Bible Commentaries
Psalms 106

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Verses 1-5


This psalm is a contrast to the previous psalm. In Psalm 105 the psalmist speaks of the faithfulness of God to His promises. There he shows how God has always been with His people, protecting them, providing everything they needed, and bringing them into the land of promise.

The response He had reason to expect is in the last verse of the previous psalm (Psalms 105:45). The response He received is in this psalm. Psalm 106 gives the story of taunting God, despising the land, forgetting God’s promises. It is a story of unbelief, disobedience, rebellion, and idolatry.

That God continued with them in spite of these reactions of His people only makes His grace all the more admirable. He does have a righteous basis for this and that is the intercession of His Son, of which we see a picture in the intercession of Moses (Psalms 106:23).

Psalm 105 and Psalm 106 give us the history of Israel, not as an arid enumeration of facts, but as words of prayer and praise. The occasion is the lovingkindness and faithfulness of God on the one hand and the failure of the people on the other. Prophetically we find this already in Solomon’s prayer to God in 1 Kings 8.

In Psalm 106 we find the history of the journey of the people of Israel, now seen not as under the grace of God, but under the law of Sinai. Without self-knowledge, they said to God three times: “All that the LORD has spoken we will do!” (Exodus 19:8; Exodus 24:3Exodus 24:7). In response to this overconfident statement, the LORD gave His law: “So you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them; I am the LORD” (Leviticus 18:5).

However, the law proved to be powerless to bless the people because the blessing depended on the ability of the flesh to do the will of God (Romans 8:3). We see the impossibility of this illustrated in this psalm.

Division of the psalm

Psalms 106:1-Deuteronomy : Thanksgiving.
Psalms 106:6-2 Kings : The failure in Egypt.
Psalms 106:13-Isaiah : The failure in the wilderness.
Psalms 106:24-Micah : The failure in conquering the land.
Psalms 106:34-Luke : The failure in the promised land.
Psalms 106:43-Galatians : Conclusion and again thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving and Prayer

The psalmist begins with the exclamation “hallelujah!”, or “praise the LORD!” (Psalms 106:1). With this he also closes the psalm. It is an exhortation to others to join the psalmist in praising the LORD, as in Psalm 104 where this word appears the first time (Psalms 104:35). This psalm is the first psalm to both begin and end with the call “hallelujah!”, or “praise the LORD!” This occurs from Psalm 111 to the end of the book in nine more psalms. The reason is that God’s lovingkindness, demonstrated in His goodness, is able to save Israel, despite its failures. The condition is that Israel first acknowledges its failure. That is what we find in Psalm 106.

It is not possible to discuss God’s history of salvation, viewed from any side, without giving thanks to Him for His great lovingkindness and faithfulness. The psalmist says “give thanks to the LORD”, after which the occasion is then given: “For He is good, for His lovingkindness is everlasting.” He is good, that is His Being. Therefore, His lovingkindness is forever, for He never changes. This will be seen and enjoyed publicly in the realm of peace.

The psalmist wonders where the people are “who can speak of the mighty deeds of the LORD” (Psalms 106:2). Are there even people who can and will do that? No one can do it according to the value of it and to the fullest. But many don’t even want to begin to do so because they are busy with their own affairs, which they consider more important. And who is able to “show forth all His praises”? The showing forth of His praise will never be able to be done fully by believers, for He is exalted above all thanksgiving and praise (Nehemiah 9:5). But who will not want to do it according to the measure of what is seen of it?

To speak of the mighty deeds and show forth the praises remains imperfect because of the limited understanding of them. The whole of it cannot be encompassed, let alone described. What can be done, and what God expects of His own, is that they keep to the law and do righteousness at all times (Psalms 106:3). The believing remnant can only do that by virtue of the LORD’s lovingkindness and faithfulness, in contrast to what the people are by nature (Psalms 106:6-John :). If they do, they are “blessed”. To oppose or disregard this is not a matter of weakness, but of unwillingness.

