Ps 78:1-72. This Psalm appears to have been
occasioned by the removal of the sanctuary from Shiloh in the tribe of
Ephraim to Zion in the tribe of Judah, and the coincident transfer of
pre-eminence in Israel from the former to the latter tribe, as clearly
evinced by David's settlement as the head of the Church and nation.
Though this was the execution of God's purpose, the writer here shows
that it also proceeded from the divine judgment on Ephraim, under whose
leadership the people had manifested the same sinful and rebellious
character which had distinguished their ancestors in Egypt.
1. my people … my law—the language
of a religious teacher (Ps 78:2; La 3:14; Ro 2:16, 27; compare Ps 49:4). The history which follows was a "dark
saying," or riddle, if left unexplained, and its right apprehension
required wisdom and attention.
3-8. This history had been handed down (Ex 12:14;
De 6:20) for God's honor, and
that the principles of His law might be known and observed by
posterity. This important sentiment is reiterated in (Ps 78:7, 8) negative form.
5. testimony—(Ps 19:7).
8. stubborn and rebellious—(De 21:18).
set not their heart—on God's service
9-11. The privileges of the first-born which
belonged to Joseph (1Ch 5:1, 2)
were assigned to Ephraim by Jacob (Ge 48:1). The supremacy of the tribe thus
intimated was recognized by its position (in the marching of the nation
to Canaan) next to the ark (Nu 2:18-24), by the selection of the first
permanent locality for the ark within its borders at Shiloh, and by the
extensive and fertile province given for its possession. Traces of this
prominence remained after the schism under Rehoboam, in the use, by
later writers, of Ephraim for Israel (compare Ho
5:3-14; 11:3-12). Though a
strong, well-armed tribe, and, from an early period, emulous and
haughty (compare Jos 17:14; Jud 8:1-3; 2Sa 19:41), it appears, in this place, that it had
rather led the rest in cowardice than courage; and had incurred God's
displeasure, because, diffident of His promise, though often heretofore
fulfilled, it had failed as a leader to carry out the terms of the
covenant, by not driving out the heathen (Ex
23:24; De 31:16; 2Ki 17:15).
12-14. A record of God's dealings and the sins
of the people is now made. The writer gives the history from the exode
to the retreat from Kadesh; then contrasts their sins with their
reasons for confidence, shown by a detail of God's dealings in Egypt,
and presents a summary of the subsequent history to David's time.
Zoan—for Egypt, as its ancient capital
(Nu 13:22; Isa 19:11).
15, 16. There were two similar miracles (Ex 17:6;
17-20. yet more—literally, "added to
sin," instead of being led to repentance (Ro 2:4).
18. in their heart—(Mt 15:19).
for their lust—literally, "soul," or,
their absurd doubts,
19, 20. in the face of His admitted power.
21. fire—the effect of the "anger"
22. (Compare Heb 8:8, 9).
23-29. (Compare Ex 16:11-15; Nu 11:4-9).
25. angels' food—literally, "bread of
the mighty" (compare Ps 105:40);
so called, as it came from heaven.
meat—literally, "victuals," as for a
29. their … desire—what they
30, 31. not estranged … lust—or,
"desire"—that is, were indulging it.
31. slew … fattest—or, "among the
fattest"; some of them—
chosen—the young and strong (Isa 40:31), and so none could resist.
33-39. Though there were partial reformations
after chastisement, and God, in pity, withdrew His hand for a time, yet
their general conduct was rebellious, and He was thus provoked to waste
and destroy them, by long and fruitless wandering in the desert.
36. lied … tongues—a feigned
obedience (Ps 18:44).
37. heart … not right—or, "firm"
(compare Ps 78:8; Ps 51:10).
39. a wind … again—literally, "a
breath," thin air (compare Ps 103:16; Jas 4:14).
40, 41. There were ten temptations (Nu 14:22).
41. limited—as in Ps 78:19, 20. Though some prefer "grieved" or
"provoked." The retreat from Kadesh (De 1:19-23) is meant, whether—
turned—be for turning back, or to
denote repetition of offense.
43. wrought—set or held forth.
45. The dog-fly or the mosquito.
46. caterpillar—the Hebrew name,
from its voracity, and that of—
locust—from its multitude.
47, 48. The additional effects of the storm
here mentioned (compare Ex 9:23-34) are consistent with Moses' account.
48. gave … cattle—literally, "shut
up" (compare Ps 31:8).
49. evil angels—or, "angels of
evil"—many were perhaps employed, and other evils inflicted.
50, 51. made a way—removed obstacles,
gave it full scope.
51. chief of their strength—literally,
"first-fruits," or, "first-born" (Ge 49:3; De 21:17).
Ham—one of whose sons gave name
(Mizraim, Hebrew) to Egypt.
52-54. made his … forth—or,
brought them by periodical journeys (compare Ex 15:1).
54. border of his sanctuary—or, "holy
border"—i. e., region of which—
this mountain—(Zion) was, as the seat
of civil and religious government, the representative, used for the
whole land, as afterwards for the Church (Isa 25:6, 7).
purchased—or, "procured by His right
hand" or power (Ps 60:5).
55. by line—or, the portion thus
divided them—that is, the heathen, put
for their possessions, so tents—that is, of the heathen (compare
56, 57. a deceitful bow—which turns
back, and so fails to project the arrow (2Sa 1:22; Ho 7:16). They relapsed.
58. Idolatry resulted from sparing the heathen
(compare Ps 78:9-11).
59, 60. heard—perceived (Ge 11:7).
abhorred—but not utterly.
60. tent … placed—literally,
"caused to dwell," set up (Jos 18:1).
61. his strength—the ark, as symbolical
of it (Ps
62. gave—or, "shut up."
his people—(Ps 78:48;
63. fire—either figure of the slaughter
4:10), or a literal burning
by the heathen.
given to marriage—literally,
"praised"—that is, as brides.
64. (Compare 1Sa 4:17); and there were, doubtless, others.
made no lamentation—either because
stupefied by grief, or hindered by the enemy.
65. (Compare Ps 22:16; Isa 42:13).
66. And he smote … part—or,
"struck His enemies' back." The Philistines never regained their
position after their defeats by David.
67, 68. tabernacle of Joseph—or, "home,"
or, "tribe," to which—
tribe of Ephraim—is parallel (compare
Re 7:8). Its pre-eminence was, like
Saul's, only permitted. Judah had been the choice (Ge 49:10).
69. Exalted as—
high palaces—or, "mountains," and
abiding as—the earth.
70-72. God's sovereignty was illustrated in
this choice. The contrast is striking—humility and
exaltation—and the correspondence is beautiful.
71. following … ewes,
&c.—literally, "ewes giving suck" (compare Isa 40:11). On the pastoral terms, compare Ps 79:13.