Biblical Commentary
(Bible study)

Psalm 145



A praise psalm by David.

This is the last psalm to be ascribed to David.  From beginning to end, it emphasizes praising Yahweh.  The Hebrew title for this psalm is tehillim (Praises).

Scholars have raised questions about the Davidic authorship of some psalms attributed to him.  Two psalms attributed to David mention “Your holy temple (5:7) or “Your temple (68:27), using the Hebrew word hekal, which means temple or palace.  When speaking of Yahweh’s dwelling place, hekal means temple.  The temple, of course, didn’t exist during David’s lifetime, but was built by his son, Solomon, after David’s death.  While hekal could refer to the tabernacle (which did exist during David’s lifetime), the usual Hebrew word for the tabernacle was miskan.

Also, the word le, which is usually translated “of” in the phrase “a psalm of David,” has other possible meanings.  For instance, “A psalm of David” could mean a psalm concerning David (but written by someone else).


Hebrew poetry follows different forms (parallelism, dirges, acrostics, etc.), as does poetry in the English language (sonnet, narrative, epic, free verse, etc.).  This poem follows the acrostic model in which each verse begins with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  From A to Z this is a hymn of praise.

To appreciate the difficulty posed by the acrostic model, consider how difficult you would find it to compose a 26 verse poem with each verse starting with the next letter of the alphabet from A to Z.

Many scholars consider this psalm to be post-exilic (written after the Babylonian Exile), although that is far from certain.


1 I will exalt you, my God, the King.
I will praise your name forever and ever.

2 Every day I will praise you.
I will extol your name forever and ever.

3 Great is Yahweh, and greatly to be praised!
His greatness is unsearchable.

“I will exalt (Hebrew:  rum) you, my God, the King” (vv. 1a).   The word rum (extol) means to raise or lift up or exalt.

The psalmist speaks of Yahweh not only as God but as King.  The psalms often ascribe kingship to Yahweh (Psalms 5:2; 24:7, 9; 29:10; 44:4; 47:2; 68:24; 74:12; 84:3; 93:1-2; 95:3; 96:10; 97:1; 99:1-4), as do the prophets (Isaiah 6:5; 33:22; 43:15; 44:6; Jeremiah 8:19; 10:7, 10; 46:18; 48:15; 51:57; Ezekiel 20:33; Zechariah 14:9, 16-17; Malachi 1:14).

But early in Israel’s history, the Israelites responded to the wrongdoing of the prophet Samuel’s sons by saying, “Behold, you are old, and your sons don’t walk in your ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations” (1 Samuel 8:5).  When Samuel asked Yahweh for guidance, Yahweh replied, “Listen to the voice of the people in all that they tell you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me, that I should not be king over them” (1 Samuel 8:7).

Samuel warned the people that a human king would oppress them.  “But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; and they said, ‘No; but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles”  (1 Samuel 8:11-20).  Saul became their first king (1 Samuel 10-11).

I will praise (Hebrew:  barak) your name forever and ever” (vv. 1b).   The word barak (praise or bless) is closely related to berak (kneel) and berek (knee).  When the psalmist says that he will praise Yahweh, the word barak suggests that he will kneel in homage to Yahweh as a demonstration of reverence and an expression of praise.

Every day I will praise (barak) you.  I will extol (Hebrew:  halal) your name forever and ever” (v. 2).   The word halal means praise, commend, or boast.  The NRSV uses praise to translate halal in this verse.  Extol means to praise enthusiastically, so that is also a good translation.

Thus far, the psalmist has used three words to express his intent to praise Yahweh:

  • rum (exalt, v. 1)
  • barak (praise, vv. 1b, 2)
  • halal (extol or praise, v. 2).

This not only reflects his reverence toward Yahweh, but also demonstrates his skill with words.  The psalmist is a poet, and thus words with poetic facility.

“Great (Hebrew: gadol) is Yahweh, and greatly to be praised!  His greatness is unsearchable” (v. 3).  The word gadol means great or important or mighty.  God’s greatness is evidenced by:

  • His mighty works (vv. 4-7; 10-13a)
  • His compassion and mercy (vv. 8-9)
  • His faithfulness (vv. 13b-16)
  • His righteousness (vv. 17-20).

