Psalms 107


A thanksgiving of the people for deliverance from difficulties

and dangers; their state compared to a journey through a

frightful wilderness, 1-9;

to confinement in a dreary dungeon, 10-16;

to a dangerous malady, 17-22;

to a tempest at sea, 23-32.

The psalmist calls on men to praise God for the merciful

dispensations of his providence, in giving rain and fruitful

seasons, after affliction by drought and famine, 33-38;

for supporting the poor in affliction, and bringing down the

oppressors, 39-41.

The use which the righteous should make of these providences,


and the advantage to be derived from a due consideration of

God's merciful providence, 43.


This Psalm has no title, either in the Hebrew, or any of the

Versions; the word "Hallelujah," which is prefixed to some of the

latter, is no title, but was most probably borrowed from the

conclusion of the preceding Psalm. The author is unknown; but it

was probably like Psalms cv. and cvi., made and sung at the

dedication of the second temple. The three Psalms seem to be on

the same subject. In them the author has comprised the marvellous

acts of the Lord towards his people; the transgressions of this

people against God; the captivities and miseries they endured in

consequence; and finally God's merciful kindness to them in their

restoration from captivity, and re-establishment in their own


This Psalm seems to have been sung in parts: the 8th, 15th,

21st, and 31st verses, with the 6th, 13th, 19th, and 28th, forming

what may be called the burden of the song. In singing of which the

whole chorus joined.

We may easily perceive that the Psalm must have been sung in

alternate parts, having a double burden, or intercalary verse

often recurring, and another immediately following, giving a

reason for the former. See the 8th and 9th, the 15th and 16th, the

21st and 22nd, the 31st and 32nd, and the 42nd and 43rd, which may

be reckoned under the same denomination.

Dr. Lowth, in his 29th prelection, has made some excellent

remarks on this Psalm. "It is observable," says he, "that after

each of the intercalary verses one is added, expressive of

deliverance or praise. I would farther observe, that if the Psalm

be supposed to be made with a view to the alternate response of

one side of the choir to the other, then it may be considered as

if it were written exactly after the method of the ancient

pastorals, where, be the subject of their verse what it will, each

swain endeavours to excel the other; and one may perceive their

thoughts and expressions gradually to arise upon each other; and

hence a manifest beauty may be discovered in this Divine pastoral.

We will suppose, then, that the author composed it for the use of

his brethren the Jews, when, in the joy of their hearts, they were

assembled after their return from captivity. At such a time, what

theme could be so proper for the subject of his poem, as the

manifest goodness of Almighty God? The first performers,

therefore, invite the whole nation to praise God for this; a great

instance of it being their late return from captivity. At

Ps 107:10, the other side take the subject, and rightly observe

that the return of their great men, who were actually in chains,

was a more remarkable instance of God's mercy to them, than the

return of the people in general, who were only dispersed, we may

suppose, up and down the open country. Then the first performers

beautifully compare this unexpected deliverance to that which God

sometimes vouchsafes to the languishing dying man, when he

recalls, as it were, the sentence of death, and restores him to

his former vigour. The others again compare it, with still greater

strength and expression, to God's delivering the affrighted

mariner from all the dreadful horrors of the ungovernable and

arbitrary ocean. But the first, still resolved to outdo the rest,

recur to that series of wonderful works which God had vouchsafed

to their nation, Ps 107:32, and of which they had so lately such

a convincing proof. Wherefore at last, as in a common chorus, they

all conclude with exhorting each other to a serious consideration

of these things, and to make a proper return to Almighty God for


"No doubt the composition of this Psalm is admirable throughout;

and the descriptive part of it adds at least its share of beauty

to the whole; but what is most to be admired is its conciseness,

and withal the expressiveness of the diction, which strikes the

imagination with inimitable elegance. The weary and bewildered

traveller, the miserable captive in the hideous dungeon, the sick

and dying man, the seaman foundering in a storm, are described in

so affecting a manner, that they far exceed any thing of the kind,

though never so much laboured." I may add that had such an Idyl

appeared in Theocritus or Virgil, or had it been found as a scene

in any of the Greek tragedians, even in AEschylus himself, it

would have been praised up to the heavens, and probably been

produced as their master-piece.

Verse 1. O give thanks] Here is a duty prescribed; and the

reasons of it are immediately laid down. 1. He is good. This is

his nature. 2. His mercy endureth for ever. This is the stream

that flows from the fountain of his goodness.

Verse 2. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so] For they have had

the fullest proof of this goodness, in being saved by the

continuing stream of his mercy.

Verse 3. And gathered them out of the lands] Though many Jews

returned into Jerusalem from various parts of the world, under the

reigns of Darius Hystaspes, Artaxerxes, and Alexander the Great;

yet this prophecy has its completion only under the Gospel, when

all the ends of the earth hear the salvation of God.

Verse 4. They wandered in the wilderness] Here begins the FINEST

comparison: the Israelites in captivity are compared to a

traveller in a dreary, uninhabited, and barren desert, spent

with hunger and thirst, as well as by the fatigues of the journey,

Ps 107:5.

Verse 6. Then they cried unto the Lord] When the Israelites

began to pray heartily, and the eyes of all the tribes were as the

eyes of one man turned unto the Lord, then he delivered them out

of their distresses.

Verse 7. That they might go to a city of habitation.] God

stirred up the heart of Cyrus to give them liberty to return to

their own land: and Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah, at different

times, brought many of them back to Judea.

Verse 8. O that men would praise the Lord] This is what is

called the intercalary verse, or burden of each part of this

responsive song: see the introduction. God should be praised

because he is good. We naturally speak highly of those who are

eminent. God is infinitely excellent, and should be celebrated for

his perfections. But he does wonders for the children of men; and,

therefore, men should praise the Lord. And he is the more to be

praised, because these wonders, niphlaoth, miracles of

mercy and grace, are done for the undeserving. They are done

libney Adam, for the children of Adam, the corrupt

descendants of a rebel father.

Verse 9. For he satisfieth the longing soul] This is the reason

which the psalmist gives for the duty of thankfulness which he

prescribes. The longing soul, nephesh shokekah, the

soul that pushes forward in eager desire after salvation.

Verse 10. Such as sit in darkness] Here begins the SECOND

similitude, which he uses to illustrate the state of the

captives in Babylon, viz., that of a prisoner in a dreary dungeon.

1. They sit in or inhabit darkness. They have no light, no peace,

no prosperity. 2. "In the shadow of death." The place where death

reigns, over which he has projected his shadow; those against whom

the sentence of death has been pronounced. 3. They are bound in

this darkness, have no liberty to revisit the light, and cannot

escape from their executioners. 4. They are afflicted, not only by

want and privation in general, but they are tortured in the

prison, oni, afflicted, humbled, distressed. 5. Their fetters

are such as they cannot break; they are iron. The reason of their

being in this wretched state is given.

Verse 11. Because they rebelled against the words of God] 1. God

showed them their duty and their interest, and commanded them to

obey his word; but they cast off all subjection to his authority,

acted as if they were independent of heaven and earth, and broke

out into open rebellion against him. 2. He counselled and exhorted

them to return to him: but they contemned his advice, and turned

his counsel into ridicule. 3. As lenient means were ineffectual,

he visited them in judgment: hence it is added,

Verse 12. He brought down their heart with labour] He delivered

them into the hands of their enemies. and, as they would not be

under subjection to GOD, he delivered them into slavery to wicked

men: "So they fell down, and there was none to help ;" God had

forsaken them because they had forsaken him.

Verse 13. Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble] This

was the salutary effect which their afflictions produced: they

began to cry to God for mercy and help; and God mercifully heard

their prayer, and reversed their state; for,

Verse 14. He brought then out of darkness] 1. Gave them again

peace and prosperity. 2. Repealed the sentence of death. 3.

"Unbound the poor prisoners." 4. Broke their iron bonds in sunder.

Verse 15. O that men, &c.] This is the intercalary verse, or

burden, of the second part, as it was of the first. See

Ps 107:8.

Verse 16. For he hath broken] This is the reason given for

thanks to God for his deliverance of the captives. It was not a

simple deliverance; it was done so as to manifest the irresistible

power of God. He tore the prison in pieces, and cut the bars of

iron asunder.

