Psalm 145 – “Acrostic Hymn”

servefoodHebrew-English Text
I. Summary
Psalm 145 is a hymn of praise and adoration directed to God. The speaker praises God’s great qualities, vows to praise Him forever, and repeatedly expresses his wish that others will do the same.
II. Photo
The psalmist praises God’s benevolence in vv. 15-16: “The eyes of all look to You expectantly, and You give them their food when it is due. You open your hands, feeding every creature to its heart’s content.”
III. Important Verses
v. 2: Every day will I bless You and praise Your name forever and ever.
v. 9: The LORD is good to all, and His mercy is upon all His works.
v 14: The LORD supports all who stumble, and makes all who are bent stand straight.
v. 19: He fulfills the wishes of those who fear Him; He hears their cry and delivers them.

IV. Outline
1a. Superscription
1b-2. Invocation, vow to praise
3. Hymnic praise
4-7. Anticipated praise, vow to praise
8-9. Hymnic praise
10-12. Anticipated praise
13-20. Hymnic praise (mix of 2nd and 3rd person formulations)
21. Anticipated praise

V. Comment
Psalm 145 is an acrostic hymn, and each of its 21 verses begins with a different letter of the alphabet. The only letter missing is nun, but both the Septuagint and the Dead Sea Scrolls have a verse beginning with that letter: “The Lord is faithful (ne’eman) in his words, and holy in all his works.” It is not clear if these versions are preserving an original version of the text or merely filling in the gap. Other acrostics can be found in the book of Lamentations and Ps. 9, 10, 25, 34,3 7, 111, and 119. In terms of form, our psalm is most like Ps. 111.

The superscription, tehilla ledawid “A song of praise, of David,” is interesting for two reasons: (a) it is the last of the “Davidicsuperscriptions, and (b) it is the only superscription to use the word tehilla (but see Ps. 33, 65, 109, 147, 149 where the word is used near the beginning of the psalm). This is probably because the psalm’s last verse begins with the word tehilla, and the psalm’s essence is just that, i.e. praise. Indeed, the psalm’s grandiose praise of God is indicated by the universal word kol “all” appearing an astonishing 17 times.

The name of God, which appears 10 times (9 times as the Tetragrammaton and once as ‘elohay), only appears in the first half of each verse, indicating that the 2nd half of each verse explicates the first. The psalm routinely turns from 2nd person address to 3rd person address and vice versa, indicating that the suppliant was speaking to God in the midst of a congregation.

The psalm has many phrases that are used in other psalms. One example is vv. 15-16: “The eyes of all look to You expectantly, and You give them their food when it is due. You give it openhandedly, feeding every creature to its heart’s content.” Its parallel is Ps. 104:27-28: “All of them look to You to give them their food when it is due. Give it to them, they gather it up; open Your hand, they are well satisfied.” Another interesting connection is that our psalm contains the word melekh “king” (vv. 1, 11, 13), a key feature of the “Kingship Psalms” (Ps. 95-99) which all incorporate the word.

The psalm ends with an emphasis of everlasting endurance: “My mouth shall utter the praise of the LORD, and all creatures shall bless His holy name forever and ever.” This is a popular way of ending a psalm, e.g. 121:8 “The LORD will guard your going and coming now and forever,” and 131:3 “O Israel, wait for the LORD now and forever.”