Psa 105:7 He is the lord our God,…. Here begin the arguments to excite to praise and thankfulness; and the first is taken from what God is, and is to us; he is Jehovah, the Being of beings, a self-existent Being, the author of all beings, but receives his own from none; being undivided, independent, and self-sufficient, invariably and unchangeably the same, which is, and was, and is to come; and who has a sovereign power and authority over all creatures, whose name alone is Jehovah; nor is that name applicable or communicable to any created being; and yet this Jehovah is our God, our God in covenant, our God in Christ; our God that has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ; our God that has regenerated, adopted, and justified us; that supplies all our wants, and will be our God and our portion for ever; and therefore worthy of all praise, honour, and glory.
His judgments are all the earth: not his laws and statutes, his word and ordinances, or the revelation of his mind and will as faith and worship, which are sometimes meant by his judgments; for these were not in all the earth, were only known to the people of the Jews at this time, Psa_147:19, rather his judgments on the Egyptians, or his plagues upon them for refusing to let Israel go, the fame of which was spread throughout the world: and may take in all the judgments of God in other parts of the world, as on Sodom and Gomorrah, and especially the universal deluge, which destroyed the world of the ungodly; and by such judgments the Lord is known, Psa_9:16 and for these he is to be praised; as they are expressive of his holiness and justice; as he will be for his judgments on antichrist, when they are made manifest, Rev_15:4. This may also respect in general God’s government of the world, and his righteous judging in it; who is a God that judgeth in the earth, and governs it by his power and wisdom, and in righteousness; and this righteous Judge is our God.
He is the Lord our God – He is Jehovah, the self-existent and eternal God. He is our God, he is our portion; has taken us for his people, and makes us happy in his love.
8He hath remembered his covenant for ever The Psalmist now celebrates the effect and actual fulfillment of the covenant, and proves from the deliverance wrought for the Israelites what he had stated before, namely, That God, while he reigned alike over all nations, extended his peculiar favor to the offspring of Abraham alone. How comes it to pass that God, in delivering his people, displayed the might of his arm by so many miracles, if it was not that he might faithfully perform the promise which he had made to his servants in time past? It is evident, then, that the ancient covenant was the cause of the deliverance granted to the chosen tribes; for in order that God might faithfully keep his promises, it behooved him first to be merciful. As a long series of years had elapsed between the promise and the performance, the prophet uses the word remember, intimating that the Divine promises do not become obsolete by length of time, but that even when the world imagines that they are extinguished and wholly forgotten, God retains as distinct a remembrance of them as ever, that he may accomplish them in due season. This is more strongly confirmed in the next clause, where the correspondence between the form or tenor of the covenant and the accomplishment is celebrated. It is not for a day, he would say, or for a few days, that God has made a covenant with Abraham, nor has he limited the continuance of his covenant to the life of man, but he has promised to be the God of his seed even to a thousand generations. Although, therefore, the fulfillment was for a long time suspended, God nevertheless showed by the effect that his promise did not fail by length of time.
Psa 105:8 He hath remembered his covenant for ever,…. Another argument of praise taken from the covenant of grace, in which he is our God, and of which he is ever mindful; he remembers his covenant ones, whom he perfectly knows, and never forgets them; he remembers his covenant promises to them, and allows them to put him in remembrance of them; he has respect unto his covenant, and the blessings of it, and bestows them on his people; gives them the sure mercies of David; and he remembers his love, which is the source and spring of all.
The word which he commanded to a thousand generations; that which is properly a covenant with Christ our head on our account, is a word of promise to us; a promise of grace and glory; a free promise, absolute and unconditional: and this he has “commanded”, or ordered, decreed, and determined that it shall stand good, and be punctually performed, “to a thousand generations”; that is, for ever; for all his promises are yea and amen in Christ.
He hath remembered his covenant forever – That is, God has had it constantly in remembrance, or always. Compare the notes at Luk_1:72. Though the covenant was made long since; though many generations of people have passed by; though great changes have occurred; though many calamities have come upon the nations, yet his ancient covenant and promise have never been forgotten. All his promises have been fulfilled; all ever will be. The “covenant” here referred to is that which was made with Abraham, and through him with the Hebrew people.
The word which he commanded – The thing which he commanded; that is, all which he ordained and appointed.
To a thousand generations – Very many generations; or, any number of generations: that is, always. Compare Exo_20:6. The experience of the people through all the generations of their history has shown that in what he has promised and directed he is unchanging.
As Abraham was the first who was called when he was mingled with idolaters, the prophet begins with him. He, however, afterwards declares that the covenant was also confirmed in the hand of his son and his son’s son. God then deposited his covenant with Abraham, and by solemn oath engaged to be the God of his seed. But to give greater assurance of the truth of his promise, he was graciously pleased to renew it to Isaac and Jacob. The effect of such an extension of it is, that his faithfulness takes deeper hold on the hearts of men; and, besides, his grace, when it is thus testified on frequent recurring occasions, becomes better known and more illustrious among men. Accordingly, it is here declared by gradation how steadfast and immovable this covenant is; for what is affirmed concerning each of the patriarchs belongs equally to them all. It is said that God swore to Isaac. But had he not sworn to Abraham before? Undoubtedly he had. It is also said that it was established to Jacob for a law, and for an everlasting covenant Does this mean that the covenant was previously only temporal and transitory, and that then it had changed its nature? Such an idea is altogether at variance with the meaning of the sacred writer. By these different forms of expression he asserts that the covenant was fully and perfectly confirmed, so that, if perhaps the calling was obscure in one man, it might be more evident, by God’s having transmitted the testimony of it to posterity; for by this means the truth of it was the better manifested. Here again we must remember that God with great kindness considers our weakness when, both by his oath, and by frequently repeating his word, he ratifies what he has once promised to us. Our ingratitude then appears the fouler in disbelieving him when he not only speaks but also swears.
Which covenant he made with Abraham – Which he “ratified” with Abraham. Literally, “which he cut with Abraham.” Gen_17:2-14. Compare the notes at Psa_50:5.
And his oath unto Isaac – Confirming the promise made to Abraham. See Gen_26:2-5.
Psa 105:10 And confirmed the same unto Jacob for a law,…. The son of Isaac, and the grandson of Abraham, to whom it was renewed and confirmed, Gen_28:13. It is true of his posterity that go by his name, and even of all the spiritual Israel of God, to whom this covenant is confirmed and made sure: or “caused to stand” (b), as the word is; by the faithfulness of God by his oath annexed to his word, and by the death of his Son: when this is said to be “for a law”, the meaning is, not as if this covenant had the nature of a law, as the covenant of works had; indeed one of the articles of it is, that the law of God should be put into the inward part, and written on the heart; but this refers here not to men, but to God; and the sense is, that this covenant has the force of a law with respect to God, who of his condescending grace and goodness has hereby laid himself under obligation to do such and such things; which is marvellous grace indeed.
And to Israel for an everlasting covenant: for being remembered, commanded, repeated, and confirmed by the Lord, it can never be broken; and being well ordered, remains sure, and is as immovable as rocks and mountains, and more so: as it was made with Christ from everlasting, it will continue to be made good to his people to everlasting; and is a just reason for praise; it being the basis of faith and hope; the ground of joy, peace, and comfort here, and of eternal happiness hereafter.
(b) יעמידה “stare fecit”, Vatablus.
And confirmed the same unto Jacob – literally, “caused it to stand;” that is, he made it fast or secure. He renewed it, commanding the same things; making the same promises; and pledging himself for its fulfillment in the same manner. Gen_28:10-15.
For a law – For an established or settled ordinance, for a rule by which future things were to be regulated: that is, they would occur according to that promise, and be conformed to it. It was, as it were, a rule which God prescribed for himself in regard to his own future conduct.
And to Israel … – Another name for Jacob, Gen_32:28.
11.Saying, I will give thee the land of Canaan As this was only a small portion of the blessings offered to the fathers, the prophet seems at first view too much to limit the covenant of God, which extended even to the hope of an eternal inheritance. But he considered it enough to show, by the figure synecdoche, that a part of what God had promised to the fathers had received its complete accomplishment. His drift is to intimate that they did not possess the land of Canaan by any other right than because it was the legitimate inheritance of Abraham according to the covenant which God had made with him. If man exhibit the promised earnest of a contract, he does not violate the contract. When, therefore, the prophet proves by a visible symbol that God did not make a covenant with his servants in vain, and that he did not disappoint their hope, he does not take away or abolish the other blessings included in it. Nay, rather, when the Israelites heard that they possessed the land of Canaan by right of inheritance, because they were the chosen people of God, it became them to look beyond this, and to take comprehensive view of all the privileges by which He had vouchsafed to distinguish them. Hence it is to be noted, that when He in part fulfills his promises towards us, we are base and ungrateful if this experience does not conduce to the confirmation of our faith. Whenever he shows himself to be a father towards us, he undoubtedly really seals on our hearts the power and efficacy of his word. But if the land of Canaan ought to have led the children of Israel in their contemplations to heaven, since they knew that they had been brought into it on account of the covenant which God had made with them, the consideration that He has given to us his Christ, “in whom all the promises are yea and amen,” (2Co_1:20 ) ought to have much greater weight with us.
When it is said, I will give thee the measuring line of Your inheritance, the change of the number points out that God made a covenant with all the people in general, though he spake the words only to a few individuals; even as we have seen a little before that it was a decree or an everlasting law. The holy patriarchs were the first and principal persons into whose hands the promise was committed; but they did not embrace the grace which was offered to them as what belonged only to themselves, but as what their posterity in common with them were to became sharers of.
Psa 105:11 Saying, unto thee will I give the land of Canaan,…. To each of the above persons, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and to their posterity, the children of Israel. Not that the word “saying”, as Gussetius (c) well observes, signifies that the words following it are expressive of the covenant, for that is expressed Psa_105:7, the main article, sum, and substance of it, being this, that the Lord was their God; but it only signifies that this earthly promise was pronounced when that everlasting covenant was given, Gen_17:7. Besides, this must be considered as typical of the heavenly inheritance; as that was a land of promise, so is this; it is the promise, the grand promise, which God has promised; as that was a land prepared and ready furnished with houses, fields, and vineyards, so is heaven a kingdom prepared by God the Father, and by the presence and mediation of his Son; as the Israelites passing through the wilderness met with many difficulties, and fought many battles, before possessed of it, so the people of God pass through the wilderness of this world, go through many tribulations, and fight the good fight of faith before they lay hold on eternal life; and as not Moses, but Joshua, led the people into the land, so not the law, but Jesus the Saviour, the great Captain of salvation, brings the many sons to glory; and as that was a land of rest after fatiguing travels, is heaven the sabbatism or rest for the people of God, a rest from all their toil and labour; and as the one was the pure gift of God, so is the other:
to thee will I give, &c. And as the land of Canaan is here called “the lot of your inheritance”, it being divided and distributed by lot to the children of Israel, who find each their proper share and portion, Jos_14:1 so heaven is an inheritance, not purchased, nor acquired, but bequeathed by the will of God; comes through the death of the testator Christ, belongs only to children, and is, as inheritances are, for ever; this is also by lot, as the word is in Eph_1:11, not that it is a casual thing, for it is appointed by the Lord for his people, and they for that; it is what they are predestinated to, as in the aforementioned text; but it denotes that everyone shall have their part and portion in it.
(c) Ebr. Comment. p. 822.
Saying, Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan – Gen_13:14-15.
