Count your blessings – Psalm 105

The 4th book of Psalms


There are a lot of psalms which tell of God’s faithfulness through generations, but this one focuses on two events, God saving the household of Isaac from a famine by taking them into Egypt and then years later saving the descendants of these people from what had become a repressive regime in Egypt by bringing them back to the land of promise.

Moses leading the people of Israel through the Red Sea
Free image from Wikimedia Commons

The 4th book of Psalms, those 17 religious songs between psalms 90 and 106, have a theme, God is above us.

The layout is like this:

Book 1: Psalms 1 – 41: God is beside us.
Book 2: Psalms 42 – 72: God goes before us
Book 3: Psalms 73 – 89: God is all around us.
Book 4: Psalms 90 – 106: God is above us.
Book 5: Psalms 107 – 150: God is among us.

Book 4 answers the questions of Books 1-3 with the message that God is king.

Tell of All His Wonderful Works

Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name;
    make known his deeds among the peoples!
Sing to him, sing praises to him;
    tell of all his wondrous works!
Glory in his holy name;
    let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!
Seek the Lord and his strength;
    seek his presence continually!

Remember the wondrous works that he has done,
    his miracles, and the judgements he uttered,
O offspring of Abraham, his servant,
    children of Jacob, his chosen ones!
He is the Lord our God;
    his judgements are in all the earth.

He remembers his covenant for ever,
    the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations,
the covenant that he made with Abraham,
    his sworn promise to Isaac,
10 which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute,
    to Israel as an everlasting covenant,
11 saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan
    as your portion for an inheritance.”

12 When they were few in number,
    of little account, and sojourners in it,
13 wandering from nation to nation,
    from one kingdom to another people,
14 he allowed no one to oppress them;
    he rebuked kings on their account,
15 saying, “Touch not my anointed ones,
    do my prophets no harm!”

16 When he summoned a famine on the land
    and broke all supply of bread,
17 he had sent a man ahead of them,
    Joseph, who was sold as a slave.
18 His feet were hurt with fetters;
    his neck was put in a collar of iron;
19 until what he had said came to pass,
    the word of the Lord tested him.
20 The king sent and released him;
    the ruler of the peoples set him free;
21 he made him lord of his house
    and ruler of all his possessions,
22 to bind his princes at his pleasure
    and to teach his elders wisdom.

23 Then Israel came to Egypt;
    Jacob sojourned in the land of Ham.
24 And the Lord made his people very fruitful
    and made them stronger than their foes.
25 He turned their hearts to hate his people,
    to deal craftily with his servants.
26 He sent Moses, his servant,
    and Aaron, whom he had chosen.
27 They performed his signs among them
    and miracles in the land of Ham.
28 He sent darkness, and made the land dark;
    they did not rebel against his words.
29 He turned their waters into blood
    and caused their fish to die.
30 Their land swarmed with frogs,
    even in the chambers of their kings.
31 He spoke, and there came swarms of flies,
    and gnats throughout their country.
32 He gave them hail for rain,
    and fiery lightning bolts through their land.
33 He struck down their vines and fig trees,
    and shattered the trees of their country.
34 He spoke, and the locusts came,
    young locusts without number,
35 which devoured all the vegetation in their land
    and ate up the fruit of their ground.
36 He struck down all the firstborn in their land,
    the firstfruits of all their strength.
37 Then he brought out Israel with silver and gold,
    and there was none among his tribes who stumbled.
38 Egypt was glad when they departed,
    for dread of them had fallen upon it.

39 He spread a cloud for a covering,
    and fire to give light by night.
40 They asked, and he brought quail,
    and gave them bread from heaven in abundance.
41 He opened the rock, and water gushed out;
    it flowed through the desert like a river.

42 For he remembered his holy promise,
    and Abraham, his servant.
43 So he brought his people out with joy,
    his chosen ones with singing.
44 And he gave them the lands of the nations,
    and they took possession of the fruit of the peoples’ toil,
45 that they might keep his statutes
    and observe his laws.
Praise the Lord!

Psalm 105 ESV UK using paragraphs from NIV

This is a long psalm which covers a short period but very important one in the formation of the nation of Israel. God formed the nation is the main point. Everything in this psalm is done by God, nothing is attributed to the qualities of the leaders.

The psalm uses two techniques in interpreting this period in the history of the Jews, exegesis and allusion.

Exegesis in the Jewish tradition, confirms the meaning of an older text. Mostly, but not necessarily, a long standing interpretation of the passage but it can be a new interpretation that is being promoted. The main thing about exegesis is that the text being interpreted is key. The passages here being the two journeys in and out of Egypt, bringing out that it was all done by God. God, not Joseph or Moses, was the one whose idea it was and who brought it about.

Allusion sets an old text within a new setting on order to create new meanings to old traditions. In allusion it is the old text that is the servant of the new. The context in Psalm 105 is that the Jews are returning from the exile in Babylon and will have to build their country anew, including both its culture and religion.

Count your blessings

The blessings that are counted and named one by one here (see the allusion to the Christian hymn here?) are not their current blessings but ones from long ago, around the previous exile in Egypt. The exegesis is that everything was achieved not with the help of God, but that it was totally the work of God. The allusion is that they are to rebuild a new nation, not return to how the old nation was. Using that same allusion, in a nation which is coming out of the restrictions of the coronavirus it is important that we look forward to what we can be in lifting restrictions and not a return to how things were. People who could not get into church, including the disabled and chronically ill, should not be left behind in the rush to be able to sing together again. The church should be judged by how they treat the infirm and most vulnerable. All whether cautious or bold in the approach should be led by God and not our desires: It is all about God.

I shall end this blog post the way I started it, which is also how this psalm starts and ends:


< Psalm 104 | Psalm 105 | Psalm 106 >

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