Psalm 147

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The Masoretic Text has no superscription for this psalm, but the Septuagint (after the expression “Hallelujah,” meaning “Praise Yah”) identifies the composition as being “of Haggai and Zechariah.” This would mean that Psalm 147 originated after the Babylonian exile.

In the extant Septuagint text, the composition is Psalm 146 and 147, with the first 11 verses forming one psalm and the remainder of the verses making up the second psalm, which is also preceded by a superscription (“Hallelujah. Of Haggai and Zechariah”).

Psalm 147:1-11

The opening imperative is, “Praise Yah” (Yah being an abbreviated form of YHWH), and then the psalm continues, “for [it is] good to praise our God [with song].” Besides being “good” or most appropriate, the musical expression of praise is associated with the Hebrew adjective na‘ím, meaning “pleasant,” “delightful,” or “lovely.” This could mean that, for God’s servants, singing praises to him is a delight or a pleasure. A number of translations make this significance explicit. “How pleasant and right to praise him!” (REB) “How sweet to give fitting praise.” (NAB) “It is pleasant to sing glorious praise.” (Tanakh) Other translations, however, have rendered the Hebrew text to apply to God (“for he is gracious” (NRSV); “our God is kind” (CEV).

The extant text of the Septuagint is shorter than the Masoretic Text and does not include the concluding phrase “praise is fitting.” This abbreviated text reads, “Praise the Lord, for good [is] a psalm [a song of praise]. May praise be sweet to our God.”

After the Babylonian exile ended, desolated Jerusalem began to be rebuilt and repopulated. The psalmist gave YHWH the credit for the rebuilding and the gathering of the scattered or exiled Israelites.

Through the restoration he had made possible, the Most High brought comfort to his oppressed and afflicted people. He healed their brokenhearted condition, infusing them with hope, courage, and joy, and ended their distressing circumstances in a manner that was comparable to treating and bandaging their wounds.

It appears that the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the restoration of the Israelite exiles moved the psalmist to reflect on God’s greatness. The Most High reckons the number of the stars, calling each by name as would one making a roll call.

“Great [is] our Lord and abundant in power.” YHWH’s greatness is beyond compare, and his might is limitless. “His understanding” surpasses human comprehension and is impossible to measure.

He brings relief to the lowly, lifting them up from their state of humiliation, but he does not withhold punishment from those deserving it. As for the wicked (“sinners,” LXX), he casts them to the ground.

In appreciation for their God, his servants rightly thank him. The psalmist continued with the imperative, “Sing to YHWH with thanksgiving.” This is to be a joyous expression of praise to the accompaniment of a lyre or harp.

The psalmist next referred God’s activity that benefited humans and animals. YHWH covers the heavens with clouds, concealing the celestial dome or vault from view. For the “earth” or land, he prepares the rains and makes grass to sprout on hills and mountains. For the animals and in response to the call of the young ravens, he provides food.

God’s delight or pleasure does not arise from seeing displays of might in the human sphere. The strength of the horse (as when used in warfare) did not impress him nor did the legs of a man (as when running or involved in action that revealed might).

YHWH is delighted with those who fear him or have a wholesome regard for him and place their hope or trust in his abiding love, compassionate care, or “mercy” (LXX).

Psalm 147:12-20

In the time of the psalmist, Jerusalem or Zion was God’s representative place of dwelling, as it was the place where his worship was centered. Therefore, the inhabitants of Jerusalem or Zion are called upon to praise him.

The psalmist then set forth the reasons for such praise. YHWH assured the security of Jerusalem, as if by strengthening the bars of the city gates. Anyone who might harm his people thus would be prevented from gaining entrance. The “sons” or inhabitants of the city would enjoy YHWH’s blessing, which would include his protective care.

Within the boundary of the city or the territory of his people, God “established peace.” This peace could include both security and well-being or prosperity. YHWH satisfied his people with the “fat of the wheat” or the choicest or best wheat.

When God sends his “saying” to the earth, making an expression of his will, the word is as good as accomplished, as if running to effect its fulfillment.

The verses that follow indicate that the “saying” or “word” relates to natural phenomena. YHWH “gives snow like wool,” covering the ground with a blanket of white. In the way a man might scatter ashes, he scatters hoarfrost, with crystals of ice appearing on the vegetation.

His hurling down ice like “fragments” denotes his causing it to hail. Outside any constructed shelter, people have no protection from the elements. This may be the basis for the question and the implied negative answer. “Who can stand before his cold”?

YHWH is next portrayed as sending his “word” or expressing his will and causing the snow to melt. He causes his wind to blow, and the waters from the snowmelt flow.

Jacob or Israel designates the nation descended from him. To the Israelites, YHWH declared his “word,” providing guidance for them in the form of “statutes” and “judgments.” With no other nation had he dealt in this manner. The other nations did not know his “judgments” or the lofty standards of justice reflected in the ordinances he had given to his people. According to the reading of a Dead Sea scroll and the extant Septuagint text, God had not revealed his judgments to other nations. In view of all the blessings and benefits they enjoyed, the Israelites had good reason to heed the imperative, “Praise Yah.”


Regarding the divine name (YHWH), see Psalm 1.

In verse 1, one fragmentary Dead Sea scroll adds words not found in the Masoretic Text, the Septuagint, and another Dead Sea scroll. With the missing letters supplied, the expanded text reads, “Praise to our God is fitting.” (The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible).