Psalm 105:12
When they were but a few men in number; yea, very few, and strangers in it.
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Psalm 105:12-15. When they were but few in number — Hebrew, מתי מספר, methee mispar, men of number, so few as easily to be numbered, in opposition to what their posterity afterward were, as the sand of the sea without number: yea, very few — The word כמעשׂ, chimgnat, thus rendered, signifies either small as to number, or as to regard and esteem. The meaning probably is, that they were insignificant and inconsiderable as to power, the fewness of their number being mentioned just before. And strangers in it — Such were the patriarchs in the land of Canaan. They went from one nation to another — Both in Canaan, where there were seven nations, and in Egypt. He reproved kings for their sakes — Both verbally, and by his judgments. Saying, Touch not — Hurt not, as the word נגע, nagang, is often used; mine anointed — My prophets, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who are called God’s anointed, because they were eminently blessed of God, replenished with the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit, in respect of which many persons are said, in the Scriptures, to be anointed, who never had any material oil applied to them; and because they were thus consecrated to be his peculiar people, and to be kings and priests in their families. And they are called prophets, because God familiarly conversed with them, and revealed his will to them, and by them to others.

105:8-23 Let us remember the Redeemer's marvellous works, his wonders, and the judgments of his mouth. Though true Christians are few number, strangers and pilgrims upon earth, yet a far better inheritance than Canaan is made sure to them by the covenant of God; and if we have the anointing of the Holy Spirit, none can do us any harm. Afflictions are among our mercies. They prove our faith and love, they humble our pride, they wean us from the world, and quicken our prayers. Bread is the staff which supports life; when that staff is broken, the body fails and sinks to the earth. The word of God is the staff of spiritual life, the food and support of the soul: the sorest judgment is a famine of hearing the word of the Lord. Such a famine was sore in all lands when Christ appeared in the flesh; whose coming, and the blessed effect of it, are shadowed forth in the history of Joseph. At the appointed time Christ was exalted as Mediator; all the treasures of grace and salvation are at his disposal, perishing sinners come to him, and are relieved by him.When they were but a few men in number - literally, "In their being people of number, very little." That is, They could then be easily numbered, and they were so few that they could not take possession of it themselves. This is in contrast with the promise then made to them that they should be in number as the stars, and as the sand on the sea shore.

And strangers in it - Foreigners. They were mere sojourners. They did not become incorporated with the people of the land. They did not acquire property there. They were regarded and treated as belonging to a foreign people. See the notes at Hebrews 11:9.

12-15. few … in number—alluding to Jacob's words (Ge 34:30), "I being few in number."

yea, very few—literally, "as a few," that is, like fewness itself (compare Isa 1:9).

strangers—sojourners in the land of their future inheritance, as in a strange country (Heb 11:9).

A few men in number, Heb. men of number, i.e. few, who could easily be numbered,

very few, as the next words explain it.

When they were but a few men in number,.... Or "men of number" (d), that might easily be numbered; see Genesis 34:30, when this covenant, promise, and oath, were first made to Abraham, he was alone, and had no child; and when his posterity were increased in Jacob's time, and sojourned in Egypt, they were but few, though greatly enlarged when they came out of it: in comparison of other nations, they were the fewest of all people, and therefore had this grant of Canaan, not for their numbers any more than their goodness. And this circumstance is mentioned to show the unmerited goodness of God unto them; see Deuteronomy 7:6. And so the Lord's people, to whom he gives the kingdom of heaven, are a little flock; they are only a few that find the way to eternal life, Luke 12:32.

Yea, very few; or "as a little thing" (e): so were the people of Israel a little contemptible body of men in the eyes of others, and in comparison of them. And such are the saints in this world; "the filth of it", and the "offscouring of all things";

yea, things that are not; that scarce deserve, in the opinion of men, to be reckoned entities or beings. And strangers in it; as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, were, Hebrews 11:9, and so are the people of God, who are the heirs of the heavenly Canaan. These are strangers to the men of the world, who know them not; and the men of the world to them; with whom they have no conversation and fellowship in things sinful and criminal; for which they late despised by the world: yet these are the fellow citizens of heaven, and of the household of God, which shows his discriminating grace.

