Psalm 105 – The LORD’s Blessings on His Covenant People
Whoever arranged and ordered the Psalms set 105 and 106 together purposefully. “This and the following psalm are companions. They reveal the two sides of the relation between God and His people during a long period. This one sings the song of His faithfulness and power; while the next tells the sad story of repeated failure and rebellion on the part of His people.” (G. Campbell Morgan)
The first 15 verses of Psalm 105 are also found in 1 Chronicles 16:8-22 and presented there as a composition of David, written and sung for the bringing of the ark of the covenant into Jerusalem. It is reasonable to therefore conclude that though this psalm is not specifically attributed to King David, he is the author of it.
A. A call to the people of God.
1. (1-3) A call to worship the LORD.
Oh, give thanks to the LORD!
Call upon His name;
Make known His deeds among the peoples!
Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him;
Talk of all His wondrous works!
Glory in His holy name;
Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the LORD!
a. Oh, give thanks to the LORD: Recent psalms in the collection focused on stirring one’s soul to bless the Lord. Now David encouraged himself and others to give thanks to the LORD, and Psalm 105 will give many reasons for this thanks. This is the first of ten quickly stated encouragements to honor and worship God.
i. These first six verses of Psalm 105 “are full of exultation, and, in their reiterated short clauses, are like the joyful cries of a herald bringing good tidings to Zion.” (Maclaren)
b. Call upon His name: This probably has the idea of calling upon Yahweh and not upon the idols of the nations. He alone deserves to be called upon in the sense of praise towards and reliance on.
c. Make known His deeds among the peoples: David will recount the amazing deeds God has done in the sight of all peoples, and he encouraged all who heard him to do the same. God’s people should talk of all His wondrous works.
d. Sing to Him: As in many other places in the psalms, God’s people are told the importance of praising Him in song. The songs should be sung to Him, and not to an audience or merely for one’s own pleasure.
e. Glory in His holy name: We can glory in many things. Some glory in wealth or status, others glory in pleasure or entertainment. God’s people rightly find their greatest glorying in His holy name.
i. VanGemeren suggested three goals accomplished with praise in the context of this psalm.
· Praise magnifies the LORD, attributing power, holiness, and glory to Him.
· Praise intensifies an appreciation of the history of redemption
· Praise witnesses to those outside the covenant community
2. (4-6) A call to seek the LORD and remember His great works.
Seek the LORD and His strength;
Seek His face evermore!
Remember His marvelous works which He has done,
His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth,
O seed of Abraham His servant,
You children of Jacob, His chosen ones!
a. Seek the LORD and His strength: God’s people are invited to not only seek God Himself, but also His strength. This strength is given to God’s people as they seek Him, as Paul would later write: Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might (Ephesians 6:10).
i. “Seek, seek, seek, we have the word three times, and though the words differ in the Hebrew, the sense is the same. It must be a blessed thing to seek, or we should not be thus stirred up to do so.” (Spurgeon)
b. Remember His marvelous works which He has done: There is the constant danger among God’s people to forget His marvelous works. It dishonors God when we forget His great works, and we will always drift to forgetfulness if we do not actively remember.
i. “Alas, we are far more ready to recollect foolish and evil things than to retain in our minds the glorious deeds of Jehovah. If we would keep these in remembrance our faith would be stronger, our gratitude warmer, our devotion more fervent, and our love more intense.” (Spurgeon)
c. O seed of Abraham His servant: This psalm is especially directed towards God’s covenant people, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. These were His chosen ones in the outworking of His covenant plan.
i. “Abraham is here called ‘his servant’ (v. 6; cf. v. 42), a term of closeness and of special appointment.” (VanGemeren)
B. God’s care for Israel under the patriarchs.
1. (7-12) God’s marvelous covenant with the patriarchs.
He is the LORD our God;
His judgments are in all the earth.
He remembers His covenant forever,
The word which He commanded, for a thousand generations,
The covenant which He made with Abraham,
And His oath to Isaac,
And confirmed it to Jacob for a statute,
To Israel as an everlasting covenant,
Saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan
As the allotment of your inheritance,”
When they were few in number,
Indeed very few, and strangers in it.
a. His judgments are in all the earth: Before focusing on the works and promises God made unto the people of Israel, David reminds us that He is God over all the earth. His covenant focus on Israel does not take away from His interest and lordship over the earth.
i. He is the LORD our God: “He is Jehovah, the self-existent and eternal God. He is our God, he is our portion; has taken us for his people, and makes us happy in his love.” (Clarke)
b. He remembers His covenant forever: God made a significant covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that was passed to the nation of Israel. It is an everlasting covenant, and Israel’s role as God’s covenant people remains until the end of the age.
