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78. Psalm 78
1An Instruction of Asaph. Give ear, O my people, to my law, Incline your ear to sayings of my mouth. 2I open with a simile my mouth, I bring forth hidden things of old, 3That we have heard and do know, And our fathers have recounted to us. 4We do not hide from their sons, To a later generation recounting praises of Jehovah, And His strength, and His wonders that He hath done. 5And He raiseth up a testimony in Jacob, And a law hath placed in Israel, That He commanded our fathers, To make them known to their sons. 6So that a later generation doth know, Sons who are born, do rise and recount to their sons, 7And place in God their confidence, And forget not the doings of God, But keep His commands. 8And they are not like their fathers, A generation apostate and rebellious, A generation! it hath not prepared its heart, Nor stedfast with God [is] its spirit. 9Sons of Ephraim -- armed bearers of bow, Have turned in a day of conflict. 10They have not kept the covenant of God, And in His law they have refused to walk, 11And they forget His doings, And His wonders that He shewed them. 12Before their fathers He hath done wonders, In the land of Egypt -- the field of Zoan. 13He cleft a sea, and causeth them to pass over, Yea, He causeth waters to stand as a heap. 14And leadeth them with a cloud by day, And all the night with a light of fire. 15He cleaveth rocks in a wilderness, And giveth drink -- as the great deep. 16And bringeth out streams from a rock, And causeth waters to come down as rivers. 17And they add still to sin against Him, To provoke the Most High in the dry place. 18And they try God in their heart, To ask food for their lust. 19And they speak against God -- they said: `Is God able to array a table in a wilderness?` 20Lo, He hath smitten a rock, And waters flow, yea, streams overflow. `Also -- bread [is] He able to give? Doth He prepare flesh for His people?` 21Therefore hath Jehovah heard, And He sheweth Himself wroth, And fire hath been kindled against Jacob, And anger also hath gone up against Israel, 22For they have not believed in God, Nor have they trusted in His salvation. 23And He commandeth clouds from above, Yea, doors of the heavens He hath opened. 24And He raineth on them manna to eat, Yea, corn of heaven He hath given to them. 25Food of the mighty hath each eaten, Venison He sent to them to satiety. 26He causeth an east wind to journey in the heavens, And leadeth by His strength a south wind, 27And He raineth on them flesh as dust, And as sand of the seas -- winged fowl, 28And causeth [it] to fall in the midst of His camp, Round about His tabernacles. 29And they eat, and are greatly satisfied, And their desire He bringeth to them. 30They have not been estranged from their desire, Yet [is] their food in their mouth, 31And the anger of God hath gone up against them, And He slayeth among their fat ones, And youths of Israel He caused to bend. 32With all this they have sinned again, And have not believed in His wonders. 33And He consumeth in vanity their days, And their years in trouble. 34If He slew them, then they sought Him, And turned back, and sought God earnestly, 35And they remember that God [is] their rock, And God Most High their redeemer. 36And -- they deceive Him with their mouth, And with their tongue do lie to Him, 37And their heart hath not been right with Him, And they have not been stedfast in His covenant. 38And He -- the Merciful One, Pardoneth iniquity, and destroyeth not, And hath often turned back His anger, And waketh not up all His fury. 39And He remembereth that they [are] flesh, A wind going on -- and it returneth not. 40How often do they provoke Him in the wilderness, Grieve Him in the desolate place? 41Yea, they turn back, and try God, And the Holy One of Israel have limited. 42They have not remembered His hand The day He ransomed them from the adversary. 43When He set His signs in Egypt, And His wonders in the field of Zoan, 44And He turneth to blood their streams, And their floods they drink not. 45He sendeth among them the beetle, and it consumeth them, And the frog, and it destroyeth them, 46And giveth to the caterpillar their increase, And their labour to the locust. 47He destroyeth with hail their vine, And their sycamores with frost, 48And delivereth up to the hail their beasts, And their cattle to the burning flames. 49He sendeth on them the fury of His anger, Wrath, and indignation, and distress -- A discharge of evil messengers. 50He pondereth a path for His anger, He kept not back their soul from death, Yea, their life to the pestilence He delivered up. 51And He smiteth every first-born in Egypt, The first-fruit of the strong in tents of Ham. 52And causeth His people to journey as a flock, And guideth them as a drove in a wilderness, 53And He leadeth them confidently, And they have not been afraid, And their enemies hath the sea covered. 54And He bringeth them in unto the border of His sanctuary, This mountain His right hand had got, 55And casteth out nations from before them, And causeth them to fall in the line of inheritance, And causeth the tribes of Israel to dwell in their tents, 56And they tempt and provoke God Most High, And His testimonies have not kept. 57And they turn back, And deal treacherously like their fathers, They have been turned like a deceitful bow, 58And make Him angry with their high places, And with their graven images make Him zealous, 59God hath heard, and sheweth Himself wroth. And kicketh exceedingly against Israel. 60And He leaveth the tabernacle of Shiloh, The tent He had placed among men, 61And He giveth His strength to captivity, And His beauty into the hand of an adversary, 62And delivereth up to the sword His people, And with His inheritance shewed Himself angry. 63His young men hath fire consumed, And His virgins have not been praised. 64His priests by the sword have fallen, And their widows weep not. 65And the Lord waketh as a sleeper, As a mighty one crying aloud from wine. 66And He smiteth His adversaries backward, A reproach age-during He hath put on them, 67And He kicketh against the tent of Joseph, And on the tribe of Ephraim hath not fixed. 68And He chooseth the tribe of Judah, With mount Zion that He loved, 69And buildeth His sanctuary as a high place, Like the earth, He founded it to the age. 70And He fixeth on David His servant, And taketh him from the folds of a flock, 71From behind suckling ones He hath brought him in, To rule over Jacob His people, And over Israel His inheritance. 72And he ruleth them according to the integrity of his heart, And by the skilfulness of his hands leadeth them!
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.
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).
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).
40, 41. There were ten temptations (Nu 14:22).
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.
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—
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).
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."
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.
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—
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.