Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
An Admonition to Fellow-Countrymen to Render Thanks on account of Having Got the Better of Calamities
With this Psalm begins the Fifth Book, the Book אלה הדברים of the Psalter. With Ps 106 closed the Fourth Book, or the Book במדבר, the first Psalm of which, Ps 90, bewailed the manifestation of God's wrath in the case of the generation of the desert, and in the presence of the prevailing death took refuge in God the eternal and unchangeable One. Ps 106, which closes the book has בּמּדבּר (Psa 106:14, Psa 107:26) as its favourite word, and makes confession of the sins of Israel on the way to Canaan. Now, just as at the beginning of the Book of Deuteronomy Israel stands on the threshold of the Land of Promise, after the two tribes and a half have already established themselves on the other side of the Jordan, so at the beginning of this Fifth Book of the Psalter we see Israel restored to the soil of its fatherland. There it is the Israel redeemed out of Egypt, here it is the Israel redeemed out of the lands of the Exile. There the lawgiver once more admonishes Israel to yield the obedience of love to the Law of Jahve, here the psalmist calls upon Israel to show gratitude towards Him, who has redeemed it from exile and distress and death.
We must not therefore be surprised if Ps 106 and Ps 107 are closely connected, in spite of the fact that the boundary of the two Books lies between them. "Ps. 107 stands in close relationship to Ps 106. The similarity of the beginning at once points back to this Psalm. Thanks are here given in Psa 107:3 for what was there desired in v. 47. The praise of the Lord which was promised in Psa 106:47 in the case of redemption being vouchsafed, is here presented to Him after redemption vouchsafed." This observation of Hengstenberg is fully confirmed. The Psa 104:1 really to a certain extent from a tetralogy. Ps 104 derives its material from the history of the creation, Ps 105 from the history of Israel in Egypt, in the desert, and in the Land of Promise down to the Exile, and Psalms 107 from the time of the restoration. Nevertheless the connection of Ps 104 with Psa 105:1 is by far not so close as that of these three Psalms among themselves. These three anonymous Psalms form a trilogy in the strictest sense; they are a tripartite whole from the hand of one author. The observation is an old one. The Harpffe Davids mit Teutschen Saiten bespannet (Harp of David strung with German Strings), a translation of the Psalms which appeared in Augsburg in the year 1659, begins Ps 106 with the words: "For the third time already am I now come, and I make bold to spread abroad, with grateful acknowledgment, Thy great kindnesses." God's wondrous deeds of loving-kindness and compassion towards Israel from the time of their forefathers down to the redemption out of Egypt according to the promise, and giving them possession of Canaan, are the theme of Ps 105. The theme of Ps 106 is the sinful conduct of Israel from Egypt onwards during the journey through the desert, and then in the Land of Promise, by which they brought about the fulfilment of the threat of exile (Psa 106:27); but even there God's mercy was not suffered to go unattested (Psa 106:46). The theme of Psalms 107, finally, is the sacrifice of praise that is due to Him who redeemed them out of exile and all kinds of destruction. We may compare Psa 105:44, He gave them the lands (ארצות) of the heathen; Psa 106:27, (He threatened) to cast forth their seed among the heathen and to scatter them in the lands (בּארצות); and Psa 107:3, out of the lands (מארצות) hath He brought them together, out of east and west, out of north and south. The designed similarity of the expression, the internal connection, and the progression in accordance with a definite plan, are not to be mistaken here. In other respects, too, these three Psalms are intimately interwoven. In them Egypt is called "the land of Ham" (Psa 105:23, Psa 105:27; Psa 106:22), and Israel "the chosen ones of Jahve" (Psa 105:6, Psa 105:43; Psa 106:5, cf. Psa 23:1-6). They are fond of the interrogative form of exclamation (Psa 106:2; Psa 107:43). There is an approach in them to the hypostatic conception of the Word (דּבר, Psa 105:19; Psa 106:20). Compare also ישׁימון Psa 106:14; Psa 107:4; and the Hithpa. התהלּל Psa 105:3; Psa 106:5, השׁתּבּח, Psa 106:47, התבּלּע Psa 107:27. In all three the poet shows himself to be especially familiar with Isa 40:1, and also with the Book of Job. Psalms 107 is the fullest in reminiscences taken from both these Books, and in this Psalm the movement of the poet is more free without recapitulating history that has been committed to writing. Everything therefore favours the assertion that Ps 105, Ps 106, and Ps 107 are a "trefoil" (trifolium) - two Hodu-Psalms, and a Hallalujah-Psalm in the middle.