i. The word which He commanded: “Notice the expression, the word that he commanded, as a parallel term to his covenant. It puts the stress on God’s initiative and authority in the covenant-making, which means that this bond with men is by grace, not mutual bargaining, and serves the interests of God’s kingdom, not the selfish ends of men.” (Kidner)
ii. Already in Psalm 105 we have repetition of the word He. “The master word in the psalm is the pronoun ‘He.’ In constant repetition it shows the one thought uppermost in the mind of the singer. It is that of perpetual activity of God in all those experiences through which His people have passed.” (Morgan)
iii. Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, seems to have paraphrased Psalm 105:8-11 as recorded in Luke 1:72-75. “Zacharias, under the immediate influence and direction of the Holy Spirit, transfers the language of the old dispensation to the affairs of the new one; he celebrates the redemption of the world, by Christ, from sin and death, in words which literally describe the redemption of Israel from Egypt by Moses.” (Horne)
c. I will give the land of Canaan: One aspect of this everlasting covenant is the land God appointed for Israel. It is the allotment of their inheritance, given to them when they were few in number. God promised the land to Abraham when he and his family were only a few people in the land of Canaan.
2. (13-15) God’s protection of the patriarchs.
When they went from one nation to another,
From one kingdom to another people,
He permitted no one to do them wrong;
Yes, He rebuked kings for their sakes,
Saying, “Do not touch My anointed ones,
And do My prophets no harm.”
a. When they went from one nation to another: The patriarchs had their seasons of wandering. Abraham came from Ur of the Chaldeans (Genesis 11:31-12:4) and journeyed to Egypt (Genesis 12:10-20). Jacob also lived for many years in Chaldea (Genesis 29:1).
b. He permitted no one to do them wrong: In all their wanderings among the nations, God protected them. He even rebuked kings for their sakes (Genesis 12:17-20 and Genesis 26 are examples of this).
i. “Destitute as they were of earthly help, the mightiest kings could not hurt them.” (Horne)
c. Do not touch My anointed ones: God protected Abraham and Sarah before the king Abimelech, and did not let Abimelech touch her (Genesis 20:6). God protected Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as His prophets.
i. Do not touch My anointed ones: “The patriarchs were not, technically speaking, “anointed,” but they had that of which anointing was but a symbol. They were Divinely set apart and endowed for their tasks, and, as consecrated to God’s service, their persons were inviolable.” (Maclaren)
ii. “This God speaketh not of kings, but to kings, concerning his people who have an unction from the Father, being sanctified and set apart for his peculiar purposes. To touch these is to touch the apple of God’s eye, Zechariah 2:8; they are sacred persons.” (Trapp)
iii. “The words here mentioned may not have been actually spoken, but the impression of awe which fell upon the nations is thus poetically described.” (Spurgeon)
iv. “It is supposed that the patriarchs are here intended; but the whole people of Israel may be meant. They were a kingdom of priests and kings unto God; and prophets, priests, and kings were always anointed.” (Clarke)
v. Do My prophets no harm: “The patriarch had deceived Abimelech by saying that Sarah was his sister rather than his wife, and Abimelech had almost taken her before God intervened to warn him that she was married to Abraham. It was then that God referred to Abraham as ‘a prophet’ (Gen. 20:7). Yet a ‘lying’ prophet! Obviously the emphasis here is upon God’s faithfulness, not man’s.” (Boice)
3. (16-22) God’s care for the patriarchs in the days of Joseph.
Moreover He called for a famine in the land;
He destroyed all the provision of bread.
He sent a man before them—
Joseph—who was sold as a slave.
They hurt his feet with fetters,
He was laid in irons.
Until the time that his word came to pass,
The word of the LORD tested him.
The king sent and released him,
The ruler of the people let him go free.
He made him lord of his house,
And ruler of all his possessions,
To bind his princes at his pleasure,
And teach his elders wisdom.
a. He called for a famine in the land: The great famine that came upon the greater region in the days of Joseph (Genesis 41:53-57) was no accident. God called the famine, and destroyed all the provision of bread.
b. He sent a man before them: David understood the injustice and misfortune that came upon Joseph was ordained by God, so that in His plan he could be sent ahead to Egypt to save the patriarchs (and the whole region) from famine.
c. They hurt his feet with fetters: Joseph’s pain in his slavery was real, yet did not make void the plan of God. His season of affliction was a time when the word of the LORD tested him.
