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May God, who is rich in mercy towards his own people, Psalms 106:1-2, if indeed they walk according to his commandments, Psalms 106:3, manifest also at the present time this mercy towards his suffering church, Psalms 106:4-5. Assuredly we have sinned grievously, and hitherto have not fulfilled the condition of salvation; and therefore, instead of salvation, we have had severe punishment, in Egypt, Psalms 106:6-12, in the wilderness, Psalms 106:13-33, and in Canaan, where the consummation of the sins of the people has at last led to the consummation of the punishment, the captivity and the desolation, Psalms 106:34-43. But as on former occasions, the mercy of God shone forth in many ways through his wrath, so has he even now heard the cry of his people in their deserved misery, and turned towards them the heart of his oppressors, so that, in spite of his sins, which brought to a termination the prayer begun in Psalms 106:4-5, he can full of confidence call upon the Lord to complete the work which he had begun, and to gather them from among the heathen, Psalms 106:44-48.
The beginning and the conclusion, which consist each of five verses, make up a decade. The name Jehovah occurs in all in these verses seven times, four times in Psalms 106:1-5, and three in Psalms 106:44-48. The representation of the sins of the people is complete in four strophes, of which the first, containing seven verses, represents the transgressions in Egypt, the second and third, each containing ten verses, the transgressions in the wilderness, Psalms 106:13-22, and Psalms 106:24-33, and the third, containing likewise two, the transgressions in Canaan. The two first strophes are separated from the two last by an intercalary verse, Psalms 106:23, which this Psalm has in common with Psalms 104 and Psalms 105. The fourth strophe, corresponding to the decade of the beginning and the conclusion, is divided by a five and a five, while the second is divided by a three and a seven.
The situation is described exactly in Psalms 106:46-47. A better turn of fortune has visited the Israelities, inasmuch as the Lord has turned towards them the hearth of their oppressors, Psalms 106:46, but still they are in captivity, scattered among the heathen, and full deliverance is still the object of desire and prayer, Psalms 106:47; comp. also Psalms 106:4-5. The situation therefore is that towards the end of the captivity, exactly corresponding to that in the prayer of Daniel at the beginning of the Medo-Persian dynasty, Daniel 9, a passage with which our Psalm is so intimately connected, that it may be considered as its lyrical echo. The result thus set forth may still be adopted even though we were to conclude from the clause at the conclusion, “and all the people say Amen,” that the Psalm was intended for use in the sanctuary, and must thus have been first composed after the return from the captivity. The situation in this case, instead of being a real, would be an assumed one. The Psalmist, with the design of leading the people into a full understanding of their own experience, would in this case transfer himself along with the people who are here introduced as speaking from beginning to end, into the time immediately before full possession had been obtained. This inference, however, is anything but sure. Meetings for the public worship of God (and only such in general can be supposed to be implied in the conclusion) assuredly took place during the captivity: a people of God cannot exist without worshipping God.
Our Psalm is the concluding portion of that trilogy of the captivity which is appended to the Davidic trilogy, and with which it forms one whole. This is evident from the joyful conclusion,—a conclusion which manifestly belongs to one great whole—and also from the Halleluja at the beginning and at the end,—a circumstance all the more decisive, as such a conclusion occurs also at Psalms 113, which is connected in a similar manner with Psalms 111 and Psalms 112—in manifest connection with the simple Halleluja of Psalms 104 and Psalms 105.
The design of the Psalm is to awaken the people to a lively consciousness of the truth, that though there is much of sin in us, there is much more of grace in God, and thus to untie the knot which the Psalmist had tied at the end of Psalms 105, to which Psalms 106:3 here alludes in the intimation made of the dependence of the possession of Canaan upon obedience to the commandments of God,—to remove the enemy which threatened to rob the people of the help of which they had been assured by nature, Psalms 104, and by history, Psalms 105, and of the restoration to their own land.
The main-character of the Psalm is that of a confession of sin. This is manifest from the general position placed at its head, “we have sinned with our fathers, we have committed iniquity, we have done wickedly,” of which all that follows is to be considered merely as a development. It is also manifest from the circumstance that the sinfulness of the people is the one thought which runs through all the strophes, and is the regularly and exclusively predominant one. It can be considered here only as a subordinate matter introduced in the way of preparation for the conclusion, to point to the divine compassion which insures deliverance to Israel, notwithstanding their sins, Psalms 106:8-12, Psalms 106:23.
