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Bible Commentaries

Adam Clarke Commentary

Psalms 106




God is praised for his manifold mercies, Psalm 106:1-3. The prophet prays for himself, Psalm 106:4, Psalm 106:5. A recapitulation of the history of the Hebrew people: of God's mercies toward them, and their rebellions, vv. 6-39. The judgments and affictions which their transgressions brought upon them, Psalm 106:40-42. God's mercy to them notwithstanding their transgressions, Psalm 106:43-46. He prays for their restoration, Psalm 106:47, Psalm 106:48.

As a part of the preceding Psalm is found in 1 Chronicles 16, so the first and two last verses of this are found in the same place, ( 1 Chronicles 16:34-36;), and yet it is supposed by eminent commentators to be a prayer of the captives in Babylon, who acknowledge the mercies of God, confess their own sins, and those of their forefathers, and implore the Lord to gather them from among the heathen, and restore them to their own country. In none of the Versions except the Syriac has it any title, except Hallelujah, Praise ye the Lord, the word with which the original commences. The Syriac gives us a sort of table of its contents; or rather shows us the subjects to which it may be applied, and the uses we should make of it. After stating that it has no title, it says, "It calls upon men to observe the Divine precepts, and teaches us that the more the Jews transgressed, the more we should fear. That we should not talk together in the church, nor ever contend with our brethren on any account; and especially when we assist in the celebration of the Divine mysteries and in prayer: and that when we sin we should repent." All this is very good: but it would be difficult to find these subjects in the Psalm, or any thing on which they could be rationally founded. But it shows us that the Scriptures were very easily accommodated to particular uses, not originally intended: and hence arose much of the practice of spiritualizing and allegorizing; which, to say the least of it, has been of no use to the Church of Christ.

Verse 1

Praise ye the Lord - This, which is a sort of title, is wanting in several MSS., and in the Syriac Version.

O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good - Ye who live by his bounty should praise his mercy. God is the good Being, and of all kinds of good he is the Author and Dispenser. That the term God among our Anglo-Saxon ancestors, expressed both the Supreme Being and good or goodness, is evident from the Anglo-Saxon version of this clause: "Confess Lord for that God, (or good), for that on world mildheartness his." Which the old Psalter thus translates and paraphrases: -

Trans. Schifes to Lorde for he is gude; for in worlde the mercy of him.

Par - Schryfes synes, and louyngs to God. for he is gude of kynde, that nane do bot aske his mercy; for it lastes to the worlds ende in wriches whame it comfortes and delyvers: and the blysfulhede that is gyfen thrugh mercy is endles. That is: -

Confess your sins, and give praise to God, for he is good in his nature to all that ask his mercy; for it lasts to the world's end in comforting and delivering the wretched: and the blessedness that is given through mercy is endless.

Verse 2

Who can utter the mighty acts of the Lord? - His acts are all acts of might; and particularly those in behalf of his followers.

Verse 3

Blessed are they that keep judgment, and he that doeth righteousness at all times - How near do the Anglo-Saxon, the ancient Scottish Version, and the present translation, approach to each other!


"Blessed they that holdeth doom, and doth righteousness in ilkere tide."


Blisful tha that kepes dome, and duse rightwisnes in ilk tyme.

Those are truly blessed, or happy, whose hearts are devoted to God, and who live in the habit of obedience. Those, the general tenor of whose life is not conformed to the will of God, have no true happiness.

Verse 4

Remember me - This and the following clauses are read in the plural by several MSS.: Remember Us - that We may rejoice, - that We may glory, etc.: and thus all the Versions except the Chaldee; and this is more agreeable to the context.

Verse 5

That I may see the good of thy chosen - That I may enjoy the good, for so the word see is understood among the Hebrews. "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God," - they shall enjoy him, possess his favor, and be made like unto him.

Verse 6

We have sinned - Here the confession begins; what preceded was only the introduction to what follows: Our forefathers sinned, and suffered; we, like them, have sinned, and do suffer.

Verse 7

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.
  • 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 ים על al yam, "At the sea;" סוף בים beyam suph, "In the sea Suph," or Red Sea. They provoked him at it and in it.

    Verse 8

    He saved them for his name's sake - שמו למען lemaan shemo, "on account of his name;" to manifest his own power, goodness, and perfections. There was nothing which he could draw from them as a reason why he should save them; therefore he drew the reason from himself. There is a singular gloss in the old Psalter on this verse: "Whan thai cam oute of Egypt to the rede Se, whare thai were closed on a syde with a hylle that na man mygt passe: on another side was the rede See: behynde tham was men of Egypt foluand; and for this thai began to gruch, forgetand Gods mygt: bot than he safed tham, depertand the Se in twelfe, to ilk kynde of Isrel a passage." It seems as if this author thought there were twelve passages made through the Red Sea, that each tribe should have a passage to itself.

    Verse 9

    He rebuked the Red Sea - In the descriptions of the psalmist every thing has life. The sea is an animated being, behaves itself proudly, is rebuked, and retires in confusion.

    Verse 10

    The hand of him that hated them - Pharaoh.

    Verse 12

    Then believed they - Just while the miracle was before their eyes.

    Verse 13

    They soon forgat his works - Three days afterwards, at the waters of Marah, Exodus 15:24.

    They waited not for his counsel - They were impatient, and would not wait till God should in his own way fulfll his own designs.

    Verse 15

    Sent leanness - They despised the manna, and called it light, that is, innutritive, bread. God gave flesh as they desired, but gave no blessing with it; and in consequence they did not fatten, but grew lean upon it. Their souls also suffered want.

    Verse 16

    They envied Moses - A reference to the case of Korah and his company.

    Aaron the saint - The anointed, the high priest of the Lord.

    Verse 20

    Thus they changed their glory - That is, their God, who was their glory; and they worshipped an ox in his stead. See the use St Paul makes of this, Romans 1:23; (note); see also the note there. The incorruptible God was thus served by all the heathen world.

    Verse 22

    Wondrous works in the land of Ham - The plagues inflicted on the Egyptians. Egypt is called the Land of Ham or Cham, because it was peopled by Misraim the son of Cham.

    Verse 23

    Moses his chosen - Or elect; (Vulgate, electus ejus; Septuagint, ὁ εκλεκτος αυτου ); the person that he had appointed for this work. It would be very difficult to show that this word in any part of the Old Testament refers to the eternal state of any man, much less to the doctrine of unconditional election and reprobation.

    Verse 28

    They joined themselves also unto Baalpeor - The Vulgate, Septuagint, and others, have Belphegor; the Syriac and Arabic, the idol Phegor, or Phaaur; the ע ain in the word being pronounced as gh.

    Ate the sacrifices or the dead - מתים methim, of dead men. Most of the heathen idols were seen, who had been deified after their death; many of whom had been execrated during their life.

    Verse 33

    They provoked his spirit - המרו himru, from מרה marah, to rebel: they brought it into a rebellious state; he was soured and irritated, and was off his guard.

    So that he spake unadvisedly with his lips - For this sentence we have only these two words in the Hebrew, בשפתיו ויבטא vayebatte bisephathaiv, he stuttered or stammered with his lips, indicating that he was transported with anger. See the notes on Numbers 20:10-12; (note).

    Verse 36

    They served their idols - עצביהם atsabbeyhem, their labors or griefs - idols, so called because of the pains taken in forming them, the labor in worshipping them, and the grief occasioned by the Divine judgments against the people for their idolatry.

    Verse 37

    They sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils - See 2 Kings 16:3; Isaiah 57:5; Ezekiel 16:20; ezekiel Ezekiel 20:26. That causing their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Moloch did not always mean they burnt them to death in the flames, is very probable. But all the heathen had human sacrifices; of this their history is full. Unto devils, לשדים lashshedim, to demons. Devil is never in Scripture used in the plural; there is but One devil, though there are Many demons.

    Verse 39

    And went a whoring - By fornication, whoredom, and idolatry, the Scripture often expresses idolatry and idolatrous acts. I have given the reason of this in other places. Besides being false to the true God, to whom they are represented as betrothed and married, (and their acts of idolatry were breaches of this solemn engagement), the worship of idols was frequently accompanied with various acts of impurity.

    The translation in the Anglo-Saxon is very remarkable: and they fornicated. In Anglo-Saxon, signifies to fire, to ignite; to commit adultery. So is a prostitute, a whore; and is to go a whoring, to fornicate; probably from, or to fire, and to lie, or a glutton, - one who lies with fire, who is ignited by it, who is greedily intent upon the act by which he is inflamed. And do not the words themselves show that in former times whoredom was punished, as it is now, by a disease which produces the sensation of burning in the unhappy prostitutes, whether male or female? And to this meaning the following seems particularly to be applicable.

    Verse 40

    Therefore was the wrath of the Lord kindled - God kindled a fire in his judgments for those who by their flagitious conduct had inflamed themselves with their idols, and the impure rites with which they were worshipped.

    Verse 43

    Many times did he deliver them - See the Book of Judges; it is a history of the rebellions and deliverances of the Israelites.

    Verse 46

    He made them also to be pitied - This was particularly true as to the Babylonish captivity; for Cyrus gave them their liberty; Darius favored them, and granted them several privileges; and Artaxerxes sent back Nehemiah, and helped him to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. See the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah; and see Calmet.

    Verse 47

    Save us, O Lord - and gather us - These words, says Calmet, are found in the hymn that was sung at the ceremony of bringing the ark to Jerusalem, 1 Chronicles 16; but it is supposed they were added by Ezra or some other prophet: here they are in their natural place. The author of the Psalm begs the Lord to gather the Israelites who were dispersed through different countries; for at the dedication of the second temple, under Nehemiah, (where it is probable this Psalm, with the 105th and the 107th, was sung), there were very few Jews who had as yet returned from their captivity.

    Verse 48

    Blessed be the Lord God of Israel - Here both gratitude and confidence are expressed; gratitude for what God had already wrought, and confidence that he would finish the great work of their restoration.

    From everlasting to everlasting - האולם ועד האולם מן min haolam vead haolam, "from the hidden term to the hidden term," from the beginning of time to the end of time, from eternity and on to eternity. Fra worlde and into worlde, old Psalter; which it paraphrases thus: Fra with outen beginning, & withouten endyng.

    And let all the people say, Amen - Let the people join in the prayer and in the thanksgiving, that God may hear and answer. Anglo-Saxon: "And, quoth all folk, be it, be it." Hallelujah - Praise ye Jehovah! Let his name be eternally magnified! Amen.

    This is the end of the fourth book of the Psalms.


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    These files are public domain.

    Bibliography Information
    Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Psalms 106:4". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

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