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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 107

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

Introduction

Psalms 107:0

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASBNKJVNRSVTEVNJB
The Lord Delivers Men from Manifold TroublesNo MT IntroThanksgiving to the Lord for His Great Works of DeliveranceA Group Thanksgiving for PilgrimsIn Praise of God's GoodnessGod, A Refuge in Every Danger
Psalms 107:1-3Psalms 107:1-3Psalms 107:1-3Psalms 107:1-3Psalms 107:1
Psalms 107:2-3
Psalms 107:4-9Psalms 107:4-9Psalms 107:4-9Psalms 107:4-9Psalms 107:4-5
Psalms 107:6-7
Psalms 107:8-9
Psalms 107:10-16Psalms 107:10-16Psalms 107:10-16Psalms 107:10-16Psalms 107:10-12
Psalms 107:13-14
Psalms 107:15-16
Psalms 107:17-22Psalms 107:17-22Psalms 107:17-22Psalms 107:17-22Psalms 107:17-18
Psalms 107:19-20
Psalms 107:21-22
Psalms 107:23-32Psalms 107:23-32Psalms 107:23-32Psalms 107:23-32Psalms 107:23-24
Psalms 107:25-27
Psalms 107:28-30
Psalms 107:31-32
Psalms 107:33-38Psalms 107:33-38Psalms 107:33-38Psalms 107:33-38Psalms 107:33-34
Psalms 107:35-36
Psalms 107:37-38
Psalms 107:39-43Psalms 107:39-43Psalms 107:39-43Psalms 107:39-42Psalms 107:39-40
Psalms 107:41-42
Psalms 107:43Psalms 107:43

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

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

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.

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. There is a possible link between Psalms 105, 106, and 107 (i.e., same introductory phrase). Even though these are separated by a book division, their subject matter and terminology link them together. The LXX adds the characteristic opening of Book 1, “Hallelujah.”

1. Psalms 105:0 deals with Israel's experience of the exodus

2. Psalms 106:0 leads up to the traumatic event of the Babylonian exile

3. Psalms 107:0 speaks of restoration.

B. It is important in interpreting the Psalms that we try to ascertain the historical setting. Psalms 107:1-3 helps us realize that this is God's deliverance from Babylonian exile.

C. There is a recurrent pattern in this Psalm, beginning in Psalms 107:4 and continuing through verse Psalms 107:32. There are several repeated similar refrains. One of them is, “They cried out to the Lord in their trouble,” Psalms 106:7, Psalms 106:13, Psalms 106:19, Psalms 106:28. This phrasing is similar to the experience of Israel during the period of the Judges.

D. Another recurring refrain is Psalms 107:8, Psalms 107:15, Psalms 107:21, Psalms 107:31. This refrain focuses on the covenant loyalty of the God of Israel. This same special term, hesed (see Special Topic: Lovingkindness), begins and ends this Psalm. The theme of this wonderful Psalm is the steadfast, covenant loyalty of YHWH.

E. There is a fourfold pattern of rescue. Some scholars think this relates to pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem, but this seems highly unlikely, especially because of pattern #4 in Psalms 107:23-31, which deals with doing business on the sea. A better understanding would be four metaphors of deliverance from crises:

1. a caravan lost in the wilderness being found, Psalms 107:4-9

2. prisoners in deep dungeons being released, Psalms 107:10-16

3. illness to the point of death, but healing, Psalms 107:17-22

4. those who experience a terrible storm at sea but are delivered, Psalms 107:23-31

Verses 1-3

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 107:1-3 1Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, For His lovingkindness is everlasting. 2Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the adversary 3And gathered from the lands, From the east and from the west, From the north and from the south.

Psalms 107:1 “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good” This is the same beginning as Psalms 106:0; Psalms 118:0; and 136 (i.e., BDB 392, KB 389, Hiphil imperative; it is the only imperative in this Psalm). This is basically the faithful follower's worldview. No matter what circumstances in which we may find ourselves, it is the deep conviction of those who believe the Bible that God is with us, God is for us, God is able to deliver us.

“For His lovingkindness is everlasting” This is the covenant term hesed (see Special Topic: Lovingkindness ([hesed]). It primarily speaks of God's steadfast, covenant loyalty. This Psalm begins and ends (cf. Psalms 107:43b) with God's covenant love. God is not just the originator of covenants, He is the concluder of covenants

For “everlasting” see Special Topic: Forever ('olam).

