Bible Commentaries
Psalms 107

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary


The occasion of this psalm was one of great national deliverance like that of Israel from Egypt and the lesson which it teaches is, that God’s judgments and mercies are dispensed according to a wise plan of correction, proceeding from his eternal love of holiness and hatred of sin, punishing the latter and encouraging the former; the design being to draw men from iniquity, which, if they are wise to observe, “they shall understand the loving kindness of the Lord.” From the occasion of Israel’s experience of backsliding, suffering, repentance, and restoration, the psalmist surveys the general methods of God with men in analogous cases, and cites various illustrative examples. The psalm is one of praise, given on some great feast day, (Psalms 107:22,) when their city had been recently revived, (Psalms 107:7; Psalms 107:36,) and their lands restored to fertility by tillage after long barrenness, Psalms 107:35-37. Their redemption, too, had been one of power, (Psalms 107:14; Psalms 107:16,) and from a scattered state they had become a united people, Psalms 107:38. It clearly belongs to the return of the exiles probably to the erection of the “great altar.” Ezra 3:1-7. The resemblances traceable between this and Psalms 104, 105, 106, do not necessarily imply oneness of date and authorship, but would naturally arise from similarity of theme and design, especially as regards the last two, where the subject is Israel’s redemption from heathen rule and from their own backslidings, and re-establishment in Canaan according to the covenant. As to date and authorship, they must be considered as standing apart; but as to subject and scope, as nearly allied; and in this latter sense, Psalms 105, 106, 107, form a trilogy. According to Hengstenberg, Psalms 101-106 form a double trilogy, to which this was added after the captivity.

The strophic divisions are six, embraced between an introduction, Psalms 107:1-3, and a conclusion, Psalms 107:43. The first four contain a double refrain of two lines each, which are wanting in the latter two. These particulars will be explained in the notes.

Verse 1

1. Give thanks unto the Lord This verse is a favourite formula of praise, (Psalms 106:1; Psalms 108:1; Psalms 136:1,) and strikingly similar to that which Jeremiah predicted should be used at the return of the exiles from Babylon. Jeremiah 33:11

Verse 2

2. Let the redeemed The call is specially to Israel, not to the nations.

Verse 3

3. East… west… north… south That is, from all points, whithersoever the seed of Israel had been scattered. The Hebrew here rendered “south” is sea, but being used in an enumeration of the cardinal points of the compass must mean “south.” It may be understood of the southeast coast of the Mediterranean, or of the Red sea, either of which, being southwesterly from Palestine, and a boundary line of Egypt, might denote the latter, to which the eastern wars had scattered many of the Jews. See Jeremiah 43, 44; Isaiah 43:5-6; Isaiah 49:12. Verses 4-9 comprise the first strophic division, with Psalms 107:6; Psalms 107:8 as the double refrain. These give life and dramatic effect to the musical performance. Psalms 107:4-6 are a glance at their wilderness life under Moses; perhaps, also, at the privations of the first caravan of returning exiles under Zerubbabel, (Ezra 2:64; Ezra 2:67,) and afterward of the second, under Ezra. See Ezra 7:8

Verse 7

7. He led them forth by the right way See Ezra 8:21-23; Ezra 8:31-32.

City of habitation A city of permanent abode, as opposed to their life of wandering.

Verse 8

8. Oh that men would praise Better, they shall praise; that is, those who have experienced such things shall “praise” the Lord; but such as have no experience of the great works of God will have no spirit of praise.

In this second strophe, (Psalms 107:10-16,) the unhappy state of Israel in exile is set forth under the figure of the gloom and horror of ancient prison and dungeon life, which many of them had tasted, and to them Babylonia itself was a great prison. The refrains are Psalms 107:13; Psalms 107:15

Verse 10

10. Such as All of this class, whether suffering torture by literal imprisonment or by the ordinary afflictions of life, which limit and restrain their freedom.

Sit in darkness and… shadow of death The description seems borrowed from Isaiah 9:1-2; Isaiah 49:9.

Affliction and iron Either make the former term general and the latter specific, or by hendiadys “torturing iron,” or the latter exegetical of the former, as if it read affliction even in iron, such as that of Jehoahaz, Manasseh, and Zedekiah. 2 Kings 23:31-33; 2 Chronicles 33:11; 2 Kings 25:7; Jeremiah 39:7

Verse 11

11. Because they rebelled See the histories of the Kings referred to Psalms 107:10, and compare 2 Chronicles 36:14-21.

Contemned the counsel of the Most High Treated with contempt his declared purpose to punish transgression, of which he had fully forewarned them, as in Deuteronomy 28:15-68; Isaiah 1:0, etc. But the word “counsel,” here, may mean the fixed plan of God respecting Israel, embracing the whole scheme of their national and church life, in its relation to the ultimate redemptive economy of God. This high calling they had overlooked and despised.

Verse 12

12. Brought down their heart with labour He bowed down their heart, as one bends low to a heavy, servile task. The bowing down the “heart,” shows that the seat of their greatest suffering and labour was inward. Sin is a hard service. See Isaiah 4:2; Romans 6:23.

