Psalm 107 was composed as “a synopsis of exile,” summarizing a momentous era of divine judgment and ultimate restoration for outcast Israel’s two houses, two-tribe Judah and ten-tribe Ephraim. It is divided into three sections. Judah’s national subjugation, suffering, and departure from Babylon is reviewed in verses 1 through 22; the voluntary sea migration of the pre-exilic two houses to Western Lands is the subject of verses 23 to 32; and Ephraim’s captivity, ultimate release and land migration to new heritages is covered in verses 33 to 43. This is Bible-related history that the modern Church will seemingly never discuss let alone accept. Most popular biblical commentaries treat this psalm as a mere moral homily, ignoring the historical context.
As an example, eighteenth-century expositor, Thomas Coke, wrote that the “expressions are only metaphorical …where, be the subject of their verse what it will, each swain endeavours to excel the other; and one may perceive their thoughts and expressions gradually to rise upon each other; and I think we may from hence discover a manifest beauty in the composition of this divine pastoral.” Yes, the psalm is beautifully expressed, but what is the historical context? We see today a focus onethics and homiletics(the science of preaching) with little regard ofhermeneutics(the science of interpretation). This is unfortunate; we need to understand the events described and their impact on ourselves and human history.
The first section in verses 1 to 22 deal with the Babylonian exile of Judah and its aftermath. Verse 3 says,“And gathered them out of the lands, from the east, and from the west, from the north, and from the south.” This is not referring to the Egyptian exodus, which was from one country only, nor is it just from the solitary city of Babylon. Israel was scattered to many lands of exile. As Barnes Notes remarks, “In the times of the captivity the people were not all taken to one place, or did not all abide in one place.” Barnes further remarks on the biblical usage of the word, “the south – Margin, as in Hebrew, “from the sea.” In general, in the Old Testament, the word “sea” is used for the west, because the western boundary of the land of Palestine was the Mediterranean Sea. Compare Psalm 139:9.”
The Keil and Delitzsch Commentary says, “the sea” (Hebrew, im) here, side by side with east, west, and north, is the south, or rather (since im is an established usus loquendi [i.e. common usage] for the west) the south-west, viz., the southern portion of the Mediterranean washing the shores of Egypt. With this the poet associates the thought of the exiles of Egypt, as with the exiles of the islands, i.e., of Asia Minor and Europe… it treats of the intervention of divine acts within the sphere of human history.” The Book of Isaiah, especially chapters 40 to 66, is replete with prophecies concerning Israel in the isles and coastlands (Hebrew, im), designating Western European lands. This certainly has an important and much-neglected bearing on understanding our own Western history.
Verse 4 that, “They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they found no city to dwell in.” This is not a repatriation to long-established Jerusalem, to which few returned; the exiles of Judah and Ephraim largely travelled to a wilderness, solitary lands and islands without inhabitants, a description of early Europe. Keil and Delitzsch explains, “The word “city” here seems to be used in the sense of “abode;” and the idea is, that he led them to a land where they might cease to be wanderers, and might find a settled home.” That home was in the west in the isles and land of Europe.
This has long been the contention of British-Israel expositors, who point out the evidence of early historian Postellius, quoting from Pomponius Mela, a first-century writer, and given by Camden in his “Britannia,” (p. 963), that Hebrews with Syrians and Tyrians settled in Ireland and the British isles in very early times, and that Jurin (i.e. Jew’s land) was in consequence the ancient name of Ireland. This would imply a very large contingency of Hebrew stock. Aylett Sammes, in “Britannia Antiqua,” (1676) concluded that the Phoenicians (i.e., Phoenician-Hebrews) came to the British Isles. Professor Rhys, in “Celtic Britain,” 3rd edn., says the Veneti, an early Gaulish tribe of northeastern Italy, traded for tin from the Cassiterides in Britain, to be sold throughout the ancient world. Much more corroborating evidence is provided in numerous books by British-Israel historians.
Verses 10 to 12are a graphic picture of Divine judgment: “Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron;they rebelled against the words of God, and condemned the counsel of the Most High:he brought down their heart with labour; they fell down, and there was none to help.”
At the appointed time of 70 years (Jer. 25:11; 29:10; Zech. 1:12), God “hath broken the gates of brass, and cut the bars of iron in sunder” (verse 16). The Biblical Background Commentary tells us, “The Greek historian Herodotus described Babylon as having “one hundred gates in the circuit of the wall, all of bronze with bronze uprights and lintels.” Large bronze gates have been excavated at the Assyrian period site of Balawat, giving a glimpse of what the Babylonian walls may have been like. Gates were locked by means of a bar slid across the gateway, and iron would obviously be the most difficult to break.”
The second section of the psalm (verses 23 to 32) describes in graphic detail the self-motivated sea exiles seeking safety to the West as people fled from the approaching Assyrian and Babylonian armies. Merchants also established colonies all along the Mediterranean coasts all the way to Britain and the western coast of Europe. The Keil and Delitzsch Commentary says that verse 30 “signifies a place enclosed round, therefore a haven, and first of all perhaps a creek, to use a northern word, a fiord.” Could there be a better biblical description of the home of Viking merchants and settlers?
The third section of this psalm, verses 33 to 43, describes Ephraim’s captivity, ultimate release and land migration to new heritages. Twice their “increase” is emphasized (v. 38, 41), the meaning of the Hebrew word, Joseph, father of Ephraim. Twice “fruitfulness” is emphasized (vs. 34, 37), the meaning of the Hebrew word, Ephraim.
Verses 36 to 38 state, “And there he maketh the hungry to dwell, that they may prepare a city for habitation;sow the fields, and plant vineyards, which may yield fruits of increase.blesseth them also, so that they are multiplied greatly; and suffereth not their cattle to decrease.”Clarke remarked, “What a fine picture is this of the first peopling and planting of America, and of the multiplication and extension of that people; of the Divine blessing on their industry, and the general and astonishing prosperity of their country!” This was also true throughout Europe from early times.
Lastly, we read in verse 40, “And causeth them to wander in the wilderness.” Barnes says, “The Hebrew word to^hu^ means properly wasteness, desolateness; emptiness… Here it means an empty, uninhabited place; a place where there is no path to guide.” Again, this described Israel’s new home in early Europe, not Canaan or the Mideast region.
Psalm 107 heads up the final, fifth section of the book, popularly known collectively as “Psalms of the Return from Exile.” In an editorial comment in 1906, the British-Israel journal, “Banner of Israel,” declared Psalm 107 as “our psalm” (30:427).