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Deeper Commentary

Psa 106:1

Praise Yahweh! Give thanks to Yahweh, for He is good, for His grace endures forever-
The previous Psalm 105 has asked God to restore the exiles, to come through for them, because this is what He has done for His people in the past. But there has been no acceptance of grace, of their sinfulness, or of the consequence for sin. This Psalm presents a different picture of Israel's history; it is of their sinfulness, and God's radical grace. And the Psalm asks God to continue that grace. There is still not the total confession of sin which we see in Daniel's prayer (Dan. 9) nor in Ezra's (Ezra 9). But there is an acceptance of their sinfulness and God's grace, and the final appeal for an "Amen" is asking the audience to accept this and to ask for it to continue. "His grace endures forever" is a way of effectively asking for that grace towards sinners to continue to the exiles.

Psa 106:2

Who can utter the mighty acts of Yahweh, or fully declare all His praise?-
The psalmist utters forth the mighty acts of God in this Psalm with the preface enquiring as to who can adequately do this. And then proceeds to do just that. He did so with a clear recognition of his own inadequacy. The Psalms of praise are full of this theme. The mighty acts which will be listed are those of radical forgiveness.

Psa 106:3

Blessed are those who keep justice. Blessed is the one who does what is right-
David so often parallels righteousness and justice / truth (Ps. 9:8; 33:5; 37:6; 72:2; 94:15; 99:7; 103:6; 106:3). Indeed, this parallel is so common in God's word. What it means is that the righteousness of God is a just righteousness. It's not fake, 'I'll turn a blind eye'. It is true, real, valid, and has integrity underpinned in the very essential justice of God Himself. Justice and righteousness may appear abstract ideas, mere theology. But the result is that the person who believes God's righteousness is imputed to him or her... will feel this, they will know it to be true, they can by grace, in faith, quietly hold their head up before God. And David after Bathsheba is our example. He believed and felt this imputed righteousness. It's not so much a case of 'forgiving ourselves' after God has forgiven us, but rather of being swamped by this very real and legitimate sense that truly, we have been counted righteous. And Paul in Romans holds up David after Bathsheba as the personal example to " every one who is Godly" in their time of spiritual need. See on Ps. 41:12.

At all times-
Consistency is most important in spiritual life rather than occasional flashes of devotion and obedience.

Psa 106:4

Remember me, Yahweh, with the grace that You show to Your people; visit me with Your salvation-
The psalmist, originally David but rewritten by someone else at the time of the exile (perhaps Jeremiah, Ezra or Daniel), confesses that he too on a personal level needs the grace which he is going to celebrate. And he looks personally for salvation from a Divine 'visitation'. Perhaps he perceived that salvation from Babylon in the restored Kingdom could have been eternal; potentially. But the preconditions weren't met. But that may well have been his legitimate hope.

 Psa 106:5

that I may see the prosperity of Your chosen, that I may rejoice in the gladness of Your nation, that I may glory with Your inheritance-
David was clearly the "chosen one... My servant" (Ps. 89:3), but these very terms are applied to Israel as a whole (Ps. 105:6,43; 106:5) and to the "servant" of later Isaiah, who refers to both Israel and their Messiah as their embodiment (Is. 42:1; 45:4). David's path of sin, repentance and restoration was intended to be that of all God's people, as he himself recognizes in Ps. 32. But the exiles refused to repent and therefore their restoration was precluded. They were not therefore treated as His "chosen one". The Psalmist’s desire for salvation wasn’t merely because he or she wanted to live eternally. There was a desire to see all God’s people glorying in salvation. Salvation is made possible in that God’s people as a whole have been redeemed; there is such a thing as spiritual selfishness, desiring the Kingdom merely for what it means to us. But if we have the perspective of God’s glory, we will desire the coming of salvation because all of us will be glorified. Hence Paul could say that the joy he would have in the Kingdom would be related to his joy that his brethren were also there (1 Thess. 2:19).