Verse 17. Fools because of their transgression] This is the

THIRD comparison; the captivity being compared to a person in a

dangerous malady. Our Version does not express this clause well:

Fools midderech pisham, because of the way of their

transgressions, are afflicted. Most human maladies are the fruits

of sin; misery and sin are married together in bonds that can

never be broken.

Verse 18. Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat] A natural

description of a sick man: appetite is gone, and all desire for

food fails; nutriment is no longer necessary, for death has seized

upon the whole frame. See a similar image, Job 33:20.

Verse 19. Then they cry] The effect produced by affliction as


Verse 20. He sent his word, and healed them] He spoke: "Be thou

clean, be thou whole;" and immediately the disease departed; and

thus they were delivered from the destructions that awaited them.

Verse 21. O that men, &c.] The intercalary verse, or burden,

as before.

Verse 22. And let them sacrifice] For their healing they should

bring a sacrifice; and they should offer the life of the innocent

animal unto God, as he has spared their lives; and let them thus

confess that God has spared them when they deserved to die; and

let them declare also "his works with rejoicing;" for who will not

rejoice when he is delivered from death?

Verse 23. They that go down to the sea in ships] This is the

FOURTH comparison. Their captivity was as dangerous and alarming

as a dreadful tempest at sea to a weather-beaten mariner.

Verse 24. These see the works of the Lord] Splendid, Divinely

impressive, and glorious in fine weather.

His wonders in the deep.] Awfully terrible in a tempest.

Verse 25. For he commandeth] And what less than the command of

God can raise up such winds as seem to heave old Ocean from his


Verse 26. They mount up to the heaven] This is a most natural

and striking description of the state of a ship at sea in a storm:

when the sea appears to run mountains high, and the vessel seems

for a moment to stand on the sharp ridge of one most stupendous,

with a valley of a frightful depth between it and a similar

mountain, which appears to be flying in the midst of heaven, that

it may submerge the hapless bark, when she descends into the

valley of death below. This is a sight the most terrific that can

be imagined: nor can any man conceive or form an adequate idea of

it, who has not himself been at sea in such a storm.

Their soul is melted because of trouble.] This is not less

expressive than it is descriptive. The action of raising the

vessel to the clouds, and precipitating her into the abyss, seems

to dissolve the very soul: the whole mind seems to melt away, so

that neither feeling, reflection, nor impression remains, nothing

but the apprehension of inevitable destruction! When the ship is

buffeted between conflicting waves, which threaten either to tear

her asunder or crush her together; when she reels to and fro, and

staggers like a drunken man, not being able to hold any certain

course; when sails and masts are an incumbrance, and the helm of

no use; when all hope of safety is taken away; and when the

experienced captain, the skilful pilot, and the hardy sailors,

cry out, with a voice more terrible than the cry of fire at

midnight, We are ALL lost! we are all LOST! then, indeed, are they

at their wit's end; or, as the inimitable original expresses it,

vechol chochmatham tithballa, "and all their

skill is swallowed up,"-seems to be gulped down by the frightful

abyss into which the ship is about to be precipitated. Then,

indeed, can the hand of God alone "bring them out of their

distresses." Then, a cry to the Almighty (and in such

circumstances it is few that can lift up such a cry) is the only

means that can be used to save the perishing wreck! Reader, dost

thou ask why I paint thus, and from whose authority I describe? I

answer: Not from any books describing storms, tempests, and

shipwrecks; not from the relations of shipwrecked marines; not

from viewing from the shore a tempest at sea, and seeing a vessel

beat to pieces, and all its crew, one excepted, perish.

Descriptions of this kind I have read, with the shipwrecked

mariner I have conversed, the last scene mentioned above I have

witnessed: but none of these could give the fearful impressions,

the tremendous and soul-melting apprehensions, described above.

"Where then have you had them?" I answer, From the great deep. I

have been at sea in the storm, and in the circumstances I

describe; and, having cried to the Lord in my trouble, I am spared

to describe the storm, and recount the tale of his mercy. None but

either a man inspired by God, who, in describing, will show things

as they are, or one who has been actually in these circumstances,

can tell you with what propriety the psalmist speaks, or utter the

thousandth part of the dangers and fearful apprehensions of those

concerned in a tempest at sea, where all the winds of heaven seem

collected to urge an already crazy vessel among the most

tremendous rocks upon a lee shore! God save the reader from such


When, in the visitation of the winds,

He takes the ruffian billows by the top,

Curling their monstrous heads, and hanging them,

With deafening clamours, on the slippery clouds,

That with the hurly death itself awakes!


