Psalm 107

Book V—Psalms 107–150[a]

Psalm 107[b]

God, Savior of Those in Distress

1 “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his kindness[c] endures forever.”
2 Let this be the prayer of the redeemed of the Lord,
those he redeemed from the hand of the foe
3 and gathered together from the lands,[d]
from east and west, north and south.
4 [e]Some wandered in a barren wilderness,
unable to discover a path to an inhabited city.
5 They were hungry and thirsty,
and their life was wasting away.
6 Then they cried out to the Lord in their anguish,
and he saved them from their distress.
7 He led them by a direct route
to a city in which they could dwell.
8 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his kindness[f]
and for the wonders he does for people.
9 He has satisfied the thirsty
and filled the hungry with good things.
10 [g]Some sat in darkness and the shadow of death,[h]
bound in misery and in chains,
11 because they had rebelled against the words of God
and spurned the plan of the Most High.
12 He humbled their hearts with hard labor;[i]
when they stumbled, no one was there to offer help.
13 Then they cried out to the Lord in their need,
and he rescued them from their distress.
14 He brought them forth from darkness and the shadow of death
and tore their chains to pieces.
15 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his kindness
and for the wonders he does for people.
16 He has broken down gates of bronze
and cut through iron bars.
17 [j]Some were made foolish by their wicked ways
and were afflicted because of their iniquities.
18 All types of food became loathsome to them,
and they were nearing the gates of death.[k]
19 Then they cried out to the Lord in their anguish,
and he rescued them from their distress.
20 He sent forth his word[l] and healed them,
saving them from the grave.
21 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his kindness
and for the wonders he does for people.
22 Let them offer sacrifices in thanksgiving
and recount his deeds with jubilation.
23 [m]Some went down to the sea in ships
and engaged in commerce on the mighty waters.
24 [n]They beheld the works of the Lord
and his wonders in the deep.
25 He spoke and raised up a storm wind
that stirred up the waves of the sea.
26 They were lifted up to the heavens, then cast down to the depths;
their courage melted away in their plight.
27 They reeled and staggered like drunkards,
and they were at their wits’ end.
28 They cried out to the Lord in their anguish,
and he delivered them from their distress.
29 He reduced the storm to a whisper,
and the waves of the sea were hushed.
30 They rejoiced because of the calm,
and he guided them to the port they sought.
31 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his kindness
and for the wonders he does for people.
32 Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people
and praise him in the council of the elders.[o]
33 [p]He turns rivers into wasteland,
springs of water into parched ground,[q]
34 and fertile land into a salt waste,
because of the wickedness of those who live there.[r]
35 He turns the wasteland into pools of water
and the parched ground into bubbling springs.
36 [s]There he provides the hungry with a home,
and they build a city where they can settle.
37 They sow fields and plant vineyards
that yield crops for the harvest.
38 He blesses them and they greatly increase in number,
and he does not let their cattle decrease.
39 Eventually their numbers diminish and they are humbled
because of oppression, adversity, and affliction;
40 he who pours forth his contempt on princes
makes them wander in trackless wastes,
41 while he raises the needy from their misery
and increases their families like flocks.
42 The upright see and exult,
while the wicked[t] are reduced to silence.
43 Let whoever is wise reflect on these things
and understand the merciful love of the Lord.[u]

Footnotes

  1. Psalm 107:1 Book V of the Psalter. Two collections are included in this final part: the pilgrimage chants or “Songs of Ascent” (Pss 120–134) and the Hallel or “Praise” psalms (113–118; 120–136; 146–150). In addition, we see a further group of psalms attributed to David (Pss 138–145). Jewish tradition also groups together Pss 113–118, known as the Egyptian Hallel, for use at the Passover. The “hymn” sung at the Last Supper (see Mk 14:26) was probably part of that Hallel.
    Although cries of supplication still form part of the prayer of the psalmist, joy begins to radiate upon the face of the pilgrim who draws near to the Lord; the acclamation voiced in the presence of God will transform the conclusion of the Psalter into a prodigious symphony of happiness.
  2. Psalm 107:1 Even though this psalm is not part of Book IV, many believe that it was originally associated with Pss 105–106 and served as a kind of conclusion to the theme-related Pss 104–107. After the account of God’s works in creation (see Ps 104:2-26) and his care for the animal world (see Ps 104:27-30) it recounts “the wonders [God] does for people” (Ps 107:8).
    Psalm 107 is a thanksgiving for “God’s deliverances.” Persons in distress have cried out to him and obtained help: wandering voyagers (vv. 4-9), prisoners (vv. 10-16), the sick (vv. 17-22), and the shipwrecked (vv. 23-32). The Lord reverses situations as he pleases (vv. 33-41), but only the believer can discern the divine action. Beneath the concrete life of the era, evoked at times with humor (vv. 26-27 remind us that the Israelites were not very seaworthy), we see the history of the chosen people: the journeys of the Exodus and the Exile, their temptations and their sins.
    Visibly the author takes his inspiration from the Book of Consolation (see Isa 40–55) and the writings of the sages (see Job; Wis 16). Thanksgivings that are at first private, ultimately express the gratitude of an entire people. For the believer, the events become signs: they invite him to discover in his life and that of the community of peoples a secret presence of God.
    Christians pray this psalm to praise the Father for redeeming us in Christ. We have been saved by him from the hand of the infernal oppressor, gathered by him into the Church, and delivered by his love from the spiritual death to which we were doomed by the state in which Satan bound us and which was symbolized by the image of the wilderness, captivity, sickness, and the storm.
  3. Psalm 107:1 A conventional cry of praise in the liturgy of the temple often cited in the Old Testament (see Pss 106:1; 118:1; 136:1; 1 Chr 16:34; 1 Mac 4:24; Jer 33:11; Dan 3:89). Kindness: see note on Ps 6:5.
  4. Psalm 107:3 From the lands: e.g., Assyria, Babylonia, Egypt, and Moab, into which the catastrophe of 587 B.C. had dispersed the chosen people (see 2 Ki 17:6; 24:12-16; Isa 11:11f; 43:5f; Jer 52:28-30). South: literally, “[the] sea.”
  5. Psalm 107:4 The psalmist evokes the Lord’s deliverances of his people from the wilderness in which they were lost, hungry, thirsty, and exhausted, especially during the Exodus (see Jos 5:6), which prefigured the just completed return from the Exile (see Neh 1:3). Jesus would later indicate that he delivered people from the same four situations as the Way to the Father (see Jn 14:6), the Bread of Heaven (see Jn 6:41), the Water of Life (see Jn 4:14), and the Giver of Rest (see Mt 11:28).
  6. Psalm 107:8 This refrain is repeated in verses 15, 21, 31. Kindness: see note on Ps 6:5. Wonders: see note on Ps 9:2 concerning God’s wonders.
  7. Psalm 107:10 The psalmist evokes God’s deliverance of his people from foreign bondage, especially in the return from the Exile (see Isa 43:5f; 49:12; Zec 8:7f). In addition, guilt, darkness, grinding toil, and the constriction of chains, gates, and bars are apt figures for the fallen state of human beings.
  8. Psalm 107:10 See Pss 105:18; 149:8; Isa 42:7; 49:9. The Exile was a chastisement (see Lev 26:41ff; Job 33:19; 36:8ff; Prov 3:12), announced by the Prophets. Shadow of death: see note on Ps 23:4.
  9. Psalm 107:12 Humbled their hearts with hard labor: i.e., a labor that broke their spirit. Another translation is: “subjected them to bitter labor.”
  10. Psalm 107:17 The psalmist evokes God’s deliverance of his people from the chastisement of sickness unto death incurred because of sin.
  11. Psalm 107:18 Gates of death: metaphorical description for death (see Pss 9:14; 88:4) in keeping with the ancient custom of picturing the realm of death as a city in the netherworld with a series of gates that prevented return to the land of the living (see Job 38:17; Mt 16:18).
  12. Psalm 107:20 The word is here personified as God’s messenger of healing and deliverance from the grave (see Ps 147:15; Job 33:23ff; Wis 16:12; Isa 55:11; Mt 8:8; Jn 1:1).
  13. Psalm 107:23 The psalmist evokes God’s deliverance of his people from the perils of the sea.
  14. Psalm 107:24 The merchants who cross the seas in search of wealth witness God’s wonderful deeds at sea (see Ps 104:24-26) and his ability to calm a storm on the surging waters (see Pss 65:8; 77:20).
  15. Psalm 107:32 The merchants are urged to render worship to God by declaring, both in communal worship and in places of leadership, what he has done for them.
  16. Psalm 107:33 The psalmist evokes God’s deliverance of his people by a “reversal of fortune.”
  17. Psalm 107:33 Imagery like that found in Isa 35:6f; 41:18; 42:15; 43:19f; 50:2.
  18. Psalm 107:34 Allusion to Sodom and Gomorrah (see Gen 13:10; 19; Deut 29:22; Sir 39:23). Salt was cast on cities that had been destroyed (see Jdg 9:45).
  19. Psalm 107:36 These verses are written in general terms; however, scholars believe the psalmist is most likely referring here to the settlement and development of the Promised Land (vv. 36ff), the hardships during the Assyrian and Babylonian invasions (v. 39), the humiliation and exile of the last kings of Judah (v. 40), and the restoration of Zion after the Exile (v. 41).
  20. Psalm 107:42 Upright . . . wicked: a comparison often made in the Old Testament (see Prov 2:21f; 11:6f; 12:6; 14:11; 15:8; 21:18; 29:27).
  21. Psalm 107:43 This conclusion transforms the hymn of thanksgiving and praise into a wisdom psalm. The righteous will become wise by studying the Lord’s deliverances of his people.

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