Why do I want to be in the Kingdom? What makes this the dominant desire which we will surely receive? David asked to be given “thy salvation… that I may see the good of thy chosen, that I may rejoice in the gladness of thy nation” (AV). Paul likewise says that to see the Thessalonians in the Kingdom would be his glory and joy in that day. Both those men had a perspective far bigger than merely themselves. If our sole desire to ‘be there’ is so that I will live for ever, I will have a nice level of existence… this, it seems to me, is not only essentially selfish, but our basic dysfunction and tendency to devaluing of ourselves just will not allow us to have the receipt of personal eternity as our dominant desire. We’ll be interested in it, but it won’t consistently be the thing we desire above all else. But if we see the wider picture, then we will pray for the Kingdom to come so that the things of God’s Name may be glorified; because we want to see our dear brethren there in the Kingdom; because we will want to share our Lord’s joy and their joy. These things are more than the primitive desire for self-preservation which we all have, and which we can articulate in terms of wanting to personally be in the Kingdom. Thus if our motives are right for wanting to be in the Kingdom, then this will become our dominant desire; and we will be granted the desires of our heart. Really we will be. God’s word promises this.

David saw his sufferings as being bound up with those of Israel; those who hated him hated Zion, those who blessed him blessed Zion, and God's salvation of Israel was being expressed through God's deliverance of him in the daily vicissitudes of life; as God had chosen Zion, so He had David His servant; David's joy was Zion's joy, and her exaltation would be David's  (Ps. 51:18; 69:35; 87:2; 106:5; 121:3,4; 125:1; 128:5; 146:10; 149:2). This is how we are to make sense of suffering- by understanding that it plays a role in the salvation of others, and is part of a wider nexus of Divine operation. We suffer so that we may be able to minister the comfort we receive to others (2 Cor. 1:4). Job likewise came to realize that his sufferings were not so much for his personal maturing, but for the teaching and salvation of the friends.

Psa 106:6

We have sinned with our fathers-
Continuing the thought of :5, the Psalmist felt that he personally was somehow involved in the sin of God’s people (“we have sinned”); Ezra and Daniel prayed and felt likewise at the time of the exile. We aren’t called to smug self righteousness, avoiding guilt by association; but rather the opposite. We are to feel a personal involvement in the failures and successes of God’s people as a whole.

For Paul, his joy and crown would be to see his brethren accepted into God's Kingdom at judgment day. David had the same spirit when he wrote of how he longed to "see the prosperity of thy chosen, that I may rejoice in the gladness of thy nation, that I may glory with thine inheritance" (Ps. 106:5). His personal vision of God's Kingdom involved seeing others there; there's no hint of spiritual selfishness in David. And he goes straight on to comment: "We have sinned with our fathers, we have committed iniquity... our fathers understood not..." (Ps. 106:6). David felt himself very much at one with the community of God's children, both in their failures and in their ultimate hope. Life with God simply can't be lived in isolation from the rest of His people. Our salvation in that sense has a collective aspect to it, and if we want 'out' with the community of believers in this life, then we're really voting ourselves out of their future glory.

We have committed iniquity- The word used by David about his sin (Ps. 38:6). David's repentance and restoration was to be their pattern.

We have done wickedly- This is s.w. Ps. 18:21, where earlier David had  boasted that "I have not wickedly departed from my God". "Wickedly departed" is the word usually translated "condemn" (e.g. Ps. 37:33). Those who depart from God condemn themselves. This is a major Biblical theme; that the condemned are more self-condemned rather than condemned by God. "We make the answer now". But now later David was to realize that he too had wickedly departed from God, and confession of that was vital for salvation.

Psa 106:7

Our fathers didn’t understand Your wonders in Egypt. They didn’t remember the multitude of Your graces, but were rebellious at the sea, even at the Red Sea-
Even at the very moment of their salvation they were rebellious. God didn’t save them because they had reached a certain level of righteousness, let alone "understanding", but because of His grace; see on :12. The Red Sea crossing represents our baptism (1 Cor. 10:1,2); God has saved us by His grace, not because of our righteousness.

Because of the high degree of God manifestation in Moses, he was so severely punished for not sanctifying Yahweh in the eyes of Israel in his sin of smiting the rock. Israel provoking his spirit to sin at this time is spoken of in the context of the way in which they provoked God’s spirit (Ps. 106:7,29,33,43) - such was God’s manifestation in Moses even while he was sinning. And so God is manifest in sinful men like us too. Moses knew this, he knew his closeness to God through manifestation, and yet he yearned to see God physically, he struggled with his distance from God (Ex. 33:18,20). The spirit of Christ in the Psalms is similar. And for us too.

Psa 106:8

Nevertheless He saved them for His name’s sake, that He might make His mighty power known-
Salvation for His Name's sake is the same as saying that He saved them by grace (:1). Grace is the quintessence of the Yahweh Name. The "mighty power" that was made known was not so much His physical, material ability to divide waters- but His grace and salvation of the unworthy (:7).

Psa 106:9

He rebuked the Red Sea also, and it was dried up; so He led them through the depths, as through a desert-
As noted on :1, this is being cited in the context of exemplifying God's saving grace to the unworthy. He saved those who didn't "understand", who doubted right at the shores of the Red Sea (:7). But all the same He led them through the Red Sea, which was made as dry as the desert they would now be led through further. And God likewise can save even without full faith and "understanding" at the time of our baptism (1 Cor. 10:1,2); if subsequently we believe in and cling to His saving program for us.

Psa 106:10

He saved them from the hand of him who hated them, and redeemed them from the hand of the enemy-
Saving and redeeming are the words brought together elsewhere only in the context of God's desire to be the "saviour and redeemer" of the exiles through His offer of restoration (Is. 49:26; 60:16; 63:9). The redemption of a misunderstanding and disbelieving people of God from Egypt could have been the pattern for the salvation and redemption of the exiles from Babylon. Deliverance from the hand of haters is an idea commonly used by David about his salvation from Saul (Ps. 18:17,40 and often). This early Psalm of David has been reworked, under Divine inspiration, to be relevant to the exiles.

Psa 106:11

The waters covered their adversaries, there was not one of them left-
The destruction of the Egyptians is cited here as an example of God's grace to Israel (see on Ps. 106:1), and it is likewise used in Ps. 136:15. One take on the situation is that God foreknew that if He had not killed those Egyptians, they would have killed the Israelites.

Psa 106:12

Then they believed His words, they sang His praise-
All these examples from Israel's history are to exemplify God's absolute saving grace. They only "believed His words" after they had been saved through their Red Sea baptism (1 Cor. 10:1,2). And so it can be in the Christian experience. This also explains why the New Testament speaks of us being baptized, by God through the Spirit. Grammatically, baptism is something done to us (1 Cor. 12:13). This has its basis in how Israel were baptized into Moses by God (1 Cor. 10:1,2). This is not to say that we should not first believe and then be baptized. But nearly every honest Christian would surely accept that our understanding and faith was weak at that point, and we were led by God's Spirit (or "providence", if you prefer) to the waters of baptism. We were saved as were Israel, but it is for us to believe it afterwards. See on :7,22.

Psa 106:13

They soon forgot His works, they didn’t wait for His word-
This seems to describe Israel's rebellions in language relevant to Saul, as if he represented them (1 Sam. 13:8). This Psalm likely started as one of David's, but was rewritten under Divine inspiration as relevant to the exiles. The impression is of haste: "They made haste, they forgot his works; they waited not for his counsel" (LXX). God's word is not revealed to us all in one go; His will is revealed in response to our patient response to what we currently understand of His will. And Israel ought to have perceived that God by grace had saved them. But they forgot that grace, and panicked when things didn't appear to work out, and turned away from Him rather than remembering His grace. And that was the lesson for the exiles.

Psa 106:14

but gave in to their craving in the desert, and tested God in the wasteland-
God had provided them with manna; but they craved flesh, meat; the same term is used in Num. 11:4. This is the phrase only elsewhere used for Israel's coveting of meat in the wilderness (Num. 11:4), but it is used once more, in Prov. 21:26. This explains that the reason for their lust was because they were lazy (Prov. 21:25). They ought to have instead thought of what they could give, rather than lusting for what they could additionally get. This generous attitude is the antidote to lust.

Psa 106:15

He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul-
If we fulfil our fleshly craving, we will become internally and spiritually hungry. Giving in to our cravings isn’t the way to happiness. But the way God gave them their request is cited here as an example of God's grace to Israel; for that is the theme of this Psalm. The idea is repeated with the same words in Is. 10:16: "Therefore shall the Lord... send among His fat ones leanness". Again we see the intended parallels between Israel in dispersion and Israel in the wilderness.

Psa 106:16

They envied Moses also in the camp, and Aaron, Yahweh’s saint-
Aaron was a "saint" in that he was a chosen one, separated unto God's purpose. But the rebels were unprepared to accept God's choice of saviours; and yet His saving purpose still continued with them, despite punishing the rebels (:17). And this was the simple lesson for the exiles, and for us all as we despair of our own weakness.

