Bible Commentaries
Psalms 106

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary


The object of the present psalm is identical with the preceding to rouse the people to the worship of God and the faithful observance of his holy covenant. But the methods of attaining this end are diverse. In Psalms 105:0 the judgments of God upon Israel’s enemies, and his faithful care of his people, are the chosen themes; in this, the disobedience of his people and God’s judgments upon their sins. The miracles of Egypt are here passed over, and the history of Israel through their desert life, and after their settlement in Canaan through the times of the Judges, is brought out. Psalms 106:1-2, are an invitation to praise and give thanks for the mercies of the Lord; Psalms 106:3-5 are a blessing pronounced upon the obedient, and a prayer for that salvation which belonged to the true covenant nation; Psalms 106:6-42, contain a confession of the national sins and unfaithfulness; Psalms 106:43-46 recall the forbearance and forgiving mercy of God when Israel repented; Psalms 106:47, is a prayer for national deliverance from their enemies, the heathen nations, and for the spirit of praise and worship; Psalms 106:48 is a doxology.

The date of the psalm has been fixed by some in the reign of David; by others, late in, or after, the Babylonian captivity. We assign it to David, because its theme and tone constitute it a side piece, or pair, with Psalms 105:0, and because Psalms 106:1; Psalms 106:47-48, are copied from 1 Chronicles 16:34-36. We have already given reasons for taking the psalm as inserted in Chronicles as the original production of David, (see introduction to Psalms 96:0,) and have assumed that he took the first fifteen verses of that psalm (1 Chronicles 16:8-22) to prefix to Psalm cv, (see introduction to this psalm,) and the following eleven verses (1 Chronicles 16:23-33) to constitute, with some variations, the whole of Psalms 96:0. There is nothing improbable in the supposition that David should thus divide and distribute the psalms which were at first sung at the removal of the ark, in order to adapt their several parts to various occasions. Psalms 106:46-47, would suit well enough the Babylon captives; but would also find sufficient explanation in the practice of the heathen nations of making Hebrew captives during the period of the Judges, and in the repressed liberty of the Palestine Hebrews who dwelt among their unsubdued enemies. The preterit tense of the verbs shows he is giving a historical review, and the prayer of Psalms 106:47 is general for all time. But to assume a postexilic date to this and the preceding psalms is to make the psalm-piece of 1 Chronicles 16:0 an unauthorized, and, indeed, historically a false, entry.

Verse 1

1. Praise ye the Lord Hebrew, Hallelujah. The Septuagint and Vulgate place this word (in Hebrew two words, hallelu jah,) as the title of the psalm, and as such we must here accept it. It is not found in 1 Chronicles 16:34, from which this verse is taken. This is the first of a series of Hallelujah Psalms; so called because they begin with this word, consisting of Psalms 106, 111-113, 117, 135, 146-150.

O give thanks This was a favourite liturgical form for calling and inciting the people to the praise and worship of Jehovah. See 2 Chronicles 5:13; 2 Chronicles 7:3; Ezra 11:3; Jeremiah 33:11. Used, also, in later Maccabaean times. 1 Mac.

Psalm 4:24.

For ever To eternity. Not only is God good in himself, but his outflowing, revealed mercy, is without end.

Verse 2

2. Who can utter God’s manifested goodness is unspeakable, inexhaustible.

Verse 3

3. Blessed The psalmist describes the character of the man upon whom will abide true happiness, namely, he who keeps judgment and righteousness the act and the principle of rectitude at all times.

Verses 4-5

4, 5. These verses are an earnest prayer that this blessedness of God’s chosen people may be his.

Verse 6

6. We have sinned From this to Psalms 106:43 the strain of confession is unbroken and unrestrained.

With our fathers He does not palliate his own sin, nor that of his generation, by confessing that of his ancestors, but aggravates it, because they profited nothing by experience. And these old sins are now brought up to illustrate the forbearance and forgiving mercy of God, (Psalms 106:44-46,) as a ground of present hope.

Verse 7

7. Our fathers… in Egypt Their sin and unfaithfulness dated back to the beginning of God’s redeeming mercy to them.

At the Red sea The allusion is to Exodus 14:11-12. At their first great trial after their departure from bondage they sinned, because they had failed to comprehend the moral intent of, and to profit by, all the great miracles of Egypt.

Red sea Hebrew, sea of soph; that is, sea of sedge, or flags, or sea-weed, so called on account of the quantity of weeds which float upon the water and line the shores, and of the growth of flags and reeds upon its inlets and lowlands. Thus, “Pi-hahiroth,” where they encamped, (Exodus 14:2,) is, according to Robinson, “Most probably a word of Egyptian origin, denoting a place of reeds a salt marsh,” or a gullet, or champaign section running out from the sea between the hills.

Verse 8

8. For his name’s sake This explains God’s apparent partiality of kindness toward the Hebrew nation. It was not because of their righteousness, but “for his name’s sake,” from respect to his own character and the ultimate fulfilment of his purposes. The fact, therefore, that they were the organic medium through which God manifested before the nations his power, grace, and holiness, is no certain proof or test of their individual piety or good deservings. See Numbers 14:21; Ezekiel 36:22; Ezekiel 36:32

Verse 9

9. Rebuked the Red sea See note on Psalms 104:7.

Through the depths Through the cavernous and rocky bed of the Red sea, as if it were an open country. Exodus 14:0; Isaiah 51:10

Verse 12

12. Then believed they his words So Exodus 14:31. This was the immediate moral design of the miracle. All miracles are for the ultimate purpose of sustaining faith.

Verse 13

13. They soon forgat his works Three days’ march from their encampment on the east shore of the Red sea brought them to Marah, ( now Hawarah,) a distance of about thirty-six miles, where they murmured against Moses. Exodus 15:22-24.

They waited not for his counsel Here lay their perpetual fault and folly. Unbelief assumed that God had no settled plan and foresight as to their wants, and viewed everything from the standpoint of human ignorance and selfishness.

Verse 14

14. Tempted God See note on Psalms 78:18

Verse 15

15. Gave them their request See note on Psalms 78:29-31.

Sent leanness As their prayer was wicked, springing from unlawful desires and unbelief, (James 4:2-3,) so the answer was in wrath. Isaiah 10:16. God “slew the fattest of them,” (Numbers 11:33-34; Psalms 78:31;) that is, the most robust and healthy, to show it was a direct judgment for their sin.

Verse 16

16. Envied Moses… and Aaron The allusion is to the conspiracy of Korah and his company. Numbers 16:0. Korah was a Levite, and Dathan and Abiram Reubenites. Psalms 106:1. These, with two hundred and fifty princes of various tribes, aspired to the high priesthood and leadership of the nation, demanding that these offices should be elective, and all be alike eligible to them. It is not certain whether the affair took place while at Kadesh the first time, or during the thirty-seven years of wandering. It was a fundamental rebellion against the whole organization of the nation by Jehovah, and punished as such.

Aaron the saint of the Lord Or, holy one of Jehovah. This was the point at issue, whether Aaron and Moses were the sanctified ones for their offices, exclusive of the common people.

Verse 19

19. They made a calf In imitation of the sacred bulls of the Egyptians Apis, at Memphis, and Mnevis, at Heliopolis. But they called it Eloheem, God. It was not intended as a revolt from God, but as an image, or rather symbol, of God, and the feast in honour of it was called “a feast to Jehovah.” Exodus 32:4-5. They might have viewed it in the light of a cherubic symbol, of which the Egyptian worship had many. But it was a gross violation of the second commandment, and was thus considered.

Exodus 32:8; comp. Acts 7:40-41. The whole affair shows the debased condition of the people, from their long residence in Egypt. In returning from Korah’s conspiracy to the calf at Horeb, the author reverses the historical order of events.

Horeb According to Robinson, this was the generic name for the whole range of mountains, and Sinai the specific name of that portion where the law was given. But Ritter thinks Horeb also applies to that particular section where the rock was smitten. Exodus 17:6. The names evidently are here used interchangeably. In passing from the plain er-Rahah into the Wady Shu’eib, or Convent Valley, the traveller still sees upon his left, at the mouth of the wady and on the edge of the plain, at the foot of the awful mount, the notable eminence called the “Hill of Aaron,” or “Hill of the Golden Calf,” a spot which tradition has well identified. Coincident with this is the fact that when Moses descended from the mount, before he came in sight of the people, he heard a noise of voices in the camp. Exodus 32:15-19. Palmer says: “Often in descending the Wady Shu’eib, while the precipitous sides of the ravine hid the tents from our gaze, have I heard the sound of voices from below, and thought of Joshua and Moses,” etc., as in the passage above quoted. It seems certain that Moses must have ascended and descended through this wady, the only feasible path to and from the great plains of er-Rahah and Wady Sheikh.

Molten image The calf might have been made of massive gold, but from the fact that Moses “burnt it and ground it to powder,” (Exodus 32:20,) it would seem to have been made of wood and plated with gold.

Worshipped From the formality of “building an altar and proclaiming a feast to Jehovah,” it would appear that sacrifices to Jehovah were first offered, as on the great feast days, (Leviticus 23:0,) followed by a festival. The whole affair was a strange mixture of Mosaism and heathenism. The word “play,” (Exodus 32:6,) which was part of the festive ceremony, must be taken technically of lewdness and debauch, added to singing, dancing, and shouting. It is translated “mock,” Genesis 39:14; Genesis 39:17. Compare also the worship of Baal-peor. Numbers 25:0

Verse 20

20. Their glory The cloud of light, or fire, in which God appeared to them, as Exodus 16:7; Exodus 16:10; Exodus 24:16-17; Deuteronomy 5:24. In all these appearances “they saw no similitude.” Deuteronomy 4:12; Deuteronomy 4:15. In making one they fundamentally revolted from Jehovah, though they saw it not at first. Comp. Romans 1:23.

That eateth grass A description at once definitive of species and expressive of contempt.

Verse 21

21. They forgat God This was the source of all their sin. See Psalms 78:11. The original passage is Deuteronomy 32:18

Verse 22

22. For the places here named see Psalms 106:9, and Psalms 105:23

Verse 23

23. He said… he would destroy them The allusion is to Exodus 32:11-14. In the matter of the golden calf they had completely forfeited all the promises of the covenant.

Had not Moses his chosen stood before him “God puts the fate of the nation into the hand of Moses, that he may remember his mediatorial office, (Deuteronomy 5:5; Galatians 3:19,) and show himself worthy of his calling.” The proposal to destroy the people and make of Moses a great nation, “constituted a great test for Moses, whether he would be willing to give up his own people as the price of his own exaltation. And he stood the test.” Keil and Delitzsch.

Verse 24

24. They despised the pleasant land And so God despised and rejected them. So, in later times, they despised Christ and his offer of eternal life, and were again, and more fatally, despised and rejected. See Acts 13:46; Acts 18:6; Matthew 21:43

Verse 25

25. Murmured in their tents See Numbers 14:2; Numbers 14:27; Deuteronomy 1:27

Verse 26

26. He lifted up his hand In form of making oath, as in Deuteronomy 32:40; Genesis 14:22. In the passage alluded to, (Numbers 14:30,) for “I sware,” the Hebrew is, I lifted up my hand.

Verse 27

27. To overthrow their seed As this is spoken of the “seed,” or posterity, of the unbelieving Israelites of the desert, it may refer to any subsequent periods and generations, and is founded on such general warnings as Leviticus 26:0, and Deuteronomy 28:0.

To scatter them in the lands This was so far fulfilled during the times of the Judges as fully to answer to Psalms 106:47, without resorting to the exile in Babylon.

Verse 28

28. Baal-peor Or, lord of Peor. “Peor” is the same of a mountain of Moab, (Numbers 23:28,) mentioned in full elsewhere only in Numbers 25:3; Numbers 25:5; Deuteronomy 4:3; Hosea 9:10. “Baal” was the chief male divinity of the Phoenicians and Canaanites, as Ashtoreth was the female. His worship was very pompous and popular, cruel and obscene. Probably the same as that of Bel of the Chaldaeans, (Isaiah 46:1:) sometimes called “Peor.” Numbers 31:16; Joshua 22:17. The allusion of the text is to Numbers 25:3.

Sacrifices of the dead So called because their idols were dead, inanimate, opposed to the living God: or, as Delitzsch, quoting from Jewish rabbins, “because the eating of meat consecrated to idols pollutes like a dead body.” For New Testament doctrine on this subject see 1 Corinthians 10:28-31. But Hammond thinks, that their Baal, plural Baalim, were only dead heroes whom they had deified and continued to worship, and hence sacrificed to the dead which is quite probable. Hero worship was a popular form of idolatry.

Verse 31

31. Counted… for righteousness Imputed as a righteous act. Compare James 2:24

Verse 32

32. Waters of strife Hebrew, the waters of Meribah. This scene was at Kadesh, or Kadesh-barnea, in the wilderness of Kadesh, or Zin, on the second arrival of Israel at that place. Numbers 20:1-13. Probably, also, alluded to Psalms 105:41. It was also called Meribah-Kadesh, or the strife of Kadesh, (Deuteronomy 32:51,) and en-Mishpat, Genesis 14:7. Both Kadesh, ( a holy place,) and en-Mishpat, ( fountain of judgment,) indicate, historically, a religious association, which occasioned the names, and which might have been the punishment inflicted on the revolting Israelites st the miracle of water from the rock. Numbers 13:0; Numbers 14:0; Numbers 20:1-13. On this hypothesis, the name given in Genesis 14:7 would be used proleptically, which is not an uncommon act. Another Meribah was at Rephidim, in the vicinity of Sinai. See notes on Psalms 81:7; Psalms 78:16. Dr. Robinson supposes Ain el-Weibeh to be identical with Kadesh, situated about twenty-five miles south of the Dead Sea in the Arabah valley. Others disagree, but the arguments of Robinson have not been successfully refuted. El-Weibeh (or “hole with water”) is the chief watering place in the great valley.

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Verse 33

33. They provoked his spirit That is, they provoked Moses’s spirit, to whom the suffix pronoun must be understood to refer. Here was the first step in Moses’s sin. His meekness gave way to anger.

Spake unadvisedly The word rendered “spake,” means thoughtless, hasty, rash speaking, as in rashly or inconsiderately pronouncing an oath, (Leviticus 5:4,) and stands opposed to “the tongue of the wise,” Proverbs 12:18. For Moses’s speech, see Numbers 20:10. It was against the spirit and dignity of his office, and hence an unworthy representation of the mind and character of God. In the loss of his calm trust in God, (Numbers 20:12,) he lost, for the moment, his self-control, and failed both of reverent speech and accurate obedience, and the name of God was not sanctified before the people. Numbers 27:14; Deuteronomy 32:51. For this fault Moses was prohibited entering Canaan. Deuteronomy 3:24-26

Verse 34

34. They did not destroy the nations This was the seventh great sin of the nation, according to the enumeration of the psalm. The command was given as stated Exodus 23:32-33, and reiterated in Joshua 23:12-13. But early after their settlement in Canaan their faith failed, the wars abated, and many powerful hostile cities and tribes remained. See Judges 2:3. These were thorns and snares to Israel in all future time.

Verse 36

36. They served their idols This was but a natural result of such friendships as those against which they had been forewarned.

Verse 37

37. They sacrificed unto devils Literally, unto lords, for thus the heathen regarded their chief divinities, as Baal. But these powerful ones, like Moloch, were destroyers, as the kindred form denotes, Psalms 91:6. The Jews looked upon them as demons. So the Septuagint, δαιμονιοις , and hence devils, in our English Version. Deuteronomy 32:17. Compare 2 Kings 16:3; 2 Kings 2:0 Corinthians 10:20

Verse 39

39. Thus were they defiled See Judges 2:11-13

Verse 41

41. And he gave them See Judges 2:14-15

Verse 43

43. Many times did he deliver them See Judges 2:16-19

Verse 45

45. And he remembered for them his covenant “Behold the goodness and severity of God!” The closing descriptions of the divine tenderness are exceedingly touching, as his judgments are fearful.

Repented A term, as applied to God, wholly anthropopathic, and by this accommodation to our infirmity sets forth the divine pity. The word simply means that God changed his administration with regard to them as if he had changed his feelings from condign judgment to compassion, in order that by every method he might win them back to him.

Verse 46

46. He made them… to be pitied An exquisite touch in the poet’s description, and a doctrine, as to divine providence, infinitely worthy of God, and according to the prayer of Solomon in 1 Kings 8:50

Verse 47

47. Save us… and gather us This was promised by Moses, when they should repent. Deuteronomy 30:3. This verse, as Delitzsch says, is the point of the psalm. The sins of the nation have been confessed, divine judgments and compassion have been faithfully recorded, and all culminate in this final purpose of the author a devout prayer for the salvation and gathering together of Israel, that they may praise God. The form slightly varies from the historic entry, (1 Chronicles 16:35;) which indicates that our psalm may have been modified from it for a subsequent occasion.

Verse 48

48. This verse, also, was borrowed from the same source as the preceding, with modifications to suit it to less triumphant times. The let all the people say, Amen, here, stands for “and all the people said, Amen,” in the Chronicles.

BOOK V. Psalms 107-150.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 106". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.