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Tell the Coming Generation

A Maskil11Probably a musical or liturgical term of Asaph.

1Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;
incline your ears to the words of my mouth!
2I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings from of old,
3things that we have heard and known,
that our fathers have told us.
4We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done.

5He established a testimony in Jacob
and appointed a law in Israel,
which he commanded our fathers
to teach to their children,
6that the next generation might know them,
the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children,
7so that they should set their hope in God
and not forget the works of God,
but keep his commandments;
8and that they should not be like their fathers,
a stubborn and rebellious generation,
a generation whose heart was not steadfast,
whose spirit was not faithful to God.

9The Ephraimites, armed with22Hebrew armed and shooting the bow,
turned back on the day of battle.
10They did not keep God's covenant,
but refused to walk according to his law.
11They forgot his works
and the wonders that he had shown them.
12In the sight of their fathers he performed wonders
in the land of Egypt, in the fields of Zoan.
13He divided the sea and let them pass through it,
and made the waters stand like a heap.
14In the daytime he led them with a cloud,
and all the night with a fiery light.
15He split rocks in the wilderness
and gave them drink abundantly as from the deep.
16He made streams come out of the rock
and caused waters to flow down like rivers.

17Yet they sinned still more against him,
rebelling against the Most High in the desert.
18They tested God in their heart
by demanding the food they craved.
19They spoke against God, saying,
“Can God spread a table in the wilderness?
20He struck the rock so that water gushed out
and streams overflowed.
Can he also give bread
or provide meat for his people?”

21Therefore, when the Lord heard, he was full of wrath;
a fire was kindled against Jacob;
his anger rose against Israel,
22because they did not believe in God
and did not trust his saving power.
23Yet he commanded the skies above
and opened the doors of heaven,
24and he rained down on them manna to eat
and gave them the grain of heaven.
25Man ate of the bread of the angels;
he sent them food in abundance.
26He caused the east wind to blow in the heavens,
and by his power he led out the south wind;
27he rained meat on them like dust,
winged birds like the sand of the seas;
28he let them fall in the midst of their camp,
all around their dwellings.
29And they ate and were well filled,
for he gave them what they craved.
30But before they had satisfied their craving,
while the food was still in their mouths,
31the anger of God rose against them,
and he killed the strongest of them
and laid low the young men of Israel.

32In spite of all this, they still sinned;
despite his wonders, they did not believe.
33So he made their days vanish like33Hebrew in a breath,44Or vapor
and their years in terror.
34When he killed them, they sought him;
they repented and sought God earnestly.
35They remembered that God was their rock,
the Most High God their redeemer.
36But they flattered him with their mouths;
they lied to him with their tongues.
37Their heart was not steadfast toward him;
they were not faithful to his covenant.
38Yet he, being compassionate,
atoned for their iniquity
and did not destroy them;
he restrained his anger often
and did not stir up all his wrath.
39He remembered that they were but flesh,
a wind that passes and comes not again.
40How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness
and grieved him in the desert!
41They tested God again and again
and provoked the Holy One of Israel.
42They did not remember his power55Hebrew hand
or the day when he redeemed them from the foe,
43when he performed his signs in Egypt
and his marvels in the fields of Zoan.
44He turned their rivers to blood,
so that they could not drink of their streams.
45He sent among them swarms of flies, which devoured them,
and frogs, which destroyed them.
46He gave their crops to the destroying locust
and the fruit of their labor to the locust.
47He destroyed their vines with hail
and their sycamores with frost.
48He gave over their cattle to the hail
and their flocks to thunderbolts.
49He let loose on them his burning anger,
wrath, indignation, and distress,
a company of destroying angels.
50He made a path for his anger;
he did not spare them from death,
but gave their lives over to the plague.
51He struck down every firstborn in Egypt,
the firstfruits of their strength in the tents of Ham.
52Then he led out his people like sheep
and guided them in the wilderness like a flock.
53He led them in safety, so that they were not afraid,
but the sea overwhelmed their enemies.
54And he brought them to his holy land,
to the mountain which his right hand had won.
55He drove out nations before them;
he apportioned them for a possession
and settled the tribes of Israel in their tents.

56Yet they tested and rebelled against the Most High God
and did not keep his testimonies,
57but turned away and acted treacherously like their fathers;
they twisted like a deceitful bow.
58For they provoked him to anger with their high places;
they moved him to jealousy with their idols.
59When God heard, he was full of wrath,
and he utterly rejected Israel.
60He forsook his dwelling at Shiloh,
the tent where he dwelt among mankind,
61and delivered his power to captivity,
his glory to the hand of the foe.
62He gave his people over to the sword
and vented his wrath on his heritage.
63Fire devoured their young men,
and their young women had no marriage song.
64Their priests fell by the sword,
and their widows made no lamentation.
65Then the Lord awoke as from sleep,
like a strong man shouting because of wine.
66And he put his adversaries to rout;
he put them to everlasting shame.

67He rejected the tent of Joseph;
he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim,
68but he chose the tribe of Judah,
Mount Zion, which he loves.
69He built his sanctuary like the high heavens,
like the earth, which he has founded forever.
70He chose David his servant
and took him from the sheepfolds;
71from following the nursing ewes he brought him
to shepherd Jacob his people,
Israel his inheritance.
72With upright heart he shepherded them
and guided them with his skillful hand.


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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 (2Ch 12:14).

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; Nu 20:11).

great depths—and—rivers—denote abundance.

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, "desire."

provoking—and—tempted—illustrated by their absurd doubts,

19, 20. in the face of His admitted power.

21. fire—the effect of the "anger" (Nu 11:1).

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 journey.

29. their … desire—what they longed for.

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 measured.

divided them—that is, the heathen, put for their possessions, so tents—that is, of the heathen (compare De 6:11).

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 96:6).

62. gave—or, "shut up."

his people—(Ps 78:48; 1Sa 4:10-17).

63. fire—either figure of the slaughter (1Sa 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.




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