The Servantsí Song
The First Egyptian Hallel
An EasyEnglish Translation with Notes (about 1200 word vocabulary) on Psalm 113
Words in boxes are from the Bible. Words in brackets, ( ), are not in the *Hebrew Bible.
The notes explain some of the words with a *star by them. A word list at the end explains the other words that have a *star by them.
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And when Jesus and his friends had sung a psalm, they went out to the *Mount of Olives (Mark 14:26). (The *Mount of Olives was a small hill near Jerusalem.)
We do not know who wrote Psalm 113. Some Bible students think that it was Moses. Other students think that it was David. But it is a special psalm for the *Jews at Passover, and for Christians at *Easter. Christians remember the time when Jesus died and became alive again at *Easter.
The *Jews have a special meal that they call "The Passover". In it, they remember that God saved them from Egypt many years ago. You can read about it in Exodus 12. The Passover is a meal that *Jewish families eat at home. They did it when Moses was alive. They did it until Jesus came to the earth. And they still do it. They do it when they can see a whole moon at the end of March or the beginning of April. Some Christians have *Easter then. Other Christians have it a month later.
Before the meal, they sing Psalms 113 and 114; after it, they sing Psalms 115, 116, 117 and 118. In the *Jewish Bible, these numbers are 112-117. (This is because Psalms 9 and 10 are just one psalm in the *Jewish Bible. Near the end, one of our Christian psalms becomes two in the *Jewish Bible, so both Bibles have 150 psalms!)
The *Jews called these 6 psalms "the Egyptian hallel". "Hallel" is a Hebrew word that means "*praise" or "say something or someone is very great". When that someone is the *LORD God, then the word becomes "*hallelujah". This means "the *LORD is very great". We translate the Hebrew word "Jah", or "Jahweh" as *LORD. It is a special name for God that his servants use. It means that God will love them and send them help. He will do this if they love and obey him. Because God and his servants agree to do this, *LORD is the "agreeing" name for God. A better word for "agreeing" is "*covenant". Hebrew is the language that the *Jews used for most of their Bible.
Bible students call these 6 psalms "the Egyptian hallel" for three reasons:
∑ the *Jews use them when they remember how God saved them from Egypt;
∑ Psalm 114:1 says, "When Israel came out from Egypt";
∑ each psalm has the Hebrew word "hallel" in it.
We have put Mark 14:26 at the top of this psalm. This tells us that Jesus and his friends sang a psalm just before he died. Maybe it was Psalm 113! The *Jews also use these 6 psalms at Pentecost (50 days after Passover) and The *Feast of Tree Houses (in the Autumn). Read the notes in Psalm 118 in this set of psalms. They explain "The *Feast of Tree Houses"
The psalm is in three clear parts:
∑ verses 1 - 3: the servants of the *LORD must *praise and *bless him;
∑ verses 4 - 6: they must do this because he is so very great and important;
∑ verses 7 - 9: but he will still give help to the people that need help.
In verse 1, the word "hallel" (or halel) comes 3 times. The first time is "*hallelujah". It means that "the *LORD is very great", or in other words, "*praise the *LORD". Then the *psalmist tells the servants of the *LORD to *praise him. The *psalmist is the person that wrote the psalm. When he wrote the psalm, these servants were all *Jews. Now they come from any country in the world! The last time we read "the name of the *LORD". The name tells us all about the *LORD. Every Hebrew name for God means something different. The names tell us about him! The name *LORD tells us that he is the *covenant God. In verse 2, "*bless" does not mean the same in Hebrew as "*praise". When God *blesses people, he gives them many things. When people *bless God, they give him all that they have. This includes *praising God. In verse 3, some Bible students translate it, "from when the sun rises to when it goes down". This means "*praise God all day!" Our translation means "*praise God in every part of the world!" It is right to do both of these things.
A nation, in verse 4, is a country with a government. The *LORD is king (or rules) over every nation. Sometimes it does not seem as if he does. But we must believe that it is true! God has something that we call "*glory". It means that he shines more than anything else in the earth or sky. There is nobody as great as he is. Somewhere he sits on a *throne, (verse 5). A *throne is a special seat that a king sits on. This *throne is in *heaven. But we do not know where *heaven is. It is so high above us, that God has to bend down to see us, (verse 6).
But God can see us. And he does give us help. Verses 7-9 tell us some of the things that the *LORD God does. Verse 7 is a good example of Hebrew poetry. Poetry is a special way to use words. Here, both parts of the verse mean the same. "He lifts up poor people from the ground" means the same as "he raises up people that need help, from the ashes". These poor people that need help are people with nothing: no home, no money, no food. It is as if they were part of the ground, or the ashes from a fire. They can hope for nothing. But the *LORD can do something for them! And there are many people who will say, "He has, he did something for me!" When we pray, the *LORD is the God who likes to say "Yes!" When he answers us, we feel like *princes (the sons of kings) or princesses (daughters of kings). He even lets barren women have children. "Barren" means "cannot have a child". There are stories about this in 1 Samuel 1 and Luke 1. Also, many people today can say the same thing. So the psalm ends as it began: *Hallelujah! Tell the *LORD that he is very, very great!
This psalm is important to many Christians at *Easter. This is because they see God saving Israel from Egypt as a picture. It is like a picture of Jesus saving people from death. God is king somewhere very high above us. We call it *heaven. But from *heaven God saw people as poor and needing help. So God came down to earth from *heaven. He was born as baby Jesus in Bethlehem. But 33 years later men killed him. When Jesus died, God *punished (or hurt) him for our *sin. *Sin is the bad things that we do. We do them when we do not obey Godís rules. It makes us separate from God. God said that men and women would die because of their *sin. But Jesus died for us! So when our bodies die, part of us can stay alive with God in *heaven. But we must tell God that we are sorry for our *sin. We must also ask God to *forgive us. *Forgive means that GOD will not remember our *sin any more. God gives our *sin to Jesus for us when he *forgives us! It is after God *forgives us that he becomes our own *covenant God, our own *LORD.
1. Ask God to *forgive you, and make him your *covenant *LORD.
2. Read Luke 1:46-55. Does it make you think about anything in Psalm 113?
3. We call Jesus "the suffering servant" (it means "the servant that suffers"; "suffers" means "is hurting". We hurt when someone hits us, or says bad things to us.) The *prophet Isaiah wrote about the suffering servant. Here is part of his book. Read it and think of Jesus, as the man from Ethiopia did in Acts 8.
barren ~ a woman who cannot have children.
bless ~ say good things, or do good things, to someone.
covenant ~ two people have agreed what each should do (here, God and his people). Look in Psalm 120 about the covenant.
criminal ~ someone who has not obeyed the rules of a country.
Easter ~ Christians remember when Jesus died and became alive again at Easter.
feast ~ a meal with much to eat and drink; a party.
forgive ~ take away the results of *sin. (But look in the notes on Psalm 85:2.)
glory ~ something that shines very much. God has glory because his *righteousness shines from inside him.
grave ~ a hole in the ground where they bury dead bodies.
hallelujah ~ say that the *LORD is great. (Jah is *Hebrew for *LORD.)
heaven ~ the home of God.
Hebrew ~ the language that the Jews spoke; they wrote the Psalms in Hebrew.
Jew ~ a person who is born from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their children.
Jewish ~ a word that describes a *Jew or anything to do with a *Jew.
lamb ~ a young sheep.
LORD ~ the *covenant name for God (in a *covenant you agree with someone).
Mount ~ a short word for mountain; small mountain.
nation ~ people who live together in the same country.
peace ~ when there is no fighting with God or with people; when there is no war and everybody is happy.
praise ~ to say how great someone is; or, words that say how great someone is.
prince ~ son of a king.
prophesy ~ tell people what God thinks and will do.
prophet ~ someone who *prophesies.
psalmist ~ the person that wrote a psalm (or psalms).
punish ~ hurt someone because they have not obeyed the rules.
righteous ~ very good (only God is really righteous). God says that the people who love and obey him are righteous. Sometimes we say they are "the righteous", meaning "righteous people". Look after Psalm 5 in Book 1 of the Psalms of David for more about the word "righteous".
righteousness ~ what you have when you are *righteous.
root ~ the part of a plant that is in the ground.
sin ~ not obeying God; or what you do when you do not obey God.
suffer ~ have much pain.
throne ~ a special seat that a king sits on.
wander ~ walk from place to place.
wound ~ mark on the body. Someone hit it or cut it.
© 1999-2002, Wycliffe Associates (UK)
This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level A (1200 words).
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