After his thanksgiving, the psalmist utters a prayer (Psalms 106:4). He asks the LORD to think of him and to do so according to the good pleasure He has for His people. In doing so, he is asking that the LORD allows him to share in the blessing He has for His people in the realm of peace, when the Messiah reigns. This is evident in his asking if the LORD will visit him with His salvation, that is, will give him a share in it.

When the LORD does that, it means to him that he will receive much blessing. That blessing is first of all that he may “see the prosperity of Your chosen ones” (Psalms 106:5). God’s people are the object of His election. Those who belong to it are especially privileged, for they are not worthy in themselves. This also applies to us as New Testament believers. We are also chosen, and also exclusively by grace, and in Christ.

The second blessing is that he may “rejoice in the gladness of Your nation”. When God’s people are in the blessing of the realm of peace, they will rejoice with gladness. When the psalmist sees that, it will also make him rejoice. To share in the salvation of the realm of peace is to share in the joy.

The third blessing is that he may “glory with Your inheritance”. This includes the people of God, for they are the “own possession” of the LORD (Deuteronomy 7:6). The psalmist looks forward to boasting with God’s people of the great privileges associated with being the property of God. For us, what we personally possess, we may share together with all the saints (cf. Ephesians 3:16-Job :).

Verses 6-12

Saved and Redeemed From Egypt

Psalm 105 begins with the history of Abraham, for the basis of God’s dealings in grace with the people of Israel is the one-sided covenant, God’s promise, with Abraham from Genesis 15 (Genesis 15:2-Ecclesiastes :). In Psalm 106, Israel’s history is seen as under the law. Therefore, in this psalm, the history of God’s people does not begin with Abraham, but in Egypt.

In this history we see the blessings of the LORD as a result of His mighty acts (Psalms 106:2). However, the people failed to see the blessings of the LORD. They fell very short of gratitude and as a result acted in unbelief and disobedience.

The psalmist confessed the sin of the people whose privileges he described in the previous verses (Psalms 106:6). He has asked the LORD to share in its blessings. Now he makes himself one with God’s people, of whom he is a part, saying three times, “we have”.

We can think of Psalms 106:6 as the title and summary of the content of this psalm, which describes the history of God’s people as seen from their responsibility. It is a history of failure and unfaithfulness, in contrast to the faithfulness of God in Psalms 106:1-Deuteronomy :. From Psalms 106:7, the real history of the people begins.

Without any condonation, he confesses that they have “sinned”, “committed iniquity”, and “behaved wickedly”. He acknowledges that he and his people are no better than “our fathers”. Such identification with the sins of the whole people, including those of the past, we also see in Daniel and Ezra (Daniel 9:4-Psalms :; Ezra 9:6-Judges :; Ezra 9:10Ezra 9:15).

The ‘Elijah service’ of John the baptist (cf. Malachi 4:5), which will soon be acknowledged by the remnant, is a call to repentance. John’s baptism was the baptism of repentance as the first step to God. It involves turning around and returning to God. It is only the beginning, but absolutely necessary. This is how Joseph’s brothers in prison in Egypt had to come to the acknowledgment of their sins (Genesis 42:21). So will the remnant come to acknowledge the sins of the people during the great tribulation (cf. 1 Kings 8:46-2 Corinthians :; Zechariah 12:10).

Then he begins to name the sins. It has already started in Egypt. The failure does not begin halfway through their history, their history begins with the failure, from the very beginning. They immediately abandoned their first love (cf. Revelation 2:4). It is characteristic of all human history, in which we see each time the failure of man from the beginning. So it was with Adam, so it was with Noah, so it was with Israel, so it is with Christianity.

Already in Egypt, “our fathers … did not understand Your wonders” (Psalms 106:7). All the plagues God brought upon Egypt for their deliverance have been ‘signs and wonders’ to His people. But they have been blind to them. It has not dawned on them how much God did this for them.

