Verse 7. Our fathers understood not thy wonders in Egypt. The Israelites saw the miraculous plagues and ignorantly wondered at them: their design of love, their deep moral and spiritual lessons, and their revelation of the divine power and justice they were unable to perceive. A long sojourn among idolaters had blunted the perceptions of the chosen family, and cruel slavery had ground them down into mental sluggishness. Alas, how many of God's wonders are not understood, or misunderstood by us still. We fear the sons are no great improvement upon the sires. We inherit from our fathers much sin and little wisdom; they could only leave us what they themselves possessed. We see from this verse that a want of understanding is no excuse for sin, but is itself one count in the indictment against Israel.
They remembered not the multitude of thy mercies. The sin of the understanding leads on to the sin of the memory. What is not understood will soon be forgotten. Men feel little interest in preserving husks; if they know nothing of the inner kernel they will take no care of the shells. It was an aggravation of Israel's sin that when God's mercies were so numerous they yet were able to forget them all. Surely some out of such a multitude of benefits ought to have remained engraven upon their hearts; but if grace does not give us understanding, nature will soon east out the memory of God's great goodness.
But provoked him at the sea, even; at the Red sea. To fall out at starting was a bad sign. Those who did not begin well can hardly be expected to end well. Israel is not quite out of Egypt, and yet she begins to provoke the Lord by doubting his power to deliver, and questioning his faithfulness to his promise. The sea was only called Red, but their sins were scarlet in reality; it was known as the "sea of weeds," but far worse weeds grew in their hearts.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 7. -- Our fathers understood not thy wonders in Egypt. Though the elders went along with Moses, and heard him shew his commission to Pharaoh, and make his demands in the name of the Lord to let Israel go, ( Exodus 3:16 ); yea, and they saw the judgments of God on Egypt; yet "they did not understand" that these wonders would do the work of their deliverance. At first they thought it was worse with them. Much less did they understand, that their deliverance should be a type of eternal deliverance, that God would be their God, as after is explained in the preface to the ten commandments. And because they "understood not his wonders," therefore they "remembered not his mercies." A shallow understanding causeth a short memory. --Nathaniel Homes, 1652.
Verse 7. -- Our fathers understood not thy wonders in Egypt. It is more than probable, that many of the Israelites ascribed most of these wonders to the skill of Moses transcending that of the Egyptian magicians or to his working by the assistance of a higher and more potent spirit than that which assisted them. Or, in case they did believe them to have been the effects of a Divine Power, yet they did not inure their minds seriously to consider it, so as to have a standing awe of that power imprinted upon their hearts by such a consideration: and he that considers great and important matters superficially, in the language of the Scripture, does not understand them. --Robert South.
Verse 7. -- Understood not...remembered not. He reproveth both their understanding and memory. Understanding there was need of; that they might meditate unto what eternal blessings God was calling them through these temporal ones; and of memory, that at least they might not forget the temporal wonders which had been wrought, and might faithfully believe, that by the same power which they had already experienced, God would free them from the persecution of their enemies; whereas they forgot the aid which he had given them in Egypt, by means of such wonders, to crush their enemies. -- Augustine.
Verse 7. -- One sin is a step to another more heinous; for not observing, is followed with not remembering, and forgetfulness of duty draweth on disobedience and rebellion. -- David Dickson.
Verse 7. -- They provoked him. To provoke, is an expression setting forth a peculiar and more than ordinary degree of misbehaviour, and seems to import an insolent daring resolution to offend. A resolution not contented with one single stroke of disobedience, but such a one as multiplies and repeats the action, till the offence greatens, and rises into an affront; and as it relates to God, so I conceive it as aimed at him in a threefold respect. First, of his power. Secondly, of his goodness. Thirdly, of his patience.
First. And first it rises up against the power and prerogative of God. It is, as it were, an assault upon God sitting upon his throne, a snatching at his sceptre, and a defiance of his very royalty and supremacy. He that provokes God does in a manner dare him to strike, and to revenge the injury and invasion upon his honour. He considers not the weight of God's almighty arm, and the edge of his sword, the swiftness and poison of his arrows, but puffs at all, and looks the terrors of sin revenging justice in the face. The Israelites could not sin against God, after those miracles in Egypt, without a signal provocation of that power that they had so late, and so convincing an experience of: a power that could have crushed an Israelite as easily as an Egyptian; and given as terrible an instance of its consuming force upon false friends, as upon professed enemies; in the sight of God, perhaps, the less sort of offenders of the two.