Psalms 107:2 “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so This term is the Hebrew word go'el (BDB 145, KB 169, Qal passive participle). It primarily emphasizes a rich relative buying someone back from slavery (see SPECIAL TOPIC: RANSOM/REDEEM). These personal family metaphors are used to describe God in the most intimate and significant of human relationships.

God's people are called to speak forth God's mercies. In context, this is another universal theme (cf. Psalms 107:8, Psalms 107:15, Psalms 107:21, Psalms 107:31).

The word “say” (BDB 55, KB 65) is a Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense. This Psalm has eleven of these grammatical forms (i.e., Psalms 107:2, Psalms 107:8, Psalms 107:15, Psalms 107:21, Psalms 107:22 [twice], 32 [twice, 43 [twice]).

“Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the adversary” Because of Psalms 107:3 this refers to the Assyrian and Babylonian exiles. The prayer for restoration is found in Psalms 106:47 and Psalms 107:0 seems to be the fulfillment of that prayer.

For the idiom of “hand” see SPECIAL TOPIC: HAND.

Psalms 107:3 “south” This is literally the word for “sea” (cf. JPSOA). The term “sea” (BDB 410) and the term “south” (lit. “right hand,” BDB 411 I) are spelled similarly in Hebrew. These are the four cardinal points of the compass, which would denote a universal restoration.

Most modern English translations emend “sea” to “south” because “the west” has already been mentioned. The UBS Text Project (p. 384) gives “sea” an “A” rating (very high probability). If the original text should be “sea” it refers to the islands of the Mediterranean where God's people have been taken as prisoners/slaves.

Notice the “gathering” (BDB 867, KB 1062, Piel perfect) of YHWH's redeemed in Psalms 107:0 is an answer to the prayer of Psalms 106:47 (BDB 867, KB 1062, Piel imperative).

Verses 4-9

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 107:4-9 4They wandered in the wilderness in a desert region; They did not find a way to an inhabited city. 5They were hungry and thirsty; Their soul fainted within them. 6Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; He delivered them out of their distresses. 7He led them also by a straight way, To go to an inhabited city. 8Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness, And for His wonders to the sons of men! 9For He has satisfied the thirsty soul, And the hungry soul He has filled with what is good.

Psalms 107:4 “They wandered in the wilderness in a desert region” Some would say this is an obvious allusion to the exodus, however, the rest of the Psalm does not fit the exodus period. Therefore, I think this is the first of four circumstances that describe a crisis from which God delivers His people. See Contextual Insights, E.

“They did not find a way to an inhabited city” This play on the term “inhabited city” is found in several parts of this Psalm (cf. Psalms 107:7, Psalms 107:36). It is possibly an allusion to Jerusalem and the Promised Land, but it primarily speaks of a place for travelers to find rest, provisions, and safety.

Psalms 107:5 The word “soul” (“nephesh,” BDB 659, see note online at Genesis 35:18) denotes an air-breathing life force. It is used several times in this Psalm.

Psalms 107:1. Psalms 107:5 - their soul fainted within them

Psalms 107:2. Psalms 107:9 - the thirsty soul

Psalms 107:3. Psalms 107:9 - the hungry soul

Psalms 107:4. Psalms 107:18 - their soul abhorred food

Psalms 107:5. Psalms 107:26 - their soul melted away

Each of these describes a person in distress and discouragement, at the point of death.

Psalms 107:6, Psalms 107:13, Psalms 107:19, Psalms 107:28 “they cried out to the Lord in their trouble” This pattern set up by God's people in crises, crying out to Him and God delivering them, is reminiscent of the period of the Judges.

Psalms 107:6 “He delivered them out of their stress” God's deliverance is also paralleled in all four of these metaphorical situations (cf. Psalms 107:6-7; 13-14; 19-20; 28-29).

Psalms 107:7 “He led them also by a straight way” This concept of a straight way reflects the Hebrew idiom of “the two ways” (cf. Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Psalms 1:1; Matthew 7:13-14). A life of faith and faithfulness to YHWH is described as

1. a straight path

2. a level path

3. a smooth path

4. a path free of obstacles

The lifestyle of the wicked is just the opposite, filled with trouble and problems.

Isaiah often speaks of YHWH preparing a special path for His people's return from exile (cf. Isa. 20:7; Isaiah 35:7-8; Isaiah 40:3-4; Isaiah 42:15-16; Isaiah 43:19-20; Isaiah 49:10-11; Isaiah 57:14; Isaiah 62:10).

Psalms 107:8 “Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness” The verb (BDB 392, KB 389, Hiphil imperfect used in a jussive sense) occurs in Psalms 107:8, Psalms 107:15, Psalms 107:21, Psalms 107:31. Here again is the repeated refrain of the wonderful covenant love of God manifested in the lives of His children. Even in times of distress, His faithfulness is sure (see Special Topic: Characteristics of Israel's God).

“And for His wonders to the sons of men” Primarily this refers to the grace acts of God in delivering His people (cf. Psalms 107:24, see Special Topic: Wonderful Things). There are two ways to look at this phrase. One emphasizes God as a global sustainer of life, the God of providential care for all human beings. But, I think a better way of looking at this is that Israel was to be a witness to God's acts to the world. This fits Psalms 107:2 best and the universal emphasis, so characteristic of many of the Psalms in this section of the Psalter. Israel was meant to be a kingdom of priests to lead the entire world to God. See Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan.

Psalms 107:9 “For He has satisfied the thirsty soul” This can refer to the physical deliverance of God, for the particular event that those in Psalms 107:4-9 experienced, or it can be extrapolated to a wider spiritual sense. This Psalm, as a whole, can easily be generalized into the problems that all human beings face after Genesis 3:0 but uniquely the people of God, as they trust in the Lord and are delivered as a witness of God's power and love to an unbelieving world.

Verses 10-16

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 107:10-16 10There were those who dwelt in darkness and in the shadow of death, Prisoners in misery and chains, 11Because they had rebelled against the words of God And spurned the counsel of the Most High. 12Therefore He humbled their heart with labor; They stumbled and there was none to help. 13Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; He saved them out of their distresses. 14He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death And broke their bands apart. 15Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness, And for His wonders to the sons of men! 16For He has shattered gates of bronze And cut bars of iron asunder.

Psalms 107:10 “There were those who dwelt in darkness and in the shadow of death” The term “shadow of death” (BDB 853) is used in Psalms 23:4 and means “deep darkness” (BDB 161 construct BDB 853). It can be understood as a major crisis in life or someone at the point of death. In this particular case it is obvious that we are talking about prisoners held in the darkest, deepest dungeons.

This is the second of four possible scenarios of deliverance. See Contextual Insights, E.

Psalms 107:11 “Because they had rebelled against the words of God” This is a very significant phrase. These crises that are overwhelming God's people are not because of God's lack of power or His lack of love, it is because of the people's open-eyed rebellion against God (cf. Psalms 107:17, Psalms 107:34). Although this is not stated in every one of the four possible scenarios, it is obvious that the problems experienced by Israel are related to their sin and rebellion against the covenant (cf. Leviticus 26:0 and Deuteronomy 27-30).

“the Most High” This Psalm uses several names for Deity (see SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY).

1. YHWH - Psalms 107:1, Psalms 107:6, Psalms 107:8, Psalms 107:13, Psalms 107:15, Psalms 107:19, Psalms 107:21, Psalms 107:24, Psalms 107:28, Psalms 107:31, Psalms 107:43

2. El - Psalms 107:11

3. Most High (Elyon, BDB 751) - Psalms 107:11

Number 3 is most often used by non-Israelites (cf. Genesis 14:19; Numbers 24:15). Moses uses it in Deuteronomy 32:8 (LXX) for YHWH's division of the earth into nations. Its usage in this Psalm adds to the evidence of the universal nature of this piece of literature.

Psalms 107:12 “none to help” This little phrase is used often for the inability of any other deity to help (cf. 2 Kings 14:26; Psalms 22:11; Psalms 72:12; Isaiah 63:5). YHWH is asserting that “There is no god but Me, and if you rebel against Me, there is no help. But if you respond to Me, there is no force on earth that can enslave you.” See SPECIAL TOPIC: MONOTHEISM.

Psalms 107:13 “they cried out to the Lord” See note at Psalms 107:6.

“He saved them out of distress” This is the Hebrew word “saved” (BDB 446, KB 488, see SPECIAL TOPIC: SALVATION (OLD TESTAMENT TERM) [OT Term]). It primarily refers to physical deliverance in the OT. The term “saved” does take on spiritual aspects in the NT.

