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Bible Commentaries

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Psalms 136



Verses 1-3

1. Invitation to thank God136:1-3

Three times the psalmist called on the people to give thanks to God. The refrain here and throughout the psalm explains the reason for praising Him. The repetition of the refrain in each verse serves to cause the reader to applaud every divine act that the writer mentioned. [Note: J. F. J. van Rensburg, "History as Poetry: A Study of Psalm 136 ," OTWSA29 (1986):86-87.]

Verses 1-26

Psalm 136

This psalm is probably the last of the Great Hallel psalms ( Psalm 120-136), though a few Jewish scholars viewed it as the only Great Hallel psalm. [Note: See the discussion of this issue in the introduction to Psalm 135 above.] Many scholars believe that the Israelites sang this psalm at Passover when they celebrated the Exodus. Other hallel psalms are113-118,146-150. This psalm is unique because it repeats the same refrain in each verse. The Israelites probably sang this song antiphonally, with the leaders singing the first part of each verse and the people responding with the refrain. The content and basic structure are similar to Psalm 135. With this Song of Solomon , the Israelites praised God for His great acts and His loyal love that endures forever.

Verses 4-9

Psalm 136:4 expresses the theme of this thanksgiving, namely: God"s wonderful acts. Then the psalmist mentioned specific acts. Psalm 136:5-9 describe aspects of God"s work in creating the world.

Verses 4-25

2. Subjects for thanksgiving136:4-25

Verses 10-25

God"s acts in this section of verses relate to His care for Israel. He humbled the Egyptians, brought His people out of Egypt in the Exodus , and led them through the Red Sea ( Psalm 136:10-15). He then defeated the Canaanite kings and gave their land to the Israelites ( Psalm 136:16-22). In summary, God remembered His people and rescued them from their adversaries ( Psalm 136:23-24). Finally, He provides food for all living creatures ( Psalm 136:25).

Verse 26

3. Reminder to thank God136:26

This concluding exhortation contains a title for God unique in the Psalter: the God of heaven. It highlights His sovereignty and was a favorite of the postexilic community ( 2 Chronicles 36:23; Ezra 2:1; Ezra 5:11-12; Ezra 6:9-10; Ezra 7:12; Ezra 7:21; Ezra 7:23 [twice]; Nehemiah 1:4-5; Nehemiah 2:4; Nehemiah 2:20; Daniel 2:18-19; Daniel 2:28; Daniel 2:37; Daniel 2:44). Its occurrence here suggests a postexilic origin of this Psalm , though it does occur three times in pre-exilic writings ( Genesis 24:3; Genesis 24:7; Jonah 1:9).

God"s people should praise Him publicly by reviewing His great acts that prove His loyal love for them. This should be a part of their corporate worship experience.


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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Psalms 136:4". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

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