Psalm 113-118: The Hallel and the Passover

JeffAs we prepare ourselves for the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread, I want to focus your attention the group of Psalms that are called “The Egyptian Hallel.” The phrase “Hallelu Yah” — praise the Lord — shows up frequently in these Psalms. That is why they are nicknamed “the Hallel.” These are the Psalms that Jews in New Testament times commonly sang during the Passover seder and we see in the Scriptures that Yeshua and the Apostles sang “The Egyptian Hallel” with Him for the last time before His death.

Psalm 118 is quoted a number of times in the Apostolic Scriptures, and several times in the Gospels as well. One key quote was recorded during the Triumphal Entry of Yeshua into Yerushalayim on Lamb Selection Day before His death on Pesakh:

“On the next day the large crowd who had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.'” (John 12:12-13)

This is actually a direct quote from Psa. 118:26. The sages of Israel recognized that Psalms 113-118 — called “the Hallel” — were apropos for 18 days of the year: Pesakh and the seven days of Unleavened Bread, Shavuot/Pentecost, seven days of Sukkot/Tabernacles and Shmeni Atzeret/The Eighth Day and Chanukah. Pilgrims would sing it on the way to Yerushalayim for Lamb Selection Day, the 10th day of the first month of God’s calendar.

In the first century AD, the priests would chant the Hallel during the sacrifice of the Paschal lambs in the Temple. 

This Hallel, particularly Psalms 113-114, is also called the “Egyptian Hallel” to distinguish it from the “Great Hallel” in Psalms 120-135, also called the Psalms of Ascent because they are recited during Sukkot. Interestingly, Psalm 119, with its focus on the beauty of the law of God, is sandwiched between. 

The family celebration of Pesakh was a relatively simple affair in the first century: roasted lamb, unleavened bread, bitter herbs and four cups of wine. After the fourth cup, which is called the cup of rest, the family would read or sing “a hymn,” which is usually Psalms 115-118. What is God saving us from and giving us rest from? What kind of slavery is He redeeming us from? Man may be free but they are in chains. When they live in unrestrained “freedom” we are in bondage. 

We see three groups singled out in this Hallel: Israel, Aaron and “those who fear God.” Aren’t the people in the “those who fear God” be in the first group? Maybe they haven’t been adopted yet. Those who “fear God” are the Gentiles who were actually more receptive to God’s Messiah than those who He called His own. 

The sages understood that Psalm 118, which is the culmination of the “Egyptian Hallel” was about the Messiah. Alfred Eldersheim notes how the sages found five themes in the Hallel that fit with Pesakh: “According to the Talmud, the Hallel recorded five things, the coming out of Egypt, the dividing of the sea, the giving of the law, the resurrection of the dead and the lot of the Messiah.” 

These themes fit perfectly with Yeshua’s presence in the Temple on Lamb Selection Day, His death on Pesakh and resurrection on First Fruits. 

We will go through each of these Psalms. The phrase “Hallelu Yah” — praise the Lord — shows up frequently in these Psalms. That is why they are nicknamed “the Hallel.”

We look forward to singing an addendum to the Hallel at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb as foretold in Rev. 19:1-9. The words that a number of Bible translations put in all caps actually are quotes from the TaNaKh (Torah, Prophets and Writings, i.e. the Hebrew scriptures): Psa. 19:9, Deut. 32:42-43 and Isa. 34:8-10. 

Speaker: Jeff. Summary: Tammy.

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