Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
Israel's Unfaithfulness from Egypt Onwards, and God's Faithfulness Down to the Present Time
With this anonymous Psalm begins the series of the strictly Hallelujah-Psalms, i.e., those Psalms which have הללו־יה for their arsis-like beginning and for their inscription (Psalm 106, 111-113, Psalm 117:1-2, 135, 146-150). The chronicler in his cento, 1 Chronicles 16:8., and in fact in 1 Chronicles 16:34-36, puts the first and last verses of this Psalm (Psalm 106:1, Psalm 106:47), together with the Beracha (Psalm 106:48) which closes the Fourth Book of the Psalms, into the mouth of David, from which it is to be inferred that this Psalm is no more Maccabaean than Psalm 96:1-13 and Psalm 105 (which see), and that the Psalter was divided into five books which were marked off by the doxologies even in the time of the chronicler. The Beracha, Psalm 106:48, appears even at that period to have been read as an integral part of the Psalm, according to liturgical usage. The Hallelujah Psalm 106, like the Hodu Psalm 105 and the Asaph Psalm 78, recapitulates the history of the olden times of the Israelitish nation. But the purpose and mode of the recapitulation differ in each of these three Psalms. In Psalm 78 it is didactic; in Psalm 105 hymnic; and here in Psalm 106 penitential. It is a penitential Psalm, or Psalm of confession, a ודּוּי (from התודּה to confess, Leviticus 16:21). The oldest types of such liturgical prayers are the two formularies at the offering of the first-fruits, Deuteronomy 26, and Solomon's prayer at the dedication of the Temple, 1 Kings 8. And to this kind of tephilla, the Vidduj, belong, beyond the range of the Psalter, the prayer of Daniel, Daniel 9:1 (vid., the way in which it is introduced in Daniel 9:4), and the prayer (Nehemiah 9:5-38) which eight Levites uttered in the name of the people at the celebration of the fast-day on the twenty-fourth of Tishri. It is true Psalm 106 is distinguished from these prayers of confession in the prose style as being a Psalm; but it has three points in common with them and with the liturgical tephilla in general, viz., (1) the fondness for inflexional rhyming, i.e., for rhyming terminations of the same suffixes; (2) the heaping up of synonyms; and (3) the unfolding of the thoughts in a continuous line. These three peculiarities are found not only in the liturgical border, Psalm 106:1-6, Psalm 106:47, but also in the middle historical portion, which forms the bulk of the Psalm. The law of parallelism, is, it is true, still observed; but apart from these distichic wave-like ridges of the thoughts, it is all one direct, straight-line flow without technical division.
Praise ye the LORD. O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.The Psalm begins with the liturgical call, which has not coined for the first time in the Maccabaean age (1 Macc. 4:24), but was already in use in Jeremiah's time (Psalm 33:11). The lxx appropriately renders טּוב by χρηστός, for God is called "good" not so much in respect of His nature as of the revelation of His nature. The fulness of this revelation, says Psalm 106:2 (like Psalm 40:6), is inexhaustible. גּבוּרות are the manifestations of His all-conquering power which makes everything subservient to His redemptive purposes (Psalm 20:7); and תּהלּה is the glory (praise or celebration) of His self-attestation in history. The proclaiming of these on the part of man can never be an exhaustive echo of them. In Psalm 106:3 the poet tells what is the character of those who experience such manifestations of God; and to the assertion of the blessedness of these men he appends the petition in Psalm 106:4, that God would grant him a share in the experiences of the whole nation which is the object of these manifestations. עמּך beside בּרצון is a genitive of the object: with the pleasure which Thou turnest towards Thy people, i.e., when Thou again (cf. Psalm 106:47) showest Thyself gracious unto them. On פּקד cf. Psalm 8:5; Psalm 80:15, and on ראה ב, Jeremiah 29:32; a similar Beth is that beside לשׂמח (at, on account of, not: in connection with), Psalm 21:2; Psalm 122:1. God's "inheritance" is His people; the name for them is varied four times, and thereby גּוי is also exceptionally brought into use, as in Zephaniah 2:9.
Who can utter the mighty acts of the LORD? who can shew forth all his praise?
Blessed are they that keep judgment, and he that doeth righteousness at all times.
Remember me, O LORD, with the favour that thou bearest unto thy people: O visit me with thy salvation;
That I may see the good of thy chosen, that I may rejoice in the gladness of thy nation, that I may glory with thine inheritance.
We have sinned with our fathers, we have committed iniquity, we have done wickedly.The key-note of the vidduj, which is a settled expression since 1 Kings 8:47 (Daniel 9:5, cf. Bar. 2:12), makes itself heard here in Psalm 106:6; Israel is bearing at this time the punishment of its sins, by which it has made itself like its forefathers. In this needy and helpless condition the poet, who all along speaks as a member of the assembly, takes the way of the confession of sin, which leads to the forgiveness of sin and to the removal of the punishment of sin. רשׁע, 1 Kings 8:47, signifies to be, and the Hiph. to prove one's self to be, a רשׁע. עם in Psalm 106:6 is equivalent to aeque ac, as in Ecclesiastes 2:16; Job 9:26. With Psalm 106:7 the retrospect begins. The fathers contended with Moses and Aaron in Egypt (Exodus 5:21), and gave no heed to the prospect of redemption (Exodus 6:9). The miraculous judgments which Moses executed (Exodus 3:20) had no more effect in bringing them to a right state of mind, and the abundant tokens of loving-kindness (Isaiah 63:7) amidst which God redeemed them made so little impression on their memories that they began to despair and to murmur even at the Red Sea (Exodus 14:11.). With על, Psalm 106:7, alternates בּ (as in Ezekiel 10:15, בּנהר); cf. the alternation of prepositions in Joel 3:8. When they behaved thus, Jahve might have left their redemption unaccomplished, but out of unmerited mercy He nevertheless redeemed them. Psalm 106:8-11 are closely dependent upon Exodus 14. Psalm 106:11 is a transposition (cf. Psalm 34:21; Isaiah 34:16) from Exodus 14:28. On the other hand, Psalm 106:9 is taken out of Isaiah 63:13 (cf. Wisd. 19:9); Isaiah 63:7-64:12 is a prayer for redemption which has a similar ground-colouring. The sea through which they passed is called, as in the Tפra, ים־סוּף, which seems, according to Exodus 2:3; Isaiah 19:3, to signify the sea of reed or sedge, although the sedge does not grow in the Red Sea itself, but only on the marshy places of the coast; but it can also signify the sea of sea-weed, mare algosum, after the Egyptian sippe, wool and sea-weed (just as Arab. ṣûf also signifies both these). The word is certainly Egyptian, whether it is to be referred back to the Egyptian word sippe (sea-weed) or seebe (sedge), and is therefore used after the manner of a proper name; so that the inference drawn by Knobel on Exodus 8:18 from the absence of the article, that סוּף is the name of a town on the northern point of the gulf, is groundless. The miracle at the sea of sedge or sea-weed - as Psalm 106:12 says - also was not without effect. Exodus 14:31 tells us that they believed on Jahve and Moses His servant, and the song which they sang follows in Exodus 15. But they then only too quickly added sins of ingratitude.
Our fathers understood not thy wonders in Egypt; they remembered not the multitude of thy mercies; but provoked him at the sea, even at the Red sea.
Nevertheless he saved them for his name's sake, that he might make his mighty power to be known.
He rebuked the Red sea also, and it was dried up: so he led them through the depths, as through the wilderness.
And he saved them from the hand of him that hated them, and redeemed them from the hand of the enemy.
And the waters covered their enemies: there was not one of them left.
Then believed they his words; they sang his praise.
They soon forgat his works; they waited not for his counsel:The first of the principal sins on the other side of the Red Sea was the unthankful, impatient, unbelieving murmuring about their meat and drink, Psalm 106:13-15. For what Psalm 106:13 places foremost was the root of the whole evil, that, falling away from faith in God's promise, they forgot the works of God which had been wrought in confirmation of it, and did not wait for the carrying out of His counsel. The poet has before his eye the murmuring for water on the third day after the miraculous deliverance (Exodus 15:22-24) and in Rephidim (Exodus 17:2). Then the murmuring for flesh in the first and second years of the exodus which was followed by the sending of the quails (Exodus 16 and Numbers 11), together with the wrathful judgment by which the murmuring for the second time was punished (Kibrôth ha-Ta'avah, Numbers 11:33-35). This dispensation of wrath the poet calls רזון (lxx, Vulgate, and Syriac erroneously πλησμονήν, perhaps מזון, nourishment), inasmuch as he interprets Numbers 11:33-35 of a wasting disease, which swept away the people in consequence of eating inordinately of the flesh, and in the expression (cf. Psalm 78:31) he closely follows Isaiah 10:16. The "counsel" of God for which they would not wait, is His plan with respect to the time and manner of the help. חכּה, root Arab. ḥk, a weaker power of Arab. ḥq, whence also Arab. ḥkl, p. 111, ḥkm, p. 49 note 1, signifies prop. to make firm, e.g., a knot (cf. on Psalm 33:20), and starting from this (without the intervention of the metaphor moras nectere, as Schultens thinks) is transferred to a firm bent of mind, and the tension of long expectation. The epigrammatic expression ויּתאוּוּ תאוה (plural of ויתאו, Isaiah 45:12, for which codices, as also in Proverbs 23:3, Proverbs 23:6; Proverbs 24:1, the Complutensian, Venetian 1521, Elias Levita, and Baer have ויתאו without the tonic lengthening) is taken from Numbers 11:4.
The second principal sin was the insurrection against their superiors, Psalm 106:16-18. The poet has Numbers 16:1 in his eye. The rebellious ones were swallowed up by the earth, and their two hundred and fifty noble, non-Levite partisans consumed by fire. The fact that the poet does not mention Korah among those who were swallowed up is in perfect harmony with Numbers 16:25., Deuteronomy 11:6; cf. however Numbers 26:10. The elliptical תפתּה in Psalm 106:17 is explained from Numbers 16:32; Numbers 26:10.
The third principal sin was the worship of the calf, Psalm 106:19-23. The poet here glances back at Exodus 32, but not without at the same time having Deuteronomy 9:8-12 in his mind; for the expression "in Horeb" is Deuteronomic, e.g., Deuteronomy 4:15; Deuteronomy 5:2, and frequently. Psalm 106:20 is also based upon the Book of Deuteronomy: they exchanged their glory, i.e., the God who was their distinction before all peoples according to Deuteronomy 4:6-8; Deuteronomy 10:21 (cf. also Jeremiah 2:11), for the likeness (תּבנית) of a plough-ox (for this is pre-eminently called שׁוּר, in the dialects תּור), contrary to the prohibition in Deuteronomy 4:17. On Psalm 106:21 cf. the warning in Deuteronomy 6:12. "Land of Cham" equals Egypt, as in Psalm 78:51; Psalm 105:23, Psalm 105:27. With ויאמר in Psalm 106:23 the expression becomes again Deuteronomic: Deuteronomy 9:25, cf. Exodus 32:10. God made and also expressed the resolve to destroy Israel. Then Moses stepped into the gap (before the gap), i.e., as it were covered the breach, inasmuch as he placed himself in it and exposed his own life; cf. on the fact, besides Exodus 32, also Deuteronomy 9:18., Psalm 10:10, and on the expression, Ezekiel 22:30 and also Jeremiah 18:20.
But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert.
And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul.
They envied Moses also in the camp, and Aaron the saint of the LORD.
The earth opened and swallowed up Dathan, and covered the company of Abiram.
And a fire was kindled in their company; the flame burned up the wicked.
They made a calf in Horeb, and worshipped the molten image.
Thus they changed their glory into the similitude of an ox that eateth grass.
They forgat God their saviour, which had done great things in Egypt;
Wondrous works in the land of Ham, and terrible things by the Red sea.
Therefore he said that he would destroy them, had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach, to turn away his wrath, lest he should destroy them.
Yea, they despised the pleasant land, they believed not his word:The fact to which the poet refers in Psalm 106:24, viz., the rebellion in consequence of the report of the spies, which he brings forward as the fourth principal sin, is narrated in Numbers 13, Numbers 14. The appellation ארץ חמדּה is also found in Jeremiah 3:19; Zechariah 7:14. As to the rest, the expression is altogether Pentateuchal. "They despised the land," after Numbers 14:31; "they murmured in their tents," after Deuteronomy 1:27; "to lift up the land" equals to swear, after Exodus 6:8; Deuteronomy 32:40; the threat להפּיל, to make them fall down, fall away, after Numbers 14:29, Numbers 14:32. The threat of exile is founded upon the two great threatening chapters, Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 28:1; cf. more particularly Leviticus 26:33 (together with the echoes in Ezekiel 5:12; Ezekiel 12:14, etc.), Deuteronomy 28:64 (together with the echoes in Jeremiah 9:15; Ezekiel 22:15, etc.). Ezekiel 20:23 stands in a not accidental relationship to Psalm 106:26.; and according to that passage, וּלהפיל is an error of the copyist for וּלהפיץ (Hitzig).
Now follows in Psalm 106:28-31 the fifth of the principal sins, viz., the taking part in the Moabitish worship of Baal. The verb נצמד (to be bound or chained), taken from Numbers 25:3, Numbers 25:5, points to the prostitution with which Baal Per, this Moabitish Priapus, was worshipped. The sacrificial feastings in which, according to Numbers 25:2, they took part, are called eating the sacrifices of the dead, because the idols are dead beings (nekroi', Wisd. 13:10-18) as opposed to God, the living One. The catena on Revelation 2:14 correctly interprets: τὰ τοῖς εἰδώλοις τελεσθέντα κρέα.
(Note: In the second section of Aboda zara, on the words of the Mishna: "The flesh which is intended to be offered first of all to idols is allowed, but that which comes out of the temple is forbidden, because it is like sacrifices of the dead," it is observed, fol. 32b: "Whence, said R. Jehuda ben Bethra, do I know that that which is offered to idols (תקרובת לעבדה זרה) pollutes like a dead body? From Psalm 106:28. As the dead body pollutes everything that is under the same roof with it, so also does everything that is offered to idols." The Apostle Paul declares the objectivity of this pollution to be vain, cf. more particularly 1 Corinthians 10:28.)
The object of "they made angry" is omitted; the author is fond of this, cf. Psalm 106:7 and Psalm 106:32. The expression in Psalm 106:29 is like Exodus 19:24. The verb עמד is chosen with reference to Numbers 17:13. The result is expressed in Psalm 106:30 after Numbers 25:8, Numbers 25:18., Numbers 17:13. With פּלּל, to adjust, to judge adjustingly (lxx, Vulgate, correctly according to the sense, ἐξιλάσατο), the poet associates the thought of the satisfaction due to divine right, which Phinehas executed with the javelin. This act of zeal for Jahve, which compensated for Israel's unfaithfulness, was accounted unto him for righteousness, by his being rewarded for it with the priesthood unto everlasting ages, Numbers 25:10-13. This accounting of a work for righteousness is only apparently contradictory to Genesis 15:5.: it was indeed an act which sprang from a constancy in faith, and one which obtained for him the acceptation of a righteous man for the sake of this upon which it was based, by proving him to be such.
In Psalm 106:32, Psalm 106:33 follows the sixth of the principal sins, viz., the insurrection against Moses and Aaron at the waters of strife in the fortieth year, in connection with which Moses forfeited the entrance with them into the Land of Promise (Numbers 20:11., Deuteronomy 1:37; Deuteronomy 32:51), since he suffered himself to be carried away by the persevering obstinacy of the people against the Spirit of God (המרה mostly providing the future for מרה, as in Psalm 106:7, Psalm 106:43, Psalm 78:17, Psalm 78:40, Psalm 78:56, of obstinacy against God; on את־רוּחו cf. Isaiah 63:10) into uttering the words addressed to the people, Numbers 20:10, in which, as the smiting of the rock which was twice repeated shows, is expressed impatience together with a tinge of unbelief. The poet distinguishes, as does the narrative in Numbers 20, between the obstinacy of the people and the transgression of Moses, which is there designated, according to that which lay at the root of it, as unbelief. The retrospective reference to Numbers 27:14 needs adjustment accordingly.
But murmured in their tents, and hearkened not unto the voice of the LORD.
Therefore he lifted up his hand against them, to overthrow them in the wilderness:
To overthrow their seed also among the nations, and to scatter them in the lands.
They joined themselves also unto Baalpeor, and ate the sacrifices of the dead.
Thus they provoked him to anger with their inventions: and the plague brake in upon them.
Then stood up Phinehas, and executed judgment: and so the plague was stayed.
And that was counted unto him for righteousness unto all generations for evermore.
They angered him also at the waters of strife, so that it went ill with Moses for their sakes:
Because they provoked his spirit, so that he spake unadvisedly with his lips.
They did not destroy the nations, concerning whom the LORD commanded them:The sins in Canaan: the failing to exterminate the idolatrous peoples and sharing in their idolatry. In Psalm 106:34 the poet appeals to the command, frequently enjoined upon them from Exodus 23:32. onwards, to extirpate the inhabitants of Canaan. Since they did not execute this command (vid., Judges 1:1), that which it was intended to prevent came to pass: the heathen became to them a snare (mowqeesh), Exodus 23:33; Exodus 34:12; Deuteronomy 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 (Deuteronomy 12:31), and only the demons (שׁדים, Deuteronomy 32:17) delight in. Thus then the land was defiled by blood-guiltiness (חנף, Numbers 35:33, cf. Isaiah 24:5; Isaiah 26:21), and they themselves became unclean (Ezekiel 20:43) by the whoredom of idolatry. In Psalm 106:40-43 the poet (as in Nehemiah 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 (בּעצתם); wherefore they perished in their sins. The poet uses מכך (to sink down, fall away) instead of the נמק (to moulder, rot) of the primary passage, Leviticus 26:39, retained in Ezekiel 24:23; Ezekiel 33:10, which is no blunder (Hitzig), but a deliberate change.
But were mingled among the heathen, and learned their works.
And they served their idols: which were a snare unto them.
Yea, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils,
And shed innocent blood, even the blood of their sons and of their daughters, whom they sacrificed unto the idols of Canaan: and the land was polluted with blood.
Thus were they defiled with their own works, and went a whoring with their own inventions.
Therefore was the wrath of the LORD kindled against his people, insomuch that he abhorred his own inheritance.
And he gave them into the hand of the heathen; and they that hated them ruled over them.
Their enemies also oppressed them, and they were brought into subjection under their hand.
Many times did he deliver them; but they provoked him with their counsel, and were brought low for their iniquity.
Nevertheless he regarded their affliction, when he heard their cry: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 1 Kings 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 (Psalm 107:3), Babylonia, Egypt, etc.: God has turned the hearts of their oppressors towards them. On ראה ב, to regard compassionately, cf. Genesis 29:32; 1 Samuel 1:11. בּצּר לחם belong together, as in Psalm 107:6, and frequently. רנּה is a cry of lamentation, as in 1 Kings 8:28 in Solomon's prayer at the dedication of the Temple. From this source comes Psalm 106:6, and also from this source Psalm 106:46, cf. 1 Kings 8:50 together with Nehemiah 1:11. In ויּנּחם the drawing back of the tone does not take place, as in Genesis 24:67. חסדו beside כּרב is not pointed by the Kerמ חסדּו, as in Psalm 5:8; Psalm 69:14, but as in Lamentations 3:32, according to Psalm 106:7, Isaiah 63:7, חסדו: in accordance with the fulness (riches) of His manifold mercy or loving-kindness. The expression in Psalm 106:46 is like Genesis 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 Psalm 106:47 that God may be pleased to put an end to this.
And he remembered for them his covenant, and repented according to the multitude of his mercies.
He made them also to be pitied of all those that carried them captives.
Save us, O LORD our God, and gather us from among the heathen, to give thanks unto thy holy name, and to triumph in thy praise.He has now reached the goal, to which his whole Psalm struggles forth, by the way of self-accusation and the praise of the faithfulness of God. השׁתּבּח (found only here) is the reflexive of the Piel, to account happy, Ecclesiastes 4:2, therefore: in order that we may esteem ourselves happy to be able to praise Thee. In this reflexive (and also passive) sense השׁתבח is customary in Aramaic and post-biblical Hebrew.
Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting: and let all the people say, Amen. Praise ye the LORD.The closing doxology of the Fourth Book. The chronicler has ואמרוּ before Psalm 106:47 (which with him differs only very slightly), an indispensable rivet, so to speak, in the fitting together of Psalm 106:1 (Psalm 107:1) and Psalm 106:47. The means this historian, who joins passages together like mosaic-work, calls to his aid are palpable enough. He has also taken over. Psalm 106:48 by transforming and let all the people say Amen, Hallelujah! in accordance with his style (cf. 1 Chronicles 25:3; 2 Chronicles 5:13, and frequently, Ezra 3:11), into an historical clause: ויּאמרוּ כל־העם אמן והלּל ליהוה. Hitzig, by regarding the echoes of the Psalms in the chronicler as the originals of the corresponding Psalms in the Psalter, and consequently 1 Chronicles 16:36 as the original of the Beracha placed after our Psalm, reverses the true relation; vid., with reference to this point, Riehm in the Theolog. Literat. Blatt, 1866, No. 30, and Kצhler in the Luther. Zeitschrift, 1867, S. 297ff. The priority of Psalm 106 is clear from the fact that Psalm 106:1 gives a liturgical key-note that was in use even in Jeremiah's time (Psalm 33:11), and that Psalm 106:47 reverts to the tephilla-style of the introit, Psalm 106:4. And the priority of Psalm 106:48 as a concluding formula of the Fourth Book is clear from the fact that is has been fashioned, like that of the Second Book (Psalm 72:18.), under the influence of the foregoing Psalm. The Hallelujah is an echo of the Hallelujah-Psalm, just as there the Jahve Elohim is an echo of the Elohim-Psalm. And "let all the people say Amen" is the same closing thought as in Psalm 106:6 of Ps, which is made into the closing doxology of the whole Psalter. Ἀμὴν ἀλληλούΐα together (Revelation 19:4) is a laudatory confirmation.