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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Psalms 107

Verses 1-43

This psalm begins the fifth and last book of the Hebrew psalter. It is divided into five parts or pauses, as it would seem, in the singing and the music. The character of the composition, though diversified in subject, assimilates with the two preseding psalms. It is an admirable illustration of the doctrine of a gracious providence, and calculated to excite gratitude and confidence in the Lord.

Psalms 107:4 . They wandered in a solitary way. The Lord led them in the way of the wilderness, that they might not see war.

Psalms 107:8 . Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, his mercy. This verse is four times repeated, after the fourfold mercies here celebrated. The first from wanderings in the desert; the second from famine and various captivities; the third from diseases and death; the fourth from dangerous voyages at sea.

Psalms 107:10 . Such as sit in darkness. Ancient prisons were mostly dark and noisome places, the air and effluvia calculated to generate disease and death. The jail fever in Narrow Wine Street, Bristol, spread into the city with alarming consequences. Our Howard, of immortal memory in the circles of benevolence, stirred up a great part of Europe to meliorate the condition of prisoners. This terrible fever was understood by the psalmist when he says, Their soul abhorred all manner of meat: Psalms 107:18.

Psalms 107:26 . They go down again to the depths. I once stood on the Isle of Samson, in the Scilly Islands, during a hurricane. The mighty swells succeeded one another every minute, and distant from each other three hundred yards. Between the swells, the sea was smooth as glass. A ship passing, bare poles; that is, only sail enough to keep her head right before the wind, when on the summit of the surge, the sea made a full road over her deck, and descending, she seemed to fall so as to rise no more. When overtaken by a rolling swell, she moving at the rate of ten miles an hour, it did but gently fall on her stern, and drive her before it. The sight was truly the sublime of terror.

Psalms 107:32 . Let them exalt him also in the congregation. By going to the Lord’s house, and thanking him for bringing them home, after a long and dangerous voyage: vows must be paid to God.


Adoration and praise were the duties of man in a state of innocence. Holy and happy, God supplied all his wants, and evil was unknown in his heart. Of tears, supplications, and groanings for anguish and grief, which now occupy so great a part of our devotion, he had no idea: and when the curse and death shall be no more, adoration and praise shall again employ the whole of his devotion. It is no small encouragement too, that these exercises begin on earth: and the more we resemble God, the more our devotion rises in character from tears to joys, and from prayer to praise.

The Israelites are here, as in a hundred other places, called upon so to review their national mercies for a thousand years, as to be animated to the highest choruses of gratitude. The same is applicable to the christian church. God has redeemed us from Satan, a greater foe than Pharaoh; from sin, more degrading than the Egyptian servitude; from death, more to be feared than the sea. Christ the rock was smitten to give us life, and bread falls from heaven to sustain us. He found us lost in a waste howling wilderness, and became our guide. Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men. Creation reveals his perfections, and providence unfolds his cares. But above all, for his inestimable love in the redemption of the world; for the glory of the christian ministry, for the communion and fellowship of saints, for his goodness in causing calamities and afflictions to work for good, and for opening life and immortality to the weary pilgrim. Let us praise him with unceasing songs, but more abundantly by righteousness of life. Matthew 5:16.

His mercy extends to prisoners and captives; they suffer awhile, and then he has compassion upon them, and often effectuates their emancipation. So when the penitent is mourning for sin, the Lord shows him mercy, enlightens his gloom, and breaks asunder all his bonds. Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness.

The mariners at sea, not less than the captives by land, experience the compassion of God. These bold men, “nursed in the waves, and cradled in the storm,” spread their sails, and venture into the deep. They laugh at fear, and sing to the breeze. But sometimes the clouds assume a wild and fiery aspect. They roll in succession, and cover the heavens with darkness. The mariners, familiar with danger, are cautious, but not alarmed. Presently the gale rises to a hurricane. The night is dark and portentious. The swells become more distant, but more huge; they break in torrents over the deck. They roar and foam like sparks of fire round the bow. All this they bear without dismay: they jest with danger, or perhaps blaspheme because of inconvenience. Presently the tempest, gaining in velocity, by its force carries away both masts and sails. Now the ship is entangled, and turns her deck like a rock to the fury of the ocean. Now all faces look pale, now they cling wherever they can to prevent being washed away; yet resuming courage, they cut away the rigging, and suffer the naked hull to drive before the waves. Presently, oppressed with the elements, and exhausted with fatigue, they learn that the water in the hold is gaining on the pumps. Now human courage fails, and the stoutest bow to Omnipotence; now every sin comes to remembrance, and eternity opens her portals in every descending wave. Now piety alone is great; now the believer is looking out, not for Neptune’s, but Elijah’s car. Now he looks for his Saviour to come at midnight, walking on the waves of the sea. The weakness he felt in his faith at the first onset, settles into a serene confidence. Grace rises superior to nature. He bids adieu to all on earth; and feeling the earnests of heaven, his soul rises in high route to immortality and bliss. But where are his ungodly mates? One is covered with pensive gloom; another is weeping bitterly for his friends, and his life; a third is making vows and promises, and crying to God, but more for a temporal than a spiritual life. Then the Lord has compassion on fainting men, then the skies clear up, and the angry elements become serene. And if God do all this for the wicked, what will he not do for the truly penitent? Verily he will pardon all their sins; he will turn away his anger by comfort, and disperse their gloom by the sunshine of eternal joy.

The desolations of one country for its wickedness, and the fertility of another, are equally subjects of praise. Sodom was made a lake. Zoan, Thebes, Babylon, Nineveh, and Tyre, are fearful examples of this kind. God seems to have cursed the very ground where so much wickedness was committed. Yea, Palestine itself, once so fruitful, is now comparatively barren. Tremble, oh christian Zion: be instructed by the past, and learn to praise the Lord.

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Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 107". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.