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Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament

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 Chapter 116
Chapter 118
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"This is the shortest chapter in the Bible, and the middle chapter."F1 Some have called it a doxology, but it is far more than that. It is a Messianic Psalm of the first rank, entitled to stand in the canon as an independent composition. It has even been attached to other psalms as an introduction, or as a conclusion, "But in the versions and all the principal manuscripts, it is always separate."F2

The psalm is beautiful, one of the rarest gems of the Psalter; and it has been set to music just as it appears in the text of the King James Version. It is entitled, "O Praise the Lord" and appears in "Great Songs of the Church," No. 470, where it is set to music composed by Will Hill.

Ps. 117:1-2

The Text of the Psalm in the American Standard Version

O praise Jehovah, all ye nations;

Laud him all, ye peoples.

For his lovingkindness is great toward us;

And the truth of Jehovah endureth forever.

Praise ye Jehovah (Hallelujah)."

Ps. 117:1-2

The Text as in the King James Version

O praise the Lord, all ye nations,

praise him all ye people.

For his merciful kindness is great toward us;

and the truth of the Lord endureth forever.

Praise ye the Lord."

This is by far the superior rendition and is the one set to music in the hymn cited above.

It is a source of great joy to this writer to note that such artificial names for the Lord as "Yahweh," "Jajve," and "Jehovah" have gone forever out of style. The RSV ignores those names altogether, and that is one of the great superiorities of the RSV. Such names carry with them the offensive odor of the radical criticism of the Bible which had an ascendancy during the first half of the current century. Not one of them is in the Greek or Hebrew texts of the Bible. It may be noted that in this commentary, we have generally ignored (where possible) those manmade names of the Lord.


"All nations are invited to worship Yahweh (the Lord), who has revealed his power and faithfulness to Israel. The Psalm is Messianic in the general sense that it contemplates the union of all nations in the sole worship of the one and only God. On account of its brevity, but with no solid reason, many manuscripts combine it with the preceding or following Psalms."F3 Leupold also observed that:

The Psalm may rightly be called Messianic, because the time did come when the Gentile religions had collapsed because of their very emptiness. The coming of the Messiah was timed to coincide with that collapse; and it was in the Messianic age when the thing here envisioned in this Psalm began to be fulfilled. In this sense Paul quoted verse 1 of this Psalm in Rom. 15:11.F4

The great point in this psalm was pointed out by Kidner, who referred to it as "surprising." "The matter for the rejoicing (on the part of the Gentiles) is God's goodness toward `us,'F5 the `us' here being a reference to "us Israelites." This is one of the most significant things in the whole Bible. "Thus the acts of God toward Israel (us) are of world significance."F6

All of God's dealings with ancient Israel were related absolutely to the salvation of all men "in Jesus Christ." From the very beginning, when God called Abraham, he stated on that occasion that the divine purpose encompassed the blessing of "all the families of the earth" (Genesis 12:3) in the Seed Singular, which is Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:16). Thus, the salvation to be enjoyed eventually by all nations (Gentiles) was literally because of God's providential choice and guidance of the Chosen People throughout the long pre-Christian ages.

If there ever was a scripture that deserved to be set to music and sung continually all over the world, then this psalm also qualifies.

Footnotes for Psalms 117
1: J. R. Dummelow, p. 372.
2: The Pulpit Commentary. Vol. 8-C, p. 84.
3: W. E. Addis, p. 392.
4: H. C. Leupold, p. 809.
5: Derek Kidner, Vol. II, p. 412.
6: The New Bible Commentary, Revised, p. 525.

Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Psalm 117". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". <>. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.  


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