A storm at sea-the lifting the vessel to the clouds-her sinking

into the vast marine valleys-the melting of the soul-and being at

their wit's end, are well touched by several of the ancient poets.

See particularly Virgil's description of the storm that dispersed

the fleet of AEneas, who was himself not unacquainted with the

dangers of the sea:-

Tollimur in coelum curvato gurgite, et idem

Subducta ad manes imos descendimus unda.

AEN. iii., 364.

Now on a towering arch of waves we rise,

Heaved on the bounding billows to the skies.

Then, as the roaring surge retreating fell,

We shoot down headlong to the gates of hell.


Rector in incerto est, nec quid fugiatve, petatve,

Invenit: ambiguis ars stupet ipsa malis.

"The pilot himself is in doubt what danger to shun; or whither to

steer for safety he knows not: his skill is nonplussed by the

choice of the difficulties before him."

See more in the analysis.

Verse 29. He maketh the storm a calm] He causes the storm to

stand dumb, and hushes the waves. See the original, where sense

and sound emphatically meet:-

galleyhem vaiyecheshu lidemamah searah yakem

He shall cause the whirlwind to stand dumb, and he shall hush

their billows.

Verse 30. Then are they glad because they be quiet] The

turbulence of the sea being hushed, and the waves still, they

rejoice to see an end to the tempest; and thus, having fine

weather, a smooth sea, and fair wind, they are speedily brought to

the desired haven.

Verse 31. O that men] The intercalary verse, or burden, as

before. See Ps 107:8.

Verse 32. Let them exalt him also in the congregation] Their

deliverance from such imminent danger, and in a way which clearly

showed the Divine interposition, demands, not only gratitude of

heart and the song of praise at the end of the storm, but when

they come to shore that they publicly acknowledge it in the

congregation of God's people. I have been often pleased, when in

sea-port towns, to see and hear notes sent to the minister from

pious sailors, returning thanks to the Almighty for preservation

from shipwreck, and, in general, from the dangers of the sea; and

for bringing them back in safety to their own port. Thus "they

exalt the Lord in the congregation, and praise him in the assembly

of the elders." And is it not something of this kind that the

psalmist requires?

Verse 33. He turneth rivers into a wilderness] After having, as

above, illustrated the state of the Jews in their captivity, and

the deliverance which God wrought for them, he now turns to the

general conduct of God in reference to the poor and needy; and his

gracious interpositions in their behalf, the providential supply

of their wants, and his opposition to their oppressors. On account

of the wickedness of men, he sometimes changes a fruitful land

into a desert. See the general state of Egypt in the present time:

once a fertile land; now an arid, sandy wilderness. Again, by his

blessing on honest industry, he has changed deserts into highly

fertile ground. And, as for the wickedness of their inhabitants,

many lands are cursed and rendered barren; so, when a people

acknowledge him in all their ways, he blesses their toil, gives

them rain and fruitful seasons, and fills their hearts with joy

and gladness.

Verse 36. And there he maketh the hungry to dwell] All this

seems to apply admirably to the first colonists of any place. They

flee from a land of want, an ingrata terra that did not repay

their toil, and they seek the wilderness where the land wants only

cultivation to make it produce all the necessaries of life. He, by

his providence, so guides their steps as to lead them to rivers

which they can navigate, and from which they can procure plenty of

fish, and shows them wells or springs which they have not digged.

The hungry dwell there; and jointly agree, for convenience and

defence, to build them a city for habitation. They sow the fields

which they have cleared; and plant vineyards, and orchards which

yield them in creasing fruits, Ps 107:37, and he multiplies their

cattle greatly, and does not suffer them to decrease, Ps 107:38.

