Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
The author of this psalm is unknown, and the occasion on which it was composed cannot now be ascertained. It belongs to the same "class" as Ps. 78; 105; as referring to the ancient history of the Hebrew people, and as deriving lessons of instruction, admonition, gratitude and praise from that history. The cvth Psalm referred to that history particularly as showing the mercy and favor of God to that people, and hence, their obligation to love and serve him; this psalm is occupied mainly with a confession, drawn from a review of that history, that the nation had not been mindful of those mercies, but that they had rebelled against God, and incurred his displeasure. The psalm has a striking resemblance in many respects to the prayer in Dan. 9; and, like that, is a prayer that God would now interpose and deliver the people as in times that were past. It is possible that the psalm may have been composed in the time of the Babylonian captivity (compare Psa 106:47), and this is the opinion of Hengstenberg; but it is impossible to demonstrate this with any certainty. It was evidently composed in some period of public calamity, and there is no impropriety in supposing that it may have been then.
The psalm consists essentially of three parts:
I. A brief introduction, setting forth the duty of praising God, and referring to his mercy, and expressing the desire of the author of the psalm that he himself might participate in his mercy, and share the happy lot of the "chosen" of God, Psa 106:1-5.
II. A reference to the history of the nation, and a confession of their sins in all the periods of their history, and their proneness as a people to disobey God, referring particularly to their history in Egypt, Psa 106:6-12; in the desert, Ps. 106:13-33; and in the land of Canaan, Psa 106:34-43.
III. A prayer - founded on the fact that God had often interposed in their behalf - that he would now again interpose, and gather them from among the pagan, that they might again sing his praises, Psa 106:44-48.
Praise ye the Lord - Margin, "Hallelu-jah." The two Hebrew words mean, "praise ye the Lord." They are the same words with which the previous psalm closes, and are here designed to indicate the general duty illustrated in the psalm.
O give thanks unto the Lord - See the notes at Psa 105:1.
For he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever - See Psa 100:5, note; Psa 107:1, note; where the language in the Hebrew is the same.
Who can utter the mighty acts of the Lord? - Who can speak the great things of God? Who can find language which will suitably express what he has done, or which will "come up" in sublimity to his acts? In other words, human language must fall immeasurably short of adequately expressing the praises of Yahweh, or conveying the fullness of what he has done. Who has not felt this when he has endeavored to praise God in a proper manner? Compare the notes at Psa 40:5.
Who can shew forth all his praise - Hebrew, "Cause to be heard." That is, Language cannot be found which would cause "it to be heard" in a suitable manner.
Blessed are they that keep judgment - They are blessed, for their conduet is right, and it leads to happiness. The Hebrew is, "the keepers of judgment;" that is, they who observe the rules of justice in their conduct, or who are governed by the principles of integrity.
And he that doeth righteousness at all times - All who yield obedience to just law - whether a nation or an individual. The psalm is designed to illustrate this "by contrast;" that is, by showing, in the conduct of the Hebrew people, the consequences of "disobedience," and thus impliedly what would have been, and what always must be, the consequences of the opposite course. Compare Psa 15:1-5.
Remember me, O Lord, with the favor that thou bearest unto thy people - literally, "Remember me with the favor of thy people." This is the language of the author of the psalm: a pious ejaculation such as will occur to the mind in recounting what God has done for his church; what are the advantages of being his friends; what blessings of peace, happiness, and joy are connected with true religion. Even the wicked sometimes have this feeling when they look on the happy life, and the peaceful death of the godly. So Balaam said, "Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!" Num 23:10.
O visit me with thy salvation - Come to me with salvation; confer it upon me.
That I may see the good of thy chosen - Thy chosen people; or, thine elect. That I may possess and enjoy the same favor and happiness which they do. It is implied here that there are special favors conferred on them; or, that happiness is found in the friendship of God which is not to be found elsewhere. It is a characteristic of true piety to desire to make that our own. A truly religious man more desires the happiness which results from being among the "chosen" of God than all that the world can confer.
That I may rejoice in the gladness of thy nation - The happiness found in the nation that serves thee. True religion - the favor of God - not only confers happiness on the "individual" who possesses it, but on the nation or people where it prevails. It is just as much suited to produce happiness there, and is just as necessary for happiness there, as in the case of an individual.