Secondly. Provoking God imports an abuse of his goodness. God, as he is clothed with power, is the proper object of our fear; but as he displays his goodness, of our love. By one he would command, by the other he would win and (as it were) court our obedience. And an affront to his goodness, his tenderness, and his mercy, as much exceeds an affront of his power as a wound at the heart transcends a blow on the hand. For when God shall show miracles of mercy, step out of the common road of providence, commanding the host of heaven, the globe of the earth, and the whole system of nature out of its course, to serve a design of goodness upon a people, as he did upon the Israelites; was not a provocation, after such obliging passages, infinitely base and insufferable, and a degree of ingratitude, higher than the heavens struck at, and deeper than the sea that they passed through?
Thirdly. Provoking God imports an affront upon his longsuffering, and his patience. The movings of nature in the breasts of mankind, tell us how keenly, how regretfully, every man resents the abuse of his love; how hardly any prince, but one, can put up an offence against his acts of mercy; and how much more affrontive it is to despise majesty ruling by the golden sceptre of pardon, than by the iron rod of penal law. But now patience is a further and an higher advance of mercy; it is mercy drawn out at length; mercy wrestling with baseness, and striving, if possible, even to weary and outdo ingratitude; and therefore a sin against this is the highest pitch, the utmost improvement, and, as I may so speak, the ne plus ultra of provocation. For when patience shall come to be tired, and even out of breath with pardoning, let all the invention of mankind find something further, either upon which an offender may cast his hope, or against which he can commit a sin. But it was God's patience the ungrateful Israelites sinned against; for they even plied and pursued him with sin upon sin, one offence following and thronging upon the neck of another, the last account still rising highest, and swelling bigger, till the treasures of grace and pardon were so far drained and exhausted, that they provoked God to swear, and what is more, to swear in his wrath and with a full purpose of revenge, that they should never enter into his rest. --Robert South.
Verse 7. -- They provoked him. Wherein lay their provocation? They remembered not the multitude of his mercies: the former mercies of the Lord did not strengthen their trust in present troubles; that was one provocation. And as former mercies did not strengthen their trust, so the present troubles drew out their distrust, as another Scripture assures, reporting their behaviour in it ( Exodus 14:11 ): "And they said unto Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt? "What were these fearful forecasts, these amazing bodements of an unavoidable (as they apprehended) ruin, but the overflowing of unbelief, or distrust in God; and this was another provocation. Former mercies are forgotten, yea, eaten up by unbelief, as the seven lean kine in Pharaoh's dream, eat up the fat ones, and present difficulties are aggravated by unbelief, as if all the power of God could not remove and overcome them. And will not the Lord (think you) visit in anger such a sin as this? --Joseph Caryl.
Verse 7. -- At the Red Sea. That is to say, at the Arabian Gulf: literally, at the Sea of Suph, which, if Suph be not here a proper name, (as it seems to be in Deuteronomy 1:1 , and, with a slight variation, in Numbers 31:14 ) means the sea of weeds, and that sea is still called by a similar name, in modern Egypt. Its designation, throughout the books of the Old Testament, is in the Syriac version, and the Chaldee Paraphrased, likewise rendered the sea of weeds; which name may have been derived from the reeds growing near its shore: or from the weeds, or coralline productions, seen through its waters, and the corals seen at its bottom...Pliny states, that it is called the Red Sea from King Erythras, or from the reflection of a red colour by the sun, or from its sand and its ground, or form the nature of its water. --Daniel Cresswell.
Verse 7-8 This psalm is a psalm of thanksgiving, as the first and last verses declare. Now because a man is most fit to praise God when he is most sensible of his own sin and unworthiness; the psalmist doth throughout this psalm lay Israel's sin and God's mercy together. Psalms 106:7 . Our Fathers (says he) understood not thy wonders in Egypt. They saw them with their eyes, but they did not understand them with their heart: they did not apprehend the design and scope and end of God in those wonders: and therefore, "they remembered not (says the text) thy mercies; for a man remembers no more than he understands."
But it may be these mercies were very few, and so their sin in forgetfulness the less? Nay, not so, Psalms 106:7 , They remembered not the multitude of thy mercies.
But it may be this was their infirmity or weakness, and so they were rather to be borne withal? Not so, but they rebelled against him; so Montanus reads it better.
But it may be this sin was committed whilst they were in Egypt, or among the Egyptians, being put on by them? Not so neither, but when they were come out of Egypt, and only had to deal with God, and saw his glorious power at the Red Sea, then they rebelled against him, at the sea, even at the Red Sea.
What, then, did not the Lord destroy them? No says the text, Notwithstanding, all their grievance, unthankfulness, and their rebellion, he saved them for his name's sake. -- William Bridge, in a Sermon preached before the House of Commons, Nov. 5, 1647.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
- On man's part a darkened understanding, ungrateful forgetfulness, and provocation.
- On God's part: understanding discovering a reason for mercy; memory mindful of the covenant; patience revealing its power.
- A special provocation; they murmured at the Red Sea.
- A special deliverance; "Nevertheless", etc.
- A special Design; "For his own sake"; "That he might make his power known."