The object of the confession of sin is in the first instance to represent the hindrance to salvation in its whole extent and with full sharpness, so that the inventive spirit of men troubled by a conscience of sin might be able to add nothing to it. In such a case everything depends upon the fact that nothing is covered over and palliated: it is only where an awakened conscience sees an entirely true representation of sin that it can appropriate to itself the offered consolation. At the same time, however, the full representation of sins by which the people had merited the judgments under which they were sighing might serve completely to justify the former ways of God, and thus to remove one mighty hindrance to hope. It is only the man who gives fully the glory to God in reference to suffering, who sees nothing in it except deserved punishment, which with him cannot be misdirected, but must serve the promotion of his glory, that can give to him also the glory in reference to deliverance. It is only a true confession of sin that throws light upon the past as well as the future ways of God. [Note: Calvin, “If God chastise us severely we immediately imagine that his promises have failed. But when, on the contrary, we are told that we bear the punishment which our sins have deserved, and the promises at the same time are held out to us, by which God offers himself as gracious, immediately we repent with our whole heart.”]
The older expositors give hence the impression which the Psalm ought to produce on the New Testament church: “O Lord, thou art a gracious God, be gracious to us also poor sinners, for the sake of thy covenant and of thy grace which thou hast promised in Christ, as thou hast been gracious to our forefathers in regard to their sins.”
In 1 Chronicles 16, there is given a Psalm-piece, consisting of the beginning of Psalms 105 ( 1 Chronicles 16:1-15), the whole of Psalms 96, and the beginning (in 1 Chronicles 16:34) and the end (in 1 Chronicles 16:35-36) of our Psalm. According to the common idea the author of Chronicles is understood to relate that this composition was sung at the erection of the sanctuary on Sion under David. The older expositors hence conclude that the three Psalms from which this fragment is made up, were composed by David, or at least in the time of David; in more modern times a proof has been got of the non-genuineness of Chronicles or of the arbitrary manner in which the Jews fixed the authors and the dates of the Psalms. But the whole depends upon a mistake. The description of the service which took place at the introduction of the ark of the covenant in 1 Chronicles 16 terminates before the Psalm-piece is given: so that we cannot conceive of any use made of that Psalm-piece at this festival. David had already pronounced the blessing, 1 Chronicles 16:2, and the people had been dismissed with gifts, with which, according to 2 Chronicles 6:18-19, the festival was closed. A narrative is next given of the arrangement of the sacred music in the tabernacle. It is recorded next in 1 Chronicles 16:7, that David on the same day caused thanks to be given by Asaph and his brethren, and on the occasion of the great memorable day of the establishment of the sacred music, there is given the essence in 1 Chronicles 16:8-16 of those Psalms which at all times were sung, accompanied by this music, in representation of the whole Psalter. The author of Chronicles naturally formed his composition out of these Psalms which were sung in his day most frequently, and with the greatest relish. In like manner it was natural that he should not bind himself strictly to the text of the borrowed passages, but should introduce slight variations wherever such seemed suitable. The defence lies in this, that he does not, like the author of the Books of Samuel, in 2 Samuel 22, pledge himself to give a faithful transcript of another man’s labour, but has rather published expressly an abstract by himself; and we must therefore expect it à priori to be given with that freedom which is manifested in selecting from Psalms 105 only the beginning, and from our Psalm the beginning and the conclusion.
Ver. 1. Halleluja, praise the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy lasts for ever. Ver. 2. Who can express the mighty deeds of the Lord, shew forth all his praise. Ver. 3. Blessed are they who keep judgment, practise righteousness at all times. Ver. 4. Remember me, O Lord, with the favour of thy people, visit me with thy salvation. Ver. 5. So that see the good of thy chosen, rejoice with the joy of thy people: be glad with thine inheritance.
The beginning, praise the Lord, corresponds designedly to that of Psalms 105. The enduring of the goodness, = the being good of the Lord, is the eternal duration of his mercy; compare at the fundamental passage, Psalms 105
The transcendent greatness of the deeds of God, Psalms 106:2, ought not to keep us back from praising him, but contains in it the strongest motive to praise, comp. Psalms 40:5, Psalms 71:15; the farther off the goal is, the more earnestly must we strive.
The third verse points to the condition with which participation in the eternal mercy of God is connected, in agreement with Psalms 105:45, Psalms 103:18, Psalms 101;—the import being, “Blessed the people, if they only.” The church does not allow herself to be incidentally turned aside by this important “if,” but proceeds onward from praising the mercy of the Lord; Psalms 106:4-5, to pray that that mercy may be imparted to her. After she had offered up such a prayer, however, it goes to her heart with a hundred-fold greater weight; she acknowledges that the condition by no means exists in her case, and lays hold of the compassion of God as the last anchor of deliverance. It is exactly in the same way that the confession of sin in Daniel 9:4, is appended to the words, “he keepeth covenant and mercy for ever, for those who love him.” In Psalms 106:4 it is not the Psalmist himself that speaks, but the present generation, compare Psalms 106:6—such personal references are very rarely to be adopted in these Psalms that were composed at the period of the captivity and subsequently, and indeed scarcely ever in any of the non-Davidic Psalms. The conclusion of the Psalm shows that the speaker is the people. They pray in their misery to the Lord, who appeared to have forgotten them, that he would think upon them and visit them with that favour which belongs to his own people, and which they themselves had so readily enjoyed in early times. The גוי , Psalms 106:5, is used also in other passages of Israel when עם had preceded, for example, Zephaniah 2:9. The inheritance of God is Israel, compare Deuteronomy 9:29.