Psa 106:17

The earth opened and swallowed up Dathan, and covered the company of Abiram-
We note that "Korah" isn't mentioned here, although the rebellion was by Korah, Dathan and Abiram. Perhaps this was because the "sons of Korah" survived and were zealous in the temple service. Num. 16:32; 26:10 stress that the "earth opened" (s.w.) and swallowed up Korah and his followers. The pointed omission of "Korah" here is perhaps to point out God's grace in working through Korah's descendants. And again, this was the message the exiles needed to grasp; their fathers had sinned, they were in captivity, but they needed to follow the pattern of the sons of Korah. 

Psa 106:18

A fire was kindled in their company, the flame burned up the wicked-
The intention of this Psalm, as explained on :1, is to chronicle God's grace to a very sinful Israel. The "fire kindled" is the term used of the burning bush which was not consumed (Ex. 3:2), just as mount Sinai was kindled with fire but not consumed (especially stressed in Deuteronomy; Dt. 4:11; 5:23; 9;15). The idea is that although all Israel had sinned, only some of them were consumed, but the people as a whole were not consumed. The exiles would walk through kindled fire and not be consumed (s.w. Is. 43:2). God's purposes with His people would stand, even though the "fire was kindled" in the Babylon invasion (Jer. 4:4; Lam. 2:3 s.w.), but they would be saved out of condemnation and not be consumed as a nation. 

Psa 106:19

They made a calf in Horeb, and worshiped a molten image-
We have just read of the fire kindled in God's wrath against His people. But they kindled that fire themselves (Is. 9:18; Hos 7:6), and used it to produce a molten image. Israel were to make no images in worship, because the God they worshipped was real, existing in an actual material form in heaven. They were to make no image of Him because they were to believe He was for real, before their very eyes if they had perceptive eyes of faith. And they were to realize that their own bodies were in His image.

Psa 106:20

Thus they exchanged their glory for an image of a bull that eats grass-
"Their glory" refers to God. It was unthinkable that a nation changed their gods; they only did so when conquered by other nations who forced them to do so. This was the awful sin of Israel, in exchanging Yahweh for idols (Jer. 2:11). They of course didn't see it as "exchange", but rather worshipping Yahweh through worshipping other idols; or worshipping Him as well as idols. This is the kind of temptation we face all the time; but here it is condemned as "exchanging" Yahweh for idols.

There is good reason to believe that Romans 1 is a description of Israel in the wilderness; notice the past tenses there. Rom. 1:23 charges them with changing "the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like... to four-footed beasts, and creeping things", clearly alluding to Ps. 106:20 concerning how Israel in the wilderness "Changed their glory into the similitude of an ox that eateth grass" by making the golden calf. The effective atheism of Rom. 1 is matched by Ps. 106:21 "They forgat God their saviour". The long catalogue of Israel's wilderness sins in Ps. 106 is similar to that in Rom.1. "Full of envy" (Rom. 1:29) corresponds to them envying Moses (Ps. 106:16), "whisperers" (Rom. 1:29) to "murmurers" (Ps. 106:25), and "inventors of evil things" (Rom. 1:30) to God being angered with "their inventions" of false gods (Ps. 106:29). Because of this "God gave them up" to continue in their sexual perversion and bitterness with each other even to the extent of murder (Rom. 1:27,29). A rabble of about 2 million people living in moral anarchy with little law and order, driven on in their lust by the knowledge that God had rejected them is surely a frightening thing to imagine. The emphasis on sexual sin in Rom.1 is paralleled by 1 Cor. 10 stressing the frequent failure of Israel in the wilderness in this regard. Against such an evil and God forsaking background that young generation rebelled, to become one of the most faithful groups of Israelites in their history. As such they set a glorious example to the youth of today in rebelling against a world that mocks any form of true spirituality.

“Likeness” in Rom. 1:23 is used in the LXX in the frequent warnings not to make an image or likeness of any god, let alone Yahweh (Ex. 20:4; Dt. 4:16-25; Ps. 106:20; Is. 40:18,19). The reason for this prohibition becomes clearer in the New Testament; the ultimate likeness of God is in His Son, and we are to create the likeness of His Son not as a mere physical icon, but within the very structure of our human personality and character.

