (Zac 14:9), Israel praising God ὑπὲρ ἀληθείας, and the Gentiles ὑπὲρ ἐλέους (Rom 15:8.).