The lot of your inheritance – Or, that shall be the lot of your inheritance; or, what you shall inherit. The margin is, “the cord.” The Hebrew word – חבל chebel – means properly a cord, a rope; and then, a measuring-line. Hence, it means a portion “measured out” and assigned to anyone as land, Jos_17:14; Jos_19:9. Compare Psa_16:6. The meaning is, that the land of Canaan was given by promise to the patriarchs as their lot or portion of the earth; as that which they and their descendants were to possess as their own.
6We have sinned with our fathers It is quite plain from these words, that although the prophet may have spoken in the person of one man, he yet dictates a form of prayer for the common use of the whole Church, seeing that he now identifies himself with the whole body. And from this to the end of the psalm, he gleans from ancient histories that their fathers had always been of a malign and perverse spirit, of corrupt practice, rebellious, ungrateful and perfidious towards God; and confesses that their descendants were not better; and having made this confession, they come and ask the remission of their sins. And as we are unable to obtain the pardon of our sins until we have first confessed ourselves to be guilty of sin, and as our hardness of heart shuts out the grace of God from us, the prophet, therefore, with great propriety, humbly acknowledges the guilt of the people in this their severe and sore chastisement, and that God might justly inflict upon them a yet harder punishment. On another account it was advantageous for the Jews to have their sins set before them; because, if God punish us severely, we at once suppose that his promises have failed. But when, on the contrary, we are reminded that we are receiving the reward due to us for our transgressions, then if we thoroughly repent, those promises in which God appears as pacified towards us will come to our aid. Besides, by the three expressions which he employs in reference to their transgressions, he points out their enormity, that (as is usually the case) their hearts might not be slightly affected, but deeply wounded with sorrow. For we know how men are fettered by their vices, and how ready to let themselves alone, until compelled to examine themselves in good earnest; nay, what is more, when God calls them to judgment, they make a kind of verbal confession of their iniquities, while, at the same time, hypocrisy blinds their minds. When, therefore, the prophet says, that the people acted iniquitously in sinning, and had become ungodly and wicked, he employs no useless or unnecessary accumulation of words. Let any of us examine ourselves, and we will easily find that we have equal need to be constrained to make an ingenuous confession of our sins; for though we dare not say that we have no sin, yet there is not one of us but is disposed to find a cloak and subterfuge for his sin.
In a very similar manner, Daniel, in the ninth chapter of his prophecies, acknowledges the guilt of his own iniquities and those of the people; and it may be that the author of this psalm followed his example. From both let us learn, that the only way of pleasing God is to institute a rigid course of self-examination. Let it also be carefully observed, that the holy prophets, who never departed from the fear and worship of God, uniformly confessed their own guilt in common with the people; and this they did, not out of feigned humility, but because they were aware that they themselves were tainted with manifold corruptions, for when iniquity abounds, it is almost impossible for even the best of men to keep themselves from being infected by its baneful effects. Not comparing themselves with others, but sisting themselves before God’s tribunal, they at once perceive the impossibility of making their escape.
At that time impiety had attained to such a degree of enormity among the Jews, that it is not astonishing if even the best and most upright men were carried away, as if by the violence of a tempest. How very abominable, then, is the pride of those who hardly imagine that they offend in the least possible way; nay, who even, like certain fanatics of the day, conceive that they have attained to a state of sinless perfection! It must be borne in mind, however, that Daniel, who carefully kept himself under the fear of God, and whom the Holy Spirit, by the mouth of the prophet Ezekiel, declares to be one of the most upright of men, did not with reigned lips acknowledge his own transgressions, and those of the people, when he confessed them, under a deep sense of their grievously and dreadfully abhorrent character in the eyes of God. True, indeed, he was not overwhelmed in the same torrent of iniquity with others; but he knew that he had contracted a very large amount of guilt. Besides, the prophet does not bring forward their fathers for the purpose of palliating his own delinquency, (as many at the present day set at nought all reproof, shielding themselves with this, namely, that they have been so taught by their fathers, and that, therefore, their bad education, and not they, is at fault,) but rather to show that he and those of his own nation were obnoxious to severe punishment, because even from the very first, and as if co-existent with their early infancy, they never ceased to provoke the displeasure of God against themselves more and more by their fresh transgressions. It is in this manner that he involves the fathers with the children in many of the grounds of condemnation.
Psa 106:6 We have sinned with our fathers,…. Sinned in their first father Adam; derived a corrupt nature from their immediate ancestors; sinned after the similitude of their transgressions; sinned after their example, in like manner as they did; guilty of the same gross enormities as they were: though sufficiently warned by the words of the prophets, and by punishments inflicted, they continued their sins, a constant series and course of them, and filled up the measure of their iniquities; they rose up in their stead an increase of sinful men, to augment the fierce anger of God, Num_32:14. And this the psalmist, in the name of the people of Israel, confesses, as it was his and their duty and interest so to do, Lev_26:40, and as we find it was usual with Old Testament saints, Jer_3:25.
We have committed iniquity, we have done wickedly; this heap of words is used to denote not only the multitude of their sins, but the aggravated circumstances of them; that they had committed all manner of sins, not sins of ignorance, frailty, and infirmity only; but presumptuous sins, sins against light and knowledge, grace and mercy; sins against both tables of the law, against God and their neighbour; and these attended with many aggravations: all which a sensible sinner is ready to make a frank and ingenuous confession of, and forsake; and such an one finds mercy with a God pardoning iniquity, transgression, and sin: this form of confession is followed by Solomon and Daniel, 1Ki_8:47.
