Yahweh and the Promised Land (Ps 136:16-135:22)

“Yahweh led his people through the wilderness.

His steadfast love endures forever.

He struck down great kings.

His steadfast love endures forever.

He killed famous kings.

His steadfast love endures forever.

He killed Sihon,

King of the Amorites.

His steadfast love endures forever.

He killed Og,

King of Bashan.

His steadfast love endures forever.

He gave their land as a heritage.

His steadfast love endures forever.

He gave it as a heritage to Israel his servant,

His steadfast love endures forever.”

Once again, the congregational refrain, “His steadfast love endures forever” is repeated after every verse. This is once again a repetition of the previous psalm, Psalm 135, about the trip to the Promised Land. In order to take the Promised Land, they had to defeat a number of nations and countries. Yahweh helped them to strike down these fellow humans because his steadfast love endures forever. They and Yahweh killed many kings. The two most prominent as found in Numbers, chapter 21, was King Sihon of the Amorites and King Og of Bashan, on the borders of Canaan. They also killed the kings and people in Canaan as found in Joshua, chapters 5-12. Thus Yahweh gave Israel the land of Canaan as a heritage because of his enduring steadfast love.

Blessing Yahweh (Ps 135:19-135:21)

“O house of Israel!

Bless Yahweh!

O house of Aaron!

Bless Yahweh!

O house of Levi!

Bless Yahweh!

You that fear Yahweh!

Bless Yahweh!

Blessed be Yahweh

From Zion!

He who dwells in Jerusalem!

Praise Yahweh!”

This psalm ends with a blessing from Israel, the house of Aaron, the Levites, all who fear Yahweh, and Jerusalem itself. Everyone is to bless Yahweh. The psalm ends with the alleluia, praise Yahweh, the Hebrew “Hallelujah.” In this recitation of people to bless Yahweh, the house of Aaron and the house of Levi get a special mention.

Impotence of idols (Ps 135:15-135:18)

“The idols of the nations are silver and gold.

They are the work of human hands.

They have mouths,

But they do not speak.

They have eyes,

But they do not see.

They have ears,

But they do not hear.

There is no breath in their mouths.

Those who made them

Shall become like them.

All who trust in them,

Shall become like them.”

Many countries have idols of silver and gold. Obviously, these are the works of human hands. Very famously, the psalmist says that they have mouths but do not speak. They have eyes but do not see. They have ears but do not hear. They have no breath in their mouths. Thus they are impotent idols. The makers and followers of these idols are like them, without any power also.

The name of Yahweh (Ps 135:13-135:14)

“Yahweh!

Your name endures forever!

Yahweh!

Your renown endures throughout all ages!

Yahweh will vindicate his people.

He will have compassion on his servants.”

This is a short lyrical interlude about the glory of the name of Yahweh. His name and renown endures forever. He would vindicate his people. He would have compassion on his servants.

Yahweh killed many kings (Ps 135:10-135:12)

“Yahweh struck down many nations.

He killed mighty kings.

He killed Sihon,

King of the Amorites.

He killed Og,

King of Bashan.

He killed all in the kingdoms of Canaan.

He gave their land as a heritage.

This was a heritage to his people Israel.”

Yahweh was their protector as they entered the Promised Land. In order to take the Promised Land, they had to defeat a number of nations and countries. Yahweh helped them to kill their fellow humans. They and Yahweh killed many kings. The two most prominent as found in Numbers, chapter 21, was King Sihon of the Amorites and King Og of Bashan, on the borders of Canaan. They also killed the kings and people in Canaan as found in Joshua, chapters 5-12. Thus Yahweh gave Israel the land of Canaan as a heritage.

Yahweh rescued them from Egypt (Ps 135:8-135:9)

“He struck down the first-born of Egypt,

Both human beings and animals.

He sent signs and wonders

Into your midst,

O Egypt,

Against Pharaoh,

Against all his servants.”

Yahweh rescued the Israelites from Egypt as in the stories of Exodus, chapters 7-12. He struck down the first born humans and animals in Egypt. He performed many signs and wonders for the Egyptian Pharaoh and his servants.

Yahweh is great (Ps 135:5-135:7)

“I know that Yahweh is great.

Our Yahweh is above all gods.

Whatever Yahweh pleases he does

In heaven and on earth.

Whatever Yahweh pleases he does

In the seas and all depths.

He makes the clouds rise

At the end of the earth.

He makes lightning

For the rain.

He brings forth the wind

From his storehouses.”

Yahweh is great, above all gods. He does whatever he pleases in heaven, on earth, and in the seas, no matter how deep they are. He makes the clouds rise, lightning for rain, and brings the winds out of his storehouses. The assumption was that Yahweh stored up his winds and then released them as he saw fit.

Praise Yahweh (Ps 135:1-135:4)

“Praise Yahweh!

Praise the name of Yahweh!

Give praise!

O servants of Yahweh!

You stand in the house of Yahweh!

You stand in the courts of the house of our God!

Praise Yahweh!

Yahweh is good!

Sing to his name!

He is gracious!

Yahweh has chosen Jacob for himself.

Israel is his own possession.”

Psalm 135 does not have a title as this hymn praises God for his mighty deeds. This psalm begins with a “praise Yahweh” that is equivalent to an “alleluia,” the Hebrew “Hallelujah.” The psalmist wanted all the servants of Yahweh to praise his name. They were standing in the house of Yahweh, in the courtyards. They were to praise Yahweh and sing to his name. After all, Yahweh was gracious. He had chosen Jacob and made Israel his possession.

The call to listen (Ps 78:1-78:4)

A Maskil of Asaph

“O my people!

Give ear to my teaching!

Incline your ears

To the words of my mouth!

I will open my mouth in a parable.

I will utter dark sayings from of old.

These are the things

That we have heard and known.

Our ancestors have told us these things.

We will not hide them from their children.

We will tell them to the coming generation.

These are the glorious deeds of Yahweh,

These show his might.

These are the wonders that he has done.”

Psalm 78 is one of these long didactic psalms that relate the whole history of the Israelite people, like Psalms 105 and 106 as well as Psalms 135 and 136. This psalm is also a maskil of Asaph as the others in this series. We will learn the lessons of Israelite history, with a special emphasis on particular favorite heroes. There is an initial call to listen with care to the teaching of this psalmist, Asaph. He was going to speak in parables like the wisdom writers. These are the stories that were passed on to him by his ancestors. Now he was not going to hide it from the current children and the generations yet to come. All this shows the glorious deeds of Yahweh and his strength in the wonders that he has done for Israel.