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Psalm 135

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Praise the Lord's Wonderful Works. Vanity of Idols
No MT Intro
Praise to God in Creation and Redemption Hymn Praising the Lord for His Mighty Deeds A Hymn of Praise Hymn of Praise
135:1-4 135:1a 135:1-4 135:1-4 135:1a
  135:1b-4     135:1b-2
        135:3-4
135:5-7 135:5-7 135:5-7 135:5-7 135:5-6
        135:7
135:8-18 135:8-12 135:8-12 135:8-12 135:8-9
        135:10-12
  135:13-14 135:13-14 135:13-14 135:13-14
  135:15-18 135:15-18 135:15-18 135:15-16
        135:17-18
135:19-21 135:19-21b 135:19-21 135:19-21b 135:19-20
        135:21a-b
  135:21c   135:21c  

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. This Psalm starts and concludes with

1. praise - BDB 237, KB 248, Piel imperative, Ps. 135:1 (thrice), 3a, 21c

2. sing - BDB 274, KB 273, Piel imperative, Ps. 135:3b

3. bless - BDB 138, KB 159, Piel imperative, Ps. 135:19 (twice), 20 (twice)

B. YHWH is praised/blessed/sung about because

1. character

a. He is good, Ps. 135:3 (cf. Ps. 147:1)

b. He is lovely, Ps. 135:3 (cf. Ps. 27:4; 147:1)

c. He is great, Ps. 135:5 (cf. Ps. 48:1; 145:3)

d. He is above all gods, Ps. 135:5 (see Special Topic: Monotheism)

e. His name is everlasting, Ps. 135:13a (cf. Exod. 3:15)

f. His memory of His promises is sure, Ps. 135:13b

2. acts for Israel

a. chose Jacob/Israel, Ps. 135:4 (cf. Deut. 7:6; 10:15)

b. sovereign, Ps. 135:6 (cf. Ps. 115:3; Eccl. 8:3; Isa. 46:8-10)

c. controls water, Ps. 135:7 (see Special Topic: Waters)

d. delivered Israel from Egypt, Ps. 135:8-9 (cf. Ps. 136:10-15)

e. protected Israel in the wandering period, Ps. 135:10-11 (cf. Ps. 136:16-22)

3. His acts toward Israel

a. chose them, Ps. 135:4

b. judged them, Ps. 135:14

(1) for their sin (cf. Heb. 10:26-31)

(2) or on their behalf against the nations (cf. Deut. 32:36)

c. but will forgive (cf. Deut. 32:26)

C. This Psalm includes a strophe on the folly of idolatry (cf. Ps. 135:14-18). He and He alone is God (see Special Topic: Monotheism). This strophe is similar to Ps. 115:4-8 (also note Exod. 20:23; Deut. 4:28; 29:17).

D. Many/most of the phrasing of this Psalm is found in other Scripture texts. The date of the Psalm is uncertain (i.e., did it quote or was it quoted?).

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 135:1-4
 1Praise the Lord!
 Praise the name of the Lord;
 Praise Him, O servants of the Lord,
 2You who stand in the house of the Lord,
 In the courts of the house of our God!
 3Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good;
 Sing praises to His name, for it is lovely.
 4For the Lord has chosen Jacob for Himself,
 Israel for His own possession.

135:1c-2 These phrases refer to priests. See fuller note at Ps. 134:1.

135:1 "Praise" This is the Hebrew term "Hallelujah." Notice the name for Israel's Deity is the abbreviated YHWH—Yah (Ps. 135:1,3,4,21), which forms the end of praise (lit. Praise the Lord).

▣ "the name of the Lord" See Special Topic: "The Name" of YHWH.

135:4 "Israel for His own possession" Israel was YHWH's special choice (cf. Exod. 19:5-6; Deut. 7:6; 14:2; 26:18; Isa. 43:21; Mal. 3:17; 1 Pet. 2:9) to reveal Himself to the nations (see Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 135:5-7
 5For I know that the Lord is great
 And that our Lord is above all gods.
 6Whatever the Lord pleases, He does,
 In heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps.
 7He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth;
 Who makes lightnings for the rain,
 Who brings forth the wind from His treasuries.

135:5 "I know" See Special Topic: Know.

▣ "Lord" This is the Hebrew Adon, which means "master," "owner," "husband," or "Lord." See Special Topic: Names for Deity.

▣ "our Lord is above all gods" YHWH is the only God (cf. Exod. 18:11; Ps. 95:3; 96:4; 97:9, see Special Topic: Monotheism). This is where the exclusivisim of Israel is very obvious! She was the only monotheistic nation of the ANE.

