Psalm 107:33
He turns rivers into a wilderness, and the springs into dry ground;
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(33) The change in character and style of the psalm at this point is so marked as to suggest an addition by another hand. It is not only that the artistic form is dropped, and the series of vivid pictures, each closed by a refrain, succeeded by changed aspects of thought, but the language becomes harsher, and the poet, if the same, suddenly proclaims that he has exhausted his imagination.

Psalm 107:33-38. He turneth rivers — Land watered with rivers; into a wilderness — Into dry ground, as it follows, like a parched and barren wilderness, that has not moisture enough to produce any thing valuable; a fruitful land into barrenness — Hebrew, למלחה, limleechah, into saltness, which causes barrenness; for the wickedness of them that dwell therein — He doth not inflict these judgments without cause, but for the punishment of sin in some, and the prevention of it in others. “Thus the plain of Jordan, which, before the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, was well watered everywhere, like the garden of Jehovah, (Genesis 13:10,) hath, since that overthrow, been a land of salt, and sulphur, and perpetual sterility. Nay, even the fruitful Palestine itself, that flowed with milk and honey, is at this day a region of utter desolation, so that the very possibility of its ever having sufficed to maintain the people who formerly possessed it is now called in question. And, indeed, while the rain of heaven shall continue to be in the hand of God, how easy is it for him, by withholding it during a few months, to blast all the most promising hopes of man; and, instead of plenty, joy, and health, to visit him with famine, pestilence, and death.” On the other hand, (Psalm 107:35,) he turneth the wilderness — The barren and desolate wilderness; into a standing water — Into a well-watered and fruitful land. “When the ways of a people please God, the rain shall descend from above, the springs shall rise from beneath, the earth shall yield her increase, the cattle shall feed in large pastures, the seasons shall be kindly, the earth salutary, and the smiling face of nature shall attest the loving-kindness of the Lord. Thus, in the dispensations of grace, hath he dealt with Jews and Gentiles. The synagogue of the former, once rich in faith, watered with the benedictions of heaven, fruitful in prophets and saints, adorned with the services of religion, and the presence of Jehovah, hath been, since the murder of the Son of God, cursed with infidelity, parched like the withered tops of the mountains of Gilboah, barren and desolate as the land of their ancient residence, whose naked rocks seem to declare to all the world the hard-heartedness and unprofitableness of its old possessors. When the fruitful field thus became a forest, the wilderness, at the same time, became a fruitful field. A church was planted in the Gentile world, and the Spirit was poured out upon it from on high. In that wilderness did waters break out, and streams in that desert. There was faith sown, and holiness was the universal product. The wilderness and the solitary place was glad, and the desert rejoiced and blossomed as the rose. It blossomed abundantly, and rejoiced even with joy and singing; the glory of Lebanon was given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon. The privileges and honours of the synagogue were conferred upon the church; and the nations now saw the glory of Jehovah, and the excellency of our God, Isaiah 32:15; Isaiah 35:1-2.” — Horne.107:33-43 What surprising changes are often made in the affairs of men! Let the present desolate state of Judea, and of other countries, explain this. If we look abroad in the world, we see many greatly increase, whose beginning was small. We see many who have thus suddenly risen, as suddenly brought to nothing. Worldly wealth is uncertain; often those who are filled with it, ere they are aware, lose it again. God has many ways of making men poor. The righteous shall rejoice. It shall fully convince all those who deny the Divine Providence. When sinners see how justly God takes away the gifts they have abused, they will not have a word to say. It is of great use to us to be fully assured of God's goodness, and duly affected with it. It is our wisdom to mind our duty, and to refer our comfort to him. A truly wise person will treasure in his heart this delightful psalm. From it, he will fully understand the weakness and wretchedness of man, and the power and loving-kindness of God, not for our merit, but for his mercy's sake.He turneth rivers into a wilderness - He makes great changes in the earth; he shows that he has absolute dominion over it. See the notes at Isaiah 44:26-27. On the word "wilderness," see the notes at Psalm 107:4. The point here is, that God had such control over nature that he could make the bed of a river dry and barren as the rocky or sandy desert. He could effectually dry up the stream, and make it so dry and parched that nothing would grow but the most stunted shrubs, such as were found in the waste and sandy desert.

And the water-springs into dry ground - The very fountains of the rivers: not only drying up the river itself by leading it off into burning wastes where it would be evaporated by the heat, or lost in the sand - but so directly affecting the "sources" of the streams as to make them dry.