We have sinned with our fathers – We have sinned as “they” did; we have followed their example. The illustration of the manner in which the nation had sinned occupies a considerable part of the remainder of the psalm; and the idea here is, that, in the generation in which the psalmist lived, there had been the manifestation of the same rebellious spirit which had so remarkably characterized the entire nation. The “connection” of this with the foregoing verses is not very apparent. It would seem to be that the psalmist was deeply impressed with a sense of the great blessings which follow from the friendship of God, and from keeping his commandments – as stated, Psa_106:3-5; but he remembered that those blessings had not come upon the people as might have been expected, and his mind suddenly adverts to the cause of this, in the fact that the nation had “sinned.” It was not that God was not disposed to bestow that happiness; it was not that true religion “failed” to confer happiness; but it was that the nation had provoked God to displeasure, and that in fact the sins of the people had averted the blessings which would otherwise have come upon them. The psalmist, therefore, in emphatic language – repeating the confession in three forms, “we have sinned – we have committed iniquity, we have done wickedly,” acknowledges that the failure was in them, not in God. The language here is substantially the same as in Dan_9:5-6, and it would seem not improbable that the one was suggested by the other. Which was prior in the order of time, it is now impossible to determine. Compare the notes at Dan_9:5-6.
7Our fathers understood not thy wonders in Egypt, Here he relates how the people immediately, from the very commencement of their emancipation from bondage, were ungrateful to God, and conducted themselves in a rebellious manner. Nor does he confine himself to the history of one period only, but the whole drift of his narrative is to point out that the people had never ceased from doing wickedly, although God met them in return with inconceivable kindness; which is a proof of the invincible and desperate perversity of this nation. He first blames the folly of the people as the occasion of such ingratitude. In calling it folly, he does not intend to lessen the offense, (as some are often wont to do,) but to expose the vile and disgraceful stupidity of the people, in being blind in matters so plain; for God’s works were such that even the blind might behold them. Whence could such gross ignorance originate, unless that Satan had so maddened them that they did not regard the miracles of God, which might have moved the very stones?
Now, when he adds, they remembered not, he expresses more forcibly the inexcusable nature of their ignorance, nay, that their blindness was the result of stupid indifference, more than the want of proper instruction. For the cause of their ignorance was their overlooking those matters which, in themselves, were abundantly manifest. He further mentions how quickly that forgetfulness came upon them, which tended to increase their guilt. For it was marvelous that not even the very sight of these things could arouse their spirits. Hence it came to pass, that while they had scarcely made their departure from Egypt, and were passing through the sea, they proudly rose up against their deliverer. Surely not one year, nor even a century, ought to have erased from their minds deeds so worthy of being remembered. What madness, then, at that very time to murmur against God, as if he had abandoned them to be slaughtered by their enemies? That arm of the sea through which the people passed is, in the Hebrew, called the Sea of Suph. Some translate it the Sea of Sedge, and will have the word סופ, suph, to signify sea-weed. But whatever be its derivation, there can be no doubt about the place. It is very likely that the name was given to it because it abounded with rushes.
Psa 106:7 Our fathers understood not thy wonders in Egypt,…. Or, “our fathers in Egypt” (l); while they were there, they did not understand, or wisely consider and attend unto, the miracles there wrought, the plagues inflicted on the Egyptians. These were done in their sight, they saw them with their eyes; yet had not hearts to perceive them, and understand the true use and design of them: not only that these were for the destruction of their enemies, and for their deliverance from them; but that they were proofs of the power of God, and of his being the one only and true God, in opposition to the idols of the Egyptians; and that he only ought to be adhered unto, worshipped, and trusted in. Had they adverted to these things, they would not so easily have given in to a murmuring and repining spirit, to a distrust of the power and providence of God, and to idolatry, as they did; see Deu_29:2, something of this kind may be observed in the disciples of Christ, Mar_6:52.
They remembered not the multitude of thy mercies; the mercies of God bestowed on his people are many, both temporal and spiritual; there is a multitude of them; the sum of them is great, it cannot well be said how great it is: but though they are so many as not to be reckoned up in order, yet a grateful remembrance of them should be kept up; it is sinful to forget them, and argues great ingratitude. Past mercies should be remembered, both for the glory of God, and to encourage faith and hope in him, with respect to future ones, as well as to preserve from sinning against him. The stupidity and ingratitude of this people, here confessed, were the source of their rebellion against God, as follows:
but provoked him at the sea, even at the Red sea; or, “sea of Suph” (m); so called, either from a city of this name, which it washed, as Hillerus (n) thinks; see Num_21:14 or from the sedge and weeds in it, or reeds and rushes that grew upon the banks of it. When they were come hither, though just brought out of Egyptian bondage, and had seen the wonders the Lord had done; and though now in the utmost distress, the Egyptian army behind them, and the sea before them; yet neither past mercies nor present danger could keep them from rebelling against the Lord. They provoked him by their language to Moses;
because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? Exo_14:11. The Targum is,
“but they rebelled against thy word.”
(l) אבותינו במצרים “patres nostri in Aegypto”, V. L. Pagninus, Montanus, &c. (m) בים סוף “in mari Suph”, Pagninus, Vatablus, Schmidt; “in mare carecti”, Montanus; “mare algosum”, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Cocceius. (n) Onomastic. Sacr. p. 128, 940.
Our fathers understood not – They did not regard the operation of God’s hands; and therefore they understood neither his designs nor their own interest.
At the sea, even at the Red Sea – Some of the rabbins suppose that the repetition of the words point out two faults of the Israelites at the Red Sea.
1. They murmured against Moses for bringing them out of Egypt, when they saw the sea before them, and Pharaoh behind them.
2. When the waters were divided, they were afraid to enter in, lest they should stick in the mud which appeared at the bottom.
The word seems to be added by way of explanation, and perhaps may refer to the above: they provoked על ים al yam, “At the sea;” בים סוף beyam suph, “In the sea Suph,” or Red Sea. They provoked him at it and in it.
Our fathers understood not – They did not fully comprehend the design of the divine dealings. They did not perceive the greatness of the favor shown to them, or the obligation to obey and serve God under which they were placed by these remarkable manifestations.
Thy wonders in Egypt – The miracles performed there in behalf of the Hebrew people.
They remembered not the multitude of thy mercies – The great number of the divine interpositions in their behalf. They did not allow them to influence their conduct as they should have done. The aggravation of their offence in the case here referred to was particularly in the “multitude” of the mercies. It would have been sinful to have forgotten even one act of the divine favor; it was a great aggravation of their guilt that “so many” acts were forgotten, or that they failed to make an impression on them. So now. It is a great sin to be unmindful of a “single” favor conferred by God; it is a great aggravation of guilt that men live continually amidst so many proofs of the divine goodness; that they are fed, and clothed, and protected; that they breathe the pure air, and look upon the light of the sun; that they enjoy the comforts of domestic life, the blessings of liberty, and the offers of salvation; that they lie down and rise up; that their toils are crowned with success, and that the blessings of every land are made to come around them – and yet they forget or disregard all these proofs of the divine mercy.
But provoked him at the sea, even at the Red Sea – Exo_14:10-12. They “rebelled” against him. Even amidst the wonders there occurring, and after all the blessings which they had received at his hands, when they were in danger they doubted his power, and called in question his faithfulness.
19.They made a calf. Here he represents their rebellion as exceedingly base, in that they abandoned the true worship of God, and made to themselves a calf. For although it was their intention to worship God in this manner, yet the prophet reprehends their brutal stupidity, because they worshipped before the molten image, and represented God by the figure of an ox which eateth grass From this the prophet infers, that God had been robbed of his honor, and that all his glory had been tarnished. And surely it is so; for although the idolaters feign to serve God with great zeal, yet when, at the same time, they represent to themselves a God visible, they abandon the true God, and impiously make for themselves an idol. But he reproaches them with being guilty of still greater impiety, when he says, after the likeness of an ox that eateth grass;and contrasts with it their honor or glory. For seeing that God had clothed them with his own glory, what madness was it to substitute in place of him not only an ox, but the inanimate form of an ox, as if there were any resemblance between God who createth all kinds of food, and that stupid animal which feeds upon grass?
It is necessary, however, to observe the design of the prophet, which is to point out the blindness of men as more base and abominable, because not contenting themselves with any common form of superstition, but casting off all sham they give themselves up to the most shocking forms of worshipping God. Had the people formed for themselves a likeness of God under the likeness of a man, even that would have been impiously robbing God of his due; how much more shameful was their conduct when they assimilated God to an ox? When men preserve their life by eating and drinking, they acknowledge how frail they are, because they derive from dead creatures the means of its continuation. How much greater is the dishonor done to God when he is compared to the brutal tribes? Moreover, the comparison referred to increases the enormity of their guilt. For what credit was it for a holy people to worship the inanimate likeness of an ox instead of the true God? But God had condescended to spread out the overshadowing wings of his glory upon the children of Abraham, that he might put on them the highest honor. Therefore, in denuding themselves of this honor, they had exposed their own baseness to the derision of all the nations of the earth. And hence Moses employs the phrase of nakedness, when he is showing that crime of idolatry:
“And when Moses saw that the people were naked, (for Aaron had made them naked unto their shame among their enemies)”Exo_32:25.
Should any one be disposed to say that the ark of the covenant was a representation of God, my answer is, That that symbol was given to the children of Israel, not to engross the whole of their attention, but only for the purpose of assisting and directing them in the spiritual worship of God.
They made a calf in Horeb – Exo_32:4. Probably in resemblance of the Egyptian god “Apis.” The image was made by Aaron out of materials furnished by the people, and at their request Exo_32:1-3, so that it might be said to be the act of the people.
And worshipped the molten image – The word rendered “molten” is from a verb נסך nâsak – to pour, to pour out; hence, to cast, to found; and it means anything that is made by fusion or casting. This image was cast Exo_32:4, and hence, this name is given to it.
Psa 106:20 Thus they changed their glory,…. God, who is glorious in all the perfections of his nature, and is glory itself, and was the glory of these people; it was their greatest honour that they had knowledge of him, nearness to him, the true worship of him among them, and that they were worshippers of him; and who, though he is unchangeable in himself, may be said to be changed when another is substituted and worshipped in his room, or worshipped besides him; which was what the Heathen did, and in which the Israelites exceeded them, Rom_1:23, the Targum is,
“they changed the glory of their Lord.”
Into the similitude of an ox that eateth grass; which was monstrous stupidity, to leave the worship of the true God, El Shaddai, God all sufficient, all powerful, that stands in need of nothing, but upholds and supports all creatures in being, and provides them with necessaries; and worship an ox, yea, the figure of one that eats grass, that lives on hay, and is supported by that which is so weak and withering; the Targum adds,
“and makes dung;”
or defiles itself with it, as the ox does while it is eating grass; Jarchi observes, there is nothing more abominable and filthy than an ox when it is eating grass, which then makes much dung, and defiles itself; this the Targumist adds, to make the worship of such a creature the more contemptible.
Thus they changed their glory – Their true glory – the proper object of worship – God. Compare the notes at Rom_1:23. They “exchanged” that as an object of worship for the image of an ox.
Into the similitude of an ox that eateth grass – Into the likeness of an ox. That is, They worshipped God under that image. The circumstance of its “eating grass” is added to show the absurdity of the act. Instead of worshipping God – an independent Being, who does not need to be supported, but who himself sustains all things, and provides for all – they worshipped an animal that had need of constant sustenance, and would itself soon die if deprived of its proper nourishment. Compare the notes at Isa_40:18-20; notes at Isa_41:6-7.
21.They forgot God The prophet again repeats that the people had sinned not simply through ignorance, but also wilfully, inasmuch as God had already given a very palpable manifestation of his power and glory. And as he makes himself known in the creation of the heavens and of the earth, the blindness of men is totally inexcusable. But far more aggravating is the sin of the children of Israel, who, after God had made himself known to them, in the most condescending manner, cast him off altogether, and gave themselves up to the practice of brutish idolatry. And God having from heaven put forth his Almighty power for their salvation, there must surely be no little importance attached to such displays of his power as proclaim the praise and honor of his great name. Had he merely given an ordinary token of his power, even that ought to have attracted so much consideration as should have kept the people in the fear and worship of God. Now, that these miracles were so very notable, or rather terrible and rare, the people acted a very base part to shut their eyes upon them, and give themselves over to idolatry. For as the darkness is dispelled by the beamy lustre of the sun, so all inventions and perverse errors should vanish before such knowledge of God.
They forgat God their Saviour … – The God who had saved, or delivered them, out of Egypt. The sentiment here is the same as in Psa_78:11-12. See the notes at that place.
Keil and Delitzsch
The sins in Canaan: the failing to exterminate the idolatrous peoples and sharing in their idolatry. In Psa_106:34 the poet appeals to the command, frequently enjoined upon them from Exo_23:32. onwards, to extirpate the inhabitants of Canaan. Since they did not execute this command (vid., Jdg_1:1), that which it was intended to prevent came to pass: the heathen became to them a snare (mowqeesh), Exo_23:33; Exo_34:12; Deu_7:16. They intermarried with them, and fell into the Canaanitish custom in which the abominations of heathenism culminate, viz., the human sacrifice, which Jahve abhorreth (Deu_12:31), and only the demons (שֵׁדִים, Deu_32:17) delight in. Thus then the land was defiled by blood-guiltiness (חָנַף, Num_35:33, cf. Isa_24:5; Isa_26:21), and they themselves became unclean (Eze_20:43) by the whoredom of idolatry. In Psa_106:40-43 the poet (as in Neh_9:26.) sketches the alternation of apostasy, captivity, redemption, and relapse which followed upon the possession of Canaan, and more especially that which characterized the period of the judges. God’s “counsel” was to make Israel free and glorious, but they leaned upon themselves, following their own intentions (בַּֽעֲצָתָם); wherefore they perished in their sins. The poet uses מָכַךְ (to sink down, fall away) instead of the נָמַק (to moulder, rot) of the primary passage, Lev_26:39, retained in Eze_24:23; Eze_33:10, which is no blunder (Hitzig), but a deliberate change.
40.And the wrath of Jehovah waxed hot.The severity of the punishment inflicted upon the people confirms the truth of what we formerly said, that they had been guilty of no trivial offense, in presuming to corrupt the worship of God. And they themselves showed how hopeless their reformation was, in that all this as yet failed to bring them truly to repent of their sin. That the people, who were God’s sacred and chosen heritage, were delivered up to the abominations of the heathen, who themselves were the slaves of the devil, was an awful manifestation of his vindictive wrath. Then, at least, ought they to have held in abhorrence their own wickedness, by which they had been precipitated into such direful calamities.
In saying, that they were subdued and afflicted by their enemies, the prophet points out, in a still more astonishing manner, the baseness of their conduct. Reduced to a state of bondage and oppression, their folly appears the more disgraceful, in that they were not truly and heartily humbled under God’s almighty hand. For prior to this, they had been warned by Moses, that they had not casually fallen into that bondage so galling to them, neither had it happened by the valor of their enemies, but because they were given over, and, as it were, sold to it by God himself. That those who had refused to bear his yoke, should be delivered up to tyrants to harass and oppress them, and that those who would not endure to be ruled by God’s paternal sway, should be subdued by their enemies, to be trodden under their feet, is a striking example of God’s retributive justice.
Psa 106:40 Therefore was the wrath of the Lord kindled against his people,…. Sin is the cause of wrath, which is compared to fire kindled by the breath of the Almighty, and is intolerable; this shows that the offence must be very great, as to incense the Lord against a people he had chosen above all others to be his peculiar people; as well as it was an aggravation, of their sin, so highly to provoke the Lord, whom they had vouched to be their God. There may be appearances of wrath for sin against those who are the Lord’s people in the highest and best sense.
Insomuch that he abhorred his own inheritance; the people of Israel, whom he had chosen for his inheritance, and were his portion, and the lot of his inheritance. This must be understood of the body of the people, not of every individual; not of the remnant according to the election of grace among them, of which there were some in all ages; for this would be contrary to his love, and the unchangeableness of it: and however not of the persons of his people, but of their sins; and of the appearances of his providence towards them, which look like wrath, indignation, and abhorrence; for God will not cast off his people, nor forsake his inheritance, Psa_94:14 the following verses explain this wrath and abhorrence. The Targum in the king’s Bible is, “the Word of the Lord abhorred,” &c. see Zec_11:8.
Therefore was the wrath of the Lord kindled against his people – Anger is often compared with a fire; as we say now, a man is “inflamed” with passion. See Est_1:12; Lam_2:3; Psa_79:5; Psa_89:46; Jer_4:4; Jdg_2:14. Of course, this must be taken in a manner appropriate to God. It means that his treatment of his offending people was as if he were burning with wrath against them.
Insomuch that he abhorred his own inheritance – He was offended with his people; he treated them “as if” they were an abomination to him. He punished them; he cast them off; he left them to the just results of their own conduct. Were ever any writers more candid and honest than the sacred penmen? There is no effort to vindicate the nation; there is no apology offered for them; there is no concealment of their guilt; there is no attempt to soften the statement in regard to the feelings of God toward them. Their conduct was abominable; they deserved the divine displeasure; they were ungrateful, evil, and rebellious; and the sacred writers do not hesitate to admit the truth of this to the fullest extent.
Psa 106:41 And he gave them into the hand of the Heathen,…. In the times of the judges; as into the hands of the Mesopotamians, Moabites, Canaanites, Midianites, and Philistines, to whom they became tributaries; see the book of Judges.
And they that hated them ruled over them; as it was threatened and foretold they should, in case they did not observe the law of God, Lev_26:17.
Psa 106:42 Their enemies also oppressed them,…. By taxes, and taking the increase of their fields and sustenance, which often obliged them to cry for a deliverer, who upon this was sent to them; see Jdg_2:9.
And they were brought into subjection under their hand; or were humbled under their hand, as the Targum; they were not only made to submit to their enemies, but they were humbled before the Lord; brought to a sense of their sins, and acknowledgment of them, when the Lord appeared for their deliverance, as follows.
Their enemies also oppressed them – Septuagint, “Afflicted them,” They invaded their country; they destroyed their vintages; they laid desolate their land; they made them captives.
And they were brought into subjection – Hebrew, made to bow.
43.Many times.As the wicked perversity of the people was manifested in that God’s severe chastisements failed to produce their reformation, so now, on the other hand, the prophet deduces the detestable hardness of their hearts from the fact, that all the benefits which they had received from God could not bend them into obedience. They did, indeed, in the time of their afflictions, groan under the burden of them; but when God not only mitigated their punishment, but also granted them wonderful deliverances, can their subsequent backsliding be excused? It becomes us to bear in mind, that here, as in a glass, we have a picture of the nature of all mankind; for let God but adopt those very means which he employed in relation to the Israelites, in order to reclaim the majority of the sons of men, how comparatively few are there who will not be found continuing in the very same state as they were? And if he either humble us by the severity of his rod, or melt us by his kindness, the effect is only temporary; because, though he visit us with correction upon correction, and heap kindness upon kindness, yet we very soon relapse into our wonted vicious practices. As for the Jews, their insensate stupidity was insufferable, in that, notwithstanding the many and magnificent deliverances which God wrought out for them, they did not cease from their backslidings. For the Psalmist says, that they, nevertheless, provoked God with their wicked inventionsThen he declares that they received a just recompense of reward in being oppressed by their iniquity. Moreover, he informs us, that though they were most deserving of all their afflictions, yet their groanings were heard; whence we learn, that God, in his unwearied kindness, did not cease to strive with them on account of their perverseness of spirit.
For what pity was this, to hear the cry of those who turned a deaf ear to his wise instructions, and were regardless of all his warnings and threatenings? And yet after all this forbearance and long-suffering, their exceedingly depraved hearts remained unchanged.
Psa 106:43 Many times did he deliver them,…. By means of the judges, Othniel, Ehud, Barak, Gideon, Jephthah, Samson, and others.
But they provoked him with their counsel; in asking a king, whom he gave in his anger, and took away in his wrath, Hos_13:11, and with their idolatries which they devised, setting up the calves at Dan and Bethel; and by taking counsel of others, and not of the Lord; seeking for help from the Assyrians and Egyptians, and trusting in them, Isa_30:1, all which was very provoking, and showed great ingratitude, after so many deliverances: or, “though they provoked him with their counsels” (b); with their inventions, as in Psa_106:29, yet such were his grace and goodness, that he frequently wrought salvation for them.
And were brought low for their iniquity: or “when they were weakened”, or “impoverished by their iniquity” (c) so that they could not help themselves; as they were particularly by the Midianites, Jdg_6:1. Unless this should rather refer to some later times, as the times of Ahaz, when Judah was brought low for their transgressions, 2Ch_28:19 as also the time of the Babylonish captivity. Sin is of a weakening and impoverishing nature; it has weakened all mankind, and took from them their moral strength to do good; and has brought them to poverty and want; to be beggars an the dunghill; to a pit wherein is no water; and left them in a hopeless and helpless condition: yea, it brings the people of God oftentimes after conversion into a low estate, when God hides his face because of it; temptations are strong, grace is weak, and they become lukewarm and indifferent to spiritual things.
(b) וחמה “quamvis ipsi”, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator. (c) וימכו “et attenuati essent”, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; so Cocceius, Michaellis, Gejerus; “et in paupertatem devenerunt per suam iniquitatem”, Tigurine version.
Many times did he deliver them – From danger of invasion; from foreign arms; from entire overthrow. Numerous instances of this are recorded in the history of the Hebrew people.
But they provoked him with their counsel – This does not mean that they gave counsel or advice to God; but it refers to the counsel which they took among themselves; the plans which they formed. These were such as to offend God.
And were brought low for their iniquity – Margin, “impoverished or weakened.” The Hebrew word means to melt away, to pine; and hence, to decay, to be brought low. See Job_24:24, where it is rendered “brought low,” and Ecc_10:18, where it is rendered “decayeth.” The word does not occur elsewhere. The meaning is, that they were weakened; their national strength was exhausted as a punishment for their sins.
Psa 106:44 Nevertheless he regarded their affliction,…. Or “looked on them in distress” (d); he saw their affliction, and had compassion on them; he was so far from abhorring and despising the affliction of the afflicted, that he pitied them and sympathized with them; in all their afflictions he was afflicted; he looked upon them with an eye of pity and concern, and helped them out of their troubles.
When he heard their cry; or their “prayer”, as the Targum, and so other versions; crying is prayer; and it denotes vocal and vehement prayer, such as is put up to God in distress; and which he hears and answers; his ears are open to the cries of his people.
(d) וירא בצר להם “et vidit in angustia eis”, Montanus, Gejerus; so Musculus, Tigurine version.
Keil and Delitzsch
The poet’s range of vision here widens from the time of the judges to the history of the whole of the succeeding age down to the present; for the whole history of Israel has essentially the same fundamental character, viz., that Israel’s unfaithfulness does not annul God’s faithfulness. That verifies itself even now. That which Solomon in 1Ki_8:50 prays for on behalf of his people when they may be betrayed into the hands of the enemy, has been fulfilled in the case of the dispersion of Israel in all countries (Psa_107:3), Babylonia, Egypt, etc.: God has turned the hearts of their oppressors towards them. On רָאָה בְ, to regard compassionately, cf. Gen_29:32; 1Sa_1:11. בַּצַּר לָחֶם belong together, as in Psa_107:6, and frequently. רִנָּה is a cry of lamentation, as in 1Ki_8:28 in Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the Temple. From this source comes Psa_106:6, and also from this source Psa_106:46, cf. 1Ki_8:50 together with Neh_1:11. In וַיִּנָּחֵם the drawing back of the tone does not take place, as in Gen_24:67. חסדו beside כְּרֹב is not pointed by the Kerî חַסְדֹּו, as in Psa_5:8; Psa_69:14, but as in Lam_3:32, according to Psa_106:7, Isa_63:7, חֲסָדָו: in accordance with the fulness (riches) of His manifold mercy or loving-kindness. The expression in Psa_106:46 is like Gen_43:14. Although the condition of the poet’s fellow-countrymen in the dispersion may have been tolerable in itself, yet this involuntary scattering of the members of the nation is always a state of punishment. The poet prays in Psa_106:47 that God may be pleased to put an end to this.
Nevertheless, he regarded their affliction – literally, “And he looked upon the trouble that was upon them;” or, “and he saw in the distress to them.” The meaning is, that he did not turn away from it; he saw the need of interposition, and he came to them.
When he heard their cry – literally, “In his hearing their cry.” Their cry for help came before him, and he did not refuse to look upon their affliction. The idea is, that he was attracted to their case by their loud cry for help; and that when he heard the cry, he did not refuse to look upon their low and sad condition. God assists us when we cry to him. We ask his attention to our troubles; we pray for his help; and when he hears the cry, he comes and saves us. He does not turn away, or treat our case as unworthy of his notice.
45.And he remembered God’s being mindful of his covenant is here assigned as the cause of his great mercy and long-suffering. In that covenant, he not only declares that there is a gracious pardon for transgressions, but he also adverts to the perverse blindness of those who were not brought back by such remedies to the covenant, in which they were well aware that their safety was placed. But above all, he charges them with ingratitude; because, when deserving to perish, they did not acknowledge that they were indebted to the mercy of God alone for their preservation. This observation is strengthened by the next clause of the verse, in which he says that God had spared them according to the greatness of his mercies For the greatness of the punishment which their sins deserved, may be inferred from the great treasures of his loving-kindness, which God had to open in order to procure their redemption. The word to repent expresses no change in God, but only in the mode of administering his corrections. It may seem as if God altered his purpose, when he mitigates punishment, or withdraws his hand from executing his judgments. The Scripture, however, accommodating itself to our weak and limited capacity, speaks only after the manner of men.
Psa 106:45 And he remembered for them his covenant,…. At Sinai, according to Aben Ezra; rather that made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; see Psa_105:8, not their covenant who promised to hear and do all that the Lord commanded, and did it not; but his covenant, his promise of giving them the good land, and settling them in it: the Lord is ever mindful of the covenant of his grace for his people, for their good; he remembers the promises he has made, where they are in Christ; and so as to fulfil and apply them; he remembers the blessings of it, the sure mercies of David, and gives them; he remembers for whom it is made, and never forgets them; he remembers with whom it is made, with his Son, the surety, messenger, and Mediator of it; he remembers that he is their covenant God and Father, and will be so for evermore; he remembers his lovingkindness, which has been ever of old, which is the source and foundation of it.
And repented according to the multitude of his mercies; his mercies temporal and spiritual are many; and there is an abundance of mercy displayed especially in spiritual ones, in redemption, in regeneration, and in the forgiveness of sin. Or “according to the abundance of his grace”, or “gracious benefits” (e); there is an abundance of grace in his heart, in his Son, in his covenant, in salvation by Christ, and in every part of it; and which appears at conversion, as superabundant; and by this multitude of mercy, and abundance of grace, he is moved to “repent”. This is sometimes denied of him; and indeed he never repents so as to change his mind, to alter his purposes, to revoke his promises or his gifts, these are all without repentance; but he sometimes changes his ways and his works, his conduct in Providence, and the course of it; and then he may be said to repent of the evil he threatened to do, or was doing, when he puts a stop to it; and instead of that bestows favours and blessings.
(e) כרב חסדיו “secundum amplitudinem, seu multitudinem gratiarum suarum”, Cocceius, Gejerus.
And he remembered for them his covenant – His solemn promises made to their fathers. He remembered that covenant in their behalf; or, on account of that, he came and blessed them. He had made gracious promises to the patriarchs; he had promised to be the God of their posterity; he had his own great purposes to accomplish through their nation in the distant future; and on these accounts, he came and blessed them.
And repented – He averted impending judgments. He checked and arrested the calamities which he was bringing upon them for their sins. He acted toward them as though his mind had been changed; as though he was sorry for what he was doing. The word “repent” can be applied to God in no other sense than this. It cannot be applied to him in the sense that he felt or admitted that he had done wrong; or that he had made a mistake; or that he had changed his mind or purposes; or that he intended to enter on a new course of conduct; but it may be applied to him in the sense that his treatment of people is “as if” he had changed his mind, or “as if” he were sorry for what he had done: that is, a certain course of things which had been commenced, would be arrested and changed to meet existing circumstances, because “they” had changed – though all must have been foreseen and purposed in his eternal counsels.
According to the multitude of his mercies – The greatness of his mercy; the disposition of his nature to show mercy; the repeated instances in which he had shown mercy in similar circumstances.