Nor did they “remember Your abundant kindnesses”. The people were not appealed by the numerous proofs of God’s love. It is already bad to ignore one token of God’s lovingkindness, to ignore one blessing as a result. How bad it must be, then, when an abundance of blessings is thoughtlessly ignored. It speaks of total indifference.

It did not remain in their memory because they thought only of themselves. What grief it must have caused God that His people so ignored His numerous acts of love. Is there anything more painful than an act of love or even numerous acts of love being met with indifference?

And it gets worse. Because they “did not understand” and “did not remember”, they “rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea”. This is an event immediately after the LORD redeemed them from Egypt. They have well and truly experienced redemption from the yoke and are on their way to the promised land or the people show their disobedience. They reproach Moses for their redemption and indicate that they would rather serve the Egyptians than move on (Exodus 14:10-2 Kings :).

Instead of killing His people, the LORD saved them “for the sake of His name” (Psalms 106:8; cf. Isaiah 48:9). This is the first reason. He always upholds His Name. A second reason, connected to the first, is “to make His power known”. When He does make that known, He also makes known His Name as the Almighty (Exodus 9:16).

The Red Sea seemed to be a hindrance to redemption, but God “rebuked the Red Sea and it dried up” (Psalms 106:9; Exodus 14:21-Song of Solomon :; Exodus 14:29; Isaiah 50:2; Nahum 1:4). In this we see a type of the redemption of the believing remnant in the end times. This is how He made His power known. The sea is subject to Him and listens to His command. He made a way for His people “through the deeps, as through the wilderness”. He made them pass through it so that they could make their way to the promised land (Isaiah 63:12-2 Chronicles :).

So He saved them “from the hand of the one who hated [them]” and redeemed them “from the hand of the enemy” (Psalms 106:10; cf. Luke 1:71). The hater and enemy is Pharaoh. His hand could no longer seize them because God had made a path for them through the sea keeping them out of his hands.

What was the way of redemption and deliverance for God’s people was the way of judgment for the adversaries (Psalms 106:11). The waters covered them, “not one of them was left” (Exodus 14:27-Hosea :; Exodus 15:5; cf. Daniel 2:45). The judgment on their hater and enemy and all his soldiers was total and forever. There was no longer any threat from them, for they had all perished.

After the unfolding of God’s power in this wonder of their deliverance and of judgment on their enemies, “they believed His words” (Psalms 106:12; Exodus 14:31). They saw with their own eyes that He had done what He had said. In response, they “sang His praise” in the song of deliverance (Exodus 15:1-Job :).

Verses 13-23

Rebellion in the Wilderness

Now here is a list of Israel’s sins from their first steps in the wilderness that they had to pass through to get to the promised land. Israel’s sins began back in Egypt. These sins in the wilderness are actually just a continuation of their earlier sins of unbelief. The sins in the wilderness begin with forgetting and impatience (Psalms 106:13). God’s works on their behalf in their redemption from Egypt, their passage through the Red Sea, and the judgment on their enemies were forgotten by them “quickly” or “with haste”. What tragedies follow from this. Let us not fall too hard on them. How quickly do we forget all God’s works for our benefit?

When we forget God’s lovingkindness to us, we quickly become impatient and begin to grumble (Philippians 2:14; 1 Peter 4:9). We forget how many times He has already provided and complain about our circumstances. The people began to complain about lack of water and food (Exodus 15:24; Exodus 16:2-Leviticus :). They did not ask Him about it and could not muster the patience to wait for His counsel. They were not looking to Him, but to what they were lacking. There was lack. That was a reason for them to grumble.

The sins of the people we find each time in duplicate, at the beginning and at the end of the wilderness journey. It is so with the sin of grumbling: read Exodus 15-17 and Numbers 14-17. So is it with water from the rock; so is it with the craving for flesh: read Exodus 16 and Numbers 11. This indicates that these sins are characteristic of the entire wilderness journey. In Exodus 16 it is about lust for flesh, in Numbers 11 also about dissatisfaction with the manna.

When God gives them what they ask for, they are “craved intensely in the wilderness” (Psalms 106:14; Numbers 11:4; Numbers 11:6Numbers 11:33; Psalms 78:18; Psalms 78:28-Joel :; 1 Corinthians 10:6). They attacked and devoured the food. With their craving they “tempted God in the desert”. They put Him to the test, whether He was able to give what they wanted.

Well, God “gave them their request” (Psalms 106:15; Numbers 11:31-Jonah :). Because they kept nagging, God gave what they had asked for. He could have withheld it from them, but He wanted to teach them a lesson. That lesson is that a desire that comes from one’s own will does not lead to health, but to a wasting disease. Unfortunately, the lesson was not learned, for they continued to sin.

The next sin is that of jealousy (Psalms 106:16). It concerns the jealousy of Korah, Dathan and Abiram (Numbers 16:1-Leviticus :). They became “envious of Moses in the camp” as the leader of the people through whom God spoke to the people. They also became jealous “of Aaron, the holy one of the LORD”, that is, the priest set apart by the LORD for Himself to represent His people to Him.

Instead of the desire to serve, these people longed to take the first place in God’s people, just as Diótrefes wanted in the church (3 John 1:9). The disciples also disputed among them as to “which one of them was regarded to be greatest” (Luke 22:24). Therefore, this is a serious warning to each of us.

The judgment on this jealousy was severely punished by the LORD (Psalms 106:17). For it was a frontal attack on His government of the people. It was a conspiracy against the LORD (Numbers 16:11). Korah and his followers wanted the position of Aaron while Dathan and Abiram wanted the position of Moses.

The punishment was consistent with this. The judgment He executed on Dathan and Abiram – Korah is not mentioned here (cf. Deuteronomy 11:6) – had not been executed before, it was “something new” (Numbers 16:30-Micah :). The punishment of Dathan and Abiram was that they entered the kingdom of the dead alive. The same will happen to the two beasts (Revelation 19:20). The judgment on Korach was fire from heaven, as on Nadab and Abihu, the two sons of Aaron (Leviticus 10:1-Exodus :).

There was also “a fire” that came from the LORD (Numbers 16:35), which “blazed up in their company” (Psalms 106:18). The ferocity of the judgment is emphasized by adding that “a flame consumed the wicked”. Thus “two hundred and fifty men” were consumed (Numbers 16:35). Here we see how horrible sinful, selfish jealousy is to God.

Then the psalmist mentions the sin of idolatry (Psalms 106:19; Deuteronomy 9:7-Nehemiah :). He refers to “a calf in Horeb” which they had made (Exodus 32:1-Numbers :). This is a violation of the second commandment (Exodus 20:4-Joshua :). They “worshiped a molten image”. In doing so they had particularly grieved God Who had so clearly revealed Himself in His lovingkindness to them.

They had by this worship of a piece of dead matter “exchanged their glory” “for the image of an ox that eats grass” (Psalms 106:20). The addition “that eats grass” makes the absurdity of worshiping the animal all the greater. Their Glory was God Himself (Jeremiah 2:11). How foolish can a man be to exchange Him for a stupid, grass-eating animal!

Paul quotes this verse in Romans 1, for this verse makes it clear what the result is when man exchanges the glory of the imperishable God for something resembling a perishable, transient man or animal. The result is that God gives him over to uncleanness in the lusts of his heart (Romans 1:23-Jeremiah :). If we are not blind, we see it all around us today.

In Exodus 32, the issue is that they have “a feast for the LORD” using an image (Exodus 32:4-Deuteronomy :). They believed that they had not forsaken the LORD. They had merely sought a tool of their own choosing to serve the LORD. Something similar is done by Nadab and Abihu later by offering an incense sacrifice with their own fire, something the LORD had not commanded.

This should also be a warning to us. No, serving another god, that is not what we want. Serving the Lord in our own way, the way we like it, yes, that is what we want. Many Christians seek church services where they feel at home (cf. Judges 17:13). This is always a danger for every believer. We must always remember that we can only worship God in spirit and truth (John 4:24). This history is a warning against it.

