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Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Psalms 106

 

 

Verse 1
PSALM 106

THE REBELLIOUSNESS OF ISRAEL AND GOD'S MERCIES

This, the last psalm of Book IV, is the third of the psalms which McCaw classified as "historical."[1] It is also the first of the ten psalms which Rawlinson classified as, "The Hallelujah Psalms."[2] The others are: Psalms 111; Psalms 112; Psalms 113; Psalms 115; Psalms 116; Psalms 117; Psalms 118; Psalms 119; and Psalms 150, making ten in all. All of these, except Psalms 111 and Psalms 112, both begin and end with "Hallelujah," or "Praise the Lord," as it is rendered in our version. Psalms 111 and Psalms 112 begin with "Hallelujah," but do not end with it. This information is received from Rawlinson,[3] but the American Standard Version (which we are following) differs somewhat from it. As we have mentioned earlier, such classifications are of limited value.

Psalms 106 begins with an introduction (Psalms 106:1-5), and follows with a recital of Israel's long history of sin and rebellion against God, stressing God's constant mercies and deliverances (Psalms 106:6-46) and concluding with an expression of prayer and praise similar to the introduction.

Regarding the date and the occasion, there is no dependable information whatever. Even the opinion of several scholars that the time of the exile in Babylon was the occasion is uncertain; because, as McCaw noted, "Psalms 106:47 does not require the Babylonian captivity as its setting. There could have been no occasion from Israel's entering Canaan onward when some Israelites were not held in alien slavery and when the nation as a whole was not acutely conscious of surrounding paganism."[4]

In this connection, Rhodes reminds us that, "There was a dispersion of Israel as early as the eighth century, following the fall of the Northern Israel."[5]

There is also the question of which is earlier, 1Chronicles, which has some of these same lines, or this psalm. We do not believe that this question has been satisfactorily resolved.

This psalm resembles Psalms 105 in that both cover an extensive period of Israel's history; but there is a totally different emphasis. In Psalms 105, Israel's victories are in focus; but in this psalm, it is their sins and the constant mercies and deliverance of the Lord that are stressed.

Before viewing the text itself, there are the following lines from Maclaren which extol the unique marvel of the psalm.

"The history of God's past is a record of continuous mercies; and mankind's record is one of continuous sin ... Surely never but in Israel has patriotism chosen a nation's sins for the theme of song, or in celebrating its victories has written but one name on all of its trophies, the name of Jehovah."[6]

Miller also observed that, "It is of singular interest that Israel's sins are enumerated in a praise hymn."[7] God's repeated "passing over" of the sins of Israel (Romans 3:25) appears to have left an impression upon racial Israel that "no matter what they did," they would forever enjoy their status as God's chosen people.

It is also somewhat distressing to read the comments of a number of writers who seem to believe that despite the consummate wickedness of Israel leading eventually to their rejecting God Himself in the person of His Only Begotten Son, and their official renunciation of God Himself as their king, in the official cry of the nation's leaders that, "We have no king but Caesar" - that in spite of all this, racial Israel is still "the People of God." Have such writers never heard of the "Israel of God," which is now the fellowship "in Christ?" See Galatians 6:16.

Psalms 106:1-5

INTRODUCTION

"Praise ye Jehovah.

Oh give thanks unto Jehovah; for he is good;

For his lovingkindness endureth forever.

Who can utter the mighty acts of Jehovah,

Or show forth all his praise?

Blessed are they that keep justice,

And he that doeth righteousness at all times.

Remember me, O Jehovah, with the favor that thou bearest unto thy people;

O visit me with thy salvation,

That I may see the prosperity of thy chosen,

That I may rejoice in the gladness of thy nation,

That I may glory with thine inheritance."

"Praise ye Jehovah" (Psalms 106:1). For these words, the Hebrew text (the Masoretic) has "Hallelujah," according to the marginal reading; and from this it takes its place in the classification of "Hallelujah Psalms."

"Who can utter all the mighty acts of Jehovah ... or all his praise" (Psalms 106:2)? The infinity of God's mighty deeds and also that of the praises due to God are beyond all the abilities of men, either to declare them or to voice sufficient praises of them.

"Blessed are they that keep justice ... and do righteousness at all times" (Psalms 106:3). These words would appear to identify the psalmist as one of the "true sons of Abraham," an Israelite indeed, as distinguished from the majority of the wicked nation (Luke 19:9; John 1:47). See also John 8:39-44.

"Remember me with thy favor ... with thy salvation" (Psalms 106:4). The psalmist here injects his own prayer for God's favor and salvation, when is accomplished the deliverance which he envisions as coming to the people as a whole (Psalms 106:5).

CONFESSION OF ISRAEL'S SINS

Israel, at this time was suffering the penalty of God's anger for their wickedness, whether in the distress following the fall of Samaria (722 B.C.), or that of the Babylonian captivity centuries later, or whether from some other disaster cannot now be certainly determined. However, the psalmist here undertakes a confession of the sins of the whole nation. In this, the psalm is one of the Penitentials.

Verse 6
SIN NO. 1

"We have sinned with our fathers,

We have committed iniquity, we have done wickedly.

Our fathers understood not thy wonders in Egypt;

They remembered not the multitude of thy lovingkindnesses,

But were rebellious at the sea, even at the Red Sea.

Nevertheless, he saved them for his name's sake,

That he might make his mighty power to be known.

He rebuked the Red Sea also, and it was dried up:

So he led them through the depths, as through a wilderness.

And he saved them from the hand of him that hated them,

And redeemed them from the hand of the enemy.

And the waters covered their adversaries;

There was not one of them left.

Then believed they his words;

They sang his praise."

"We have sinned with our fathers" (Psalms 106:6). The long and sinful record of Israel was invariable. After the sins of their forefathers, the people still walked in rebellion against God. The several synonyms for "evil" in this verse are to emphasis its abhorrence in God's sight.

"Rebellious even at the Red Sea" (Psalms 106:7). Delitzsch thought "Red Sea" here to be a reference, "To the sea of reed or sedge."[8] This was a popular error during the first half of the 20th century; and James Moffatt, contrary to all reason, translated "Red Sea" in the Exodus Crossing as "Reed Sea." However, when he found the same words over in the passage where it is related that "Solomon launched his navy," he went back to an honest rendition of what the word has always meant, namely, an arm of the Indian Ocean.

The words here, "[~Yam] [~Cuwp]" mean "The Sea of the End," the designation of the Indian Ocean in the era around the middle of the Second Millennium B.C., indicating at once the antiquity of Exodus, and the authenticity of "Red Sea" as an acceptable rendition of the term. (See my "Special Note on the Reed Sea," in Vol. 2 (Exodus) of my series of commentaries on the Pentateuch, pp. 177-179.)

The rebelliousness of Israel at the Red Sea consisted of their, "Murmuring, having forgotten all that God did in Egypt, complaining that God had brought them out of Egypt to destroy them."[9]

"He led them through the depths, as through a wilderness" (Psalms 106:9). The last phrase here, from the marginal reference, reads, "as through pastureland." The RSV renders it, "as through a desert." "Through the depths," therefore, means "where the deep waters had been."[10]

"Then believed they his words; They sang his praise" (Psalms 106:12). Israel's fleeting faith mentioned here, was no permanent thing at all; the first little inconvenience they suffered stirred up again their murmuring unbelief.

Verse 13
SIN NO. 2

This was the first of the sins of Israel on the eastward side of the Red Sea. "It was their ungrateful, unthankful, impatient, unbelieving murmuring about their food and drink."[11]

"They soon forgat his works;

They waited not for his counsel.

But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness,

And tempted God in the desert.

And he gave them their request;

But sent leanness into their soul."

There is a reference here to the murmuring and complaining of Israel regarding food and drink.

"He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul" (Psalms 106:15). As Barnes noted, a similar thing can happen today in individuals and churches who, "In the gratification of their desires for temporal success, may forget their dependence upon God."[12] When the prayers of God's saints are answered, and material prosperity comes to them, they should also pray that God will enable them properly to use such blessings, "That they may not be a curse but a blessing."[13]

Verse 16
SIN NO. 3

This sin was the insurrection against Moses and Aaron by Korah and others, recorded in Numbers 16.

"They envied Moses also in the camp,

And Aaron the saint of Jehovah.

The earth opened and swallowed up Dathan,

And covered the company of Abiram.

And a fire was kindled in their company;

The flame burned up the wicked."

There were three leaders of this insurrection, namely, Korah, Dathan and Abiram. The omission of Korah's name is not significant. "This was probably due to the fact of Korah's name being omitted in Deuteronomy 11:6, or because his sons were not destroyed (Numbers 26:11)."[14]

"Earth opened ... covered the company of Abiram. And a fire was kindled in their company" (Psalms 106:17-18). Abiram's company was in two divisions, those that were swallowed up into the earth, and the two hundred fifty men who unlawfully usurped the office of the Levites and offered censors of incense contrary to God's law. Those 250 men were destroyed by fire. Of course, critics, ever searching for what they might be able to label a contradiction, did not overlook the ambiguity here. Addis declared that, "There was no need of the fire if the rebels had already been swallowed up by the earthquake"![15]

Verse 19
SIN NO. 4

This was the worship of the golden calf:

"They made a calf in Horeb,

And worshipped a molten image.

Thus they changed their glory

For the likeness of an ox that eateth grass.

They forgat their Saviour,

Who had done great things in Egypt,

Wondrous works in the land of Ham

And terrible things by the Red Sea.

Therefore, he said that he would destroy them,

Had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach,

To turn away his wrath, lest he should destroy them."

The Exodus account of this is in Exodus 32. See my comments in that chapter for a full discussion of this.

"They made a calf in Horeb" (Psalms 106:19). This is an alternative name for Mount Sinai. The shame of this episode is that it took place even in the vicinity of Sinai, where the sacred Law was given.

"Thus they changed their glory for the likeness of an ox" (Psalms 106:20). It is surprising indeed that any allegedly Christian commentator should question this; but Addis, declared that, "They had no intention of doing what is here stated. That it was an image of Yahweh that they made appears plainly from Exodus 32:5)."[16] No bull calf was ever "an image of Yahweh"! That is the age-old delusion about image worship.

God cannot be worshipped by bowing down to anything that men might make. Furthermore, such a device is incapable of "reminding one of God." How could that which is blind, deaf, immobile, helpless, dead and powerless "remind one" of Him who is none of those things? And that goes for "a graven image of Christ himself," no less than for that of Aaron's bull calf!

Verse 24
SIN NO. 5

This sin was the rebellion of Israel following the shameful report of the ten unfaithful spies (Numbers 13-14).

"Yea, they despised the pleasant land,

They believed not his word.

But murmured in their tents,

And hearkened not unto the voice of Jehovah.

Therefore he sware unto them,

That he would overthrow them in the wilderness,

And that he would overthrow their seed among the nations,

And scatter them in the lands."

"They despised the pleasant land" (Psalms 106:24). The last half of Numbers 13, reports this. The ten spies brought back an evil report of the land of Canaan, affirming in the strongest terms possible that the Israelites would never be able to take it. "And they brought up an evil report of the land" (Numbers 13:32).

"They murmured in their tents" (Psalms 106:25). The Jerusalem Bible reads this, "They stayed in their camp and muttered treason."[17] Their actual words were:

"Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would that we had died in this wilderness! Wherefore doth Jehovah bring us into this land to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little one will be a prey; were it not better for us to return into Egypt?" (Numbers 14:2-3).

"Their seed among the nations ... scatter them in the lands" (Psalms 106:27). This threat of the scattering of Israel among the nations "is founded upon Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28."[18]

Verse 28
SIN NO. 6

This was the disastrous worship of the Moabite god, Baal, whom Delitzsch identified as the "Priapus of Greek and Roman mythology,"[19] the same being essentially a worship of the male sex organ, as the name suggests.

"They joined themselves also unto Baal-peor,

And ate the sacrifices of the dead.

Thus they provoked him to anger with their doings;

And the plague brake in upon them.

Then stood up Phinehas, and executed judgment;

And so the plague was stayed.

And that was reckoned unto him for righteousness,

Unto all generations forevermore."

The tragic record of this wholesale rebellion against God is given in Numbers 25, concerning which reference is made to Vol. 3 of my Pentateuchal commentaries, pp. 489-496.

"They ate the sacrifices for the dead" (Psalms 106:28). "This statement is interpreted best as a reference to the idol itself as the dead thing."[20]

Verse 32
SIN NO. 7 "They angered him at the waters of Meribah,

So that it went with Moses for their sakes;

Because they were rebellious against his spirit,

And he spake unadvisedly with his lips."

The record of this in Numbers 20 received full comment in our commentary mentioned above. It was for Moses' participation in the sins of Israel upon this occasion that resulted in God's forbidding him to enter Canaan, Aaron also was guilty on the same occasion and suffered the same penalty.

Verse 34
SIN NO. 8

This was the failure of Israel to exterminate the pagan residents of Canaan as God had repeatedly and specifically commanded them to do. This was a "key sin" indeed, for a great many other sins were the direct result.

"They did not destroy the peoples,

As Jehovah commanded them,

But mingled themselves with the nations,

And learned their works."

The whole Book of Joshua records many of the details of this disobedience on Israel's part. There were epic results indeed from this failure; because in time, Israel was totally corrupted by the same idolatrous practices which had destroyed the peoples of Canaan before them, and on account of which God removed them.

Verse 36
SIN NO. 9

This sin was the moral ethical, and religious destruction of Israel that resulted from their adoption of the shameful practices of the heathen populations of Canaan. The full account of this terminal sin of the chosen people begins to unfold in Joshua, is accelerated in the Book of Judges, and reaches its climax in the writings of the Major prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel.

Only the most meager outline of Israel's ultimate debauchery appears here.

"And (Israel) served their idols,

Which became a snare unto them.

Yea, they sacrificed their sons and daughters unto demons,

And shed innocent blood,

Even the blood of their sons and of their daughters,

Whom they sacrificed unto the idols of Canaan;

And the land was polluted with blood.

Thus were they defiled with their works,

And played the harlot in their doings."

To rehearse the full record of what is so briefly stated here would require a detailed study of a major portion of the Old Testament.

The child-sacrifice was practiced even by Israel's kings (2 Kings 16:3; Ezekiel 16:20; Isaiah 57:5).

"They played the harlot in their doings" (Psalms 106:39). This is an accurate description of the idol worship in Canaan. Their pagan sex and fertility gods were "worshipped" with the most unbelievably vulgar and licentious ceremonies involving the patronage of the multitudes of religious prostitutes who were the principle sensual attraction of the shrines and high places of Canaan. There was certainly a great deal more involved than merely "bowing down" in front of some idol.

Verse 40
GOD'S ANGER WITH HIS PEOPLE

"Therefore was the wrath of Jehovah

kindled against his people,

And he abhorred his inheritance.

And he gave them into the hands of nations;

And they that hated them ruled over them.

Their enemies also oppressed them,

And they were brought into subjection under their hand.

Many times did he deliver them;

But they were rebellious in their counsel,

And were brought low in their iniquity."

The "many times" of Psalms 106:43, here, suggests that it was during the tumultuous period of the Judges that these frequent deliveries occurred.

Great heroes like Samson and Gideon were among the instruments of God's deliverances during that period.

Verse 44
GOD'S BLESSINGS DESPITE ISRAEL'S SINS

"Nevertheless he regarded their distress,

When he heard their cry;

And he remembered for them his covenant,

And repented according to the multitude of his lovingkindness.

He made them also to be pitied

Of all those that carried them captive."

"He remembered his covenant" (Psalms 106:44). God had promised the Messiah to be born of the descendants of the Patriarchs; and, in a sense, God was "stuck with Israel," until that promise was fulfilled in the birth of Christ. That is why God continued to bless fleshly Israel, regardless of their wickedness, even though, as Ezekiel stated it, they actually became "worse than Sodom and Gomorrah (Ezekiel 16).

"Of all those that carried them captive" (Psalms 106:46). This simply does not sound like Nebuchadnezzar, but the many captivities of Israel in earlier times. Therefore we agree with McCaw, quoted at the beginning of this chapter that Psalms 106:47, below, does not require a Babylonian explanation.

Verse 47
"Save us, O Jehovah our God,

And gather us from among the nations,

To give thanks unto thy holy name,

And to triumph in thy praise."

The prayer here is for God to bring back the people from many nations, not just one, such as Babylon. The prayer is also for salvation.

Verse 48
"Blessed be Jehovah the God of Israel,

From everlasting even to everlasting.

And let all the people say, Amen.

Praise ye Jehovah."

Psalms 106 actually ended in Psalms 106:47; and here we have the doxology that closes Book IV of the Psalter. Also, we have the "Praise the Lord," or "Hallelujah" featured in this group of psalms.

 


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Psalms 106:37". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". "http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/view.cgi?book=ps&chapter=106&verse=37". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

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