Useful Bible Studies > Songs of Ascent Commentary

Last part: Psalm 134: Something to do


Psalms 135 and 136; and the Songs of Ascent

We have finished our studies of the 15 Psalms with the title ‘Song of Ascent’ (Psalms 120 to 134). But perhaps the series does not finish at the end of the Psalm 134.

There is a connection between Psalms 134, 135, and 136. These three Psalms all begin with the instruction to praise God. But each Psalm uses a different word for ‘praise’.

Sometimes people have called Psalms 120 to 136 by the title ‘the great Hallel’. The word ‘Hallel’ means ‘praise’; these 17 Psalms together form a great song to praise God. (However, note that ‘the great Hallel’ is not the same as ‘the Hallel’. ‘The Hallel’ is a name that people give to another series of Psalms: Psalms 113 to 118. ‘The Hallel’ is especially well-known because the *Jewish people sing it during their sacred holiday called the Passover. After ‘the Hallel’, they sing Psalm 136, the last song in ‘the great Hallel’.)

Here is a possible explanation of the connection between Psalms 135 and 136, and the Songs of Ascent:

(1) The Songs of Ascent describe how people came to the temple (God’s house) to *worship God there. It ends with Psalm 134, when the people have reached the temple. So in Psalm 134, the people encourage the priests to praise God.

(2) In Psalm 135, the priests agree that this is the right thing to do (Psalm 135:1-4). So they do it; they praise God. First, they praise him because he created everything (Psalm 135:5-7). Then they praise him because he rescued his people (Psalm 135:8-14). And then they praise him because he is the only real God (Psalm 135:13-18). At the end, the priests encourage all God’s people to praise God too (Psalm 135:19-21). It is not only for the priests to praise God. The families of Levi, who helped the priests, should praise God. In fact, everyone in Israel should praise God. And everyone who respects God should praise him.

(3) After this, everyone present begins to praise God. They use the words of Psalm 136. The priests carry out their special duty to lead the people in their *worship. They taught the people to serve God, and to praise him, as in Nehemiah 8:6. So perhaps the priests sung the beginning of each verse in Psalm 136. And then all the people would reply together with the words, ‘His (God’s) love never ends!’ Or perhaps different groups of priests sung this Psalm; 1 Chronicles 16:41 may refer to this.

And the priests and the people would join to praise God.

Something to do

1. We think that Psalm 136 was a very popular Psalm, because the Bible seems often to refer to it. Read 1 Chronicles 16:34; 1 Chronicles 16:41; 2 Chronicles 5:13; 2 Chronicles 7:3; 2 Chronicles 20:21; Ezra 3:11 and Jeremiah 33:11.

Next part: Word List


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© 2015, Keith Simons.