135:6 "In heaven and in earth, in the seas" This is typical language for creation (i.e., this planet, cf. Exod. 20:11; Neh. 9:6; Ps. 69:34; 96:11; 146:6; Hag. 2:6). See SPECIAL TOPIC: HEAVEN.

▣ "the seas. . .all deeps" These may be synonymous or the first of YHWH's control of (1) agricultural water and (2) water as a weapon (i.e., lightning, floods, plagues, etc.). The second may refer to the imagery of ANE mythology of YHWH defeating watery chaos (cf. Ps 65:5-7; 89:9-10; Job 26:12-13; Isa. 51:9-10).

137:7 "His treasures" This Hebrew noun can mean "treasury" or "storehouse." The OT often uses the imagery of weather phenomena (i.e., hail, snow, wind, lightning, rain/flood) kept in heavenly storehouses to be used by YHWH, not Ba'al.

1. Deut. 28:12

2. Job 38:22

3. Ps. 33:7

4. Jer. 10:13; 51:16

YHWH controls the forces of nature for His purposes (cf. Lev. 26:4-5,9,16,19,22,26; Deut. 27:3; 28:4-5,8,11,12,17-18,22,24,38-42).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 135:8-18
 8He smote the firstborn of Egypt,
 Both of man and beast.
 9He sent signs and wonders into your midst, O Egypt,
 Upon Pharaoh and all his servants.
 10He smote many nations
 And slew mighty kings,
 11Sihon, king of the Amorites,
 And Og, king of Bashan,
 And all the kingdoms of Canaan;
 12And He gave their land as a heritage,
 A heritage to Israel His people.
 13Your name, O Lord, is everlasting,
 Your remembrance, O Lord, throughout all generations.
 14For the Lord will judge His people
 And will have compassion on His servants.
 15The idols of the nations are but silver and gold,
 The work of man's hands.
 16They have mouths, but they do not speak;
 They have eyes, but they do not see;
 17They have ears, but they do not hear,
 Nor is there any breath at all in their mouths.
 18Those who make them will be like them,
 Yes, everyone who trusts in them.

135:8 "He smote" This verb (BDB 645, KB 697, Hiphil perfect) denotes a complete destruction sent and accomplished by God.

1. Ps. 135:8 - YHWH's promised deliverance from Egypt (cf. Gen. 15:12-15; Exod. 3:20; 7:25; 9:15; 12:13; Ps. 87:4; Isa. 30:7)

2. Ps. 135:10 - YHWH's defeat of the nations of Canaan (cf. Gen. 15:16-21)

 

135:13 "everlasting" See Special Topic: Forever ('olam). This may be a play on the root meaning of YHWH from the Hebrew verb "to be." See Special Topic: Names for Deity.

NASB"Your remembrance"
NKJV, JPSOA"Your fame"
NRSV, REB,
LXX"Your renown"
NJB"Your memory"

The Hebrew noun (BDB 271) means "remembrance" or "memorial."

1. human's memory - Pro. 10:7; Eccl. 9:5

2. Israel - Hos.14:7

3. YHWH - Exod. 3:15; Ps. 6:6; 30:4; 97:12; 102:12; Isa. 26:8; Hos. 12:5

 

135:18 Those who make the idols and then worship them will be like them.

1. cannot speak

2. cannot see

3. cannot hear

4. cannot breathe

They are lifeless imaginations of fallen, false human hearts and hands. Idols cannot help or know, so too, the worshipers! 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 135:19-21
 19O house of Israel, bless the Lord;
 O house of Aaron, bless the Lord;
 20O house of Levi, bless the Lord;
 You who revere the Lord, bless the Lord.
 21Blessed be the Lord from Zion,
 Who dwells in Jerusalem.
 Praise the Lord!

135:19 This refers to

1. all the tribes of Israel

2. the special tribe of Levi, family of Aaron, YHWH's choice for His temple servants to come from In a sense, this tribe replaced the firstborn children of all the tribes as YHWH's servants (cf. Exodus 13).

 

135:20 "house of Levi" Not all Levites were priests but all priests were of the tribe of Levi. Some Levites

1. served in the temple (see note at Ps. 134:1)

2. served locally as teachers of the Law of Moses

 

▣ "revere the Lord" See Special Topic: Fear.

135:21 "Zion" See Special Topic: Moriah, Jebus, Salem, Jerusalem, Zion.

▣ "Who dwells in Jerusalem" See note at Ps. 132:14.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. List the characteristics of Israel's God.

2. Define monotheism.

3. Does God control weather for His purposes? Does that mean God sends all storms, floods, fire, etc.?

4. Why is trusting in idols so sad?