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the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 106

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 2962. B.C. 1042.

The foregoing Psalm was a history of God’s goodness to Israel: this is a history of their provocations and rebellions against him. Poole, Mudge, and some other commentators, infer from the prayer in Psalms 106:47 , that it was composed in the time of the Israelites’ captivity and dispersion. But certainly no conclusive argument can be drawn from thence to that effect, because we find the same verse, as also the 48th, and the first in the Psalm delivered by David to Asaph, at the bringing up of the ark to Zion, 1 Chronicles 16., a circumstance which renders it highly probable that it was composed by him. And that verse, and also some other verses of the Psalm, may refer to other dispersions of the Israelites, as, suppose, “to those who in the days of Saul, or before, were taken prisoners by the Philistines and other nations: whom David beseeches God to gather to their own land again, that they might worship him in that place which he had prepared for the ark of his presence.” This is Bishop Patrick’s opinion, and it appears very probable. In the Psalm we have the preface, Psalms 106:1-5 . The narrative of the sins of Israel, aggravated by the great things God had done for them; their provocations at the Red sea, Psalms 106:6-12 . Their lusting for flesh, Psalms 106:13-15 . Mutinying, Psalms 106:16-18 . Worshipping the golden calf, Psalms 106:19-23 . Murmuring, Psalms 106:24-27 . Worshipping Baal-peor, Psalms 106:28-31 . Quarrelling with Moses, Psalms 106:32 , Psalms 106:33 . Mixing with the nations of Canaan, and, instead of suppressing their idolatrous worship, imitating it, Psalms 106:34-39 . A relation of God’s frequent judgments, and as frequent mercies, Psalms 106:40-46 . A prayer that God would gather and save them, and a thanksgiving, Psalms 106:47 , Psalms 106:48 . The Psalm begins and ends with Hallelujah.

Verses 1-3

Psalms 106:1-3. Praise ye the Lord, &c. He deserves our praises, notwithstanding all our sufferings, which are not to be imputed to him, for he is gracious and merciful, but only to our own sins. Who can show forth all his praise? That is, his praiseworthy actions: “who is sufficient for a work which demands the tongues and harps of angels?” Blessed are they that keep judgment That observe and practise what is just and right toward God and men; termed, doing righteousness, in the next clause; at all times Constantly, in adversity, as well as in prosperity. Or, the meaning may be, They are blessed at all times, even in the day of their calamity; and therefore (as his words may imply) our calamities ought not to hinder us from this great and necessary duty of praising God. This verse may be considered as containing an answer to the inquiry made in the preceding, and signifying that they show forth God’s praise in the best manner who keep his judgments, and do righteousness at all times.

Verse 4

Psalms 106:4. Remember me, O Lord, &c. Or, us: for he may be considered as praying, either for himself, or for the church of God among the Israelites, that they, with himself, might partake of the blessedness here spoken of. With the favour that thou bearest unto thy people With those favours and blessings which thou dost usually and peculiarly confer upon thy people; meaning chiefly the pardon of their sins, by which they had brought their present miseries upon themselves, and a complete deliverance from those miseries, which they might improve to God’s praise and glory, as well as to their own comfort. O visit me with thy salvation Thy great salvation, that of the soul. “Afford me,” as Dr. Hammond interprets the clause, “that pardon and that grace which I stand in need of, and can hope for from none but thee.” Let that salvation be my portion for ever, and the pledges of it my present comfort. That I may see That is, enjoy, as the next clause explains it; the good of thy chosen The good which thou usest to bestow on thy chosen people, or such as are Israelites indeed. That I may rejoice in the gladness of thy nation With such joy as thou hast formerly afforded to thy beloved nation, or people. That I may glory with thine inheritance That I and the congregation of thy people may have occasion to glory in thy goodness toward us.

Verses 6-7

Psalms 106:6-7. We have sinned with our fathers That is, as our fathers did, and have not been made wiser or better by their examples, as we ought to have been. Our fathers understood not Or, considered not; thy wonders in Egypt Namely, so as to be rightly affected with them, and to receive from them the instruction they were intended to convey. They saw them, but they did not rightly apprehend the design of them; they thought, indeed, that the plagues of Egypt were intended for their deliverance; but they did not consider that they were intended also for their conviction and reformation; not only to rescue them out of their Egyptian slavery, but to cure them of their inclination to Egyptian idolatry, by evidencing the sovereign power and dominion of the God of Israel above all gods, and his particular concern for them. They remembered not the multitude of thy mercies As their understandings were dull, so their memories were treacherous; though one would have thought such astonishing events should never have been forgotten or disregarded, yet they remembered them not so as to make a right use of them, and yield unto God that love, and praise, and obedience, and to put that trust in him, which such wonders deserved and required. But provoked him even at the Red sea When those wonders of his power and goodness, performed in Egypt, had been newly done, and ought to have been fresh in their minds. The provocation here referred to, was their despair of deliverance, because the danger was great, and wishing they had been left in Egypt still, Exodus 14:11-12. Observe well, reader, quarrelling with God’s providence, and calling in question his power, goodness, and faithfulness, are as great provocations to him as almost any whatsoever.

Verses 8-12

Psalms 106:8-12. Nevertheless, he saved them for his name’s sake That he might glorify his name, and vindicate it from the blasphemous reproaches which the Egyptians and others would have cast upon it if the Israelites had been destroyed. He rebuked the sea also For standing in their way, and retarding their march; and it was dried up Immediately; as, in the creation, at God’s rebuke the waters fled, Psalms 104:7. He led them through the depths as through the wilderness As securely as if they had walked upon the dry land. He saved them from him that hated them From Pharaoh, who pursued them with cruel rage and hatred. The waters covered their enemies So as to slay them, but not so as to conceal their shame; for, the next tide, they were thrown up dead upon the shore. There was not one of them left To carry tidings what was become of the rest. Then believed they his words The Israelites acknowledged that God was with them of a truth, and had, in mercy to them, brought them out of Egypt, and not with any design to slay them in the wilderness. Then they feared the Lord, and his servant Moses, Exodus 14:31. They sang his praise In that song of Moses, penned on this great occasion, Exodus 15:1. Observe, reader, in what a gracious and merciful way God sometimes silences the unbelief of his people, and turns their fears into praises!

Verses 13-15

Psalms 106:13-15. They soon forgat his works Even within three days, Exodus 15:22, and lost the impressions those works had made upon them. They that do not improve God’s mercies to them, nor endeavour, in some measure, to render to him according to the benefits done unto them, do indeed forget them. Hebrew, מהרו שׁכחו , meharu shachechu, they made haste, they forgat. So the margin. They turned aside quickly, as it is said Exodus 32:8. Or the words may be meant to signify two instances of their sin. 1st, They made haste So as to anticipate God’s promises in their expectations; they expected to be in Canaan presently, and, because they were not, they questioned whether they should ever be there; grew impatient, looked upon themselves as neglected, and given over to destruction, forgetting those works which were undeniable evidences of God’s wisdom, power, and goodness: and hence they quarrelled with all the difficulties which they met with in their way: they waited not for his counsel They did not wait patiently and believingly upon God for such supplies from his hand, and in such manner and time as he, in his counsel, had appointed. But lusted exceedingly Namely, for flesh. And he gave them their request But gave it them in anger, and with a curse, for he sent leanness into their souls Or, into their bodies; as many commentators understand the expression. Their inordinate desire of pampering their bodies was the occasion of their being destroyed. This may refer to that great plague with which the Lord smote them while the flesh was yet within their teeth. Some translate the clause, He thinned their numbers, namely, by death. The word נפשׁ , nephesh, however, may be understood of the soul, properly so called; for their inordinate desire of flesh, and their eating to excess, were of course followed with uneasiness of mind, terror of conscience, and self-reproach, destructive of all confidence toward God, love to him, thankfulness for his mercies, and appetite for the bread of life; the consequence of which must, figuratively speaking, be leanness of soul.

Verses 16-18

Psalms 106:16-18. They envied Moses also His authority; in the camp As generalissimo of the armies of Israel, and chief justice in all their courts; and Aaron They envied him his power, as high-priest, on account of his consecration to which office he is here termed the saint of the Lord, and not on account of his inherent holiness, of which, undoubtedly, Moses had a greater share. Hereby the psalmist intimates, that their envy and rebellion were not only against Aaron, but against God himself. The earth swallowed up Dathan With his company, Numbers 16:0. A fire was kindled in their company Among their associates or confederates, those wicked men, as he calls them in the next clause, namely, Korah and his company, who were consumed by a fire from the Lord, Numbers 16:35.

Verses 19-23

Psalms 106:19-23. They made a calf in Horeb When they were but very lately brought out of Egypt, by such wonderful power and goodness of God, and had seen the dreadful plagues of God upon the Egyptian idolaters, and upon their idols too, as is observed Numbers 33:4; and when the law of God was but newly delivered to them, in such a solemn and tremendous manner; and the most high God was yet present, and delivering further precepts to Moses for their benefit upon the top of that very mount. This greatly aggravated their sin. Thus they changed As far as in them lay, and in respect of their worship; their glory Their God, who was indeed their glory, for they had this just occasion of triumphing and glorying over all nations of the world, that, whereas all other nations worshipped images made of stocks and stones, or the heavenly bodies, or dead men, they only worshipped the living and true God, who was present, and in covenant with them, and with them only; into the similitude of an ox Into the golden image of an ox or calf; that eateth grass Which is so far from feeding its worshippers, as the true God did the Israelites, that it must be fed by them. And yet the image of such a creature was preferred by them before the all-sufficient and ever-blessed God, which was an evidence of their horrid contempt of God, and also of their prodigious folly and stupidity. Therefore he said that he would destroy them He declared his intention to do this in express words, as Exodus 32:10, and elsewhere. Had not Moses stood in the breach God had made a wall about them; but they had made a breach in it by their sins, at which the Lord, who was now justly become their enemy, might enter to destroy them; which he certainly would have done, if Moses, by his prevailing intercession, had not hindered him.

Verses 24-27

Psalms 106:24-27. They despised the pleasant land Canaan, which was so, not only in truth, but even by the relation of those spies, who discouraged them from entering into it. They preferred Egypt and their former bondage before it, Numbers 14:3-4, and did not think it deserving of a little hazard and difficulty in taking possession of it. They believed not his word His promise of giving them the land, and subduing all their enemies before them, which they knew, by late and manifold experience, that God was both able and willing to do. And hearkened not unto the voice of the Lord To God’s command, which was, that they should boldly and confidently enter into it. Therefore he lifted up his hand He sware, as this phrase is commonly used. Of this dreadful and irrevocable sentence and oath of God, see Numbers 14:23. To overthrow their seed He sware also, (though not at the same time,) that he would punish their sins, not only in their persons, but also in their posterity: see Exodus 20:5; Exodus 32:34.

Verses 28-30

Psalms 106:28-30. They joined themselves also unto Baal-peor To wit, in worship, whereby they had a union and communion with him, as God’s people have with God in acts of his worship. And ate the sacrifices of the dead Which were offered to idols, which he calls dead, in opposition to the true and living God, and by way of contempt, and to denote the stupidity of idolaters, who worshipped lifeless things, as dead images, or men deified after death. Or, by the sacrifices of the dead, he may mean sacrifices offered to the infernal deities, so called, on behalf of their dead friends. They provoked him with their inventions Various species of idolatry, and false worship, and other branches of wickedness, devised in contempt of God and his institutions, his commands and threatenings. And the plague brake in upon them And swept away twenty-four thousand of those impudent sinners. Then stood up Phinehas In his zeal for the Lord of hosts; and executed judgement Namely, upon Zimri and Cozbi, sinners of the first rank; genteel sinners; he put the law in execution upon them; and this was a service so pleasing to God, that upon it the plague was stayed, Psalms 106:30. By this, and some other like acts of public justice on that occasion, Numbers 25:4-5, the guilt ceased to be national, and the general controversy was let fall: when the proper officers did their duty, God left it to them, and did not any longer keep the work in his own hands by the plague. The best commentary on this Psalm is a reference to the history.

Verse 31

Psalms 106:31. And that was counted to him for righteousness And although that action of his might seem rash, severe, and irregular, as being done by a private person, and a priest, and allowing the delinquents no space for repentance, it was nevertheless accepted and rewarded by God as an act of justice and piety, agreeable to his mind, and proceeding from a sincere zeal for his honour, and for the good of his people; and God gave a public testimony of his approbation of it, to be recorded to all generations, and the priesthood to be continued to Phinehas and his seed in all succeeding ages. Of all which see Numbers 25:0.

Verses 32-33

Psalms 106:32-33. They angered him also at the waters of strife Of which see Numbers 20:3-5. It went ill with Moses for their sakes Or, because of them, upon occasion of their unbelief and murmuring, whereby he was provoked to speak unadvisedly, as it here follows. For though he was the meekest of all the men on the earth, yet their clamours at that time were so peevish and provoking, that his spirit was exasperated and imbittered, and he spake in a manner that did not become him; for he said, in anger, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch water out of this rock for you? He did not show that affiance in God, and that disposition to glorify him before his people, which became him in the execution of his office. This was Moses’s infirmity, and it is written for our admonition, that we may learn, when we are in the midst of provocation, to keep our mouths as with a bridle, and to take heed to our spirits, that they admit not resentments too much; for, when the spirit is provoked, it is not easy even for those that have a great deal of wisdom and grace to avoid speaking unadvisedly.

Verses 34-39

Psalms 106:34-39. They did not destroy the nations, concerning whom Concerning whose destruction, the Lord commanded them For when the iniquity of the Canaanites was full, it was God’s will to extirpate their race, and Israel was commissioned to execute upon them the vengeance determined. But were mingled among the heathen In their habitations and negotiations, as also in marriages. And they served their idols Which idols were an occasion of their falling both into further and greater sins, as it follows, Psalms 106:37-38, and into utter ruin. They sacrificed their sons and daughters Of which heathenish practice, see the notes on Leviticus 18:21. Unto devils By which expression he informs them that they did not worship God as they pretended, but devils in their idols; and that those spirits that were supposed by the heathen idolaters to inhabit their images, and which they worshipped in them, were not good spirits, as they imagined, but evil spirits or devils. And shed innocent blood The blood of their children, who, though depraved before God, yet were innocent as to them, from any crime deserving such barbarous usage from them. Thus were they defiled with their own works And rendered abominable in the sight of a holy God; and went a whoring with their own inventions Committed spiritual whoredom, by worshipping those idols which were but human inventions, and that in such an unnatural and bloody manner as they had devised.

Verses 43-46

Psalms 106:43-46. Many times did he deliver them This seems to refer to the times of the judges; when God, many times, raised up deliverers, and wrought deliverances for them; and yet they relapsed to idolatry. They provoked him with their counsel By forsaking God’s counsel, and the way which he had appointed, and following after their own evil inclinations. Nevertheless, he regarded their affliction Yet such was his tender compassion toward them, he did not absolutely refuse to help even these base revolters. When he heard their cry When, in their distress, they made supplication unto him, and promised amendment. And he remembered his covenant The covenant made with their forefathers, in consideration of which, notwithstanding their horrible violation of it, he frequently and graciously delivered them. And repented, &c. Changed his course in dealing with them, as penitent persons usually do. He made them to be pitied of those that carried them captives By changing their opinions of them, and so inclining their hearts toward them, that they did not endeavour to effect their total extirpation.

Verses 47-48

Psalms 106:47-48. Save us, O Lord our God O thou, who hast so often pardoned and saved us, notwithstanding our former and manifold provocations, be thou pleased again to interpose and deliver us, how unworthy soever we may be, from all our present enemies. Gather us from the heathen Restore into their own country such of us as are fallen into their hands. To give thanks unto thy holy name That they may join with us in giving thanks for thy incomparable goodness; and to triumph in thy praise In thy praiseworthy works, wrought for us: saying, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel Let the great Lord of all the world, who has been so gracious to Israel as to choose them for his own peculiar people, be most heartily praised, from everlasting to everlasting From one generation to another, as long as the world shall last, and unto all eternity. And let all the people say, Amen In token of their cheerful concurrence in all these prayers, praises, and confessions. Praise ye the Lord Hebrew, Hallelujah. By these two comprehensive words, Amen and Hallelujah, “it is very proper,” says Mr. Henry, “in religious assemblies, for the people to testify their joining with their ministers in the prayers and praises which, as their mouth, they offer up to God according to his will, saying Amen to the prayers, and Hallelujah to the praises.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 106". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/psalms-106.html. 1857.
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