They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they found no city to dwell in.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(4) They.—It seems more natural to understand the subject of the verb wandered from the preceding clauses, than to supply a general subject, they; but this is by no means a certain interpretation. It depends on the view we take of the poem. (See Introduction.)
A solitary way.—Better, in a desert track. (Comp. Acts 8:26.) There is a grammatical difficulty, but this does not affect the general intention of the verse. Whether it represents an historical fact, or merely draws an imaginary picture, the reference to the dangers of Eastern travel is equally clear and distinct.
City to dwell in.—Literally, city of habitation, as rendered in Psalm 107:7.
“Boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”—SHELLEY.Psalm 107:4-7. They wandered in the wilderness — Where there was no trodden path, no company, but a solitary way. They found no city to dwell in — Or rather, no inhabited city, or town, no lodging; no conveniences, no accommodations where they might have refreshment. Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted, &c. — Spent with the fatigues of their journey, and ready to drop down for want of support. This may refer, 1st, To the wanderings of the Israelites in the wilderness for forty years, when God led them about, (Deuteronomy 32:10,) instructed them, and kept them as the apple of his eye. It may refer, 2d, To poor travellers in general, those particularly whose way lay through the wilds of Arabia, where, we may suppose, they were often at a loss; and yet many in that distress were wonderfully relieved, so that few perished. It is applicable, 3d, To our condition in this world; we are here as in a wilderness, have here no continuing city, but dwell in tents as strangers and pilgrims; but we are under the conduct of his wise and good providence, to which if we commit ourselves, we shall be led, in the right way, to the city that hath foundations. They cried unto the Lord in their trouble — Earnestly implored his help in their distress and misery; and he delivered them — In answer to their prayers, he mercifully extricated them out of their difficulties, and freed them from all their anxieties. And he led them forth — Out of the wilderness, where they had lost their way; that they might go to a city of habitation — To a place inhabited, where they might find relief for their necessities. “Fervent and importunate prayer to the God of our salvation will procure, from above, knowledge to dispel our ignorance, and grace to help our infirmities; the former will discover to us our road, the latter will enable us to walk in it, and both together will carry us, in due time, to the city of our eternal habitation.” — Horne.Matthew 4:1.
In a solitary way - Rather, in a "waste" way; a land that was desolate and uncultivated.
5 Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them.
6 Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses.
7 And he led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city of habitation.
8 Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
9 For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.
"They wandered in the wilderness." They wandered, for the track was lost, no vestige of a road remained; worse still, they wandered in a wilderness, where all around was burning sand. They were lost in the worst possible place, even as the sinner is who is lost in sin; they wandered up and down in vain searches and researches as a sinner does when he is awakened and sees his lost estate; but it ended in nothing, for they still continued in the wilderness, though they had hoped to escape from it. "In a solitary way." No dwelling of man was near, and no other company of travellers passed within hail. Solitude is a great intensifier of misery. The loneliness of a desert has a most depressing influence upon the man who is lost in the boundless waste. The traveller's way in the wilderness is a waste way, and when he leaves even that poor, barren trail, to get utterly beyond the path of man, he is in a wretched plight indeed. A soul without sympathy is on the borders of hell: a solitary way is the way of despair. "They found no city to dwell in." How could they? There was none. Israel in the wilderness abode under canvas, and enjoyed none of the comforts of settled life; wanderers in the Sahara find no town or village. Men when under distress of soul find nothing to rest upon, no comfort and no peace; their efforts after salvation are many, weary, and disappointing, and the dread solitude of their hearts fills them with dire distress.
"Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them." The spirits sink when the bodily frame becomes exhausted by long privations. Who can keep his courage up when he is ready to fall to the ground at every step through utter exhaustion? The supply of food is all eaten, the water is spent in the bottles, and there are neither fields nor streams in the desert, the heart therefore sinks in dire despair. Such is the condition of an awakened conscience before it knows the Lord Jesus; it is full of unsatisfied cravings, painful needs, and heavy fears. It is utterly spent and without strength, and there is nothing in the whole creation which can minister to its refreshment.
"Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble." Not till they were in extremities did they pray, but the mercy is that they prayed then, and prayed in the right manner, with a cry, and to the right person, even to the Lord. Nothing else remained for them to do; they could not help themselves, or find help in others, and therefore they cried to God. Supplications which are forced out of us by stern necessity are none the less acceptable with God; but, indeed, they have all the more prevalence, since they are evidently sincere, and make a powerful appeal to the divine pity. Some men will never pray till they are half-starved, and for their best interests it is far better for them to be empty and faint than to be full and stout-hearted. If hunger brings us to our knees it is more useful to us than feasting; if thirst drives us to the fountain it is better than the deepest draughts of worldly joy; and if fainting leads to crying it is better than the strength of the mighty. "And he delivered them out of their distresses." Deliverance follows prayer most surely. The cry must have been very feeble, for they were faint, and their faith was as weak as their cry; but yet they were heard, and heard at once. A little delay would have been their death; but there was none, for the Lord was ready to save them. The Lord delights to come in when no one else can be of the slightest avail. The case was hopeless till Jehovah interposed, and then all was changed immediately; the people were shut up, straitened, and almost pressed to death, but enlargement came to them at once when they began to remember their God, and look to him in prayer. Those deserve to die of hunger who will not so much as ask for bread, and he who being lost in a desert will not beg the aid of a guide cannot be pitied even if he perish in the wilds and feed the vultures with his flesh.
"And he led them forth by the right way." There are many wrong ways, but only one right one, and into this none can lead us but God himself. When the Lord is leader the way is sure to be right; we never need question that. Forth from the pathless mazes of the desert he conducted the lost ones; he found the way, made the way, and enabled them to walk along it, faint and hungry as they were. "That they might go to a city of habitation." The end was worthy of the way, he did not lead them from one desert to another, but he gave the wanderers an abode, the weary ones a place of rest. They found no city to dwell in, but he found one readily enough. What we can do and what God can do are two very different things. What a difference it made to them to leave their solitude for a city, their trackless path for well-frequented streets, and their faintness of heart for the refreshment of a home! Far greater are the changes which divine love works in the condition of sinners when God answers their prayers and brings them to Jesus. Shall not the Lord be magnified for such special mercies? Can we who have enjoyed them sit down in ungrateful silence?
continued...They wandered in the wilderness; mistaking their way, which they might easily do in the vast and sandy deserts of Arabia.
No city to dwell in; or rather, no city or town inhabited, where they might refresh themselves, as travellers used to do; for they did not go into the wilderness to seek for a city or habitation there, but only intended to pass through it, as appears by the context, and by the nature of the thing. Hebrews 11:37 others with the church in the wilderness, and the witnesses prophesying in sackcloth, Revelation 11:2. But it is certain that the redeemed and gathered are here meant; and this fitly describes their case, before and at effectual calling: they are in the wilderness of the people, Ezekiel 20:35, from whence they are gathered; are in a state of error and ignorance; are like straying sheep, gone out of the right way; and are as lost sheep, they have lost their way; and though there may be many ways that present unto them, and which they think bid fair to be the right way; yet the true way of peace, life, and salvation by Christ, they know not, while in a state of nature and unregeneracy; and when they come to be effectually called, they see themselves to be in a bewildered state and condition.
They found no city to dwell in; nor even to call at or lodge in, for miles together; which is the case of travellers in some parts, particularly in the deserts of Arabia. Spiritual travellers find no settlement, rest, peace, joy, and comfort, but in Christ; nor any indeed in this world, and the things of it; here they have no continuing city, Hebrews 13:14.They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they found no city to dwell in.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)4. They wandered &c.] The subject of the verb is to be supplied, according to a common Hebrew idiom, from the verb itself. We might paraphrase the words ‘There were travellers who had lost their way in the desert.’ The absence of any expressed subject has led some commentators to connect Psalm 107:2-3 with Psalm 107:4. But this ruins the symmetry of the Psalm. If Psalm 107:1-3 are regarded as a general introduction, each stanza will begin with a description of the plight of the sufferers whose deliverance is subsequently described.
in a solitary way] R.V. in a desert way. But the phrase is a questionable one; and it is preferable to follow the LXX and Syr. in reading, They wandered in the wilderness, in the desert; the way to a city of habitation they found not.
 ὁδὸν πόλεως κατοικητηρίου οὐχ εὖρον, אc.a. ART Vg.: the singular reading of א ὁδὸν πόλιν printed in Swete’s edition (B is here wanting) may however be held to support the Mass. text, if ὁδόν is transferred to the previous line.
no city to dwell in] Lit. no city of habitation, a phrase peculiar to this Psalms , vv7, 36; no inhabited city where they might obtain food and shelter.
4–9. First example of Jehovah’s lovingkindness to men: the deliverance of travellers who had lost their way in the desert and were on the point of perishing, doubtless a common experience. Cp. Job 6:18-20.Verses 4-9. - The form is historical, but the intention is to describe a recurrent event. Men from time to time wander - lose their way - either literally, or in the wilderness of life, grow faint and weary, and are ready to perish. But if they cry to God, God gives them aid, succors them, saves them. Then let them praise and thank him. Verse 4. - They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they found no city to dwell in. It is, perhaps, best to divide this verse as was done by the LXX., who attached דרך, "way," to the latter clause. So Cheyne, who translates, "They wandered in the wilderness, yea, in the desert; they found no road to a city of habitation." So also Rosenmüller. 1 Kings 8:50 prays for on behalf of his people when they may be betrayed into the hands of the enemy, has been fulfilled in the case of the dispersion of Israel in all countries (Psalm 107:3), Babylonia, Egypt, etc.: God has turned the hearts of their oppressors towards them. On ראה ב, to regard compassionately, cf. Genesis 29:32; 1 Samuel 1:11. בּצּר לחם belong together, as in Psalm 107:6, and frequently. רנּה is a cry of lamentation, as in 1 Kings 8:28 in Solomon's prayer at the dedication of the Temple. From this source comes Psalm 106:6, and also from this source Psalm 106:46, cf. 1 Kings 8:50 together with Nehemiah 1:11. In ויּנּחם the drawing back of the tone does not take place, as in Genesis 24:67. חסדו beside כּרב is not pointed by the Kerמ חסדּו, as in Psalm 5:8; Psalm 69:14, but as in Lamentations 3:32, according to Psalm 106:7, Isaiah 63:7, חסדו: in accordance with the fulness (riches) of His manifold mercy or loving-kindness. The expression in Psalm 106:46 is like Genesis 43:14. Although the condition of the poet's fellow-countrymen in the dispersion may have been tolerable in itself, yet this involuntary scattering of the members of the nation is always a state of punishment. The poet prays in Psalm 106:47 that God may be pleased to put an end to this.
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