Psalms 107:14 This repeats the physical salvation of these prisoners mentioned in Psalms 107:10.

Psalms 107:15 This repeats the emphasis of Psalms 107:8. It is repeated again in Psalms 107:21 and 31 for emphasis.

The use of the phrase, “sons of men” (lit. “ben Adam”), has a universal component. YHWH, the Creator of humans in His likeness (cf. Genesis 1:26-27), is also the redeemer of all humans (cf. Genesis 3:15, see Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan). There is hope for Israel; there is hope for all!

Psalms 107:16 “He shattered the gates of bronze and cut the bars of iron asunder” In their day, these metal gates were the strongest possible human barrier. These are metaphorical for the strength and power of God that knows no barriers in helping His people (i.e., Isaiah 45:1-2).

Verses 17-22

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 107:17-22 17Fools, because of their rebellious way, And because of their iniquities, were afflicted. 18Their soul abhorred all kinds of food, And they drew near to the gates of death. 19Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; He saved them out of their distresses. 20He sent His word and healed them, And delivered them from their destructions. 21Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness, And for His wonders to the sons of men! 22Let them also offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, And tell of His works with joyful singing.

Psalms 107:17 “were afflicted” This is a metaphor about a sickness unto death. However, this verbal form is a reflexive, not a passive, and it should be translated “they afflicted themselves” (BDB 776, KB 853, Hithpael imperfect). It has been said that we do not break God's laws but that we break ourselves on God's laws. There is much truth in this statement about God's moral universe.

Psalms 107:18 This is a way of speaking about a loss of appetite brought on by severe illness. In this verse Sheol is described as a fortress or city with gates (cf. Job 38:17). Quite often Sheol is personified or metaphoricalized in several different ways, but obviously we are speaking about death. See SPECIAL TOPIC: Where Are the Dead?

Psalms 107:19 The phrase is repeated in Psalms 107:6, Psalms 107:13, Psalms 107:19, and 28. It is reminiscent of the period of the Judges.

Psalms 107:20 “He sent His word and healed them” Notice here the Hebrew emphasis on the power of the spoken word. Much like Genesis 1:0, God spoke and it was accomplished. This same emphasis on the power of the word of God can be seen in Isaiah 55:11. In the OT, when God spoke, His words became an independent, self-fulfilling existence.

The noun “destructions” (lit. “pits,” BDB 1005) is a rare root and is found in only three places in the OT.

1. here

2. Proverbs 28:10

3. Lamentations 4:20

It could refer to

1. the schemes and plans of enemies (animal traps)

2. death (Sheol as the pit)

Psalms 107:21 This phrase is repeated in Psalms 107:8, Psalms 107:15, Psalms 107:21, Psalms 107:31. See full note at Psalms 107:8.

Psalms 107:22 This verse emphasizes temple worship in Jerusalem, as does Psalms 107:23. It is possible that Psalms 107:2a also reflects a temple activity.

Verses 23-32

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 107:23-32 23Those who go down to the sea in ships, Who do business on great waters; 24They have seen the works of the Lord, And His wonders in the deep. 25For He spoke and raised up a stormy wind, Which lifted up the waves of the sea. 26They rose up to the heavens, they went down to the depths; Their soul melted away in their misery. 27They reeled and staggered like a drunken man, And were at their wits' end. 28Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, And He brought them out of their distresses. 29He caused the storm to be still, So that the waves of the sea were hushed. 30Then they were glad because they were quiet, So He guided them to their desired haven. 31Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness, And for His wonders to the sons of men! 32Let them extol Him also in the congregation of the people, And praise Him at the seat of the elders.

Psalms 107:23 “Those who go down to the sea in ships” The Jews did not engage in seafaring activities very often. There is one example in 1 Kings 9:27, 1 Kings 9:28, where Solomon built a fleet on the Gulf of Aqaba, but he was condemned because of this and the fact that the Phoenicians built and manned the ships. There is a veiled allusion to one of the Jewish tribes being involved in maritime activities in Judges 5:17, but again, this is rather cryptic and uncertain in its meaning. The Jews simply did not engage in seafaring activity very much. The metaphorical background to Psalms 107:23-32 is a severe storm at sea, which would terrify desert dwellers.