Ps. 107 consists of six groups with an introit, Psa 107:1-3, and an epiphonem, Psa 107:43. The poet unrolls before the dispersion of Israel that has again attained to the possession of its native land the pictures of divine deliverances in which human history, and more especially the history of the exiles, is so rich. The epiphonem at the same time stamps the hymn as a consolatory Psalm; for those who were gathered again out of the lands of the heathen nevertheless still looked for the final redemption under the now milder, now more despotic sceptre of the secular power.
The introit, with the call upon them to grateful praise, is addressed to the returned exiles. The Psalm carries the marks of its deutero-Isaianic character on the very front of it, viz.: "the redeemed of Jahve," taken from Isa 62:12, cf. Psa 63:4; Psa 35:9.; קבּץ as in Isa 56:8, and frequently; "from the north and from the sea," as in Isa 49:12 : "the sea" (ים) here (as perhaps there also), side by side with east, west, and north, is the south, or rather (since ים is an established usus loquendi for the west) the south-west, viz., the southern portion of the Mediterranean washing the shores of Egypt. With this the poet associates the thought of the exiles of Egypt, as with וּממּערב the exiles of the islands, i.e., of Asia Minor and Europe; he is therefore writing at a period in which the Jewish state newly founded by the release of the Babylonian exiles had induced the scattered fellow-countrymen in all countries to return home. Calling upon the redeemed ones to give thanks to God the Redeemer in order that the work of the restoration of Israel may be gloriously perfected amidst the thanksgiving of the redeemed ones, he forthwith formulates the thanksgiving by putting the language of thanksgiving of the ancient liturgy (Jer 33:11) into their mouth. The nation, now again established upon the soil of the fatherland, has, until it had acquired this again, seen destruction in every form in a strange land, and can tell of the most manifold divine deliverances. The call to sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving is expanded accordingly into several pictures portraying the dangers of the strange land, which are not so much allegorical, personifying the Exile, as rather exemplificative.
It has actually come to pass, the first strophe tells us, that they wandered in a strange land through deserts and wastes, and seemed likely to have to succumb to death from hunger. According to Psa 107:40 and Isa 43:19, it appears that Psa 107:4 ought to be read לא־דרך (Olshausen, Baur, and Thenius); but the line is thereby lengthened inelegantly. The two words, joined by Munach, stand in the construct state, like פּרא אדם, Gen 16:12 : a waste of a way = ἔρημος ὁδός, Act 8:26 (Ewald, Hitzig), which is better suited to the poetical style than that דּרך, as in משׁנה־כּסףp, and the like, should be an accusative of nearer definition (Hengstenberg). In connection with עיר מושׁב the poet, who is fond of this combination (Psa 107:7, Psa 107:36, cf. בּית־מושׁב, Lev 25:29), means any city whatever which might afford the homeless ones a habitable, hospitable reception. With the perfects, which describe what has been experienced, alternates in Psa 107:5 the imperfect, which shifts to the way in which anything comes about: their soul in them enveloped itself (vid., Psa 61:3), i.e., was nigh upon extinction. With the fut. consec. then follows in Psa 107:6 the fact which gave the turn to the change in their misfortune. Their cry for help, as the imperfect יצּילם implies, was accompanied by their deliverance, the fact of which is expressed by the following fut. consec. ויּדריכם. Those who have experienced such things are to confess to the Lord, with thanksgiving, His loving-kindness and His wonderful works to the children of men. It is not to be rendered: His wonders (supply אשׁר עשׂה) towards the children of men (Luther, Olshausen, and others). The two ל coincide: their thankful confession of the divine loving-kindness and wondrous acts is not to be addressed alone to Jahve Himself, but also to men, in order that out of what they have experienced a wholesome fruit may spring forth for the multitude. נפשׁ שׁוקקה (part. Polel, the ē of which is retained as a pre-tonic vowel in pause, cf. Psa 68:26 and on Job 20:27, Ew. 188, b) is, as in Isa 29:9, the thirsting soul (from שׁוּק, Arab. sâq, to urge forward, of the impulse and drawing of the emotions, in Hebrew to desire ardently). The preterites are here an expression of that which has been experienced, and therefore of that which has become a fact of experience. In superabundant measure does God uphold the languishing soul that is in imminent danger of languishing away.
Others suffered imprisonment and bonds; but through Him who had decreed this as punishment for them, they also again reached the light of freedom. Just as in the first strophe, here, too, as far as יודוּ in Psa 107:15, is all a compound subject; and in view of this the poet begins with participles. "Darkness and the shadow of death" (vid., Psa 23:4) is an Isaianic expression, Isa 9:1 (where ישׁבי is construed with ב), Psa 42:7 (where ישׁבי is construed as here, cf. Gen 4:20; Zac 2:11), just as "bound in torture and iron" takes its rise from Job 36:8. The old expositors call it a hendiadys for "torturing iron" (after Psa 105:18); but it is more correct to take the one as the general term and the other as the particular: bound in all sorts of affliction from which they could not break away, and more particularly in iron bonds (בּרזל, like the Arabic firzil, an iron fetter, vid., on Psa 105:18). In Psa 107:11, which calls to mind Isa 5:19, and with respect to Psa 107:12, Isa 3:8, the double play upon the sound of the words is unmistakeable. By עצה is meant the plan in accordance with which God governs, more particularly His final purpose, which lies at the basis of His leadings of Israel. Not only had they nullified this purpose of mercy by defiant resistance (המרה) against God's commandments (אמרי, Arabic awâmir, âmireh) on their part, but they had even blasphemed it; נאץ, Deu 32:19, and frequently, or נאץ (prop. to pierce, then to treat roughly), is an old Mosaic designation of blasphemy, Deu 31:20; Num 14:11, Num 14:23; Num 16:30. Therefore God thoroughly humbled them by afflictive labour, and caused them to stumble (כּשׁל). But when they were driven to it, and prayed importunately to Him, He helped them out of their straits. The refrain varies according to recognised custom. Twice the expression is ויצעקו, twice ויזעקו; once יצילם, then twice יושׁיעם, and last of all יוציאם, which follows here in Psa 107:14 as an alliteration. The summary condensation of the deliverance experienced (Psa 107:16) is moulded after Isa 45:2. The Exile, too, may be regarded as such like a large jail (vid., e.g., Isa 42:7, Isa 42:22); but the descriptions of the poet are not pictures, but examples.
Others were brought to the brink of the grave by severe sickness; but when they draw nigh in earnest prayer to Him who appointed that they should suffer thus on account of their sins, He became their Saviour. אויל (cf. e.g., Job 5:3), like נבל (vid., Psa 14:1), is also an ethical notion, and not confined to the idea of defective intellect merely. It is one who insanely lives only for the passing hour, and ruins health, calling, family, and in short himself and everything belonging to him. Those who were thus minded, the poet begins by saying, were obliged to suffer by reason of (in consequence of) their wicked course of life. The cause of their days of pain and sorrow is placed first by way of emphasis; and because it has a meaning that is related to the past יתענּוּ thereby comes all the more easily to express that which took place simultaneously in the past. The Hithpa. in Kg1 2:26 signifies to suffer willingly or intentionally; here: to be obliged to submit to suffering against one's will. Hengstenberg, for example, construes it differently: "Fools because of their walk in transgression (more than 'because of their transgression'), and those who because of their iniquities were afflicted - all food," etc. But מן beside יתענּוּ has the assumption in its favour of being an affirmation of the cause of the affliction. In Psa 107:18 the poet has the Book of Job (Job 33:20, Job 33:22) before his eye. And in connection with Psa 107:20, ἀπέστειλεν τὸν λόγον αὐτοῦ καὶ ἰάσατο αὐτοὺς (lxx), no passage of the Old Testament is more vividly recalled to one's mind than Psa 105:19, even more than Psa 147:18; because here, as in Psa 105:19, it treats of the intervention of divine acts within the sphere of human history, and not of the intervention of divine operations within the sphere of the natural world. In the natural world and in history the word (דּבר) is God's messenger (Psa 105:19, cf. Isa 55:10.), and appears here as a mediator of the divine healing. Here, as in Job 33:23., the fundamental fact of the New Testament is announced, which Theodoret on this passage expresses in words: Ὁ Θεὸς Λόγος ἐνανθρωπήσας καὶ ἀποσταλεὶς ὡς ἄνθρωπος τὰ παντοδαπὰ τῶν ψυχῶν ἰάσατο τραύματα καὶ τοὺς διαφθαρέντας ἀνέῤῥωσε λογισμούς. The lxx goes on to render it: καὶ ἐῤῥύσατο αὐτοὺς ἐκ τῶν διαφθορῶν αὐτῶν, inasmuch as the translators derive שׁחיתותם from שׁחיתה (Dan 6:5), and this, as שׁחת elsewhere (vid., Psa 16:10), from שׁחת, διαφθείρειν, which is approved by Hitzig. But Lam 4:20 is against this. From שׁחה is formed a noun שׁחוּת (שׁחוּת) in the signification a hollow place (Pro 28:10), the collateral form of which, שׁחית (שׁחית), is inflected like חנית, plur. חניתות with a retention of the substantival termination. The "pits" are the deep afflictions into which they were plunged, and out of which God caused them to escape. The suffix of וירפאם avails also for ימלּט, as in Gen 27:5; Gen 30:31; Psa 139:1; Isa 46:5.
Others have returned to tell of the perils of the sea. Without any allegory (Hengstenberg) it speaks of those who by reason of their calling traverse (which is expressed by ירד because the surface of the sea lies below the dry land which slopes off towards the coast) the sea in ships (read boŏnijoth without the article), and that not as fishermen, but (as Luther has correctly understood the choice of the word) in commercial enterprises. These have seen the works and wonders of God in the eddying deep, i.e., they have seen with their own eyes what God can do when in His anger He calls up the powers of nature, and on the other hand when He compassionately orders them back into their bounds. God's mandate (ויּאמר as in Psa 105:31, Psa 105:34) brought it to pass that a stormy wind arose (cf. עמד, Psa 33:9), and it drove its (the sea's) waves on high, so that the seafarers at one time were tossed up to the sky and then hurled down again into deep abysses, and their soul melted בּרעה, in an evil, anxious mood, i.e., lost all its firmness. They turned about in a circle (יחוגּוּ( elc from חגג = חוּג) and reeled after the manner of a drunken man; all their wisdom swallowed itself up, i.e., consumed itself within itself, came of itself to nought, just as Ovid, Trist. i. 1, says in connection with a similar description of a storm at sea: ambiguis ars stupet ipsa malis. The poet here writes under the influence of Isa 19:3, Isa 19:14. But at their importunate supplication God led them forth out of their distresses (Psa 25:17). He turned the raging storm into a gentle blowing (= דּממה דּקּה, Kg1 19:12). הקים construed with ל here has the sense of transporting (carrying over) into another condition or state, as Apollinaris renders: αὐτίκα δ ̓ εἰς αὔρην προτέρην μετέθηκε θύελλαν. The suffix of גּלּיהם cannot refer to the מים רבּים in Psa 107:23, which is so far removed; "their waves" are those with which they had to battle. These to their joy became calm (חשׁה) and were still (שׁתק as in Jon 1:11), and God guided them ἐπὶ λιμένα θελήματος αὐτῶν (lxx). מחוז, a hapax-legomenon, from Arab. ḥâz (ḥwz), to shut in on all sides and to draw to one's self (root Arab. ḥw, gyravit, in gyrum egit), signifies a place enclosed round, therefore a haven, and first of all perhaps a creek, to use a northern word, a fiord. The verb שׁתק in relation to חשׁה is the stronger word, like יבשׁ in relation to חרם in the history of the Flood. Those who have been thus marvellously rescued are then called upon thankfully to praise God their Deliverer in the place where the national church assembles, and where the chiefs of the nation sit in council; therefore, as it seems, in the Temple and in the Forum.
(Note: In exact editions like Norzi, Heidenheim, and Baer's, before Psa 107:23, Psa 107:24, Psa 107:25, Psa 107:26, Psa 107:27, Psa 107:28, and Psa 107:40 there stand reversed Nuns (נונין הפוכין, in the language of the Masora נונין מנזרות), as before Num 10:35 and between Num 10:36 and Num 11:1 (nine in all). Their signification is unknown.)
Now follow two more groups without the two beautiful and impressive refrains with which the four preceding groups are interspersed. The structure is less artistic, and the transitions here and there abrupt and awkward. One might say that these two groups are inferior to the rest, much as the speeches of Elihu are inferior to the rest of the Book of Job. That they are, however, nevertheless from the hand of the very same poet is at once seen from the continued dependence upon the Book of Job and Isaiah. Hengstenberg sees in Psa 107:33-42 "the song with which they exalt the Lord in the assembly of the people and upon the seat of the elders." but the materia laudis is altogether different from that which is to be expected according to the preceding calls to praise. Nor is it any the more clear to us that Psa 107:33. refer to the overthrow of Babylon, and Psa 107:35. to the happy turn of affairs that took place simultaneously for Israel; Psa 107:35 does not suit Canaan, and the expressions in Psa 107:36. would be understood in too low a sense. No, the poet goes on further to illustrate the helpful government of God the just and gracious One, inasmuch as he has experiences in his mind in connection therewith, of which the dispersion of Israel in all places can sing and speak.
Since in Psa 107:36 the historical narration is still continued, a meaning relating to the contemporaneous past is also retrospectively given to the two correlative ישׂם. It now goes on to tell what those who have now returned have observed and experienced in their own case. Psa 107:33 sounds like Isa 50:2; Psa 107:33 like Isa 35:7; and Psa 107:35 takes its rise from Isa 41:18. The juxtaposition of מוצאי and צמּאון, since Deu 8:15, belongs to the favourite antithetical alliterations, e.g., Isa 61:3. מלחה, that which is salty (lxx cf. Sir. 39:23: ἅλμη), is, as in Job 39:6, the name for the uncultivated, barren steppe. A land that has been laid waste for the punishment of its inhabitants has very often been changed into flourishing fruitful fields under the hands of a poor and grateful generation; and very often a land that has hitherto lain uncultivated and to all appearance absolutely unprofitable has developed an unexpected fertility. The exiles to whom Jeremiah writes, Psa 29:5 : Build ye houses and settle down, and plant gardens and eat their fruit, may frequently have experienced this divine blessing. Their industry and their knowledge also did their part, but looked at in a right light, it was not their own work but God's work that their settlement prospered, and that they continually spread themselves wider and possessed a not small, i.e., (cf. Kg2 4:3) a very large, stock of cattle.
But is also came to pass that it went ill with them, inasmuch as their flourishing prosperous condition drew down upon them the envy of the powerful and tyrannical; nevertheless God put an end to tyranny, and always brought His people again to honour and strength. Hitzig is of opinion that Psa 107:39 goes back into the time when things were different with those who, according to Psa 107:36-38, had thriven. The modus consecutivus is sometimes used thus retrospectively (vid., Isa 37:5); here, however, the symmetry of the continuation from Psa 107:36-38, and the change which is expressed in Psa 107:39 in comparison with Psa 107:38, require an actual consecution in that which is narrated. They became few and came down, were reduced (שׁחח, cf. Pro 14:19 : to come to ruin, or to be overthrown), a coarctatione malitiae et maeroris. עצר is the restraint of despotic rule, רעה the evil they had to suffer under such restraint, and רגון sorrow, which consumed their life. מעצר has Tarcha and רעה Munach (instead of Mercha and Mugrash, vid., Accentuationssystem, xviii. 2). There is no reason for departing from this interpunction and rendering: "through tyranny, evil, and sorrow." What is stiff and awkward in the progress of the description arises from the fact that Psa 107:40 is borrowed from Job 12:21, Job 12:24, and that the poet is not willing to make any change in these sublime words. The version shows how we think the relation of the clauses is to be apprehended. Whilst He pours out His wrath upon tyrants in the contempt of men that comes upon them, and makes them fugitives who lose themselves in the terrible waste, He raises the needy and those hitherto despised and ill-treated on high out of the depth of their affliction, and makes families like a flock, i.e., makes their families so increase, that they come to have the appearance of a merrily gamboling and numerous flock. Just as this figure points back to Job 21:11, so Psa 107:42 is made up out of Job 22:19; Job 5:16. The sight of this act of recognition on the part of God of those who have been wrongfully oppressed gives joy to the upright, and all roguery (עולה, vid., Ps 92:16) has its mouth closed, i.e., its boastful insolence is once for all put to silence. In Psa 107:43 the poet makes the strains of his Psalm die away after the example of Hosea, Hosea 14:10 , in the nota bene expressed after the manner of a question: Who is wise - he will or let him keep this, i.e., bear it well in mind. The transition to the justice together with a change of number is rendered natural by the fact that מי חכם, as in Hos. loc. cit. (cf. Jer 9:11; Est 5:6, and without Waw apod. Jdg 7:3; Pro 9:4, Pro 9:16), is equivalent to quisquis sapeins est. חסדי ה (חסדי) are the manifestations of mercy or loving-kindness in which God's ever-enduring mercy unfolds itself in history. He who is wise has a good memory for and a clear understanding of this.