We are beginning a series on selected lectionary Psalms and so here are a few notes on the background to the book of Psalms. There are five books of the Psalter. These were arranged finally during the post-exillic time during/after the rebuilding of the temple. The exact arrangement of the books of the Psalter and chapters within each book is not obvious. There is no clear thematic or content arrangement. They may be arranged numerologically; the number of psalms in each of the five books may be combinations of 17, 10, and 12; e.g, Books 3 & 4 contain 17 psalms each, while Book 2 contains 17 + 12 psalms (Jordan, “Rite Reasons” 54; note: taking this view requires taking some psalms usually numbered separately as taken as one psalm with a total of 146 psalms, e.g., 9-10 are one psalm). At any rate, the Psalter is clearly ordered in some fashion and certainly builds to a climax in the last five psalms.
Of the 150 psalms there are five basic kinds of psalms, summarized by my acrostic, “PSALM”: Praise, Study, Admission, Lamentation, and Messianic. Psalm 146 is a “Praise” psalm (as are 111:1 112:1 113:1 117:1 135:1 146:1,10 147:1 148:1, 106, 111-113, 135, 146-150, et al) and is one of the five closing or final “Hallel” psalms (146-150). “These Psalms appear to have formed a separate Hallel . . . in the old liturgy of the second Temple. Later on they became, together with Ps. 149, 150, an integral part of the daily morning prayer [and are] but expressly distinguished from the Hallel to be recited at the Passover and other feasts, which is called “the Egyptian Hallel [Pss 113-118]” (Keil and Delitzsch). With Hebrew poetic structures, such as various kinds of parallelisms, including chiasms, one might expect the end of the Psalter to in some way parallel the beginning. So it is in Psalm 146: “The thematic references back to Psalm 1 (antithesis “righteous—wicked”) and Psalm 2 (exhortation to the kings of the earth to subject themselves to YHWH), as well as the form of the beatitude (cf. Pss 1:1; 2:12), begin the correlation of the overture to the Psalms in Psalms 1–2 with the Psalms finale, Psalms 146–150” (Hossfeld and Zenger, Hermeneia). On authorship, there is no prescript (such as, “a psalm of David”), but the Greek translation of the OT (LXX) attributes this psalm to “Of Haggai and Zechariah” (WBC).
Outline of Psalm 146
A. Call to Praise (vv.1-4)
B. God the Creator (vv.5-6)
C. God the Sustainer (vv.7-9)
B’. God the Great King (v.10a)
A’. Call to Praise (v.10b) (from VanGemeren, EBC)
Praise Yahweh! (1, 10) - “Hallel” in Hebrew means “joyous praise,” “to boast in God,” or “to act madly or foolishly.” The “Jah” or “Yah” part of the word is the first two letters of the covenant name of God, “Yahweh” or “Jehovah” (YHWH). “Hallelujah” is a command for the congregation to give “joyous praise” to the Covenant Lord. It is used 24 times in the Hebrew OT, most often translated “Praise the Lord!” and is transliterated as “alleluia” four times in the NT. There are groups of Psalms marked by the word, “Hallelujah.” They are in three groups: 104-106; 111-113; 146-150. The most intense use of the word comes in the last sequence of Psalms (146-150). It is interesting that in the NT “Hallelujah” is found in only one passage in the NT. It is the climactic portion of the book of Revelation 19 (19:1, 3, 4, 6) which signals, after many cataclysmic events (seals broken and bowls of wrath poured out, beasts and monsters...) that the Lamb of God has conquered. When we say it, we should say it with the confidence of all of heaven. “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns!” (Rev. 19:6). In Psalm 146, we are to praise YHWH and sing to Him (zamar) throughout all of life: “while I live” and have “my being” (1). He reigns forever and all generations of God’s people are called to praise Him (10).
Trust Yahweh! (7-9) - The psalmist argues that on the basis of God’s character and actions that we should trust him for several reasons: a) There is no salvation is apart from Him (3). b) The hardness and frailness of the human condition is to put our “trust in princes” (rulers, kings, prime ministers, presidents, etc). However, men and their leaders are transitory; God is eternal. (4). c) Blessing rests on those who trust and hope in Him (5). d) God is the Maker of all an