Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
The psalmist praises God for his goodness to Jerusalem, Psa 147:1-3; shows his great mercy to them that trust in him, Psa 147:4-6; he extols him for his mercies, and providential kindness, Psa 147:7-11; for his defense of Jerusalem, Psa 147:12-15; For his wonders in the seasons, Psa 147:16-18; and his word unto Jacob, Psa 147:19, Psa 147:20.
This Psalm, which is without title in the Hebrew, Chaldee, and Vulgate, is attributed by the other Versions to Haggai and Zechariah. It was probably penned after the captivity, when the Jews were busily employed in rebuilding Jerusalem, as may be gathered from the second and thirteenth verses. It may be necessary to remark that all the Versions, except the Chaldee, divide this Psalm at the end of the eleventh verse, and begin a new Psalm at the twelfth. By this division the numbers of the Psalms agree in the Versions with the Hebrew; the former having been, till now, one behind.
Praise is comely - It is decent, befitting, and proper that every intelligent creature should acknowledge the Supreme Being: and as he does nothing but good to the children of men, so they should speak good of his name.
The Lord doth build up - The psalmist appears to see the walls rising under his eye, because the outcasts of Israel, those who had been in captivity, are now gathered together to do the work.
He healeth the broken in heart - שבורי, the shivered in heart. From the root שבר shabar, to break in pieces, we have our word shiver, to break into splinters, into shivers. The heart broken in pieces by a sense of God's displeasure.
He telleth the number of the stars - He whose knowledge is so exact as to tell every star in heaven, can be under no difficulty to find out and collect all the scattered exiles of Israel.
His understanding is infinite - To his intelligence there is no number: though he numbers the stars, his understanding is without number. It is infinite; therefore, he can know, as he can do, all things.
The Lord lifteth up the meek - The humbled, the afflicted.
Sing unto the Lord - ענו enu, sing a responsive song, sing in parts, answer one another.
Who covereth the heaven with clouds - Collects the vapours together, in order to cause it to rain upon the earth. Even the direction of the winds, the collection of the clouds, and the descent of the rain, are under the especial management of God. These things form a part of his providential management of the world.
Maketh grass to grow upon the mountains - After this clause the Vulgate, the Septuagint, Ethiopic, Arabic, and Anglo-Saxon, add, and herb for the service of man. It appears that a hemistich, or half-line, has been lost from the Hebrew text; which, according to the above Versions, must have stood thus: ועשב לעבדת האדם veeseb laabodath haadam, as in Psa 104:14 : "And herbage for the service of mankind."
He delighteth not - The horse, among all animals, is most delighted in by man for beauty, strength, and fleetness. And a man's legs, if well proportioned, are more admired than even the finest features of his face. Though God has made these, yet they are not his peculiar delight.
The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him - That are truly religious.
In those that hope is his mercy - Who are just beginning to seek the salvation of their souls. Even the cry of the penitent is pleasing in the ear of the Lord. With this verse the hundred and forty-sixth Psalm ends in all the Versions, except the Chaldee. And the hundred and forty-seventh commences with the Psa 147:12. I believe these to be two distinct Psalms. The subjects of them are not exactly the same, though something similar; and they plainly refer to different periods.
He hath strengthened the bars of thy gates - He has enabled thee to complete the walls of Jerusalem. From the former part of the Psalm it appears the walls were then to progress; from this part, they appear to be completed, and provisions to be brought into the city, to support its inhabitants. The gates were set up and well secured by bars, so that the grain, etc., was in safety.
He maketh peace - They were now no longer troubled with the Samaritans, Moabites, etc.
He sendeth forth has commandment - His substantial word. It is here personified, מימרא meymra, Chaldee; and appears to be a very active agent running every where, and performing the purposes of his will.
He giveth snow like wool - Falling down in large flakes; and in this state nothing in nature has a nearer resemblance to fine white wool.
Scattereth the hoar frost like ashes - Spreading it over the whole face of nature.
He casteth forth his ice - קרחו korcho, (probably hailstones), like crumbs.
Who can stand before his cold? - At particular times the cold in the east is so very intense as to kill man and beast. Jacobus de Vitriaco, one of the writers in the Gesta Dei per Francos, says, that in an expedition in which he was engaged against Mount Tabor, on the 24th of December, the cold was so intense that many of the poor people, and the beasts of burden, died by it. And Albertus Aquensis, another of these writers, speaking of the cold in Judea, says, that thirty of the people who attended Baldwin 1: in the mountainous districts near the Dead Sea, were killed by it; and that in that expedition they had to contend with horrible hail and ice, with unheard-of snow and rain. From thls we find that the winters are often very severe in Judea; and in such cases as the above, we may well call out, "Who can stand against his cold!"
He sendeth out his word - He gives a command: the south wind blows; the thaw takes place; and the ice and snow being liquefied, the waters flow, where before they were bound up by the ice.
He showeth his word unto Jacob - To no nation of the world beside had God given a revelation of his will.
And as for his judgments - The wondrous ordinances of his law, no nation had known them; and consequently, did not know the glorious things in futurity to which they referred.