They not only forgot the works of God (Psalms 106:13), but “they forgot God their Savior” Himself (Psalms 106:21). God’s people fell into idolatry with all the debauchery that goes with it because they forgot Him, “Who had done great things in Egypt”. There He proved to be “their Savior”, that is, their Rescuer, their Deliverer, their Keeper.

To save them He had done “wonders in the land of Ham” and “awesome things by the Red Sea” (Psalms 106:22; Deuteronomy 10:21). These things should continue to capture the imagination. What God had done in Egypt and at the Red Sea should have constantly filled them with the utmost confidence in His omnipotence. But they had forgotten Him. This may well speak to our hearts and consciences, that we may never forget what He has done for us in our redemption.

To such forgetfulness among His people and the resulting idolatry, God could not respond other than with the threat to destroy them (Psalms 106:23). He was, to put it humanly, sick of His people. He would have carried out His intention “had not Moses His chosen one stood in the breach before Him” (cf. Ezekiel 22:30).

Just as a soldier stands in the breach of a wall to prevent the enemy from passing through with the use of his life, so Moses lay before God to avert God’s wrath. Because of Moses’ passionate pleading, God did not destroy them and they were spared (Deuteronomy 9:25-Joel :).

In this, Moses is a picture of the Lord Jesus, Who is the great Intercessor and Advocate for His people on earth. Only through His intercession with God will a remnant of God’s people cross the finish line and enter the blessing. This applies not only to God’s earthly people, Israel, but also to God’s heavenly people, the church (Romans 8:34).

Verses 24-33

The Land Despised

The previous sins were in connection with the wilderness; now follow two sins that pertain to the promised land. The despising of “the pleasant land” (Psalms 106:24; Jeremiah 3:19; cf. Ezekiel 20:6) occurred after the spies had been there and reported their findings. The cause was unbelief. They believed the report of ten unbelieving spies. They did not believe the word of God, His promise to give them the land, nor what Joshua and Caleb testified (Numbers 14:3-2 Samuel :).

The result of their unbelief was that “they grumbled in their tents” (Psalms 106:25; Numbers 14:1-Exodus :; 1 Corinthians 10:10). They were dissatisfied with God’s dealings with them. Over this they sat in their tents sulking and grumbling. They doubted God’s love and were disobedient (Deuteronomy 1:26-Daniel :). They influenced each other with their discontent, but had no ear for what the LORD had to say: “They did not listen to the voice of the LORD” (cf. Deuteronomy 1:32).

Therefore, He “swore to them”, He swore the solemn oath “that He would cast them down in the wilderness” (Psalms 106:26). None of this grumbling, disobedient generation would enter the land. Only Joshua and Caleb would get in (Numbers 14:29-Amos :).

The same would happen to “their seed” (Psalms 106:27) because they revealed the same spirit of grumbling, unbelief and disobedience. God would “scatter them in the lands” (Leviticus 26:33; Ezekiel 20:23). This happened when the Assyrians carried away the ten tribes realm and when the Babylonians carried away the two tribes realm.

Almost forty years later, they found themselves in the plains of Moab, on the border of the promised land. There they joined themselves to the idol Baal-peor, a local Moabite idol (Psalms 106:28; cf. 2 Corinthians 6:14). Their horrible, adulterous union with the Moabites involved eating “sacrifices offered to the dead”, that is, the sacrifices for the dead idols (Numbers 25:1-Exodus :). Possibly they are also sacrifices for consulting the dead (Deuteronomy 18:11). That are also sacrifices that result in the death of the offeror. What a contrast to the living God Who committed Himself to them.

This abominable connection was a thorn in the LORD’s side. “They provoked” Him “to anger with their deeds” (Psalms 106:29). Their deeds were sinful acts, crimes. In doing so, they defied Him. Their defiant attitude and actions toward Him He answered with “the plague”, an epidemic, which “broke out among them” (Numbers 25:1; Numbers 25:9).

