George Booker
Psalms Studies - Book 5

Psalm 135

1. Structure

Praise ye the Lord (5 times)
The power of the Lord in nature
The power of the Lord in Israel’s past
The Name of the Lord
Idols are worthless
Bless ye the Lord (6 times)

2. A psalm of Hezekiah

Note the Passover allusions in vv. 7-9, appropriate because the Assyrian army was destroyed at Passover (Isa. 26:20,21; 30:29; 31:5,8,9). Hence the probable use of this psalm for later Passovers.

Praise him, all ye servants of the Lord. Along with v. 20 (“ye that fear the Lord”), this is quoted in Rev. 19:5.
Ye that stand... in the courts (Psa. 122:2; 134:1). The courts (plural) of the men, of the women, and of the Gentiles.
Sing praises unto his name; for it is pleasant. What is pleasant? The Name, or the singing? See Psa. 147:1; 149:4.
For the Lord hath chosen Jacob unto himself, and Israel for his peculiar treasure. “The Lord” here is Yah (as in v. 1 also), signifying God in His redemptive might: Exod. 15:2 (Passover).

This verse borrows from Exod. 19:5 and Deut. 7:6. “His peculiar treasure” (segullah) refers to the jewels, or precious stones, in the breastplate (Exod. 28:21; cp. Mal. 3:17 — “jewels” is segullah again). Israel was intended to be a “kingdom of priests” (Exod. 19:6) — all the people, and not just the house of Aaron (cp. vv. 19,20 here) being special to the Lord, and all of them His “personal possession” — prized, unique, and set apart from the rest (this is the significance of the Hebrew word). See also the s.w. in Deut. 14:2 and 26:18. And, in the New Testament, cp. 1 Pet. 2:9; Eph. 1:14; Tit. 2:14.

The conjunction of Jacob and Israel is probably intended to suggest north and south, emphasizing the union of the whole twelve tribes (cp. Psa. 133:3 and notes).
For I know that the Lord is great, and that our Lord is above all gods (Psa. 136:3; 147:5). Such a proclamation about the One God of Israel would be intended to have special effect upon the Assyrians — and those among Israel who were inclined to listen to their boastings about their gods (cp. Isa. 44:9-20; Isa. 46:1-13).
Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places. Was there a hurricane at the terrible destruction of Sennacherib’s army (Psa. 48:7; Isa. 27:8; Hos. 13:15)?

In vv. 1-6, the Covenant Name (Yah or Yahweh/Jehovah) comes nine times, and in vv. 19-21 another seven times.

He causeth the vapours to ascend. The center of a tornado? This is quoted in Jer. 10:13; 51:16.

From the ends of the earth. Clouds coming up from the horizon (1 Kings 18:44), or a hurricane traveling across the country?

He bringeth the wind out of his treasuries, as in Exod. 10:13,19; 14:21; 15:10; Isa. 17:13; 27:8; 32:2. Like vv. 8,9, this describes God’s great works in Egypt.
This corresponds to Psa. 136:10,15-22.
Who smote great nations. The details are given in v. 11.
See Num. 21:21-35; Deut. 2:30; 3:11,21.

All the kingdoms of Canaan — 31 in total (Josh. 12:7-24).
Thy name and thy memorial. The Yahweh Name; note the constant association of these two ideas: “memorial”/“remembrance” and God’s Covenant Name (e.g., Exod. 3:15).

For ever and throughout all generations. Yahweh = future, present, and past (see Rev. 1:4,8; 11:17).
These verses amplify verse 5. They are also parallel to Psa. 115:4-8 (see notes there). The word for “idols” means “a cause of grief”.
They have mouths. The Hebrew is aph, nostril, expressive of a snort of anger.
They that make them are like unto them. Isaiah (see references, previous paragraph) emphasizes that men make idols like themselves. Then they attach to them the worst of human characteristics (in order to justify their own shortcomings?), and then, bit by bit, they become more and more like them.
Psa. 115:9-11; 118:2-4.
Blessed be the Lord... who manifests Himself... out of Zion.

3. Messianic reference

This and the other “Hallelujah” psalms (Psalms Studies, Intro., Part 6) will find their true realization in the Kingdom of Christ — as hymns of praise to the great Yahweh whose overall control of His purpose has never flagged— which purpose has now come to its fullness in Messiah’s Kingdom.

A mighty shout of praise in the house of the Lord in Zion. That He is “our God” is quite overshadowed by the emphasis on “the Lord”, whose covenant has always been sure and has now come to complete fulfillment. “His Name is pleasant” (v. 3) refers to v. 13.
Jacob... Israel. He has been with His people even in their “Jacob” waywardness, and how much more so when they are so completely changed to “Israel” faithfulness — being given a new name (Gen. 32:22-28) indicative of their new status in the sight of the God who “rules” over them, and by whom they “rule”.
Our Lord is above all gods. There has never been a time in all human history when men have worshiped the work of their own hands more than they do today (v. 15). In the age to come, Theophany will make all these modern “gods” of greed and materialism and pleasure-seeking seem absolutely and utterly vain and trivial.
Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did he... in all deep places. Even the grave yields to the authority of God bestowed upon His Son (Rev. 1:18).
The mighty powers of nature which overawe mankind will be His servants more plainly than ever, in judgment.

The wind. In Hebrew, “wind” (ruach) is also “Spirit”.
Judgment on Egypt in the deliverance of His people as in former days: Isa. 19:16-21; Joel 3:19.
Also, as in past times, Canaan is overrun by hostile Arabs, but once again the Land will be reconquered under a “Joshua” greater than Joshua!
For the Lord will judge his people, and he will repent himself concerning his servants (Deut. 32:36, and see context). The two halves of this verse appear to say opposite things. There is yet to be a climax of judgment upon an Israel not yet turned to their God. But their repentance, when it comes, will also bring God’s “repentance”. On this see the references at Psa. 81:13,14. (Of course, God does not “repent” in the sense in which men do, but the Bible repeatedly teaches its readers to think of God in this light, for this is the nearest that human limitations can come to understanding Him.)
What a contrast here with vv. 16-18, to be seen and appreciated by all the world. But the sequence here is not easy to understand: Israel, Aaron (priesthood), Levi (God’s special servants), and “ye that fear the Lord”. Is this last group repentant Israel? Or Gentiles who have become “Jews” (which is the common meaning in Acts: 10:2,22,35; 13:16; 16:38; 19:17)?
Bless the Lord... who manifests himself... out of Zion. God blesses His people out of Zion (Psa. 128:5; 134:3). Here is a splendid expression of true and lasting fellowship between God and men (Rev. 21:3; 22:3,4).
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