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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Psalms 107

 

 

Verses 1-43

THE PSALTER

FIFTH BOOK

Psalm 107

_________________

Psalm 107

1 O give thanks unto the Lord,

for he is good: For his mercy endureth for ever.

2 Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,

Whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy;

3 And gathered them out of the lands,

From the east, and from the west,

From the north, and from the south.

4 They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way;

They found no city to dwell in.

5 Hungry and thirsty,

Their soul fainted in them.

6 Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble,

And he delivered them out of their distresses.

7 And he led them forth by the right way,

That they might go to a city of habitation.

8 Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness,

And for his wonderful works to the children of men!

9 For he satisfieth the longing soul,

And filleth the hungry soul with goodness.

10 Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,

Being bound in affliction and iron;

11 Because they rebelled against the words of God,

And contemned the counsel of the Most High:

12 Therefore he brought down their heart with labour;

They fell down, and there was none to help.

13 Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble,

And he saved them out of their distresses.

14 He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death,

And brake their bands in sunder.

15 Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness,

And for his wonderful works to the children of men!

16 For he hath broken the gates of brass,

And cut the bars of iron in sunder.

17 Fools, because of their transgression,

And because of their iniquities, are afflicted.

18 Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat;

And they draw near unto the gates of death.

19 Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble,

And he saveth them out of their distresses.

20 He sent his word, and healed them.

And delivered them from their destructions.

21 Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness,

And for his wonderful works to the children of men!

22 And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving,

And declare his works with rejoicing.

23 They that go down to the sea in ships,

That do business in great waters;

24 These see the works of the Lord,

And his wonders in the deep.

25 For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind,

Which lifteth up the waves thereof.

26 They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths:

Their soul is melted because of trouble.

27 They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken Prayer of Manasseh,

And are at their wit’s end.

28 Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble,

And he bringeth them out of their distresses.

29 He maketh the storm a calm,

So that the waves thereof are still.

30 Then are they glad because they be quiet;

So he bringeth them unto their desired haven.

31 Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness,

And for his wonderful works to the children of men!

32 Let them exalt him also in the congregation of the people,

And praise him in the assembly of the elders.

33 He turneth rivers into a wilderness,

And the watersprings into dry ground;

34 A fruitful land into barrenness,

For the wickedness of them that dwell therein.

35 He turneth the wilderness into a standing water,

And dry ground into watersprings.

36 And there he maketh the hungry to dwell,

That they may prepare a city for habitation;

37 And sow the fields, and plant vineyards,

Which may yield fruits of increase.

38 He blesseth them also, so that they are multiplied greatly;

And suffereth not their cattle to decrease.

39 Again, they are minished and brought low through oppression, affliction and sorrow.

40 He poureth contempt upon princes,

And causeth them to wander in the wilderness, where there is no way.

41Yet setteth he the poor on high from affliction,

And maketh him families like a flock.

42 The righteous shall see it, and rejoice:

And all iniquity shall stop her mouth.

43 Whoso is wise, and will observe these things,

Even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the Lord.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Contents and Composition. A liturgical expression of thanksgiving ( Jeremiah 33:11; Psalm 106, 118, 136) is ( Psalm 107:1-3) declared to be appropriate for the redeemed of Jehovah, whom He has gathered from the four quarters of the earth and from different lands. After this preface there follow four strophes of unequal length, clearly distinguished by two refrains, in which those are summoned to fulfil this duty of thanksgiving whom God has delivered from homeless wanderings ( Psalm 107:4-9), from the miseries of imprisonment ( Psalm 107:10-16), from the death-pains of sickness ( Psalm 107:17-22), and from the perils of a sea-voyage ( Psalm 107:23-32). Then two strophes ( Psalm 107:33-42) without a refrain, and with many passages taken literally from the Book of Job and from Isaiah 40, 66, sometimes quite loosely connected, describe the controlling power of God in the varying fortunes of men and nations. The closing verse (43) commends to the consideration of men the whole of God’s disposing guidance, which has just been described.

There are throughout the Psalm indications of a very late period of composition. We are not justified even in connecting it too closely with the Babylonish exile. The introduction might seem to allude to it; but the further we read in the following strophes, the less do they seem capable of being referred to special historical occurrences, such as the carrying away into captivity and the return, or of being rightly viewed as poetical pictures of the various distresses and deliverances of that period (most of the recent commentators since Schnurrer). For Psalm 107:23 does not speak of a return home in ships, in which case, moreover, we would not be led to think of the Babylonish exile, but of the Maccabæan period (Hitzig); but of the dangers encountered by those who undertake sea-voyages, whether trading merchants, or sailors, or travellers, or fishermen. And this is not a figurative representation, but an example (Hupfeld, Del, and most of the older commentators) of the hearing of prayer, and of the divine deliverance of mankind in distress, for which God should be thanked in His church. So also with the description of the preceding strophes. In each case actual events are cited from distinct classes of distressing situations, which, however, have not merely occurred on one occasion, but may be repeated. These examples, moreover, are so much the better adapted to that parenetic purpose, in whose interest the Psalm is projected, and to which it ever tends more closely, as in some of them prominence is given to human guilt and the divine mercy, and in others to human impotence and the divine power to control. The former design is observable in the second and third examples; the latter in the fourth, which at the same time effects the transition to the description of those deeds of the Highest which effect the change of circumstances,—a description which is still more general in its character, and advances in sentences that are still more loosely connected.

The conjecture of Hupfeld that Psalm 107:33 ff. are inserted from another composition, has accordingly little probability, even if no importance be attached to the allusion contained in Psalm 107:36 to Psalm 107:4-5. The first example is given in a narrative style, and stands in the closest connection with the words of the introduction. It is therefore most natural to understand this passage as alluding to the circumstances of the Babyl. Exile. The supposition, however, that this psalm was sung at the first celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles after the return, Ezra 3:1 f. (Hengst.), has nothing to indicate it, and is improbable. So with the conjectures that it completes, with the number seven, the supposed trilogies101–103, 104–106 (Hengst.), or forms a trilogy with Psalm 105, 106 (Del.) It may be quite proper to bring the position of this Psalm, at the opening of the Fifth Book, into connection with its several points of resemblance to the last two Psalm of the Fourth Book, without being thereby justified in inferring an internal relationship and the same authorship.

The allegorico-prophetical interpretation of the whole Psalm, as bearing upon the fortunes of the Christian Church, whether directly (Cocc.), or as an application of the immediate reference to the Church of the Old Covenant (Venema), is only a spiritualizing interpretation based upon the untenable view that the fortunes of the Jewish people are here described (Chald, Syr.), For to them, as has been said, only the introduction, with the first strophe, can be rightly referred. Accordingly this strophe begins, Psalm 107:4, with the narrative tense, while, at the beginning of the following strophes, participles occur which cannot depend on that verb, but introduce the subjects of the several strophes. The grammatical connection of the sentences, however, in this Psalm, is in general loose, and hence we are neither to supply from Psalm 107:2, before the strophe, the words “let them say” (Schnurrer), nor to regard the closing refrain “may they praise” [E. V.: Oh, that men would praise!] as the real predicate (De Wette, Hengst, Hupfeld), nor to change the finite verb in Psalm 107:4 into a participle (Luth, Camphausen). And the latter is the less advisable, as the participle which determines the connection of the whole passage is found already in Psalm 107:2, viz. the redeemed of Jehovah ( Isaiah 62:2), who were gathered from all quarters of the world to Jerusalem, since after the return from the exile, the restoration of the Temple and the upbuilding of the Jewish Theocracy were carried out in that city.

[The application of the whole psalm to the exile, and, consequently, the figurative interpretation of the examples, are approved by Dr. Alexander. Perowne, after giving the view of Philippson and Delitzsch in favor of the trilogy above alluded to, makes the following judicious remarks: “But ingenious as this Isaiah, it rests on the assumption that the 107 th Psalm, like the other two, is historical, and is designed chiefly to celebrate the return from the Babylonish captivity. The second and third verses of the Psalm are supposed to mark the occasion for which it was written. And the rest, of the Psalm is held to exhibit, by means of certain examples of peril and deliverance, either, in a figure, the miseries of the exile, or, literally, the incidents of the homeward journey. Such an interpretation, however, can hardly be maintained. It is unnatural to regard these examples, taken from every-day experience, as a figurative description of the exile; it is quite impossible in particular, that the picture of the seafarers should represent the sufferings of the Captivity, though it might certainly form one part of the story of the return; for the exiles are described, not merely as coming back from Babylon, but from all the countries of their dispersion (comp. Jeremiah 16:15; Jeremiah 40:12; Daniel 9:7). It is obvious that the Psalm is not historical. It describes various incidents of human life; it tells of the perils which befall men, and the goodness of God in delivering them, and calls upon all who have experienced His care and protection gratefully to acknowledge them; and it is perfectly general in its character. The four or five groups or pictures are so many samples taken from the broad and varied record of human experience.” In this view, which agrees substantially with that of Dr. Moll, I fully concur. It is the impression which every reader, critical or uncritical, derives first and naturally from the Psalm. It is generally held to, also, when there is no hypothesis of relationship with other Psalm to be supported J. F. M.]

Psalm 107:3. From the sea [E. V, from the south]. The expression would suggest to the mind of a Hebrew the idea of the west, while the context demands that of the south. It is not upon the number (Hengst.) of the four quarters of the world that the force of the passage depends, but upon the particular designation of each of them. The explanation which refers to the Arabian Gulf (Chald, Rudiuger, Schnurrer, Dathe), is against the usage of the word. That which regards it as the Southern (Indian) Ocean, after Isaiah 49:11 (Hitz.), is possible, though disputed (Knobel). and yet is more probable than the unusual reference to that part of the Mediterranean Sea lying to the southwest of Palestine, and washing the shores of Egypt (Maurer, Del.). A change in the reading from מִיָם to מִיָמִין (Clericus, J. D. Mich, Muntinghe, Köster, Hupfeld), with reference to Psalm 89:13, is readily suggested.

Psalm 107:4. We need not depart from the accents and attach דֶּרֶךְ to the following member, translating: the way to a city (Sept, Vulg, Syr, Schnurrer, Rosenm.), or, after Psalm 107:40, Isaiah 43:19, change the reading into לא־דֶרֶךְ. no way in the desert (Olsh, Baur, Hupfeld). The word in question is probably not an accusative of the closer definition (Geier, Hengstenberg, De Wette). It better accords with the poetical style to assume a construct state: desert of a way (Ewald, Hitzig, Del.), that Isaiah, a desolate (Jerome), unfrequented (Luther) way, (ἐρημος ὀὁός, Acts 8:26).

[ Psalm 107:8. The general reference: “Oh, that men,” in E. V is incorrect. Alexander: “Let (such) give thanks to Jehovah (for) His mercy, and His wonderful works to the sons of men.”—J F. M.]

Psalm 107:17. It is unnecessary to change the reading אֲוִלים in order to obtain, instead of the idea of sinfulness ( Job 5:3; Proverbs 2:7), that of burdening (Olshausen), or that of an exclamation: woe to them! (Hitzig).

[ Psalm 107:23. Alexander: “Going down seems to be an idiomatic phrase borrowed from Isaiah 43:10, and equivalent to going out to sea, in English. The expression may have reference to the general elevation of the land above the water, but is directly opposed to our phrase the high seas, and to the classical usage of ascending ships, i.e., embarking, and descending, i.e, landing. The last words may also be translated: great or mighty waters; but the usage of the Psalm is in favor of the version: many waters, which moreover forms a beautiful poetical equivalent to sea or ocean.”—J. F. M.]

Psalm 107:39. It is not necessary to suppose an ellipsis before this verse, or to transpose it with those next following (Olsh.). It is certainly inadmissible to take the verbs as pluperfects (De Wette, after the older expositors), or the sentence as a relative one (Hengstenberg), [opposed also by Alexander and others.—J. F. M.] An allusion to enemies, or, in general, to other subjects than the preceding (Knapp), has nothing to indicate it. Most assume with Kimchi and Geier a repeated diminution in the number of the same subjects, as a punishment for a relapse into sin.

Psalm 107:40 is taken from Job 12:21; Job 12:24 from Isaiah 41:18 f, Isaiah 42 b. from Job 5:16, and Job 5:43, from Hosea 14:10.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. The praise of God is essential matter of every prayer of thanksgiving; to offer it is the first duty of the redeemed, and at the same time the appropriate means for the building up of the redeemed Church, which, in such a sacrifice of praise, offers itself to God, and yields itself up as the people that are His.

2. God has not only chosen His Church, and established it upon earth as being the people of His inheritance; He preserves it also as such in this evil world, delivers it from the perils which threaten it with ruin and dissolution, gathers its dispersed members from every region under heaven, and effects its restoration from prostration and destruction. But, while it must give thanks after the deliverance, so must it, before the same, pray and cry in its distress to the living God of revelation.

3. This applies not only to the Church in its narrower sense, or to its wants as a Church, but to all the seasons of distress, and to all the deliverances of the Church and its members. Everywhere and at all times is displayed the contrast between omnipotence and impotence, righteousness and guilt, compassion and need, together with its adjustment by deeds of Divine help. To observe this is the wisdom of the pious, to act accordingly the piety of the wise.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

He who contemplates God’s doings in history, finds everywhere: (1) an exhortation to thanksgiving for His gracious help; (2) occasion for self-humiliation beneath His powerful hand; (3) a call to surrender himself to His gracious will.—It is no harder for God to deliver than to Judges, but He loves the former better.—What opens the heart and lips of the pious, closes the mouth of the ungodly.—It is easier to cry to God in distress, than to give thanks in the Church after deliverance.—There is nothing better to be wished for than to have a heart capable of appreciating God’s benefits, and an eye open to His doings; for then thanksgiving and supplication, fear and trust, anxiety and hope, are in their true relations, and after the right manner.—He who has enjoyed God’s help should mark (1) in what distress he has been; (2) how he has called to God; (3) how God has helped him; (4) what thanks he has returned; and (5) what thanks he is yet bound to render.

Starke: Manifold afflictions are the true material out of which the wonder-working God forms praise and glory for His most holy name, and joy and profit for us.—God’s supervision and care extend over all parts of the world; He can therefore help and stand by His own, in whatever place in the world they may be.—The pilgrimage of a Christian involves wandering, insecurity, hunger, thirst, and despite, but all to the end, that the faithful guidance, the mighty help, the satisfying and revival of the Good Shepherd may be displayed.—As there is but one Helper, who is God, so there is but one means of obtaining His help, and that is prayer; but the essence and soul of prayer is faith.—If thou, believer, never findest upon earth where thou canst rest thy foot, God will at last reach forth His hand to thee, and receive thee into the holy city, into the dwellings of peace.—The spiritual bonds of sin ( 2 Timothy 2:26) often surround the body also with fetters. Bodily imprisonment has been to many the occasion of anxiety for freedom from eternal chains.—Repentance and prayer must be the first remedies employed in illness, and then the use of ordinary restoratives will not remain without a blessing from God.—Recovery from a deadly disease Isaiah, as it were, already a foretaste of the resurrection from the dead.—Those who have regained health forget quite easily to render thanks therefor; but God can not suffer such ingratitude. Think what a sacrifice of thanksgiving is due to God, together with the offering up of the whole life, thus presented to thee.—The world has often been traversed by ships, but almost every voyage reveals some new and wonderful works of nature; who would then not exclaim: the earth, yea, also, the sea, are full of the goodness of the Lord?—Let not the inhabitants of the richest and most fertile countries presume upon these advantages; God can make a garden of the Lord a lake of brimstone.—If we in the meanwhile turn ourselves seriously to the Lord, and seek His grace by heartfelt prayer, He will also fulfil His promises to us.—That the honor, exaltation, and power of magistrates are a gift of God, is most clearly shown, when they lose their authority, and scarcely any will obey them.

Osiander: Believers must learn to strengthen their faith from the goodness and mercy of God.—Frisch: He who sins against his Creator, comes under the care of the physician. Death itself is the wages of our sins, and so also are its forerunners, that Isaiah, our diseases.—If God visits us sometimes with unfruitful seasons, let us consider who we are—men who daily commit many sins, and deserve much worse than this from God.—Rieger: The “man of God” conducts us through the world, as through a theatre, on which are displayed the miseries of mankind, and the wondrous works and kindness of God.—Berlenburger Bible: Let the man who cannot pray become a sailor.—Tholuck ( Psalm 107:20): The word of God is His ministering angel.—Guenther: All those nations which have not yet known the true God, are dispersed and wandering; and all who have found their home in God, feel that they are gathered in.—Diedrich: In order to learn to praise God rightly, we must first suffer much.—Schaubach: We stand with awe-struck minds before this rich display of God’s wondrous power, and at the same time rejoice that in the course of long ages it has lost nothing of its fulness, but that it still never fails to revive hungering and thirsting souls.—Taube: Ye people of the Lord, see how good Jehovah is! and how blessed ye can and shall be with Him!

[Bishop Horne: A truly “wise” person will treasure up in his heart the contents of this truly instructive and delightful Psalm. By so doing he will fully “understand” and comprehend the weakness and wretchedness of Prayer of Manasseh, and the power and loving-kindness of God, who, not for our merit, but for His mercy’s sake, dispelleth our ignorance, breaketh off our sins, healeth our infirmities, preserveth us in temptation, placeth us in His Church, enricheth us with His grace, sheltereth us from persecution, blesseth us in time, and will crown us in eternity.

Scott: Let us remember to praise our God for turning the wilderness, which we Gentiles inhabited, into a fruitful land, and opening for us the wells of salvation ( Isaiah 12:3).—Let us pray that the Jewish nation, which has been so long a barren desert, may again be watered with His grace, and bring forth the fruits of faith and holiness.

Barnes: No one can study the works of God, or mark the events of His providence, without perceiving that there are innumerable arrangements which have no other end than to produce happiness.—J. F. M.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 107:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/psalms-107.html. 1857-84.

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Thursday, September 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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