John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible
INTRODUCTION TO PSALM 106
This psalm is without the name of its author, as the Syriac interpreter observes. Aben Ezra, on Psalm 106:47, says, that one of the wise men of Egypt (perhaps Maimonides) was of opinion that it was written in the time of the judges, when there was no king in Israel; and another, he says, thought it was written in Babylon: but he was of opinion it was wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, or by a prophetic spirit, concerning their present captivity; and so Kimchi. The petition in Psalm 106:47, "gather us from among the Heathen", has led most interpreters to conclude that it was written either in the Babylonish captivity, or, as some, in the times of Antiochus: but by comparing it with 1 Chronicles 16:7, it appears that it was written by David, at the time of the bringing up of the ark to Zion; since the first and two last verses of it are there expressly mentioned, in the psalm he gave Asaph to sing on that occasion, Psalm 106:34, who therein might have respect to the Israelites that had been taken captive by some of their neighbours, as the Philistines, and still retained; though there is no difficulty in supposing that David, under a prophetic spirit, foresaw future captivities, and represents those that were in them. As the preceding psalm treats of the mercies and favours God bestowed upon Israel, this of their sins and provocations amidst those blessings, and of the goodness of God unto them; that notwithstanding he did not destroy them from being a people; for which they had reason to be thankful.
Praise ye the Lord,.... Or "hallelujah"; which, according to the Arabic version, is the title of the psalm; and so it stands in the Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, and Ethiopic versions. Several psalms following begin in like manner; it begins as the former ended, and ends as it begins; praise being due to God at all times, and on all occasions.
O give thanks unto the Lord: always, for all things, temporal and spiritual, since not worthy of any: or, confess unto the Lord
For he is good; essentially, solely and originally; is communicative and diffusive of his goodness; is the author of all good, and of no evil; and is gracious and merciful, and ready to forgive.
For his mercy endureth for ever; notwithstanding the sins of his people; though he may sometimes hide his face from them, and rebuke them in his providence; and though he causes grief by so doing, he still has compassion upon them, his mercy continues towards them; yea, his mercies are new every morning, as to temporal things; and spiritual mercies, the sure mercies of David, redemption, remission of sins, and sanctification, issue in eternal life; the mercy of God is from eternity to eternity: these are reasons why he should be praised, and thanks be given, to him.
Who can utter the mighty acts of the Lord?.... Or powers
Who can show forth all his praise? all those things done by him, worthy of praise, they are so many and so great? see Psalm 40:5.
Blessed are they that keep judgment,.... Or "observe"
And he that doeth righteousness at all times; continually believes in Christ for righteousness, and puts on that as his justifying righteousness; whereby he becomes righteous as he is, 1 John 3:7, and performs acts of righteousness from a principle of grace, as a fruit of regeneration, and an evidence of it, 1 John 2:29, that does it with right views, aims, and ends; not to be justified and saved by it, but because God requires it; and it is for his glory, and to testify subjection to him, and thankfulness for favours received from him. And this is to be done at all times; we should never be weary of well doing, but be always abounding in good works; and happy are those that will be found so doing, such are "blessed" persons: not that their blessedness lies in or arises from righteousness done by them; but this is descriptive of such that are blessed in Christ with the remission of sins, and his justifying righteousness. And these are the proper persons to show forth the mighty acts and praise of the Lord; they are most capable of it, and more likely to perform it with acceptance than any other; see Psalm 50:14.
Remember me, O Lord, with the favour that thou bearest unto thy people,.... The Lord has a special and peculiar people, whom he has chosen, taken into covenant, given to his Son, redeemed by him, who are called by grace, and brought to glory: to these he bears a peculiar favour, loves with an everlasting love; which he has shown in the choice of them; in the gift of his Son to them; in their regeneration, and eternal salvation. Now nothing can be more desirable than an interest in this favour, in which is life, spiritual and eternal; is the strength and security of believers, the source of their comfort, and the foundation of their happiness: to be remembered with this is to have a view of interest in it, a comfortable sensation of it, and an application of benefits by it.
O visit me with thy salvation; a prayer, either for the coming of Christ, as God's salvation, promised, expected, and wished for; or, however, for an application of spiritual salvation to be wrought out by him; for a view of interest in it; to have the joys and comforts of it now, and the full possession of it hereafter. A gracious and desirable visit this! The ends of such requests, or of such a visit, follow:
That I may see the good of thy chosen,.... The elect, according to the foreknowledge of God; who are chosen in Christ to holiness and happiness, through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth unto salvation by him; the vessels of mercy afore prepared unto glory, both of Jews and Gentiles. The "good" of those is not any goodness of their own, for there is none in them naturally; they are by nature no better than others, none are good, nor do good, no, not one: but the goodness of God laid up for them, and bestowed on them; the blessings of goodness with which Christ is preparing for them; all the good things secured for them in a well ordered covenant; which they partake of in time, and to eternity. To "see" these is not to have a superficial, notional, knowledge of them, as hypocrites may have; or a distant view of them, as Balaam, and the rich man in hell; but to have an experience of them, possess them, and enjoy them.
