Verse 9. The children of Ephraim, being armed, and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle. Well equipped and furnished with the best weapons of the times, the leading tribe failed in faith and courage and retreated before the foe. There were several particular instances of this, but probably the psalmist refers to the general failure of Ephraim to lead the tribes to the conquest of Canaan. How often have we also, although supplied with every gracious weapon, failed to wage successful war against our sins, we have marched onward gallantly enough till the testing hour has come, and then "in the day of battle "we have proved false to good resolutions and holy obligations. How altogether vain is unregenerate man! Array him in the best that nature and grace can supply, he still remains a helpless coward in the holy war, so long as he lacks a loyal faith in his God.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 8-9. See Psalms on "Psalms 78:8" for further information.
Verse 9. The children of Ephraim, being armed, etc. "When ye had girded on every man is weapons of war, ye were ready to go up into the hill. And the Lord said unto me, Say unto them, Go not up, neither fight; for I am not among you; lest ye be smitten before your enemies. So I spake unto you; and ye would not hear, but rebelled against the commandment of the Lord, and went presumptuously up into the hill. And the Amorites, which dwelt in that mountain, came out against you, and chased you, as bees do, and destroyed you in Seir, even unto Hormah." Deuteronomy 1:41-44 .
Verse 9. Many person suppose the passage to refer to the event recorded in 1 Chronicles 7:21-22 , where are mentioned the sons of Ephraim, "whom the men of Gath that were born in the land slew, because they came down to take away their cattle. And Ephraim their father mourned many days, and his brethren came to comfort him." The manner of the relation shows that the slaughter must have been great; and this flight and defeat, and their not acknowledging their dependence upon God, it is supposed the psalmist has in view in this place. But the objection to this interpretation is, that the event referred to in the book of Chronicles, evidently occurred at a time anterior to that of the Israelitish exodus from Egypt; whilst Psalms 78:11 speaks of these same Ephraimites being forgetful of God's doings and wonderful works which he did at the time of their exit from Egypt. It is, therefore, more probable that ~yrka ygk may designate the Israelitish people generally, which Mendelssohn thinks to be the case. He observes that "the meaning of the noun Ephraim was that of a general term for Israel before the reigning of the house of David, because that Joshua the son of Nun, the first judge, was of this tribe; also because the territory assigned to this tribe was in the region of Shiloh: and it is possible that because of the reputation of this tribe in those days, all those who were in high esteem were also called Ephraimites." He might have added another and stronger reason than any of the preceding for this application of the term to Israel, and it is, that Jeroboam, who may be regarded as the founder of the Israelitish monarchy, is said, in 1 Kings 11:26 , to have been a descendant of Ephraim. The war alluded to may have been one of those which were waged between the ten tribes and the people of Judah. George Phillips.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 9. Who were they? What had they? What did they? When did they do it?
Verse 9,67. The backsliding of prominent believers.
- The Lord's soldiers: who they were; belonging to
God's chosen people; were distinguished by grace.
Genesis 48:17-20 . Strong by God's blessing.
Deuteronomy 33:17 . Honourable place among their brethren.
Favoured with the tabernacle at Shiloh -- Psalms 78:60.
- Their equipment: armour defensive and offensive; like
that of others who triumphed.
- Their behaviour in battle: to turn back was
traitorous, cowardly, dangerous, disastrous,
- Their punishment -- Psalms 78:57 . Deprived of
their special honour. Revelation 3:11 . C. D.