Psalm 136

Psalm 136[a]

Thanksgiving for the Creation and Redemption

1 [b]Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his love endures forever.
2 Give thanks to the God of gods,
for his love endures forever.
3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
for his love endures forever.
4 He alone works great wonders,
for his love endures forever.
5 [c]In his wisdom he made the heavens,
for his love endures forever.
6 He spread out the earth upon the waters,[d]
for his love endures forever.
7 He made the great lights,
for his love endures forever.
8 He made the sun to rule over the day,
for his love endures forever.
9 He made the moon and stars to rule the night,
for his love endures forever.
10 [e]He struck down the firstborn of Egypt,
for his love endures forever.
11 He led forth Israel from among them,
for his love endures forever.
12 He did so with a strong hand and outstretched arm,
for his love endures forever.
13 [f]He divided the Red Sea in two,
for his love endures forever.
14 Then he led Israel through its midst,
for his love endures forever.
15 But he swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea,
for his love endures forever.
16 [g]Then he led his people through the wilderness,
for his love endures forever.
17 He struck down great kings,
for his love endures forever.
18 He slew powerful kings,
for his love endures forever.
19 Sihon, king of the Amorites,
for his love endures forever.
20 Og, king of Bashan,
for his love endures forever.
21 [h]He gave their land as a heritage,
for his love endures forever.
22 The heritage was for his servant Israel,
for his love endures forever.
23 The Lord remembered us in our wretched state,
for his love endures forever.
24 He rescued us from our enemies,
for his love endures forever.
25 [i]He provides food to every creature,
for his love endures forever.
26 Give thanks to the God of heaven,
for his love endures forever.

Footnotes

  1. Psalm 136:1 This psalm was for Israel the last of the “Great Hallel” psalms or, according to some Jewish authorities, the only Hallel psalm, the supreme song of praise. Associated with the great annual feasts, especially with the Feast of Passover, it is made up of exclamations of gratitude to God (accompanying a list of his wonders) and of enthusiastic assents from the crowd. In this list there are three great wonders that are never separated in Israel. First, the creation and life of the world (vv. 5-9). Next, the deliverances worked by God for Israel: the Exodus from Egypt (vv. 10-12), the passage through the Red Sea (vv. 13-15), the sojourn and victories in the wilderness (vv. 16-20), and the Conquest of the Promised Land (vv. 21-24). Finally, God’s solicitude for every living being, the grace of the bread for each day (v. 25). As it goes through this list of favors, Israel sings of God’s merciful love.
    Such a psalm could not fail to become a favorite of the Church for the Easter Vigil. By his Passion and Resurrection, Christ has given life to a new world; human beings are snatched from slavery to sin and advance in their earthly pilgrimage to become the people reunited around God in the new Promised Land, the kingdom of heaven. In the accents of the Great Hallel, Christians thus sing of the Passover of the world.
  2. Psalm 136:1 The words give thanks here mean “confess” or “acknowledge” (see Lev 5:5; Prov 28:13) and therefore, call us to grateful worship indicating what we know of God’s glory and his deeds. Since he is the God of gods and the Lord of lords (see Deut 10:17), he alone is to be thanked for all the acts in creation and redemption (see Ps 72:18; Ex 15:11).
  3. Psalm 136:5 The psalmist here brings together two Old Testament treatments of the creation theme: that of Proverbs, which speaks of the understanding and wisdom (v. 5) presupposed by creation (see Prov 3:19f; 8:1, 22-31; see also Ps 104:24; Jer 10:12), and that of Genesis, which gives the account of it (Ps 136:6-9: see Gen 1:9f, 16-18).
  4. Psalm 136:6 Upon the waters: see Ps 24:2.
  5. Psalm 136:10 Of the many wonders during the Exodus from Egypt, the psalmist mentions the tenth plague (see Pss 78:51; 105:36; 135:8) and the Lord’s strong hand and outstretched arm, a metaphor for God’s great and personal strength in favor of his people (see Ex 6:1, 6; Deut 4:34).
  6. Psalm 136:13 At the Red Sea, the Lord discredited Pharaoh and his forces by judging them (see Ex 14:27), while he rescued his people (see Ps 106:7ff; Ex 4:23).
  7. Psalm 136:16 The Lord guided his people through the wilderness (see Deut 8:15; Jer 2:6; Am 2:10) and won victories for them. He struck down the great and mighty kings like Sihon and Og (see Ps 135:11; Deut 2:30ff; 3:1), who are representative of a long number of Canaanite kings. Verses 17-22 are practically identical with Ps 135:10-12.
  8. Psalm 136:21 God was with his servant Israel during the Conquest of the Promised Land, which became their heritage (see Ps 135:12), as well as from that time till the present. The Lord’s remembrance is based on the covenant and is intended to effectively bring out the complete redemption of his afflicted people (see Ex 6:5).
  9. Psalm 136:25 Finally, it is the Lord who provides daily bread for all his creatures; therefore, all should praise him. God of heaven: an expression current during the Persian epoch (see Ezr 1:2; 5:11; 6:9; Neh 1:5; 2:4) that became classic (see Jud 5:8; Dan 2:18).

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