What a fine picture is this of the first peopling and planting of

America, and of the multiplication and extension of that people;

of the Divine blessing on their industry, and the general and

astonishing prosperity of their country! May they never again know

what is spoken in the following verse:

Verse 39. Again, they are minished] Sometimes by war, or

pestilence, or famine. How minished and brought low was the

country already spoken of, by the long and destructive war which

began in 1775, and was not ended till 1783! And what desolations,

minishings, and ruin have been brought on the fertile empires of

Europe by the war which commenced in 1792, and did not end till

1814! And how many millions of lives have been sacrificed in it,

and souls sent unprepared into the eternal world! When God makes

inquisition for blood, on whose heads will he find the blood of

these slaughtered millions? Alas! O, alas!

Verse 40. He poureth contempt upon princes] How many have lately

been raised from nothing, and set upon thrones! And how many have

been cast down from thrones, and reduced to nothing! And where are

now those mighty troublers of the earth? On both sides they are in

general gone to give an account of themselves to God. And what an


Where there is no way.] Who can consider the fate of the late

emperor of the French, Napoleon, without seeing the hand of God in

his downfall! All the powers of Europe were leagued against him in

vain; they were as stubble to his bow. "HE came, HE saw, and HE

conquered" almost every where, till God, by a Russian FROST,

destroyed his tens of thousands of veteran troops. And afterwards

his armies of raw conscripts would have over-matched the world had

not a particular providence intervened at Waterloo, when all the

skill and valour of his opponents had been nearly reduced to

nothing. How terrible art thou, O Lord, in thy judgments! Thou art

fearful in praises, doing wonders.

The dreary rock of St. Helena, where there was no way, saw a

period to the mighty conqueror, who had strode over all the

countries of Europe!

Verse 41. Yet setteth he the poor on high] This probably refers

to the case of the Israelites and their restoration from

captivity. But these are incidents which frequently occur, and

mark the superintendence of a benign Providence, and the hand of a

just God; and are applicable to a multitude of cases.

Verse 42. The righteous shall see it] The wicked are as

inconsiderate as they are obstinate and headstrong.

And rejoice] To have such ample proofs that God ruleth in the

earth, and that none that trust in him shall be desolate.

All iniquity shall stop her mouth.] God's judgments and mercies

are so evident, and so distinctly marked, that atheism,

infidelity, and irreligion are confounded, and the cause of error

and falsehood has become hopeless. It was only the mouth that

could do any thing; and that only by lies, calumnies, and

blasphemies: but God closes this mouth, pours contempt upon the

head and judgment upon the heart. This may also be applied to

the case of the Israelites and the Babylonians. The former, when

they turned to God, became righteous; the latter were a

personification of all iniquity.

Verse 43. Whoso is wise] That is, He that is wise, he that fears

God, and regards the operation of his hand will observe-lay up and

keep, these things. He will hide them in his heart, that he sin

not against Jehovah. He will encourage himself in the Lord,

because he finds that he is a never-failing spring of goodness to

the righteous.

They shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord]

chasdey Yehovah, the exuberant goodness of Jehovah. This is his

peculiar and most prominent characteristic among men; for

"judgment is his strange work." What a wonderful discourse on

Divine Providence, and God's management of the world, does this

inimitable Psalm contain! The ignorant cannot read it without

profit; and by the study of it, the wise man will become yet



The title of this Psalm is Hallelujah, because it sets forth the

praises of God for delivering such as are oppressed from four

common miseries; after each of which is expressed those

intercalary verses: "O that men would praise the Lord," &c., "

They cried unto the Lord in their trouble." It also praises God

for his providence in its effects.

I. A preface in which he exhorts all to praise God, especially

the redeemed, Ps 107:1, 2.

II. A declaration of his goodness in particular.

I. To the travellers and strangers, famished, Ps 107:3-9.

2. To the prisoners and captives, Ps 107:10-16.

3. To the sick, Ps 107:16-23.

4. To the mariners, Ps 107:23-32.

III. A praise of God's power and providence. which is evidently

seen in the changes and varieties in the world, of which he gives

many instances, that prove him to be the sole Disposer and

Governor of the universe, Ps 107:33-42.

IV. The conclusion, which sets forth the use we are to make of

it, Ps 107:42, 43.

I. 1. This Psalm, like the former, begins: "That we celebrate

and set forth God's praise," and for the same reasons. "O give

thanks unto the Lord;" 1. "For he is good;" 2. And merciful: "For

his mercy endureth for ever."