That I may glory with thine inheritance - That I may share the honor of thy people. The word "inheritance" here is used to denote that which is one's own, and is thus applied to the people of God considered as "his." The meaning is, that the psalmist desired no other glory, honor, or distinction, than that which pertained to God's people as such. He sought not the "glory" connected with the distinctions of the world; the display of wealth; the triumph of genius, of conquest, of arms - but the "glory" of being a friend of God, and of partaking of that which God confers on his people.
We have sinned with our fathers - We have sinned as "they" did; we have followed their example. The illustration of the manner in which the nation had sinned occupies a considerable part of the remainder of the psalm; and the idea here is, that, in the generation in which the psalmist lived, there had been the manifestation of the same rebellious spirit which had so remarkably characterized the entire nation. The "connection" of this with the foregoing verses is not very apparent. It would seem to be that the psalmist was deeply impressed with a sense of the great blessings which follow from the friendship of God, and from keeping his commandments - as stated, Psa 106:3-5; but he remembered that those blessings had not come upon the people as might have been expected, and his mind suddenly adverts to the cause of this, in the fact that the nation had "sinned." It was not that God was not disposed to bestow that happiness; it was not that true religion "failed" to confer happiness; but it was that the nation had provoked God to displeasure, and that in fact the sins of the people had averted the blessings which would otherwise have come upon them. The psalmist, therefore, in emphatic language - repeating the confession in three forms, "we have sinned - we have committed iniquity, we have done wickedly," acknowledges that the failure was in them, not in God. The language here is substantially the same as in Dan 9:5-6, and it would seem not improbable that the one was suggested by the other. Which was prior in the order of time, it is now impossible to determine. Compare the notes at Dan 9:5-6.
Our fathers understood not - They did not fully comprehend the design of the divine dealings. They did not perceive the greatness of the favor shown to them, or the obligation to obey and serve God under which they were placed by these remarkable manifestations.
Thy wonders in Egypt - The miracles performed there in behalf of the Hebrew people.
They remembered not the multitude of thy mercies - The great number of the divine interpositions in their behalf. They did not allow them to influence their conduct as they should have done. The aggravation of their offence in the case here referred to was particularly in the "multitude" of the mercies. It would have been sinful to have forgotten even one act of the divine favor; it was a great aggravation of their guilt that "so many" acts were forgotten, or that they failed to make an impression on them. So now. It is a great sin to be unmindful of a "single" favor conferred by God; it is a great aggravation of guilt that men live continually amidst so many proofs of the divine goodness; that they are fed, and clothed, and protected; that they breathe the pure air, and look upon the light of the sun; that they enjoy the comforts of domestic life, the blessings of liberty, and the offers of salvation; that they lie down and rise up; that their toils are crowned with success, and that the blessings of every land are made to come around them - and yet they forget or disregard all these proofs of the divine mercy.
But provoked him at the sea, even at the Red Sea - Exo 14:10-12. They "rebelled" against him. Even amidst the wonders there occurring, and after all the blessings which they had received at his hands, when they were in danger they doubted his power, and called in question his faithfulness.
Nevertheless, he saved them for his name's sake - For the promotion of his own honor and glory; that it might be seen that he is powerful and merciful. This is constantly given as the reason why God saves people; why he forgives sin; why he redeems the soul; why he delivers from danger and from death. Compare Eze 36:22, Eze 36:32; Isa 37:35; Isa 43:25; Isa 48:9; Jer 14:7; Psa 6:4; Psa 23:3; Psa 25:11; Psa 31:16; Psa 44:26. This is the highest reason which can be assigned for pardoning and saving sinners.
That he might make his mighty power to be known - Exo 9:16. Compare the notes at Rom 9:17.
He rebuked the Red Sea also - The word rendered "rebuke" commonly means to chide - as when one is angry with another for having done wrong. Here it is evidently a poetic term, meaning that he spake "as if" he were angry; or "as if" the Red Sea did wrong in presenting an obstacle or obstruction to the passage of his people. Compare Exo 14:21-22,
So he led them through the depths - Through what had been the abyss; what had seemed to be depths, being covered with water.
As through the wilderness - As through a desert or dry place; as he afterward led them through the wilderness. The waters parted asunder, and made a way for them.