They fell down They fainted under their oppressive labour.

None to help None but God, whom they had rejected, and whose service of freedom and delight they had despised.

Verse 13

13. Then they cried unto the Lord Their repentance comes in their extremity. See Luke 15:17, and note on Psalms 78:34

Verse 14

14. Darkness Compare Isaiah 42:7, and Psalms 107:10, above.

Verse 16

16. Gates of brass The allusion is to Isaiah 45:2, where the subject is the taking of Babylon, at which time the strategy of Cyrus, prince of Persia, and commander of the Median and Persian army, should succeed by the extraordinary circumstance of the brazen gates of the wall on the banks of Euphrates being left unbarred. What Isaiah thus predicted actually took place one hundred and sixty years later, (B.C. 544.) Daniel 5:30-31; Herod. b. i, § 191

Verse 17

17. Fools The word denotes one who is thoughtless, inconsiderate, slack, and at the same time perverse. The ethical notion does not exclude intellect, but only a just foresight of consequences. One who lives only for present gratification. Psalms 14:1

Verses 17-22

17-22. These verses form the third strophe, with Psalms 107:19; Psalms 107:21, for the double refrain. Israel’s sufferings are here set forth by severe sickness.

Verse 18

18. Abhorreth all manner of meat This description of sickness is borrowed from Job 33:20; Job 33:22. Sickness was often regarded as a judgment of God for sin. Psalms 38:5.

Gates of death See Psalms 9:13

Verse 20

20. He sent his word, and healed them “We detect in such passages the first glimmering of St. John’s doctrine of the agency of the personal Word.” Perowne. See Psalms 147:15; Psalms 147:18; Isaiah 55:11: specially, Job 33:23, where, instead of messenger… interpreter, read an angel… a mediator.

Destructions The word means pits for catching wild animals or men, as Lamentations 4:20. But according to Psalms 107:18 it here denotes graves, grave-pits.

Verse 23

23. Go down to the sea The expression supposes the sea lower than the land, lying in hollow depths prepared for it. Job 38:10-11; Psalms 104:8; Isaiah 42:10. We would say, “Put to sea.”

That do business Not fishermen, but merchants. The Tyrians held the commerce of the world at this time, and they were well known to the Hebrews.

Verses 23-32

23-32. This fourth division describes the perils of seafaring life, and is to be taken literally. It does not suppose the mariners to be wicked, but only in perils beyond redemption by human arm, and the usual point is made that men, who are habitually thoughtless of God, will yet call upon him when in extreme distress. In this strophe Psalms 107:28; Psalms 107:31, are the usual refrain.

Verse 25

25. He commandeth No allusion to second causes, laws, or forces of nature, but all phenomena are referred directly to God, who saves by sea as well as by land. Psalms 65:5. The descriptions which follow to Psalms 107:30 require no comment. The object of these various citations of human distress and divine deliverance is, to show that Israel’s redemption from bondage stands out as a wonder of divine grace, equal to the greatest known to human experience; and that no exigence of human affairs is beyond the reach of divine help if men will seek God, obey his directions, and render him due praise.

Verse 32

32. People… elders Both united in the same congregation in worship, the elders leading, and the people, at feast, responding Amen. The word rendered “assembly” is better understood of seat, as it is elsewhere. 1 Samuel 20:18; 1 Samuel 20:25; Job 29:7. The elders sat apart from the people in the congregation.

Verses 33-42

33-42. These verses comprehend the last two strophes, the first ending with Psalms 107:38, and the latter with Psalms 107:42. The whole comprises a description of what God can do in his sovereign grace and judgment with a nation. Their depression and exaltation proceed alike from him. Psalms 107:33-34 are a description of the land of Judah after the desolating wars and conquests of Nebuchadnezzar, answering to Jeremiah’s vision of the country at the same date. Jeremiah 4:20; Jeremiah 4:23. Psalms 107:35-38; Psalms 107:35-38 are a reversed view after the return of the exiles and the appearance of their first harvest, when the land responded to tillage, and God’s blessing had returned upon the husbandman.

Verse 39

39. Again, they are minished The abruptness of the transition obscures the sense; but it seems more natural to understand the subject of the verb to be the same as in Psalms 107:38, and to translate: Yet they became few and bowed down; a sudden return to the condition of Israel as given in Psalms 107:3-6

Verse 40

40. No way No prepared road; a quotation from Job 12:21; Job 12:24

Verse 41

41. Like a flock Meaning numerous and merry. See Job 21:11

Verse 42

42. This verse is quoted from Job 22:19; Job 5:16.

Iniquity shall stop her mouth Shall cease to reproach and revile, God’s favour to the righteous being so evident. See Psalms 86:17

Verse 43

43. This is the conclusion of the whole.

Whoso is wise, and will observe these things That is, whosoever observes that God rewards and punishes the moral good or evil of men’s actions, shaping his life accordingly; and that penitence, prayer, and praise become all men: such shall experience the lovingkindness of the Lord.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 107". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.