Yahweh’s greatness is unsearchable.  Humans can think about it and probe into it, but will never do more than scratch the surface.  For a human to comprehend the totality of Yahweh’s greatness would be like a toddler fully comprehending the complexity of a jet engine.


4 One generation will commend your works to another,
and will declare your mighty acts.

5 Of the glorious majesty of your honor,
of your wondrous works, I will meditate.

6 Men will speak of the might of your awesome acts.
I will declare your greatness.

7 They will utter the memory of your great goodness,
and will sing of your righteousness.

“One generation will commend (Hebrew:  sabah) your works to another, and will declare your mighty acts” (v. 4).  The word sabah means to soothe or praise.  The latter meaning (praise) fits in this verse.  In the comments on verse 2 (above), I commented that the psalmist had used several Greek words that mean praise.  Sabah is another one.

The psalmist is saying that one generation’s praise will inform the next generation of Yahweh’s works.  That is still true.  The faith of one generation plants the seeds of faith in the next generation.  Someone has said, “We are always one generation away from a people who have no faith.”  That comment helps us to appreciate the importance of our witness to the next generation.

Of the glorious majesty (Hebrew:  kabod hod) of your honor (Hebrew:  hadar), of your wondrous works (Hebrew: ma‘aseh), I will meditate” (v. 5).   Once again, the psalmist exercises his poetic skills to use different Hebrew words to express the same thing.  The word hod means authority or majesty, and hadar means glory, splendor, or majesty.

The things that inspire the psalmist to speak of Yahweh’s majesty are his “wondrous works” (Hebrew: ma‘aseh).  The word ma‘aseh means works or deeds.  The psalmist is expressing his awe at Yahweh’s wondrous works, which reveal many facets of Yahweh to those who approach him in faith.  As the psalmist says elsewhere, “The heavens declare the glory of God. The expanse (sky) shows his handiwork” Psalm 19:1).

Yahweh’s wondrous works include the creation:  The heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1)––light (1:3)––day and night (1:4-5)––the sky (1:6-8)––the waters and the dry land (1:9-10)––grass, herbs, and fruit trees (1:11-13)––the great lights in the sky that rule the day and the night (1:14-19)––swarms of living creatures (1:20-25)––and humans, created in God’s image (1:26-27).

We still stand in awe of Yahweh’s wondrous works.  Whether studying the far reaches of the heavens or the sub-microscopic particles that make up an atom, we keep finding wonders that people couldn’t have imagined even a generation ago.

The power of Yahweh’s wondrous works is such that Yahweh had to warn the Israelites not to worship them (Deuteronomy 4:16-19).  Yahweh is the creator.  His works, however wondrous, are merely the created order.

Yahweh’s wondrous works also include the many ways that he acts in our behalf.  He promised to make a great nation of Abram, and he did.  He raised up Moses and enabled him to lead Israel out of bondage in Egypt.  He led Israel through forty years of wandering in the wilderness, and made it possible for the Israelites to enter the Promised Land.  The list goes on and on.

And God is still doing it.  I have often prayed that God would save me, and he has often done so––often in ways that surprised me.  God is still at work in our world.  The sun never sets on his wondrous works.

“Men will speak of the might of your awesome acts.  I will declare your greatness.  They will utter the memory of your great goodness, (Hebrew:  tob) and will sing of your righteousness” (Hebrew:  sedaqah) (vv. 6-7).   Keep in mind that the psalms are poetry set to music.  These verses make me wonder if they were intended for antiphonal singing––the first and third lines to be sung by a choir and the second and fourth lines by a soloist.

The first time we encountered the word tob (good or goodness) was in the creation account.  “God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good” (tob) (Genesis 1:31).  We won’t stray far from the mark if we say that “good” in that account meant pleasing, proper, and as it should be.  The psalmist says that Yahweh possesses those same virtues––in great quantity.

