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Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at

Psalms Chapter 149


psa 149:0

Hallelujah to the God of Victory of His People

This Psalm is also explained, as we have already seen on Psalms 147, from the time of the restoration under Ezra and Nehemiah. The new song to which it summons has the supreme power which Israel has attained over the world of nations for its substance. As in Psa 148:14 the fact that Jahve has raised up a horn for His people is called תּהלּה לכל־חסדיו, so here in Psa 149:9 the fact that Israel takes vengeance upon the nations and their rulers is called הדר לכל־חסדיו. The writer of the two Psalms is one and the same. The fathers are of opinion that it is the wars and victories of the Maccabees that are here prophetically spoken of. But the Psalm is sufficiently explicable from the newly strengthened national self-consciousness of the period after Cyrus. The stand-point is somewhere about the stand-point of the Book of Esther. The New Testament spiritual church cannot pray as the Old Testament national church here prays. Under the illusion that it might be used as a prayer without any spiritual transmutation, Psa 149:1-9 has become the watchword of the most horrible errors. It was by means of this Psalm that Caspar Scloppius in his Classicum Belli Sacri, which, as Bakius says, is written not with ink, but with blood, inflamed the Roman Catholic princes to the Thirty Years' religious War. And in the Protestant Church Thomas M׬nzer stirred up the War of the Peasants by means of this Psalm. We see that the Christian cannot make such a Psalm directly his own without disavowing the apostolic warning, "the weapons of our warfare are not carnal" (Co2 10:4). The praying Christian must there transpose the letter of this Psalm into the spirit of the New Covenant; the Christian expositor, however, has to ascertain the literal meaning of this portion of the Scriptures of the Old Testament in its relation to contemporary history.

Psalms 149:1

psa 149:1

A period, in which the church is renewing its youth and drawing nearer to the form it is finally to assume, also of inward necessity puts forth new songs. Such a new era has now dawned for the church of the saints, the Israel that has remained faithful to its God and the faith of its fathers. The Creator of Israel (עשׂיו, plural, with the plural suffix, like עשׂי in Job 35:10, עשׂיך in Isa 54:5, cf. עשׂו in Job 40:19; according to Hupfeld and Hitzig, cf. Ew. 256, b, Ges. 93, 9, singular; but aj, ajich, aw, are always really plural suffixes) has shown that He is also Israel's Preserver and the King of Zion, that He cannot leave the children of Zion for any length of time under foreign dominion, and has heard the sighing of the exiles (Isa 63:19; Isa 26:13). Therefore the church newly appropriated by its God and King is to celebrate Him, whose Name shines forth anew out of its history, with festive dance, timbrel, and cithern. For (as the occasion, hitherto only hinted at, is now expressly stated) Jahve takes a pleasure in His people; His wrath in comparison with His mercy is only like a swiftly passing moment (Isa 54:7.). The futures that follow state that which is going on at the present time. ענוים is, as frequently, a designation of the ecclesia pressa, which has hitherto, amidst patient endurance of suffering, waited for God's own act of redemption. He now adorns them with ישׁוּעה, help against the victory over the hostile world; now the saints, hitherto enslaved and contemned, exult בכבוד, in honour, or on account of the honour which vindicates them before the world and is anew bestowed upon them (בּ of the reason, or, which is more probable in connection with the boldness of the expression, of the state and mood);

(Note: Such, too (with pomp, not "with an army"), is the meaning of μετὰ δόξης in 1 Macc. 10:60; 14:4, 5, vid., Grimm in loc.))

they shout for joy upon their beds, upon which they have hitherto poured forth their complaints over the present (cf. Hos 7:14), and ardently longed for a better future (Isa 26:8); for the bed is the place of soliloquy (Psa 4:5), and the tears shed there (Psa 6:7) are turned into shouts of joy in the case of Israel.

Psalms 149:6

psa 149:6

The glance is here directed to the future. The people of the present have again, in their God, attained to a lofty self-consciousness, the consciousness of their destiny, viz., to subjugate the whole world of nations to the God of Israel. In the presence of the re-exaltation which they have experienced their throat is full of words and songs exalting Jahve (רוממות, plural of רומם, or, according to another reading, רומם, Psa 56:1-13 :17), and as servants of this God, the rightful Lord of all the heathen (Psa 82:8), they hold in their hand a many-mouthed, i.e., many edged sword (vid., supra, p. 580), in order to take the field on behalf of the true religion, as the Maccabees actually did, not long after: ταῖς μὲν χερσὶν ἀγωνιζόμενοι ταῖς δὲ καρδίαις πρὸς τὸν Θεόν εὐχόμενοι (2 Macc. 15:27). The meaning of Psa 149:9 becomes a different one, according as we take this line as co-ordinate or subordinate to what goes before. Subordinated, it would imply the execution of a penal jurisdiction over those whom they carried away, and כּתוּב would refer to prescriptive facts such as are recorded in Num 31:8; Sa1 15:32. (Hitzig). But it would become the religious lyric poet least of all to entertain such an unconditional prospect of the execution of the conquered worldly rulers. There is just as little ground for thinking of the judgment of extermination pronounced upon the nations of Canaan, which was pronounced upon them for an especial reason. If Psa 149:9 is taken as co-ordinate, the "written judgment" (Recht) consists in the complete carrying out of the subjugation; and this is commended by the perfectly valid parallel, Isa 45:14. The poet, however, in connection with the expression "written," has neither this nor that passage of Scripture in his mind, but the testimony of the Law and of prophecy in general, that all kingdoms shall become God's and His Christ's. Subjugation (and certainly not without bloodshed) is the scriptural משׁפּט for the execution of which Jahve makes use of His own nation. Because the God who thus vindicates Himself is Israel's God, this subjugation of the world is הדר, splendour and glory, to all who are in love devoted to Him. The glorifying of Jahve is also the glorifying of Israel.

Next: Psalms Chapter 150