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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Psalms 107

 

 

Verses 1-3

Psalms 107:1-3. O give thanks, &c. — This whole verse occurs also Psalms 106:1; only there the address is made to the Israelites, here, it seems, to all mankind. For his mercy endureth for ever — “Eternal mercy is the theme here proposed; and they who have tasted its sweets, are invited to join in setting forth its praises.” Let the redeemed say so — All those whom God hath redeemed, as it is expressed in the next clause, or delivered from the calamities hereafter mentioned: whom he hath redeemed from the enemy — From such as had taken them captive, either in battle, or in their travels, to which they were led, either by their own inclinations or by their necessary affairs. And gathered them out of the lands, &c. — Bringing them into their own land, out of the several quarters of the world into which they had been carried. And from the south — Hebrew, from the sea; which, in Scripture, commonly denotes the west, because the great Mediterranean sea was on the west of Canaan; but here, as appears from the opposition of this to the north, it signifies the south, so called from the Red sea, which was on the south, and which is sometimes called The Sea, simply, and without addition. “The members of the Christian Church,” says Dr. Horne, “are now, in the most proper and emphatical sense of the words, the redeemed of Jehovah, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy, and gathered them, by the gospel, out of all lands, and from all the four quarters of the world, to form a church, and to supply the place of the apostate Jews, whose forefathers experienced, in type and shadow, the good things prepared for them and for us, in truth and substance.”


Verses 4-7

Psalms 107:4-7. They wandered in the wilderness — Where there was no trodden path, no company, but a solitary way. They found no city to dwell in — Or rather, no inhabited city, or town, no lodging; no conveniences, no accommodations where they might have refreshment. Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted, &c. — Spent with the fatigues of their journey, and ready to drop down for want of support. This may refer, 1st, To the wanderings of the Israelites in the wilderness for forty years, when God led them about, (Deuteronomy 32:10,) instructed them, and kept them as the apple of his eye. It may refer, 2d, To poor travellers in general, those particularly whose way lay through the wilds of Arabia, where, we may suppose, they were often at a loss; and yet many in that distress were wonderfully relieved, so that few perished. It is applicable, 3d, To our condition in this world; we are here as in a wilderness, have here no continuing city, but dwell in tents as strangers and pilgrims; but we are under the conduct of his wise and good providence, to which if we commit ourselves, we shall be led, in the right way, to the city that hath foundations. They cried unto the Lord in their trouble — Earnestly implored his help in their distress and misery; and he delivered them — In answer to their prayers, he mercifully extricated them out of their difficulties, and freed them from all their anxieties. And he led them forth Out of the wilderness, where they had lost their way; that they might go to a city of habitation — To a place inhabited, where they might find relief for their necessities. “Fervent and importunate prayer to the God of our salvation will procure, from above, knowledge to dispel our ignorance, and grace to help our infirmities; the former will discover to us our road, the latter will enable us to walk in it, and both together will carry us, in due time, to the city of our eternal habitation.” — Horne.


Verse 8-9

Psalms 107:8-9. O that men would praise — Hebrew, let them praise, or, they shall praise, that is, they are highly obliged to praise. It is meant chiefly of those whom God has graciously relieved. The Lord for his goodness — To them in particular; and for his wonderful works to the children of men — To others, as well as to themselves; and to the children of men, as well as to the children of God. For he satisfieth the longing soul — The needy, who, being sensible of their wants, temporal or spiritual, earnestly desire to have them supplied; and filleth the hungry with goodness — With the fruits of his goodness, with good things, Psalms 103:5; with that good which they wanted and desired. Observe, reader, God’s works of mercy are wonderful works, works of wonderful power, considering the weakness, and of wonderful grace, considering the unworthiness of those to whom he shows mercy: and those who share in his works of mercy are in duty bound to return him praise for them. Dr. Hammond remarks very properly, that “this is a Psalm of answering, or of parts, to be sung alternately; having a double burden, or intercalary verse, oft recurring:” see Psalms 107:6; Psalms 107:13, &c. This, indeed, is apparent upon the most transient view of it. We may suppose one side of the choir to have begun with the first of the parts, and then the other side to have taken the second, and so on. The 9th verse evidently belongs to the first part, for the 10th begins quite another subject.


Verses 10-12

Psalms 107:10-12. Such as sit in darkness, &c. — In a disconsolate and forlorn condition, in dark prisons or dungeons; bound in affliction and iron — In afflicting or grievous irons: or, in the cords of affliction, as the expression is Job 36:8, and particularly in iron fetters. Because they rebelled, &c. — As a just punishment for the crimes they had rebelliously committed against the express commands of God, or the plain dictates and frequent checks of their own consciences; which were the voice of the Most High, giving them wholesome counsel, though they contemned and despised it: therefore he brought down their heart — The pride, and rebellion, and obstinacy of their hearts; with labour — Hebrew, בעמל, begnamal, with pain, or trouble. They fell down and there was none to help — They fell into their enemies’ hands, and into hopeless and remediless miseries. Then they cried unto the Lord, &c. — Yet, upon making their requests to the Lord, and earnestly beseeching him to take pity on their wretched condition, he was pleased mercifully to hear their prayers, and save them out of their distresses. “In this second piece of divine scenery, we behold a people groaning under all the miseries of captivity, deprived of light and liberty, chained down in horrid dungeons, and there expecting the day of execution. These calamities they are represented as having brought upon themselves, by their rebellion against God, who takes this method of humbling them. It succeeds, and brings them upon their knees to Him who alone is able to deliver them. Moved by their cries, he exerts his power on their behalf, and frees them from the house of bondage. To a state of corporal servitude, the Israelites, for their transgressions, were frequently reduced, and many times experienced, upon their repentance, the goodness of Jehovah in rescuing them from it. But the grand and universal captivity is that of sin and death; the grand and universal deliverance, for which all the redeemed of the Lord ought to praise his mercy, is that by Jesus Christ.” When this deliverance is experienced, although but in part; when the sinner, who has cried earnestly to the Lord in his trouble on account of sin, is brought out of the prison of guilt, condemnation, and wrath, and has received the Spirit of life from Christ Jesus, making him free from the law, or commanding, constraining power, of sin and death; “his chains, like those of St. Peter, fall off at the word of his deliverer; he is saved out of his distress; he is brought out of darkness and the shadow of death, into the glorious light and liberty of the sons of God. The joy consequent upon such a deliverance will be exceeded only by that which shall take place in the hearts, and be expressed by the voices of the redeemed, on the day when Christ shall accomplish the redemption of their bodies also, as he hath already effected that of his own, from the power of the grave; when he shall dash in pieces the brazen gates and adamantine bars of that prison- house; put an end for ever to the bondage of corruption, and lead captivity captive into the highest heavens.” — Horne.


Verses 17-22

Psalms 107:17-22. Fools — That is, wicked men whom he calls fools, because through their own sin and folly they wrong themselves, and act against their own interest; not only their spiritual, but their secular interest; they often even prejudice their bodily health by their intemperance, and endanger their lives by indulging their appetites and fleshly lusts, as well as bring upon themselves many other evils and miseries: because of their transgressions — Hebrew, מדרךְ פשׁעם, because of the way of their transgressions, that is, their custom and course of sinning, as the word way is often used; are afflicted — With wasting sickness, as appears from Psalms 107:18; Psalms 107:20. Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat — They not only have no desire for it, nor power to digest it, but they nauseate it; nay, they loathe and detest the very sight and smell of that which should nourish and support them; in which case, if not relieved, they must waste away, and soon draw near to the gates of death. But from those dreadful gates the power of God can snatch them, when they are just about to enter them. “To an infirm and emaciated body he can restore health; strength, and beauty; for diseases are his ministers and messengers; they visit us at his command, and at his command they retire, and we recover again. Now here, namely, in the recovery of men from sickness, we have a third image of the benefits conferred on our nature by the Redeemer. “The mind of man,” we must remember, “by reason of sin, is not less subject to infirmities than his body; these infirmities reduce him to a state of languor and listlessness; he finds himself incapable of action, indisposed for the reception of divine truths, without taste for knowledge, or inclination for virtue; he even nauseates the book of God, and the bread of heaven; and the life of faith is in great danger. But the case is not desperate, while there is breath enough left to call in, by prayer, the Physician of spirits. The most inveterate malady gives place to his efficacious medicines; appetite revives, health returns, and the believer is reinstated in the vigour and beauty of holiness. Let all, who have been thus healed and saved from destruction, either of body or soul, acknowledge to Jehovah his mercy, and his wonders wrought for the children of Adam; let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing.” — Horne.


Verses 23-27

Psalms 107:23-27. They that go down to the sea in ships — He says go down, because the sea is lower than the earth, as appears by the rivers which run down into it; that do business in great waters — Whose occupation lies there as mariners, merchants, or fisher-men; or, who go to take ship as passengers. These see the works of the Lord — His wonderful works, either, 1st, Of creation, such as fishes of various kinds and shapes, and some of a prodigious size; which are not seen by other men. Or, 2d, His works of providence in bringing them into extraordinary dangers through storms, and working out for them extraordinary deliverances; they witness scenes, and experience interpositions of divine providence, such as others can scarcely form a conception of. For he raiseth the stormy wind — The winds and storms, which come not by chance, but by the order of Divine Providence. They mount up to heaven, &c. — The ships are sometimes raised so high, that it appears as if they would touch the clouds; and then sink down as low as if they would be buried in the bottom of the sea, to the great astonishment and dread of the passengers, whose soul is melted because of trouble — Who are ready to die with fear and dismay. They reel to and fro, &c. — They are so tossed and whirled about, that, as they are not able to stand upon the decks, so the most skilful mariners are at their wit’s end, and do not know which way to steer, or what course to take to save themselves from perishing; all their skill fails them, as some translate the words. “There cannot,” says Dr. Dodd, “be conceived any thing more poetical or sublime than this description of a storm at sea; a subject on which the most celebrated poets have employed their pens. It would be a pleasing task, if the nature or limits of our work allowed it, to compare this description of the psalmist with those of ancient and modern writers. But we are denied this agreeable task; and shall only add, that those who will make the comparison, will find how much superior are the ideas and expressions of the sacred poet to those of uninspired writers.” But, as Dr. Horne observes, “Experience alone can illustrate its beauty, evince its truth, and point out the propriety of the circumstances which are selected to furnish us with a full and complete idea of the whole. Few of us, indeed,” adds he, “are ever likely to be in that terrible situation. But then,” (for this is a fourth similitude portraying the danger of our present state, and the goodness of God displayed in our salvation,) “we cannot help reflecting, that there is a ship in which we are all embarked; there is a troubled sea on which we all sail; there are storms by which we are all frequently overtaken; and there is a haven which we all desire to behold and to enter. For the church is a ship; the world is a sea; temptations, persecutions, and afflictions are the waves of it; the prince of the power of the air is the stormy wind which raises them; and heaven is the only port of rest and security. Often during the voyage, for our punishment or our trial, God permits us to be thus assaulted. The succession and the violence of our troubles, the elevations and depressions of our minds, the uncertainty of our counsels, and our utter inability to help ourselves, are finely represented by the multitude and impetuosity of the waves, the tossings and agitations of the vessel, the confusion, terror, and distress among the sailors. In both cases prayer is the proper effect, and the only remedy left. We should cry unto the Lord Jesus in our trouble; we should, as it were, awake him, like the disciples, with the repetitions of, Lord, save us, we perish! Then will he arise and rebuke the authors of our tribulation, saying unto them, Peace, be still, and they shall hear and obey his voice. He will make the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof shall be still; and, at length, he will bring us in peace, joy, and gladness, to our desired haven, there to exalt him in the congregation of his chosen, and praise him in the great assembly of saints and angels.”


Verses 33-38

Psalms 107:33-38. He turneth rivers — Land watered with rivers; into a wilderness — Into dry ground, as it follows, like a parched and barren wilderness, that has not moisture enough to produce any thing valuable; a fruitful land into barrenness — Hebrew, למלחה, limleechah, into saltness, which causes barrenness; for the wickedness of them that dwell therein — He doth not inflict these judgments without cause, but for the punishment of sin in some, and the prevention of it in others. “Thus the plain of Jordan, which, before the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, was well watered everywhere, like the garden of Jehovah, (Genesis 13:10,) hath, since that overthrow, been a land of salt, and sulphur, and perpetual sterility. Nay, even the fruitful Palestine itself, that flowed with milk and honey, is at this day a region of utter desolation, so that the very possibility of its ever having sufficed to maintain the people who formerly possessed it is now called in question. And, indeed, while the rain of heaven shall continue to be in the hand of God, how easy is it for him, by withholding it during a few months, to blast all the most promising hopes of man; and, instead of plenty, joy, and health, to visit him with famine, pestilence, and death.” On the other hand, (Psalms 107:35,) he turneth the wilderness — The barren and desolate wilderness; into a standing water — Into a well-watered and fruitful land. “When the ways of a people please God, the rain shall descend from above, the springs shall rise from beneath, the earth shall yield her increase, the cattle shall feed in large pastures, the seasons shall be kindly, the earth salutary, and the smiling face of nature shall attest the loving-kindness of the Lord. Thus, in the dispensations of grace, hath he dealt with Jews and Gentiles. The synagogue of the former, once rich in faith, watered with the benedictions of heaven, fruitful in prophets and saints, adorned with the services of religion, and the presence of Jehovah, hath been, since the murder of the Son of God, cursed with infidelity, parched like the withered tops of the mountains of Gilboah, barren and desolate as the land of their ancient residence, whose naked rocks seem to declare to all the world the hard-heartedness and unprofitableness of its old possessors. When the fruitful field thus became a forest, the wilderness, at the same time, became a fruitful field. A church was planted in the Gentile world, and the Spirit was poured out upon it from on high. In that wilderness did waters break out, and streams in that desert. There was faith sown, and holiness was the universal product. The wilderness and the solitary place was glad, and the desert rejoiced and blossomed as the rose. It blossomed abundantly, and rejoiced even with joy and singing; the glory of Lebanon was given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon. The privileges and honours of the synagogue were conferred upon the church; and the nations now saw the glory of Jehovah, and the excellency of our God, Isaiah 32:15; Isaiah 35:1-2.” — Horne.


Verse 39

Psalms 107:39. Again they are minished — When they prove ungrateful to him who had enriched and exalted them, and grow proud, insolent, and secure, as the manner of men is, he quite alters the course of his providence toward them. They suddenly sink, as they suddenly rose, and end their days in as mean a condition as they began them; and brought low through oppression, &c. — He lays them low by tyrannical oppressors, into whose hands he delivers them, by dearth, and other calamities, which make them pine away in grief and sorrow. Thus it often happens with families and individuals as well as with nations: descendants lose as fast as their progenitors gained, and scatter what the others had heaped together. For worldly wealth, honour, power, and glory are uncertain things, and it often happens that those who think themselves most secure in the possession of them, are, by unexpected and even extraordinary events, stripped of them all, and reduced to the lowest state of poverty and degradation.


Verse 40

Psalms 107:40. He poureth contempt upon princes — Even princes and kings cannot secure to themselves and their posterity the continuance of their dignity, glory, and authority. Though they might be honourable, adored like gods by their people, and terrible to their enemies, when God frowns upon them for their transgressions, their honour and power vanish away; they become despicable in the eyes of their own subjects, and of other nations. He causeth them to wander in the wilderness, &c. — Those that exalt themselves God abases; and in order thereto infatuates; he gives them up to foolish and pernicious counsels, by which they are exposed to contempt, and brought to their wit’s end, not knowing what course to take: or, he baffles those counsels by which they thought to support their pomp and power, so that they issue in their ruin. Or, the sense is, he deprives them of their crowns and kingdoms, banishes them from their courts, and forces them to flee into desolate wildernesses for shelter and subsistence. Yet setteth he the poor on high from affliction — At the same time that he bringeth down great potentates, he advances those that were obscure and contemptible; and maketh him families like a flock — Which increase very much in a little time. “Let not those, then, who have received the largest share of Heaven’s favours, boast and presume. The continuance of those favours depends upon the continuance of their fidelity and obedience. Mighty empires, with their princes, have, for their wickedness, been brought low by the arm of Jehovah, and laid in the dust; while nations, poor and feeble, and never thought of, have been taken from thence, and exalted over them. What revolutions have, in like manner, happened, and probably are still to happen in the church! Jerusalem is fallen through unbelief; and the Gentile Church stands only by faith, from which if she depart, vengeance will be executed on her likewise. Yet, even in the worst of times, there is a promise that the poor in spirit, the faithful and humble disciples of the holy Jesus, shall be preserved from the evil, and set on high from affliction; yea, that they shall be multiplied like a flock, under the care of the good Shepherd, to preserve his name, and to continue a church upon earth until he shall return again.” — Horne.


Verse 42

Psalms 107:42. The righteous shall see it — Or rather, shall see these things, as it is expressed in the next verse. They shall diligently observe these wonderful works of God’s mercy and justice; and rejoice — In the glorification of his attributes, and the manifestation of his dominion over the children of men. They will rejoice, not only in the mercies of God vouchsafed or offered to them and other persons, in want and misery, but also in his judgments upon his implacable enemies, because by these it is evinced, beyond dispute, that there is a God that judgeth in the earth, his honour, and the honour of piety and virtue, are advanced, impious pride is brought low, and the progress of vice and misery is checked or prevented. They will rejoice especially that, according to what is set forth by the foregoing similitudes, there is no spiritual evil out of which God is not both able and willing to deliver mankind, when they call upon him. “Are we ignorant of the way to the heavenly city? He will guide and conduct us thither. Are we bound with the chains of sin and death? He will loose and deliver us. Are our minds diseased and languid? He will heal and invigorate them. Are we in danger of being overwhelmed by the troubles of the world? He will preserve us in the midst of them until he bid them cease. Of his power and inclination to do these things for our souls he hath given assurance to all men, by those pledges of his love, the benefits and blessings conferred on the bodies of his people,” above referred to, namely, “in leading them through the wilderness to Canaan; in rescuing them so often from the miseries of captivity; in healing their diseases; and in saving those of them who did business in great waters, from the perils of the sea.” Surely these and such like particular instances of the divine mercy and goodness must afford especial matter of rejoicing to good men. And iniquity shall stop her mouth — Unrighteous and ungodly men will be put to silence. They who used to speak loftily and wickedly, and to reproach God and his providence, as either inattentive or unrighteous in the government of the world, shall now be forced to acknowledge his power and justice in those judgments which he hath brought upon them.


Verse 43

Psalms 107:43. Whoso is wise, and will observe these things — All who are truly wise will consider all these events, and will treasure up in their hearts the contents of this most instructive and delightful Psalm. Even they — Or, and they, namely, each of them; all such wise and considerate persons, shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord — Will see and acknowledge that God is kind and good to all, and that his tender mercies are over all his works; and that he is singularly kind and gracious to all wise and godly persons. He will not only be fully assured of God’s goodness, but will become experimentally acquainted and duly affected with it.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 107:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/psalms-107.html. 1857.

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Tuesday, August 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20
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