2. And those whom he invites to perform this duty are all who

are sensible that they have received any mercy or goodness from

him in either soul or body, whom he calls the redeemed of the

Lord; that men may know, when they are freed from any evil, that

it is not by chance or their wisdom: God's hand is in it; he is

the First Cause; the rest are only his instruments.

1. "Let the redeemed of the Lord say," i.e., that he is good and


2. "They say so whom he hath redeemed," &c. If the Holy Ghost

means, when he speaks of our redemption by Christ, the enemy, the

devil, or some tyrant, tribulations &c.; then a corporeal and

temporal redemption is meant. The next verse seems to refer to

their banishment.

3. "And gathered them out of the lands," &c. Which is yet as

true of our spiritual redemption. Mt 8:11; Joh 10:16; 11:52.

II. Most expositors begin the second part at the second verse,

but some at the fourth; but it is not material. In those two there

was mention made of God's goodness in their deliverance, in their

collection from all lands. But the following is a declaration of

what they suffered during their absence from their country. And

this is the misery which the prophet first instances in this

place, then shows the course the travellers took, and lastly

acquaints us with the manner of their deliverance. Their misery


1. "That they wandered." No small discomfort for an ingenious

native to go from place to place as a vagrant. God's people were

for a time pilgrims; "few and evil were their days."

2. The place adds to their misery. Travellers are not confined

always to solitary places, they occasionally have company; but

these "wandered in the wilderness in a solitary place," &c.

Literally it was fulfilled in the Israelites, while they travelled

through the wilderness.

3. "Hungry and thirsty." Men may wander and be solitary; and yet

have a sufficient supply of food; but God's people sometimes fast,

as Elijah, David, &c.

4. And the famine was so great "that their soul," that is, their

life, "was ready to faint." This is the incrementum that the

prophet uses to aggravate the misery of the travellers, and the

several steps by which it rises.

The prophet shows the course which these travellers and hungry

souls took for ease and help; and that it did not fail them, nor

any one else who has tried it.

1. "Then in their trouble." God let them be brought into trouble

to bring them back to himself.

2. "They cried." In their petition they were very earnest; it

was no cold prayer, which froze on the way before it got to

heaven; but fervent. A cry.

3. "And they cried." Not to any false god, but unto the Lord.

The success was answerable to their desire.

1. In general, "He delivered them out of their distresses."

2. But in particular, the deliverance was every way fit.

1. "They wandered in the wilderness," &c., Ps 107:4. "But he

led them forth, that they might go to a city of habitation."

2. "They were hungry, and thirsty," &c. But "he filled the

hungry soul," &c.

And upon this he concludes his exhortation to praise God, which

he is so earnest for them to do, that he inserts the exhortation

between each mention of the mercies.

1. The Lord delivered: "The Lord led them forth." Praise him


2. Of his mere mercy, not of desert. "For he is good."

3. And the effects of his goodness were seen in his works; let

his praise then be as public as his works; "O that men," &c.

The second corporeal misery to which men are subject is

captivity and imprisonment; he then shows the course the captives

took, and God's mercy in their deliverance.

1. Captives; they were taken by the enemy, put in dungeons and

prisons, where they were debarred the comfort of the sun: "For

they sat in darkness," &c., and in fear of death.

2. Besides, in this place "they were fast bound with

affliction," &c., because of their rebellion against the Lord:

"The iron entered into their soul." "He brought them low;" but

they sought help of the Lord.

"They cried unto the Lord in their trouble." "And found the same

favour as the travellers did. "And he saved them out of their


The manner was suitable to their distress.

1. "For they sat in darkness," &c. "But he brought them out,"


2. "They were bound in affliction and iron," &c. The prison was

not so strong but he was stronger, and delivered them from

captivity. Now the psalmist interposes his thanksgiving: "O that

men," &c.

The third misery is some great sickness or pining away of the

body under some grievous disease, such as when stung by fiery

serpents, as the Israelites. 1. He describes the danger under

which they languished. 2. Shows the method they took for their


1. The appellation he fastens on the diseased persons, fools;

not but that, generally speaking, they were wise enough; but in

that they sinned with a high hand against God, "they are fools."

2. Now such fools God often smites with an incurable disease:

"Fools, because of their transgression," &c. Not but that all

sickness is from sin; but this that the prophet speaks of was

their general apostasy, rebellion, and contempt of God's will and


The effect was lamentable and double.

1. "Their soul abhorred all manner of meat." Meat, with which

the life of man is sustained, became loathsome to them, the

disease was so grievous.

2. And deadly too; no art of the physician could cure them. "For

they drew near to the gates of death," that is, the grave, where

Death exercises his power, as the judges of Israel did in the


But these, being but dead men in the eye of man, took the same

course as they did before.

1. "They cried unto the Lord in their trouble."

2. And by God's blessing they recovered; God was alone their


3. This was the manner of their cure. "He saved them out of

their distress."

1. "He sent his word, and healed them." He said the word only,

and they were made whole. Or if any medicine were made use of, it

was his word which made it medicinal, as in the case of the bunch

of figs, and therefore the prophet uses an apt word to put them in

mind. "He sent his word," as a great prince sends forth his

ambassadors to do his commands. Most probably the centurion had

this in his mind when he said, "Say the word only, and my servant

shall be whole."

2. "And he delivered them from their destructions," which are

opposed to their previous danger. "They drew nigh," &c.

3. But he exhorts the saved to be thankful: "O that men," &c.

And he adds,

1. "Let them sacrifice their sacrifices."

2. But with these conditions and limitations: 1. That it be with

a thankful heart, for an outward sacrifice is nothing. 2. That

with the sacrifice there go an annunciation; that men declare and

publish that the cure came from God. 3. That it be done with

rejoicing; that we have an experience of God's presence, favour,

and mercy, for which the heart ought to rejoice more than for the

cure of the body.

The fourth misery arises from the danger at sea.

1. He describes.

2. Shows the course they take in a storm.

3. And the event following upon their prayers.

Upon which he calls upon them, as upon the three before, to

praise God.

1. "They that go down to the sea in ships." For the sea is lower

than the earth.

2. "That do business in great waters." As merchants, mariners,


3. "These men see the works of the Lord," &c. Others hear of

them by relation, but these see them: they see the great whales,

innumerable kinds of fish, and monsters; islands dispersed and

safe in the waves, whirlpools, quicksands, rocks; and have

experience of the virtue of the loadstone. They discover many

stars we know not; and they behold the vast workings of the sea,

which fill the most valiant with fear.

4. "For he commandeth," &c.

Now he describes the tempest:-

1. From the cause. God speaks the word.

2. By it "he raiseth the stormy wind."

3. Which, inspired by his word, "lifts up the waves thereof."

------Fluctus ad sidera tollit.

"The waves arise to heaven."

4. "They" (that is, the passengers) "mount up to heaven," &c.

Hi summo in fluctu pendent, his unda dehiscens.

"They hung upon the wave; the sea yawns under them; and the

bottom seems to be laid bare between the surges."

5. "Their soul its melted because of trouble." Their spirit


Extemplo AEneae solvuntur frigora membra.

"The limbs of the hero himself dissolve with terror."

6. "They reel to and fro." Tossed this way and that way.

Tres Eurus ab alto in brevia, et syrtes urget.

"They are dashed against the shoals and quicksands."

7. "They stagger and totter," &c. An apt simile.

Cui dubli stantque labantque pedes.

"They cannot keep their feet."

8. "And are at their wit's end." Omnis sapientia eorum

absorbetur.-"Their judgment roves; their art fails; their skill is

at an end."

Et meminisse viae media Palinurus in unda.

"Even the pilot loses his way in the troubled deep."

Hitherto the prophet has poetically described the tempest and

storm; and now he gives an account of the course they took to save

their lives. "Then they cried unto the Lord," &c. An old proverb

says: Qui nescit orare, discat navigare. "He who knows not how to

pray, let him learn to be a sailor."

And the consequence of their praying was:

"And he brings them out," &c. In this manner:-

1. "He makes the storm a calm."

---------Dicto citius tumida aequora placat.

"By his word the swelling sea becomes calm."

2. "So that the waves thereof are still." Et cunctus pelagi

cecidit fragor. "And the noise of it is hushed to silence."

3. "Then they are glad," &c., no more reeling to and fro; whence

arises their joy.

---------Laeto testantur gaudia plausu.

"The clapping of hands expresses their joy."

4. And to increase it: "So he brings them to their desired


---------Magno telluris amore,

Egressi optata nautae potiuntur arena,

Et sale tabentes artus in littore ponunt.

"The weather-beaten marines having reached the shore, in an

ecstacy of joy kiss the sand, and lay themselves down upon the


And now, in the last place, he calls upon them to pay their

tribute of thankful duty for the miracle done them in their

preservation: "O that men would praise the Lord," &c.

And probably in their danger they might have made a vow, which

is frequently done in such cases. Read the Life of Nazianzen. This

vow the prophet would have them pay openly.

1. "Let them exalt him also in the congregation," &c.

2. And that not only before the promiscuous multitude; but "let

them praise him in the assembly of the elders," &c. Sua tabula

sacer votiva paries indicat, uvida suspendisse potenti vestimenta

maris Deo. "Let them here suspend their votive tablet; and hang

their wet clothes against a wall, as a grateful offering to him

who rules the seas."

III. The prophet had exalted God's mercies in freeing men from

these four miseries and calamities; these travellers through the

wilderness, captivity, sickness, shipwreck; and now he manifests

his power, providence, and wisdom, in the vicissitudes we meet

with below. In the earth we see strange mutations; in kingdoms,

wonderful revolutions; yet we must go higher, and not rest short

of the hand which governs all.

The prophet first instances the earth's changes.

1. "He turns rivers into a wilderness," &c. The fertility of any

land arises from its rivers, as is apparent in Egypt from the

overflowing of the Nile. And when Elisha would free the soil from

barrenness, he first healed the waters. The drying up of rivers

produces famine, and when the channels are directed from their

courses, the fruitful land becomes a wilderness.

2. And the cause of this is: "The iniquity of them that dwell


On the contrary, God illustrates his mercy by sometimes changing

the wilderness into a fruitful and abundant place.

1. "He turneth the wilderness into a standing water," &c. They

shall be fruitful for man's sake.

2. "For there he makes the hungry to dwell." God puts it into

men's minds to plant colonies in some newly found and good land,

where the hungry find plenty and are satisfied.

3. And to build houses: "That they may prepare a city," &c.

Pars aptare locum tecto, pars ducere muros.

"Some dig out the foundations, others raise the walls."

4. The endeavours of the colonists are: 1. "To sow fields." 2.

"To plant vineyards." Which was the first trade in the world.

5. And God's blessing on those endeavours: "God blessed them

also." 1. In children: "So that they multiplied greatly." 2. In

cattle: "And suffered not their cattle to decrease."

But there is nothing in this world perpetual and stable: even

those whom God had sometimes blessed and enriched continued not at

one stay.

1. These are "minished, and brought low."

2. These are "worn out by oppression," &c. By some public

calamity, war, famine, invasion, &c.

Even monarchs are subject to changes.

1. "He pours contempt upon princes." It is a heavy judgment for

princes, civil or ecclesiastical, to become contemptible; for then

the reins of discipline are let loose, confusion follows, and all

things grow worse. And this for the iniquity of those, &c.

2. "He causeth them to wander in the wilderness," &c., which

clause is subject to a double interpretation.

Either that he suffers princes to err in their counsels, lives,

and example; or they enact unjust laws, favour wicked men, or

oppress the good. But in the following verse there is some


"Yet setteth he the poor man on high," &c. Delivers him from all


"And maketh him families like a flock." Becomes his shepherd,

and governs him by his special providence.

IV. He concludes the Psalm with an epiphonema, in which he

persuades good men to consider the former promises, and lay them

to heart; to observe the whole course of God's providence, that

they impute not the changes of the world to chance or fortune, but

bless God for all his dispensations.

1. "The righteous shall see it," &c. Consider, meditate upon it.

2. "And rejoice." When they are assured that God is their

Guardian, and that all he lays upon them is for their real good.

"And all iniquity shall stop her mouth." By the observation of

the event, at last evil doers shall not have cause to laugh and

blaspheme, but to confess that all is justly and wisely done by


And this consideration is that of the wise man who looks afar


1. "Who is wise," &c., so as to mark these changes in the world


2. "And they shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord."

It shall be seen by them how ineffable is his mercy towards those

who truly fear him, and call upon his name: but our life is hid

with Christ in God.

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