And he saved them from the hand of him that hated them - From Pharaoh. By making a path through the waters, they were enabled to escape; by the overthrow of the Egyptians in the Red Sea, they were completely and forever delivered from their oppressors. Exo 14:30.
And the waters covered their enemies ... - Exo 14:27-28; Exo 15:5.
Then believed they his words - In immediate view of his interpositions in their behalf in conducting them through the Red Sea, and in the destruction of their enemies.
They sang his praise - In the song composed by Moses on the occasion of their deliverance. Exo. 15.
They soon forgat his works - On Psa 106:13-15, see the notes at Psa 78:17-22. Literally, here, as in the margin, "They made haste, they forgat." They did it soon; did it without any delay. It was as if they were impatient to have it done.
They waited not for his counsel - For the fulfillment of his promise; or for his command in regard to their future conduct. They did not look to him, but they depended on themselves, and followed their own desires and wishes.
But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness - Margin, as in Hebrew, "lusted a lust." The reference is to their desire of better food than the manna.
And tempted God in the desert - Tried God, whether he "could" provide for them food and drink. Psa 78:19-20.
And he gave them their request - By sending great quantities of quails. Num 11:31-32.
But sent leanness into their soul - The word translated "leanness" is from a verb - רזה râzeh - to make thin; to cause to waste away; to destroy. The radical idea is that of abrading or "scraping;" and hence, it means to become lean, to waste away. It occurs only here and in Isa 10:16, rendered "leanness," and in Mic 6:10, rendered "scant;" margin, "leanness." It means here that the effect of all this on their souls was similar to the effect on the body when it wastes away by disease or want of food. This effect often occurs. In the gratification of their desires, in great temporal success and prosperity, individuals, churches, nations, often forget their dependence on God; lose their sense of the value of spiritual privileges and blessings: are satisfied with their condition; become selfconfident and proud, and forfeit the favor of God. If we pray for temporal prosperity, we should also pray that we may at the same time have grace commensurate with it, that it may be a blessing and not a curse; if we are visited with prosperity when it has not been a direct object of our prayer - if we inherit riches, or if our plans are successful beyond our expectations - or, in the language of the world, if "fortune smiles upon us," there should be special prayer on our part that it may not be a curse rather than a blessing; that it may be so received and used as not to alienate our minds from God. Few are the Christian people who can bear continued success in life; few are those who are not injured by it; rare is it that growth in grace keeps pace with uninterrupted worldly prosperity; rare is it that the blessings of earth are so received and employed that they are seen to be a means of grace, and not a hindrance to growth in piety. A man does not know what is best for him when his heart is set on worldly prosperity; and God is more benevolent to people than they are to themselves, in withholding what is so often the object of their intense desire. "What is asked in passion, is often given in wrath" - Henry.
They envied Moses also in the camp - They were envious of him, or rebelled against him, as assuming too much authority. See Num 16:1-2. The reference here is rather to the "result" of that envy in producing rebellion than to the envy itself. It is true, however, that the foundation of their opposition to him "was" envy.
And Aaron the saint of the Lord - That is, as set apart to the service of the Lord; or, as employed in holy things. The reference is to his "office," not to his personal character.
On these verses see Num 16:31-35. This refers to the time when they rebelled against Moses.
They made a calf in Horeb - Exo 32:4. Probably in resemblance of the Egyptian god "Apis." The image was made by Aaron out of materials furnished by the people, and at their request Exo 32:1-3, so that it might be said to be the act of the people.
And worshipped the molten image - The word rendered "molten" is from a verb נסך nâsak - to pour, to pour out; hence, to cast, to found; and it means anything that is made by fusion or casting. This image was cast Exo 32:4, and hence, this name is given to it.
Thus they changed their glory - Their true glory - the proper object of worship - God. Compare the notes at Rom 1:23. They "exchanged" that as an object of worship for the image of an ox.
Into the similitude of an ox that eateth grass - Into the likeness of an ox. That is, They worshipped God under that image. The circumstance of its "eating grass" is added to show the absurdity of the act. Instead of worshipping God - an independent Being, who does not need to be supported, but who himself sustains all things, and provides for all - they worshipped an animal that had need of constant sustenance, and would itself soon die if deprived of its proper nourishment. Compare the notes at Isa 40:18-20; notes at Isa 41:6-7.
They forgat God their Saviour ... - The God who had saved, or delivered them, out of Egypt. The sentiment here is the same as in Psa 78:11-12. See the notes at that place.
Therefore he said that he would destroy them - See Exo 32:10-14. He threatened to destroy them, and he would have done it, if Moses had not interposed and pleaded for them. There was nothing strange or very unusual in this. Many a descending curse upon guilty people is turned away by prayer, and by human intervention. We are constantly endeavoring to turn aside evils which would come upon others - by our intervention - by labor or by prayer. Thus, when we toil to provide food for our children, or give it in charity to the poor, we are endeavoring to avert the evil of starvation which would otherwise come upon them; when we provide for them clothing, we turn away the evils of nakedness and cold; when we give them medicine we turn away the evil of long-continued disease or of death; when we rush through the flames if a house is on fire, or venture out in a rough sea in a boat, to save others from devouring flame or from a watery grave, we seek to turn aside evils which would otherwise come upon them. So when we pray for others we may turn away evils which would otherwise descend on the guilty. No one can estimate the number or the amount of evils which are thus turned away from the guilty and the suffering by intervention and intercession; no one can tell how many of the blessings of his own life he owes to the intercessions and the toils of others. "All the blessings that come upon sinners - "all" that is done to turn away deserved wrath from people - is owing to the fact that the one great Intercessor - greater than Moses - cast himself into the "breach," and himself met and rolled back the woes which were coming upon a guilty world. "Had not Moses his chosen." Chosen to lead and guide his people to the promised land.
Stood before him - Presented himself before him.
In the breach - literally, "in the breaking." The allusion is to a breach made in a wall Kg1 11:27; Isa 30:13; Amo 4:3; Job 30:14, and to the force with which an army rushes through a breach that is thus made. So God seemed to be about to come forth to destroy the nation.
Yea, they despised the pleasant land - Margin, as in Hebrew, "land of desire." That is, a country "to be desired," - a country whose situation, climate, productions, made it desirable as a place of abode. Such Palestine was always represented to be to the children of Israel (Lev 20:24; Num 13:27; Num 14:8; Num 16:14; Deu 6:3; Deu 11:9; et al.;) but this land had to them, at the time here referred to, no attractions, and they rather desired to return again to Egypt; Num 11:5.
They believed not his word - His assurance in regard to the land to which they were going.
But murmured in their tents ... - Num 14:2, Num 14:27. They complained of Moses; they complained of their food; they complained of the hardships of their journey; they complained of God. They did this when "in their tents;" when they had a comfortable home; when safe; when provided for; when under the direct divine protection and care. So people often complain: perhaps oftener when they have "many" comforts than when they have "few."
Therefore he lifted up his hand against them - Num 14:27-33. He resolved to cut them off, so that none of them should reach the promised land.
To overthrow them in the wilderness - literally, to cause them to "fall."
To overthrow their seed also among the nations - Margin, as in Hebrew, "to make them fall;" to wit, among the surrounding people. The reference here is to the posterity of those who complained and fell in the wilderness. The result of their rebellion and complaining would not terminate with them. It would extend to their posterity, and the rebellion of the fathers would be remembered in distant generations. The overthrow of the nation, and its captivity in Babylon was thus one of the remote consequences of their rebellion in the wilderness.
And to scatter them in the lands - In foreign lands - as at Babylon. If this psalm was written at the time of the Babylonian captivity, this allusion would be most appropriate. It would remind the nation that its captivity there had its origin in the ancient and long-continued disposition of the people to revolt from God.
They joined themselves also unto Baal-peor - They joined in their devotions, or, they shared in the rites of idolatrous worship. This occurred when they were in the regions of Moab, and on the very borders of the promised land. Num. 25. Many other instances of a similar kind are passed over by the psalmist, and this seems to have been selected because of its special aggravation, and to show the general character of the nation. Even after their long-continued enjoyment of the favor and protection of God - after he had conducted them safely through the wilderness - after he had brought them to the very border of the land of Canaan, and all his promises were about to be fulfilled, they still showed a disposition to depart from God. Baal-peor was an idol of the Moabites, in whose worship females prostituted themselves. Gesenius, Lexicon. Compare Num 25:1-3. Baal was the name of the idol; Peor was the name of a mountain in Moab, where the idol was worshipped.
And ate the sacrifices of the dead - Of false gods, represented as "dead" or having no life, in contradistinction from the true and "living God." They ate the sacrifices offered to those idols; that is, they participated in their worship. Num 25:2.
Thus they provoked him to anger with their inventions - The word rendered "inventions" means properly "works; deeds;" then it is used in the sense of "evil" deeds, crimes.
And the plague brake in upon them - See Num 25:8-9. No less than twenty-four thousand fell in the plague. Num 25:9.
Then stood up Phinehas, and executed judgment ... - Inflicted summary punishment upon a principal offender. Num 25:7-8.
And that was counted unto him for righteousness - See Num 25:11-13. Compare the notes at Rom 4:3. The meaning here is, that this was regarded as a "proof" or "demonstration" that he was a righteous man - a man fearing God.
Unto all generations for evermore - Hebrew, "To generation and generation forever." The record would be transmitted from one generation to another, without any intermission, and would be permanent. This is one of the illustrations of the statement so frequently made in the Scriptures (compare Exo 20:6; Deu 7:9; Rom 11:28) that the blessings of religion will descend to a distant posterity. Such instances are constantly occurring, and there is no legacy which a man can leave his family so valuable as the fact that he himself fears God and keeps his laws.
They angered him also at the waters of strife - Num 20:3-13. They complained of the lack of water. They wished that they had died as others had done. They murmured against God as if he could not supply their needs. They showed an unbelieving and rebellious spirit - provoking God, and tempting Moses to in act of great impatience by their conduct. In Num 20:13, this is, "the waters of Meribah;" - margin, "strife." This is the meaning of the Hebrew word. The place took its name from the fact that the people there strove against the Lord and against Moses.
So that it went ill with Moses for their sakes - Evil came upon him. He was betrayed into impatience, and was tempted to use words which offended God, and prevented his being permitted to lead the people into the promised land. Num 20:12.
Because they provoked his spirit - literally, "They made his spirit bitter," or they embittered his soul. They threw him off his guard, so that instead of manifesting the meekness and gentleness which so eminently characterized him in general (see Num 12:3), he gave way to expressions of anger. See Num 20:10.
So that he spake unadvisedly with his lips - Passionately; in a severe, harsh, and threatening manner. He did not bear with them as he should have done; he did not refer to God, to his power, and to his goodness as he should have done; he spake as if the whole thing depended on him and Aaron: "Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?" The word rendered "spake unadvisedly" - בטא bâṭâ' - means properly to "babble;" and then, to talk idly, or unadvisedly; to utter that which has no meaning, or an improper meaning. Let us not harshly blame Moses, until we are placed in circumstances similar to his, and see how we would ourselves act. Who is there that would not have been provoked as he was, or even to a greater degree? If there are any such, let them "cast the first stone."
They did not destroy the nations - The Canaanites, Hivites, Jebusites, etc.; the nations that inhabited the land of Canaan.
Concerning whom the Lord commanded them - The command on this subject was positive; and it was to destroy them, to spare none of them. Num 33:52; Deu 7:5, Deu 7:16.
But were mingled among the heathen - Among the nations; by intermarriage, and by commerce. They suffered them to remain in the land, contrary to the command of God, and thus greatly exposed and endangered the purity of their religion and their own morals. See Jdg 2:2; Jdg 3:5-6.
And learned their works - Their practices; their customs and habits: learned to live as they did. This was an illustration of the danger of contact with the wicked and the worldly. What occurred in their case has often occurred since in the history of the people of God, that by "mingling" with the world they have learned to practice their "works;" have become conformed to their manner of living, and have thus lost their spirituality, and brought dishonor on the cause of religion. There is some proper sense in which the people of God are not to be conformed to the world; in which, though living among them, they are to be separate from them; in which, though they are parts of the same nation, and live under the same government and laws, they are to be a distinct and special people, ruled supremely by higher laws, and having higher and nobler ends of life. Rom 12:2; Co2 6:14-17.
And they served their idols - Jdg 2:12-13, Jdg 2:17, Jdg 2:19; Jdg 3:6-7.
Which were a snare unto them - Like the snares or toils by which birds and wild beasts are caught. That is, they were taken unawares; they were in danger when they did not perceive it; they fell when they thought themselves safe. The bird and the wild beast approach the snare, unconscious of danger; so the friend of God approaches the temptations which are spread out before him by the enemy of souls - and, ere he is aware, he is a captive, and has fallen. Nothing could better describe the way in which the people of God are led into sin than the arts by which birds are caught by the fowler, and wild beasts by the hunter.
Yea, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters - See Kg2 16:3; Eze 16:20; Eze 20:31; Isa 57:5.
Unto devils - Hebrew, שׁדים shêdiym. The Septuagint, δαιμονίοις daimoniois, "demons." So the Vulgate, "daemoniis." The word is used only in the plural number, and is applied to idols. It occurs only in this place, and in Deu 32:17. On the meaning of this, see the notes at Co1 10:20.
And shed innocent blood ... - The blood of those who had committed no crime; who did not "deserve" the treatment which they received. That is, they were sacrificed "as" innocent persons, and "because" it was believed that they "were" innocent: the pure for the impure; the holy for the unholy. It was on the general principle that a sacrifice for sin must be itself pure, or it could not be offered in the place of the guilty; that an offering made for one who had violated law must be by one who had "not" violated it. This was the principle on which "lambs" were offered in sacrifice. It is on this principle that the atonement for sin by the Lord Jesus was made; on this depend its efficacy and its value.
And the land was polluted with blood - That is, Either so much blood was thus poured out, that it might be said that the very land was polluted with it; or, the sin itself was so great, that it seemed to defile and pollute the whole land.
Thus were they defiled with their own works - By their very attempts to deliver themselves from sin. They were corrupt, and the consciousness that they were sinners led them to the commission of even greater enormities in attempting to expiate their guilt, even by the sacrifice of their own sons and daughters. Thus all the religions of the pagan begin in sin, and end in sin. The consciousness of sin only leads to the commission of greater sin; to all the abominations of idol-worship; to the sacrifice - the murder - of the innocent, with the vain hope of thus making expiation for their crimes. Sinners have never yet been able to devise a way by which they may make themselves pure. It is only the great Sacrifice made on the cross which meets the case; which provides expiation; and which saves from future sin.
And went a whoring - Apostacy from God and backsliding are ofen illustrated in the Scriptures by the violation of the marriage compact, as the relation between God and his people is often compared with the relation between a husband and wife. Compare Isa 62:5; Jer 3:14; Jer 7:9; Jer 13:27; Eze 16:20, Eze 16:22, Eze 16:25, Eze 16:33-34; Eze 23:17.
With their own inventions - More literally, With their own works. See the notes at Psa 106:29.
Therefore was the wrath of the Lord kindled against his people - Anger is often compared with a fire; as we say now, a man is "inflamed" with passion. See Est 1:12; Lam 2:3; Psa 79:5; Psa 89:46; Jer 4:4; Jdg 2:14. Of course, this must be taken in a manner appropriate to God. It means that his treatment of his offending people was as if he were burning with wrath against them.
Insomuch that he abhorred his own inheritance - He was offended with his people; he treated them "as if" they were an abomination to him. He punished them; he cast them off; he left them to the just results of their own conduct. Were ever any writers more candid and honest than the sacred penmen? There is no effort to vindicate the nation; there is no apology offered for them; there is no concealment of their guilt; there is no attempt to soften the statement in regard to the feelings of God toward them. Their conduct was abominable; they deserved the divine displeasure; they were ungrateful, evil, and rebellious; and the sacred writers do not hesitate to admit the truth of this to the fullest extent.
And he gave them into the hand of the heathen - That is, of foreign nations. They were indeed "pagans," in the sense in which that term is used now - that is, they were ignorant of the true God, and worshipped idols; but that idea is not necessarily in the original word. The word "Gentiles" expresses all that the word implies.
And they that hated them ruled over them - Had them in subjection.
Their enemies also oppressed them - Septuagint, "Afflicted them," They invaded their country; they destroyed their vintages; they laid desolate their land; they made them captives.
And they were brought into subjection - Hebrew, made to bow.
Many times did he deliver them - From danger of invasion; from foreign arms; from entire overthrow. Numerous instances of this are recorded in the history of the Hebrew people.
