George Booker
Psalms Studies - Book 5

Psalm 148

1. Structure

The praise of God in the heavens
The praise of God in the earth
A special appendix about Israel

Starting with the angelic host, and descending through the skies to the varied forms and creatures of earth, then summoning the family of man and finally the chosen people, Psalm 148’s call to praise unites the whole of God’s creation. Surely — no matter what else it might be —this is a Kingdom psalm!

2. Authorship

It may be surmised that the original psalm (vv. 1-13?) was a psalm of David, and that v. 14 was a brief addition made in Hezekiah’s time, especially appropriate to the great deliverance in his day.

3. Details

From the heavens suggests the praise of God by angels (cp. Psa. 150:1c; Rev. 7:11,12). The rest of vv. 1,2 — heights (Psa. 103:20-22), angels, and hosts (Psa. 103:21; 1 Kings 22:19) — clearly continue the same idea.
But hosts (tzvaoth, or sabaoth: James 5:4) has more than one meaning (Deut. 4:19; Gen. 2:1; Isa. 40:26); thus this word becomes a suitable bridge to vv. 3,4: sun and moon... stars of light... ye heavens of heavens.
Stars of light seems to imply the existence of “stars of darkness”. These “black holes” have become a commonplace phenomenon in modern astronomy: the counterpart is the Bible teaching about angels of “evil” (but not “wicked” angels!) as well as angels of good (see Psa. 78:49, notes).
The terminology here is not easy. Perhaps:

Heavens = the expanse between the earth and the clouds.

Ye waters that be above the heavens = the moisture-laden clouds (cp. Gen. 1:7; 7:11; Psa. 29:10).

The heavens of heavens = the interminable space beyond the clouds, or perhaps the most inaccessible part thereof — where God’s throne is (cp. the Hebrew superlative “the holy of holies”).
He commanded. Whom did He command? ‘The angels busy in creation’ seems to be the only possible answer. (But the angels must themselves have been created! So surely they were the first of God’s creation — so that they, the Elohim, might participate in, and rejoice in, the remainder of His creative work: Gen. 1:26,27.)

And they were created (Psa. 33:6). Thus they “praise” the name of the Lord — by their very existence (cp. Psa. 19).
He hath also stablished them for ever and ever: he hath made a decree which shall not pass. This verse implies that the stars and other heavenly bodies also praise Him by their unchanging “obedience” to divine law. Jer. 31:35,36 and 33:20,21 clearly teach that God’s purpose with Israel is as fully controlled as are the stars in their courses. Hence, perhaps, v. 14 also.
Praise the Lord from the earth. From the heavens (v. 1) to the earth (here) the praise echoes (cp. v. 13). “Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10).

Dragons (tanninim: Psa. 74:13; Job 7:1; Ezek. 29:3) are the great sea-monsters such as porpoises and dolphins and whales (Gen. 1:21; see Psa. 104:26, note), which — as is now known — communicate in a very wonderful fashion, and in this unique way they “praise” the Lord! But man prefers to kill them off.
An “ABBA” formation:

A. Fire = lightning (Psa. 18:12; 105:32).

B. Hail.

B. Snow (Psa. 147:16).

A. Vapours = storm clouds.

But vapours (s.w. Gen. 19:28; Psa. 119:83) may well be “smoke”, like that of an oil region set afire by the wrath of God. Even the destruction of Sodom exalts the glory and character of the Almighty.
Fruitful trees, and all cedars = all trees, both cultivated and uncultivated.
Beasts, and all cattle. Likewise, all animals, both wild and domesticated. Even the ox and the ass acknowledge their Master (Isa. 1:3)! And the flying fowl, by their orderly migration (Jer. 8:7), and by their lovely and varied music, testify to the wisdom of the One who created them.
People (Hebrew l’umim) is used quite often with reference to the Arabs (in this case, Arab kings and princes). 2 Samuel 8 bears witness to the trouble these gave David early in his reign. The situation repeated itself in Hezekiah’s reign, when Sennacherib and his Arab allies invaded (cp. Psa. 149:7). Both crises ended with an acknowledgment of the might of the God of Israel.
Old men, and children. The parallelism with young men, and maidens would seem to require “old men and old women”. Then why not? Is this because this verse refers to the praise of God by a temple choir? (cp. Alamoth, maidens, in Psalms Studies, Psa. 45, Par. 2).

Alternatively, read (a) z’qenim (“old men”) and (b) naarim (“children”) as nouns of common gender, thus including (a) old men and women, along with (b) boys and girls.

For children praising God, see also Psa. 8:1,2.
His glory is above the earth and heaven. This order of words comes only in Gen. 2:4, perhaps suggesting that this psalm be read as a psalm of the “New Creation”. It is useful to go back and review vv. 1-12, assigning the various Days of Creation: See, for examples,

(a) how the angels sang and rejoiced when the “New Creation” began with the birth of God’s Son (Luke 2:10-14; cp. Job 38:7), and

(b) the “stormy wind” of Holy Spirit power on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:2), when the church was “born”.
He also exalteth the horn of his people. God did this in spectacular fashion in Hezekiah’s reign. Note the synonyms: saints, Israel, a people near unto him. The word for “near” almost echoes the word cherub. And the phrase echoes Deut. 4:7 and Lev. 10:3; and is in turn alluded to in Eph. 2:13,17 — Gentiles who have now become “Israel”. And Luke 1:69 quotes this verse about salvation in Christ, as saintly Zacharias eagerly anticipates the birth of his son, and the imminent coming of the One after him, who would be even greater.

Horn — a symbol of power in general (Deut. 33:17; 1 Sam. 2:1; Psa. 75:10; 89:17,24; 92:10; 132:17) — may also indicate more specifically the ox-figures of the Temple Cherubim, explicit symbols of the power of God.

The ultimate praise of God’s Creation will be that of the “New Creation” — when they are truly near unto him:

“And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God” (Rev. 21:3).

4. Praise ye the Lord

“What is praise? What does it mean to praise the Lord? Praising is not just a form of words or an outward exercise. It is no praise for God just to have words of praise coming out of a tape recorder, or a record player. Praise is a living condition — a joyful, thankful state of the mind and heart. We may remember God. We may keep Him in mind as the central reality of life. We may acquire knowledge and understanding of Him — but if all this does not lead us to be filled with praise and rejoicing in God, it is no good to us. It is mechanical. It is lifeless.

“We must be filled constantly with the joyful spirit of praise. It must be the air we breathe — the influence we radiate. God is a Person, a Father, a Center — not only of wisdom and power and righteousness and truth — but of love and goodness and kindness and joy. The people of God — the true people of God — are a glorious, joyful family, rejoicing in love for one another and for the Father of Love who has called them all unto Himself.

“Most people are too wrapped up in themselves to praise God. Their own little circle of activity is all their cramped little minds can reach out to. They never learn how to live in the largeness and fullness of life. Their potential for spiritual growth and expansion lie dormant and useless, like the wings of a caged bird. They are miserable prisoners of their own self-centeredness. This can happen to any of us.

“But the spirit of praise opens the doors of the cage, and lifts us up to the vast heavenly expanse, and all the petty problems of the present shrink below us into insignificance. Praise to God is the mind’s great healer and purifier. It is no meaningless coincidence that the last five psalms are all dedicated to this glorious theme, and that the final words are: ‘Praise ye the Lord’!” (G.V. Growcott)
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