That I may rejoice in the gladness of thy nation; all the nations of the world are the Lord's; but there is a chosen generation, an holy nation, that is peculiarly his; a nation taken out of a nation, nay, taken out of all the nations that are upon earth: and these have a joy peculiar to them, which foreigners know nothing of, and strangers intermeddle not with; a spiritual joy in the Holy Ghost; a rejoicing in Christ Jesus, in his person, blood, righteousness, and sacrifice, and in hope of the glory of God; and such joy is desirable, a joy unspeakable, and full of glory.
That I may glory with thine inheritance; the same with his chosen people and nation: for the Lord's people is his portion, and the lot of his inheritance; they are chosen for an inheritance, given to Christ as such, with which he is well pleased, esteeming them a goodly heritage; they are his purchased possession, his jewels and peculiar treasure. These "glory" not in themselves, in their strength and wisdom, their riches and righteousness; but in Christ and in his righteousness, and in what he is made unto them. And the psalmist desires to join with them, and glory in what they did, and in no other; and unite with them in giving glory to God and Christ, now and hereafter, for his salvation, and all good things from him.
We have sinned with our fathers,.... Sinned in their first father Adam; derived a corrupt nature from their immediate ancestors; sinned after the similitude of their transgressions; sinned after their example, in like manner as they did; guilty of the same gross enormities as they were: though sufficiently warned by the words of the prophets, and by punishments inflicted, they continued their sins, a constant series and course of them, and filled up the measure of their iniquities; they rose up in their stead an increase of sinful men, to augment the fierce anger of God, Numbers 32:14. And this the psalmist, in the name of the people of Israel, confesses, as it was his and their duty and interest so to do, Leviticus 26:40, and as we find it was usual with Old Testament saints, Jeremiah 3:25.
We have committed iniquity, we have done wickedly; this heap of words is used to denote not only the multitude of their sins, but the aggravated circumstances of them; that they had committed all manner of sins, not sins of ignorance, frailty, and infirmity only; but presumptuous sins, sins against light and knowledge, grace and mercy; sins against both tables of the law, against God and their neighbour; and these attended with many aggravations: all which a sensible sinner is ready to make a frank and ingenuous confession of, and forsake; and such an one finds mercy with a God pardoning iniquity, transgression, and sin: this form of confession is followed by Solomon and Daniel, 1 Kings 8:47.
Our fathers understood not thy wonders in Egypt,.... Or, "our fathers in Egypt"
They remembered not the multitude of thy mercies; the mercies of God bestowed on his people are many, both temporal and spiritual; there is a multitude of them; the sum of them is great, it cannot well be said how great it is: but though they are so many as not to be reckoned up in order, yet a grateful remembrance of them should be kept up; it is sinful to forget them, and argues great ingratitude. Past mercies should be remembered, both for the glory of God, and to encourage faith and hope in him, with respect to future ones, as well as to preserve from sinning against him. The stupidity and ingratitude of this people, here confessed, were the source of their rebellion against God, as follows:
but provoked him at the sea, even at the Red sea; or, "sea of Suph"
because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? Exodus 14:11. The Targum is,
"but they rebelled against thy word.'
Nevertheless, he saved them for his name's sake,.... Not for any worth or worthiness in them; not for their righteousness sake, for they were a rebellious and disobedient people; but for his name's sake, because his name was called upon them, and he was called the God of the Hebrews, as Aben Ezra observes; and the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, their ancestors; to whom he had promised the land of Canaan, and was their covenant God; and because of his covenant, and of his divine perfections, and the glory of them, which were engaged to make it good; therefore he saved them, see Ezekiel 20:9. And so the spiritual Israel of God are saved, not for any superior excellencies in them, for they are in no wise better than others; nor for their righteousness sake; but to display the wisdom and faithfulness of God, his grace and mercy, his justice and holiness, power, goodness, and truth. And so here it follows;
that he might make his mighty power to be known; not only among the Israelites, but among the nations of the world; who, had he not saved them, might have thought, and said, that it was for want of power, and that he could not do it; see Deuteronomy 9:28.
He rebuked the Red sea also, and it was dried up,.... By sending a strong east wind, which drove the waters back, and made the sea a dry land, Exodus 14:21.
So he led them through the depths; that is, the deep waters of the sea, which were cast up as an heap, and stood as a wall on each side, through which they passed.
As through the wilderness; or rather, "as on a plain"; for a passage through a wilderness where no roads are, and many obstructions be, is not easy; and so it is manifestly to be understood in Isaiah 63:13, where Jarchi and Kimchi interpret it a plain and smooth ground, a champaign country; and so the word is used for a plain, in opposition to mountains, in Jeremiah 9:10, and then the sense is, that God led them through the sea, being dried up, as if they were led through a plain and open country, where was nothing to obstruct their march; an emblem of baptism, 1 Corinthians 10:1, and of the passage of the people of God through this world; See Gill on Psalm 78:13.
And he saved them from the hand of him that hated them,.... As Pharaoh and his people did, because of their numerous increase, which they endeavoured to prevent; and still more because of the plagues inflicted on them; and now because they were got away from them, and therefore pursued them in great wrath and indignation, Exodus 15:9.
And redeemed them from the hand of the enemy; the same thing in different words; so the Lord Christ has saved and redeemed his people out of the hand of all their spiritual enemies; and those that hate them and war against them, as sin, Satan, and the world, Luke 1:71.
And the waters covered their enemies,.... They pursuing the Israelites into the sea, the waters returned, and covered Pharaoh and all his host, and drowned them, so that they sunk as a stone, and as lead into the bottom of the sea, Exodus 14:28.
