Hymn to the City of God
How good it is to sing praises to our God;
how pleasant it is to give him fitting praise.[c]
2 The Lord restores Jerusalem
and gathers together the dispersed people of Israel.[d]
3 He heals the brokenhearted
and bandages their wounds.[e]
4 He fixes the number of the stars
and assigns a name to each.[f]
5 Great is our Lord and awesome in power;
his wisdom is without limit.[g]
6 The Lord sustains the poor
but humbles the wicked in the dust.[h]
7 [i]Offer songs of thanksgiving to the Lord;
play the lyre in honor of our God.
8 He veils the heavens with clouds,
supplies the earth with rain,
and makes the hills sprout with grass.[j]
9 He provides food for the animals
and for the young ravens when they call.[k]
10 [l]He takes no pleasure in the strength of the horse,
or delight in the fleetness of a runner.
11 The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,
those who place their hope in his kindness.
12 [m]Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem!
Glorify your God, O Zion!
13 For he strengthens the bars of your gates
and blesses your children within you.[n]
14 He brings peace to your borders
and fills you with the finest of wheat.[o]
15 He sends a command to the earth;
his word runs with utmost speed.
16 He gives the snow like wool
and scatters the frost like ashes.[p]
17 He hurls down his hail like crumbs;
who can withstand his cold?[q]
18 He sends his word, and the ice melts;
he stirs up his breezes, and the waters flow.
19 [r]He has revealed his word to Jacob,
his decrees and his judgments to Israel.
20 He has not done this for the other nations;
they are not aware of his judgments.
- Psalm 147:1 Three times the psalmist sounds the invitation to praise, and three times he acclaims the almighty God. Immense is his power deployed throughout the universe, and without measure is his benevolence for his people. He rebuilds Jerusalem, leads captives back to freedom, and reveals his law. Yet the author of wonders in nature and the liberator of his people is a God who takes pleasure in the lowly. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes” (Rev 21:4)—such will be the grace of the Almighty in the new Jerusalem (see Isa 60; 62).
In the Septuagint and Vulgate, this psalm is divided into two (147:1-11 = Ps 146; 147:12-20 = Ps 147) and attributed to the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. It contains many reminiscences of Isaiah, Job, and Psalms.
We can pray this psalm while keeping in mind that the restoration of Jerusalem and Israel after the disaster of 587 B.C. and the Babylonian Captivity constitutes a wonderful work of God. However, it is only a pale image of a more beautiful work of restoration that the heavenly Father accomplishes through Christ in building his Church.
- Psalm 147:1 The psalmist enumerates the reasons why it is good to praise the Lord: the restoration that he has worked for his people in accord with his word by rebuilding Jerusalem and bringing back the exiles; his concern for all creation; and his redemption, i.e., the vindication of his people.
- Psalm 147:1 See Ps 92:2 and note on Ps 135:3.
- Psalm 147:2 See Deut 30:3f; Isa 11:12; 56:8; Jer 31:10; Dan 9:25.
- Psalm 147:3 See Job 5:18; Isa 30:26; 61:1; Jer 33:6; Ezek 34:16. Brokenhearted: e.g., those in exile (see Ps 137) and those who returned from exile and attempted to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem (see Neh 2:17-20; 4:1-17).
- Psalm 147:4 See Gen 15:5; Isa 40:26; Bar 3:34f. In this connection, scholars cite the Wisdom of Ahiqar (VIII, 116): “Numerous are the stars of heaven, and no one knows their names.”
- Psalm 147:5 See Ps 48:2; Job 36:22, 26; Isa 40:28; Jer 51:15.
- Psalm 147:6 See Pss 37:9-10; 145:20; 146:9; 1 Sam 2:7f; Job 5:11; Lk 1:52.
- Psalm 147:7 God is owed praise because he is the Great King over his creation, sustaining all that he has made, both the creatures in the heavens and the creatures on earth. He wants people to trust in him rather than in themselves.
- Psalm 147:8 See Pss 104:10-14, 27f; Job 5:9f; Jer 14:22; Joel 2:23.
- Psalm 147:9 See Job 38:41; Mt 6:26. When they call: the Lord feeds the birds, especially the ravens, whose cawing resembles a call for food (see Mt 6:26-30).
- Psalm 147:10 Arrogant reliance on one’s own natural ability is both futile (see Am 2:14f) and displeasing to God, who comes to the aid of those who trust only in him (see Pss 20:8f; 33:16-18; Eccl 9:11; Mal 3:16f). Kindness: see note on Ps 6:5.
- Psalm 147:12 The psalmist stresses that God is to be praised because he has brought about restoration, security, peace, and prosperity, for he alone commands the forces of nature.
- Psalm 147:13 See Pss 48:14; 128:5; Isa 65:18f; Jer 33:10f.
- Psalm 147:14 See Ps 81:17 and note; Lev 26:6.
- Psalm 147:16 See Job 37:6, 10.
- Psalm 147:17 See Job 6:16; 37:10; 38:22.
- Psalm 147:19 Finally, God is to be praised because he has given his people his word of revelation, making known his saving plan (see Ps 50:16f; Deut 33:3f; Neh 8; Eph 3:10f), which he has done for no other people (see Deut 4:7f; Acts 14:16).