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Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament

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 Chapter 135
Chapter 137
 
 
 
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PSALM 136

FOR HIS LOVINGKINDNESS ENDURETH FOREVER

This title we have chosen because that line is repeated in every one of the psalm's 26 verses as a refrain. It is the only psalm in the Psalter where such a thing occurs.

This off-repeated refrain indicates that the composition, as it stands, was used liturgically, that is, as a kind of ritual in the Temple services, with one group, or perhaps even a soloist, singing or reading the first line of each verse, and the congregation responding in the refrain.

"It is called a Hallel Psalm and was sung at the beginning of Passover. It was a favorite Temple song."F1

Most of the scholars whose works we consult in this commentary devote very little space to the discussion of this psalm. There is very little, if any new material in it. It follows very closely the preceding Ps. 135. "It follows very closely Ps. 135 in content through verses 10-18 and quotes directly from it in vv. 19-22."F2

Ps. 136:1-26

TEXT OF PSALM 136

Oh give thanks unto Jehovah; for he is good;

For his lovingkindness endureth forever.

Oh give thanks unto the God of gods;

For his lovingkindness endureth forever.

Oh give thanks unto the Lord of Lords;

For his lovingkindness endureth forever.

To him who alone doeth great wonders;

For his lovingkindness endureth forever.

To him that by understanding made the heavens;

For his lovingkindness endureth forever.

To him that spread forth the earth above the waters;

For his lovingkindness endureth forever.

To him that made great lights;

For his lovingkindness endureth forever.

The sun to rule by day;

For his lovingkindness endureth forever.

The moon and stars to rule by night;

For his lovingkindness endureth forever.

To him that smote Egypt in their first-born;

For his lovingkindness endureth forever.

And brought out Israel from among them;

For his lovingkindness endureth forever.

With a strong hand, and with an outstretched arm;

For his lovingkindness endureth forever.

To him that divided the Red Sea in sunder;

For his lovingkindness endureth forever.

And made Israel to pass through the midst of it;

For his lovingkindness endureth forever.

But overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea;

For his loving kindness endureth forever.

To him that led his people through the wilderness;

For his lovingkindness endureth forever.

To him that smote great kings;

For his lovingkindness endureth forever.

And slew famous kings;

For his lovingkindness endureth forever.

Sihon king of the Amorites;

For his lovingkindness endureth forever.

And Og king of Bashan;

For his lovingkindness endureth forever.

And gave their land for a heritage;

For his lovingkindness endureth forever.

Even a heritage unto Israel his servant;

For his lovingkindness endureth forever.

Who remembered us in our low estate;

For his lovingkindness endureth forever.

And hath delivered us from our adversaries;

For his lovingkindness endureth forever.

Who giveth food to all flesh;

For his lovingkindness endureth forever.

Oh give thanks unto the God of heaven;

For his lovingkindness endureth forever."

There is nothing in this psalm upon which we have not already written commentary; and there are very few things which we shall cite here.


 
Verses 1-26
Oh give thanks unto Jehovah; For he is good; For his lovingkindness [endureth] for ever. Oh give thanks unto the God of gods; For his lovingkindness [endureth] for ever. Oh give thanks unto the Lord of lords; For his lovingkindness [endureth] for ever: To him who alone doeth great wonders; For his lovingkindness [endureth] for ever: To him that by understanding made the heavens; For his lovingkindness [endureth] for ever: To him that spread forth the earth above the waters; For his lovingkindness [endureth] for ever: To him that made great lights; For his lovingkindness [endureth] for ever: The sun to rule by day; For his lovingkindness [endureth] for ever; The moon and stars to rule by night; For his lovingkindness [endureth] for ever: To him that smote Egypt in their first-born; For his lovingkindness [endureth] for ever; And brought out Israel from among them; For his lovingkindness [endureth] for ever; With a strong hand, and with an outstretched arm; For his lovingkindness [endureth] for ever: To him that divided the Red Sea in sunder; For his lovingkindness [endureth] for ever; And made Israel to pass through the midst of it; For his lovingkindness [endureth] for ever; But overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea; For his lovingkindness [endureth] for ever: To him that led his people through the wilderness; For his lovingkindness [endureth] for ever: To him that smote great kings; For his lovingkindness [endureth] for ever; And slew famous kings; For his lovingkindness [endureth] for ever: Sihon king of the Amorites; For his lovingkindness [endureth] forever; And Og king of Bashan; For his lovingkindness [endureth] for ever; And gave their land for a heritage; For his lovingkindness [endureth] for ever; Even a heritage unto Israel his servant; For his lovingkindness [endureth] for ever: Who remembered us in our low estate; For his lovingkindness [endureth] for ever; And hath delivered us from our adversaries; For his lovingkindness [endureth] for ever: Who giveth food to all flesh; For his lovingkindness [endureth] for ever. Oh give thanks unto the God of heaven; For his lovingkindness [endureth] for ever.
(Psalms 136:2). The word `gods' here is a secondary use of the term as is found in Ps. 82:6.F3 (See our comment in chapter introduction for Ps. 82, above.) As Dr. George DeHoff stated it, God is the God over priests, spiritual rulers, those in power, including kings and magistrates. He is the Ruler over all the rulers of the earth. This does not have reference to idols. God is not their God.F4

To him that spread forth the earth above the waters
(Psalms 136:6). On this verse, Addis referred to Ps. 24:2 and to Genesis 1:6f, affirming that, There was a sea below the earth, another on a level with the earth, and a third `ocean' above the firmament.F5 Such a view is based upon a misinterpretation of what the scriptures say. The word is not `ocean' but `waters.' What a difference! And if one does not believe that the earth is stretched out over the waters, let him explain why men have been digging wells for countless generations, or let him explain the glorious artesian waters of Balmorhea. We appreciate the discernment of McCaw who wrote, Happily, the earth is spread above the waters.F6

We are conscious that Ps. 24:2 states that the earth is stretched out "above the seas," or "upon seas"; but in that reference it is the altitude of the earth which is above the seas, that is, higher than sea level!

This psalm mentions a number of events found in the Five Books of Moses and the Book of Joshua. For extensive comments on all of these events, we refer to our commentaries on those Bible books.

Remembered our low estate. delivered us from our adversaries
(Psalms 136:23-24). To this writer, it appears that these lines are a reference to the Babylonian captivity and God's deliverance from it. This is certainly suggested by the proximity of the psalm to Ps. 137.


Footnotes for Psalms 136
1: Henry H. Halley's Bible Handbook (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House), p. 248.
2: Alexander Maclaren, Vol. III p. 367.
3: The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 8-C, p. 286.
4: George DeHoff's Commentary, Vol. III, p. 237.
5: W. E. Addis, p. 377.
6: The New Bible Commentary, Revised, p. 535.

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 136". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/bcc/view.cgi?book=ps&chapter=136>. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.  

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