There was not one of them left; to return back to Egypt, and give an account of what became of the army, Exodus 14:28, an emblem this of the utter destruction of all our spiritual enemies by Christ; who has not only saved us from them, but has entirely destroyed them; he has made an end of sin, even of all the sins of his people; he has spoiled Satan and his principalities and powers; he has abolished death, the last enemy, and made his saints more than conquerors over all. Likewise it may be a representation of the destruction of the wicked at the last day, who will be all burnt up at the general conflagration, root and branch, not one will be left; see Malachi 4:1.
Then believed they his words,.... And not till then; for this is observed, not to their commendation, but to show the slowness of their hearts to believe; they believed on sight, but not before, as Thomas did; whereas, "blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed", John 20:29. When they saw the Egyptians dead on the sea shore, then they believed the Lord, and his servant Moses; what he said by his servant Moses, that he would save them from the Egyptians, whom they should see no more, that is, alive, Exodus 14:13. The Targum is,
"and they believed in the name of his Word.'
They sang his praise; Moses with the men, and Miriam with the women; the song is recorded Exodus 15:1 and thus when the people of God have got the victory over the antichristian beast, they will stand on a sea of glass and sing the song of Moses and of the Lamb, Revelation 15:2.
They soon forgat his works,.... The miracles he wrought in Egypt, the deliverance of them from thence with a mighty hand and outstretched arm, and the leading them through the Red sea as on dry land, and destroying all their enemies; all these they soon forgot, for they had gone but three days' journey into the wilderness after this, ere they began to murmur and show distrust of the power and providence of God, Exodus 15:22, it is in the Hebrew text, "they made haste, they forgat his works"
They waited not for his counsel; they did not ask counsel of God, though it belongs to him, and he is wonderful in it, and does all things after the counsel of his own will; nor would they take it when given by Moses and Joshua; they did not choose to wait his time and way of working; they were for limiting the Holy One of Israel to their time and way; they were for being in the land of Canaan before his time; and were for eating flesh, when it was his counsel to feed on manna he provided for them every day.
But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness,.... Or, "lusted a lust"
And tempted God in the desert; which is expressly forbidden by a law which our Lord referred to when he was tempted by Satan in the wilderness: a very ungrateful action this, since God tempts no man to sin; a very daring impiety, a sin of the first magnitude, and which lay in making experiments, in trying whether the presence of God was among them or not; and putting God as it were on proving that he had power sufficient to provide for them in the wilderness; see Exodus 17:7. It seems it was Jesus Christ whom they tempted, from whence it appears that he is truly God, 1 Corinthians 10:9. Both in this and the preceding clause an emphasis lies on the place where all this was done, the wilderness or desert, where God had done such great things for them, and where they could not help themselves, but were wholly and immediately dependent on him.
And he gave them their request,.... Flesh and feathered fowl in great abundance; see Psalm 78:27. So God sometimes gives to wicked men what they ask for, as much as they can desire, yea, more than heart could wish.
But sent leanness into their soul: or "body"; the Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, and all the Oriental versions, read, "he sent fulness into their souls"; he gave them flesh to the full, even to a nausea; they fed too heartily on it, and were surfeited with it; which not being digested brought a repletion, and issued in a consumption; or rather death, immediate death, is meant, as Jarchi, Aben Ezra, Kimchi, and Ben Melech, interpret it; for while the flesh was in their mouths, and they were chewing it between their teeth, the wrath of God came upon them and slew them, Numbers 11:33. It is true in a spiritual sense, that while the bodies of wicked men are fed and pampered, their souls are starved, and at last eternally lost; as the rich man's in the Gospel, who fared sumptuously every day: and worldly professors are very lean ones; such who mind earth and earthly things never thrive in spirituals; and either they soon drop their profession, err from the faith, and turn apostates; or, if they continue, the cares of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word; so that it is unprofitable to them, not being mixed with faith by them; and hence leanness under the best of means: yea, there is sometimes a leanness in the souls of the people of God, when corruptions prevail, the graces of the spirit are low in exercise; when there is a want of a spiritual appetite to the word; and when they fall into bad company, or do not improve conversation with one another in a spiritual way; or are too much taken up, ensnared, and entangled with the things of the world; see Isaiah 24:16.
They envied Moses also in the camp,.... That he should be generalissimo there, have the sole command of the people, and be their leader and chief magistrate. Gifts qualifying men for civil government are from the Lord, and these commonly draw the envy of others upon them; who, though they pretend patriotism and the good of their country, yet seek themselves; and would be in the places of those they envy and speak against; which was the case of Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Reuben, who thought themselves as fit, and had a better right, as being the sons of Jacob's firstborn, to command, than Moses.
And Aaron the saint of the Lord; who was not only a holy good man, but was separated from his brethren, sanctified, and put into the priest's office, and this drew upon him the envy of many of the Levites, at the head of whom was Korah, a Levite; these envied that he should be the high priest, and that this office should be restrained to his family; now the envy to each of these is ascribed to the whole body of the people, though discovered only in some, because it was not opposed by them; see Numbers 16:1.
The earth opened and swallowed up Dathan,.... One of the heads of the conspirators against Moses and Aaron; the earth clave asunder under him and his company; opened itself, or its mouth, and devoured them at once. This was a new, marvellous, and unheard of thing, and which manifestly showed the divine displeasure and resentment at their proceedings; and served greatly to confirm the authority and office of Moses and Aaron; see Numbers 16:30.
And covered the company of Abiram; another of the heads of the confederacy. Korah is not mentioned, though the earth swallowed up him and all that belonged to him, their houses and their goods; some think the reason is because it was well known that this was his case, when Dathan and Abiram are not so expressly mentioned in the history by Moses; as also because the sons of Korah were now in esteem as singers; nor is On the son of Peleth mentioned, because, as Kimchi says, he repented, and desisted from the conspiracy.
And a fire was kindled in their company,.... This seems to be the company of Korah, or however a part of it, the two hundred and fifty men that had censers, and so were of the Levitical race, as Korah was; this fire came from the Lord out of heaven.
The flame burned up the wicked; the two hundred and fifty men with censers, Numbers 16:35, this was an emblem of that fire which shall consume those that hurt the witnesses; or of that vengeance of eternal fire which wicked men will suffer for ever.
They made a calf in Horeb,.... A golden one, of the earrings of gold which were in the ears of their wives, sons, and daughters; these they took and melted down, and cast into the figure of a calf, or an ox, as it is afterwards said, in imitation of the Egyptians, who worshipped the ox; a people that had used them ill, from whose bondage they were just delivered; on whom they had seen the judgments of God inflicted, and who were notoriously wicked and an idolatrous people, and yet these they imitated; and, which was still a greater aggravation, this they did in Horeb, the mountain in which God appeared in so terrible a manner, with thunder and lightnings, and in fire, out of which he spoke to them; and when he gave them a body of laws, among which were one that forbid the worshipping of graven images; and yet they made and worshipped one in this very place, from whence they received this law; as follows.
And worshipped the molten image; when fashioned with a graving tool, and made a molten calf, they said, these be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee out of Egypt; and they brought their burnt offerings and peace offerings, and ate and drank before it, and danced about it; all which were acts of idolatrous worship, Exodus 32:1. This was so heinous a sin, that the Jews say it is not expiated to this day, and that there is no punishment comes upon them but there is an ounce of the golden calf in it
Thus they changed their glory,.... God, who is glorious in all the perfections of his nature, and is glory itself, and was the glory of these people; it was their greatest honour that they had knowledge of him, nearness to him, the true worship of him among them, and that they were worshippers of him; and who, though he is unchangeable in himself, may be said to be changed when another is substituted and worshipped in his room, or worshipped besides him; which was what the Heathen did, and in which the Israelites exceeded them, Romans 1:23, the Targum is,
"they changed the glory of their Lord.'
Into the similitude of an ox that eateth grass; which was monstrous stupidity, to leave the worship of the true God, El Shaddai, God all sufficient, all powerful, that stands in need of nothing, but upholds and supports all creatures in being, and provides them with necessaries; and worship an ox, yea, the figure of one that eats grass, that lives on hay, and is supported by that which is so weak and withering; the Targum adds,
"and makes dung;'
or defiles itself with it, as the ox does while it is eating grass; Jarchi observes, there is nothing more abominable and filthy than an ox when it is eating grass, which then makes much dung, and defiles itself; this the Targumist adds, to make the worship of such a creature the more contemptible.
They forgat God their Saviour,.... Not only forgat the works of God, Psalm 106:13, but forgat God that did those mighty works; forgat that there was a God; or however forgat him that is the only true and living God, when they said of the molten image, "these are thy gods, O Israel"; and what aggravated their crime was, they forgot that God that had saved them in so wonderful a manner out of the hand of their enemies, for his own name's sake; and had led them safely through the Red sea as on dry land, and destroyed those that hated them.
Which had done great things in Egypt: meaning the ten plagues on the Egyptians, and the deliverance of the Israelites from them.
Wondrous works in the land of Ham,.... The same with Egypt; Mizraim, from whence Egypt had its name, being the son of Ham; See Gill on Psalm 78:51. See Gill on Psalm 105:23, and these wondrous things are the same plagues as before, so called because they exceeded the power of nature; the magicians themselves confessed the finger of God in one of them; and they were all of them such as might be truly said to be miracles.
And terrible things by the Red sea; or "in it", as the Syriac and, other versions; as the utter destruction of Pharaoh and his army, not one being left, which was doing terrible things in righteousness; and by which it appeared that with God is terrible majesty; and who shows himself to be terrible in his works, and even to the kings and princes of the earth; but all these things were soon forgot, which it might have been thought, being so amazing and terrible, would have made a lasting impression on them.
Therefore he said that he would destroy them,.... He said in his word, the Targum adds; he thought within himself he would; he seemed determined in his own mind to destroy them, being provoked at their wretched forgetfulness of him, and their idolatry; he said to Moses,
let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them, Exodus 32:10. The decree indeed was not gone forth, but there was such an appearance of displeasure as if ruin was determined; and a great number was destroyed, and the whole body was threatened.
Had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach; made between God and the Israelites by their sin; the allusion is either to an hedge broken down, at which a spoiler enters, unless made up, Ezekiel 22:30, or to a breach made in the wall of a besieged city, at which the besieger enters, unless stopped by the besieged, Isaiah 30:13, or to the bank or dam of a river broken down, which lets in a flood of waters, 2 Samuel 5:20. So Moses made up the hedge, and stood in the gap; he presented himself to God, rushing in like a man of war, and pouring out his wrath like an inundation of waters: this is to be understood of his fervent and importunate prayer to God on the behalf of this people, and which succeeded.
To turn away his wrath, lest he should destroy them; Exodus 32:11 so the Targum,
"unless Moses his chosen had rose up and strengthened, or prevailed in his prayer before him to turn away his wrath from destroying.'
This shows the power and efficacy of prayer, and of what avail it is with God, especially the prayer of his elect; it was Moses, his chosen, that prayed, a choice servant of his; and whom he had chosen to everlasting life, as well as to be the deliverer, guide, and governor of Israel; see Luke 18:7. Herein he was an eminent type of Christ, as in other things; as Moses was a mediator between God and the people of Israel, so is Christ between God and his people. Sin is a transgression of God's law, a breaking of his statutes, which he has set as an hedge, fence, or wall, about man; and this has made a breach between God and man; which lets in the wrath of God as a flood, and justice as an armed man: and terrible it is to consider there is no standing before him, and making up the breach; but Christ has interposed as a surety, made satisfaction to law and justice, and procured peace and reconciliation; and so, by his atonement and intercession, has made up the breach, appeased the wrath of God, and turned it away, and prevented the ruin and destruction of his people.
Yea, they despised the pleasant land,.... Or "land of desire"
They believed not his word; his word of promise, that he would be with them, and lead them into the pleasant land, and put them into the possession of it: which disbelief of his word was highly provoking to him; and therefore he swore they should not enter into his rest; and because of their unbelief they did not, Numbers 14:11. This is a very heinous sin, to disbelieve God that is true, and cannot lie; it is to make him a liar; nothing can more dishonour him; it is a departure from him, very provoking to him, and of very dangerous consequence; unbelievers shall have their part and portion in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, Revelation 21:8.
But murmured in their tents,.... Throughout their tents; the murmuring was general; they murmured often; but what is here referred to seems to be their murmuring upon the report of the spies, Numbers 14:2. To murmur against God and his providence is a very great evil; and which generally proceeds on one or other of these two things; either because men have not so much of the good things of this world as others have; or because they endure more afflictions, and so are ready to charge the ways of God with inequality; not considering that God is a Sovereign, and may do with his own what he pleases; and that they are deserving of nothing at his hands; and that their punishment or chastisement is less than their sins deserve.
And hearkened not unto the voice of the Lord; to go up and possess the land; they disbelieved his word, and were disobedient to his command. The use the apostle makes of this, see Hebrews 3:7, and of their other provocations, of their lust, idolatry, fornication, tempting of God, and murmuring against him, see 1 Corinthians 10:6.
Therefore he lifted up his hand against them,.... A gesture used in swearing, Genesis 14:22. So the Targum understands it here,
"and he lifted up his hand with an oath, because of them:'
and so it is interpreted by Aben Ezra, Jarchi, Kimchi, and Ben Melech; and agrees with Numbers 14:28. The same gesture was used by the Heathens in swearing, as by Latinus
To overthrow their seed also among the nations,.... Their posterity was not overthrown in the wilderness; they were spared to possess the land their fathers despised. This respects later times, as does what follows:
and to scatter them in the lands; which Kimchi explains by the discomfiture of them by the Amalekites and Canaanites, when they presumed, contrary to the will of God, to go up to the top of the hill; and by Arad's taking some of them prisoner, afterwards, Numbers 14:45. But this was not done, nor to be done, in the wilderness: but the meaning is, that God lifted up his hand in the wilderness, and sware there, as Ezekiel says, Ezekiel 20:23, that he would scatter them and disperse them among the Heathen; that is, at one time or another; which he did in part at the Babylonish captivity, and completely by the Romans: which is now their case, and is a standing proof of this prophecy, and an accomplishment of the oath of God.
They joined themselves also unto Baalpeor,.... Or to the idol Peor, as the Targum. Baal, which signifies Lord or master, was a common name for an idol in many countries; wherefore, to distinguish one from another, an additional name was used. Baalzephon was the god of the Egyptians; Baalzebub the god of the Ekronites; and here Baalpeor the god of the Moabites: for the fact referred to was committed when the children of Israel were on the borders of Moab, and when Balak sent for Balaam to curse them; who at last advised him to draw them to commit fornication with the daughters of Moab; who might then prevail upon them to commit idolatry, which would bring the wrath of God upon them. And in this he succeeded. The above idol had its name of Peor either from the obscene actions done in the worship of it, too filthy to be related, and which, it is thought, are referred to in Hosea 9:10. It seems to be the Priapus of the Heathens. Or, as others, from a mountain of this name, where was the house or temple in which it was worshipped: hence we read of Mount Peor, and of Bethpeor, Numbers 23:28. So Suidas
And ate the sacrifices of the dead; which were offered up to this lifeless statue. So idols are called the dead, in opposition to and distinction from the living God, Isaiah 8:19. Or they partook of the feasts which were kept in honour of their dead deified hero, Lord Peor; see the history in Numbers 25:1. These were sacrifices offered to the Stygian Jupiter, or Pluto, called by the Phoenicians Mot
Thus they provoked him to anger with their inventions,.... Sin is an invention of man's: when our first parents sinned, they found out many inventions; and their posterity ever since have been inventors of evil things; and man's invention is very quick at that work. All false doctrine and false worship are of men's finding out; all idolatrous practices are their inventions, and which are here intended; see Psalm 106:39. And these are very provoking to God, who is jealous of his glory, and which is taken from him hereby; and even when he forgives such sins of men, he takes vengeance on their inventions, as in this case, Psalm 99:8. For it follows:
and the plague brake in upon them: like an inundation of water, and carried off four and twenty thousand persons, Numbers 25:9.
Then stood up Phinehas, and executed judgment,.... When none else would, he rose up in great zeal for the Lord of hosts; and took on him the work of a civil magistrate, and slew two persons of noble birth in the very act of fornication. The Targum is,
and so the Syriac version
"he interceded with the Lord, that the plague might stop.'
This he might do, as well as the other, though it is not elsewhere recorded, and in which he succeeded: but in the Talmud
And so the plague was stayed; it was restrained from proceeding further; no more execution was done by it. In this he was a type of Christ, who, by doing righteousness, by the atoning sacrifice of himself, and by his intercession, has appeased the wrath of God, and satisfied divine justice so that there is no condemnation to them that are interested in him; no evil of punishment shall befall them, nor plague come nigh them.
And that was counted unto him for righteousness,.... Not for his justifying righteousness before God; for all the works of righteousness done by the best of men cannot justify them before him, much less a single action: but his executing judgment in the manner he did, or slaying the above two persons, was esteemed a righteous action by the Lord himself; who upon it caused the plague to cease, and likewise gave to Phinehas the covenant of an everlasting priesthood, and to his posterity; whereby the action had eternal honour put upon it, and was sufficiently secured from the calumny of men; who might condemn it as a rash action done by a private person, assuming the office of a public magistrate; and as being a cruel one, not giving the criminals time for repentance. But all this is set aside by the testimony of God himself, approving of it; and so it continues to be esteemed, as it is said it should,
unto all generations for evermore: whenever it is spoken of, it is spoken of with commendation, as a righteous action, as expressive of true zeal for the Lord of hosts. Moreover, the covenant made with him upon it, which confirmed the justness of it, that taking place in Zadok, a priest of his line, continued in it till the Messiah came, who is a Priest for ever: see Ezekiel 44:15.
They angered him also at the waters of strife,.... Or, "at the waters of Meribah"
So that it went ill with Moses for their sakes; he was not suffered to go with them into the good land; though he most earnestly desired it, it could not be granted: but when he was just upon the borders of it, he is bid to go up to the mount, and take a view of it, and die; and all because of what was done at this place; see Numbers 20:12.
Because they provoked his spirit;.... Though he was a very meek man, meeker than any upon the face of the earth, Numbers 12:2, yet, being greatly provoked, let fall some passionate and undue expressions: and this was not only his sin, but the fault of those also that provoked him, and with this view it is mentioned. The Targum is,
"for they rebelled against his Holy Spirit;'
the Holy Spirit of God, as in Isaiah 63:10. Jarchi interprets it of Moses and Aaron provoking the Spirit of God; which sense is mentioned, by Aben Ezra and Kimchi; though they seem to prefer the former, and which seems best. Some interpret it of the Israelites, that they caused Moses and Aaron to provoke his Spirit.
So that he spake unadvisedly with his lips; that is, Moses spake,
saying, Hear now, ye rebels, must we, or "can we",
fetch you water out of this rock? Which words were spoken in an angry passionate way, calling them rebels, and expressing diffidence about getting water out of the rock; which was the thing that was so displeasing to God, because they did not believe him to sanctify him in the eyes of the children of Israel, Numbers 25:10. Jarchi, as before, understands this of God, of his speaking, pronouncing, and declaring, that Moses and Aaron should not bring the congregation into the land of Canaan, Numbers 25:18, and so the word "unadvisedly" may be left out, and only read, "he spake with his lips"; but the other sense is to be preferred.
They did not destroy the nations,.... Here begins an account of their sins and provocations, after they were settled in the land of Canaan. They did not destroy the inhabitants of the land, of the seven nations; whose land was given to them as an inheritance, and of which the Canaanites were dispossessed for their sins, and to be destroyed.
Concerning whom the Lord commanded them; that they should destroy them; the command is in Deuteronomy 7:1. God's commands are to be obeyed; they are neither to be added to, nor diminished from; his commands are transgressed and violated by sins of omission or commission; the Israelites might plead mercy, but this was no excuse to an express command: the same sin Saul was afterwards guilty of, with respect to one of these nations, 1 Samuel 15:2. Those spiritual Canaanites, the sinful deeds of the body, are to be mortified, and not indulged and spared, Colossians 3:5.
But were mingled among the Heathen,.... Not only dwelt among them, but made covenants and contracts, carried on trade and commerce, and intermarried with them, contrary to the express law of God, Deuteronomy 7:2. Nor should saints have communion with wicked men, especially in things sinful and superstitious, 2 Corinthians 6:14.
And learned their works; not their civil works and actions, their trades and business, but their idolatrous works; of which a detail is given in the following verses: "evil communications corrupt good manners", 1 Corinthians 15:33.
And they served their idols,.... Of gold and silver, wood and stone; the works of men's hands, senseless creatures; which are nothing in the world, and bring grief and sorrow to the worshippers of them, from whence they have their name here given them; see Psalm 16:4. They served "their" idols, the idols of the Canaanites, who were dispossessed of their land for their idolatries and other sins; and these Israelites were put in their place. They served those which they were ordered to destroy; they who knew the true God, whose servants they were, or ought to have been, and professed to be, and were so called; and yet served the idols of the nations driven out before them. Which were a snare unto them; either the Canaanites were, who were left in the land, with whom they mixed, and whose works they learned; these ensnared them, and drew them into idolatry, Joshua 23:13, or the idols they worshipped, which were the cause of many evils and calamities, Judges 2:3, or the act of serving and worshipping them, Exodus 23:33. They were by these means like a bird or beast in a snare, and brought into trouble and distress, out of which they could not extricate themselves.
Yea, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils. Who have their name here given them from a word that signifies to waste and destroy, they being the destroyers of mankind. So the Targum renders it by מזיקיא, which signifies spirits noxious and hurtful; but R. Elias Levita, in his Tishbi, p. 233, says it is a mistake to derive it from the root which signifies to waste and destroy; for then he says the "daleth" should have a "dagesh"; but does not tell us from whence it is derived. De Dieu, on Matthew 9:32, derives it from the Arabic word שאד, "to rule", for these demons were heroes, princes who ruled over others, and so were reckoned among the gods. As Satan, the head of them, was a murderer from the beginning, the cause of the ruin of our first parents, and of all their posterity; and may be truly called, as the king of the locusts is, "Apollyon" or "Abaddon", John 8:44 these the Israelites sacrificed unto, as the Gentiles did, Leviticus 17:7 and not lambs and rams, sheep, goats, and bullocks, but their sons and daughters; which they not only caused to pass through the fire to Moloch, which was a lustration of them by the flame, or causing them to pass between two fires; but they sacrificed them to be devoured, and actually burned them; see Jeremiah 7:31. From whence we may see of what a hardening nature sin is, and how by degrees persons may be brought to commit things the most shocking to nature, and which they some time before shuddered at. First, these Israelites mix themselves with the Heathens they spared, whom they should have destroyed; then they learn, by being among them, to do as they did, to walk in the vanity of their minds like them; and then they are enticed to serve their idols, and at last to sacrifice their sons and daughters to devils; which was no other than murder, and that of the most heinous nature: as follows.
And shed innocent blood,.... The blood of innocent persons; not that any of Adam's posterity, descending from him by ordinary generation, are strictly and properly innocent, or free from sin; self-righteous persons have thought themselves, touching the righteousness of the law, blameless; and some perfectionists have pretended to be free from sin, but are not such; they who are justified by the righteousness of Christ, and washed in his blood, are, so considered, all fair and without spot; are without fault before the throne, and unreproveable in the sight of God: but, considered in themselves, are not without sin; only the man Christ Jesus is perfectly holy and free from sin, being born of a virgin, under the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost; otherwise all descending from Adam sinned in him, are conceived in sin, and polluted with it; nor can a clean thing be brought out of an unclean, no, not one: though infants may be said to be innocent in comparison of adult persons, guilty of actual transgressions, who have lived in sin, and committed many gross iniquities; as also they may be so called as being undeserving of such barbarous and inhuman usage here mentioned.
Even the blood of their sons and of their daughters, whom they sacrificed unto the idols of Canaan; this was a further aggravation of their wickedness, that it was not only innocent blood, but the blood of their own children, they shed; their own flesh and blood, pieces of themselves; and their near alliance to them gave them no power over their lives; but, on the contrary, the nearer they were in blood to them, the greater and more horrid was their sin; and what still added to it was, that they were the idols of Canaan, of that people whom the Lord abhorred, and had drove out before them, and had given their land; to them they sacrificed them; so that here was a complication of wickedness in this affair.
And the land was polluted with blood; with innocent blood, the blood of their own children; with the sins of murder, as the Targum; which only can be cleansed with the blood of the murderers, Numbers 35:33, even the land which the Lord separated from all others for his people; in which his tabernacle was placed, and his worship set up, and therefore called the holy land, Zechariah 2:12.
Thus were they defiled with their own works,.... Not the land only, but they themselves also; or "with their works"
And went a whoring with their own inventions; after other gods; idolatry is often in Scripture signified by whoredom; the idolatry of Israel and Judah is represented by two harlots and their lewd practices, in Ezekiel 23:1 and hence the apostate church of Rome is compared to a whore, because of her idolatry, Revelation 17:1.
Therefore was the wrath of the Lord kindled against his people,.... Sin is the cause of wrath, which is compared to fire kindled by the breath of the Almighty, and is intolerable; this shows that the offence must be very great, as to incense the Lord against a people he had chosen above all others to be his peculiar people; as well as it was an aggravation, of their sin, so highly to provoke the Lord, whom they had vouched to be their God. There may be appearances of wrath for sin against those who are the Lord's people in the highest and best sense.
Insomuch that he abhorred his own inheritance; the people of Israel, whom he had chosen for his inheritance, and were his portion, and the lot of his inheritance. This must be understood of the body of the people, not of every individual; not of the remnant according to the election of grace among them, of which there were some in all ages; for this would be contrary to his love, and the unchangeableness of it: and however not of the persons of his people, but of their sins; and of the appearances of his providence towards them, which look like wrath, indignation, and abhorrence; for God will not cast off his people, nor forsake his inheritance, Psalm 94:14 the following verses explain this wrath and abhorrence. The Targum in the king's Bible is,
"the Word of the Lord abhorred,'
&c. see Zechariah 11:8.
And he gave them into the hand of the Heathen,.... In the times of the judges; as into the hands of the Mesopotamians, Moabites, Canaanites, Midianites, and Philistines, to whom they became tributaries; see the book of Judges.
And they that hated them ruled over them; as it was threatened and foretold they should, in case they did not observe the law of God, Leviticus 26:17.
Their enemies also oppressed them,.... By taxes, and taking the increase of their fields and sustenance, which often obliged them to cry for a deliverer, who upon this was sent to them; see Judges 2:9.
And they were brought into subjection under their hand; or were humbled under their hand, as the Targum; they were not only made to submit to their enemies, but they were humbled before the Lord; brought to a sense of their sins, and acknowledgment of them, when the Lord appeared for their deliverance, as follows.
Many times did he deliver them,.... By means of the judges, Othniel, Ehud, Barak, Gideon, Jephthah, Samson, and others.
But they provoked him with their counsel; in asking a king, whom he gave in his anger, and took away in his wrath, Hosea 13:11, and with their idolatries which they devised, setting up the calves at Dan and Bethel; and by taking counsel of others, and not of the Lord; seeking for help from the Assyrians and Egyptians, and trusting in them, Isaiah 30:1, all which was very provoking, and showed great ingratitude, after so many deliverances: or, "though they provoked him with their counsels"
And were brought low for their iniquity: or "when they were weakened", or "impoverished by their iniquity"
Nevertheless he regarded their affliction,.... Or "looked on them in distress"
When he heard their cry; or their "prayer", as the Targum, and so other versions; crying is prayer; and it denotes vocal and vehement prayer, such as is put up to God in distress; and which he hears and answers; his ears are open to the cries of his people.
And he remembered for them his covenant,.... At Sinai, according to Aben Ezra; rather that made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; see Psalm 105:8, not their covenant who promised to hear and do all that the Lord commanded, and did it not; but his covenant, his promise of giving them the good land, and settling them in it: the Lord is ever mindful of the covenant of his grace for his people, for their good; he remembers the promises he has made, where they are in Christ; and so as to fulfil and apply them; he remembers the blessings of it, the sure mercies of David, and gives them; he remembers for whom it is made, and never forgets them; he remembers with whom it is made, with his Son, the surety, messenger, and Mediator of it; he remembers that he is their covenant God and Father, and will be so for evermore; he remembers his lovingkindness, which has been ever of old, which is the source and foundation of it.
And repented according to the multitude of his mercies; his mercies temporal and spiritual are many; and there is an abundance of mercy displayed especially in spiritual ones, in redemption, in regeneration, and in the forgiveness of sin. Or "according to the abundance of his grace", or "gracious benefits"
He made them also to be pitied of all those that carried them captives. He not only pitied them himself, but caused them to be pitied by others, even by their enemies; he has the hearts of all men in his hands, and can turn them as he pleases; as he sometimes turned their hearts to hate his people, Psalm 105:25, so he turned them to pity them, as he promised he would when they turned to him, 2 Chronicles 30:9, so he did, by stirring up Cyrus to proclaim liberty to them, and his successors to encourage and assist in rebuilding their city and temple.
Save us, O Lord our God,.... Here the psalmist represents the people in captivity, and represents them as praying for deliverance; as well knowing that none but God could save them: and a prayer of this nature, with respect to spiritual salvation, supposes danger, and a sense of it; that they are not able to save themselves, nor any creature able to save them; only the Lord, who is both willing and able; and of this kind is the prayer of faith.
And gather us from among the Heathen; in Babylon, and other countries; See Gill on the title note "Ps 106:1".
To give thanks unto thy holy name; bring us out of captivity to our own land, to Jerusalem, to the temple there to give thanks to thy holy name for the merciful deliverance of us; see Psalm 122:4.
And to triumph in thy praise; in thy salvation, in thy wondrous works, worthy of praise; or while praising thee: the word signifies to glory therein; and such who are sensible of the mercies they receive from the Lord will make their boast of him and them, and glory; see Psalm 34:1.
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,.... God is to be blessed as the Father of mercies; as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; and as the covenant God and Father of his people in him, of the true Israel of God: which is done by celebrating his blessedness in himself; by ascribing to him all blessedness enjoyed, as the author of it; and by giving him honour, glory, and blessing for it.
From everlasting to everlasting; here and hereafter, in time and to all eternity; from this world to that which is to come, as the Targum; and which Arama observes are the days of the Messiah.
And let all the people say, Amen; so be it; to giving thanks to God, to praising his name, and ascribing blessing to him.
Praise ye the Lord; or "hallelujah"; so these two words, "Amen, hallelujah", are joined together in Revelation 19:4. The psalm ends as it began; for though the greatest part of it is taken up in relating the sins of the people of Israel; yet as the Lord was merciful to them and forgave them, and notwithstanding bestowed great mercies on them, there was reason for praise and thanksgiving. Here ends the fourth part of the book of Psalms; the fifth part begins, with the following psalm.
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