Psalm 107

Submitted by admin on Fri, 2008-01-25 12:00.

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In the Septuagint, both Psalm 106 and 107 start with “Hallelujah” or “Praise Yah.” The Masoretic Text does not include “Praise Yah” at the beginning of Psalm 107. Otherwise, the opening verse is identical for both compositions. The psalmist begins with the admonition to praise YHWH. There is compelling reason to thank or gratefully to “acknowledge” (LXX) him, for he is “good” or “kind” (LXX) and his love, compassionate concern, or “mercy” (LXX) is abiding. Being the ultimate standard of moral excellence, YHWH is good and the source of all good things, and his compassionate care can always be relied upon, enduring for all time to come. YHWH’s compassionate concern will never fail.

The “redeemed ones of YHWH,” those whom he redeemed from the hand or power of the foe, may designate the Israelites who had been liberated from Babylonian exile. They are the ones who are invited to make the expression of thanksgiving or appreciative acknowledgment. Formerly, these exiles had been scattered but YHWH had gathered them from lands where they had been, from east, west, north, and the “sea.”

Modern translations commonly read “south” (NIV, NJB, NRSV, REB) instead of “sea.” Possibly those gathered from the “sea” refer to Israelites who had been sold into slavery and found themselves in areas along the Mediterranean Sea. (Compare Joel 3:6.) Isaiah 60:9 specifically refers to “ships of Tarshish” bringing God’s “sons” or his people from far away.

Verses 4 through 7 appear to relate to the experiences of some of the exiles. When returning to their own land from the areas to which they had been scattered, they passed through inhospitable desert regions. They found no path to a “city of habitation.” The expression “city of habitation” may refer to a place where they could obtain supplies and lodge for the night. Hungry and thirsty, they reached the point of exhaustion. “Their soul within them” or they, in every part of their being, became faint, depleted of all their energy. In their distress, the people cried out to YHWH for help. He rescued them from their plight. (See the Notes section regarding verse 6.)

The Almighty guided them by a “straight way,” making it possible for them to take the right path until they came to a “city of habitation.” In this case, “city of habitation” probably denotes a place where they could settle permanently and no longer have to continue wandering.

Based on what they had experienced, the people should thank YHWH or appreciatively acknowledge him for his abiding love, compassionate care, or “mercies” (LXX) and for his “wonderful works” or his saving acts performed for the “sons of men” or for them as humans. (See the Notes section regarding verse 8.)


The psalmist identified YHWH as the one who satisfies the “thirsting soul” and fills the “hungry soul” with “good things” or the essential nourishment. (See the Notes section for additional comments about the “thirsting soul” [verse 9].) As prisoners, the Israelites would have found themselves “sitting” or dwelling in darkness and “death’s shadow” or “deep shadow.” In affliction or in a helpless state and in “irons” or under restraint, they had no hope of being liberated.

Their pathetic plight had resulted from rebelling against God’s words and spurning his counsel. They had disregarded his commands and the direction he had provided for them, thereby depriving themselves of his aid and protection.

During the period of their distress, their “heart,” or the proud bearing of their inmost self, was humbled through “labor” or by having to slave for their captors. On account of their hard toil, they fell down from exhaustion, and there was no one to help them.

In their distress, they cried out to YHWH, and he saved them. (See the Notes section on verse 6.) He brought them out of their affliction, a state of “darkness and death’s shadow,” breaking the bonds of their captivity. In appreciation, they should thank YHWH for his compassionate concern and his impressive saving acts. (See the Notes section about the refrain in verse 8.)

The “gates of bronze” and the “bars of iron” are probably to be understood as denoting everything involved in keeping the exiles as Babylon’s captives. YHWH shattered the gates and cut through the bars that prevented his people from leaving the locations where they lived as exiles.

The Israelites had brought calamity upon themselves. They had been foolish, choosing the way of transgression. On account of their iniquities, they were humiliated, reduced to the helpless and afflicted state of exiles. (See the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering of verse 17.)

It appears that, in their afflicted state, the people could not bring themselves to eat. Their “soul” or they themselves loathed all food. Their distressing circumstances brought them near the “gates of death.” It seemed to them that they were without hope. In their distress, they cried out to YHWH, and he saved them. (See the Notes section regarding verse 6.)

YHWH’s sending forth his word refers to expressing his will respecting his people. As a consequence, they were “healed” or freed from their affliction. He delivered them from the “pits” (“destruction,” LXX) or from their descent into the realm of the dead.

They had good reason for thanking YHWH, gratefully acknowledging his compassionate care or “mercies” (LXX) and his wondrous saving acts. (See the Notes section for verse 8.) It was also appropriate for the rescued people to offer sacrifices, “sacrifices of thanksgiving.” With joyous shouts, they should relate YHWH’s deeds, the amazing things he had done for them.


Next the psalmist referred to those involved in commercial shipping activity and who experienced deliverance from peril while at sea. The “many waters” probably are those of the Mediterranean Sea. Those going down to the “sea in ships” would anchor at various ports to conduct trade. In the “deep” or while their ship was plying the sea, the mariners saw YHWH’s “wondrous works.” The psalmist, as the subsequent verses indicate, perceived the tremendous storm and the calm that followed as being God’s activity.

At his command, a strong wind rose and whipped up large waves. As the waves tossed the ship, the mariners found themselves being lifted up skyward and then plunged down to the depths. Helpless on account of their calamity, the “soul” of the mariners “melted away.” In their soul, or their very being, they lost courage and hope. “They reeled and staggered like a drunkard.” According to the Septuagint, “they were troubled; like a drunkard, they staggered.” All their “wisdom” or their skill as experienced seamen failed them, as if their “wisdom” had been “swallowed up.”

In their helpless state of distress, they cried out to YHWH, and he brought them out of their peril. (See the Notes section regarding verse 6.) He calmed the storm and stopped the waves from raging. The mariners rejoiced, for “they had quiet,” no longer being tossed about by the wind and the waves. God brought them to the “harbor of their delight” or “desire” (likely meaning that they arrived at a port where they could engage in trade, which was their desire).

For the favorable turn of events, they had reason to thank YHWH or gratefully to acknowledge him for his compassionate care and his wondrous saving acts. (See the Notes section regarding verse 8.) Theirs should be a public acknowledgment of God’s aid in time of distress. In the “congregation of the people,” those who had experienced deliverance from their peril should exalt YHWH, praising him in the “assembly of elders,” the representatives of the nation.


The psalmist next referred to YHWH as effecting great changes. He transforms rivers into a “wilderness” (or dry stream beds), and “springs of water” into parched ground (when the springs dry up and the surrounding area can no longer support vegetation).

The Almighty turns productive land into a “salty area,” where nothing grows. He does so on account of the wickedness of the land’s inhabitants.

He transforms a desert into an area with a “pool [pools, LXX] of water,” and an arid land to a place with springs. Through the changed condition of the land, God makes it possible for the “hungry” to have food and to establish permanent residence. They sow fields, plant vineyards, and enjoy bountiful harvests. With God’s blessing upon them, the population increases, and he does not cause flocks and herds to decrease.

Circumstances change. Calamity strikes (likely the result of enemy invasion). The population decreases, and the domestic animals become few. Oppression, misery, and sorrow deprive the people of their former prosperity and joy, reducing them to a low state.

The reference to what God does to high officials likely describes what happens to them in times of war. When defeated, they are treated with contempt. They may be scattered and forced to flee in panic. In unfamiliar terrain, they wander in areas that appear featureless and trackless. Confused, they do not know where to go.

Focusing on a change for the needy, the psalmist mentions what YHWH does for them. He lifts the needy one out of his afflicted state or poverty. The poor begin to prosper, and their families increase like flocks. Observing this reversal, the upright rejoice, and the mouth of “wickedness” is stopped, as the ungodly can no longer mock upright needy individuals.

The psalmist concluded with admonition directed the wise persons. They should take note of the things YHWH does and give consideration to his abiding love, compassionate concern, or “mercies” (LXX). In the Septuagint, the thought is expressed in the form of a question, “Who [is] wise and will observe these things, and will they consider the mercies of the Lord?”


Regarding the divine name (YHWH), see Psalm 1.

The refrain of verse 6 (“And they cried to YHWH in their distress; from their straits he delivered them”) is repeated (with minor differences) in verses 13, 19, and 28.

The refrain of verse 8 (“Let them thank YHWH for his compassionate care and for his wonderful works to the sons of men”) is repeated in verses 15, 21, and 31. In a partially preserved Dead Sea scroll, the words of verse 21 do not appear to have been included in the manuscript.

In verse 9, the participial form of the Hebrew term shaqáq may have the sense of “thirsting” or “longing.” Whereas the word can signify to “run” or “rush,” it may also denote to “run after,” “long for,” “desire,” or “thirst for.” When a desire is not fulfilled, a person is left empty, and this may explain the reason for the Septuagint rendering “empty soul.”

In verse 17, the Septuagint reads, “He helped them from their lawless way, for because of their lawless deeds they were humiliated.” This could be understood to mean that God provided assistance by delivering them from the consequences of their lawless course. He ended the humiliation to which their lawless deeds had led.

In verse 36, a Dead Sea scroll does not refer to the “hungry,” but has the expression “great” or “mighty people.” “And there he brings a mighty people to live, and they establish towns where they can live.” (The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible)