Psalms 107


My interpretation of this psalm diverges far from the typical one of the scholars.  This psalm is thought to follow the previous two, that is, as a record of history.  The historical event is assumed to be the return of the Babylonian exiles.  I believe otherwise.  I believe it is a poem of wisdom, and has nothing to do with recent history.  This is a remarkable poem, repeating its theme four times, even repeating some of the identical phrases four times, and then concluding with words of wisdom and marvelous sense.  The theme is the following.  People go astray and find trouble because of it, then in their straits they plead to the Lord for deliverance.  And the Lord saves them every time.  I believe this psalm is connected to the previous two, but not in the way assumed.  I suspect the previous two psalms are an introduction to this one, which now provides the bottom line in a persuasive way -- always follow the Lord, trust in His mercy and goodness, sing praises to His name and give thanks to Him, no matter what!  My choice would have been to place these three psalms, this one and the last two, in the Book of Proverbs, although they convey their message in a much more complex format than is seen in that book.

הֹדוּ לַיהוָה כִּי־טוֹב כִּי לְעוֹלָם חַסְדּוֹ׃   107:1

Psal. 107:1   Give thanks to the Lord,

                               for He is good,

                        for His mercy is forever.

יֹאמְרוּ גְּאוּלֵי יְהוָה אֲשֶׁר גְּאָלָם מִיַּד־צָר׃   107:2

Psal. 107:2   Let the redeemed of the Lord speak,

                               whom He redeems from the hand of the oppressor,

וּמֵאֲרָצוֹת קִבְּצָם מִמִּזְרָח וּמִמַּעֲרָב מִצָּפוֹן וּמִיָּם׃   107:3

Psal. 107:3   and gathers from the lands,

                                from the east and from the west,

                        from the north,

                                and from the sea.

This verse seems to say something interesting, but I’m not sure what it is.  The verse omits mention of the south.  And the sea is usually synonymous with the west -- thus duplicating that direction.  So what does it mean?  Is the sea mentioned just to contrast with the mention of lands in the first English line?  And was the south deliberately omitted?  Not even a guess on my part!  Commentators have made a mess of this verse, most translators having changed the last word, the sea, to the south.

תָּעוּ בַמִּדְבָּר בִּישִׁימוֹן דָּרֶךְ עִיר מוֹשָׁב לֹא מָצָאוּ׃   107:4

Psal. 107:4   They wander in the wilderness on a desert journey,

                                find no city of habitation.

רְעֵבִים גַּם־צְמֵאִים נַפְשָׁם בָּהֶם תִּתְעַטָּף׃   107:5

Psal. 107:5   They are hungry, thirsty also;

                                their soul in them must be faint.

וַיִּצְעֲקוּ אֶל־יְהוָה בַּצַּר לָהֶם מִמְּצוּקוֹתֵיהֶם יַצִּילֵם׃   107:6

Psal. 107:6   Then they cry out to the Lord in their distress:

                                 Let Him deliver them from their straits.

וַיַּדְרִיכֵם בְּדֶרֶךְ יְשָׁרָה לָלֶכֶת אֶל־עִיר מוֹשָׁב׃   107:7

Psal. 107:7   Then He leads them on a straight path

                                 to go to a city of habitation.

יוֹדוּ לַיהוָה חַסְדּוֹ וְנִפְלְאוֹתָיו לִבְנֵי אָדָם׃   107:8

Psal. 107:8   Let them give thanks to the Lord

                                 -- His mercy and His wonders are for the children of humanity.

כִּי־הִשְׂבִּיעַ נֶפֶשׁ שֹׁקֵקָה וְנֶפֶשׁ רְעֵבָה מִלֵּא־טוֹב׃   107:9

Psal. 107:9   For He satisfies the thirsting soul,

                                 and richly fills the hungry soul.

יֹשְׁבֵי חֹשֶׁךְ וְצַלְמָוֶת אֲסִירֵי עֳנִי וּבַרְזֶל׃   107:10

Psal. 107:10   Dwellers of darkness and the shadow of death,

                                 prisoners of poverty of oppression!

כִּי־הִמְרוּ אִמְרֵי־אֵל וַעֲצַת עֶלְיוֹן נָאָצוּ׃   107:11

Psal. 107:11   Because they disobey the words of God,

                                 and spurn the counsel of the Most High!

וַיַּכְנַע בֶּעָמָל לִבָּם כָּשְׁלוּ וְאֵין עֹזֵר׃   107:12

Psal. 107:12   So He humbles their heart with trouble

                                  -- they stumble and there is no support.

וַיִּזְעֲקוּ אֶל־יְהוָה בַּצַּר לָהֶם מִמְּצֻקוֹתֵיהֶם יוֹשִׁיעֵם׃   107:13

Psal. 107:13   And they cry out to the Lord in their distress:

                                  Let Him save them from their straits.

יוֹצִיאֵם מֵחֹשֶׁךְ וְצַלְמָוֶת וּמוֹסְרוֹתֵיהֶם יְנַתֵּק׃   107:14

Psal. 107:14   Let Him bring them out from the darkness and the shadow of death

                                  and pull off their bonds.

יוֹדוּ לַיהוָה חַסְדּוֹ וְנִפְלְאוֹתָיו לִבְנֵי אָדָם׃   107:15

Psal. 107:15   Let them give thanks to the Lord

                                 -- His mercy and His wonders are for the children of humanity.

כִּי־שִׁבַּר דַּלְתוֹת נְחֹשֶׁת וּבְרִיחֵי בַרְזֶל גִּדֵּעַ׃   107:16

Psal. 107:16   For He shatters the doors of brass

                                  and cuts off the gates of iron.

Are these metaphors for the methods by which we shut up our minds and hearts?  See the next verse.

אֱוִלִים מִדֶּרֶךְ פִּשְׁעָם וּמֵעֲוֺנֹתֵיהֶם יִתְעַנּוּ׃   107:17

Psal. 107:17   So blindly oblivious because of the habit of their transgression,

                                  that because of their iniquities they have to be afflicted.

כָּל־אֹכֶל תְּתַעֵב נַפְשָׁם וַיַּגִּיעוּ עַד־שַׁעֲרֵי מָוֶת׃   107:18

Psal. 107:18   Their soul would abhor all food,

                                  that they come near even to the gates of death.

וַיִּזְעֲקוּ אֶל־יְהוָה בַּצַּר לָהֶם מִמְּצֻקוֹתֵיהֶם יוֹשִׁיעֵם׃   107:19

Psal. 107:19   And they cry out to the Lord in their distress:

                                  Let Him save them from their straits.

יִשְׁלַח דְּבָרוֹ וְיִרְפָּאֵם וִימַלֵּט מִשְּׁחִיתוֹתָם׃   107:20

Psal. 107:20   Let Him send His word and heal them,

                                  and deliver from their graves.

יוֹדוּ לַיהוָה חַסְדּוֹ וְנִפְלְאוֹתָיו לִבְנֵי אָדָם׃   107:21

Psal. 107:21   Let them give thanks to the Lord

                                  -- His mercy and His wonders are for the children of humanity.

וְיִזְבְּחוּ זִבְחֵי תוֹדָה וִיסַפְּרוּ מַעֲשָׂיו בְּרִנָּה׃   107:22

Psal. 107:22   And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving,

                                  and recount His deeds with joyful singing.

יוֹרְדֵי הַיָּם בָּאֳנִיּוֹת עֹשֵׂי מְלָאכָה בְּמַיִם רַבִּים׃   107:23

Psal. 107:23   Descenders of the sea in ships,

                                  producers of business on the great waters,

הֵמָּה רָאוּ מַעֲשֵׂי יְהוָה וְנִפְלְאוֹתָיו בִּמְצוּלָה׃   107:24

Psal. 107:24   they see the doings of the Lord,

                                  and His wonders on the deep,

וַיֹּאמֶר וַיַּעֲמֵד רוּחַ סְעָרָה וַתְּרוֹמֵם גַּלָּיו׃   107:25

Psal. 107:25   that He speaks and a stormy wind is raised

                                  that lifts up its waves.

יַעֲלוּ שָׁמַיִם יֵרְדוּ תְהוֹמוֹת נַפְשָׁם בְּרָעָה תִתְמוֹגָג׃   107:26

Psal. 107:26   They can meet sky,

                                  descend the depths;

                           their soul can be melted away by trouble.

יָחוֹגּוּ וְיָנוּעוּ כַּשִּׁכּוֹר וְכָל־חָכְמָתָם תִּתְבַּלָּע׃   107:27

Psal. 107:27   They may stagger and totter as one drunk,

                                  as all their wisdom comes to an end.

וַיִּצְעֲקוּ אֶל־יְהוָה בַּצַּר לָהֶם וּמִמְּצוּקֹתֵיהֶם יוֹצִיאֵם׃   107:28

Psal. 107:28   Then they cry out to the Lord in their distress:

                                  Let Him bring them out of their straits.

יָקֵם סְעָרָה לִדְמָמָה וַיֶּחֱשׁוּ גַּלֵּיהֶם׃   107:29

Psal. 107:29   Let Him maintain the storm to be calm,

וַיִּשְׂמְחוּ כִי־יִשְׁתֹּקוּ וַיַּנְחֵם אֶל־מְחוֹז חֶפְצָם׃   107:30

Psal. 107:30   Then they are glad because they can be quiet,

                                  and He will lead them to their desired haven.

יוֹדוּ לַיהוָה חַסְדּוֹ וְנִפְלְאוֹתָיו לִבְנֵי אָדָם׃   107:31

Psal. 107:31   Let them give thanks to the Lord

                                  -- His mercy and His wonders are for the children of humanity.

וִירֹמְמוּהוּ בִּקְהַל־עָם וּבְמוֹשַׁב זְקֵנִים יְהַלְלוּהוּ׃   107:32

Psal. 107:32   And let them exalt Him in the assembly of the people,

                                  praise Him at the dwelling place of the elders.

יָשֵׂם נְהָרוֹת לְמִדְבָּר וּמֹצָאֵי מַיִם לְצִמָּאוֹן׃   107:33

Psal. 107:33   He can turn rivers to wilderness

                                  and springs of water to thirsty ground,

אֶרֶץ פְּרִי לִמְלֵחָה מֵרָעַת יֹשְׁבֵי בָהּ׃   107:34

Psal. 107:34   a fruitful land to a salty waste,

                                  because of the wickedness of the inhabitants in it.

יָשֵׂם מִדְבָּר לַאֲגַם־מַיִם וְאֶרֶץ צִיָּה לְמֹצָאֵי מָיִם׃   107:35

Psal. 107:35   He can turn a wilderness into a pool of water

                                  and arid land into springs of water.

וַיּוֹשֶׁב שָׁם רְעֵבִים וַיְכוֹנְנוּ עִיר מוֹשָׁב׃   107:36

Psal. 107:36   And He can settle the hungry there,

                                  so they can establish a habitable city,

וַיִּזְרְעוּ שָׂדוֹת וַיִּטְּעוּ כְרָמִים וַיַּעֲשׂוּ פְּרִי תְבוּאָה׃   107:37

Psal. 107:37   and sow fields and plant vineyards

                                  that would produce a yield of fruit.

וַיְבָרֲכֵם וַיִּרְבּוּ מְאֹד וּבְהֶמְתָּם לֹא יַמְעִיט׃   107:38

Psal. 107:38   And He would bless them

                                   that they may multiply abundantly,

                           and would not let their cattle diminish.

וַיִּמְעֲטוּ וַיָּשֹׁחוּ מֵעֹצֶר רָעָה וְיָגוֹן׃   107:39

Psal. 107:39   Then they could be diminished and humbled

                                   from the oppression of evil and grief.

שֹׁפֵךְ בּוּז עַל־נְדִיבִים וַיַּתְעֵם בְּתֹהוּ לֹא־דָרֶךְ׃   107:40

Psal. 107:40   He pours out “contempt” upon the princely

                                   and causes them to wander aimlessly without a path.

וַיְשַׂגֵּב אֶבְיוֹן מֵעוֹנִי וַיָּשֶׂם כַּצֹּאן מִשְׁפָּחוֹת׃   107:41

Psal. 107:41   But he sets any needy one high from affliction,

                                   and makes aristocrats like sheep.

יִרְאוּ יְשָׁרִים וְיִשְׂמָחוּ וְכָל־עַוְלָה קָפְצָה פִּיהָ׃   107:42

Psal. 107:42   The upright can see and be glad,

                                   as all injustice closes its mouth.

מִי־חָכָם וְיִשְׁמָר־אֵלֶּה וְיִתְבּוֹנְנוּ חַסְדֵי יְהוָה׃   107:43

Psal. 107:43   Whoever is wise and can observe these things,

                                   then they can discern the mercies of the Lord.


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