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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Psalms 111

Psalms 111, 112 bear a singular resemblance in their formal structure. They are both alphabetic, each line, reckoning the “hallelujah” as the title, beginning with a new letter of the alphabet serially, and thus each engrossing the entire Hebrew alphabet. In both, also, each verse has two lines, excepting the first and the last two, which have three. But these artificial marks have no exegetical importance, further than to corroborate the principle of parallelism in Hebrew poetry. This is also the first of another series of hallelujah psalms, (Psalms 111-113; Psalms 115-117,) which begin or end with “Praise ye Jah.” The psalm before us extols Jehovah, while the following one speaks the praise of the righteous man. Thus Psalms 111:3-5; Psalms 111:9, speaks of the righteousness, grace, and faithfulness of Jehovah, while the same qualities are ascribed to the righteous man in Psalms 112:3-4; Psalms 112:7-8. Thus God and godliness are set forth in unity, and these two psalms are but two parts of one whole. In Psalms 111:0, the works of God constitute the theme. They are great, honourable, wonderful, mighty, merciful, righteous, faithful. His plans are deep and comprehensive, and the lapse of time abates nothing of his fidelity to that everlasting covenant he has made with his people. Specially has he wrought out a “redemption for his people,” (Psalms 111:6; Psalms 111:9,) which now opens fresh fountains of joy and cause of praise and hope. The covenant which appeared broken and cast away now appears confirmed and renewed by the very judgments which had darkened the nation’s hopes. The Asaphic and postexilic style and tone of the psalm must be also considered. We must refer it to the time of the return of the exiles.

Verse 1

1. Praise ye the Lord This belongs to the title of the psalm, as is clearly shown by the alphabetical numbering of the lines, beginning with the next sentence.

In the assembly In the select, or confidential, circle. In this sense the word rendered “assembly” is often used.

Upright Straightforward; a title given to the true Israel from the days of Balsam downwards.” Alexander. See Numbers 23:10. The word Jeshurun, which occurs four times in the Scripture as a poetical name of Israel, is a diminutive from the same root, ( Yashar, upright,) signifying the good or upright little people. See on Deuteronomy 32:15; Deuteronomy 33:5; Deuteronomy 33:26; Isaiah 44:2.

Congregation The collective multitude of the people. A distinction seems here drawn between the select number of the upright, or true Israel, and the nation at large. See Romans 9:6. If the two terms are taken as synonymous, then the term “upright” could apply to the “congregation” only as their profession.

Verse 2

2. Works of the Lord This is the theme of the psalm, and might include all God’s works in nature, providence, moral government, and redemption; but the psalm celebrates specially his moral acts in government and redemption, particularly that wonderful chain of providences by which his people had been saved and his covenant confirmed.

Sought out Diligently studied, searched into; and which are, by implication, excellent and satisfying to the earnest inquirer who is attracted by their merit and takes delight in their teachings: but they must be studied not only for doctrine and history, but for practical living.

Verse 3

3. Honourable and glorious Two words of nearly the same import, often occurring together and applied to God and to kings, as Psalms 21:5; Psalms 45:3; Psalms 96:6; Psalms 104:1, where they express whatever is excellent in quality or grand in appearance, associated with royal dignity. The works of God rank with his own eternal nature, and fitly show forth his character and will, and man’s only path to honour, immortality, and eternal life. Psalms 19:0; Psalms 145:10

Verse 4

4. To be remembered Literally, He made a memorial for his wondrous works. Thus feasts, fasts, and other institutions were monumental signs, appointed to keep in remembrance his doings. Numbers 16:4; Joshua 4:6-7

Verse 5

5. He hath given meat The word “meat” commonly signifies prey, booty, but should here be understood of ordinary food, as in Proverbs 31:15; Malachi 3:10. The passage is parallel to Psalms 34:9. The first hemistich is the fruit and evidence of the truth of the second. Because he is mindful of his covenant, therefore he giveth food to those who fear him. The language indicates that the people had recently emerged from want and penury to plentifulness. See on Psalms 107:4-7. The sustentation of an overburdened population in Palestine (commonly estimated at 6,000,000 in prosperous times, within an area of about 12,000 square miles, or about one third of that of the State of New York,) was always a wonder, and called forth many specific laws and humane customs.

Verse 6

6. He hath showed his people He has not only declared his ability to do, but has publicly manifested the power of his works by the great salvation he has actually wrought out for his people. This is God’s method in all ages. Thus “experience worketh hope through tribulation.” Romans 5:4; Psalms 20:6; Psalms 41:11.

Give them the heritage of the heathen This was notably done in the times of Moses and Joshua, and in a degree scarcely less illustrious by the return of the exiles and the re-establishment of the nation by Ezra, Zerubbabel, and Nehemiah, under the decrees of Cyrus, (Ezra 1:1-4;) of Darius. (Ezra vi;) and of Artaxerxes, (Nehemiah 2:0.)

Verse 7

7. Verity and judgment Truth and absolute administrative justice.

All his commandments are sure That is, they are true, established. The words “sure” and “verity” in the preceding line are from a common root, the one being affirmed of the “works” of God, the other of his “precepts.”

Verse 8

8. They stand fast for ever and ever Literally, They [both his works and his commandments, Psalms 111:7,] are established from eternity to eternity. The idea of duration must here be taken in its widest sense.

Verse 9

9. He sent redemption It is better to understand this of a recent “redemption,” as that from Babylon, rather than that of Israel from Egypt.

He hath commanded his covenant That is, he hath established, made firm, his covenant, which he made first with Abraham, and again with the body of the Israelites at Sinai.

Verse 10

10. The beginning of wisdom Not only in the sense of order of time, but also as chief or first in dignity. See Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 4:7, where the same word, “beginning,” occurs. Understanding must here be taken in its ethical sense of wisdom, prudence, discretion; which was always looked upon as the gift of God and the guaranty of success and happiness. Job 28:28; Proverbs 13:15.

His praise endureth Whose praise? Some suppose the praise of the wise man, who keeps the commandments, is meant, as in Psalms 112:0. But Jehovah in his works is the theme of the psalm, and the pronoun more properly refers to “Lord” in the first member of the verse, to whom all praise is due.

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 111". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.