33-41. He turneth rivers into a wilderness, &c.—God's providence is illustriously displayed in His influence on two great elements of human prosperity, the earth's productiveness and the powers of government. He punishes the wicked by destroying the sources of fertility, or, in mercy, gives fruitfulness to deserts, which become the homes of a busy and successful agricultural population. By a permitted misrule and tyranny, this scene of prosperity is changed to one of adversity. He rules rulers, setting up one and putting down another.33 He turneth rivers into a wilderness, and the watersprings into dry ground;

34 A fruitful land into barrenness, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein.

35 He turneth the wilderness into a standing water, and dry ground into watersprings.

36 And there he maketh the hungry to dwell, that they may prepare a city for habitation;

37 And sow the fields, and plant vineyards, which may yield fruits of increase.

38 He blesseth them also, so that they are multiplied greatly and suffereth not their cattle to decrease.

39 Again, they are minished and brought low through oppression, affliction, and sorrow.

40 He poureth contempt upon princes, and causeth them to wander in the wilderness, where there is no way.

41 Yet setteth he the poor on high from affliction, and maketh him families like a flock.

42 The righteous shall see it, and rejoice; and all iniquity shall stop her mouth.

Psalm 107:33

"He turneth rivers into a wilderness, and the watersprings into dry ground." When the Lord deals with rebellious men he can soon deprive them of those blessings of which they feel most assured, their rivers and perennial springs they look upon as certain never to be taken from them, but the Lord at a word can deprive them even of these. In hot climates after long droughts streams of water utterly fail, and even springs cease to flow, and this also has happened in other parts of the world when great convulsions of the earth's surface have occurred. In providence this physical catastrophe finds its counterpart when business ceases to yield profit and sources of wealth are made to fail; as also when health and strength are taken away, when friendly aids are withdrawn, and comfortable associations are broken up. So, too, in soul matters, the most prosperous ministries may become dry, the most delightful meditations cease to benefit us, and the most fruitful religious exercises grow void of the refreshment of grace which they formerly yielded. Since

"'Tis God who lifts our comforts high,

Or sinks them in the grave,"


Rivers; either,

1. Properly so called; which he can divert or dry up when he pleaseth, as sometimes he hath done. Or rather,

2. Those grounds which are well watered, and therefore very fruitful, as the next verse explains this. And so

the water-springs, here and Psalm 107:35, and the standing water, Psalm 107 35, are taken.

Into a wilderness; into a dry ground, as it follows, which is like a parched and barren wilderness. He turneth rivers into a wilderness,.... A country abounding with rivers, as the country round about Sodom and the land of Canaan were, Genesis 13:10. Such an one is sometimes, by the just judgment of God, turned into a desert.

And the water springs into dry ground: what was like a well watered garden becomes like dry and barren earth, on which nothing grows.

He turneth rivers into a wilderness, and the watersprings into dry ground;
33. He turneth] He hath turned. The verbs in Psalm 107:33-41 should be translated by the past tense, as referring to facts of experience, not merely to general truths. The Targ. refers Psalm 107:33-34 to the drought in the time of Joel.

into dry ground] R.V. into a thirsty ground. Psalm 107:33 a is from Isaiah 50:2; with 33 b cp. Isaiah 35:7 : Psalm 107:35 is from Isaiah 41:18.

33–38. Fertile lands are smitten with barrenness for the wickedness of their inhabitants: barren lands are transformed into a fruitful home for the poor and needy.

33–43. The style of the Psalm changes, and its subject becomes more general. The refrain disappears, and instead of examples of God’s goodness in delivering various classes of men, we have proofs of His providential government of the world in the vicissitudes of countries and peoples.Verses 33-42. - Professor Cheyne finds in this passage - which he views as an "appendix" to the psalm - a falling off from the earlier portion of the psalm, and a set of "sentences strung together without much reflection." But to others the transition from special deliverances to God's general dealings with mankind seems an enlargement and an advance in the thought, although the language may be less graphic and more commonplace than in the former portion of the composition. Verse 33. - He turneth rivers into a wilderness. God can, and does, by the operation of his providence, turn lands naturally fertile - lands abounding with streams - into arid wastes, either by such a physical catastrophe as that which blasted the cities of the plain (Genesis 19:24, 25), or by such moral changes as have turned Babylonia from a garden into a desert, a miserable howling wilderness (comp. Isaiah 13:15-22; Isaiah 50:2; Jeremiah 50:13-15, 38-40; Jeremiah 51:13, 37-43, etc.). And the water springs into dry ground. The phrase is varied, but the meaning is the same. God has full control over nature, and can either take back his blessings, or render them of no avail. Others have returned to tell of the perils of the sea. Without any allegory (Hengstenberg) it speaks of those who by reason of their calling traverse (which is expressed by ירד because the surface of the sea lies below the dry land which slopes off towards the coast) the sea in ships (read boŏnijoth without the article), and that not as fishermen, but (as Luther has correctly understood the choice of the word) in commercial enterprises. These have seen the works and wonders of God in the eddying deep, i.e., they have seen with their own eyes what God can do when in His anger He calls up the powers of nature, and on the other hand when He compassionately orders them back into their bounds. God's mandate (ויּאמר as in Psalm 105:31, Psalm 105:34) brought it to pass that a stormy wind arose (cf. עמד, Psalm 33:9), and it drove its (the sea's) waves on high, so that the seafarers at one time were tossed up to the sky and then hurled down again into deep abysses, and their soul melted בּרעה, in an evil, anxious mood, i.e., lost all its firmness. They turned about in a circle (יחוגּוּ( elc from חגג equals חוּג) and reeled after the manner of a drunken man; all their wisdom swallowed itself up, i.e., consumed itself within itself, came of itself to nought, just as Ovid, Trist. i. 1, says in connection with a similar description of a storm at sea: ambiguis ars stupet ipsa malis. The poet here writes under the influence of Isaiah 19:3, Isaiah 19:14. But at their importunate supplication God led them forth out of their distresses (Psalm 25:17). He turned the raging storm into a gentle blowing ( equals דּממה דּקּה, 1 Kings 19:12). הקים construed with ל here has the sense of transporting (carrying over) into another condition or state, as Apollinaris renders: αὐτίκα δ ̓ εἰς αὔρην προτέρην μετέθηκε θύελλαν. The suffix of גּלּיהם cannot refer to the מים רבּים in Psalm 107:23, which is so far removed; "their waves" are those with which they had to battle. These to their joy became calm (חשׁה) and were still (שׁתק as in Jonah 1:11), and God guided them ἐπὶ λιμένα θελήματος αὐτῶν (lxx). מחוז, a hapax-legomenon, from Arab. ḥâz (ḥwz), to shut in on all sides and to draw to one's self (root Arab. ḥw, gyravit, in gyrum egit), signifies a place enclosed round, therefore a haven, and first of all perhaps a creek, to use a northern word, a fiord. The verb שׁתק in relation to חשׁה is the stronger word, like יבשׁ in relation to חרם in the history of the Flood. Those who have been thus marvellously rescued are then called upon thankfully to praise God their Deliverer in the place where the national church assembles, and where the chiefs of the nation sit in council; therefore, as it seems, in the Temple and in the Forum.

(Note: In exact editions like Norzi, Heidenheim, and Baer's, before Psalm 107:23, Psalm 107:24, Psalm 107:25, Psalm 107:26, Psalm 107:27, Psalm 107:28, and Psalm 107:40 there stand reversed Nuns (נונין הפוכין, in the language of the Masora נונין מנזרות), as before Numbers 10:35 and between Numbers 10:36 and Numbers 11:1 (nine in all). Their signification is unknown.)

Now follow two more groups without the two beautiful and impressive refrains with which the four preceding groups are interspersed. The structure is less artistic, and the transitions here and there abrupt and awkward. One might say that these two groups are inferior to the rest, much as the speeches of Elihu are inferior to the rest of the Book of Job. That they are, however, nevertheless from the hand of the very same poet is at once seen from the continued dependence upon the Book of Job and Isaiah. Hengstenberg sees in Psalm 107:33-42 "the song with which they exalt the Lord in the assembly of the people and upon the seat of the elders." but the materia laudis is altogether different from that which is to be expected according to the preceding calls to praise. Nor is it any the more clear to us that Psalm 107:33. refer to the overthrow of Babylon, and Psalm 107:35. to the happy turn of affairs that took place simultaneously for Israel; Psalm 107:35 does not suit Canaan, and the expressions in Psalm 107:36. would be understood in too low a sense. No, the poet goes on further to illustrate the helpful government of God the just and gracious One, inasmuch as he has experiences in his mind in connection therewith, of which the dispersion of Israel in all places can sing and speak.

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