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Psalms 107 Summary - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

THE PSALMS

BOOK V

Psalms 107-150

This Psalm is a call to thanksgiving addressed to the returned exiles, and enforced by various instances of Jehovah’s goodness to men in the manifold perils of life.

i. Introduction (Psa 107:1-3). The prayer of Psa 106:47 has been answered. Israel has been ransomed from captivity, and brought back from the lands of exile to its own land. The Psalmist calls upon “Jehovah’s redeemed ones” to unite in offering to Him the thanksgiving which was contemplated (Psa 106:47 c, d) as the object of their restoration.

ii. A scries of four pictures follows (Psa 107:4-32) vividly representing the goodness of Jehovah in delivering men from the extremity of trouble and danger in answer to their prayers. Each strophe is symmetrically constructed. First there is a description of the sufferers’ plight; then their cry for help and its answer; then a call to thanksgiving, supplemented in Psa 107:9 ; Psa 107:16 by the reason for it, in Psa 107:22 ; Psa 107:32 by an amplification of the appeal. The double refrain with its variations ( Psa 107:6-9 ; Psalms 13-16; Psalms 19-22; Psalms 28-32) is strikingly effective.

1. Travellers through the desert who have lost their way and are on the point of perishing from hunger and thirst are guided to an inhabited city (Psa 107:4-9).

2. Prisoners in the dungeon, or exiles who are like prisoners, suffering the punishment of their transgressions, are released (Psa 107:10-16).

3. Sick men, whose sickness is a chastisement for their sin, are restored to health (Psa 107:17-22).

4. Sailors, all but wrecked in a terrific storm, are brought safe to their destination (Psa 107:23-32).

iii. Here the structure and subject change. The refrains disappear, and in place of the vivid pictures of life we have the Psalmist’s reflections on the vicissitudes in the fortunes of countries and of men regarded as a proof of the providential government of the world.

1. Jehovah smites a fruitful land with barrenness for the wickedness of its inhabitants, and transforms a wilderness into a fertile home for the poor and needy (Psa 107:33-38).

2. If they are oppressed He defends them, and confounds their oppressors, to the joy of the righteous, and the discomfiture of the wicked (Psa 107:39-42).

iv. The Psalm ends with an exhortation to mark and ponder such facts as these which are proofs of Jehovah’s lovingkindness (Psa 107:43).

The connexion of the central part of the Psalm with the introduction requires some further consideration. The pictures which it contains are scenes from real life, chosen to illustrate God’s goodness in answering men’s prayers in circumstances of trial and suffering, and to enforce the duty of thanksgiving. But since the Psalm opens with an exhortation to the returned exiles, it can hardly be doubted that they are meant to see in these pictures not only general proofs of God’s goodness, but illustrations of their own experience. Israel had been on the point of perishing in the great desert of the world. It had been imprisoned for its transgressions in the gloomy dungeon of exile, and had lain there crushed and hopeless. It had been sick unto death through its own sin. It had been all but swallowed up in the vast sea of the nations. The scenes are at once fact and figure; scenes from life, yet intended to represent Israel’s experience. This is especially clear in Psa 107:10-16, where some touches are obviously national not personal.

The unity of the Psalm has been called in question. It has been suggested that Psa 107:1-3 are an introduction, prefixed to a Psalm of more general import, in order to adapt it for liturgical use: and again that Psa 107:33-43 are an appendix, attached to the original Psalm by a later and inferior poet. The suggestion is plausible but unnecessary. The connexion between the introduction and the main part of the Psalm is intelligible, and the main part of the Psalm is suitable to the circumstances of the returned exiles; while the latter part, if (to our taste) somewhat inferior in form and vigour, offers consolation and encouragement to them in view of the vicissitudes of fortune to which they had been or were likely to be exposed. It has moreover links of connexion in style and language with the earlier part: Psa 107:36 for example refers back to Psa 107:4-5: and the dependence on Job and Isaiah 40-66, which is a marked feature of the earlier part, is even more noticeable here. It is however curious that Psa 107:23-28 ; Psa 107:40 are to be marked, according to Massoretic tradition, with ‘inverted nûns’ [i.e. the letter n, נ ], which are supposed to be the equivalent of brackets, and to mark some dislocation of the text or uncertainty in regard to it. Why Psa 107:23-28 should be so marked is not obvious, but it is not improbable that Psa 107:39-40 should be transposed. See Ginsburg, Introd. to Heb. Bible, pp. 341 ff.

The Psalm plainly belongs to the post-exilic period, but to what part of it is uncertain. Its tone however would seem to point to the restoration being still comparatively recent.

Notwithstanding the division of the books, it is closely related to the preceding Psalms. Psalms 105, 106, 107 may be said to form a trilogy. Psalms 105 celebrates God’s goodness in the choice of Israel and the deliverance from Egypt: Psalms 106 is a confession of Israel’s obstinate rebellion against God’s purpose for it: Psalms 107 is a call to thanksgiving for its restoration from exile. They refer, broadly speaking, to three successive periods of the national history. The first contains the fulfilment of the promise, “He gave them the lands of the nations ” (Psa 105:44): the second contains the warning that “He would scatter them in the lands ” (Psa 106:27); the third relates the restoration, “He gathered them out of the lands ” (Psa 107:3). The refrain of Psa 107:6 ; Psa 107:13 ; Psa 107:19 ; Psa 107:28 is an echo of Psa 106:44: with Psa 107:2 cp. Psa 106:10; with Psa 107:11 cp. Psa 106:13; Psa 106:33; Psa 106:43; with Psa 107:20 cp. Psa 105:19.

Consult other comments:

Psalms 107:0 - Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible

Psalms 107:0 - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

Psalms 107:0 - Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers (Old and New Testaments)

Psalms 107:0 - John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

Psalms 107:0 - Matthew Henry's Whole Bible Commentary

Psalms 107:0 - Jamieson, Fausset and Brown's Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Psalms 107:0 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament

Psalms 107:0 - English Annotations on the Holy Bible by Matthew Poole

Psalms 107:0 - Whedon's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges