The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Psalm 105

Psa 105:1

See Lesson, Psalms, "Hallelujah": see Psa 104:35n.

CALL ON HIS NAME: What name? The Covenant Name, of course! All the emphasis is on this, esp in the first portion of the psalm (Psa 105:1,3,4,7,19,45). Yet His people, who should pin their faith upon His Covenant Name and esteem it more than their necessary food, exclude it from their synagogue service and prayers. And a sizeable portion of the New Israel argues about its precise pronunciation (and misses its intrinsic meaning?).

Psa 105:4

LOOK TO THE LORD AND HIS STRENGTH: That is, to the Shekinah Glory resident in the Ark of the Covenant (Psa 78:61; 132:8; 2Ch 6:41). The Ark of God's Glory was called His "Strength" because it was the sign of His kingship in Israel, and the focal point for the display of His person in the midst of the nation (Psa 26:8; 63:2). David's use of these words in 1Ch 16:8-22 -- when he was bringing the Ark to Jerusalem -- substantiates this.

FACE (of God): In Psalms, always ref God's presence in ark/tabernacle/temple: see VL, Pss, God's face.

Psa 105:5

THE JUDGMENTS HE PRONOUNCED: Not the Ten Commandments, but the Promises to the fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, called also "word" (v 8) and "law" (v 10). The context requires this.

Psa 105:6

ABRAHAM HIS SERVANT: Why not "Abraham his friend"? Because the seed of Abraham have been happier having God as a Master (under the bondage of the Law) rather than as the Friend He was to their great ancestor. Nor is the New Israel (the true "seed" of Abraham: Gal 3:16,27-29) completely free from this mistaken emphasis.

SONS OF JACOB, HIS CHOSEN ONES: In ct with Esau (Mal 1:2,3).

Psa 105:8

FOR A THOUSAND GENERATIONS: Cp Exo 20:6: "And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments." Should this read "unto thousands", or -- as in Psa 105:8,9 -- "unto a thousand generations"? Notice the italics in the KJV of Exo 20:5: "generations" is added there, by the translators, to give the sense; and so it probably should be here also. At any rate, Psa 105:8,9 (and Psa 103:17,18; Deu 7:9; 1Ch 16:15; Isa 51:8; and Luk 1:50) give us reason to add this word.

But is not "a thousand generations" a gross exaggeration? By any reckoning, there cannot have been more than about 300 total generations since Adam.

True, unless these passages mean spiritual "generations" in Christ, which can be "begotten" in rapid succession. A natural generation cannot be much less than 20 years, but a spiritual "generation" can be as little as days or weeks. The enthusiastic convert to the truth in Christ loses no time in converting a friend or relative to the same faith. And so on, and so on, until God's mercy has been shown indeed to a thousand such "generations"! (WBS 186,187).

Psa 105:9

The covenant was made with Abraham (Gen 12:1-3; 13:14-17), and confirmed by an oath (Gen 22:16); renewed to Isaac (Gen 26:3) and to Jacob (Gen 28:13; 35:12). As a token of his participation in this covenant, Jacob was given the new name Israel at the ford of Jabbok (Gen 32:28). As "word" = "covenant" (v 8), likewise here law = covenant.

Psa 105:11

TO YOU: Singular (as in 1Ch 16:18). The Promise was made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob separately as individuals. But note "you [plural] will inherit"; it will be fulfilled to all of them collectively. But here is a promise to the patriarchs not yet fulfilled, either in the past or the present (Act 7:5; Heb 11:8,9,13).

Psa 105:12

Quoting Jacob in Gen 34:30, when he had first come into the Land with his sons (cp v 13 here). God esteems faith in His faithful remnant far more than formality in the mass of the people. "There is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few" (1Sa 14:6).

Psa 105:13

The wandering life of the patriarchs is thus described: Gen 12:1,9; 13:18; 20:1; Heb 11:9.

Psa 105:14

KINGS: This plural is accurate: Pharaoh in Gen 12:17, and Abimelech king of Gerar in Gen 20:7; 26:11.

Psa 105:15

MY ANOINTED ONES: The LXX has the singular: "my Christ"; but most versions give the plural: "my anointed ones". Who was (were) the Anointed One(s)? The fathers, along with Sarah, in the general sense of having been specially selected by God? (But where is the actual "anointing" that we should expect to find in their cases?) Or -- as singular -- the "Messiah" in the womb of Sarah (Gen 20:3,7; cp Gen 18:14), on the general principle of Heb 7:9,10 (Levi paying tithes while still in the loins of his father Abraham)?

This is the same point David was careful about re Saul: Never would he lift up a hand against the Lord's anointed (1Sa 24:6,10; 26:11,23). Did David learn this psalm -- and this attitude -- from Samuel? (If so, then here is a point in favor of Mosaic authorship for the psalm, or at least for the first part.) And it was because of "the anointing" (Isa 10:27) of Hezekiah (as David's successor and Jesus' predecessor) that the Assyrian army -- having swept through all of Judah (vv 28-32) -- was at last turned aside short of its ultimate objective of Jerusalem (vv 23,24,33,34).

DO MY PROPHETS NO HARM: A quite remarkable addition to the Gentile account, yet strictly true: Both Abraham (Gen 22:8; 17:17; Rom 4:19) and Sarah (Gen 21:10,12; Gal 4:30) were "prophets"! And so also were Isaac (Gen 27:27-29) and Jacob (Gen 48:15-22; 49:1-27).

Psa 105:16

FAMINE ON THE LAND: Not that famine which faced Abram, driving him to make the mistake of going into Egypt, but that which brought about the migration there of Jacob's family (Gen 41:54-57). These famines were the work of God, but so also (v 17) was the sequence of events which earlier brought Joseph to power in Egypt. God first created the problem, and then provided the solution.

AND DESTROYED ALL THEIR SUPPLIES OF FOOD: Food is to strengthen and support, hence the figure of a staff (Lev 26:26; Isa 3:1; cp Psa 104:15). To God it is as easy to make a nation-wide famine as to break a staff!

Psa 105:17

Vv 17,18: Gen 39:20; Psa 107:10. This supplies details not given in the history.

Psa 105:18

HIS NECK WAS PUT IN IRONS: The Heb is literally "his soul entered into iron" (AV mg). But the old translator Coverdale reverses the two, and gives the haunting phrase which has since become proverbial: "the iron entered his soul." Thus he expressed poetically that it was more than Joseph's flesh that felt the cold metal; his whole being came into its embrace. Joseph being such a detailed prototype of the Messiah (see WJos; Pickering on Joseph), this v 18 must also have been true of Jesus: In his trial he would have worn fetters, and in his crucifixion his feet would have been fixed with iron (cp Gen 3:15 -- "bruised in the heel"). And so iron entered into his soul also.

Psa 105:19

THE WORD OF THE LORD PROVED HIM TRUE: As gold being refined (Psa 12:6; 17:3; 18:30; Pro 30:5; 1Pe 1:7). The long years before the fulfillment of Gen 37:7,9 meant a severe testing of Joseph's faith. And how was he tried by the Word of God? (1) It was the predetermined counsel of God that Joseph endure trials, and (2) The detailed // of Joseph's experience with the antitype Jesus necessitated such trials (cp Act 7:52). Or is this simply two ways of saying the same thing?

Psa 105:21

Vv 21,22: Does this mean there was an active and organized opposition to Joseph, that had finally to be dealt with? Was it because he was a Hebrew? He who was "bound" (v 18) now "binds" others! And here we may see the One who was judged, for a moment, yet nevertheless will be the eternal Judge of all his adversaries (Mat 26:64). However, the RSV (as the NIV) has "instruct" for "bind"; the two words are easily confused in the Hebrew. "Instruct" would yield a // with the latter part of the verse. Or, alternatively, "bind... at his pleasure" (KJV) could be translated "bind to his person", as a gifted teacher would bind his students to him, in trust and respect.

Psa 105:22

AND TEACH HIS ELDERS WISDOM: Does this explain Akhnaton, the only known monotheistic Pharaoh?

Psa 105:23

Shem the blessed came to lodge awhile with Ham the cursed; the "dove" settled down momentarily in the nest of the "vulture". "Lived", or "sojourned" (AV; cp v 13 above; Gen 47:4), reminds us that the fairest land in "Egypt" is nevertheless in Egypt, and as such must be considered a temporary abode by God's faithful.

Psa 105:24

Vv 24,25: This evil experience, like that of v 16, was the direct work of God. But how slow men are, even God's own people, to learn the truth which shouts at them here -- that even "darkness" and "evil" are created by God (Isa 45:7)! Certainly Joseph -- who was a chief actor in much of this drama -- learned well this lesson, that God's providence can work in all circumstances, even ones that might be characterized as "evil": see Gen 45:5,7; 50:20.

Psa 105:26

Vv 26-36: Cp with 10 plagues in Exodus. This list (Psa 105) is slightly different again from the one in Psa 78:43-51. Why the drastic dislocation of the plague of darkness? Is it because there was, from the beginning, spiritual darkness over Egypt? Or is it that the darkness sym God's unceasing wrath, which always hung over Egypt (Joe 2:2; Zep 1:15)? And why the mysterious omission of the murrain of beasts, and of boils and blains? Because these were primarily on the cattle and not on man?

Psa 105:28

FOR HAD THEY NOT REBELLED AGAINST HIS WORDS?: The AV says, "They rebelled not", which is almost certainly wrong (cp LXX, RV, RSV).

Psa 105:33

HE STRUCK DOWN THEIR... FIG TREES: A pattern of Christ's cursing of the fig tree (Mat 21:18-22; Mar 11:12-14,20-26), as if to say that the Israel of his day was no better than the Egypt of Moses' day.

Psa 105:37

Were they strengthened by the Passover meal or the exhilaration of deliverance? This illustrates that the premature deaths of practically that whole generation in the desert was for their sin, and not because of disease or hardship.

Psa 105:38

As Egypt feared the Israelites because of the plagues, and was glad when they departed, so "the great city, which spiritually is called... Egypt" (Rev 11:8), "makes merry" when the witnesses are killed (v 10), but fears greatly when they receive the Spirit of God and stand on their feet again (v 11). The fear and the rejoicing are the same in both cases. But, in Revelation, rather threateningly for the Apocalyptic "Egypt", the rejoicing is supplanted by fear, and not the other way round. And so the last state of Egypt will be worse than the first.

Psa 105:39

A CLOUD AS A COVERING: As a canopy of protection from the burning heat of Sinai. See Psa 78:14; 121:5,6; Exo 13:21; 14:19,20; 1Co 10:1; Isa 4:5; Zec 2:5.

Psa 105:42

Allusion to his covenant with Abraham: see Gen 15:13,14.

Psa 105:44

HE GAVE THEM THE LANDS OF THE NATIONS: Jos 13:7; Psa 78:55. But ct Psa. 106:27: the One who gave could also -- and did! -- take away.

THEY FELL HEIR TO WHAT OTHERS HAD TOILED FOR: Normally "amim" means Israel (the twelve tribes), but here the context requires reference to Gentile Canaanites: see Jos 24:13; cp Deu 6:10,11; Joh 4:38).

Psa 105:45

• THAT THEY MIGHT KEEP HIS PRECEPTS AND OBSERVE HIS LAWS: This one word ("that") covers the whole psalm. All the Providence of God was intended to achieve this one result. Yet it failed!

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