Psalm 78:57

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 57. But turned back. Turned over the old leaf, repeated the same offences, started aside like an ill made bow, were false and faithless to their best promises.

And dealt unfaithfully like their fathers, proving themselves legitimate by manifesting the treachery of their sires. They were a new generation, but not a new nation -- another race yet not another. Evil propensities are transmitted; the birth follows the progenitor; the wild ass breeds wild asses; the children of the raven fly to the carrion. Human nature does not improve, the new editions contain all the errata of the first, and sometimes fresh errors are imported.

They were turned aside like a deceitful bow, which not only fails to send the arrow towards the mark in a direct line, but springs back to the archer's hurt, and perhaps sends the shaft among his friends to their serious jeopardy. Israel boasted of the bow as the national weapon, they sang the song of the bow, and hence a deceitful bow is made to be the type and symbol of their own unsteadfastness; God can make men's glory the very ensign of their shame, he draws a bar sinister across the escutcheon of traitors.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 57. They were turned aside like a deceitful bow. The eastern bow, which when at rest is in the form of a (1), must be recurved, or turned the contrary way, in order to be what is called bent and strung. If a person who is unskilful or weak attempt to recurve and string one of these bows, if he take not great heed it will spring back and regain its quiescent position, and perhaps break his arm. And sometimes I have known it, when bent, to start aside, and regain its quiescent position, to my no small danger, and in one or two cases to my injury. This image is frequently used in the sacred writings; but no person has understood it, not being acquainted with the eastern bow, which must be recurved or bent the contrary way (1), in order to be proper for use. If not well made, they will fly back in discharging the arrow. It is said of the bow of Jonathan, "it turned not back," 2 Samuel 1:22 , (rwxa gwvn al), lo nasog achor, "did not twist itself backward." It was a good bow, one on which he could depend. Hosea, Hosea 7:16 , compares the unfaithful Israelites to a deceitful bow; in that, when bent, would suddenly start aside and recover its former position. We may find the same passage in Jeremiah 9:3 . And this is precisely the kind of bow mentioned by Homer, Odyss. 21, which none of Penelope's suitors could bend, called toxon palinonon, the crooked bow, in the state of rest; but toxon palintonon, the recurved bow when prepared for use. And of his trial of strength and skill in the bending of the bow of Ulysses, none of the critics and commentators have been able to make anything, because they knew not the instrument in question. On the toxon qhsij of Homer I have written a dissertation elsewhere. The image is very correct; these Israelites, when brought out of their natural bent, soon recoiled, and relapsed into their former state. Adam Clarke.

Verse 57. Starting aside like a broken bow (English Prayer Book): but if a bow breaks, it will not start aside, for the elasticity which should make it start aside would be destroyed. Stephen Street.

Verse 57. They were turned aside like a deceitful bow. When the bow is unbent the rift it hath may be undiscerned, but go to use it by drawing the arrow to the head, and it flies in pieces; thus doth a false heart when put to the trial. As the ape in the fable, dressed like a man, when nuts are thrown before her, cannot then dissemble her nature any longer, but shows herself as ape indeed; a false heart betrays itself before it is aware, when a fair occasion is presented for its lust; whereas sincerity keeps the soul pure in the face of temptation. William Gurnall.

Verse 57. The fourth thing is the deceitful bow, (hymr tfq), a slack or warping bow arcus doli vel dolosus seu fallax (Hebrew) will be sure to deceive the archer that shoots in it; it will turn back into belly, as the archer's phrase is; and though he level both his eye and his arrow never so directly to the mark and think confidently with himself to hit it; yet, in the event, the arrow, through the warping of the bow, flies a quite contrary way, yea, and sometimes reflects upon the archer himself. Non semper feriet, quodcunque minabitur arcus, the bow smites not all it threatens, and the ill fashioned or casting bow will turn in the shooter's hand, and send the arrow sometimes one way and sometimes another way; yea, and sometimes it rebounds into his own sides; or if it be a rotten bow (though otherwise fair to look upon), when an arrow is drawn to the head it breaks in the hand, and deceives the archer. The same thing happeneth when the string of the bow is naughty, and breaks when the arrow is drawn. This is no less than a divine Scripture allegory. Behold, such a fallacious, warping, and rotten bow is man's deceitful heart; his purposes and promises are the arrows that he puts upon the string, the mark he aims at is repentance, to the which (in affliction especially) he looketh with an accurate and intent eye, as though he would repent indeed; but, alas! his heart deceives him, as being unsound in God's statutes, Ps 119:80; and hence it is that his promises and pretences do fall at his foot, or vanish in the air as smoke. Thus a deceiving, as well as a deceived, heart, turns him aside, Isaiah 64:20 , as it did those false Israelites: oh, then, look to the secret warping of your own heart, and seeing you are God's bow, you must be bent by him, and stand bent for him, Zechariah 9:13 ; thereby you shall be like Jonathan's bow that "never returned empty," 2 Samuel 1:22 . Christopher Ness, in "A Crystal Mirror." 1679.

Verse 57-59. Not to be settled in the faith, is provoking to God. To espouse the truth, and then to fall away, brings an ill report upon the gospel, which will not go unpunished. They turned back, and dealt unfaithfully. When God heard this, he was wroth, and greatly abhorred Israel. The apostate drops as a windfall into the devil's mouth. Thomas Watson.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 56-57. On the deceitfulness of the heart, with respect to the performance of duty. J. Jamieson.

  1. 326.

On the deceitfulness of the heart, with respect to the omission of duty. J. Jamieson.

  1. 353.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

None.