Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
O Give Thanks unto the Lord, for He Is Good
The cry Psa 135:3, Praise ye Jāh, for good is Jahve, is here followed by a Hodu, the last of the collection, with "for His goodness endureth for ever" repeated twenty-six times as a versus intercalaris. In the liturgical language this Psalm is called par excellence the great Hallel, for according to its broadest compass the great Hallel comprehends Ps 120-136,
(Note: There are three opinions in the Talmud and Midrash concerning the compass of the "Great Hallel," viz., (1) Ps 136, (2) Ps. 135:4-136:26, (3) Ps 120-136.)
whilst the Hallel which is absolutely so called extends from Psa 113:1-9 to Ps 118. Down to Psa 136:18 the song and counter-song organize themselves into hexastichic groups or strophes, which, however, from Psa 136:19 (and therefore from the point where the dependence on Ps 135, already begun with Psa 136:17, becomes a borrowing, onwards) pass over into octastichs. In Heidenheim's Psalter the Psalm appears (after Norzi) in two columns (like Deut. 32), which it is true has neither tradition (vid., Ps 18) nor MSS precedent in its favour, but really corresponds to its structure.
Like the preceding Psalm, this Psalm allies itself to the Book of Deuteronomy. Psa 136:2 and Psa 136:3 (God of gods and Lord of lords) are taken from Deu 10:17; Psa 136:12 (with a strong hand and stretched-out arm) from Deu 4:34; Deu 5:15, and frequently (cf. Jer 32:21); Psa 136:16 like Deu 8:15 (cf. Jer 2:6). With reference to the Deuteronomic colouring of Psa 136:19-22, vid., on Psa 135:10-12; also the expression "Israel His servant" recalls Deu 32:36 (cf. Psa 135:14; Psa 90:13), and still more Isa 40:1, where the comprehension of Israel under the unity of this notion has its own proper place. In other respects, too, the Psalm is an echo of earlier model passages. Who alone doeth great wonders sounds like Psa 72:18 (Psa 86:10); and the adjective "great" that is added to "wonders" shows that the poet found the formula already in existence. In connection with Psa 136:5 he has Pro 3:19 or Jer 10:12 in his mind; תּבוּנה, like חכמה, is the demiurgic wisdom. Psa 136:6 calls to mind Isa 42:5; Isa 44:24; the expression is "above the waters," as in Psa 34:2 "upon the seas," because the water is partly visible and partly invisible מתּחת לארץ (Exo 20:4). The plural אורים, luces, instead of מארות, lumina (cf. Eze 32:8, מאורי אור), is without precedent. It is a controverted point whether אורת in Isa 26:19 signifies lights (cf. אורה, Psa 139:12) or herbs (Kg2 4:39). The plural ממשׁלות is also rare (occurring only besides in Psa 114:2): it here denotes the dominion of the moon on the one hand, and (going beyond Gen 1:16) of the stars on the other. בּלּילה, like בּיּום, is the second member of the stat. construct.
Up to this point it is God the absolute in general, the Creator of all things, to the celebration of whose praise they are summoned; and from this point onwards the God of the history of salvation. In Psa 136:13 גּזר (instead of בּקע, Psa 78:13; Exo 14:21; Neh 9:11) of the dividing of the Red Sea is peculiar; גּזרים (Gen 15:17, side by side with בּתרים) are the pieces or parts of a thing that is cut up into pieces. נער is a favourite word taken from Exo 14:27. With reference to the name of the Egyptian ruler Pharaoh (Herodotus also, ii. 111, calls the Pharaoh of the Exodus the son of Sesostris-Rameses Miumun, not Μενόφθας, as he is properly called, but absolutely Φερῶν), vid., on Psa 73:22. After the God to whom the praise is to be ascribed has been introduced with ל by always fresh attributes, the ל before the names of Sihon and of Og is perplexing. The words are taken over, as are the six lines of Psa 136:17-22 in the main, from Psa 135:10-12, with only a slight alteration in the expression. In Psa 136:23 the continued influence of the construction הודוּ ל is at an end. The connection by means of שׁ (cf. Psa 135:8, Psa 135:10) therefore has reference to the preceding "for His goodness endureth for ever." The language here has the stamp of the latest period. It is true זכר with Lamed of the object is used even in the earliest Hebrew, but שׁפל is only authenticated by Ecc 10:6, and פּרק, to break loose = to rescue (the customary Aramaic word for redemption), by Lam 5:8, just as in the closing verse, which recurs to the beginning, "God of heaven" is a name for God belonging to the latest literature, Neh 1:4; Neh 2:4. In Psa 136:23 the praise changes suddenly to that which has been experienced very recently. The attribute in Psa 136:25 (cf. Psa 147:9; Psa 145:15) leads one to look back to a time in which famine befell them together with slavery.