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Bible Commentaries

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

Psalms 111


Psalms 111, 112 should be read closely together, the one being a pendant of the other. They are both acrostics of at once the simplest and most perfect construction, each clause (not, as usual, each verse of two or more clauses) exhibiting the alphabetical arrangement. There are therefore exactly twenty-two clauses, nearly of three words each. In order to limit the number of verses to ten—considered a perfect number—the last two verses in each psalm are arranged as triplets.
The close relation of the two psalms is also exhibited in their subject. The first exhibits Jehovah in covenant with man; the second, man in covenant with Jehovah. The one sings the Divine praise in view of the kindness God has shown to Israel; in the second, the feeling of the just man—i.e., the Israelite faithful to the covenant, is the subject. In both we discover the strength of these religious convictions, which, in spite of the contradictions experienced in actual life, persist in maintaining the grand principle of Divine justice, and declaring that the cause of virtue will triumph, and success and wealth never fail the faithful.

The close relation of the two psalms is marked by the echo in the second, of phrases applied in the first to Jehovah. (Comp. e.g., Psalms 111:3, with Psalms 112:3; Psalms 112:9; Psalms 111:4, with Psalms 112:4; Psalms 112:6.)

Verse 1

(1) Praise ye the Lord.—This short doxology does not strictly form part of the psalm. The alphabetical arrangement begins with “I will praise,” &c

Assembly.—See Note on Psalms 25:14.

Verse 2

(2) Sought outi.e., they are the object of meditation and enquiry. (See Note, Psalms 105:4.) The psalmist was no doubt thinking of historical proofs of Jehovah’s goodness to the chosen race, but his words are capable of a wide range. The best illustration of them may be found in the writings in which Mr. Ruskin warns this generation against the danger of insensibility to natural beauty.

Verse 4

(4) He hath made . . .—Literally, He hath made a memorial for His wonderful works, as in Joshua 4:7, &c.

Verse 5

(5) He hath given.—Better, He gave.

Meat.—The word often means “prey,” from its being torn as by a wild beast, but it is used in Proverbs 31:15, Malachi 3:10, in the simple sense of food. (Comp. also the verb, Proverbs 30:8.) There need not therefore be any allusion to the spoils taken in the Canaanitish wars, though the next verse makes this exceedingly probable. (See Sir G. Grove’s remarks; article “Meat” in Smith’s Bible Dictionary.)

Verse 10

(10) A good understanding . . .—Better, a good estimation have all they that do them. The parallelism here, as the context of Proverbs 3:4, decides for this rendering against that of the margin, “a good success.” Not only is piety the beginning of wisdom, but righteousness wins good esteem. For by his praise we must certainly understand the praise of the good man.

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Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Psalms 111". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.