Psalm 106

Psalm 106[a]

Israel’s Confession of Sin and God’s Mercy

1 Alleluia.

Give thanks[b] to the Lord, for he is good;
his kindness endures forever.
2 Who can possibly recount the mighty acts of the Lord
and fully proclaim his praise?[c]
3 Blessed[d] are those who do what is right
and practice justice constantly.
4 Remember me, O Lord, out of the love you have for your people;
come to me with your salvation.[e]
5 Let me delight in the success of your chosen ones,
share in the joy of your nation,
and glory in your heritage.
6 [f]Like our ancestors, we[g] have sinned;
we have gone astray and done evil.
7 When our ancestors were in Egypt,
they failed to be mindful of your wonders;
they did not remember your many kindnesses
and rebelled against the Most High at the Red Sea.
8 Yet he saved them for his name’s sake[h]
so that he might make known his mighty power.
9 He rebuked the Red Sea, and it dried up;
he led them through the depths as through a wilderness.
10 He saved them from those who hated them;
from the hand of the enemy he delivered them.
11 The waters closed over their adversaries;
not a single one of them survived.
12 Then they believed his words
and sang his praises.[i]
13 [j]But they soon forgot what he had done
and had no confidence in his plan.
14 In the wilderness they yielded to their cravings;
in the wasteland they put God to the test.
15 He gave them everything they wanted
but struck them with a consuming disease.
16 [k]In the camp they grew envious of Moses
and of Aaron, who was consecrated to the Lord.
17 The earth parted and swallowed Dathan
and closed over the company of Abiram.
18 Fire blazed all through them,
and the wicked were consumed in flames.
19 [l]They constructed a calf at Horeb
and worshiped this molten image.
20 They exchanged their Glory[m]
for an image of a bull that eats grass.
21 They forgot the God who had saved them,
who had done great things in Egypt,
22 wonders in the land of Ham,[n]
and awesome deeds at the Red Sea.
23 He was contemplating their destruction,
but Moses, his chosen one,
stood in the breach[o] before him
to keep his wrath from destroying them.
24 [p]Then they derided the land of delights,[q]
for they had no faith in his word.
25 They grumbled in their tents
and refused to obey the voice of the Lord.
26 Therefore, he swore with uplifted hand
to strike them down in the wilderness
27 and disperse their descendants among the nations,
scattering them in foreign lands.
28 [r]They joined in worshiping Baal of Peor
and ate food sacrificed to lifeless gods.
29 They provoked the Lord to anger by their evil deeds,
and a plague broke out among them.
30 Then Phinehas stood up and executed judgment,
and the plague came to an end.
31 This was credited to him as righteousness[s]
for all the generations to come.
32 [t]At the waters of Meribah[u] they angered the Lord,
and Moses endured difficulties because of them.
33 For they rebelled against the Spirit of God,
and rash words issued from Moses’ lips.[v]
34 [w]They did not exterminate the peoples
as the Lord had commanded them to do.
35 Rather, they mingled with the nations
and adopted their practices.
36 They worshiped their idols,
which became a snare to them.
37 They sacrificed to false gods[x]
their sons and their daughters.
38 They shed innocent blood,
the blood of their sons and daughters,
whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan,
polluting the land with their blood.
39 Thus, they defiled themselves by their actions
and prostituted themselves by their conduct.[y]
40 [z]Then the anger of the Lord flared up against his people,
and he abhorred his own heritage.
41 He handed them over to the nations,
and their foes became their rulers.
42 Their enemies oppressed them
and kept them in subjection to their power.
43 Time and again he came to their rescue,
but they rebelled against his counsel
and sank low because of their sin.
44 Even so, he took pity on their distress
when he heard their cries.
45 He called to mind his covenant[aa] with them,
and he relented because of his great mercy.
46 He aroused compassion for them
on the part of all their captors.
47 Save us, O Lord, our God,
and gather us from among the nations,
so that we may give thanks to your holy name
and glory in praising[ab] you.
48 Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting.[ac]
Let all the people say, “Amen.”


  1. Psalm 106:1 A beautiful acclamation opens this psalm, but from verse 6 onward the tone changes. We enter into a liturgy of grief and take part in a national confession. It is, especially after the Exile, a psalm for times of distress (see Neh 9:5-37; Isa 63:7—64:11). A repentant Israel evokes the sin of the ancestors, but only to confess its own sin. The people continue the long succession of infidelities of yesteryear. The meditation on Israel’s history contrasts with the beautiful hymn of Psalm 105. Taking his inspiration from Numbers and Deuteronomy, the psalmist retains from the past only the concatenation of sins: the ancestors doubted God (v. 7; see Ex 14:12), murmured in the wilderness (v. 14; see Ex 15:24; 16:3; 17:2), adored the golden calf (v. 19; see Ex 32), balked at conquering the Promised Land (v. 24; see Num 14:3f), adopted pagan practices (vv. 28-35; see Num 25; Jdg 2:1-5), and sacrificed to idols (vv. 36-38; see 1 Ki 16:34).
    Paul will later evoke how the flood of sin submerges humanity (see Rom 3:23). But the history of sin is opposed to that of the love of God; the Lord always pardons and delivers his people. On recalling such goodness, the community of his people gathered together acknowledges its sins and begs God to save it.
    In praying this psalm, Christians recall that the wonders of God’s mercy in favor of his chosen people were simple preludes to the works of mercy that he accomplishes in Christ on behalf of sinful but believing humankind (see Rom 5:20). Acknowledgment of sin opens the door to the experience of God’s love.
  2. Psalm 106:1 Give thanks: a liturgical call to praise (see Pss 100:5; 103:2; 107:1; 118:1, 29; 136:1-3). Kindness: see note on Ps 6:5.
  3. Psalm 106:2 His praise: see note on Ps 9:2.
  4. Psalm 106:3 The Lord expects his people to persevere in righteousness and justice, because they thus establish his kingdom (see Pss 15:1-5; 99:4; Isa 11:3-5; 33:15-17). Blessed: see note on Ps 1:1.
  5. Psalm 106:4 With your salvation: another translation is: “when you save them.”
  6. Psalm 106:6 The psalmist sketches the people’s lack of faith and their rebellion at the Red Sea (see Ex 14–15).
  7. Psalm 106:6 This general theme (see Lev 26:40; 1 Ki 8:47; Dan 9:5) is reprised by the Vulgate in Jud 7:29. We: the psalmist identifies himself with his sinful people.
  8. Psalm 106:8 A motive often ascribed to God by Ezekiel (see Ezek 20:9, 14; 36:21f; 39:25). Name’s sake: see note on Ps 5:12.
  9. Psalm 106:12 An allusion to Ex 15. Praise is the expression of faith in the divine word (see Pss 119:42, 65, 74, 81; 130:5).
  10. Psalm 106:13 The psalmist recalls the people’s forgetfulness of the Lord in their craving for meat in the desert (see Num 11).
  11. Psalm 106:16 The psalmist recounts the challenge to Moses’ authority in the camp by Korah, Dathan, and Abiram (see Num 16:1-35).
  12. Psalm 106:19 The psalmist recalls the people’s worship of the golden calf at Sinai (see Ex 32; Deut 9:7-29; Hos 4:7; 9:10; 10:5).
  13. Psalm 106:20 Glory: none other than their Glorious one (see 1 Sam 15:29; Jer 2:11), their Savior-God (Ps 106:21).
  14. Psalm 106:22 Land of Ham: see note on Ps 78:51.
  15. Psalm 106:23 Stood in the breach: see Ex 32:11-14, 31f.
  16. Psalm 106:24 The psalmist tells of the people’s refusal to capture Canaan via the southern route and their punishment of not entering the Promised Land (see Num 13–14; Deut 1–2).
  17. Psalm 106:24 Land of delights: see the description given in Jer 3:19; 12:10; Zec 7:14.
  18. Psalm 106:28 The psalmist recalls the people’s apostasy and rebellion in worshiping Baal of Peor (see Num 25:1-10).
  19. Psalm 106:31 Credited to him as righteousness: reminiscent of Abraham’s justification and that of the new People of God (see Gen 15:6; Rom 4:3, 23-25).
  20. Psalm 106:32 The psalmist relives the people’s quarreling with the Lord at Meribah, which led Moses to sin (see Num 20:1-13).
  21. Psalm 106:32 Meribah: see note on Ps 95:8. The Lord: literally, “him.” Moses endured difficulties: he was not allowed to enter the Promised Land because of his rash words (see Num 20:12). Deuteronomy 1:37 indicates that Moses was not allowed to do so because of the people’s sin, not his own.
  22. Psalm 106:33 Spirit of God . . . Moses’ lips: literally, “his Spirit . . . his lips.” The Old Testament indicates that the Spirit of God was present and at work in the wilderness (see Ex 31:3; Num 11:17; 24:2; Neh 9:20; Isa 63:10-14).
  23. Psalm 106:34 The psalmist indicts the mingling of the people with the pagan nations and their evil practices (such as idolatry, infant sacrifices, and injustice of all kinds) from the time of the Judges to the Babylonian Exile.
  24. Psalm 106:37 False gods: literally, “demons,” i.e., pagan gods.
  25. Psalm 106:39 The people were made ritually unclean by the evils they practiced, and the land was also defiled by their wickedness (see Num 35:33f; Isa 24:5; Jer 3:1f, 9).
  26. Psalm 106:40 The psalmist recalls God’s tempered judgment mingling chastisements and mercies.
  27. Psalm 106:45 Called to mind his covenant: see Pss 105:8, 42; Ex 2:24; Lev 26:42, 45. Mercy: see note on Ps 6:5.
  28. Psalm 106:47 The psalmist ends on a note of communal prayer for deliverance and restoration from dispersion. The triumph of the Lord results in thanksgiving and praise. Praising: see note on Ps 9:2.
  29. Psalm 106:48 This last verse does not belong to the psalm but is the doxology to Book IV (see note on Ps 41:14). The doxology declares the praise of the Lord as the God of Israel (see Lk 1:68). As his “kindness endures forever” (Ps 107:1), so will his praise from his people be from everlasting to everlasting. In hope of deliverance and prosperity (Ps 106:4-5, 47), the People of God respond with an Amen (see 1 Chr 16:35f).
  30. Psalm 106:48 Alleluia: i.e., “Hallelujah” or “Bless [or praise] the Lord,” which very likely belongs to the next psalm (see note on Ps 104:35).

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