Hosanna! (Save Us Now!)
An EasyEnglish Translation with Notes (about 1200 word vocabulary) on Psalm 118
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.
The translated Bible text has yet to go through Advanced Checking.
Jesus said, "Did you not read (this) in the Bible? The *builders threw away a stone. It is now in an important place at the corner (of the building). The *Lord has done this. And we think that it is *wonderful" (Matthew 21:42).
The *Jews have a legend. A legend is a story that may or may not be true. The legend is about building the *temple in Jerusalem. The *temple was the house of God. They cut big stones to build the *temple. One stone was the wrong shape and size. They threw it away. Then they needed one that shape and size. They needed it to fix two walls together. So, they found the stone that they threw away. They put it in an important place at the top of the two walls. It fixed the two walls together. As Psalm 118:23 says, "The builders (men who were building) threw away a stone. It is now in an important place at the corner".
The legend makes Bible students think this: the *psalmist wrote Psalm 118 after the *Jews had built something. Perhaps they had just built the *temple, or the walls of Jerusalem. (We call the person that wrote the psalm the *psalmist.) Now Solomon built the *temple in 950 B.C. (B.C. means "years Before Christ came to the earth.) Soldiers from Babylon destroyed it in 586 B.C. The *Jews built it again in 516 B.C. They built the walls round Jerusalem again in 444 B.C.
Bible students think that the date of Psalm 118 is 444 B.C. This is because the *Jews had a special *feast (big party) in 444 B.C. They called it "the *feast of tree houses". This was because they made little houses with branches from trees. They lived in them for a few days in October. This *feast happened every year. But in 444 B.C., it was very important, because they had just built the walls of Jerusalem. The story is in Nehemiah 8:14-18. But why do Bible students think this? They think this because of a strange verse in the psalm, (verse 27). One way to translate the middle of the verse is, "with branches in your hands, go with the people at the *feast".
Psalm 118 is the sixth of the Egyptian Hallels. Read more about them in the notes on Psalm 113 in this set of psalms. It is the last of the Egyptian Hallels. There are more Hallels in Psalms 135 and 136, but they are not Egyptian. "Egyptian" means that they made the *Jews think of what God did in Egypt. He led them from Egypt hundreds of years before. He made them free. But he also led them from Babylon 900 years later. He made them free again. So the psalm starts, "Thank the *LORD because he is good". *LORD is a special *covenant name for God. A *covenant is when two people (or groups of people) agree. Here, God agrees to love and give help to his people. They agree to love and obey him.
But the psalm continues, "Israel and the house of Aaron and everyone that is afraid of the *LORD must now say, 'His kind love will always be with us'." So, the "I" and the "me" in verses 5-28 is not one person. It is all the people of Israel, and the house of Aaron, and the people that are afraid of the *LORD. Psalm 116 is about one person in trouble. He prayed to God, and then could say "He saved me!" But Psalm 118 is about a whole country in trouble. They prayed "Hosanna now!" and he saved them too. Hosanna is a Hebrew word that means "Save us now!" Hebrew is the language that the *Jews spoke. But we can all read Psalm 118 for ourselves, even if it was for all the people.
So Bible students believe that the *psalmist wrote Psalm 118 for a special "*feast of tree houses" in 444 B.C. The *Jews sang this psalm at every *feast of tree houses after that. They also sang it, and the other Egyptian Hallels, at the Passover. This was the *feast (big party) in March-April when they remembered Egypt. They remembered that God made them free from Egypt. Christians also sing this psalm at Passover. Christians call their passover "*Easter". For Christians the psalm means more than it does for the *Jews. It means that Jesus, not Israel, is the stone that the builders threw away. Builders are people that build things. For Israel, her people became the important "stone" in the history (story) of the world. Israel is still important because of all the trouble round her. But for Christians, Jesus is the important "stone". He causes people of different countries to join together and makes them brothers and sisters. For more about this, study the Bible verses below in "Something to do".
So when we read Psalm 118 we must remember this: it means two different things. It means one thing to *Jews, and something else to Christians. But we must also remember that God made it like this. He wanted what happened to the *Jews to be a picture of what would happen to Jesus. As Jesus is the Christian *Messiah, we call this a messianic psalm.
Verses 1 - 4 tell everybody to thank the *LORD, because he is good. In verse 2, "Israel" means all the people that live in the land of Israel. In verse 3, "the house of Aaron" means the *priests and levites of Israel. *Priests were special servants of God who worked in the *temple at Jerusalem. The levites also worked in the *temple, and in the towns and villages of Israel. The words "kind love" come in all 4 verses. "Kind love" is a special love. In Hebrew, it is "hesed". It is not human love. It is the love that God showed in his *covenant. It is a love that gives help, and never stops.
Verses 5 - 7 tell us what God did to send help to Israel. Remember, "me" and "I" in these verses is not one person. It is the whole country of Israel. Maybe their leader spoke these words for them. In Hebrew, verse 5 says "I was in a small place and I could not get out". This place was like a prison. Maybe it was Egypt, maybe it was Babylon. For Christians, maybe it is a bad habit. A habit is something that you cannot stop doing. The answer is the same for everyone: cry (or pray, maybe out loud) to the *LORD. Tell him that you want to be free. He will make you free. In verse 7, the enemies may be the Egyptians, the Babylonians or the bad habits. For *Jews it may be better to translate verse 7 like this. "The *LORD was with me. He gave me help. So I saw (the *LORD destroy) my enemies". The Hebrew language does not have past, present (now) and future like most of our languages. The important thing is this: verse 7 always was true. It is true now. And it always will be true! The words "the *LORD destroy" are not in the Hebrew Bible. Most translations include them to give us help to understand the verse.
In verses 8 - 9, "*trust" is an important word. It means "believe that someone will give you help". It means a lot more than this, also. It means that if someone promises to do something, then they will do it. You can *trust them (or rely on them) to do it. The psalm teaches us that we can *trust the *LORD more than people. We can even *trust him more than our leaders!
In verses 9 - 13, we read that the enemy was all round Israel. They were "like (a cloud of) bees". Bees are insects that make something sweet and sticky called *honey. Bees can sting you, or give you a sharp pain. Thousand of them live together. Often they fly together in a great cloud or "swarm". To the *psalmist, his enemies seemed like this because there were so many of them. But he destroyed them all! It was like a *thorn-bush burning. The bush becomes dry when it dies, and burns quickly. He destroyed his enemies quickly. He did it "in the name of the *LORD". These are special words. They mean "with everything that the name of the *LORD means". It means that he is great and powerful; it means that he loves his people and gives them help; it means that he will *punish anyone that hurts his people. "*Punish" means "hurt someone because they have done something wrong". So when "the enemy pushed me" then "the *LORD gave me help", (verse 13).
In verse 14, "saved" means two different things. For the *Jews, it means that the *LORD made them safe from their enemies, either Egypt or Babylon. For Christians it means that God will keep them safe after they die. They will go to live with God in his home. We call this home "*heaven".
Verses 14 - 18 tell us that this made the *Jews very happy. They sang psalms, or songs, (verse 14). They shouted how great God was in their tents. A *tent is a small house made from animal skins. Many Bible students think that the people made these tents with tree branches. This is because they sang the psalm at the *feast of tree houses. God had *punished them and hurt them a lot, but they were still alive, (verse 18). God *punished them when he let the Egyptians or Babylonians become their masters.
God did all this with his "right hand", (verses 15-16). The right hand of God is how the Bible describes God doing things on earth.
Bible students think that the *Jews sang Psalm 118 in a special way. The *priests said some verses, then the people coming in to the *temple answered them with other verses. It is not easy to see who said what in verses 1-18. It is easier in verses 19-20. The people coming in said, "Open the gates", (verse 19). The *priests answer from inside the *temple gates, "*Righteous people can go in", (verse 20). The word "*righteous" means "very, very good". Only God is really *righteous, always doing what is right. But he calls his people *righteous also. These are the people that love him. They are the people who *trust him and obey him. For the *Jews, this was the Old *Covenant (or the *Old Testament). For Christians, it is the New *Covenant (or the *New Testament). In verse 19, "gates of the *temple" is "*righteous gates" in the Hebrew Bible. Because God was in the *temple, it was *righteous too. And its gates were *righteous.
Verses 21 - 24 again tell us what God has done. He saved his people, (verse 21). Like the stone that the builders (men who were building) threw away, Israel was now important, (verse 22). The *LORD did something *wonderful, or "very great", (verse 23). He did it on "this day", (verse 24). "This day" now means the day when people remember what God did. For *Jews it is one of their *feasts, Passover, Pentecost or Tree Houses. For Christians, it is Sunday because Jesus rose from the dead on a Sunday.
Verses 25 - 29 finish the psalm. Verses 25 and 26 give us another example of the people and the *priests talking to each other. The people say, "*LORD, save us and make us do very well". The *priests *bless the people from inside the *temple. "*Bless" is a special word in the Bible. In the beginning it meant, "Have many children. Your animals have many young animals. Your plants grow big and strong". Later it meant "everything that you do will have a good result". The word "*bless" does not mean "be happy". But if everything you do has a good result, then you will be very happy! "*Blessed" describes the person that God *blesses.
Verse 27 is difficult to translate. This is because nobody is sure what the word that we translated "branches" means. Some Bible students think that it means "tie up". They translate the verse, "Tie the animal you are going to offer to God to the horns of the *altar". The horns were special parts of the *altar. The *priests killed animals on the *altar and burned them there. They believed that this made God happy. Nobody does this now, neither Christians nor *Jews.
1. Ask God to save you. This means he will give you help in this life. And he will keep you safe when you die. But remember this: When he saves you, you make a *covenant with him. You agree to love him and obey him. You agree to be his servant. He agrees to love you and make you safe.
2. If you have a *New Testament, study what it says about Psalm 118. Read Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10-11; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11 and 1 Peter 2:7.
3. Study also verses from the *Old Testament. Read Nehemiah 8:14-18; Jeremiah 51:26 and Zechariah 4:7.
4. Psalm 118 was the psalm that some great Christians loved best of all the psalms. Examples are Saint Augustine and Martin Luther. Like them, learn to say some of the verses by *heart. "By *heart" means "without looking at the words". Then you will remember the words when God wants to speak to you through them!
altar ~ part of the *temple.
anointed ~ with (*olive) oil poured on.
bees ~ small insects that make a sweet stuff called honey.
bless ~ say good things, or do good things, to someone.
blessed ~ someone that God has said or done good things to.
builders ~ people that build.
covenant ~ two people have agreed what each should do (here, God and his people). Look in Psalm 120 about the covenant.
Easter ~ Christians remember when Jesus died and became alive again at Easter.
feast ~ a meal with much to eat and drink; a party.
heart ~ part of the body. *Jews believed that you thought in your heart.
heaven ~ the home of God.
Hebrew ~ the language that the Jews spoke; they wrote the Psalms in Hebrew.
holy ~ all good with no bad in it; separate from *sin; very, very good; only God is really holy. The land where he lives with his people is also holy. This is because he is there.
honey ~ a special sugar made by insects called bees.
horns of the altar ~ something like a horn on a table in the *temple in Jerusalem.
in the name of the *LORD ~ See notes.
Jew ~ a person who is born from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their children.
kind love ~ See notes.
Lord ~ the *covenant name for God (in a *covenant you agree with someone).
Messiah ~ in the Old Testament, the *anointed king. In the New Testament, Jesus. The word messiah is *Hebrew for *anointed.
nation ~ people who live together in the same country.
New Testament ~ the last part of the Bible, which the writers wrote after the life of Jesus. It is about the things that Jesus did and taught. It is also about what Christians believe and do.
Old Testament ~ the first part of the Bible, which the writers wrote before the life of Jesus; the *holy things that the writers wrote before Christís birth.
olive ~ a fruit.
priest ~ a servant of God in his *temple.
psalmist ~ the person that wrote a psalm (or psalms).
punish ~ hurt someone because they have not obeyed the rules.
right hand ~ See notes.
sin ~ not obeying God; or what you do when you do not obey God.
temple ~ a place where people meet to worship God.
tent ~ a home or building made from animal skins.
thorn ~ sharp, hard point on a plant or bush.
trust ~ believe that someone (usually God in the psalms) will be kind to you.
wonderful ~ great and surprising.
© 1999-2002, Wycliffe Associates (UK)
This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level A (1200 words).
Visit our website: