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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 106

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Psalms 106:0


Israel's Rebelliousness and the Lord's DeliveranceNo MT IntroJoy in Forgiveness of Israel's SinsThe Story of God's Great Deeds, with Confession of Sin and Prayer for HelpThe Lord's Goodness to His PeopleNational Confession of Guilt
Psalms 106:1-3Psalms 106:1aPsalms 106:1-3Psalms 106:1-3Psalms 106:1-2
Psalms 106:1-3
Psalms 106:3-4b
Psalms 106:4-5Psalms 106:4-5Psalms 106:4-5Psalms 106:4-5Psalms 106:4-5
Psalms 106:6-12Psalms 106:6-7Psalms 106:6-12Psalms 106:6-12Psalms 106:6-7b
Psalms 106:7-8
Psalms 106:8-12
Psalms 106:9-10
Psalms 106:11-12
Psalms 106:13-15Psalms 106:13-15Psalms 106:13-15Psalms 106:13-15Psalms 106:13-14
Psalms 106:15-16
Psalms 106:16-18Psalms 106:16-18Psalms 106:16-18Psalms 106:16-18
Psalms 106:17-18
Psalms 106:19-27Psalms 106:19-23Psalms 106:19-23Psalms 106:19-23Psalms 106:19-20
Psalms 106:21-22
Psalms 106:23
Psalms 106:24-27Psalms 106:24-27Psalms 106:24-27Psalms 106:24-25
Psalms 106:26-27
Psalms 106:28-31Psalms 106:28-31Psalms 106:28-31Psalms 106:28-31Psalms 106:28-29
Psalms 106:30-31
Psalms 106:32-33Psalms 106:32-33Psalms 106:32-33Psalms 106:32-33Psalms 106:32-33
Psalms 106:34-39Psalms 106:34-39Psalms 106:34-39Psalms 106:34-39Psalms 106:34-35
Psalms 106:36-37
Psalms 106:38
Psalms 106:39-40
Psalms 106:40-43Psalms 106:40-43Psalms 106:40-43Psalms 106:40-46
Psalms 106:41-42
Psalms 106:43-44
Psalms 106:44-46Psalms 106:44-46Psalms 106:44-46
Psalms 106:45-46
Psalms 106:47-48Psalms 106:47Psalms 106:47Psalms 106:47Psalms 106:47
Psalms 106:48a-cPsalms 106:48Psalms 106:48a-cPsalms 106:48
Psalms 106:48d Psalms 106:48d

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.


A. If Psalms 105:0 is a history of YHWH's salvation/deliverance of Abraham and his descendants; then Psalms 106:0 is a history of their continuous rebellion. YHWH is faithful; His people are faithless!

B. The books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and Judges are the focus of the vast majority of the historical allusions. Here is a list of them.

Psalms 106:1. Psalms 106:7 - Exodus 14:11-12 Exodus 14:19. Psalms 106:29 - Numbers 25:4

Psalms 106:2. Psalms 106:9 - Exodus 14:21 Exodus 14:20. Psalms 106:30 - Numbers 25:7, Numbers 25:8

Psalms 106:3. Psalms 106:10 - Exodus 14:30 Exodus 14:21. Psalms 106:31 - Numbers 25:11-13

Psalms 106:4. Psalms 106:11 - Exodus 14:28; Exodus 15:5 Exodus 15:22. Psalms 106:32 - Numbers 20:2-13

Psalms 106:5. Psalms 106:12 - Exodus 14:31 Exodus 14:23. Psalms 106:33 - Numbers 20:3, Numbers 20:10

6. Psalms 106:13 - Exodus 15:24; Exodus 16:2; Exodus 17:2 2Psalms 106:4. Psalms 106:34 - Judges 1:21, Judges 1:27-36; Deuteronomy 7:2, Deuteronomy 7:16

7. Psalms 106:14 - Exodus 17:2; Numbers 11:4 Numbers 11:25. Psalms 106:35 - Judges 3:5, Judges 3:6

8. Psalms 106:15 - Numbers 11:31 Numbers 11:26. Psalms 106:36 - Judges 2:12

9. Psalms 106:16 - Numbers 16:3 Numbers 16:27. Psalms 106:37 - Deuteronomy 12:31; Deuteronomy 32:17

10. Psalms 106:17 - Numbers 16:32 Numbers 16:28. Psalms 106:38 - Numbers 35:33; Deuteronomy 18:10

1Psalms 106:1. Psalms 106:18 - Numbers 16:35 Numbers 16:29. Psalms 106:39 - Leviticus 17:7; Leviticus 18:24; Numbers 15:39; Judges 2:17

1Psalms 106:2. Psalms 106:19 - Exodus 32:4; Deuteronomy 9:8 30. Psalms 106:40 - Leviticus 26:30; Deuteronomy 32:19; Judges 2:14

1Psalms 106:3. Psalms 106:23 - Exodus 32:10, Exodus 32:11-14; Deuteronomy 9:14, Deuteronomy 9:25-29 3Psalms 106:1. Psalms 106:41 - Judges 2:14

1Psalms 106:4. Psalms 106:24 - Numbers 14:31; Deuteronomy 1:32; Deuteronomy 9:23 3Psalms 106:2. Psalms 106:42 - Judges 4:3; Judges 10:12

1Psalms 106:5. Psalms 106:25 - Numbers 14:2; Deuteronomy 1:27 Deuteronomy 1:33. Psalms 106:43 - Judges 2:16-18; Judges 6:6

16. Psalms 106:26 - Numbers 14:28-35 Numbers 14:34. Psalms 106:44 - Judges 3:9; Judges 6:7; Judges 10:10

17. Psalms 106:27 - Deuteronomy 4:27 Deuteronomy 4:35. Psalms 106:45 - Leviticus 26:42; Judges 2:18

18. Psalms 106:28 - Numbers 25:2, Numbers 25:3; Deuteronomy 4:3 Deuteronomy 4:36. 2 Chronicles 30:9; 2 Chronicles 30:9; Ezra 9:9; Nehemiah 1:11

C. As is often true in the Psalter, the fluctuation between singular and plural may be connected to an editor converting an individual psalm into a corporate/liturgical psalm.

Verses 1-3

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 106:1-3 1Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting. 2Who can speak of the mighty deeds of the Lord, Or can show forth all His praise? 3How blessed are those who keep justice, Who practice righteousness at all times!

Psalms 106:1-3 This first strophe has two themes.

1. description of YHWH

a. He is good (BDB 373 II, cf. 2 Chronicles 5:13; 2 Chronicles 7:3; Psalms 25:8; Psalms 86:5; Psalms 100:5; Psalms 107:1; Psalms 118:1, Psalms 118:29; Psalms 145:9)

b. His lovingkindness (see Special Topic: Lovingkindness [hesed]) and Special Topic: Forever ['olam])

2. description of His true followers

a. they speak of His mighty deeds

b. they praise Him

c. they keep justice (see Special Topic: Judge, Justice, and Judgment)

d. they (see LXX, Peshitta, Vulgate, MT, “he”) practice righteousness (see SPECIAL TOPIC: RIGHTEOUSNESS)

This description is crucial because what follows is repeated historical allusion to Israel's faithlessness.

Psalms 106:1 The Psalm begins and ends with commands to praise.

1. praise - BDB 237, KB 248, Piel imperative, Psalms 106:1, cf. 107:1; Psalms 118:1, Psalms 118:29; Psalms 136:1

2. give thanks (lit. praise) - BDB 392, KB 389, Hiphil imperative, Psalms 106:1, cf. 1 Chronicles 16:41

3. praise - same as #1, Psalms 106:48

Faithful followers praise Him by how they speak of Him and how they live like Him! Blessed is the person who obeys the Lord (cf. Psalms 1:0).

Psalms 106:2 “mighty deeds” This refers to YHWH's acts of deliverance and provision. This theme is continued from Psalms 105:0 (see full note on the seven occurrences in Psalms 106:5 at 105:1-7 notes).

1. mighty deeds, Psalms 106:2 - BDB 150, cf. Deuteronomy 3:24; Psalms 20:6; Psalms 71:16; Psalms 145:4, Psalms 145:12; Psalms 150:2; Isaiah 63:15

2. wonders, Psalms 106:7 - BDB 810 (see note at Psalms 105:1-7)

3. works, Psalms 106:13 - BDB 795, cf. Joshua 24:31; Psalms 33:4; Psalms 93:5

4. great things, Psalms 106:21 - BDB 152, i.e., esp. in Egypt, cf. Deuteronomy 10:21; here; but also of YHWH's other acts in Job 5:9; Job 9:10; Job 37:5; Psalms 71:19; Psalms 126:2

5. wonders, Psalms 106:22 - same as #2

6. wonders (lit. “terrible things” ), Psalms 106:22 - BDB 431, KB 432, Niphal participle, cf. Deuteronomy 10:21; 2 Samuel 7:23; 1 Chronicles 17:21; Psalms 66:3; Psalms 145:6; Isaiah 64:3

Psalms 106:3 “at all times” This is a crucial aspect to discipleship. Godly living is a full-time task! Now, remember this is an OT setting. It reflects “the two ways” of Deuteronomy 30:15, Deuteronomy 30:19; Psalms 1:0. The quote at Galatians 3:10-12 illustrates the performance-based OT covenant. Even though NT believers are not under the OT (cf. Acts 15:0), once we know God in Christ, we live for Him “at all times.” We do this, not to be accepted but because we are/have been accepted! The goal of biblical faith is not heaven someday, but Christlikeness every day (cf. Romans 8:28-29; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Galatians 4:19; Ephesians 1:4; Ephesians 2:10; Ephesians 4:13; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:3, 1 Thessalonians 4:7; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; 1 Peter 1:15)!

