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112. How Blest Are Those Who Fear the LORD

1 How blest are those who fear the LORD
and greatly love God's holy will.
Their children share their great reward,
and blessings all their days shall fill.

2 Abounding wealth shall bless their home,
their righteousness fore'er endure.
To them shall light arise in gloom,
for they are merciful and pure.

3 The people who befriend the weak
in justice shall their cause maintain.
True peace shall their whole life attend,
and long their memory shall remain.

4 By evil tidings not dismayed,
the righteous trust in God alone.
Their heart is steadfast, unafraid,
for they shall see their foes o'erthrown.

5 Dispersing gifts among the poor,
the righteous for their needs provide.
Their righteousness shall thus endure;
their strength in honor shall abide.

6 The wicked will be brought to shame,
while righteous ones will see the LORD.
Unrighteous hopes will not see gain,
for sin will find its due reward.

Text Information
First Line: How blest are those who fear the LORD
Title: How Blest Are Those Who Fear the LORD
Meter: LM
Language: English
Publication Date: 1987
Topic: Trust in God; Offering; Wisdom
Source: Psalter 1887; rev. Psalter Hymnal, 1987
Tune Information
Composer: Samuel Webbe (1782)
Meter: LM
Key: D Major

Text Information:

A praise song eulogizing the righteous.

Scripture References:
st. 1 = vv. 1-2
st. 2 = vv. 3-4
st. 3 =w. 5-6
st. 4 = vv. 7-8
st. 5 = v. 9
st. 6 = v. 10

The second of the eight "hallelujah" psalms (111-118), 112 was probably composed in the post-exilic period by a priest or Levite for temple worship. In structure and theme it is a poetic twin of Psalm 111, but while 111 sings the praise of the righteous God, 112 eulogizes the righteous one who fears the LORD.

The opening and closing verses frame the development of the main theme by contrasting the blessedness of the righteous (v. 1; st. 1) and the unhappy end of the wicked (v. 10; st. 6)–a common theme in Old Testament wisdom literature (see also 1, 34, 37, 49, and 73). The psalmist notes that the children of the righteous share in "their great reward" (st. 1) and that prosperity comes to the merciful and pure (st. 2). Those who befriend the weak find peace and a good name (st. 3), and those who trust in God have security from all their foes (st. 4). The righteous are generous to the poor and are "lifted high in honor" (v. 9; st. 5), but the wicked and their ways will come to nothing (st. 6). The (altered) versification of this wisdom psalm comes from The Book of Psalms (1871), a text-only psalter that was later published with music in the 1887 Psalter.

Liturgical Use:
Wedding or family services; wisdom emphasis; many other occasions in Christian worship.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Tune Information:

MELCOMBE was first used as an anonymous chant tune (with figured bass) in the Roman Catholic Mass and was published in 1782 in An Essay on the Church Plain Chant. It was first ascribed to Samuel Webbe (the elder; b. London, England, 1740; d. London, 1816) and named MELCOMBE in Ralph Harrison's Sacred Harmony (1791), the first of many Protestant hymnals to contain this popular Roman Catholic tune. The tune title refers to Melcombe Regis, the northern part of Weymouth in Dorsetshire, England, made famous through frequent visits by King George III (1738-1820).

Webbe's father died soon after Samuel was born without providing financial security for the family. Thus Webbe received little education and was apprenticed to a cabinet maker at the age of eleven. However, he was determined to study and taught himself Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, German, and Italian while working on his apprenticeship. He also worked as a music copyist and received musical training from Carl Barbant, organist at the Bavarian Embassy. Restricted at this time in England, Roman Catholic worship was freely permitted in the foreign embassies. Because Webbe was Roman Catholic, he became organist at the Portuguese Chapel and later at the Sardinian and Spanish chapels in their respective embassies. He wrote much music for Roman Catholic services and composed hymn tunes, motets, and madrigals.

Webbe is considered an outstanding composer of glees and catches, as is evident in his nine published collections of these smaller choral works. He also published A Collection of Sacred Music (c. 1790), A Collection of Masses for Small Choirs (1792), and, with his son Samuel (the younger), Antiphons in Six Books of Anthems (1818).

MELCOMBE has a steady rhythmic structure and a lot of stepwise intervals. The original setting had one dotted rhythm in the third phrase, which is deleted in many hymnals, including the Psalter Hymnal. The harmony borrows from Webbe's original bass line and from William H. Monk's (PHH 332) harmonization of MELCOMBE for Hymns Ancient and Modern (1861). Sing this tune in two long lines, with a small pause at the end of the first to allow a breath before singing the second.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

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