But they provoked him with their counsel - This does not mean that they gave counsel or advice to God; but it refers to the counsel which they took among themselves; the plans which they formed. These were such as to offend God.
And were brought low for their iniquity - Margin, "impoverished or weakened." The Hebrew word means to melt away, to pine; and hence, to decay, to be brought low. See Job 24:24, where it is rendered "brought low," and Ecc 10:18, where it is rendered "decayeth." The word does not occur elsewhere. The meaning is, that they were weakened; their national strength was exhausted as a punishment for their sins.
Nevertheless, he regarded their affliction - literally, "And he looked upon the trouble that was upon them;" or, "and he saw in the distress to them." The meaning is, that he did not turn away from it; he saw the need of interposition, and he came to them.
When he heard their cry - literally, "In his hearing their cry." Their cry for help came before him, and he did not refuse to look upon their affliction. The idea is, that he was attracted to their case by their loud cry for help; and that when he heard the cry, he did not refuse to look upon their low and sad condition. God assists us when we cry to him. We ask his attention to our troubles; we pray for his help; and when he hears the cry, he comes and saves us. He does not turn away, or treat our case as unworthy of his notice.
And he remembered for them his covenant - His solemn promises made to their fathers. He remembered that covenant in their behalf; or, on account of that, he came and blessed them. He had made gracious promises to the patriarchs; he had promised to be the God of their posterity; he had his own great purposes to accomplish through their nation in the distant future; and on these accounts, he came and blessed them.
And repented - He averted impending judgments. He checked and arrested the calamities which he was bringing upon them for their sins. He acted toward them as though his mind had been changed; as though he was sorry for what he was doing. The word "repent" can be applied to God in no other sense than this. It cannot be applied to him in the sense that he felt or admitted that he had done wrong; or that he had made a mistake; or that he had changed his mind or purposes; or that he intended to enter on a new course of conduct; but it may be applied to him in the sense that his treatment of people is "as if" he had changed his mind, or "as if" he were sorry for what he had done: that is, a certain course of things which had been commenced, would be arrested and changed to meet existing circumstances, because "they" had changed - though all must have been foreseen and purposed in his eternal counsels.
According to the multitude of his mercies - The greatness of his mercy; the disposition of his nature to show mercy; the repeated instances in which he had shown mercy in similar circumstances.
He made them also to be pitied of all those that carried them captives - That is, he exercised such control over the minds of the pagan that they were willing to show them mercy and to release them. It was not by any native tenderness on the part of the pagan; it was not because they were disposed of themselves to show them any favor; it was not because they had any "natural" relentings on the subject; but it was because God had access to their hearts, and "inclined" them to show compassion for their suffering prisoners. This is a remarkable instance of the power of God over even the hardened minds and hearts of pagan men; and it shows that he holds this power, and can exercise it when he pleases. If he could excite in their hard hearts feelings of compassion toward his own people in bondage, what should prevent his having such access to the hearts of the pagan now as to lead them to repentance toward himself? On the exercise of this power the salvation of the pagan world - as of all sinners - must depend; and for the putting forth of this power we should most fervently pray. The "literal" rendering of this verse would be, "And he gave them to compassions before all those that made them captive." That is, he inclined them to show favor or compassion. Compare Dan 1:9; Kg1 8:50.
Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the heathen - From among the nations. From this it would seem that the psalm was composed when the nation was in captivity, or was dispersed among the nations that were hostile to them. The prayer is, that as God had, in former periods, recovered his people when they were in exile, or were scattered abroad, he would again graciously interpose and bring them to the land of their fathers, where they had been accustomed to worship God.
To give thanks unto thy holy name - Unto thee; a holy God. That we may praise thee in the place where thou art accustomed to be worshipped - in the sanctuary.
And to triumph in thy praise - To exult; to rejoice; to be glad in praising thee - in thy worship.
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting - Forever. As he has been adored in the past - even from the beginning of the creation - so let him be adored and praised in all periods to come - forever and forever. See the notes at Psa 41:13.
And let all the people say, Amen - In Psa 41:13, this is, "Amen and amen." The idea is, Let all the people join in this; let them all express and declare their assent to this: let them all say, "Be it so." The word "Amen" is a word expressing assent - meaning verily, truly, certainly.
Praise ye the Lord - Hebrew, "Hallelu-jah." See Psa 104:35.