Verses 4-5

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 106:4-5 4Remember me, O Lord, in Your favor toward Your people; Visit me with Your salvation, 5That I may see the prosperity of Your chosen ones, That I may rejoice in the gladness of Your nation, That I may glory with Your inheritance.

Psalms 106:4-5 This strophe begins with two imperatives used as a prayer.

1. remember me - BDB 269, KB 269, Qal imperative

2. visit me (lit. “help”) - BDB 823, KB 955, Qal imperative

The LXX, Peshitta, and Vulgate have “us” instead of “me.”

These verses seem to reflect a person in exile (cf. Psalms 106:47, i.e., because of all the sins of His covenant people, Psalms 106:6), who is praying to live long enough to experience YHWH's restoration of His people. He mentions several phrases that point toward YHWH's merciful covenant (i.e., remember).

1. Your favor - Psalms 106:4

2. Your chosen ones - Psalms 106:5

3. Your nation - Psalms 106:5

4. Your inheritance - Psalms 106:5

Psalms 106:5 Notice the three infinitive constructs.

1. that I may see - BDB 906, KB 1157, Qal

2. that I may rejoice - BDB 970, KB 1333, Qal

3. that I may glory - BDB 237, KB 248, Hithpael

Notice that all three have a corporate focus.

1. Your chosen ones

2. Your nation

3. Your inheritance

Be careful of an exclusive, individualistic emphasis related to salvation. We are saved to serve the family of God/the body of Christ. Too much focus on the individual opens the spiritual door to the sins of Eden (Genesis 3:0).

“Your nation” The Hebrew word translated “nation” ( BDB 156) is usually a negative term referring to Gentiles (i.e., Psalms 2:1, Psalms 2:8; Psalms 9:5, Psalms 9:15, Psalms 9:17, Psalms 9:19, Psalms 9:20) but it can be used of Israel, as here (cf. Genesis 12:2; Deuteronomy 4:6-8; Psalms 33:12; Isaiah 26:2; Jeremiah 31:36).

Verses 6-12

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 106:6-12 6We have sinned like our fathers, We have committed iniquity, we have behaved wickedly. 7Our fathers in Egypt did not understand Your wonders; They did not remember Your abundant kindnesses, But rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea. 8Nevertheless He saved them for the sake of His name, That He might make His power known. 9Thus He rebuked the Red Sea and it dried up, And He led them through the deeps, as through the wilderness. 10So He saved them from the hand of the one who hated them, And redeemed them from the hand of the enemy. 11The waters covered their adversaries; Not one of them was left. 12Then they believed His words; They sang His praise.

Psalms 106:6-12 This strophe focuses on the Exodus.

1. the current people of God (Psalms 106:6)

a. they sinned like their fathers (perfect)

b. they committed iniquity (perfect)

c. they behaved wickedly (perfect)

2. our fathers (Psalms 106:7, cf. Leviticus 26:40; Nehemiah 9:32-34; Jeremiah 3:25; Daniel 9:8, Daniel 9:16)

a. did not understand Your wonders

b. did not remember Your abundant kindnesses (cf. Judges 8:34; Nehemiah 9:17; Psalms 78:42)

c. rebelled by the sea

3. never-the-less YHWH still acted (Psalms 106:8-11) on their behalf

a. He saved them

b. He made His power known (i.e., revealed His character in His acts, cf. Psalms 98:2; Psalms 103:7)

c. He rebuked the Red Sea (for this unusual verb see Psalms 104:7)

d. He led them through

e. He saved them

f. He redeemed them

4. after all of YHWH's acts they did believe (cf. Exodus 14:31; see Special Topic: Believe, Trust, Faith and Faithfulness in the OT) and praised Him (Psalms 106:12)

Some scholars see this verse as denoting a national confession of sin during a feast day at the temple. The plea for forgiveness is in Psalms 106:47 and the confidence in YHWH's grace is in Psalms 106:48.

Psalms 106:7 “at the sea” There seems to be a repetition in the MT. Many modern translations (NRSV, NJB, NAB) take the consonants from “at the sea” and combine them into a name for YHWH (cf. Psalms 78:17, Psalms 78:56; Daniel 7:18, Daniel 7:22, Daniel 7:25) to get one title for God.

1. Most High - NRSV, NJB, NAB

2. Almighty - TEV

“the red sea” See Special Topic: Red Sea

Psalms 106:8 This verse focuses on the larger redemptive purpose of YHWH in the Exodus (see Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan). He wanted the nations

1. to fear Israel

2. to know Him

The problem is that Israel never fully kept the covenant (cf. Psalms 106:6-7). The nations received a distorted revelation (cf. Ezekiel 36:22-23), so YHWH needed to develop a new way (i.e., a new covenant, cf. Jeremiah 31:32-34) to reach them. He revealed Himself (cf. Ezekiel 36:23-32).

Psalms 106:10 “redeemed” See Special Topic: Ransom/Redeem.

Verses 13-15

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 106:13-15 13They quickly forgot His works; They did not wait for His counsel, 14But craved intensely in the wilderness, And tempted God in the desert. 15So He gave them their request, But sent a wasting disease among them.

Psalms 106:13-15 This strophe is theologically tied to the previous one (Psalms 106:6-12). Israel's repentance, confession, and belief did not last.

The structural features of Psalms 106:6-12 are repeated.

1. their acts, Psalms 106:13-14

a. they quickly forgot (often a warning, cf. Deuteronomy 4:9; Deuteronomy 6:12; Deuteronomy 8:14; Psalms 103:2) His word (cf. Psalms 106:24)

b. they did not wait for His counsel

c. they craved intensely (Numbers 11:4)

2. YHWH's response

a. He gave them their evil desires (i.e., food, cf. Numbers 11:4-6, Numbers 11:31; Psalms 78:29-31; also note Romans 1:24, Romans 1:26, Romans 1:28)

b. He sent a wasting disease (cf. Numbers 11:33; see a good brief discussion in Gleason Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, p. 136)

Psalms 106:14 “And tempted God in the desert” This verb (BDB 650, KB 702, Piel imperfect with waw) is used to describe Israel's unbelief during the exodus and wandering period (i.e., in the desert). This unbelief is expressed by their attacks on YHWH's leadership team (i.e., Moses and Aaron, cf. Exodus 5:21; Exodus 14:11; Exodus 15:24; Exodus 16:2; Exodus 17:2, Exodus 17:3; Exodus 32:1; Numbers 11:1, Numbers 11:4; Numbers 14:1, Numbers 14:2; Numbers 21:5; Psalms 106:16). This very verb is used in Exodus 17:2, Exodus 17:7; Numbers 14:22; Deuteronomy 6:16; Deuteronomy 33:8; Psalms 78:18, Psalms 78:41, Psalms 78:56; Psalms 95:9.

It is interesting to note that several times this verb is used of God testing His people (cf. Genesis 22:1; Exodus 15:25; Exodus 16:4; Exodus 20:20; Deuteronomy 8:2, Deuteronomy 8:16; Deuteronomy 13:3; Judges 2:22; Judges 3:1, Judges 3:4; see SPECIAL TOPIC: GOD TESTS HIS PEOPLE.

Verses 16-18

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 106:16-18 16When they became envious of Moses in the camp, And of Aaron, the holy one of the Lord, 17The earth opened and swallowed up Dathan, And engulfed the company of Abiram. 18And a fire blazed up in their company; The flame consumed the wicked.

Psalms 106:16-18 This strophe reflects Numbers 16:0, the wilderness wandering period.

Psalms 106:16 “the holy one of the Lord” This refers to Aaron as the High Priest. There was a controversy in Numbers 16:0 over who was the true leader of Israel (cf. Numbers 16:1-7). Aaron's special holiness connected to being the High Priest is seen in his clothing as described in Exodus 28:0, especially verse Psalms 106:36.

Psalms 106:18 “fire” There are several places in Numbers where fire is used for judgment.

1. Nadab and Abihu - killed by fire for offering “strange fire,” Numbers 3:4; Numbers 26:61

2. YHWH's fire on the complaining Israelites - Numbers 11:1-3

3. Korah's rebellion - Numbers 16:35; Numbers 26:10

In Exodus 24:17 and Deuteronomy 4:24, the glory of the Lord is described as a devouring fire (see SPECIAL TOPIC: FIRE). This denotes the Shekinah cloud of glory that led and protected the Israelites.

Verses 19-27

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 106:19-27 19They made a calf in Horeb And worshiped a molten image. 20Thus they exchanged their glory For the image of an ox that eats grass. 21They forgot God their Savior, Who had done great things in Egypt, 22Wonders in the land of Ham And awesome things by the Red Sea. 23Therefore He said that He would destroy them, Had not Moses His chosen one stood in the breach before Him, To turn away His wrath from destroying them. 24Then they despised the pleasant land; They did not believe in His word, 25But grumbled in their tents; They did not listen to the voice of the Lord. 26Therefore He swore to them That He would cast them down in the wilderness, 27And that He would cast their seed among the nations And scatter them in the lands.

Psalms 106:19-27 This strophe reflects Exodus 32:0 and Numbers 14:0.

Psalms 106:19 “made a calf” The calf was intended to be a physical representation of YHWH (cf. Exodus 32:8; note the two golden calves of Jeroboam I at Dan and Bethel). It was made from some of the gold given to the Israelites by the Egyptians. But, it also reminded the Israelites of an Egyptian fertility god (cf. Exodus 32:6, Exodus 32:19).

The calf was also used as a symbol in Canaanite fertility worship for El and Ba'al (i.e., Ras Shamra texts).

“HoREB This Hebrew root (BDB 352, KB 349) means “waste” or “desert.” It is the term used most often in Deuteronomy for “the mountain where YHWH met Israel.” In Exodus and Numbers it is called “Sinai” (BDB 696), which is a non-Hebrew word. It may be related to the “Wilderness of Sin” (BDB 95, cf. Exodus 16:1; Exodus 17:1; Numbers 23:11, Numbers 23:12). The term is often associated with a small desert bush.


Psalms 106:20 What a shocking verse! God's own people turned from the one true God to an idol (cf. Jeremiah 2:11-13; as do all humans, Romans 1:21-23)!

Psalms 106:22 “in the land of Ham” Ham (BDB 325 I) is one of he sons of Noah. He was the father of several nations (Genesis 10:0).

1. Egypt (Mizraim), cf. Psalms 78:51; Psalms 105:23, Psalms 105:27

2. Canaan

Psalms 106:23 YHWH expressed to Moses that He was going to destroy them and start over with him, as He had done with Abraham (cf. Exodus 32:10).

Moses interceded with YHWH on Israel's behalf (cf. Exodus 32:11-13). I think this was a test for the strengthening of Moses. YHWH changed His mind (cf. Exodus 32:14) and responded to Moses' prayer. See Special Topic: Intercessory Prayer.

Psalms 106:24 Several times Israel refused to believe YHWH about His giving them the land of Canaan (cf. Numbers 14:1-3, Numbers 14:31; Numbers 20:3-4; Deuteronomy 9:23; Ezekiel 20:5-8).

“He swore to them” The verb (BDB 669, KB 724, Qal imperfect with waw) literally means “to lift up” (i.e., the hand in a gesture to swear an oath), YHWH's promise in Genesis 15:18. This is alluded to in Exodus 6:8; Numbers 14:30; Nehemiah 9:15.

Psalms 106:27 The two verbs refer to exile.

1. cast (lit. “cause to fall”) - BDB 656, KB 709, Hiphil infinitive construct, cf. Psalms 106:26b

2. scatter - BDB 279, KB 280, Piel infinitive construct

This was an early warning against covenant disobedience, cf. Leviticus 26:33; Deuteronomy 4:27; Deuteronomy 28:64; Deuteronomy 29:28; Psalms 44:11; Ezekiel 20:23. As YHWH drove out the Canaanite tribes because of their sins (cf. Genesis 15:12-21), now in impartial judgment, He does the same to Israel! Sin has consequences!

One more thought about exile. As painful and shameful as it was, it facilitated YHWH's spreading the message about Himself. The problem was that Israel continued to give the wrong message (cf. Ezekiel 36:22-23).

The “new covenant” of Jeremiah 31:31-34 will focus on YHWH revealing Himself by His gracious acts to rebellious Israel (cf. Ezekiel 36:24-38).

Verses 28-31

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 106:28-31 28They joined themselves also to Baal-peor, And ate sacrifices offered to the dead. 29Thus they provoked Him to anger with their deeds, And the plague broke out among them. 30Then Phinehas stood up and interposed, And so the plague was stayed. 31And it was reckoned to him for righteousness, To all generations forever.

Psalms 106:28-31 This strophe relates to Numbers 25:0. Israel became involved with the fertility worship of Moab. Idolatry was a major problem in Israel's history. I have included my notes from Deuteronomy 18:10-11. See Special Topic: Fertility Worship of the ANE.

Deuteronomy 18:10-11 There is a series of participles, which denote Canaanite idolatry:

1. NASB, “who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire” - BDB 716, KB 778, Hiphil participle

2. NASB, “one who uses divination” - BDB 890, KB 1115, Qal participle (uses both verb and noun)

NKJV, NET, “one who practices witchcraft”

NRSV, NJB, NIV, “who practices divination”

JPSOA, “an augur”

3. NASB, “one who practices witchcraft” - BDB 778 II KB 857, Poel participle

NKJV, NRSV, NJB, JPSOA, “a sooth sayer”

NIV, “sorcery”

NET, “an omen reader”

4. NASB, NKJV, NIV, “one who interprets omens” - BDB 638 II, KB 690, Piel participle

NRSV, NJB, “an augur”

JPSOA, “a diviner”

NET, “a soothsayer”

5. NASB, NKJV, NRSV, NJB, JPSOA, NET, “a sorcerer” - BDB 506, KB 503, Piel participle

NIV, “engages in witchcraft”

6. NASB, “one who casts a spell” - BDB 287, KB 287, Qal participle (uses verb and noun)

NKJV, “one who conjures spells”

NRSV, JPSOA, NIV, NET, “one who casts spells”

NJB, “weaver of spells”

7. NASB, NKJV, “one who inquires” (i.e., a medium) - BDB 981, KB 1371, Qal participle

NRSV, JPSOA, “consults ghosts”

NJB, “consulter of ghosts”

NIV, “medium”

NET, “one who conjures up spirits”

8. NASB, NKJV, NIV, “one who inquires” [assumed] (i.e., a spiritist) - BDB 981, KB 1371, Qal participle (assumed)

NRSV, “consults spirits”

NJB, “mediums”

JPSOA, “familiar spirits”

NET, “a practitioner of the occult”

9. NASB, NKJV, “one who calls up the dead”

a.BDB 205, KB 233, Qal participle

b.BDB 559, KB 562, Qal participle

NRSV, “who seeks oracles from the dead”

NJB, NET, “necromancer”

JPSOA, “one who inquires of the dead”

NIV, “who consults the dead”

As you can see from the different English translations these words have some overlap. These terms seem to refer to different types of pagan worship practice, but their exact definitions are uncertain to modern Bible students. See a brief discussion in (1) Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, pp. 524-528 and 608-610 and also (2) Synonyms of the Old Testament by Robert B. Girdlestone, pp. 296-302. The general picture is an attempt to know and manipulate the future for personal benefit. YHWH's people are to trust Him and serve Him. The old original sin of “me first” is the root of all of mankind's problems!