Paul refers to this event in his first letter to the Corinthians to warn us not to fall into the same sin (1 Corinthians 10:8; 1 Corinthians 10:11). When we fall in love with persons who want nothing to do with God, we commit adultery in a spiritual sense. James makes no bones about it when he clearly states: “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God?” (James 4:4).

In this case, intercessory prayer by Moses is not the solution to make the plague stop, but the execution of the judgment on evil. That is what Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron, did (Psalms 106:30). He killed the Israelite man who had defied God by bringing a Midianite woman into the camp. He also killed the woman. Then the plague stopped (Numbers 25:6-Ruth :).

What Phinehas did is an act of righteousness (Psalms 106:31), making atonement for Israel (Numbers 25:13). It is an act of dedication to the LORD, a standing up for His honor, the proof that he was a righteous man. God counted that act “for righteousness” to him (cf. James 2:21-Lamentations :). It is a righteous act that will never be forgotten. In fact, his descendants “to all generations forever” will experience the blessing of it (Numbers 25:10-1 Chronicles :).

With a little less than six months to go before Israel would enter the promised land, the people “also provoked [Him] to wrath at the waters of Meribah [means strife, quarrel]” (Psalms 106:32). The Israelites complained about water as if God were incapable of providing them with water. God told Moses to speak to the rock, but Moses struck the rock, twice (Numbers 20:8-1 Kings :).

The striking of the rock was to take place only once (Exodus 17:6). This is a picture of Christ dying under the striking hand of God, which took place only once (Hebrews 9:26-Daniel :). Next, Moses was to speak to the rock. The water would then come by virtue of the rock being struck once. Similarly, Christ’s suffering and death took place only once, after which we can speak to Christ. This picture is damaged by the disobedience of Moses.

Moses is severely punished by the LORD for his disobedience: he is not allowed to bring the people into the land (Numbers 20:12). The fault lies with the people: “it went hard with Moses on their account”. The side of Moses’ disobedience is not highlighted here. Here it is the side of the people. They made Him very angry.

Time after time they had taunted Moses and time after time he had stood up for them before God. He had become the humblest man on earth in the school of God (Numbers 12:3). A lot had to happen for him to lose his temper. But the people finally caused it. They started arguing with Moses about their lack of water (Numbers 20:2-Deuteronomy :). This caused Moses’ measure of patience to overflow. He became so vexed in his spirit that “he spoke rashly with his lips” and came to a wrong deed (Psalms 106:33; Numbers 20:10-1 Kings :).

Verses 34-43

In the Land

When the people arrived in the land, their obedience and faith did not improve. Joshua had called them to faithfulness to the LORD (Joshua 13:1-Judges :; Joshua 23:9-1 Kings :), but that was said to deaf ears. They continued on the path of disobedience and unbelief. The LORD had commanded them to destroy the peoples, but “they did not destroy the peoples” (Psalms 106:34; Deuteronomy 7:2; Deuteronomy 7:16). The book of Judges gives an account of their disobedience to this command of the LORD.

Instead of destroying the nations they mixed with them (Psalms 106:35; Deuteronomy 7:1-:; Judges 3:5-Joshua :; Ezra 9:1-Exodus :). For us, the command is to keep ourselves unstained from the world (James 1:27). If we do not, more and more of the habits of the world will come to cling to us, for bad company corrupts good morals (1 Corinthians 15:33).

We see this with Israel: they “learned their practices” and thus flouted the commandment that they were not to imitate the customs of Canaan (Leviticus 18:3). Thereby, they were also nonsensical customs (Jeremiah 10:2-Leviticus :). The people did not care about what God had said because they just wanted to live like the nations around them. That appealed to them more than doing what God had commanded them, commandments that are for life.

Because of their mingling with the nations and learning their customs, they began to serve their idols (Psalms 106:36). They bid the LORD, Who had been so good to them, farewell, and knelt down before the idols of the nations. However, the idols did not produce prosperity, but “became a snare to them” into which they were caught and would die (Exodus 23:33; Deuteronomy 7:16).

