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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Psalms 106

 

 

Verses 1-48

Psalm 106

1 Praise ye the Lord.

O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good:

For his mercy endureth for ever.

2 Who can utter the mighty acts of the Lord?

Who can shew forth all his praise?

3 Blessed are they that keep judgment,

And he that doeth righteousness at all times.

4 Remember me, O Lord, with the favour that thou bearest unto thy people:

O visit me with thy salvation;

5 That I may see the good of thy chosen,

That I may rejoice in the gladness of thy nation,

That I may glory with thine inheritance.

6 We have sinned with our fathers,

We have committed iniquity, we have done wickedly.

7 Our fathers understood not thy wonders in Egypt;

They remembered not the multitude of thy mercies;

But provoked him at the sea, even at the Red sea.

8 Nevertheless he saved them for his name’s sake,

That he might make his mighty power to be known.

9 He rebuked the Red sea also, and it was dried up:

So he led them through the depths, as through the wilderness.

10 And he saved them from the hand of him that hated them,

And redeemed them from the hand of the enemy.

11 And the waters covered their enemies:

There was not one of them left.

12 Then believed they his words;

They sang his praise.

13 They soon forgat his works;

They waited not for his counsel:

14 But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness,

And tempted God in the desert.

15 And he gave them their request;

But sent leanness into their soul.

16 They envied Moses also in the camp,

And Aaron the saint of the Lord.

17 The earth opened and swallowed up Dathan,

And covered the company of Abiram.

18 And a fire was kindled in their company;

The flame burned up the wicked.

19 They made a calf in Horeb,

And worshipped the molten image.

20 Thus they changed their glory

Into the similitude of an ox that eateth grass.

21 They forgat God their saviour,

Which had done great things in Egypt;

22 Wondrous works in the land of Ham,

And terrible things by the Red sea.

23 Therefore he said that he would destroy them,

Had not Moses his chosen

Stood before him in the breach,

To turn away his wrath, lest he should destroy them.

24 Yea, they despised the pleasant land,

They believed not his word:

25 But murmured in their tents,

And hearkened not unto the voice of the Lord.

26 Therefore he lifted up his hand against them,

To overthrow them in the wilderness:

27 To overthrow their seed also among the nations,

And to scatter them in the lands.

28 They joined themselves also unto Baal-peor,

And ate the sacrifices of the dead.

29 Thus they provoked him to anger with their inventions:

And the plague brake in upon them.

30 Then stood up Phinehas, and executed judgment:

And so the plague was stayed.

31 And that was counted unto him for righteousness

Unto all generations for evermore.

32 They angered him also at the waters of strife,

So that it went ill with Moses for their sakes:

33 Because they provoked his spirit,

So that he spake unadvisedly with his lips.

34 They did not destroy the nations,

Concerning whom the Lord commanded them:

35 But were mingled among the heathen,

And learned their works.

36 And they served their idols:

Which were a snare unto them.

37 Yea, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils,

38 And shed innocent blood,

Even the blood of their sons and of their daughters,

Whom they sacrificed unto the idols of Canaan:

And the land was polluted with blood.

39 Thus were they defiled with their own works,

And went a whoring with their own inventions.

40 Therefore was the wrath of the Lord kindled against his people,

Insomuch that he abhorred his own inheritance.

41 And he gave them into the hand of the heathen;

And they that hated them ruled over them.

42 Their enemies also oppressed them,

And they were brought into subjection under their hand.

43 Many times did he deliver them;

But they provoked him with their counsel,

And were brought low for their iniquity.

44 Nevertheless he regarded their affliction,

When he heard their cry:

45 And he remembered for them his covenant,

And repented according to the multitude of his mercies.

46 He made them also to be pitied

Of all those that carried them captives.

47 Save us, O Lord our God,

And gather us from among the heathen,

To give thanks unto thy holy name,

And to triumph in thy praise.

48 Blessed be the Lord God of Israel

From everlasting to everlasting:

And let all the people say, Amen.

Praise ye the Lord.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Contents and Composition.—This Psalm, which bears the Hallelujah as an inscription, begins with a doxology. This doxology was not first employed in 1 Maccabees 4:24, but occurs already in Jeremiah 33:11 as being then in common use. Then in Psalm 106:2 a question is uttered of such a kind, as to create an expectation that a song of praise to Jehovah would here strike in. But the verses which follow give to the thought another turn. For Psalm 106:3 passes over to the praise of the righteous, and Psalm 106:4-5, to a prayer for personal favor, in common with favor to the people, and for participation in the happiness and rejoicing which should follow. From this point onwards the Psalm assumes fully the form of a prayer of confession, which unites the universal acknowledgment of sins ( Psalm 106:6) with a description of the conduct of the fathers, as it was displayed during the journey through the desert ( Psalm 106:7-32), as related in the Books of Exodus and Numbers, and during their residence in the Holy Land itself ( Psalm 106:33-46), as related in Judges 2:11 ff. The closing verse forms a prayer for deliverance from the present captivity.

The Babylonish Exile is rightly assumed as the period of composition. For the liturgical doxology, which marks the close of the fourth Book of the Psalm ( Psalm 106:48), is with Psalm 106:1; Psalm 106:47, and the portions of Psalm 96, 105 already mentioned, put in 1 Chronicles 16:36 into the mouth of king David, at the removal of the ark to Jerusalem; and, though treated in the historical manner, it is there placed in such connection with the portions taken from our Psalm, as to justify us in believing, that it was already attached to it in the manner presented to us here. It can the more readily be regarded as having been specially connected with this Psalm, as its peculiar form has unmistakably been preserved by the influence of the latter. Delitzsch adduces three peculiarities of the liturgical prayer, and especially of the prayer of confession (viddui): (1) A fondness for a rhyme-like final sound in like suffixes, (2) an accumulation of synonyms, (3) the unfolding of the course of thought in a continuous line. He considers the oldest types of such liturgical prayers, to be the two forms, employed at the presentation of the first-fruits ( Deuteronomy 26) and the dedication-prayer of Solomon ( 1 Kings 8). The supposition of Ewald that this Psalm was sung by alternate performers, is based only upon the interchange of singular and plural in Psalm 106:4; Psalm 106:6, which is insufficient for its support. The plural reading, also, in Psalm 106:4 f. (Sept, Syr, Aq, Symm, Theod, Vulg, Luther) is supported by only a few unimportant manuscripts.

[Hengstenberg: “According to the common idea, the author of Chronicles is understood to relate that this composition was sung at the erection of the sanctuary on Zion under David. The older expositors hence concluded that those Psalm from which this fragment is made up, were composed by David, or at least in the time of David. In more modern times a proof has been sought of the non-genuineness of Chronicles, or of the arbitrary manner in which the Jews fixed the authors and the dates of the Psalm. But the whole is founded upon a mistake. The description of the service which took place at the bringing-in of the ark of the covenant in 1 Chronicles16, terminates before the Psalm composition is introduced, so that we do not need to suppose that any use was made of the latter at the celebration. David had already pronounced the blessing, Psalm 106:2, and the people had been dismissed with the gifts which, according to 2 Chronicles 6:18-19, terminated the festival. A narrative is next given of the arrangement of the sacred music in the tabernacle. It is recorded next in Psalm 106:7 that David, on the same day, caused thanks to be given by Asaph and his brethren, and, on the occasion of the great memorable day of the establishment of the sacred music, there is given, Psalm 106:8-16, the essence of those Psalm which at all times were sung, accompanied by their music, as a representation of the whole Psalter. The author of Chronicles naturally formed his composition out of those Psalm, which were sung in his day most frequently and with the greatest relish. In like manner it was natural that he should not bind himself strictly to the text of the borrowed passages, but should introduce slight alterations wherever such seemed suitable. The defence lies in this, that he does not, like the author of the Books of Samuel in 2 Samuel22, pledge himself to give a faithful transcript of another man’s labor, but has rather published expressly an abstract by himself, and we must expect a priori, that it would be given with that freedom, which is manifested in selecting from Psalm 105 only the beginning, and from our Psalm the beginning and the conclusion.”—J. F. M.]

[In Psalm 106:4, E. V. has: with the favor that thou bearest unto thy people. This should probably be replaced by the rendering: “in favor to thy people.” For the connection compare the next verse.—J. F. M.]

Psalm 106:5-7. Of thy nation.—גּוֹיֶךָ is parallel to עַמֶּךָ [ Psalm 106:4] as in Zephaniah 2:9; the singular being employed to designate the people of Israel, whereas the plural always expresses the nations, as contrasted with the people, עַם, united under the dominion of Jehovah. In Psalm 106:7 the Sept. have evidently read עֹלִים instead of עַל־יָם, for they translated ἀναβαίνοντες. The word is not a gloss from Psalm 106:22 (Clericus, Köster), nor a mutilation of אְֶלֹהִים (Houbigant) or אֶלְיֹוִן (Venema). A local designation is quite in place, and it is not at all surprising that in the name of the sea, which follows immediately, the preposition בְּ is used instead of עַל, in a like signification (comp. Psalm 106:19; Psalm 106:22; Ezekiel 10:15). The appellation סוּף is not a proper name, that of a city at the northern extremity of the Red Sea (Knobel on Exodus 13:18), but is connected with the ancient Egyptian sçbe=reeds, or sippe=sea-weed. The common idea that it signifies: sea of reeds, rests especially upon Exodus 2:3; Isaiah 19:6. The absence of the article is due to the circumstance that this designation had already come into common use, as though it were a proper name.

Psalm 106:15. We are not to render: satiety (Sept, Vulg, Syr.) instead of: emaciation, that Isaiah, leanness, as consumption ( Isaiah 10:16; Isaiah 17:4), which God sent into their soul=their life. The former is an inadmissible explanation of רָזוֹן after the fundamental passage, Numbers 11:20, which states that זָרָא, loathing, came upon them. Luther combines the two ideas: He sent them enough, until they were surfeited. The passage before us, however, specifies the disease which resulted from this, as the punishment decreed by God.

Psalm 106:20. Their glory is, as in Jeremiah 2:11, is used of God Himself, and in a twofold relation.—His manifestation of Himself to His people, and His being thus glorified before all nations ( Deuteronomy 4:6 f.; Deuteronomy 10:21). A somewhat different turn is given to the sentence, if Jehovah is here called the Pride of Israel ( 1 Samuel 15:29; Hosea 5:5; Hosea 7:10).

Psalm 106:24-27. The pleasant land. So Jeremiah 3:19; Zechariah 7:14. The lifting up of the hand is here not a gesture of threatening, raising it to strike, but an attitude employed in taking an oath, ( Exodus 6:8; Deuteronomy 32:40, comp. Daniel 12:7; Psalm 144:8). It was because they despised the land, that God would make them perish in the wilderness. ( Numbers 14:32). Because they murmured in their tents ( Deuteronomy 1:27), they were, in the persons of their descendants, to be dispersed among the heathen. As Psalm 106:26 f. is unmistakably connected with Ezekiel 20:23, the repeated לְהַפִּיל would appear to be a chirographical error (Hitzig, Del.) for לְהָפִיץ. Accordingly, the translation: overthrow (Sept, Syr, Chald.), is preferred by many. But the word may have been repeated intentionally, for in Psalm 106:43, מָכַךְ (to sink down, decay) occurs, instead of גָמַק (to dissolve, become corrupt), which is retained in Ezekiel 24:23; Ezekiel 33:10, from the fundamental passage Leviticus 26:39. Hitzig regards it as an error; Delitzsch as a deliberate alteration.

Psalm 106:28 employs, as it seems, after Numbers 25:3; Numbers 25:5, a technical word denoting connection with the Moabitish priapus. [For the mode of expression comp. 1 Corinthians 6:16, and Kling thereon in the Bibelwerk.—J. F. M.]. It expresses, at all events, a closer intercourse and more complete yielding up, than would be conveyed by the translation: they were initiated (Sept, Jerome), or: they served (Gesenius, after the Ethiopic usage of the kindred word), Nothing is known of any special ceremony in which bands or fillets were worn (J. D. Michaelis). The dead are not gods of the under world (Selden), or departed spirits ( Deuteronomy 18:11; Isaiah 8:19), for which sacrifices of the dead were brought (Köster, De Wette); for mention is also made here of eating the offerings, and Numbers 25:2 calls them, “sacrifices of their gods.” Accordingly, Moabitish gods are meant here also (Hupfeld and others), which are called dead as contrasted with the living God ( Wisdom of Solomon 13:10 ff.).

Psalm 106:30. עמד is not to be understood merely of stepping forth ( Numbers 25:7), but also of coming forward, as mediator, for Phinehas, by intervening with his spear, performed an act of judgment, and that through zeal for God’s justice. By this act of faith ( Genesis 15:6), that justice was satisfied, and as a Divine acknowledgment of its religious worth, the priesthood was bestowed upon him and his descendants for ever. ( Numbers 25:10 ff.). The signification of judging is established for the Piel פִּלֵּל ( 1 Samuel 2:25); the signification of interceding (Chald, Syr, Geier) is that of the Hithpael, that of atoning (Vulg.) or expiating (Sept.) has, in fact, been assigned.

Psalm 106:32-33. The unadvised words of Moses allude to His question to the people ( Numbers 20:10), which was shown to be one of impatience and doubt by his twice striking the rock, and was therefore designated by God as unbelief and disobedience ( Numbers 20:12; Numbers 20:24; Numbers 27:14), and punished as such. But, because the people had given occasion to this fault, it is said in Psalm 106:32 b, in accordance with the complaint of their leader ( Deuteronomy 1:37; Deuteronomy 3:26), that “it went ill with Moses for their sakes.” Yet we are not to translate: they embittered his (Moses’) spirit (Sept, and most), but, according to the historical account and the usage of the phrase ( Psalm 106:7; Psalm 106:43; Psalm 78:17; Psalm 78:40; Psalm 78:56, Isaiah 63:10), this reference is only to resisting the Spirit of God (Chald, Geier, Hengst, and the recent expositors).

Psalm 106:37. The שֵׁדִים are, according to Deuteronomy 32:17; Judges 2:11, not demons (Sept, and others), Baruch 4:7, but gods, under the appellation: powers, or: lords.

[In Psalm 106:46 render: and has given them favor in the sight of all those that carried them captive. Alexander: “The literal translation of the first clause Isaiah, and has given them for mercies or compassions. This remarkable expression is borrowed from 1 Kings 8:50, (compare 2 Chronicles 30:9), not only here, but in the history of Daniel and his fellow-captives ( Daniel 1:9), which makes it not at all improbable, that what is there recorded is among the indications of returning Divine favor, here referred to by the Psalmist.”—J. F. M.].

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. Human understanding and human speech and never measure the greatness of God’s deeds or the depth of His mercy; but the grateful acknowledgment and extolling proclamation of them are not merely an expression, becoming to the people of God, of the relation in which they stand to Him, but are also the ordained means of spreading the glory due to Him, and of strengthening confidence in the eternal efficiency of His grace.

2. The strengthening of this confidence is indispensable, especially as every legitimate claim, which men could be tempted to found upon the covenant relation, is altogether cancelled by sins which are renewed from generation to generation. Accordingly, a new display of mercy is the only means of deliverance. But the seeking after and imploring this mercy presupposes, not only an experience of the need and a desire of its satisfaction, but also a belief of the possibility of the latter, and of the readiness of God to afford the means that are necessary thereto. And it is only as resting upon this ground, that courage will be imparted to appropriate personally, with all the earnestness of a soul-stricken confession of sin, the Divine promises and means of grace.

3. The contemplation of the history of God’s people is specially adapted to awaken both a penitent frame of mind, and a believing seeking after the Divine favor. For that history exhibits, in impressive sketches, ingratitude displayed anew on every occasion, disobedience, fickleness, and partial defection on the one side, and, on the other, brings before the view judgments and acts of deliverance on the part of God, which are not isolated, but form one connected course of leading, for the unfolding of His purposes of mercy and plan of salvation.

4. It was a part of the design of these dealings to impress and develop the truth, that punishment attends upon guilt, and that without expiation there is no forgiveness of sin; that there Isaiah, however, a means of delivering the people by substitution, not performed by legal works and practices, not by priestly ceremonies and forms, not by external actions and sacrifices, but by the personal self-devotion of those, who, whether by acting or suffering, by interceding or judging, step into the breach, and, by yielding up their own persons satisfy the actual demands of justice, rescue and purify the people of God, and set them upon the way of salvation.

5. Such a view of history, together with its instructive use, is immediately applicable to purposes of edification. It has, indeed, to do with universal transgressions, judgments, deeds of deliverance, and experiences of mercy; yet it regards them not as general truths, but with historical particularity and in their concrete definiteness. And, accordingly, it does not excite a more general consciousness of guilt, desire for salvation, or feeling of gratitude; it rather evokes, amid the songs of the Church to the praise of God’s glory, a special prayer of confession. And these are the more worthily united, the more such a prayer issues forth, with the vigor of life, from belief in the perpetual efficiency of the Divine mercy, which has been so often attested and assured in history, and the more decidedly if is expressed and animated with the sense of a community of interests, both in confession of sins and in supplications for supplies of grace, which are sought not merely with a view to personal participation, but also with a view to the needs of the united Church.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

It is well for us, that, while confessing our sins, we can confidently offer a prayer for the Divine favor, and can begin and end with praise to God.—All suffering endures its time, but God’s love to eternity.—The history of the Church as a testimony, that grace is mightier than sin.—God remembers His covenant with us according to His mercy and truth; but we often forget His blessings and judgments, even although we remain mindful of the words of His promises and threatenings.—Only those can draw consolation from the proclamation of God’s mercy, who are truly in earnest in the confession of their sins.—Though we can never praise God adequately, yet the greatness of His deeds must not cause us to be silent, but must animate us to praise.—If we are no better than our fathers, the fact should not serve to excuse us, but urge us more earnestly to penitence.—It were good for us, if the judgments of God were not our first reminders that He has not forgotten us.—We must most rightly count those happy who practise righteousness; but we are not to forget that all men are sinners, that we obtain salvation through grace, and that righteousness is the fruit of faith.

Starke: We have always sufficient reason to praise God: but let us, above all, assiduously preserve the memory of His goodness.—A dark cloud, though it may conceal, can never destroy or extinguish the sun; so the clouds of affliction cannot blot out or quench the goodness and mercy of God.—If thou dost but truly humble thyself in prayer before God. He will ever remember thee for good.—There are still many after the fashion of the Israelites of old: they will not recognize God’s wonders as wonders, they do not fittingly regard His goodness. What can be the result but forgetfulness of God, which is the source of many other sins?—A man gives proof of a most depraved heart, when he does not fear to sin in the very place, where he has been delivered from imminent danger.—When God will serve us, nature must give way to Him.—If faith is of the true kind, it will soon make itself seen in good works.—If we would abide faithful in God’s word, and be counselled ever by it, we would not so soon or so lightly forget His gracious benefits.—To demand anything from God in impatience and doubt, and thus, as it were, to force it from Him, is to tempt Him.—If we pray for temporal things without any conditions, and therefore against God’s command, God may indeed hearken to us sometimes, but how often does the fulfilment humble us, and bring us to shame, when we have brought harm upon ourselves by our foolish request:—Almost every man has some moulds in which he casts the molten calves of his worship, until God alone becomes great in his eyes.—Nothing is more unbecoming and disgraceful to a man of understanding, than to set his heart on unworthy objects more worthless than himself.—He is blessed who can regard the great works of God with delight and not be terrified by them.—O believing soul, if thou art filled with dismay that so few stand in the breach, do it thyself; and all the more, the less others do it; if none will pray with thee, thou hast still the best of all fellow-suppliants, and the best Intercessor with the Father in heaven, Jesus Christ Himself.—The devil has still many kinds of enticing food, through which he seduces lusting souls to the service of idols.—A little word can often create a great disquietude in the heart, and yet there are many so thoughtless in the use of their tongues, that they speak not one, nor a few, but indeed numberless idle words. Will they become swords too, that will vex and torment their consciences?—Mistimed leniency is opposed to God, and injures also him who displays it, for it makes him a partaker in the sins of others.—The first step towards sin is the conscious neglect of God’s commands.—Intercourse and association with the wicked are calculated to produce much evil.—How easily intimacies are contracted in these days! But how heavy many a heart becomes thereby! How sorely wounded is many a conscience!—There are many who become only the more wicked, the more gracious and merciful God proves Himself to them.

Osiander Sometimes a single mischance will make us forget all God’s benefits.—Arndt: Men cannot, without repentance, become partakers of God’s grace, and all God’s wonders are performed that He may bring them to conversion.—God must work long before He excites and maintains faith in us.—How God may be overcome by prayer.—Renschel: God’s favor outweighs all guilt.—Frisch: There is first shown in the example of Israel the constant inconstancy of the human heart; there is then extolled the unwearied mercy and compassion of God, and lastly, David shows the true means of becoming a partaker in such compassion.—Richter: Each individual believer should appropriate specially to himself God’s gracious promises to His whole people. If we do not lay hold upon them, to whom are they to be made good? To unbelievers?—Diedrich: The best kind of confession is this: to give all the glory to God, to take all the guilt to ourselves, and to hope for the best in God’s glorious grace.—Taube: True sorrow, which is from God, not only does not make us incapable of praising God, but bears within itself the seeds of true joy, joy in the Lord.—Faith in God’s mercy is the only anchor of safety for His people.

[Matt. Henry: What is asked in passion is often given in wrath.—Those wretchedly forget themselves who feed their bodies and starve their souls.—Then God gives the good things of this life in love, when, with them, He gives grace to glorify God in the midst of them; for then the soul delights itself in fatness. Isaiah 55:2.—This is the worst thing in sin, that it makes us loathsome to God, and the nearer any are to God in profession, the more loathsome they are if they rebel against Him.—Bishop Horne: In general, we learn from this part of sacred history, how acceptable to God is a well-timed zeal for His service, as also, how dangerous it is to converse too freely with those of the other sex, especially when they have been educated in a false religion or in no religion at all.—We stand astonished, doubtless, at this horrid, barbarous, and unnatural impiety of offering children by fire to a Moloch: but how little is it considered that children, brought up in the ways of ignorance, error, vanity, folly and vice, are more effectually sacrificed to the great adversary of mankind. Scott Often have we, forgetful of the terrors of Sinai, and even of the scene exhibited on Mount Calvary, and of our marvellous deliverance from the hand of the enemy, been setting up idols in our hearts, and cleaving to some forbidden object, so that, if a greater than Moses had not stood in the breach, to turn away the anger of the Lord, we should have provoked Him to destroy us.—J. F. M.].

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 106:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/psalms-106.html. 1857-84.

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