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31. He spake, and there came a swarm of flies By the word spake the Psalmist intimates that the flies and lice came not forth by chance. The command, we know, was uttered by the mouth of Moses; for although God could have given the command himself, he interposed Moses as his herald. God, however, gave no less efficacy to his word, when he commanded it to be uttered by a man, than if he himself had thundered from heaven. When the minister executes his commission faithfully, by speaking only what God puts into his mouth, the inward power of the Holy Spirit is joined with his outward voice. Here again it is to be observed, that the Egyptians were afflicted with the plague of the flies and lice, that God, with the greater ignominy, might subdue their rebellion and obstinacy. When it is said, that he gave them hail for rain, it denotes a hail of such appalling violence, that it could not be attributed to natural causes. It is probable that Egypt is not so subject to this annoyance as other countries, and it is very seldom visited even with rain, being watered with the Nile. This made it appear to the Egyptians the more wonderful that their country was stricken with hail. To render this calamity the more dreadful, God also mingled with it fire. The hail, then, was accompanied with a tempestuous whirlwind, that the Egyptians who had hardened themselves against the other miracles, inspired with terror, might know that they had to deal with God.

34. He spake, and the grasshopper came This calamity, which was brought upon the fields, could not be attributed to Fortune; for the grasshoppers made their appearance suddenly and in countless multitudes, so that they covered all the land of Egypt. The miracle was very evident from the word spoken, by which it was introduced. Its being announced as to happen, removed all doubt of its being the work of the Most High. Accordingly, it is expressly said, that grasshoppers and caterpillars rushed in at the commandment of God, as if soldiers should run to battle at the sound of the trumpet. Whenever these insects molest us and destroy the fruits of the earth, they are assuredly the scourges of God, but it is here intended to point out an extraordinary work of his hand. In fine, the prophet recites the last miracle, which was wrought by the angel on the night previous to the departure of the people, when he slew all the first-born throughout Egypt. I only take a hasty and passing glance at this history, as I have, in like manner, done of the other facts preceding, because they have been more copiously treated elsewhere, and at this time it is sufficient for us to know the design of the sacred writer. He, however, amplifies this display of the Divine power by a repetition, declaring that the first-born and the flower of their strength were destroyed Some translate, but unhappily, The beginning of their sorrow. As man’s strength shows itself in generation, the Hebrews term the first-begotten the beginning of strength, as we have explained on Genesis 49:3, —

“Reuben, thou art my first-born, my might,
and the beginning of my strength.”

37. And he brought them forth with silver and gold 230230     Allusion is made to the Israelites carrying with them in their departure from Egypt, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, which they borrowed of the Egyptians, Exodus 12:36. The prophet, on the other hand, celebrates the grace of God which preserved the chosen people untouched and safe from all these plagues. If both parties had been indiscriminately afflicted with them, the hand of God would not have been so signally manifest. But now when the Israelites, amidst so many calamities, experienced an entire exemption from harm, this difference exhibits to us, as in a picture, God’s fatherly care about his own people. For this reason, it is stated, Nor was there a feeble person, or one who stumbled; 231231     “And there was not any one stumbling among his tribes. The LXX. have rendered כושל by ἀσθενης infirm, so that they understood the Psalmist to say, there was no one incapable of following the multitude, — no one was prevented by disease or infirmity from accomplishing the journey.” — Phillips. What a striking contrast between their condition and that of their oppressors! While in every Egyptian dwelling, death had left his victim, not one of all the children of Israel was unable to prosecute his heaven-directed flight from that land of bondage. for the verb כשל, kashal, has both these meanings. But I prefer taking it simply in this sense, That whilst Egypt was hastening to destruction, the people of God were vigorous, and free from every malady. When it is said, He brought them forth, and when it is afterwards added, in his tribes, there is a change of the number, which is quite common in the Hebrew language. Some refer the word his to God; but this I am afraid is too forced.

38. Egypt rejoiced at their departure The Psalmist sets forth the power of God from the additional circumstance, that the Egyptians willingly allowed the chosen people to depart, when yet nothing was farther from their intention. Although they wished them destroyed a hundred times, yet they thought that they had the wolf by the ears, as we say; 232232     The meaning of this proverb is to be in danger, or hard set on every side; for if you hold the wolf, he bites you by the fingers; if you let him go, he may destroy you. and thus the fear of revenge made them more determined to blot out the memory of that people. Whence it follows, that when they all at once laid aside their former purpose, it was a secret work of divine providence. 233233     From the heavy and overwhelming judgments inflicted upon Pharaoh and his people, for refusing to allow the Israelites to depart, they came to associate the presence of that people in their land, with the most terrible manifestations of divine displeasure. This at last led them, after all their inveterate impenitence, to hail with gratitude the departure of the hated tribes. To the same effect is the statement in the preceding verse, that they were brought forth with gold and silver The Egyptians could never have had the heart voluntarily to strip themselves, to enrich those whom they would have willingly deprived of life. This was then the bounty of God, in whose hand, and at whose disposal, are all the riches of the world. He might have taken by force from the Egyptians what he had given them; but he bowed their hearts, so that of their own accord they denuded themselves. The expression, for their terror had fallen upon them, is to be understood passively; for the Israelites were not afraid of the Egyptians, but, on the contrary, were terrible to them. Nor does the prophet speak of an ordinary fear. A little before fear had stirred them up to cruelty and tyranny; but as even to that day, they had endeavored, with indomitable audacity, to shake off all fear, God suddenly laid them prostrate by the extraordinary terror which fell upon them. It is, therefore, here justly reckoned among the displays of the wonderful power of God, that he subdued the impetuous fury with which the Egyptians boiled before, that they might allow those to depart free, whom they had determined to handle rudely, and to waste in servile employments; which was like rendering sheep terrible to wolves.

39. He spread out a cloud for a covering The Psalmist enumerates certain miracles by which God continued his grace towards his people in the wilderness. This order is worthy of notice; for it was no small confirmation which was added to that incomparable work of redemption, when God ceased not to show himself the guide of their journey. Accordingly, after they had passed through the Red Sea, he spread a cloud over them by day to protect them from the heat of the sun; and during the night, he gave them light by a pillar of fire, that even in the midst of the darkness they might have a bright token of his presence. This continued display of his goodness was surely an unquestionable proof of his perpetual love, an open demonstration that he had adopted the children of Abraham, to foster them under his protection even to the end. What follows concerning quails, is introduced for a different purpose than that for which reference is made to the same fact in Psalm 78:26. In that passage, God’s bringing in an abundance of quails is ascribed rather to his wrath than to his beneficence, that the people might satiate the flesh; and we have seen in the exposition of that place, that this is mentioned as a matter of reproach to them. But in the text before us, passing over their ingratitude, the prophet celebrates the unremitting exercise of the divine loving-kindness towards them. Some, however, may be rather inclined to take the word ask in a bad sense, because the people besought not God with humility, 235235     “It does not appear from the history, that the Israelites supplicated God at all, but only murmured against Moses and Aaron for bringing them into the wilderness.” — Phillips. but through their impatience proceeded at once to murmuring, or rather arrogantly spake against him. Thus taken, the passage, by way of amplification, would mean that God, departing from his own right, humoured even their unhallowed lust. As, however, their fault is not here mentioned, let us rest in that meaning which is the most simple, namely, that the blessings by which God ratified the redemption which he had wrought are here clustered together. It next follows, that they were filled with the bread of heaven This appellation, as we have seen elsewhere, is given to the manna by way of eminence. The natural way in which the food which we eat is obtained is from the ground; but God then opened his hand more widely to the Jews, and fed them even from heaven. As it was not enough for them to be refreshed with food when they were hungry, unless they were also supplied with drink, it is added, that the rock was opened, and that the waters flowed from it through the dry places, or the desert.

42. For he remembered his holy promise The Psalmist again mentions the cause why God dealt so graciously with that people, and sustained them so tenderly, namely, that he might fulfill his promise; for he had entered into a covenant with Abraham, engaging to be the God of his seed. Nor did the prophets without cause teach so carefully as we find them doing, that the free covenant is the fountain whence the deliverance, and the continual welfare of the people flowed. Thereby the grace of God became better known, since what took place, so far from happening upon the sudden, and without anticipation, was only the fulfillment of what he had promised four hundred years before. God then, for ages previous to this, gave the light of his word of promise, that his grace and truth might be brought the more distinctly into view. For this reason the prophet again repeats, that God was not led from some new cause to deliver his people, but that his design in doing so was to prove the faithfulness of his covenant, and to give it effect; just as if a man should dig up from the ground a treasure which he had buried in it. Nor is it to be doubted, that the prophet aimed at leading the faith of his countrymen still farther, — that his object was that their posterity might be persuaded beyond all doubt, that as God had then proved, in the experience of that generation, the sure and substantial truth of his promise delivered many hundred years before, so he would not be to them otherwise than their fathers had found him to be in times past. Accordingly, he signalises this promise by the epithet, holy, intimating, that after the death of Abraham it retained its virtue and efficacy unimpaired. God had spoken it to Abraham; but the force of the covenant died not with him. God continued to show himself faithful towards the posterity of the patriarch.

43. And he brought forth his people with joy The prophet makes mention of joy and gladness, the more highly to magnify the greatness of God’s grace. It was no small matter, that at the very time when the Egyptians were afflicted by a severe and dreadful plague, — when the whole kingdom was full of weeping and howling, — and when in almost every house there was a dead body, — the people who a little before were groaning in great distress, or rather lay almost dead, went forth with joyful hearts. By the appellation the chosen of God, they are reminded, that his favor was not thus exercised towards them on account of their own merits, or on account of the worth of their race, but because he had adopted them, that men having nothing left them in which to vaunt themselves might learn to glory in God alone.

44 And he gave them the countries of the nations The Psalmist sets forth the final cause why God in so many ways displayed his wonderful power in redeeming the people, why he did not cease to cherish and defend them in the deserts — why he gave them the possession of the land as he had promised; and this was, that they might dedicate and devote themselves wholly to his service. And, in fact, the end which God proposed in our election was, that he might have on the earth a people by whom he should be called upon and served. The more effectually to stir up the Jews to gratitude, the prophet magnifies the greatness of the divine goodness, by declaring, that they occupied far and wide the countries of the nations, and that all the property which many states had acquired with great labor, they now possessed as it were by right of inheritance. The plural number, both as to the word countries and nations, serves to exhibit in a still more striking light the divine goodness in this matter. The psalm concludes with briefly defining the manner of glorifying God, That they might keep his law It would not be enough to celebrate his grace only with the tongue. To this there must be added practical and experimental piety. And as God rejects all religious services of men’s invention, the only way of rightly serving him which remains, consists in keeping his commandments.




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