(d) "viros numeri", Montanus; so Vatablus, Gejerus, Michaelis. (e) "sicut parum", Montanus; so Vatablus; "aut exile aliquid", Gejerus; so Gussetius, p. 477.

When they were but a few men in number; yea, very few, and strangers in it.
12. The Psalmist emphasises the marvellousness of the Divine promise by pointing out that it was made when the patriarchs were but an insignificant clan of protected aliens, and it seemed utterly improbable that they would ever become the owners of the land.

but a few men in number] Lit. men of number: a handful of men, easily counted. Jacob uses the same phrase of his family in Genesis 34:30.

yea, very few] The word may mean few in number, or little worth; here probably the former. Cp. Deuteronomy 7:7; Deuteronomy 26:5.

strangers] sojourners, foreigners under the protection of the owners of the country, without rights of citizenship. Cp. Genesis 21:23; Genesis 23:4.

Verse 12. - When they were but a few men in number; literally, when they were men of number; i.e. when they could be easily counted. A few scores at the utmost, or, with their entire households, a few hundreds (Genesis 14:14; Genesis 33:1). Yea, very few, and strangers in it; i.e. "in the land of Canaan" (comp. Exodus 6:4). Psalm 105:12The poet now celebrates the divine preservation which had sway over the small beginnings of Israel, when it made the patriarchs proof against harm on their wanderings. "Men of number" are such as can be easily counted, vid., the confessions in Genesis 34:30; Deuteronomy 26:5; ויּתהלּכוּ places the claim upon the hospitality at one time of this people and at another time of that people in the connection with it of cause and effect. כּמעט, as a small number, only such a small number, signifies, as being virtually an adjective: inconsiderable, insignificant, worthless (Proverbs 10:20). בּהּ refers to Canaan. In Psalm 105:13 the way in which the words גּוי and עם alternate is instructive: the former signifies the nation, bound together by a common origin, language, country, and descent; the latter the people, bound together by unity of government.

(Note: For this reason a king says עמּי, not גּויי; and גּוי only occurs twice with a suffix, which refers to Jahve (Psalm 106:5; Zephaniah 2:9); for this reason גּוי, frequently side by side with עם, is the nobler word, e.g., in Deuteronomy 32:21; Jeremiah 2:11; for this reason עם is frequently added to גּוי as a dignitative predicate, Exodus 33:13; Deuteronomy 4:6; and for this reason גּוים and עם ה are used antithetically.)

The apodosis does not begin until Psalm 105:14. It is different in connection with בּהיותכם in the text of the chronicler, and in this passage in the Psalter of the Syriac version, according to which Psalm 105:12 ought to be jointed to the preceding group. The variation ומממלכה instead of מממלכה is of no consequence; but לאישׁ (to any one whomsoever) instead of אדם, in connection with הניח, restores the current mode of expression (Ecclesiastes 5:11; 2 Samuel 16:11; Hosea 4:17) instead of one which is without support elsewhere, but which follows the model of נתן, נטשׁ, Genesis 31:28 (cf. supra p. 171); whilst on the other hand ובנביאי instead of ולנביאי substitutes an expression that cannot be supported for the current one (Genesis 19:9; Ruth 1:21). In Psalm 105:14 the poet has the three histories of the preservation of the wives of the patriarchs in his mind, viz., of Sarah in Egypt (Genesis 12), and of Sarah and of Rebekah both in Philistia (Psalm 20:1-9, Psalm 26:1-12, cf. especially Psalm 26:11). In the second instance God declares the patriarch to be a "prophet" (Psalm 20:7). The one mention has reference to this and the other to Genesis 17, where Abram is set apart to be the father of peoples and kings, and Sarai to be a princess. They are called משׁיהים (a passive form) as eing God-chosen princes, and נביאים (an intensive active form, from נבא, root נב, to divulge), not as being inspired ones (Hupfeld), but as being God's spokesmen (cf. Exodus 7:1. with Exodus 4:15.), therefore as being the recipients and mediators of a divine revelation.

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