The Qumran prayer of thanksgiving (Sir 51:13-51:20)

“Give thanks to the good Lord!

His mercy endures forever.

Give thanks to the God of praises!

His mercy endures forever.

Give thanks to the guardian of Israel!

His mercy endures forever.

Give thanks to him who formed all things!

His mercy endures forever.

Give thanks to the redeemer of Israel!

His mercy endures forever.

Give thanks to him who gathers the dispersed of Israel!

His mercy endures forever.

Give thanks to him who rebuilt his city and sanctuary!

His mercy endures forever.

Give thanks to him who makes a horn to sprout

For the house of David!

His mercy endures forever.

Give thanks to him who had chosen the sons of Zadok

To be priests!

His mercy endures forever.

Give thanks to the shield of Abraham!

His mercy endures forever.

Give thanks to the rock of Isaac!

His mercy endures forever.

Give thanks to the mighty one of Jacob!

His mercy endures forever.

Give thanks to him who has chosen Zion!

His mercy endures forever.

Give thanks to the King of the kings of kings!

His mercy endures forever.

He has raised up a horn for his people.

Praise for all his loyal ones.

The children of Israel praise the Lord!

The people close to him praise the Lord!”

This is called the Qumran hymn of thanksgiving because this Hebrew hymn was found in a Qumran cave there, but not in the Greek text. It is very reminiscent of Psalm 136, with the repeated chant of “his mercy endures forever.” However, they are thankful for other things than in Psalm 136. Obviously the Lord is good and merciful. The Lord is the guardian and redeemer of Israel who formed all things. However, he now has gathered the dispersed Israelites. He has rebuilt the Temple and the sanctuary. He has protected the royal sprout of David, but also the priestly sons of Zadok. The Lord also gave the shield of Abraham, the rock of Isaac, and the mighty Jacob. He chose Zion for the king of kings. He raised up a horn of plenty for his people and those loyal to him. Thus the children of Israel and those close to him should praise the Lord.

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Give thanks to Yahweh (Ps 136:26-136:26)

“O give thanks to the God of heaven!

His steadfast love endures forever.”

This psalm ends with the congregational refrain, “His steadfast love endures forever” as they gave thanks to the God of heaven.

Yahweh remembered us (Ps 136:23-136:25)

“Yahweh remembered us in our low estate.

His steadfast love endures forever.

He rescued us from our foes.

His steadfast love endures forever.

He gives food to all flesh.

His steadfast love endures forever.”

Once again, the congregational refrain, “His steadfast love endures forever” is repeated after every verse.  Yahweh remembered us so that we in turn should remember him. He rescued the Israelites from their lowly situation and various foes. He gave them food to eat because of his eternal steadfast love for them.

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.

Yahweh and the Exodus (Ps 136:10-136:15)

“Yahweh struck Egypt through their first-born.

His steadfast love endures forever.

He brought Israel out from among them.

His steadfast love endures forever.

With a strong hand,

With an outstretched arm,

His steadfast love endures forever.

He divided the Red Sea in two.

His steadfast love endures forever.

He made Israel pass through the midst of it.

His steadfast love endures forever.

He overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea,

His steadfast love endures forever.”

Once again, the congregational refrain, “His steadfast love endures forever” is repeated after every verse. Just as in the preceding psalm, Yahweh led the Israelites out of Egypt. He clearly struck down the first-born of humans and animals. He led them out with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. He divided the Red Sea into two parts so that the Israelites were able to pass through in the middle of it. Finally, he destroyed Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea. Throughout it all they realized that his steadfast love endures forever.

Yahweh’s creation (Ps 136:4-136:9)

“Yahweh alone does great wonders.

His steadfast love endures forever.

By understanding he made the heavens.

His steadfast love endures forever.

He spread out the earth on the waters.

His steadfast love endures forever.

He made the great lights.

His steadfast love endures forever.

He made the sun to rule over the day.

His steadfast love endures forever.

He made the moon and the stars to rule over the night.

His steadfast love endures forever.”

Once again, the congregational refrain, “His steadfast love endures forever” is repeated after every verse. This is a tribute to the creator Yahweh. He has done great wonders. He has made the heavens and put the earth on top of the waters. He made the great lights for the day and the night, the sun, the moon, and the stars. Therefore we cry out that his steadfast love endures forever.

Thanksgiving to Yahweh (Ps 136:1-136:3)

“O give thanks to Yahweh!

He is good.

His steadfast love endures forever.

O give thanks to the God of gods!

His steadfast love endures forever.

O give thanks to the Lord of lords!

His steadfast love endures forever.”

Psalm 136 is another fairly long psalm without a title, with an emphasis on giving thanks to Yahweh for all that he has done for his people. The haunting refrain, “His steadfast love endures forever” is repeated after every verse as a congregational response throughout this psalm. They were to give thanks to Yahweh because of his steadfast enduring love. He was the God of gods and the Lord of the lords.