The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 136

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 13, 2013


THIS psalm is a song of thanksgiving consisting largely of quotations from other passages of Scripture—especially Psalm 135 and Genesis 1. The psalm, as it stands, was obviously employed for liturgical purposes. A temple-choir, or a single chanter, commemorates the mercies of Yahweh towards Israel, and, as each divine favour is recited, the people respond, in litany-fashion, with the refrain: “His goodness endureth for ever.” It would appear from the narrative in 2 Chron 7:3, and from the recurrence of this refrain in other psalms, that the participation of the people in the Temple-liturgy frequently took the form of interpolating the words, “His goodness endureth for ever” between the verses of the songs of praise chanted by the Temple-singers. We have seen extensive use of this refrain in Psalm 118, and we have found it used also in Ps 106:1, Ps 107:1. The Hebrew song of thanksgiving in Sirach 1 shows the same use of the refrain which we have here in Psalm 106. It is possible to suppose that the refrain was not originally a part of Psalm 106, for the verses of this psalm which remain after the removal of the refrain form a self-contained poem. It is now well known that antiphonal chanting, similar to the liturgical use of litanies with us, was extensively employed in Babylonian and Sumerian liturgy, and probably in the liturgies of all the ancient peoples of the Near East.

Psalm 136 was called the “Great Hallel,” and it was prescribed,, according to the Talmud, for the 7th day of the feast of the Pasch.

The theme of Ps 136 is practically the same as that of Ps 135 —the might and mercy of Yahweh as shown in the wonders of nature and the providential guidance of history. Here, however, the great deeds of the Lord are regarded less as tokens of His might than of His mercy, or loving-kindness.


One Response to “Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 136”

  1. […] Father Boylan’s Introduction to Today’s Responsorial (Psalm 136). […]

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