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Monday, July 22nd, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 105

Coffman's Commentaries on the BibleCoffman's Commentaries



We have been unable to find any authentic information about either the author or occasion of this psalm. After an introduction in the first five verses, the psalm mentions with thanksgiving and gratitude the covenant with Abraham; Isaac and Jacob (Psalms 105:6-12); God’s guidance of Israel into Egypt and out (Psalms 105:13-23); His goodness to them during times of oppression (Psalms 105:24-25); God’s deliverance of them from Egypt by Moses and Aaron (Psalms 105:26-38); His mercies in the wilderness (Psalms 105:39-41); and finally His gift of the land of Canaan (Psalms 105:42-45).

The psalm thus becomes a somewhat chronological survey of the history of Israel’s progress from the days of the patriarchs to the Promised Land. Surprisingly, there is no mention either of the Red Sea Crossing, or that of the Jordan. Also, there is no hint whatever of the many rebellions of the chosen people in the wilderness.

Here and them, there are bits of information which are supplementary to the account in the Pentateuch. This, it seems, is characteristic of inspired writings.

Another fact regarding this psalm is that the first fifteen verses of it appear almost verbatim in 1 Chronicles 16:8-22. Leupold wrote, “This psalm appears to be the original.”(F1) This could be true, only if an early date is accepted for the psalm.

“This is the second of the four great songs of Israel’s history, the others being Psalms 78; Psalms 106; and Psalms 136.”(F2)

Verses 1-5


“O give thanks unto Jehovah, call upon his name; Make known among the peoples his doings, Sing unto him, sing praises unto him; Talk ye of all his marvelous works. Glory ye in his holy name: Let the heart of them rejoice that seek Jehovah. Seek ye Jehovah and his strength; Seek his face evermore. Remember his marvelous works that he hath done, His wonders, and the judgments of his mouth.”

“Make known among the peoples his doings” This is a commandment for the people of Israel to tell among the Gentiles the wonderful deeds of the Lord.

Without any doubt, the most astounding events in human history are those clustered around the choice of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob by none less than God Himself. The miracles of the most monumental character attended the development of the Chosen People and God’s displacing the nations of Canaan, re-populating it with Israel. Why this heavenly `partiality,’ if we may call it that, to the Jews?

In the purpose of God this elevation of Abraham’s posterity to a “preferred status” in God’s sight was absolutely necessary.

When the entire Adamic race became so corrupt that God destroyed them in the Great Deluge, the human family had another beginning in the family of Noah; but when it soon became evident that the race of mankind was again on the road to total departure from God, Abraham and his descendants were selected for the purpose of preserving the knowledge of God on earth until the First Advent of Christ. Thus, Abraham was not chosen merely for his own sake, but for the sake of all mankind. Moreover, it was the particular ability of Abraham to command his children after him that entered into God’s choice (Genesis 18:19). The redeemed of all ages, therefore, may thank God for the ability of Abraham. In God’s first announcement of the choice of Abraham, he made it clear that “all the families of the earth” were included in God’s purpose of salvation (Genesis 12:3).

“Remember his marvelous works, his wonders, and the judgments” This is the theme of the psalm. It is customary to break a psalm like this up into paragraphs; but as Rawlinson noted, “Such divisions here could be made only arbitrary, because there are no really marked divisions.”(F3)

Verse 6

“O ye seed of Abraham his servant, Ye children of Jacob, his chosen ones.”

This verse identifies the chosen people as the persons addressed.

Verses 7-10

“He is Jehovah our God; His judgments are in all the earth. He hath remembered his covenant forever, The word which he commanded to a thousand generations, The covenant which he made with Abraham, And his oath to Isaac, And confirmed the same unto Jacob as a statute, To Israel for an everlasting covenant.”

These verses begin the list of God’s wonderful works on behalf of Israel by citing the blessed covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the patriarchs of the Chosen People. It is not our purpose here to comment upon all the circumstances of the events mentioned in this historical summary. We have written detailed commentaries on the entire Pentateuch and the Book of Joshua; and anyone desiring to explore any of the things here mentioned will find our full comments under the verses cited in connection with each event. Regarding the covenant here mentioned, Genesis (Genesis 15; Genesis 21; Genesis 27) provides the details.

“The covenant” “God was in covenant with Israel from the time of the forefathers, and that covenant was essentially a promise.”(F4)

“And confirmed the same as a statute” “That covenant was not only a promise, but a law.”(F5)

“To Israel for an everlasting covenant” There is no limitation upon the duration of God’s covenant with Israel. It is still in effect. Although the fleshly, or racial, Israel defected from the covenant, the Messiah, Jesus Christ, the New Israel, the True Vine, the Good Shepherd, now lives forever at the right hand of God; and “in Christ” all of the ancient covenant with Abraham is still valid. “If ye are Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29).

Verses 11-15

“Saying, Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan, The lot of your inheritance; When they were but a few men in number, Yea, very few, and sojourning in it. And they went about from nation to nation. From one kingdom to another people. He suffered no man to do them wrong; Yea, he reproved kings for their sakes, Saying, Touch not mine anointed ones, And do my prophets no harm.”

These verses conclude the portion of the psalm which is given in 1 Chronicles.

“I will give thee the land of Canaan” This promise to the patriarchs was indeed a marvel. They were at the time of the promise merely a handful of men; and there were seven mighty nations in Canaan. That God actually made this promise is proved by the fact of the Patriarchs’ believing it and purchasing the Cave of Machpelah in Canaan as the family burial place (Genesis 23).

For long generations, this promise was a matter of faith. The patriarchs were landless; they were but a handful of people; they wandered about from nation to nation; “But God was at work protecting and blessing his people, looking to the ultimate fulfilment of the promise.”(F6)

“From nation to nation” “Abraham was in Egypt awhile, and Isaac was in Gerar”(F7) (Genesis 12; Genesis 20; Genesis 26). Also Jacob was at Manahaim (Genesis 32), Shechem (Genesis 33), Bethel (Genesis 35), Ephraph (Genesis 35:16) and Egypt (Genesis 45-46).

“He reproved kings for their sakes” Those kings were Pharaoh (Genesis 12:17) and Abimelech (Genesis 10:7).

“Touch not mine anointed ones… do my prophets no harm” “These words do not appear in Genesis, but they accurately express the lesson which the events taught.”(F8)

“Anointed ones” is a reference to the patriarchs as God’s special servants, although there is no record of their being anointed. Abraham is called a prophet in Genesis 20:7.

Verses 16-19

“And he called for a famine upon the land; He brake the whole staff of bread. He sent a man before them; Joseph was sold for a servant: His feet they hurt with fetters: He was laid in chains of iron, Until the time his word came to pass, The word of Jehovah tried him.”

“He called for a famine” God’s plan was to send all of Israel into Egyptian slavery, as he had prophesied through Abraham (Genesis 15); and the famine fitted into that purpose.

“He sent a man before them” The sale of Joseph by his brothers, somewhat earlier than the famine, was also part of God’s plan, another instance of, “the wrath of man praising God.”

“Feet hurt with fetters” This is a detail not found in Genesis; but the truth of it cannot be doubted.

“He was laid in chains of iron” An alternative reading is, “The iron entered into his soul.” The RSV renders this, “His neck was put in a collar of iron.”

“The word of Jehovah tried him” Dean Johnson believed that the implied promise to Joseph of preeminence above his brothers in those dreams which led to their hatred of him (Genesis 37) seemed utterly impossible of fulfilment during Joseph’s imprisonment; and that, “This bitter contrast with what Joseph had expected is what tried or tested Joseph.”(F9) The opinion of this writer is that it was the temptation from the wife of Potiphar which was at least one of the ways in which the word of Jehovah tried him. It might have been both and also have included other tests.

Verses 20-22

“The king sent and loosed him; Even the ruler of peoples, And let him go free. He made him lord of his house, And ruler of his substance; To bind his princes at his pleasure, And teach his elders wisdom.”

These verses report the elevation of Joseph to a position of authority in Egypt second only to that of Pharaoh himself. Genesis 41 has the Genesis account of this.

“To bind his princes at his pleasure” This is not mentioned in Genesis; but given Joseph’s great authority in Egypt, the truth of it cannot be questioned.

Verses 23-25

“Israel also came into Egypt; And Jacob sojourned in the land of Ham. And he increased his people greatly, And made them stronger than their adversaries. He turned their heart to hate his people, To deal subtly with his servants.”

This is a thumb-nail history of four hundred years! God had told Abraham on that dreadful night of the covenant when the smoking lamp went between the carcasses what would happen to his posterity.

“Abram, know of a surety that thy seed shall be sojourners in a land that is not theirs, and they shall serve them, and they shall afflict them four hundred years. That nation whom they shall serve, will I judge; and afterward shall they come out with great substance (Gen. 15:13.14).

“Jacob sojourned in the land of Ham” “Egypt is here called the land of Ham, because in the table of nations (Genesis 10) Egypt is listed as one of the sons of Ham.”(F10)

“God made them stronger than their adversaries” It is surprising to us that a scholar such as Leupold would question the truth of this. He wrote, “This can scarcely be intended to be understood in the most literal sense.”(F11) Indeed! And why not? “The king over Egypt said… Behold the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we. Come let us deal wisely with them, etc.” (Exodus 1:7).

