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Psalm 78:26-31

26. He caused an east wind to blow in the heavens; and by his power he raised up the south wind. 27. And he rained upon them flesh as dust, and feathered fowl 332332     “Heb. ‘fowl of wing;’ i.e., flying fowls, in distinction from domestic poultry.” — Williams. as the sand of the sea; 28. And he caused it to fall in the midst of his camp, 333333     “Heb. Of his camp; either Israel’s camp or God’s camp; for seeing Israel was God’s people, and he dwelt among them, their camp was his camp.” — Poole. round about his tabernacles. 29. And they did eat and were filled, and he gave them their desire. 30. They were not estranged from their desire: the meat was still in their mouth, 31. When the wrath of God ascended against them, and slew the fat ones among them, and brought low the chosen of Israel.


26. He caused an east wind to blow in the heavens. We have here related how God granted the request of his people. This does not imply that he favourably regarded their fretful desires, but that he showed by the effect that it was in his power to do what they believed it to be impossible for him to accomplish. From this, we may perceive how injudiciously some expositors here join together the flesh and the manna. The reason why the flesh was given was altogether different from that for which the manna was given. God, in giving the manna, performed the office of a father; but by the flesh, he satisfied their gluttonous desires, that their very greediness in devouring it might choke them. It would not have been a difficult matter for God to have created quails in the midst of the wilderness; but he chose rather to bring them by the force of the winds, to teach the Israelites that all the elements are obedient to his command, and that the distance of places cannot prevent his power from immediately penetrating from the east even to the west. 334334     The Israelites were miraculously supplied with quails in the wilderness on two different occasions. The first occasion was upon the fifteenth day of the second month after their departure from Egypt, and before they came to mount Sinai, Exodus 16:1, 12, 13. The second, which is the one here referred to, was at Kibroth-hattaavah, a place three days’ journey beyond the desert of Sinai, in the beginning of the second year after their departure from Egypt, Numbers 10:11; and 11:31-35. In both instances, the quails were sent in consequence of the murmuring of the Israelites. But in the first instance, they came up and covered the camp of Israel only one evening, while in the second, they came up from the sea for a whole month. No token of the divine displeasure accompanied the first miracle, God having, in his compassion, forgiven their murmuring; but the second miracle was wrought in wrath, and attended with the infliction of the divine vengeance on that rebellious people, (Numbers 11:33.) That unbelieving people, therefore, were furnished with an undoubted proof of the power of God, from which they had malignantly detracted, in seeing all the elements of nature ready to obey and promptly to execute whatever he has commanded. Besides, he no doubt raised the winds according to the situation of the camp, although it would have been easy for him, without any means, to have presented flesh before them. It is stated, that they did eat and were filled, not only to intimate that God brought to them a large supply of birds, with which their bellies might be stuffed to the full; but also, that it was ungovernable lust which led them to ask flesh, and not a solicitude for having provision on which to live. It has been said above, that manna had been given them in the greatest abundance, but here it is intended expressly to censure their gluttony, in which they gave manifest proof of their unbridled appetite. God promises, in Psalm 145:19, as a peculiar privilege to those who fear him, that “he will fulfill their desire;” but it is in a different way that he is here said to have yielded to the perverse desires of the people, who had cast off all fear of him; for that which his favor and loving-kindness would have led him to refuse, he now granted them in his wrath. This is an example well worthy of our attention, that we may not complain if our desires are frowned upon and crossed by the secret providence of God when they break forth beyond bounds. God then truly hears us, when, instead of yielding to our foolish inclinations, he regulates his beneficence according to the measure of our welfare; even as in lavishing upon the wicked more than is good for them, he cannot, properly speaking, be said to hear them: he rather loads them with a deadly burden, which serves to cast them down headlong into destruction.

The Psalmist expresses this still more clearly, by adding immediately after, (verses 30, 31,) that this pampering proved fatal to them, as if with the meat they had swallowed the flame of the divine wrath. When he says that they were not estranged from their lust, this implies, that they were still burning with their lust. If it is objected that this does not agree with the preceding sentence, where it is said, that “they did eat, and were thoroughly filled,” I would answer, that if, as is well known, the minds of men are not kept within the bounds of reason and temperance, they become insatiable; and, therefore, a great abundance will not extinguish the fire of a depraved appetite. Some translate the clause, They were not disappointed, and others, They did not yet loathe their meat. This last translation brings out the meaning very well; but it is too far removed from the signification of the Hebrew word זור, zur, which I have rendered estranged. The prophet intended to express in two words a present felt pleasure; for when God executed vengeance upon the people, they still indulged in the excessive gratification of the palate. 335335     “While their meat was yet in their mouth; the meat of the quails, while it was between their teeth, ere it was chewed, and before it was swallowed down, while they were rolling this sweet morsel under their tongues, and were gorging themselves with it, destruction came upon them; just as Belshazzar, while he was feasting with his nobles, in the midst of his mirth and jollity, was slain by the Persians, Daniel 5:1, 30.” — Dr Gill. The wrath of God is said metaphorically to ascend, when he suddenly rises up to execute judgment; for when he apparently shuts his eyes and takes no notice of our sins, he seems, so to speak, to be asleep. The punishment was felt by persons of every condition among the Israelites; but the fat ones 336336     Mr Mudge observes, that this clause should be translated, “Slew them amidst their fatnesses or indulgences.” This is approved of by Lowth. Cocceius and Michaelis give a similar version. and the chosen are expressly named, in order to exhibit the judgment of God in a light still more conspicuous. It did not happen by chance that the most robust and vigorous were attacked and cut off by the plague. As the strong are commonly deceived by their strength, and proudly exalt themselves against God, forgetting their own weakness, and thinking that they may do whatever they please, it is not surprising to find that the wrath of God burned more fiercely against such persons than against others.

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