Verse 5. For he established a testimony in Jacob. The favoured nation existed for the very purpose of maintaining God's truth in the midst of surrounding idolatry. Theirs were the oracles, they were the conservators and guardians of the truth.
And appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children. The testimony for the true God was to be transmitted from generation to generation by the careful instruction of succeeding families. We have the command for this oral transmission very frequently given in the Pentateuch, and it may suffice to quote one instance from Deuteronomy 6:7 : "And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up." Reader, if you are a parent, have you conscientiously discharged this duty?
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 4-6. See Psalms on "Psalms 78:4" for further information.
Verse 5. He established a testimony in Jacob, etc. The meaning is, that God ordered a law, and commanded that the fathers should each one tell his children those things which he had learned from his parents. In this verse therefore we understand by testimony and law, that particular law which is written in Deuteronomy 4:9 in these words: "Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy son's sons." Simon de Muis.
Verse 5. By the testimony and law are meant the whole contents of the Pentateuch, the direct commandments contained in it, and the deeds of the Lord, which are to be considered as indirect commandments: for all the deeds of God contain a kernel of instruction, of duty, and of warning; "I have done this for thee, what dost thou for me?" E. W. Hengstenberg.
Verse 5. To their children. He who learns the law in his youth, resembles him that writes easily on new and pliable parchment; but he who begins to learn it in his old age, is like a man that tries to write on old and shrivelled parchment. John Van den Driesche, (Drusius.) 1550-1616.
Verse 5-6. Five generations appear to be mentioned: 1. Fathers; 2. Their children; 3. The generation to come; 4. And their children; 5. And their children. Adam Clarke.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 5. Scriptural tradition, or the heirloom of the gospel.
Verse 5-8. Family religion.