Psalms 78

1 Give ear, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
2 I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter enigmas of old,
3 which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us.
4 We will not hide them from their sons, showing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD and his strength and his wonderful works that he has done.
5 For he established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their sons:
6 That the generation to come might know them, even the sons which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their sons
7 that they might set their hope in God and not forget the works of God but keep his commandments
8 and might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that did not set their heart aright and whose spirit was not steadfast with God.
9 The sons of Ephraim, being armed and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle.
10 They did not keep the covenant of God and refused to walk in his law
11 and forgot his works and his wonders that he had showed them.
12 He did marvellous things in the sight of their fathers, in the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan.
13 He divided the sea and caused them to pass through, and he made the waters to stand as a heap.
14 In the daytime also he led them with a cloud and all the night with a light of fire.
15 He clave the rocks in the wilderness and gave them drink as out of the great depths.
16 He brought streams also out of the rock and caused waters to run down like rivers.
17 And they sinned yet more against him by provoking the most High in the wilderness.
18 And they tempted God in their heart by asking for food according to the desires of their soul.
19 And they spoke against God; they said, Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?
20 Behold, he smote the rock that the waters gushed out, and the streams overflowed; can he give bread also? can he provide flesh for his people?
21 Therefore the LORD heard this and was wroth, so a fire was kindled against Jacob, and anger also came up against Israel
22 because they had not believed God, nor had they trusted in his saving health;
23 and he commanded the clouds of above and opened the doors of the heavens
24 and caused manna to rain upon them to eat and gave them wheat of the heavens.
25 Man did eat the food of the strong; he sent them food to the full.
26 He caused an east wind to blow in the heaven, and by his power he brought in the south wind.
27 He rained flesh also upon them as dust and feathered fowls like as the sand of the sea:
28 And he let it fall in the midst of their camp, round about their habitations.
29 So they did eat and were well filled; for he gave them their own desire;
30 they were not estranged from their lust. But while their food was yet in their mouths,
31 the wrath of God came upon them and slew the fattest of them and smote down the chosen of Israel.
32 For all this they sinned still and did not give him credit for his wondrous works.
33 Therefore he consumed their days in vanity and their years in tribulation.
34 When he slew them, then they sought him, and they returned and enquired early after God.
35 And they remembered that God was their rock and the high God their redeemer.
36 Nevertheless they flattered him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongues.
37 For their heart was not right with him, neither were they steadfast in his covenant.
38 But he, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity and did not destroy them; many a time turned he his anger away and did not stir up all his wrath.
39 For he remembered that they were but flesh: a wind that passes away and does not come again.
40 How often did they provoke him in the wilderness and grieve him in the desert!
41 And they turned back and tempted God and limited the Holy One of Israel.
42 They did not remember his hand, nor the day when he ransomed them from anguish.
43 How he had wrought his signs in Egypt and his wonders in the field of Zoan
44 and had turned their rivers into blood and their floods, that they could not drink.
45 He sent swarms of flies among them, which devoured them, and frogs, which destroyed them.
46 He gave also their fruits unto the caterpillar and their works unto the locust.
47 He destroyed their vines with hail and their wild fig trees with stones.
48 He gave up their cattle also to the hail and their flocks to thunderbolts of fire.
49 He cast upon them the fierceness of his anger, wrath, and indignation and trouble by sending evil angels among them.
50 He made a way to his anger; he did not spare their soul from death but gave their life over to the pestilence
51 and smote all the firstborn in Egypt, the firstfruits of their strength in the tents of Ham:
52 But made his own people to go forth like sheep and guided them in the wilderness like a flock.
53 And he led them on safely, so that they feared not; but the sea overwhelmed their enemies.
54 And he brought them into the borders of his holiness, into this mountain, which his right hand had purchased.
55 He cast out the Gentiles also before them and divided them an inheritance by line and made the tribes of Israel to dwell in their habitations.
56 Yet they tempted and provoked the most high God and did not keep his testimonies:
57 But turned back and rebelled like their fathers; they became like a deceitful bow.
58 For they provoked him to anger with their high places and moved him to jealousy with their graven images.
59 God heard this and was wroth and greatly abhorred Israel:
60 For this reason he forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent in which he dwelt among men
61 and delivered his strength into captivity and his glory into the enemy’s hand.
62 He gave his people over also unto the sword and was wroth with his inheritance.
63 The fire consumed their young men; and their virgins were not honored in marriage songs.
64 Their priests fell by the sword; and their widows made no lamentation.
65 Then the Lord awaked as one out of sleep and like a mighty man that shouts by reason of wine.
66 And he smote his enemies in the hinder parts; he put them to a perpetual reproach.
67 Moreover he refused the tent of Joseph and did not choose the tribe of Ephraim:
68 But chose the tribe of Judah, the Mount Zion which he loved.
69 And he built his sanctuary in preeminence like the earth which he has established for ever.
70 He chose David also his slave and took him from the sheepfolds,
71 from following the ewes great with young, he brought him to feed Jacob his people and Israel his inheritance.
72 So he fed them out of the integrity of his heart and guided them by the intelligence of his hands.

Psalms 78 Commentary

Chapter 78

Attention called for. (1-8) The history of Israel. (9-39) Their settlement in Canaan. (40-55) The mercies of God to Israel contrasted with their ingratitude. (56-72)

Verses 1-8 These are called dark and deep sayings, because they are carefully to be looked into. The law of God was given with a particular charge to teach it diligently to their children, that the church may abide for ever. Also, that the providences of God, both in mercy and in judgment, might encourage them to conform to the will of God. The works of God much strengthen our resolution to keep his commandments. Hypocrisy is the high road to apostacy; those that do not set their hearts right, will not be stedfast with God. Many parents, by negligence and wickedness, become murderers of their children. But young persons, though they are bound to submit in all things lawful, must not obey sinful orders, or copy sinful examples.

9-39. Sin dispirits men, and takes away the heart. Forgetfulness of God's works is the cause of disobedience to his laws. This narrative relates a struggle between God's goodness and man's badness. The Lord hears all our murmurings and distrusts, and is much displeased. Those that will not believe the power of God's mercy, shall feel the fire of his indignation. Those cannot be said to trust in God's salvation as their happiness at last, who can not trust his providence in the way to it. To all that by faith and prayer, ask, seek, and knock, these doors of heaven shall at any time be opened; and our distrust of God is a great aggravation of our sins. He expressed his resentment of their provocation; not in denying what they sinfully lusted after, but in granting it to them. Lust is contented with nothing. Those that indulge their lust, will never be estranged from it. Those hearts are hard indeed, that will neither be melted by the mercies of the Lord, nor broken by his judgments. Those that sin still, must expect to be in trouble still. And the reason why we live with so little comfort, and to so little purpose, is, because we do not live by faith. Under these rebukes they professed repentance, but they were not sincere, for they were not constant. In Israel's history we have a picture of our own hearts and lives. God's patience, and warnings, and mercies, imbolden them to harden their hearts against his word. And the history of kingdoms is much the same. Judgments and mercies have been little attended to, until the measure of their sins has been full. And higher advantages have not kept churches from declining from the commandments of God. Even true believers recollect, that for many a year they abused the kindness of Providence. When they come to heaven, how will they admire the Lord's patience and mercy in bringing them to his kingdom!

40-55. Let not those that receive mercy from God, be thereby made bold to sin, for the mercies they receive will hasten its punishment; yet let not those who are under Divine rebukes for sin, be discouraged from repentance. The Holy One of Israel will do what is most for his own glory, and what is most for their good. Their forgetting former favours, led them to limit God for the future. God made his own people to go forth like sheep; and guided them in the wilderness, as a shepherd his flock, with all care and tenderness. Thus the true Joshua, even Jesus, brings his church out of the wilderness; but no earthly Canaan, no worldly advantages, should make us forget that the church is in the wilderness while in this world, and that there remaineth a far more glorious rest for the people of God.

Verses 56-72 After the Israelites were settled in Canaan, the children were like their fathers. God gave them his testimonies, but they turned back. Presumptuous sins render even Israelites hateful to God's holiness, and exposed to his justice. Those whom the Lord forsakes become an easy prey to the destroyer. And sooner or later, God will disgrace his enemies. He set a good government over his people; a monarch after his own heart. With good reason does the psalmist make this finishing, crowning instance of God's favour to Israel; for David was a type of Christ, the great and good Shepherd, who was humbled first, and then exalted; and of whom it was foretold, that he should be filled with the Spirit of wisdom and understanding. On the uprightness of his heart, and the skilfulness of his hands, all his subjects may rely; and of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end. Every trial of human nature hitherto, confirms the testimony of Scripture, that the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, and nothing but being created anew by the Holy Ghost can cure the ungodliness of any.

Chapter Summary

Maschil of Asaph. Or for "Asaph" {f}; a doctrinal and "instructive" psalm, as the word "Maschil" signifies; see Psalm 32:1, which was delivered to Asaph to be sung; the Targum is, "the understanding of the Holy Spirit by the hands of Asaph." Some think David was the penman of it; but from the latter part of it, in which mention is made of him, and of his government of the people of Israel, it looks as if it was wrote by another, and after his death, though not long after, since the account is carried on no further than his times; and therefore it is probable enough it was written by Asaph, the chief singer, that lived in that age: whoever was the penman of it, it is certain he was a prophet, and so was Asaph, who is called a seer, the same with a prophet, and who is said to prophesy, 2 Chronicles 29:30 and also that he represented Christ; for that the Messiah is the person that is introduced speaking in this psalm is clear from Matthew 13:34 and the whole may be considered as a discourse of his to the Jews of his time; giving them an history of the Israelites from their first coming out of Egypt to the times of David, and in it an account of the various benefits bestowed upon them, of their great ingratitude, and of the divine resentment; the design of which is to admonish and caution them against committing the like sins, lest they should be rejected of God, as their fathers were, and perish: some Jewish writers, as Arama observes, interpret this psalm of the children of Ephraim going out of Egypt before the time appointed.

Psalms 78 Commentaries

The Jubilee Bible (from the Scriptures of the Reformation), edited by Russell M. Stendal, Copyright © 2000, 2001, 2010