Psalm 146 – “Homiletical Hymn”

polio1Hebrew-English Content
I. Summary
Psalm 146 is a hymn that praises God for helping the underprivileged. The speaker’s message to his community is, “Do not put your faith in man; praise God because He is benevolent and helps those who need Him.”

II. Photo

The psalmist praises God for helping those with physical ailments: ” the LORD makes those who are bent stand straight” (v. 8 )
III.Important Verses
v. 2: I will praise the LORD all my life, sing hymns to my God while I exist.
vv. 3-4: Put not your trust in the great, in mortal man who cannot save. His breath departs; he returns to the dust; on that day his plans come to nothing.
vv. 8-9: The LORD restores sight to the blind; the LORD makes those who are bent stand straight; the LORD loves the righteous; The LORD watches over the stranger; He gives courage to the orphan and widow, but makes the path of the wicked tortuous.

IV. Outline
1a. Superscription
1b-2. Summons to praise (directed towards oneself)
3-4. Wisdom admonition
5. Beatitude
6-9. Hymnic praise (creation, social justice)
10ab. Wish/blessing
10c. Postscript

V. Comment
Psalm 146 is a hymn that was said by an individual to a community that surrounded him. It is in the section of psalms that begin and end with the words halelu-yah “praise the Lord” (Ps. 146-150). It contains the three major elements of the hymn genre: (1) a summons to praise (vv. 1-2), (2) praise of God because of his works/deeds/qualities (vv. 6-9), and (3) a blessing/wish (v. 10).

While most hymns begin with an exhortation for others to praise God, the summons to praise in Psalm 146 is self-directed: “Praise the LORD, O my soul!  will praise the LORD all my life, sing hymns to my God while I exist.” But, this type of self-directed summons to praise can still be found in other psalms like 103 and 104 which begin “Bless the LORD, O my soul!”

After addressing himself, the speaker addresses those around him with a wisdom statement in vv. 3-4: “Put not your trust in the great, in mortal man who cannot save. His breath departs; he returns to the dust; on that day his plans come to nothing.” For a similar homiletical wisdom admonition, see Ps. 75:5-9.

The next section (v. 5) is a beatitude that praises the righteous man’s connection to God: “Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God.” The beatitude paves the way for a hymn which begins by praising God’s creative deeds (a common element of the hymn genre): “maker of heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever.” The speaker then praises God’s benevolence to eight categories of socially/physically underpriveleged persons: ‘ashuqim “those who are wronged,” re’evim “the hungry,” ‘asurim “the prisoners,” ‘iwrim “the blind,” kefufim “the bent,” gerim “the stranger,” yatom “the orphan” and the ‘almanah “widow.” While there are many parallels for each section of the hymn, there is a clear connection to the triad of socially weak persons (“stranger, orphan, and widow”) mentioned in Deut 16:11, 14; 24:19-21. Also, note how the hymn mentions God’s name five times in a cluster of three verses.

Like many hymns, the psalm contains a wish/blessing, “The LORD shall reign forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations.” This is very similar to v. 13 of the previous psalm: “Your kingship is an eternal kingship; Your dominion is for all generations.” For a similar blessing, see Ps. 104:33-35.

Allen writes that “the psalm is generally attributed to the postexilic [i.e. 2nd Temple] period on the grounds of its form-critical development, its apparent use of earlier material, and the lateness of its language, viz. she “who” (vv 3, 5) ‘eshtenot “thoughts” (v 4) sivro “hope” (v 5) and zaqaf “raise” (v 8).” (p. 366)

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