They were so caught in the snare that they not only served and worshiped idols, but “even sacrificed their sons and their daughters” to them (Psalms 106:37; 2 Kings 16:3; Ezekiel 16:20; Ezekiel 20:31; Isaiah 57:5). Thus they also plunged their children into destruction. It says here that they offered their sons and daughters “to the demons”. That is what they actually did. Behind dead idols of wood and stone are demons (1 Corinthians 10:20; Deuteronomy 32:17; Revelation 9:20).

By their actions they “shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters” (Psalms 106:38; cf. Jeremiah 19:4-Deuteronomy :). They were blood-guilty murderers of their own children. Their sacrifices “to the idols of Canaan” had the effect of polluting “the land with the blood”. By their abominable practices they profaned the land that belonged to God, His property (cf. Numbers 35:33-Nahum :; Isaiah 24:5; Jeremiah 3:1-Exodus :; Jeremiah 3:9).

The people broke both the first tablet and the second tablet of the ten commandments: the first tablet by committing idolatry, the second by shedding innocent blood. It is comparable to the two sins of David: adultery with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah. Thus the people of Israel both shed the blood of Christ and committed idolatry with the antichrist. The Lord Jesus put it this way: “I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, you will receive him” (John 5:43). In the first part of this verse He speaks of His rejection, in the second part of their acceptance of the antichrist.

They not only profaned God’s land, but “they became unclean” themselves “in their practices [literally: works]” (Psalms 106:39). Paul puts it this way: “The immoral man sins against his own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18). Their works were all sin. How could God ever tolerate them in His presence in that condition? They “played the harlot in their deeds”, that is, their way of life represented the grossest unfaithfulness to God. After all, God had taken Israel to be His wife (Jeremiah 2:1-Leviticus :). But by having intercourse with idols in unfaithfulness to Him, they committed blatant harlotry (cf. Isaiah 1:21; Hosea 2:1-2 Kings :).

God was deeply grieved by this. He could not let this go unpunished. “Therefore the anger of the LORD was kindled against His people” (Psalms 106:40). His land and His people were horribly defiled. He turned away from them with distaste, “He abhorred His inheritance”. Their behavior caused Him loath. There is no mitigating circumstance that can be imagined by which they could be declared less accountable.

The blood of the idolaters had to flow because of the blood guilt they had brought upon themselves through their ritual murders. Therefore, He gave them “into the hand of the nations” (Psalms 106:41). These nations, who “hated them ruled over them”. The nations were idol-worshipers. Through them God wanted to teach His people the harsh service of idolaters, so that thereby His people would come to their senses. All of this is consistent with the curse of the covenant in Leviticus 26 (Leviticus 26:17). Ultimately, this is with the intention of bringing them to repentance through which the LORD can restore and bring them back.

God’s disobedient, rebellious people were oppressed by their enemies (Psalms 106:42), but it was actually the hand of God that pressed down on them. In this way “they were subdued under their power [literally: hand]”. The oppressors invaded their land, destroyed their vineyards, took them captive and forced them into slave labor. They had to bow their necks under their rule.

Then when they cried out in their misery, He saved them (Psalms 106:43). He did this “many times” over a period of hundreds of years. That He did this many times shows His great longsuffering. It also means that the people kept turning away from Him and He had to give them again and again into the hand of the nations.

We see this in the book of Judges (Judges 2:16; Judges 2:18). There, in the beginning, they cried out to the LORD in their misery (Judges 3:9; Judges 3:15Judges 4:3; Judges 6:6Judges 10:10). Later, for example in the time of Samson, there is no more crying out to the LORD for help. We also see this here in Psalms 106:44. It does say that they cried out in their distress, but it does not say that they cried out to God in their misery.

Even though He saved them many times, they continued to taunt Him “in their counsel”. They had their own opinions about serving God. God had said how He wanted to be served, but they did not bother. It is like a father who keeps telling his child how to do something, but the child always does it stubbornly in his own wrong way, so that everything always fails. How agonizing that is for a father.