Psa 106:21

They forgot God their Saviour who had done great things in Egypt-
As discussed on Ps. 71:19, the "great / wondrous things" performed by God were His forgiveness and salvation of a condemned sinner like David. This is described in Ps. 71:19 as God doing "great things", the phrase used of the great things worked in visible miracles in Egypt (Ps. 106:21) and at creation (Ps. 136:7). But the forgiveness of people like David is no less a great miracle. Such great things are done because of His mercy / grace (Ps. 136:4).

Psa 106:22

wondrous works in the land of Ham-
Mizraim or Egypt was the descendant of Ham (Gen. 10:6; Ps. 105:23,27; 106:22). There may be an allusion to Khem, one of the main Egyptian gods. For the purpose of all the plagues was to demonstrate that Yahweh was the only God, and the Egyptian gods had no real existence.

And awesome things by the Red Sea-
The awesome thing done "by" and not "in" the Red Sea was that there on the shores of the Sea, Israel's faith collapsed. They did not understand nor "believe His words" (:7,12). And yet God saved them by grace. That was the wonderful work and awesome thing done by God which should be praised and remembered by us.

Psa 106:23

Therefore He said that He would destroy them, had not Moses His chosen stood before Him in the breach, to turn away His wrath, so that He wouldn’t destroy them-
Here again is God's extreme grace. His intention to destroy Israel and make a new nation from Moses was changed; indeed His intended destruction of Aaron and Israel was turned away by Moses more than once (Dt. 9:8,14,19,20,25). Such is His radical sensitivity, reflecting a love for His people which is beyond words to describe. The very "chosen" Moses whom the people had argued was not chosen (:16,17) was allowed to save those people who had rejected him. This clearly looks forward to the saving work of the Lord Jesus. Jeremiah likewise had stood before Yahweh "to turn away His wrath" (s.w. Jer. 18:20); but the sin of the exiles was apparently even worse than that of Israel. For the wrath came upon the people and they were sent to Babylon. But in another sense, Jeremiah's intercession was heard; for they were not 'destroyed' completely. They could be restored. Daniel likewise prayed for the turning away of God's wrath (s.w. Dan. 9:16); and the answer was in the seventy sevens prophecy. Ultimately, God would not destroy His people but restore them, although in His own way and in His own time. Which was not exactly as the exiles had hoped. The exiles had broken the covenant and were therefore to be destroyed (s.w. Dt. 28:20,24). But God was again open to changing His stated purpose and saving them. It was all grace upon grace.

Psa 106:24

Yes, they despised the pleasant land. They didn’t believe His word-
The word they disbelieved was the word of grace to Moses, that He would not destroy them as He had earlier stated (see on :23). But God had promised that although Israel despised the offer of the land, a "pleasant land" in that it could have been God's Kingdom on earth, yet even in their exile in the Gentile lands they preferred to His land, He would not "despise" them (s.w. Lev. 26:44).

In the end, God gives us our dominant desire. Israel in the wilderness didn’t really desire the land, so they didn’t receive it. It was no "pleasant" to them, the 'land of desire' (AVmg.). Israel both despised the land, and they despised their God (Num. 14:11,23,31 RV). Our attitude as to whether or not we want to be in the Kingdom is essentially our attitude to God. This has far reaching implications. Ps. 107:30 likewise speaks of how the faithful are brought to the haven of their desire (RVmg.). All those who truly love the Lord’s appearing- with all that implies in practical life and belief- will be accepted (2 Tim. 4:8). And yet Israel didn’t have the dominant desire to be in the Kingdom, as Joshua and Caleb had. Why didn’t they? It is vital that we understand the reasons for their failure – such an understanding will be a safeguard to help prevent us from making the same mistake (Rom.15:4).

Psa 106:25

but murmured in their tents, and didn’t listen to Yahweh’s voice-
In the face of God's amazing grace to them in not destroying them (see on :23), Israel muttered and murmured about the immediate problems of their lives. This obscured the wonderful voice of Yahweh assuring them of His saving grace. And so it is to this day.

Psa 106:26

Therefore He swore to them that He would overthrow them in the wilderness-
But He didn't, because Moses interceded. An almighty God who swears but doesn't carry it out... is a God of amazing grace.

Psa 106:27

that He would overthrow their seed among the nations, and scatter them in the gentile lands-
This suggests that Israel's scattering in Gentile lands had been threatened at the time of the murmuring of :25; for the Psalm is chronologically going through Israel's history. This isn't recorded in the records; because by grace God changed from that purpose at the time, because of Moses' intercession. But Israel are now reminded that in fact their scattering amongst the Gentiles, which was then currently ongoing, had been a judgment pronounced right back in the wilderness; and had not been carried out because of the amazing patience of God.

Psa 106:28

They joined themselves also to Baal Peor, and ate the sacrifices of the dead-
To join oneself is the language of marriage. To eat sacrifice was a sign of fellowship with the god at whose table you were eating. And by doing these things they were effectively breaking their covenant relationship with Yahweh. But despite that, He still worked to save them and to preserve them nationally as His people. His grace is the more amazing, because He disregarded even their breaking of covenant with Him- because He was and is so passionate to save.

Psa 106:29

Thus they provoked Him to anger with their deeds. The plague broke in on them-
It could be argued that this too reflects God's grace. The threatened judgment was complete destruction of the entire nation (:26), but in reality the judgment was a plague which destroyed a relatively small number of them.

Psa 106:30

Then Phinehas stood up, and executed judgment, so the plague was stopped-
The grace of this was in that the plague was stopped, as it was at the time of the earlier rebellion (Num. 16:48,50 cp. Num. 25:8); when it had been in God's intention to totally destroy the entire people (:26). But as Paul brings out in Rom. 1-8, that grace was all the same articulated through justice / judgment being done.

Psa 106:31

That was credited to him for righteousness, for all generations to come-
The grace of this was in that righteousness was counted to Phinehas. For none are righteous in their own strength; as Paul explains in Romans, it is credited to us by grace through faith. But how was it eternally credited to him? For descendants aren't counted righteous just because of their ancestors. The implication would therefore be that this imputed righteousness meant that he would therefore not die eternally; but he resurrected to life eternal. And this again is nothing but pure grace.

Psa 106:32

They angered Him also at the waters of Meribah, so that Moses was troubled for their sakes-
In Dt. 9:18 Moses says that his prayer of Ex. 32:32 was heard- in that he was not going to enter the land, but they would. Hence his urging of them to go ahead and enter the land- to experience what his self-sacrifice had enabled. In this we see the economy of God, and how He works even through sin. On account of Moses’ temporary rashness of speech, he was excluded- and yet by this, his prayer was heard. He was temporarily blotted out of the book, so that they might enter. Moses’ fleeting requests to enter the land must be read as a flagging from the height of devotion he reached, rather like the Lord’s request to escape the cross in Gethsemane. But ultimately he did what he intended- he gave his place in the Kingdom / land so that they might enter [although of course he will be in the future Kingdom]. This is why Moses stresses on the last day of his life that he wouldn’t enter the land for Israel’s sake (Dt. 1:37; 3:26; 4:21). He saw that his sin had been worked through, and the essential reason for him not entering was because of the offer he had made. It “went ill with him for their sakes” (AV). So here again, even in sin and failure, was to be found grace in the way God used it. See on Ex. 32:32.

Psa 106:33

because they were rebellious against His spirit, he spoke rashly with his lips-
Moses was willing to give his physical and eternal life for Israel's salvation (Ex. 32:32). In a sense, his desire was heard. Because of the sin of a moment, caused by the provocation of the people he loved, God decreed that he could not enter the land of promise. For their sakes he was barred from the land; this is the  emphasis of the Spirit (Dt. 1:37; 3:26; 4:21); and Ps. 106:32,33 says that Moses was provoked to sin because Israel angered God, and that therefore "it went ill with Moses for their sakes". Truly, God by grace works through sinful man to achieve His glory. Thus Moses says that he must die “Because ye [plural] trespassed against me” (Dt. 32:51). This all helps explain why the Lord Jesus Christ had to die, apart from the fact that He was mortal. He died the death of a sinner for our salvation, He felt all the emotions of the rejected, the full weight of God's curse; for "cursed is every one that hangs on a tree" in crucifixion (Gal. 3:13). Moses is a superb and accurate type of the Lord Jesus. Therefore Moses in his time of dying must grant us insight into the death of our Lord, the prophet like him (Dt. 18:18).


Psa 106:34

They didn’t destroy the peoples as Yahweh commanded them-
Moses ‘prophesied’ that Ephraim would “push the people [Gentile inhabitants of the land] together to the ends of the earth / land” (Dt. 33:17). And yet Hos. 7:8 cp. Ps. 106:34-36 criticize Ephraim for failing to push the people out of the land. Moses’ prophecies about the tribes sound like predictions; but they were actually commands which those tribes had the freewill to obey or not. Despite the promise of the Kingdom, Israel didn't use that potential. And now at this point they were in exile amongst the Gentiles, because they had actually liked those peoples and chose their idols.

Psa 106:35

but mixed themselves with the nations, and learned their works-
And the exiles had done just the same, and even at the restoration they likewise "mingled" with the nations through intermarriage (s.w. Ezra 9:2). Israel simply refused to learn from their history. "Learned their works" refers to their eager learning the ways of idolatry (:36); these are the "works" of :39.

Psa 106:36

They served their idols, which became a snare to them-
In fulfilment of the warning of Ex. 23:33. Idolatry itself leads to further failure- as part of a downward spiral. The figure of a snare suggests they were led to the point of being caught and slain by the snare. The idea of riches being a snare (1 Tim. 6:9) connects with copious OT references to idols as Israel's perpetual snare (Ex. 23:33; Dt. 7:16; Jud. 2:3; 8:27; Ps. 106:36; Hos. 5:1). Paul's point is surely that the desire of wealth is the equivalent of OT idolatry.

Psa 106:37

Yes, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons-
I noted on :36 that the figure of a snare suggests the idols killed them; and here we have this developed, in that they literally killed their children in the name of idols. Demons refer to idols (:36). Demons or idols have no real existence (1 Cor. 8:4; 10:20). Therefore when we read of demons being cast out in the Gospel records, this is the language of the day used for healing various illnesses rather than any evidence that demons actually exist.

Psa 106:38

They shed innocent blood, even the blood of their sons and of their daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan. The land was polluted with blood-
But they continued doing so, and it was for shedding innocent blood like this that they went into captivity (s.w. Jer. 2:34; 19:4). And the impenitent exiles did the same in their persecution and murder of the restoration prophets (Is. 59:7). Again the point is being made that despite hardening themselves against the voice of history, God still had a willingness to try to work with them towards repentance. 

Psa 106:39

Thus were they defiled with their works, and prostituted themselves in their deeds-
The "works" are the idolatry of :35; the "works" of the Gentiles (:35) had become "their own works" (:39 AV). They had fully adopted the Gentile ways as their very own. They were thus unfaithful to Yahweh who was their husband; they were morally and sexually defiled and therefore liable to be stoned to death, burnt or at least divorced. These were the Mosaic law options for a husband whose wife was unfaithful or a prostitute. But the grace of it all is that like Hosea with Gomer (representing God and Israel), they were not destroyed as a people. God as it were broke His own law by seeking to have them back even after the great divorce.  

Psa 106:40

Therefore Yahweh burned with anger against His people-
This is the burning anger which arises from the abuse of love; it was their prostitution which made God so furious (:39). But truly "the wrath of God is the love of God", as Emil Brunner observed. The extent of His anger was a reflection of the extent of His love for them which had been so abused. The kindling of Yahweh's anger begins a series of allusions to the book of Judges, here to Jud. 2:14,20 etc.

He abhorred His inheritance-
There is a mutuality between God and man. God and His Kingdom are our inheritance (Ps. 78:55); but we are His inheritance. A man's inheritance was the essence of Himself, all He had in the world. And this is how we are to Him.

Psa 106:41

He gave them into the hand of the nations. Those who hated them ruled over them-
"Into the hand of..." is the term repeatedly used in the Judges record (Jud. 3:10,12,31; 4:2; 6:1; 10:7-18; 13:1). Even the restored exiles were still "ruled over" by the "nations" (s.w. Neh. 9:37). The restoration wasn't the degree of restoration of the Kingdom of God and His people which the restoration prophecies had presented as potentially possible.

Psa 106:42

Their enemies also oppressed them-
"Oppressed" is a common word in the record of the Judges (s.w. Jud. 1:34; 2:18; 4:3; 6:9; 10:12).

They were brought into subjection under their hand-
This again continues the allusion to the situation in the book of Judges (Jud. 4:3,6-11; 10:8). The grace of it all is that time and again they were saved by Yahweh's "saviours", the judges, who looked ahead to Yehoshua, 'Yah's salvation', in the Lord Jesus. But the raising up of these saviours was by grace alone.

Psa 106:43

Many times He delivered them-
The grace of it all was that each time, God said 'this is the last time', and Israel responded later 'Yes, but please, just this once, have mercy on us just once more'. And this went on many times. Each time God showed them special grace.

But they were rebellious in their ways, and were brought low in their iniquity-
Flesh must be humbled- either we do it now, we humble ourselves that we may be exalted in due time; or it will have to be done to us through the terror of rejection. Time and again ‘bringing low’ or ‘humiliation’ is the result of condemnation (Dt. 28:43; 2 Chron. 28:19; Job 40:12; Ps. 106:43).

Psa 106:44

Nevertheless He regarded their distress, when He heard their cry-
See on :43. Their lack of penitence was overlooked because God was simply so sensitive to the distress of His wayward people. This was the grace of it all.

Psa 106:45

He remembered for them His covenant, and relented according to the multitude of His graces-
Israel kept their Passovers throughout the wilderness years, one would assume- but they never remembered the day that God brought them out of Egypt (Ps. 78:42)- although notice how although Israel didn't remember God, yet He remembered them in His grace (Ps. 106:7, 45). We can read of the cross, speak of it, memorialize it as Israel did the exodus through the Passover ritual; and yet totally fail to realize the powerful imperatives which abound in its’ message. God's covenant is here demonstrated to be unilateral, from Him to man, by grace. The covenant in view is that with Abraham made in Gen. 15, which featured God making unilateral promises whilst Abraham was incapacitated and unable to do anything in response. Neither was there any clause added making it conditional upon his obedience. This is in sharp contrast with the law of Moses, the old covenant. Jeremiah, Zechariah and Ezekiel all make the point to the exiles that they had broken the old covenant, and therefore they could only be saved by reaffirming their part in the new covenant. For it was this covenant which is rightly paralleled here with the multitude of God's great grace, "graces" being an intensive plural for His great grace.

Psa 106:46

He made them also to be pitied by all those who carried them captive-
The book of Esther reveals the relative popularity and success of the Jews in Babylon / Persia. The descriptions of the exiles as captives groaning in a prison house must therefore be understood in spiritual terms. For the exiles were not under physical abuse. But they failed to realize their awful spiritual environment, and therefore spurned the opportunity for deliverance from it; and that is the reason so many reject the message of God's Kingdom today. The exiles particularly were shown "pity" by the powers of their day, allowing them to return to Zion and rebuild it (s.w. Neh. 1:11 "mercy"). This "pity" or "mercy before them that lead you captive" was specifically predicated upon their repentance (s.w. 2 Chron. 30:9). But they didn't repent; and yet they were shown this mercy / pity. That was the grace of it all. This "pity" was the pity of God who would according to that pity / mercy regather them (s.w. Is. 54:7; Zech. 1:16). He showed them that pity despite their impenitence; and yet most of them preferred to spurn it by remaining in exile.

Psa 106:47

Save us, Yahweh, our God, gather us from among the nations, to give thanks to Your holy name, to triumph in Your praise!-
These last two verses are quoting from David's Psalm of thanksgiving when the ark was brought to Zion (1 Chron. 16:35,36). But the inspired Psalmist in Ps. 106:47 makes a slight change because he was using this Psalm in the context of the exiles wanting to be restored: "Gather us together and deliver us from the nations" is changed to "Gather us from among the nations". The ark was lost; it was the Jews themselves who were to come to Zion. The exile brought them to realize that the box called "the ark" was mere religion; the essence of it was that the dwelling place of God was no longer a box of acacia wood, but God's own repentant people.

Psa 106:48

Blessed be Yahweh, the God of Israel, from everlasting even to everlasting! Let all the people say, Amen. Praise Yah!-
This psalm has been a prayer of confession of sin. The people are asked to say "Amen!" to it all, recognizing their sinfulness as a people and as individuals; and yet with the confession, to also praise God for His abiding grace to His people. As noted on :47, this is a slightly adapted quotation from David's Psalm of praise when the ark was brought to Zion. The people were asked to understand that their return to Zion was to be like the return of the ark after a period in Gentile captivity. The dwelling place of God was no longer to be over a box of acacia wood, but over God's own repentant people.