This is the fourth hypothetical situation of deliverance; see Contextual Insights, E.

Psalms 107:25-27 These are striking metaphorical examples of seasickness and fear associated with a storm at sea.

Psalms 107:27 The verb in line two is literally “swallowed” (BDB 118, Hithapel imperfect), which denoted the sudden destruction of something (i.e., the sea swallowing a ship in a storm).

KB 135 III takes the root to be “to show oneself confused.” This would be the only example of this root in the Hithpael, though it gives

1. a Niphal in Isaiah 28:7

2. a Piel in Isaiah 3:12; Isaiah 19:3

3. a Pual in Isaiah 9:16

Several English translations see this verb as relating to the experienced sailors' inability to use their knowledge of the sea in order to escape.

Psalms 107:30 “their desired haven” This is literally “desired city.” This term for “city” (BDB 562, KB 568) is found only here. Most English translations have “haven” or “harbor.” I think it parallels the “inhabited city” of Psalms 107:4 and 36. It was a place of rest, provision, and safety! It may contrast “the gates of death” (i.e., Sheol, the city of the dead). Ultimately only God is such a place! He is the only eternal city (cf. Hebrews 11:10)!

Psalms 107:32 “the congregation of the people” This is a characteristic covenant phrase for Israel.

“praised Him in the seat of the elders” There has been some speculation that Psalms 107:33-43 contains

1. the peoples' words to the elders

2. the elders' response to their words

Whatever the exact nature of the following verses, it does not fit the fourfold pattern that has been established in Psalms 107:4-32.

Verses 33-38

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 107:33-38 33He changes rivers into a wilderness And springs of water into a thirsty ground; 34A fruitful land into a salt waste, Because of the wickedness of those who dwell in it. 35He changes a wilderness into a pool of water And a dry land into springs of water; 36And there He makes the hungry to dwell, So that they may establish an inhabited city, 37And sow fields and plant vineyards, And gather a fruitful harvest. 38Also He blesses them and they multiply greatly, And He does not let their cattle decrease.

Psalms 107:33-43 God's judgment is depicted and here has a purpose. That purpose is the restoration of God's people and their blessing. This is very similar to the blessing and cursing section of Leviticus 26:1-13 and Deuteronomy 27-30.

Verses 39-43

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 107:39-43 39When they are diminished and bowed down Through oppression, misery and sorrow, 40He pours contempt upon princes And makes them wander in a pathless waste. 41But He sets the needy securely on high away from affliction, And makes his families like a flock. 42The upright see it and are glad; But all unrighteousness shuts its mouth. 43Who is wise? Let him give heed to these things, And consider the lovingkindnesses of the Lord.

Psalms 107:40, Psalms 107:41 “princes. . .the needy” The reversal of roles is one of the characteristic signs of God's ways with humans. Those leaders of Israel who led their people astray are now judged and the poor and ostracized of the community are now brought into a place of redemption, health, and security.

In some contexts “the afflicted” refers to YHWH's faithful followers.

Psalms 107:43a This is similar to the NT phrase, “To him who has ears, let him hear.” God has revealed His plan for His people. Now His people must respond by faith. However, even with their faith response, the key is not their faithfulness, but God's faithfulness (cf. Ezekiel 36:27-38).

Psalms 107:43b This may refer to Deuteronomy 32:7. Covenant obedience brings blessings (Psalms 107:33-38) but covenant disobedience brings cursings (cf Psalms 107:39-40).

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

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.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Why do some commentators believe that Psalms 105, 106, and 107 are related even though they are found in two different books (i.e., divisions) in the Psalter?

2. What is the significance of the Hebrew word hesed, translated “lovingkindness” in the New American Standard, “mercy” in King James, that is found so often in this Psalm?

3. What is the supposed historical setting of this Psalm based on Psalms 107:2, Psalms 107:3?

4. Describe the fourfold pattern of distress found in Psalms 107:4-32. Do pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem face these literal problems, or are they somehow metaphorical relating to the problems of life?

5. Why are Psalms 107:11, Psalms 107:17, and 34 so significant when relating to the problems faced by Israel?

6. How are sin and sickness related in the Jewish mind (cf. Psalms 107:17; John 9:2; James 5:13)?

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Psalms 107". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/psalms-107.html. 2021.
 
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