The result for the people is that they “sank down in their iniquity”. Sin is debilitating to one’s strength and wears one down. A person who perseveres in sin becomes depleted. They were weakened, their national strength was exhausted, there was no strength left to defend themselves. This was the punishment for their sins.

Verses 44-48

The Greatness of God’s Lovingkindness

The closing verses of the psalm, like the beginning of the psalm, are a song of praise for the grace of God. He had responded to their distress and their crying out (Psalms 106:44). It had caught His attention. He had not turned away from them, but saw their distress and heard their cry. He had not lost sight of them. He had not closed His ear to them. The reason is that He had not removed them from His heart.

“He remembered” namely “His covenant” (Psalms 106:45) which He had made with the fathers. Therefore, He remembered “for their sake”. He could not forget the covenant He had made with them, the promises He had made that made the covenant unconditional. Therefore, He could not completely destroy them (Leviticus 26:44-Romans :). His covenant He fulfilled and all the promises attached to it He fulfilled.

That He “relented” is not regret over a wrong act or decision. God is never wrong and never needs to relent (1 Samuel 15:29). If He does relent, it is “according to the greatness of His lovingkindness”. Relenting here means coming back from a certain path. It does not concern God’s counsel, but God’s governmental ways.

In this case, He stops His disciplining of His people because otherwise He would utterly destroy them (cf. Exodus 32:14; Judges 2:18; 2 Samuel 24:16). He can prove His lovingkindness because Christ has fulfilled all the conditions for the covenant. All who are joined to Him receive the promises and blessings of the covenant.

On the basis of the work of His Son, which He foresaw, He was able to show mercy to them (Psalms 106:46). That mercy He worked in the hearts of all those who had carried away His people as captives. He had the people carried away into exile as a result of their disobedience. In their exile they repented and cried out to the LORD for help (Psalms 106:47). For this they appealed, not to their actions, but to the holy Name of the LORD their God (cf. Ezekiel 36:20-Isaiah :).

We see examples of the mercy the LORD worked on all those who had taken them away as captives by Cyrus, Evil-Merodach and Arthahsasta (Ezra 1:1-Numbers :; cf. 2 Kings 25:27-Amos :; Nehemiah 2:1-Joshua :). This shows the power of God over the hearts of men, including kings (1 Kings 8:50; Proverbs 21:1; Daniel 1:9).

These proofs of lovingkindness and mercy in the misery that has come upon the people through their own fault bring the psalmist to a prayer and a thanksgiving. His prayer is a prophetic prayer. It concerns the situation in which God’s people will be in the end times, the time of the great tribulation. Then they will pray: “Save us, LORD our God, and gather us from among the nations.” It is a prayer for the intervention of God for their deliverance from the power of the nations.

When God does, they will be able to “give thanks to” His “holy name” in the place where He dwells, in Jerusalem (cf. Matthew 6:9). They will boast in His praise, which is to say that there will be nothing else and higher for them than to give thanks to God for His mighty deeds.

The psalmist already begins it, as it were, when he exults: “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel” (Psalms 106:48). This jubilation will never cease, but will continue “from everlasting even to everlasting”. God is worthy of worship in the realm of peace and for all eternity. The psalmist calls on “all the people” to join in with this with a resounding “amen” – meaning ‘so it is’.

Then he concludes the psalm as he began it, with a loud “hallelujah!”, or “praise the LORD! (Psalms 106:1). See comments on Psalm 105:35.

Psalms 106:1 and Psalms 106:47-Galatians : of this psalm also occur in 1 Chronicles 16 and as a contiguous section (1 Chronicles 16:34-Zephaniah :). This underscores the special connection between the beginning and the end of the psalm. At Psalms 106:1 we have seen that the occasion for the call to praise God is His lovingkindness which is eternal. By following this up directly with the prayer of Psalms 106:47-Galatians :, it becomes clear that trust in God’s lovingkindness is the basis of the prayer for salvation.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Psalms 106". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.