Psalm 147:7-11

7. Sing to Jehovah in thanksgiving, sing psalms to our God upon the harp. 18. Who covereth the heavens with clouds, prepareth rain for the earth, maketh grass to germinate on the mountains.29. Who giveth to the cattle their food, to the young ones of the ravens which cry to him. 10. Not in the strength of the horse will he take pleasure, nor in the legs of man will he delight. 11. Jehovah delighteth in those who fear him, who hope in his mercy.


7. Sing to Jehovah in thanksgiving. Again he exhorts to sing the praises of God, intimating at the same time that abundant matter was not wanting, since new proofs still meet our eyes of his power, goodness, and wisdom. First he tells us that he covers the heavens with clouds, and this change would awaken our attention, were we not chargeable with so much thoughtlessness. Various as are the marvels to be seen in the heavens above us, were the same serenity always to continue, we would not have so wonderful a display of his power as when he suddenly veils them with clouds, withdrawing the light of the sun, and setting a new face as it were upon the world. He afterwards hints that in this way provision is made for all living creatures, for thus the herbs germinate, and the earth is supplied with the moisture which makes it fertile. Thus in connection with the proofs of his power God sets before our eyes those of his mercy and fatherly consideration for the human family; nay, he shows that he does not overlook even the wild beasts and cattle. Philosophers discover the origin of rain in the elements, and it is not denied that clouds are formed from the gross vapors which are exhaled from the earth and sea, but second causes should not prevent us from recognizing the providence of God in furnishing the earth with the moisture needed for fructification. As the earth chapped with heat shows its thirst by opening its mouth, so God on his part in sending rain distills drink for it. He might in other ways of a more secret kind give it strength to preserve it from failing, but this irrigation is something which passes before our eyes to image forth the continual care which he has over us.

9. Who gives to the cattle their food. By giving an instance he explains more clearly what he had said, of God's providing food for every living creature. When he speaks of the cattle and the ravens being fed, and not of men, this is to give more emphasis to his argument. We know that it was for man's sake the world was made at all, and endued with fertility and plenty; and in proportion as we are nearer in the scale of existence to God, he shows us the more of his goodness. But if he condescends to notice the brute creation, it is plain that to us he will be a nurse and a father. For the same reason he names the ravens, the most contemptible of all birds, to teach us that the goodness of God extends to every part of the world. When he says that their young cry unto God, he no doubt refers to their natural cry, but hints at the same time that they own that they must be in want unless God give them meat from heaven. As to the Jewish fable that the ravens desert their young ones as soon as put forth, and that worms are bred in the barks of the trees to feed them, this is one of their customary stories, never scrupling as they do, nor being ashamed, to invent anything, however unfounded, when a difficulty comes in the way.3 It is enough for us to know that the whole system of nature is so regulated by God, that not even the young ravens want their food, when with hoarse outcry they confess that they are in need, and that they cannot have it supplied except by God.

10. Not in the strength of the horse, etc. After the Psalmist has shown that there is proof of the divine goodness in every part of the world, he takes particular notice that men have no strength but what is given them from above, and this he adds with the express purpose of checking the pride by which almost all men are inflamed, and which leads them to trust in their own strength. The meaning of the passage is, that let man come in the preparation of his own strength, and with all the assistance's that seem to him most prevalent, this will only issue in smoke and vanity; nay, that in arrogating the very least to himself, this will only be a hindrance in the way of the mercy of God, by which alone we stand. The strength of the horse is mentioned by synecdoche to denote any kind of protection. Not that God is displeased with those things in themselves considered which he has given us as helps, but it is necessary that we be withdrawn from a false confidence in them, for very commonly when any resource is at hand, we are foolishly intoxicated and lifted up with pride. He opposes the fear of God therefore to the strength both of men and of horses, and places his hope in his mercy, intimating that it is highly incumbent upon us to show our moderation in worshipping God with reverence and holiness, and depending upon his grace. Hence we learn that he only condemns that strength which would take from God the honor due to him.

1 The Hebrew word here is rwnk, kinnor. It is uniformly translated "harp" by Calvin, and also by the translators of our English Bible. But as is supposed by Calmet and others, it more probably corresponded with the lyre of Egypt, Greece, and Rome. In the Septuagint it is usually either thrown into the Greek form kinura, cinyra, or rendered kiqara, cithara, one of the various names by which the principal varieties of the ancient lyres were distinguished. And where these are not the words by which it is rendered in that version, it is rendered by other names which the Greeks gave to different forms of the lyre. From this it is evident that the translators of the Greek version believed that rwnk kinnor, denoted the lyre, although from their translating it by different words, each signifying a particular variety of that instrument, they were uncertain as to the particular species of lyre. "The brief intimations in Scripture are in full accordance with this statement; for it is not described as such an instrument -- large, heavy, and resting on the ground when played -- as the word 'harp' suggests to our minds; but as a light portable instrument, which the player carried in his hand or on his arm, and might walk or dance the while. In fact, Scripture describes the kinnor as being used in such a manner and on such occasions as we know the lyre to have been by the ancients, who indeed had not, so far as we know, any harps large and resting on the ground like ours. We speak only of the Greeks and Romans, however, for the Egyptians had large standing harps; from which we shall in a future note take occasion to conclude that such were also known to the Hebrews, while we retain our impression that the lyre is denoted by the kinnor." -- Illustrated Commentary upon the Bible. The kinnor is an instrument of the highest antiquity, being one of those two invented by Jubal before the flood. Genesis 4:21. It was used at an early period on festal occasions, as appears from the next instance in which it is mentioned in Scripture, six hundred years after the deluge, namely, in Laban's words to Jacob, as recorded in Genesis 31:27. It was also used by the prophets in their sacred music, as we learn from the next instance in which it is noticed -- in the time of Samuel, 1 Samuel 10:5. The notes of the kinnor might be mournful, (Isaiah 16:11;) but they were also cheerful, (Job 21:2; Job 30:31; 1 Samuel 16:23; Psalm 137:2.) This musical instrument was constructed of wood, 1 Kings 10:12; and it no doubt was to be found among the Hebrews of different forms and power, and varying in the number of strings. The ancient lyres were either played with the fingers, or struck with a plectrum, an instrument which appears generally to have consisted of a piece of ivory, polished wood, or metal, in the form of a quill.

2 "After this clause the Vulgate, the Septuagint, AEthiopic, Arabic, and Anglo-Saxon add, 'and herb for the service of man.' It appears that a hemistich or half line has been lost from the Hebrew text, which, according to the above version, must have stood as in Psalm 104:14." -- Dr. Adam Clarke.

3 "Car quant a la fable que les Juifs racontent, que les corbeaux laissent leur petits si tost qu'ils sont esclos," etc. -- Fr.


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