i. He was laid in iron: “Heb. His soul came into iron; or, the iron entered into his soul; but sin entered not into his conscience. See a like phrase Luke 2:35.” (Trapp)
ii. “Coverdale’s haunting expression, ‘the iron entered into his soul’ (PBV), comes from the Vulgate, not the Hebrew. The latter has it the other way round: ‘his nepes entered into iron’, where nepes can mean ‘soul’, ‘life’, ‘self’.” (Kidner)
iii. “May we not yet again turn the sentence round, and say that the iron entered into his soul? When we first meet him, Joseph is a tender, yielding lad, with dreams of rule, but no conspicuous power. Yet he emerges from his captivity well qualified to take the helm of Egypt.” (Meyer)
iv. “The iron fetters were preparing him to wear chains of gold, and making his feet ready to stand on high places. It is even so with all the Lord’s afflicted ones, they too shall one day step from their prisons to their thrones.” (Spurgeon)
d. He made him lord of his house: Joseph was brought low, but also lifted up in God’s timing. He was given authority over all the possessions of the house, and authority over princes and elders.
4. (23-25) God’s preservation of Israel in Egypt.
Israel also came into Egypt,
And Jacob dwelt in the land of Ham.
He increased His people greatly,
And made them stronger than their enemies.
He turned their heart to hate His people,
To deal craftily with His servants.
a. Israel also came into Egypt: After God sent Joseph ahead, He brought the people of Israel into the land of Egypt for their own provision and protection as a people.
i. Into Egypt: “Whither he feared to go, till God promised him his presence and protection, Genesis 46:3-4. God saith the same in effect to us, when to descend into the grave, Fear not to go down, I will go down with thee, and be better to thee than thy fears. Jacob’s best and happiest days were those he spent in Egypt.” (Trapp)
b. He increased His people greatly: In Egypt, God’s covenant people multiplied with very little intermarriage with the Egyptians. They were able to grow greatly (Exodus 1:7), and eventually became stronger than their enemies.
c. He turned their heart to hate His people: The people of Israel were welcomed into the land of Egypt in the days of Joseph, but in later generations were hated and made into slaves for the Egyptians (Exodus 1:8-12).
i. “God cannot in any sense be the author of sin so far as to be morally responsible for its existence, but it often happens through the evil which is inherent in human nature that the acts of the Lord arouse the ill-feelings of ungodly men.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “The wickedness of man, in working its own will, did unwittingly accomplish the counsels of God.” (Horne)
C. God’s care for Israel as they came into the Promised Land.
1. (26-36) The deliverance from Egypt.
He sent Moses His servant,
And Aaron whom He had chosen.
They performed His signs among them,
And wonders in the land of Ham.
He sent darkness, and made it dark;
And they did not rebel against His word.
He turned their waters into blood,
And killed their fish.
Their land abounded with frogs,
Even in the chambers of their kings.
He spoke, and there came swarms of flies,
And lice in all their territory.
He gave them hail for rain,
And flaming fire in their land.
He struck their vines also, and their fig trees,
And splintered the trees of their territory.
He spoke, and locusts came,
Young locusts without number,
And ate up all the vegetation in their land,
And devoured the fruit of their ground.
He also destroyed all the firstborn in their land,
The first of all their strength.
a. He sent Moses His servant: With Israel under slavery and bondage in Egypt, at the appointed time God raised up deliverers for His people. These were Moses (given the wonderful title His servant) and his brother Aaron. God gave these the ability to perform His signs to authenticate their work.
b. He sent darkness, and made it dark: David regarded the record of the Book of Exodus as historically true. He recounted the plagues God sent upon Egypt, all according to the word God gave to Moses and Aaron (they did not rebel against His word).
· When God sent darkness, He showed Himself greater than Ra (the sun God) and Nut (the sky goddess).
· When God turned their waters into blood, He showed Himself greater than Osiris (god of the Nile) and Khnum (the guardian of the Nile).
· When God made their land abound with frogs, He showed Himself greater than the goddess Hekt (the frog-goddess of fertility).
· When God sent swarms of flies and lice, He showed Himself greater than fly-god Uatchit.
· When God sent hail for rain, He showed Himself greater than Geb, the god of the earth and Nepri, the goddess of grain, and also Anuibis, the guardian of the fields.
· When God sent locusts without number, He showed Himself greater than Shu, the god of the atmosphere and Min, the deity of the harvest.
i. David listed eight of the ten plagues described in Exodus 7-12, and not in the same order as in the Exodus account. Psalm 78 also has a partial listing of the plagues.
ii. “In order to understand these plagues we need to understand that they were directed against the gods and goddesses of Egypt and were intended to show the superiority of the God of Israel to the Egyptian gods.” (Boice)
iii. “The plagues are presented here not to trace the progress of Pharaoh’s hardening—he is not mentioned—but to praise the decisive and versatile power of God.” (Kidner)
iv. He struck their vines also, and their fig trees: “This is not mentioned in Exodus; but we have had it before, Psalm 78:47.” (Clarke)
c. He also destroyed all the firstborn in their land: The final and greatest plague against the Egyptians was the terrible death of the firstborn in every household that was not protected by the blood of the Passover lamb.
2. (37-41) The deliverance from Egypt into the wilderness.
He also brought them out with silver and gold,
And there was none feeble among His tribes.
Egypt was glad when they departed,
For the fear of them had fallen upon them.
He spread a cloud for a covering,
And fire to give light in the night.
The people asked, and He brought quail,
And satisfied them with the bread of heaven.
He opened the rock, and water gushed out;
It ran in the dry places like a river.
a. He also brought them out with silver and gold: When Israel came out of Egypt, the Egyptians gave them great riches (Exodus 12:35-36). The Egyptians were so crushed by the many plagues Egypt was glad when they departed.
i. There was none feeble among His tribes: “Diseased or unable for his journey; which in so vast a body, and in a time of such mortality as it had been in Egypt, and in a people which had been so long and so dreadfully oppressed as the Israelites were, was wonderful; but they all journeyed on foot, Exodus 12:37.” (Poole)
ii. “See the contrast between Egypt and Israel—in Egypt one dead in every house, and among the Israelites not one so much as limping.” (Spurgeon)
iii. “Thou hast also enjoined us, thy servants, O Lord, to quit Egypt, and march for Canaan! Let thy grace invigorate us, from time to time, that so we faint not by the way.” (Horne)
b. He spread a cloud for a covering: As they journeyed through the wilderness, God gave Israel protection of a cloud by day and fire to give them light in the night. These remarkable emblems of God’s presence and care led Israel through the wilderness.
c. The people asked, and He brought quail: God miraculously supplied the needs of Israel in the wilderness, providing quail and manna (the bread of heaven), and water that gushed forth from rocks.
i. David gave a distinctly positive remembrance of Israel in the wilderness, not mentioning their many sins, rebellions, and examples of unbelief. This is because his purpose is to remember the great works of God, and not to focus on the failings of man.
ii. “Without one disturbing reference to the sins and failures which darkened the forty years. These are spread out at length, without flattery or minimising, in the next psalm; but here the theme is God’s wonders.” (Maclaren)
iii. Adam Clarke had a curious comment on Psalm 105:41, He opened the rock: “I can now add, that a piece of this rock, broken off by the hand of my nephew, E. S. A. Clarke, in the course of the present year [1822,] now lies before me. It is fine granite; and so well distinguished as a granite, that the feldt-spar, the mica, and the quartz, of which granite is composed, appear very distinctly.”
3. (42-45) God graciously brought Israel into the land of Canaan.
For He remembered His holy promise,
And Abraham His servant.
He brought out His people with joy,
His chosen ones with gladness.
He gave them the lands of the Gentiles,
And they inherited the labor of the nations,
That they might observe His statutes
And keep His laws.
Praise the LORD!
a. He remembered His holy promise: God’s faithfulness to Israel in bringing them out of Egypt, through the wilderness, and into Canaan was all based on a fulfillment of His holy promise. God binds Himself by His promises, and regards them as holy.
b. He brought out His people with joy: We could say that this joy both belonged to Israel and to Yahweh, their covenant God. It pleased both God and His people to rescue Israel from their bondage and to bring them into their inheritance (the lands of the Gentiles).
i. They inherited the labor of the nations: “By right of conquest they freely inherited from the Canaanites cities, vineyards, orchards, cisterns, and all kinds of material benefits.” (VanGemeren)
c. That they might observe His statutes: At almost the end of the psalm, David brought home a point of moral obligation. God rescued Israel and brought them into the land, setting them free not for the ultimate purpose of personal indulgence, but so they could observe His statutes and keep His laws.
i. “The emphasis throughout the psalm lies on God’s goodness: his promise, protection, providence, and presence. He is true to his word. And as an afterthought, the author reminds God’s people of their responsibility. Keeping the precepts of the Lord is, therefore, an expression of joyous gratitude for all the benefits the Lord has provided for his people.” (VanGemeren)
ii. “The final verse shows why grace abounded; not that sin might also abound, but (to quote a New Testament equivalent of verse 45), ‘that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit’ (Rom. 8:4, AV).” (Kidner)
d. Praise the LORD! Psalm 105 ends just as the previous psalm, with the Hebrew word Hallelujah. It is right and worthy for God’s people to remember His marvelous works and to praise Him for all He has done.
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission