Psalm 115 comes from a period when the Israelites were not enjoying God’s favor but appeared to have been rejected by him. Other nations would have attributed this to their God’s inability to help them. Therefore, the psalmist did not specifically plead for the people of Israel to be freed from the reproach of the other nations but petitioned YHWH to give glory to his name. By manifesting his compassionate care, steadfast love, or “mercy” (LXX) and “truth” or his dependability respecting his covenant promises, YHWH would glorify his name. Upon revealing his loving concern for his people and the dependability of his word, other nations would come to see his greatness. This would result in exalting his name and clearing it of reproach.
For the Israelites to have continued in a humiliated condition would have given the people of other nations the basis for tauntingly raising the question, “Where is their God?” Unlike other peoples who had images of their deities, the Israelites had no tangible likeness of YHWH and were forbidden to make such. To people with images of their deities, the nonexistence of any representation of YHWH and the seeming absence of evidence respecting his activity would have made it appear as if the Israelites had no God.
The psalmist’s answer to the taunting question is, “Our God [is] in the heavens; he does whatever he pleases.” This implies that the condition in which the Israelites found themselves was in harmony with God’s will for the time. Rahlfs’ printed text of the Septuagint contains an expanded reading. “But our God [is] in the heaven above. In the heavens and in the earth, he has done everything, whatever he wishes.”
As for the nations, their deities are idols, mere representations fashioned from silver and gold, the work of human hands. Although artfully fashioned with a mouth, eyes, ears, nose, hands and feet, a lifeless image cannot speak, see, hear, smell, feel, or walk. No sound comes from the throat of an idol.
All who make and trust in idols are like them. This may be understood to mean that the makers and worshipers of images are just as helpless and lacking in good sense as are the lifeless representations, and those putting their trust in idols would experience disappointment. Another possible meaning is that those fashioning idols and all those trusting in the nonexistent deities the images represent would come to be just as lifeless as their idols.
The psalmist, confident that YHWH is a dependable helper and a protective shield for his servants, included the imperatives, “Israel, trust in YHWH.” “House of Aaron” [the priesthood], trust in YHWH.” “Fearers of YHWH [all having a reverential regard for him], trust in YHWH.”
The psalmist did not waver in his faith. YHWH had not forgotten his people but remembered them. He would bless the “house” or people of Israel and the “house of Aaron” or the priesthood. He would bless all those fearing him, both “small” or insignificant and “great” or powerful and influential.
For YHWH to “add to” or “give increase” to his people and their children may denote his granting them prosperity and an increase in offspring. Unlike the people of other nations who trusted in and looked to humanly conceived and fashioned deities for aid and blessings, the Israelites had the Creator as their God. Blessing in the form of aid and protection came from YHWH, who “made heaven and earth.” As for the “heavens,” these are YHWH’s, but the “earth” or land he has given for humans (literally, “sons of man”) to inhabit.
The dead cannot praise Yah (abbreviated form of YHWH) nor can those going down “in silence” or “into Hades” (LXX). All those silenced by death and in “Hades” or the realm of the dead can no longer praise God. Implied in the psalmist’s words may be the appeal for YHWH to come to the rescue of his people so that they would not be silenced in death and unable to continue praising him.
The psalmist concludes with the determination that he and his people (“we, the living,” LXX) would continue to bless or praise Yah for all time to come. His final expression is, “Praise Yah.”
In the Septuagint, the words of Psalm 115 are a continuation of Psalm 113, starting with verse 9.
Manuscripts of the Septuagint text of verse 3 (113:11) vary. A shorter reading is, “But our God has done everything in the heaven and in [either en (in) or epí (on)] the earth, whatever he has wished.”
The extant text of the concluding verse of the Septuagint does not use the transliteration alleloúia, which incorporates “Yah,” but reads, “But we, the living, will praise the Lord.” This transliteration does appear at the beginning of the next psalm but is not the final expression of the last verse, departing from the Masoretic Text (which concludes with “Praise Yah”).
Regarding the divine name (YHWH), see Psalm 1.