“God turned their heart to hate his people” “Through his great blessings upon the Israelites, God caused the Egyptians to hate them.”(F12) This came about through their envy, jealousy and fear of the astounding growth of Israel.

Verses 26-36


“He sent Moses his servant, And Aaron whom he had chosen. They set among them his signs, And wonders in the land of Ham. He sent darkness and made it dark; And they rebelled not against his words. He turned their waters into blood, And slew their fish. Their land swarmed with frogs In the chambers of their kings. He spake, and there came swarms of flies, And lice in all their borders. He gave them hail for rain, And flaming fire in their land. He smote their vines also, and their fig-trees, And brake the trees of their borders. He spake, and the locust came, And the grasshopper, and that without number, And did eat up every herb in the land, And did eat up the fruit of the ground. He smote also all the first-born in their land, The chief of all their strength.”

First there is mentioned here the commission of Moses and Aaron for the purposes of the Exodus (Exodus 2-7).

Next, we find the account of the plagues which God visited upon Egypt as the time drew near for His deliverance of Israel from bondage. There were ten of these visitations, but only eight are mentioned in this psalm. “The sequence followed in the psalm is 9, 1, 2, 4, 3, -, -, 7, 8, and 10.”(F13) Note that 9 (the darkness) is mentioned first, 5 and 6 are omitted; and 4 and 3 change places.

The Genesis sequence is as follows:

  • Changing water into blood (Exodus 7:20)

  • The plague of frogs (Exodus 8:6)

  • The plague of lice (Exodus 8:17)

  • The plague of flies (Exodus 8:24)

  • The murrain of cattle (Exodus 9:6)

  • Plague of boils and blains (Exodus 9:10)

  • The plague of hail (Exodus 9:22)

  • The plague of locusts ((Exodus 10:13)

  • The plague of darkness (Exodus 10:22)

  • The death of the first-born (Exodus 12:29

“And they rebelled not against his words” This is a very difficult verse. Certainly it cannot apply to the Egyptians; and the application of it to Moses and Aaron seems contraindicated; so what do we make of it? Frankly, we do not know. “If the `not’ in this passage is to stand, it must apply to Moses and Aaron; Professor Cheyne, however, following the Septuagint (LXX) boldly cancels the `not’.”(F14)

“He smote their vines and their fig-trees” “The skeptical objection that there were no vines in Egypt has long ago been given up.”(F15)

Verses 37-38


“And he brought them forth with silver and gold; And there was not one feeble person among his tribes. Egypt was glad when they departed; For the fear of them had fallen upon them.”

“He brought them forth with silver and gold” (Psalms 105:37). See Exodus 12:35 for the Pentateuchal record of this. Also see Genesis 15:14 for God’s promise of that very thing.

Verses 39-41


“He spread a cloud for a covering, And fire to give light in the night. They asked, and he brought quails, And satisfied them with the bread of heaven. He opened the rock, and waters gushed out; They ran in the dry places like a river.”

There were many wonders during the wilderness period, but only these are cited here: (1) The pillar of cloud and of fire by day and by night is recorded in Exodus 13:21-22. (2) The miraculous food of quails and the manna are featured in Exodus 16. (3) The water from the rock appears in Exodus 17.

Verses 42-44


“For he remembered his holy word, And Abraham his servant. And he brought forth his people with joy, And his chosen with singing. And he gave them the lands of the nations; And they took the labors of the peoples in possession.”

The previous three verses were a summary of the forty-years in the wilderness; and these three verses condense the entire history of the Conquest of Canaan under Joshua into these few lines. The whole Book of Joshua is devoted to the record of what is here stated so briefly.

In context, the psalmist is here declaring, simply, that God who had promised to deliver the land of Canaan to the patriarchs actually did so, the four centuries intervening notwithstanding.

Verse 45


“That they might keep his statutes, And observe his laws. Praise ye Jehovah.”

Why did God cast out the nations of Canaan and repopulate the land with Israel? Simply that his laws might be honored and observed in that land. This was the part of the glorious covenant that Israel, except for a small righteous remnant, did not generally honor. In time, the nation became even worse than the peoples whom God had driven out before them; and it was for that reason, that racial Israel, just like the wicked nations expelled before them, was also cast out of the land of Canaan, exactly as Moses had warned them before they entered it. “And ye shall be plucked from off the land whither thou goest in to possess it” (Deuteronomy 28:63).

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Psalms 105". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/psalms-105.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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