Ver. 6. We have sinned with our fathers, we have transgressed, we have done wickedly. Ver. 7. Our fathers in Egypt understood not thy wonders, they thought not on the multitude of thy tender mercies, and rebelled at the sea, at the Red Sea. Ver. 8. And he delivered them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his strength. Ver. 9. And rebuked the Red Sea, when it was dried up, and he led them through the floods as through the wilderness. Ver. 10. And delivered them from the hand of him who, hated them, and redeemed them from the hand of the enemy. Ver. 11. And the waters covered their enemies, there was not one of them left. Ver. 12. Then they believed in his word, they sang his praise.
The three verbs in Psalms 106:6, by which in the most impressive manner the greatness of the transgressions of the people is descried, occur also in 1 Kings 8:47, in the prayer of Solomon at the dedication of the temple, and also in Daniel 9:5, in the same order and in a similar connection. 1 Kings 8:47 is undoubtedly the fundamental passage. There occurs also an undeniable reference in 1 Kings 8:46 to the prayer of Solomon, which the author of Kings took from its ancient source, so that no deduction can be drawn from it as to the date of composition of these books; comp. 1 Kings 8:50 there. With our fathers,—along with them, so that we and they together form one corrupted mass. The transgressions of the fathers of Israel, the Mosaic generation (compare Psalms 106:7, Psalms 78:8, Psalms 78:12), are next given in detail, in Psalms 106:7-33, and their own sins or those of Israel in Canaan, Psalms 106:34-43.
On Psalms 106:7 compare Psalms 78:11, Psalms 78:42; on המרה at Psalms 78:17. The full description of the locality is intended to direct attention to this the first place where Israel’s hardness of heart was displayed after the omnipotence and the grace of God had been made known to them in the ten plagues of Egypt. It appears that in the description of the locality allusion is made to Exodus 15:4, “the chariots of Pharaoh and his host he cast into the sea, and his chosen warriors were drowned in the Red Sea.” The conjecture עלים , referring to the Red Sea, is decidedly to be rejected. The ב could only stand here after the more exact word על had gone before. But for it, the rebellion must be conceived of as having taken place in the sea.
For his name’s sake, Psalms 106:8,—compare Psalms 23:3; Psalms 25:11.
He rebuked, Psalms 106:9, compare Psalms 104:7. On “as the wilderness,” concisely, for “as one goes through the wilderness,” compare Isaiah 63:13, “who led them through the floods, like the horse in the wilderness, they did not stumble.”
Psalms 106:12 depends on Exodus 14:31; on the second clause compare Exodus 15:1. That Israel believed is not said to his praise, but to the praise of God who constrained them as it were to a momentary faith, and in view of the following paragraph, according to which they immediately lost this faith thus wrought in them.
Out of the number of the transgressions of the people in the wilderness, the Psalmist gives prominence in the first decade to three, ascending, without any regard to arrangement as to time, from the smaller to the greater: eager impatience in demanding flesh, Psalms 106:13-15, rebellious attack upon the rank given to the princes by God, Psalms 106:16-18, direct attack upon God in erecting and worshipping the calf, Psalms 106:19-22. The reason why the Psalmist dwells at such length upon the sins of Israel in the wilderness, is not merely because these are detailed in the Books of Moses as a glass for all future times, but because he sees in the exclusion, as the consequence of these, of that sinful generation from Canaan, a type of the leading away into captivity from Canaan of their posterity, comp. Psalms 106:27.
Ver. 13. They hasted, forgot, waited not for his counsel. Ver. 14. And lusted in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert. Ver. 15. And he gave them their desire, and sent leanness into their soul.
Ver. 16. And they envied Moses in the camp, Aaron the holy one of the Lord. Ver. 17. The earth opened and swallowed up Dathan, and covered the company of Abiram. Ver. 18. And a fire was kindled among their company, flame burnt up the wicked.
Ver. 19. They made a calf in Horeb, and worshipped a molten image. Ver. 20. And changed their glory into the image of an ox that eateth grass. Ver. 21. They forgot God their Saviour, who had done great things in Egypt. Ver. 22. Wonders in the land of Ham,, terrible things at the Red Sea.
On Psalms 106:13, Berleb: “It might well be said, except ye see signs and wonders ye will not believe,” John 4:48. On “they hasted,” comp. Exodus 32:8, “they have turned aside hastily from the way which I commanded them.” His works, comp. Deuteronomy 11:3-4, Daniel 9:14. For his counsel, “inasmuch as he had already determined when and how he should help them,” Berleb.: [Note: Calvin. “The haste of our desires is astonishing, so much so that we can scarcely allow God one day. For unless he immediately answer our call, instantly there arise impatience and at length despair.”]
On Psalms 106:14 comp. Numbers 11:4, “And the mixed multitude who were among them lusted a lust. . . And they said, who shall give us flesh to eat, Numbers 11:34, and they called the place the graves of lust, because there they buried the people who had lusted.” Improper conduct of a similar kind had already been exhibited in connection with the want of support, but the Psalmist brings forward this case here because the sin was more aggravated—formerly it was impatience when in want of the necessaries of life, but here it was lusting—and because a divine judgment was connected with it. On the second clause comp. Psalms 78:18.
On “he gave them their desire,” Psalms 106:15, comp. Numbers 11:18, ss., Psalms 78:29, “he gratified their appetite,” The וישלח , and thus sent, even by this; comp. at Psalms 78:30. The נפש is the animal, food needing soul; comp. at Psalms 78:18, Psalms 107:18, Numbers 11:6, “And now our soul is dried up.” This soul, while it desired to be satisfied and filled by this bounty, got its wish, but at the same time in spite of this gift it got also the opposite and its own punishment; for immediately there came on wasting sickness which at last ended in death.
On Psalms 106:16 comp. Numbers 16:1, ss. On “Aaron the holy one of the Lord”— “holy” does not denote a moral property but the office which he held, his nobility, comp. at Psalms 16:3—comp. Numbers 16:3, where the rebels say, “the whole congregation, they are all holy, and wherefore do ye exalt yourselves above the congregation of the Lord, Numbers 16:5, in the morning the Lord will make known who is his and who is holy, Numbers 16:7, he whom the Lord shall choose he is the holy one.”
The rebellion was followed by a double punishment. The first, Psalms 106:17 here, fell upon the non-Levitical portion of the rebels, the Reubenites, Dathan and Abiram, and their dependants; comp. Numbers 16 (the people of Korah there in Numbers 16:32, are Korah the chief ringleader’s Reubenite associates), Numbers 26:10, Deuteronomy 11:6. These were swallowed up by the earth. On the first clause comp. Numbers 16:32, “and the earth opened her mouth,” which is here to be supplied, Deuteronomy 11:6; on the second, Num. 5:33, “and the earth covered them.” The second punishment fell upon the Levitical portion, with Korah at their head, comp. Numbers 16:35, Numbers 17:5, Numbers 26:10. These had sinned by fire and were punished by fire like the sons of Aaron, Leviticus 10:2. A similar correspondence between the transgression and the punishment existed in the first fall; the depth of the fall marks by way of contrast the height of the exaltation, comp. Isaiah 14:12.
The indirect assault upon the Lord in his counsel and in his holy one is followed in Psalms 106:19 by the direct one. They made—contrary to the prohibition in Exodus 20:4-5— a calf, intended to represent an ox, compare Psalms 106:20. They would gladly have made an ox, but they were not able to get this length, so contemptible was the undertaking. The name, calf, is generally used in contempt; the worshippers without doubt called it a bull, according to Philo they made “a golden bull;” comp. the inquiries on the calf-worship in the Beitr. 2 p. 155, ss. Allusion is made to Exodus 32:4, “And he made it a golden calf.”
Their glory, Psalms 106:20—the God who, had lifted them from the dust of debasement to the glory of the children of God, and had distinguished them above all other nations; comp. Deuteronomy 4:6-8, Deuteronomy 10:21, “he is thy praise (thy glory), thy God, who hath done to thee this great and terrible thing which thine eyes have seen.” The תבנית is from, Deuteronomy 4:16-17. On the whole verse comp. Jeremiah 2:11. Israel had intended to have worshipped Jehovah under the symbol of the calf or the bull, which they borrowed from the Egyptians (comp. the Beitr. p. 157); but as this symbolizing was incompatible with the nature of Jehovah, they did in reality by it give up the Lord altogether, (comp. 1 Kings 16:9, Beitr. p. 159), and were given up by him. They had therefore now, instead of the Lord of heaven and earth
O sinful stupidity!—nothing but an ox which can and will do nothing else than eat grass.
On Psalms 106:21-22, comp. the full description of the great deeds of the Lord in Egypt, as given in Psalms 105:27, s. In the land of Ham, Psalms 105:23, Psalms 105:27. The end of the strophe turns back to its beginning in Psalms 106:13.
Ver. 23. And he said he would destroy them, had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach, to turn away his wrath that he should not destroy them. The length of this verse harmonises with its important position. Long verses occur in our Psalm only where prominence is intended to be given to some important point. On “he said,” not “he thought,” Deuteronomy 9:13, comp. Psalms 106:8. Before “had not” we are to supply, “this would really have happened.” To stand in the breach—like a warrior who covers with his body the broken part of the wall of a besieged city, comp. Exodus 13:5, Exodus 22:30. The weapon with which Moses defended the spiritual city is intercessory prayer, comp. Exodus 32:11-35, Deuteronomy 9:18-19. In reference to the השיב , turned away, comp. Psalms 78:38, and the fundamental passage, Numbers 25:11, “Phineas turned away my anger from the children of Israel.” Moses in this matter is not to be considered as a stranger to the people, but as their representative and intercessor. Because at least in him the leader, there was realized the idea of the people, God looked graciously upon the whole people in him, and withdrew the real but qualified determination which he had formed to destroy them, Exodus 32:10, after it had been made known that the object of the qualification of the determination existed, a manifestation which was brought about in consequence of the announcement which had been made of the bare determination. And the circumstance that the nation at the very commencement of its history owed its preservation from destruction to mediation was sufficient to show the depth of sinful corruption, and also how little hope could exist of salvation in any other way than through the mercy of God.
Ver. 24. And they despised the land of beauty, they believed not his word. Ver. 25. And murmured in their tents, and did not hearken to the voice of the Lord. Ver. 26. And he lifted up his hand on them and overthrew them in the wilderness. Ver. 27. And that he overthrew their seed among the heathen, and scattered them in the lands.
Ver. 28. And they bound themselves also to Baal-peor, and ate the sacrifices of the dead. Ver. 29. And enraged him by their deeds, and the plague broke out among them. Ver. 30. Then stood up Phineas and judged, and the plague was stayed. Ver. 31. A nd it was reckoned to him for righteousness for all generations for ever.
Ver. 32. And they provoked him to anger at the waters of strife, and it went ill with Moses for their sakes. Ver. 33. For they rebelled against his spirit, so that he spoke inadvisedly with his lips.
This decade is divided not in the usual way by a 7 and a 3, or by a 5 and a 5, but by 4, 4, 2. First, the rebellion after the sending of the spies and its consequences, Psalms 106:24-27, next the sins of the new generation, their participation in the Moabitish idolatry, Psalms 106:28-31, and the offence at Meribah, Psalms 106:32-33. The transgressions of the fathers reach the amount of seven; in the first strophe, one in Egypt, in the second and third, the doubled three in the wilderness. These seven stand opposed to the seven wonders and signs of God on behalf of his people in the preceding Psalm, according to “do ye thus requite the Lord, O foolish people,” in Deuteronomy 32:6. In the books of Moses, also, the sevenfold temptations are set over against the sevenfold wonders and signs, Numbers 14:22.
On “they despised,” Psalms 106:24, comp. Numbers 14:31, “the land which you despised.” חמדה never signifies a wish or a desire, but always beauty; comp. the Christol. p. 354, and Jeremiah 3:19, where “the land of beauty” stands in parallel with “the goodly heritage.” Allusion is made to the descriptions of the beauty of the land, such as Exodus 3:8, “a good and large land, flowing with milk and honey,” Deuteronomy 11:11-15. They believed not his word, by which he repeatedly promises that he would give them the land, but rather the word of the faithless spies; comp. Psalms 78:22, Psalms 78:32.
The first clause of the ( Psalms 106:25) 25th verse is from Deuteronomy 1:27; the second from Numbers 14:22.
That the lifting up of the hand in Psalms 106:26 is the gesture of swearing (several falsely: he lifted up his hand against them) is evident from Numbers 14:30, “ye shall not come into the land while I have lifted up my hand (comp. Genesis 14:22, Exodus 6:8) to make you dwell in it,” in connection with the express mention of swearing in the case referred to in Numbers 14:28, Deuteronomy 1:34, Deuteronomy 2:14. On “that he had made them fall,” comp. Numbers 14:29, “And your carcases shall fall in the wilderness,” Psalms 106:32.
The determination against their seed, Psalms 106:27, was not expressed at that time but on another occasion, Leviticus 26, Deuteronomy 28; it was, however, implied in the determination against the fathers, and is here with propriety deduced from it. The להפיל cannot here be taken in any other sense than that in which it occurs in the preceding verse, not only because of the similarity of the expression, but also because of the intimate connection of the two facts which is intended to be brought into notice by the similarity of the expression. The fundamental passage also, Leviticus 26:38, “and ye perish among the heathen, and your enemy consumes your land,” shows how little reason there is for changing the construction. The בגוים corresponds exactly to במדבר . The wilderness was not more destructive for the fathers than residence among the heathen shall be for the children; the latter is also in spoken of as typified by the former. The second clause is from Leviticus 26:33, “And I will scatter you among the heathen.”
The first clause of Psalms 106:28 is from Numbers 25:3, comp. Numbers 25:5.
They bound themselves is explained by “to walk after Baal-peor” of Deuteronomy 4:3. Baal-peor, the proprietor of Peor, was the name given to the Moabitish idol Kamosh only in that country, from one of the places where lie was worshipped, Mount Peor, Numbers 23:28, at the foot of which Israel at that time lay encamped, comp. the Treatise on Balaam, p. 248 ss. The name never occurs except in connection with that locality and that circumstance. It is manifest from the fundamental passage that by “the dead’ are meant the dumb dead idols, 1 Corinthians 12:2, in opposition to the living God, Jeremiah 10:10, Numbers 25:2, “And they invited the people to the sacrifice of their God, and the people did eat and worshipped their God.” The one word brings together what is spread out in Jeremiah 10:3-10, Psalms 115:5, ss. Other expositions are to be rejected, because they bring forward a circumstance not mentioned in the original narrative, and to that narrative the Psalmist throughout confines himself
On Psalms 106:29 comp. Num. 25:18, 19, Psalms 78:58. The two members are related to each other as cause and effect; and because they thus provoked him, therefore. The פרץ is to break in, Exodus 19:24.
Psalms 106:30 agrees as to expression, still more literally with Numbers 17:13, “And he (Aaron) stood (propitiating) between the living and the dead, and the plague was stayed,” and also with the fundamental passage concerning Phinehas, Numbers 25:8. The פלל signifies in Pi. always to judge; and this sense appears here entirely suitable as soon as we get a right view; objections such as those of Gousset disappear of their own accord, “Judicial authority and legal right were wanting.” The act of Phinehas was a judicial one. The judges of Israel to whom Moses had given commandment, “let every one put to death his people who have bound themselves to Baal-peor,” sat at the door of the tabernacle and wept, Numbers 25:5-6, thus intimating their will, but at the same time their want of strength to judge, and exhorting every one who possessed it to act in their room, and under their authority. When, therefore, the commandment was given, the desire to witness the execution existed in the ordinary judges, Phinehas came forward who possessed what they wanted in their room.
At Psalms 106:31 we should compare for the expression Genesis 15:6, the only passage where it occurs, and for the subject, Deuteronomy 6:25, Deuteronomy 24:1, at Psalms 17, Psalms 24:5. The language does not refer to the first justification, but to the second, to the good works of one already in a state of grace, by which he obtains from God, who recompenses every one according to his works, a reward of grace, as Phinehas obtained on the present occasion the priesthood for his family, comp. Numbers 25:13. At the expression, “for all generations for ever,” we are to consider that these gifts may be lost temporarily in the same way in which they were won, and really were lost, as was the case with the family of David; and further, that the everlasting priesthood was promised to Phinehas only in opposition to the other descendants of Aaron, compare Deuteronomy 15:17, Leviticus 25:46, Christol. 2, p. 433. The strong prominence given to the deed of Phinehas, which was scarcely called for by the tendency of the Psalm, as also to the similar action of Moses, gives rise to the idea that the Psalmist had before his eyes a man of his own, day, who stood in the breach like the spiritual hero of antiquity. If this be so, the person alluded to can be only Daniel, according to Ezekiel 14:14, Ezekiel 14:20, according to the relation of our Psalm to Daniel 9, where Daniel in a very special manner stands in the breach on behalf of his people, and according to the manifest allusion to Daniel previously made in the preceding Psalm.
On the waters of Meribah, Psalms 106:32, compare at Psalms 95:8. For their sakes, because their unbelief called forth the failure of faith on the part of Moses, comp. Deuteronomy 1:37, Deuteronomy 3:26, Beitr. B. p. 425.
Psalms 106:23 develops “for their sakes” more fully, because while they rebelled against the spirit of the Lord, Moses spoke unadvisedly with his lips, he was so far affected by their rebellious unbelief that he momentarily became weak in faith, and doubting words fell from his lips, those viz., of Numbers 20:10, “Hear, ye rebels, shall we bring water for you out of the rock.” His spirit, not the Spirit of Moses, (Luther, for they vexed his heart), but the Spirit of God. For המרה with the accusative does not mean to vex or to embitter, but always to rebel against any one (comp. at Psalms 78:17; Psalms 78:56), and occurs in this sense even in Psalms 106:7, Psalms 106:43 of the present Psalm; the words, “to rebel against the Spirit of the Lord,” correspond to “to rebel against the words of God,” Psalms 107:11, Or against his month. “They rebelled,” stands in reference to “ye rebels,” of the fundamental passage. The spirit of the Lord is mentioned as his power and presence watching over Israel, comp. Isaiah 63:11, “who put his Holy Spirit in the midst of them,” Psalms 106:10, “And they rebelled and vexed his Holy Spirit,” Ephesians 4:30. The events at Meribah are designedly placed at the end, although they preceded those mentioned in Psalms 106:28-31. For the effects of the former extended to the latter. That Moses, the holy leader of the people, must die of their sin, before he entered the land of promise, gives us a deep insight into the sinfulness of the people, and makes us look upon them with trembling expectation, entering the land of promise.
From the fathers the Psalmist turns in Psalms 106:34-43 to the sons: in the first half of the decade, their sins, and in the second the judgment of God.