The psalmist also says that Yahweh is sedaqah––a word that means righteous, blameless, and just.  Righteousness is one of the defining attributes of Yahweh’s character.  The people can be certain that Yahweh will be righteous and blameless in his dealings with them––that he will judge them fairly.

Yahweh’s righteousness is reflected in his covenant faithfulness.  He chose Israel and then remained in steadfast relationship with Israel through thick and thin.  Israel gave Yahweh ever so many reasons to cut the strings that bound him to them, but he never did.  He allowed them to suffer defeat and exile, but he never abandoned them.  Israel’s every setback was for the purpose of their eventual redemption.  Yahweh saves those who trust him.


8 Yahweh is gracious, merciful,
slow to anger, and of great loving kindness.

9 Yahweh is good to all.
His tender mercies are over all his works.

“Yahweh is gracious (Hebrew:  hannun), merciful, (Hebrew:  rahum)  (v. 8a).  The word hannum means gracious or merciful, and rahum means compassionate or merciful or forgiving.  The two words are roughly synonymous, and are often used together to describe God (2 Chronicles 30:9; Nehemiah 9:17, 31; Psalm 111:4; 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2).

“slow (Hebrew:  ‘arek) to anger” (Hebrew:  ‘ap) (v. 8b).  The word ‘ap means nose, nostril, or anger.  That seems peculiar.  What do noses have to do with anger?  Two common phrases come to mind that might provide a clue.  The first is “flared nostrils,” which can be a sign of intense anger––the kind of anger that could lead to violence.  The second is “his nose is out of joint,” which means that he is disturbed or angry or holding a grudge.

But the psalmist doesn’t describe Yahweh as angry, but instead says that he is “slow (Hebrew: ‘arek) to anger.”  The word ‘arek is often used with regard to feelings, and suggests patience and what we might call “a slow fuse.”

In times past, “a slow fuse” would have allowed the person lighting it plenty of time to escape before the explosion.  Today, electricians use “a slow fuse” to describe a fuse engineered to survive a quick power surge without breaking the circuit.  In both cases, “a slow fuse” suggests a grace period to prevent someone suffering from hasty action.

Yahweh is patient.  He has a slow fuse.  People give him plenty of cause to impose punishment, but he often withholds his judgment to give them opportunity to repent––to turn––to return––to change.  The prophet Joel pictures that clearly, saying that Yahweh pleads:

“Turn to me with all your heart….
Turn to Yahweh, your God;
for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger,
and abundant in loving kindness,
and relents from sending calamity” (Joel 2:12-13).

But we would be foolish to allow Yahweh’s patience to lull us into complacency.  He warned Israel to execute justice, “lest my wrath go forth like fire, and burn so that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings” (Jeremiah 21:12).  Both Old and New Testaments give numerous examples of God imposing severe, sometimes lethal, punishment for sins (Deuteronomy 11:17; 29:24-28; Nehemiah 13:18; Acts 17:30-32; Revelation 14:6-11).

 “and of great loving kindness” (Hebrew:  hesed) (v. 8b).  The word hesed has a rich variety of meanings––kindness, lovingkindness, mercy, goodness, faithfulness, or love.  Each of these meanings indicate a kindly and positive attitude toward the beloved.

“Yahweh is good (Hebrew: tob) to all” (v. 9a).  For the meaning of tob, see the comments on verse 6 above.

“His tender mercies (Hebrew:  raham) are over all his works” (Hebrew:  ma‘aseh) (v. 9).   Raham, when singular, means womb.  When plural, it means compassion or mercy.  The connection of this word with the womb gives us a picture of a mother’s tender affection for her child––her willingness to show mercy when her husband might not be so inclined––her willingness to help her errant child back to the right path.

For the meaning of ma‘aseh, see the comments on verse 5 above.


10 All your works will give thanks to you, Yahweh.
Your saints will extol you.

11 They will speak of the glory of your kingdom,
and talk about your power;

12 to make known to the sons of men his mighty acts,
the glory of the majesty of his kingdom.

13a Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom.
Your dominion endures throughout all generations.

“All your works  (Hebrew:  ma‘aseh) will give thanks to you, Yahweh” (v. 10a).  See the comments on verse 5 above.

“Your saints (Hebrew: hasid) will extol (Hebrew: barak) you” (v. 10b).  Hasid means kind, merciful, or pious––i.e., those whose lives manifest their deep faith in Yahweh––those who have determined to allow Yahweh and Yahweh’s law to shape their lives.

For the meaning of barak (extol), see the comments on verse 1b (above).

“They will speak of the glory (Hebrew:  kabod) of your kingdom, (Hebrew: malkut)

and talk about your power; (Hebrew:  geburah) (v. 11).  The word “glory” (kabod) is used in the Bible to speak of various wonderful things––but especially God’s glory––an aura associated with God’s appearance that reveals God’s majesty to humans.

The psalmist says that the saints (hasid) will proclaim “the glory of Yahweh’s kingdom” (malkut).  The word malkut means royalty or that which involves royalty, such as a kingdom––a realm over which a king reigns.

This is the only verse where the psalmist uses the phrase “the glory of (Yahweh’s) kingdom.”  He often speaks of “the glory of (Yahweh’s) name” (Psalm 29:2; 66:2; 72:19; 96:8; 105:3; 115:1; 148:13).  However, both Yahweh’s kingdom and his name are intrinsically tied to his identity and his character.  Both Yahweh’s kingdom and his name ascribe glory to him––and give us a glimpse into the nature of his being.

The saints will also proclaim Yahweh’s “power” (geburah).  The word geburah means strength, power, might, and mighty deeds.  Yahweh’s power is more than passive––he puts it to use to accomplish his works.  See the comments on verse 5 above.

to make known to the sons of men (Hebrew: bene ‘adam) his mighty acts (Hebrew:  geburah), the glory of the majesty of his kingdom” (v. 12).   The word geburah was translated “power” in verse 11.  It is now translated “mighty acts.”  Both are legitimate translations.

The saints (v. 10b) have a purpose in speaking of the glory of Yahweh’s kingdom.  That purpose is to make Yahweh known to the sons (bene) of men (‘adam)––a phrase meaning all people.

We need to distinguish the plural bene ‘adam (sons of man) from the singular ben ‘adam (son of man)––which can mean a man or a human being.  However, the book of Daniel mentions “one like a son of man” (Daniel 7:13) that has generated a great deal of scholarly speculation as to its meaning––because Jesus’ favorite title for himself was “Son of Man” (Matthew 8:20, 9:6; 10:13; 11:19; etc.).

“Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom.  Your dominion endures throughout all generations” (v. 13a).  One distinguishing characteristic of Yahweh’s kingdom is that it goes on and on forever––”throughout all generations.”

That is different from the reign of earthly kings, who reign until they die or are deposed.  To acknowledge that fact, we greet new kings by saying, “The King is dead! Long live the King!”––declaring that, although one king has died, a new king has arisen in his place.

In fact, not only are earthly kings transient, but the same is true for kingdoms.  The Romans once ruled the world, but Rome ceased to be the center of the earth centuries ago.  The Greeks once reigned as the intellectual kings, but today can hardly manage their own economy.  The British once ruled over an empire on which the sun never set, but lost much of the empire after World War II.  The United States became the world’s leading superpower after World War II, but China now threatens to take the reins.  The circumstances of many nations wax and wane depending on a host of factors––one of the most important being the person whom they choose as ruler.

But Yahweh’s kingdom is eternal.


13b Yahweh is faithful in all his words,
and loving in all his deeds.

14 Yahweh upholds all who fall,
and raises up all those who are bowed down.

15 The eyes of all wait for you.
You give them their food in due season.

16 You open your hand,
and satisfy the desire of every living thing.

“Yahweh is faithful in all his words, and loving in all his deeds” (v. 13b).  Several sources omit this portion of verse 13, and I could not find the Hebrew for it.  Some commentaries deal with it briefly, so I will do the same.

We often use the phrase “words and deeds” to mean the totality of a person’s life.  We have deep respect for people who honor their words––who abide by their promises.  We also reserve deep respect for “doers”––people who actually get things done.

The psalmist says that “Yahweh is faithful in all his words”––that he says what he is going to do, and then he does what he said he would do.  We can depend on him.

The psalmist doesn’t describe Yahweh as a great “doer” of deeds in this verse (but see the comments on verse 5 above).  Instead, he proclaims that Yahweh is “loving in all his deeds.”  A “doer” who acts in love takes the significance of his/her work to the next level.  Love in action is a beautiful thing.

“Yahweh upholds (Hebrew: samak) all who fall, and raises up all those who are bowed down” (v. 14).  In this context, samak means to uphold or sustain.  It conveys the idea of support.  Most translations prefer “uphold,” because that fits best with “fall” in this line and “raises up” in the next.

The point is that Yahweh helps those who fall to get to their feet  He restores them––makes it possible for them to stand again.

Fallen, of course, can have many meanings:  In this case, it certainly means spiritually fallen––sinful––in need of mercy.  It also applies to people who are in any sort of distress:  Illness, injury, the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, financial setback, divorce, humiliation, etc., etc.

By coincidence, I am in a good position to appreciate the importance of someone to help the fallen.  Earlier this week, after leaving a fitness center, I misjudged a curb, stepping on it the wrong way.  That pitched me forward so that I fell in the street––my keys shooting off to my left and my earphones to my right.  The fall injured my arm and leg, both of which were buffered by clothing.  Most especially, the fall injured my forehead, which impacted the pavement with no buffering.  I tried to get up, but was dazed by the fall.

I saw a person on the other side of the street looking at me, but she moved on without helping.  I saw a man looking my way, but he offered no assistance.  If either of those people had helped me get to my feet, it would have meant a great deal.  That experience gave me a greater appreciation for Good Samaritans.  It also helped me to recognize the significance of a God who helps fallen people––fallen for whatever reason.

“The eyes of all wait (Hebrew:  sabar) for you” (v. 15a).  The word sabar means to look or wait expectantly.  The psalmist portrays an image of eyes looking to Yahweh––waiting expectantly––hoping to receive a blessing.

As we will see in the next verse, the psalmist intends “all eyes” to mean the eyes “of every living thing.”

“You give them their food in due season” (v. 15b).  Yahweh responds to those who look to him by giving them “food in due season”––at the proper time

“You open your hand” (v. 16a).  When the psalmist speaks of Yahweh opening his hand to satisfy needs, Yahweh’s open hand symbolizes his generosity.

“and satisfy the desire of every living thing” (v. 16b).  This reminds us of Jesus’ statement, “Ask, and it will be given you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives. He who seeks finds. To him who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8).

I think of this as hyperbole (an exaggerated statement not intended to be taken literally)­.  Otherwise, we are faced with the conflict between this statement and the fact of unsatisfied desires.


17 Yahweh is righteous in all his ways,
and gracious in all his works.

18 Yahweh is near to all those who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.

19 He will fulfill the desire of those who fear him.
He also will hear their cry, and will save them.

20 Yahweh preserves all those who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy.

“Yahweh is righteous in all his ways” (v. 17a).  For Yahweh’s righteousness, see the comments on verse 7 above.

“and gracious (Hebrew:  hasid) in all his works” (v. 17b).  The word hasid means kind, merciful, pious, and gracious.  In verses 10-11 (above) it is translated “saints”––i.e., people who are kind and merciful as a way of honoring their faith in Yahweh.

But here the psalmist emphasizes Yahweh’s kindness, mercy, and graciousness “in all his works.”  For more about Yahweh’s works, see the comments on verse 5 above.

“Yahweh is near to all those who call on him” (v. 18a).  Having nearby help is a special blessing.  Distant help usually provides only the illusion of help.

“to all who call on him in truth” (Hebrew:  ’emet) (v. 18b).  Truth (emet) is that which is real, dependable, stable––that which a person can count on.  Yahweh’s words are truth (Psalms 31:5; 119:160), and Yahweh “desire truth in the inward parts” (Psalm 51:6).

To call on Yahweh in truth requires coming to him in faith––bringing a faithful and/or repentant spirit––looking for something more than relief from the current problem.  It involves entering into a covenant relationship with Yahweh where we ask him to save us––and pledge to obey him.

“He will fulfill (Hebrew:  ‘asah) the desire (Hebrew: rason) of those who fear (Hebrew: yare) him” (v. 19a).

  • The verb ‘asah (fulfill) means to do or make.
  • The noun rason (desire) means pleasure, delight, or favor.
  • The verb yare (fear) means fear, awe, or reverence.

The psalmist is saying that Yahweh will help those who fear him to achieve the desires of their hearts.  That is, in part, because fear of or reverence for Yahweh makes a person receptive to Godly wisdom (Proverbs 1:7; 9:10).  That will result in obeying Yahweh and observing his commandments (Deuteronomy 6:13; 28:58).  It will also convey the kind of understanding that will enable a person to make good decisions and to avoid bad consequences (Proverbs 9:10).

In other words, reverence for the Lord will lead to behaviors that will make it more likely that the person will succeed rather than fail.

But there is something more in this verse as well.  Yahweh has all power at his disposal, and confers blessings on us beyond anything that we have earned or deserved.

“He also will hear their cry, and will save them” (v. 19b).  This is the point.  Yahweh is near to those who call on him in truth (v. 18b) and hears and acts to save them.  He might save them from their enemies.  He might save them from illness.  He might usher them into heaven.  The salvation they need is the salvation he will provide.

“Yahweh preserves (Hebrew: samar) all those who love him” (v. 20a).   The verb samar means to watch or preserve or guard.  The image that comes to mind is a guard in a combat zone whose vigilance can make the difference between life and death for the other members of the unit.

But the psalmist is not talking about a human guard, who might or might not detect danger in time to save his/her friends.  The psalmist is talking about Yahweh, who knows all and sees all.  The promise is that Yahweh will guard the lives of those who love him.

“but all the wicked (Hebrew:  rasa) he will destroy” (v. 20b).  The adjective rasa means wicked or guilty.   This half of the verse stands in stark contrast to the first half, where Yahweh preserves those who love him.  Now we learn that he will destroy those who are wicked or guilty.

That poses a problem.  The Apostle Paul tells us, “All have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  We don’t need him to tell us that we have done things for which we are deservedly ashamed––we know that.  If that is true, how can we hope that God will save us?

But Paul continues to say that we are “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24).  We are saved, not by our good deeds, but by the action of Christ who took our sin to the cross––and broke the bonds of death with his resurrection.


21 My mouth will speak the praise of Yahweh.
Let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.

“My mouth will speak the praise of Yahweh.
Let all flesh bless (Hebrew:  barak) his holy name forever and ever” (v. 21).   The psalmist began by saying that he would exalt and praise Yahweh (v. 1).  Now he ends his psalm on the same note of praise.

But the psalmist takes it to another level, inviting all flesh to bless (barak) Yahweh’s name forever and ever.  See the comments on verse 1b above for the meaning of barak.

SCRIPTURE QUOTATIONS are from the World English Bible (WEB), a public domain (no copyright) modern English translation of the Holy Bible. The World English Bible is based on the American Standard Version (ASV) of the Bible, the Biblia Hebraica Stutgartensa Old Testament, and the Greek Majority Text New Testament. The ASV, which is also in the public domain due to expired copyrights, was a very good translation, but included many archaic words (hast, shineth, etc.), which the WEB has updated.



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Freedman, David Noel (Ed.), Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2000)

Mounce, William D., (ed.), Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Grand Rapids:  Zondervan, 2006)

Renn, Stephen D., Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words: Word Studies for Key English Bible Words Based on the Hebrew and Greek Texts (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 2005)

Richards, Lawrence O., Encyclopedia of Bible Words (Zondervan, 1985, 1991)

Sakenfeld, Katharine Doob (ed.), The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, 5 vol.  (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2006-2009)

VanGemeren, Willem A. (General Editor), New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis, 5 vol., (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997)

Copyright 2018, Richard Niell Donovan