Psalm 150 – “Summons to Praise”

music_scoreHebrew-English Text
I. Summary
Psalm 150 is the last psalm in the Psalter. It calls on everyone to praise God’s greatness with musical instruments.

II. Photo
The psalmist calls on everyone to praise God with musical instruments: “Praise Him with blasts of the horn; praise Him with harp and lyre. Praise Him with timbrel and dance; praise Him with lute and pipe. Praise Him with resounding cymbals; praise Him with loud-clashing cymbals.” (vv. 3-5)
III. Important Verses
vv. 3-5: Praise Him with blasts of the horn; praise Him with harp and lyre. Praise Him with timbrel and dance; praise Him with lute and pipe. Praise Him with resounding cymbals; praise Him with loud-clashing cymbals.
v. 6: Let all that breathes praise the LORD. Hallelujah.

IV. Outline
1a. Superscription
1b-6a. Summons to praise
6b. Postscript

V. Comment
Psalm 150 is the last psalm in the Psalter. While most hymns begin with a call to praise (cf. Ps. 96:1-3, 100:1-4, 105:1-3, etc.), Psalm 150 is a call to praise in its entirety. Another example of this phenomenon is Ps. 134, and it is possible that these psalms “served as a general response or introit to the recitation of other hymns or thanksgivings” (Gerstenberger, 458). It is fitting that the Psalter, which is traditionally called Tehillim (from the root hll “praise”), ends with a psalm that contains the word hll “praise” a total of 13 times.

The psalm opens, “Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him in the sky, His stronghold.” The word ‘qodesho “His sanctuary” is used elsewhere, often to describe the place from which God speaks or makes an oath (cf. Ps. 60:8, 89:36, 108:8, Am. 4:2). The word reqia’ “sky” also seems to be the place where God dwells: the word appears quite often in Ezekiel’s vision of God (Ezek. 1:22-26). The next verse, which calls on people to praise God’s “mighty acts” and “exceeding greatness” also has its parallels (e.g. Ps. 54:3, 79:11).

What makes Psalm 150 unique is its extensive call to use instruments in vv. 3-5. A total of eight instruments are listed, and some are known from non-hymnic contexts:
1. shofar “ram’s horn trumpet” – this was also used for military purposes and at certain festivals such as the day of atonement (cf. Josh 6:4-6, Am. 3:6, Lev. 25:9).
2. nevel “harp” – this instrument, often accompanied by the lyre, is regularly mentioned in the context of hymn singing (cf. Ps. 33:2; 57:9, 2 Sam 6:5, 1 Kings 10:12).
3. khinnor “lyre” – this instrument, often accompanied by the harp, is regularly mentioned in the context of hymn singing (cf. Ps. 33:2; 57:9, 2 Sam 6:5, 1 Kings 10:12). It also was used for pleasure (cf. Job 21:12).
4. tof “timbrel” – these were the hand-drums used by Miriam in her dance at the sea (Ex. 15:20). They were also used for pleasure (cf. Job 21:12).
5. minnim “corded instrument” – it is not clear what this was (only other occurrence: Ps. 45:9).
6. ‘ugav “flute” – this instrument, which appears in Gen. 4:21, is rarely mentioned. In addition to hymn singing, it was used for funerary purposes (cf. Job 30:31). It also was used for pleasure (cf. Job 21:12).
7-8. two types of tzeltzelim “cymbals” – these instruments are only mentioned in 2 Sam. 6:5 where they accompanied a hymnic dance. They are probably related to the metziltayim “cymbals” mentioned throughout Tanakh.

It is interesting that the instruments themselves have been used to date the psalm. Allen writes, “The reference in v 3 to the more ancient horn, rather than to the metal trumpet, indicates a pre-Chronicles period of origin, since Chronicles, apart from 1 Chr 15:28; 2 Chr 15:14, always refers to trumpets.” While this is speculative, it is interesting that Chronicles I and II mention the chatzotzerot “trumpets” 16 times (mostly in a hymnic setting), and the shofar twice.

The psalm ends with an all-inclusive call to praise: “Let all that breathes praise the LORD.”

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