Psalms 18:10 “who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire” This is a reference to the worship of the fertility god, Molech. In Israel the firstborn (cf. Exodus 13:0) was to be given to YHWH to serve Him. In Canaan the firstborn was to be sacrificed by fire to Molech in order to insure fertility, (cf. Deuteronomy 12:31; Leviticus 18:21). There is even one account in 2 Kings 21:6 where God's people worshiped this false god! It also possibly relates somehow to knowing the future (cf. 2 Kings 3:26-27). See Special Topic: Molech.

“divination” This is from the Hebrew root for “divine” (BDB 890, cf. Numbers 22:7; Numbers 23:23; Ezekiel 21:21; 2 Kings 17:17). It is the general term describing several different methods, but all intent on determining the will of a deity by mechanical or natural means, such as examining the livers of sheep or casting arrows. It is based on the pagan worldview that there is information about the future hidden in natural events and that gifted humans (i.e., false prophets, e.g., Jeremiah 27:9; Jeremiah 29:8; Ezekiel 13:9; Ezekiel 22:28) know it and influence this future.

“one who practices witchcraft” This term (BDB 778 II, KB 857) is related to the term “cloud” (BDB 777). Linguists think the term is related to sound:

1.the hum of insects

2.sound of wind in the trees

3.unknown etymology (if cloud, then related to sight)

The parallel passage in Moses' writings which prohibits these same pagan practices is in Leviticus 19:26-8 (see esp. 19:26). This same term is also found in Judges 9:37; 2 Kings 21:6; 2 Chronicles 33:6; Isaiah 2:6; Isaiah 57:3; Jeremiah 27:9; Micah 5:12.

“one who interprets omens” The meaning of this term (BDB 638 II, KB 690) is uncertain. In Syrian it means “to murmur an obscure incantation” (KB 690). The root has several usages:

1.serpent - BDB 638 I

2.verb in Piel only, (BDB 638 II) meaning :

a.practice divination

b.observe signs/omens

3.copper - bronze, BDB 638 III

4.unknown - BDB 638 IV

“a sorcerer” This term (BDB 506, KB 503) basically means “to cut up” (1) as in the shredding of ingredients for a magical potion or (2) cutting oneself as a way of getting the deity's attention (i.e., Syrian usage, cf. 1 Kings 18:28). This term was used to describe Pharaoh's wise men in Exodus 7:11 and Nebuchadnezzar's wise men in Daniel 2:2.

Psalms 18:11 “one who casts a spell” This literally is “to tie knots,” “to be allied with,” or “join together” (BDB 287, KB 287). In Psalms 58:5 and Ecclesiastes 10:11 it refers to snake charming. A slightly different vocalization describes a Babylonian false wise man in Isaiah 47:8-11.

“mediums” The participle's (BDB 981, KB 1371) basic meaning is to “ask” or “inquire.” Here, to inquire of the spirit realm (e.g., YHWH, Joshua 9:14 or idols, Hosea 4:12).

The first noun, “medium” (BDB 15) is a difficult term to define. Some see the term as it is used in Leviticus 19:31; Leviticus 20:6, Leviticus 20:27 as (1) a pit or grave where spirits are lured, (2) form of “father” which refers to ancestor worship. It is translated in the LXX in Isaiah 8:19 as “ventriloquist.” Because of this and Isaiah 29:4 some think it means “to chirp” or “to mutter.” This would imply to “talk with a different voice.” However, from 1 Samuel 28:7-9, it is related to the ability to call or talk to someone in the ground or to communicate with the dead or spirits of the underworld, i.e., necromancy.

The second noun, “spiritists” (BDB 396) was a form of the Hebrew word “to know” (BDB 395). It refers to one who has knowledge of the spiritual realm or has contact with those in the spiritual realm who have knowledge (cf. Isaiah 8:19; Isaiah 19:3).

“one who calls up the dead” This phrase is a combination of two Qal participles (BDB 205, KB 233, “to ask” and BDB 559, KB 562, “the dead ones”). In context it refers to mediums and “spiritists.” These elite, supposedly gifted, people contact the dead for information about the future and the power to affect it.

All ancient cultures believed in an afterlife. For many in the Ancient Near East this had two possibilities:

1. ancestor worship where the spirits of family members could affect the present and future

2. the power of physical (stars, forces of nature) or spiritual (demons, demigods) could be utilized to know and affect personal destinies

Psalms 106:28 “And ate sacrifices offered to the dead” The MT does not have the verb “offered.” “The dead” (BDB 559, Qal, #1,d) is a Qal active participle, which may refer to the non-existent pagan idols (cf. Numbers 25:2), not deceased humans (cf. Deuteronomy 26:14). The TEV, NJB, and REB so translate it.

TEV - “dead gods”

NJB - “lifeless gods”

REB - “lifeless gods”

Psalms 106:29 “their deeds” One wonders if there is a purposeful comparison of

1. the deeds of the Israelite idolaters, Psalms 106:29, Psalms 106:39

2. the deeds of YHWH, Psalms 106:2, Psalms 106:7, Psalms 106:13, Psalms 106:21-22

What a contrast!

Psalms 106:31 “it was reckoned to him for righteousness” This is the exact phrase used of Abraham's justification by faith in Genesis 15:6, quoted by Paul in Romans 4:3; Galatians 3:6. The only difference in the verb here (BDB 362, KB 359, Niphal imperfect) and there (Qal imperfect) is the verbal aspect. See full notes on Genesis 15:6 online at www.freebiblecommentary.org.

Phinehas the priest's actions are described in Numbers 25:11-13. His actions, like Abraham's, demonstrated his faith in YHWH.

Psalms 106:31 “to all generations forever” Phinehas' actions were an example of a true faithful follower. This testimony is preserved and continues to speak of his faith/faithfulness.

How we live influences people long after we die!

Verses 32-33

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 106:32-33 32They also provoked Him to wrath at the waters of Meribah, So that it went hard with Moses on their account; 33Because they were rebellious against His Spirit, He spoke rashly with his lips.

Psalms 106:32-33 This strophe reflects the events of Numbers 20:0. The Israelites angered Moses by their words at Meribah and he overreacted (cf. Numbers 20:12; Numbers 27:14; Deuteronomy 1:37; Deuteronomy 3:26-27; Deuteronomy 34:4). God is no respecter of persons; disobedience has consequences (cf. Galatians 6:7, see full note online).

Psalms 106:33 “His Spirit” The NASB capitalizes “Spirit” (BDB 924), which implies YHWH's Spirit, but the context obviously refers to Moses' spirit (i.e., life force). In Psalms 106:33b the parallel line, “He” refers to Moses.

It may be a moot issue because it was God's Spirit who was with Moses (cf. Numbers 11:17; Nehemiah 9:20), Israel (cf. Numbers 24:3), and both (cf. Isaiah 63:10-14).

Verses 34-39

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 106:34-39 34They did not destroy the peoples, As the Lord commanded them, 35But they mingled with the nations And learned their practices, 36And served their idols, Which became a snare to them. 37They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons, 38And shed innocent blood, The blood of their sons and their daughters, Whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; And the land was polluted with the blood. 39Thus they became unclean in their practices, And played the harlot in their deeds.

Psalms 106:34-39 This strophe reflects God's words to Israel about interaction with the Canaanites (cf. Exodus 34:10-17; Deuteronomy 7:1-6, Deuteronomy 7:16; Deuteronomy 20:16-18). The book of Joshua describes the defeat of the major walled cities of Canaan, but each tribe must finish the task of driving out the Canaanites from their own tribal allocations. They did not (i.e., Judges 1:21, Judges 1:27, etc.). The consequences are clearly stated in Numbers 33:50-56!

Psalms 106:35 “the nations” See Special Topic: Pre-Israelite Inhabitants of Palestine.

Psalms 106:36 “Which became a snare” This word, “snare” (BDB 430), is a reference to an animal trap (lit. “bait” or “lure”). It was used metaphorically of the temptation to Canaanite fertility worship (cf. Exodus 23:33; Deuteronomy 7:16; Judges 2:3).

Psalms 106:37-38 This refers to the worship of the fertility god, Molech.


Psalms 106:37 “demons” This (BDB 993) refers to pagan gods (cf. Deuteronomy 32:17). The word is used only twice in the OT. It is possibly a loan word from Aramaic. The concept of pagan idols as demons is seen in the NT in 1 Corinthians 10:19-20 and Revelation 9:20.


Psalms 106:38 “the land was polluted” The land of Canaan was polluted by the Canaanites (cf. Genesis 15:16) and now by the Israelites (cf. Numbers 35:33-34; Jeremiah 3:2-10). Canaan belonged to YHWH. It was His land.

Psalms 106:39 “played the harlot” This (BDB 275, KB 275, Qal imperfect with waw) is a Hebrew idiom for idolatrous worship (cf. Judges 2:17; Ezekiel 23:0; Hosea 5:3). It is based on the imagery of YHWH as Father and Israel as wife (cf. Hosea 1-3). To go after another god was viewed as “spiritual adultery” (cf. Exodus 34:15; Numbers 15:39; Psalms 73:27; Hosea 4:12; Hosea 9:1). Sometimes the imagery is both figurative and literal because many/most of the fertility worship was by imitation magic (i.e., sexual activity in the name of and at the site of worship).

Verses 40-43

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 106:40-43 40Therefore the anger of the Lord was kindled against His people And He abhorred His inheritance. 41Then He gave them into the hand of the nations, And those who hated them ruled over them. 42Their enemies also oppressed them, And they were subdued under their power. 43Many times He would deliver them; They, however, were rebellious in their counsel, And so sank down in their iniquity.

Psalms 106:40-43 This is a summary of the periods of the exodus, wilderness wanderings, conquest, judges, and monarchy. The OT is a record of Israel's inability to obey (cf. Galatians 3:0)!

Notice the powerful emotive words used to describe how YHWH reacted to Israel's idolatry, rebellion, and unbelief.

1. the anger of the Lord was kindled against His people (cf. Deuteronomy 1:34-35; Deuteronomy 9:19)

2. He abhorred His inheritance (cf. Leviticus 26:30; Deuteronomy 32:19)

3. He gave them into the hand of. . . (i.e., Hebrew idiom of rejection), continued in different but parallel phrases in Psalms 106:41-42

Psalms 106:42 “they were subdued” The AB (p. 75) mentions that the consonants of “Canaan” (BDB 488) are the same as this verb (BDB 488, KB 484, Niphal imperfect with waw). This may have been a purposeful sound play. Canaanite tribes subdued YHWH's faithless tribes.

Verses 44-46

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 106:44-46 44Nevertheless He looked upon their distress When He heard their cry; 45And He remembered His covenant for their sake, And relented according to the greatness of His lovingkindness. 46He also made them objects of compassion In the presence of all their captors.

Psalms 106:44-46 This strophe shows the gracious response of YHWH.

1. He looked upon their distress (cf. Exodus 2:25; Exodus 5:7; Nehemiah 9:9)

2. He heard their cry (cf. Exodus 2:23-25; Exodus 3:7-9; Numbers 20:16; Judges 3:9; Judges 6:7; Judges 10:10; Nehemiah 9:27)

3. He remembered His covenant (cf. Exodus 2:24; Leviticus 26:40, Leviticus 26:42, Leviticus 26:45; Psalms 105:8, Psalms 105:42)

4. He relented according to the greatness of His lovingkindness (see full note at Genesis 6:6 online)

5. He made them objects of compassion (cf. 1 Kings 8:50; 2 Chronicles 30:9; Ezra 9:9; Nehemiah 1:11; Jeremiah 42:12)

6. notice Psalms 106:43a, another gracious desire of YHWH

Psalms 106:45 “covenant” See Special Topic: Covenant

Verses 47-48

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 106:47-48 47Save us, O Lord our God, And gather us from among the nations, To give thanks to Your holy name And glory in Your praise. 48Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, From everlasting even to everlasting. And let all the people say, “Amen.” Praise the Lord!

Psalms 106:47-48 These words are also found in 1 Chronicles 16:35-36. This Psalm starts with praise to YHWH for His grace to faithful followers. But Israel has not been faithful! Now the psalmist prays for YHWH to act on their behalf and restore Israel from exile!

1. save us - BDB 446, KB 448, Hiphil imperative, cf. 1 Chronicles 16:35

2. gather us from the nations - BDB 867, KB 1062, Piel imperative, cf. Deuteronomy 30:3; Psalms 147:2; Isaiah 11:12; Isaiah 56:8; Ezekiel 39:28

The purpose of the restoration is so that Israel can

1. give thanks to Your holy name - BDB 392, KB 389, Hiphil infinitive construct

2. glory in Your praise - BDB 986, KB 1387, Hithpael infinitive construct

Psalms 106:48 “Blessed be the Lord” This verb (BDB 138, KB 159, Qal passive participle) also occurs in Psalms 41:13; Psalms 72:18; Psalms 89:52. Israel is to bless their God because of who He is and what He has done for them.

Notice the covenant titles of Deity.

1. O Lord our God, Psalms 106:47

2. the Lord, the God of Israel, Psalms 106:48

“From everlasting even to everlasting” See Special Topic: Forever ('olam).

“let all the people say, ‘Amen'“ The NASB translates this phrase as a jussive but it is a Qal perfect.

“Amen” See SPECIAL TOPIC: AMEN. Israel (i.e., “people”) is to affirm YHWH's blessedness.

“Praise the Lord” This Psalm ends the same as Psalms 105:0 and 104. This is liturgical phrasing that opens (i.e., Psalms 105:1) and closes (i.e., Psalms 105:45) many Psalms. It shows that they were read in worship settings.

“The Lord” is the shortened form of Yah (BDB 219).

Surprisingly this is missing in the LXX, but included in the Peshitta. It is surely possible that Psalms 106:48c-d serves as a doxological close to the fourth Book of the Psalter (i.e., Psalms 41:13; Psalms 89:52).

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Psalms 106". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/psalms-106.html. 2021.
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