Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
This Psalm gives a detailed confession of the sins of Israel in all
periods of their history, with special reference to the terms of the
covenant as intimated
It is introduced by praise to God for the wonders of His mercy, and
concluded by a supplication for His favor to His afflicted people, and
begins and ends the Psalm, intimating the obligations of praise,
however we sin and suffer
is the source from which the beginning and end of this Psalm are
2. His acts exceed our comprehension, as His praise our powers of
Their unutterable greatness is not to keep us back, but to urge us the
more to try to praise Him as best we can
(Ps 40:5; 71:15).
3. The blessing is limited to those whose principles and acts are
right. How "blessed" Israel would be now, if he had "observed God's
4, 5. In view of the desert of sins to be confessed, the writer invokes
God's covenant mercy to himself and the Church, in whose welfare he
rejoices. The speaker, me, I, is not the Psalmist himself, but the
people, the present generation (compare
5. see the good--participate in it
thy chosen--namely, Israel, God's elect
(Isa 43:20; 45:4).
As God seems to have forgotten them, they pray that He would
"remember" them with the favor which belongs to His own people,
and which once they had enjoyed.
(De 9:29; 32:9).
where the same three verbs occur in the same order and connection, the
original of the two later passages being the first one, the prayer of
Solomon in dedicating the temple.
sinned . . . fathers--like them, and so partaking of their guilt. The
terms denote a rising gradation of sinning (compare
with our fathers--we and they together forming one mass of corruption.
7-12. Special confession. Their rebellion at the sea
was because they had not remembered nor understood God's miracles on
their behalf. That God saved them in their unbelief was of His mere
mercy, and for His own glory.
the sea . . . the Red Sea--the very words in which Moses' song
celebrated the scene of Israel's deliverance
Israel began to rebel against God at the very moment and scene of its
deliverance by God!
8. for his name's sake--
as through the wilderness--
12. believed . . . his words--This is said not to praise the
Israelites, but God, who constrained even so unbelieving a people
momentarily to "believe" while in immediate view of His wonders, a
faith which they immediately afterwards lost
Ex 14:31; 15:1).
13-15. The faith induced by God's display of power in their behalf
was short lived, and their new rebellion and temptation was visited by
God with fresh punishment, inflicted by leaving them to the result of
their own gratified appetites, and sending on them spiritual poverty
They soon forgat--literally, "They hasted, they forgat"
"They have turned aside quickly (or, hastily) out of the
way." The haste of our desires is such that we can scarcely allow God
one day. Unless He immediately answers our call, instantly then arise
impatience, and at length despair.
(De 11:3, 4;
his counsel--They waited not for the development of God's counsel, or
plan for their deliverance, at His own time, and in His own way.
14. Literally, "lusted a lust" (quoted from
Margin). Previously, there had been impatience as to
necessaries of life; here it is lusting
15. but sent leanness--rather, "and sent," that is,
and thus, even in doing so, the punishment was inflicted at the very
time their request was granted. So
"While their meat was yet in their mouths, the wrath of God came upon
soul--the animal soul, which craves for food
This soul got its wish, and with it and in it its own punishment. The
place was therefore called Kibroth-hattaavah, "the graves of
because there they buried the people who had lusted. Animal desires
when gratified mostly give only a hungry craving for more
16-18. All the congregation took part with Dathan, Korah, &c., and
Aaron the saint--literally, "the holy one," as consecrated priest;
not a moral attribute, but one designating his office as holy to the
Lord. The rebellion was followed by a double punishment: (1) of the
non-Levitical rebels, the Reubenites, Dathan and Abiram, &c.
these were swallowed up by the earth.
17. covered--"closed upon them"
(2) Of the Levitical rebels, with Korah at their head
(Nu 16:35; 26:10);
these had sinned by fire, and were punished by fire, as Aaron's
(being high priest) sons had been
19-23. From indirect setting God at naught, they pass to direct.
made--though prohibited in
Ex 20:4, 5
to make a likeness, even of the true God.
calf--called so in contempt. They would have made an ox or bull, but
their idol turned out but a calf; an imitation of the divine symbols,
the cherubim; or of the sacred bull of Egyptian idolatry. The idolatry
was more sinful in view of their recent experience of God's power in
Egypt and His wonders at Sinai
Though intending to worship Jehovah under the symbol of the calf, yet
as this was incompatible with His nature
they in reality gave up Him, and so were given up by Him. Instead of
the Lord of heaven, they had as their glory the image of an ox that
does nothing but eat grass.
23. he said--namely, to Moses
With God, saying is as certain as doing; but His purpose,
while full of wrath against sin, takes into account the mediation of
Him of whom Moses was the type
De 9:18, 19).
Moses his chosen--that is, to be His servant (compare
in the breach--as a warrior covers with his body the broken part of
a wall or fortress besieged, a perilous place
(Eze 13:5; 22:30).
to turn away--or, "prevent"
24-27. The sin of refusing to invade Canaan, "the pleasant land"
"the land of beauty," was punished by the destruction of that
and the threat of dispersion
(De 4:25; 28:32)
afterwards made to their posterity, and fulfilled in the great
calamities now bewailed, may have also been then added.
believed not his word--by which He promised He would give them the
land; but rather the word of the faithless spies
26. lifted up his hand--or, "swore," the usual form of swearing
27. To overthrow--literally, "To make them fall"; alluding to the words
among . . . nations . . . lands--The
"wilderness" was not more destructive to the fathers
than residence among the heathen ("nations") shall be to the children.
Le 26:33, 38
is here, before the Psalmist's mind, the determination against the
"seed" when rebellious, being not expressed in
but implied in the determination against the fathers.
28-30. sacrifices of the dead--that is, of lifeless idols, contrasted
with "the living God"
On the words,
joined themselves to Baal-peor--see
Nu 25:2, 3, 5.
Baal-peor--that is, the possessor of Peor, the mountain on which
Chemosh, the idol of Moab, was worshipped, and at the foot of which
Israel at the time lay encamped
The name never occurs except in connection with that locality and that
29. provoked--excited grief and indignation
(Ps 6:7; 78:58).
30. stood--as Aaron "stood between the living and the dead, and the
plague was stayed"
executed judgment--literally, "judged," including sentence and act.
31. counted . . . righteousness--"a just and rewardable action."
for--or, "unto," to the procuring of righteousness, as in
Ro 4:2; 10:4.
Here it was a particular act, not faith, nor its object Christ; and
what was procured was not justifying righteousness, or what was
to be rewarded with eternal life; for no one act of man's can be taken
for complete obedience. But it was that which God approved and rewarded
with a perpetual priesthood to him and his descendants
32, 33. (Compare
De 1:37; 3:26).
went ill with--literally, "was bad for"
Moses--His conduct, though under great provocation, was punished by
exclusion from Canaan.
34-39. They not only failed to expel the heathen, as God
(Ex 23:32, 33),
literally, "said (they should)," but conformed to their idolatries
and thus became spiritual adulterers
37. unto devils--Septuagint, "demons" (compare
or "evil spirits."
38. polluted with blood--literally, "blood," or "murder"
(Ps 5:6; 26:9).
40-43. Those nations first seduced and then oppressed them (compare
Jud 1:34; 2:14; 3:30).
Their apostasies ungratefully repaid God's many mercies till He finally
abandoned them to punishment
44-46. If, as is probable, this Psalm was written at the time of the
captivity, the writer now intimates the tokens of God's returning favor.
46. made . . . pitied--
These tokens encourage the prayer and the promise of praise
which is well closed by a doxology.