Ver. 34. They did not destroy the nations, concerning whom the Lord spoke to them. Ver. 35. And mixed with the heathen and learned their works. Ver. 36. And served their idols, which were a snare to them. Ver. 37. And offered their sons and their daughters to the lords. Ver. 38. And shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and of their daughters, whom they offered to the idols of Canaan, and the land was polluted with blood. Ver. 39. And they were defiled with their works, and committed whoredom with their deeds. Ver. 40. Then the anger of the Lord burned against his people, and he abhorred his inheritance. Ver. 41. And gave them into the hands of the heathen, and those who hated them ruled over them. Ver. 42. And their enemies oppressed them, and they were brought into subjection under their hand. Ver. 43. Many times did he deliver them, but they rebelled against him with their counsel, and were brought low by their iniquity.
They did not destroy, Psalms 106:34, not because of want of inclination, but because they were deficient in strength, in consequence of their guilt,—not from feelings of compassion, but from want of holy zeal and from slothfulness. Concerning which the Lord spake to them, comp. Exodus 23:32-33, Exodus 34:11-15.
They mixed, Psalms 106:35, in spite of the fresh warning of Joshua, Joshua 23:12-13. A commentary is furnished by Judges 3:6, “And they took their daughters for wives, and they gave their own daughters to their sons, and they served their gods,” comp. Deuteronomy 7:3. Berleb.: “Ah! how common is such a mixture even among the pious at this day!” On the second clause, comp. Deuteronomy 18:9, Deuteronomy 20:18.
For a snare, Psalms 106:36, for a cause of misery, inasmuch as it called down, upon them the wrath of God, comp. Exodus 10:7, Deuteronomy 7:16.
On “they offered their sons,” Psalms 106:37, Berleb.: “Among us such sacrifices take place by careless bringing up of children, when parents encourage them for example in pride and other sins, offer them to the god of the world, carefully inculcate the maxims of the world, and fill them with love of vanity and show.” The שדים occurs only here and in the fundamental passage, Deuteronomy 32:17, “They offered to Shedim, no-gods, gods which they knew not.” The Shedim there corresponds to Elohim; the bad sense (Luther: to devils) does not lie in the word itself, but is deduced from the next word, “no-god,” corresponding to “which they knew not” of the second clause. Hence the word is not derived from שדד to destroy, nor from [Note: Arabic not reproduced
ED.] to be black, but from [Note: Arabic not reproduced
ED.] to rule. They are the κύ?ριοι in 1 Corinthians 8:5, the πρυτά?νεις κό?σμου θεοὶ? , in Ws 13:2, the poetical word for the prosaic Baal; comp. with the above passage in Deut., Judges 2:11-12, where we have first “they served Baalim,” and afterwards “they walked after other gods.” The bad sense which the word has in Syriac owes its existence to the influence of Christianity, “The gods of Canaan” in Psalms 106:38 is the corresponding expression.—“They shed innocent blood,” in Psalms 106:38, depends upon Deuteronomy 19:10, “Innocent blood shall not be shed in thy land which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, otherwise the guilt of blood shall be against thee.” Which they offered,—contrary to the strict commandment, Deuteronomy 12:31, Deuteronomy 18:10. On “the laud was polluted with blood,” comp. Numbers 35:33, “And ye shall not pollute the land with blood wherein ye are, for blood it pollutes the land.” The law calls up everything which may impress upon the conscience the horror of shedding blood; and the difference between Jehovah and Moloch is so very sharply marked on this point, that the delusion of those who would have it that both approximated, deserves only commiseration.
Psalms 106:39 collects together the offence for the purpose of adding to it the punishment—because they thus, &c. The whoredom is of a spiritual character, for it is only of this that the language had been used in the first half of the strophe, the contents of which are here resumed; comp. Exodus 34:17, Leviticus 20:5, Leviticus 17:7, Numbers 14:33.
On Psalms 106:40, comp. Psalms 78:59, Psalms 78:62.
On Psalms 106:41, Judges 2:14. The second clause is according to Leviticus 26:17.
On the second clause of Psalms 106:42, comp. Judges 3:30, Judges 8:28.
The frequent deliverances in Psalms 106:43 are those during the judicial ( Judges 2:16) and the regal period. By their counsel,—their corrupt ungodly plans. The expression “they were brought low by their iniquity,” refers to the final complete degradation of the irreclaimable people in being led away into captivity. Allusion is made to the expression intended to refer in like manner to this last catastrophe, Leviticus 26:39, “they pine away also by their evil doings,” where instead of מכך we have here מקק , comp. also Ezekiel 33:10.
Ver. 44. And he saw in this their trouble, when he heard their complaint. Ver. 45. And remembered for them his covenant, and repented according to the fulness of his compassion. Ver. 46. And caused them to be pitied before all who had taken them captive. Ver. 47. Deliver us, O Lord our God, and gather us from the heathen that we may praise thy holy name and boast of thy praise. Ver. 48. Praised be the Lord the God of Israel from eternity to eternity, and all the people say, Amen, Halleluja.
Psalms 106:44-46 contain the facts, impart courage to the conscience-smitten people to resume, in Psalms 106:47, the prayer which had been begun in Psalms 106:4-5.
God saw, Psalms 106:44, the burden of the matter, their misery, Exodus 4:31, the object being to be supplied out of what follows. The seeing is the opposite of overlooking, comp. Exodus 2:25. “In the trouble to them” (comp. Psalms 18:6) is here, as in Psalms 107:6, from Deuteronomy 4:30, “in the trouble to thee when all these words strike thee.”
On the first clause of Psalms 106:45, comp. Leviticus 26:42, “and I remember for them my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham,” and Psalms 106:45. The promise which the Lord there imparts to his people for times of deepest trouble, he has now begun to fulfil. “He repented him,” depends on Deuteronomy 32:36, “And it repented him of his servants,” comp. at Psalms 90:13. Instead of the singular חַ סְ דוֹ? , his mercy, the Masorites read the plural unseasonably referring to Psalms 106:7. The mercies of the Lord are always the manifestations of his mercy, comp. at Psalms 89:2, also Isaiah 63:7, comp. Psalms 107:43. The discourse here, however, is of the fulness of love dwelling in God. That the Kri must be rejected appears from the fundamental passage, Numbers 14:19, “pardon still thy people according to the greatness of thy mercy,” comp. Psalms 5:7, Psalms 69:13, Nehemiah 13:22. A similarly bad Kri is to be found in Lamentations 3:32.
Psalms 106:46 depends upon 1 Kings 8:50, comp. 2 Chronicles 30:9. The operation of God referred to here was seen in facts such as that “he gave Daniel favour and pity in the face of the keeper of the eunuchs,” Daniel 1:9, and afterwards made him, and in him the whole people, acceptable to Nebuchadnezzar and his successors, and softened the heart of Evil-merodach to have pity upon Jehoiachin, 2 Kings 25:27, so that generally the former bitter hatred against Judah was followed by a more favourable state of mind, by which the way was prepared for their deliverance from captivity and their return to their own land.
That Psalms 106:44-46 refer to the captivity, and not, as many have supposed, to earlier times, is clear from the circumstance that the Psalmist had gone on to the end of Psalms 106:43 speaking about the captivity, from the clause “before all who led them away captives”—the Babylonish captivity was the first, comp. שובינו in Psalms 137:3,—from the reference to the fundamental passages of the Pentateuch, which treat of the grace of God towards the people in captivity, and to 1 Kings 8.
There rises on the ground of the compassion of God, manifested already towards the people in spite of their sins, the prayer that God would complete his begun work, and collect together his people from among the heathen. This prayer depends upon Deuteronomy 30:3; comp. Deuteronomy 30:4, “And the Lord turn back to thy captivity, and have mercy upon thee, and gather thee from among all the nations among which the Lord thy God has scattered thee,”—a passage to which Isaiah alludes in ch. Isaiah 11:12, when he beheld in spirit the captivity as already present, and also Micah in ch. Micah 2:12. That the language here refers to the return of the great body of the people, as it took place afterwards in the first year of Cyrus, appears from the circumstance that there is not the least trace of a return which had already taken place, while at the same time an allusion to a commencement which had recently taken place would have given the best foundation for the prayer for a complete restoration, from the reference to the fundamental passage, from Psalms 107:3, where immediately after the first return, the thing which is here prayed for appears as having already been imparted. On “that we may praise thy holy name,” comp. “praise his holy memorial” in Psalms 30:4. The Hiph. of שבח , to glory in a thing, occurs only here and in Chron. 16:35 = התהלל in Psalms 106:5. The praise of God is the praise which he procures for himself by his glorious deeds on behalf of his people, comp. Psalms 48:11, and Psalms 105:3, “boast yourselves in his holy name.”
In Psalms 106:48 the common translation is: “and let all the people say Amen.” But that the translation ought to be, “and the people say,” is evident from the fundamental passage, Deuteronomy 27:15, “And the whole people answers and says, Amen,” and from 1 Chronicles 16:36, where, instead of ואמר we have ויאמרו , and they say. The people strike in with these words. Further, according to the common idea, the verse is not to be considered as an original part of the Psalm, but is the doxology added by the compiler of the Psalms as the conclusion of the fourth book. But against this it may be urged that it is inconceivable that the response used by the people was taken from the conclusion of a book which had no connection with public worship, that the author of Chronicles would not in this case have quoted it, that the verse is indispensable to the formal arrangement of the Psalm, that the conclusion of the Psalm breathing praise to God remarkably agrees with its beginning, which bears a similar character, and also with the conclusion of Psalms 104, that this doxology differs from that at the end of the other books, Psalms 41, Psalms 72, Psalms 89, inasmuch as the Halleluja is there wanting, and the Amen is placed doubled, and that the Halleluja here is manifestly shown to be an integral portion of the Psalm by its correspondence with that at the beginning. We must therefore maintain that the doxology formed originally the conclusion of the Psalm, and, at the same time, as its length shows, also of the whole collection, Psalms 101-106, and that it was made by the compiler to serve a second purpose, namely, to form the conclusion of the fourth book.
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Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Psalms 106". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany