Tehillim 78

1 8 (Maskil of Asaph.) Give ear, O my people, to my torah; incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
2 I will open my mouth in a mashal; I will utter dark sayings from of old,
3 Which we have heard and known, and Avoteinu have told us.
4 We will not hide them from their banim, recounting to the dor acharon the tehillot Hashem, and His power, and His nifla’ot (wonderful works) that He hath done.
5 For He established edut in Ya’akov, set torah in Yisroel, which He commanded Avoteinu, that they should make them known to their banim;
6 So that the dor acharon might know them, even the banim which should be born; who should arise and recount them to their banim;
7 That they might put their confidence in Elohim, and not forget the ma’allei El (works of G-d), but keep His mitzvot;
8 And might not be as their Avot, a dor sorer u’moreh (stubborn and rebellious generation); a generation that set not its lev aright, and whose ruach was not faithful to G-d.
9 The Bnei Ephrayim, being armed, and shooting keshet (the bows), turned back in the day of battle.
10 They kept not the Brit Elohim, and refused to walk in His torah;
11 And forgot His works, and His nifla’ot (wonders) that He had shown them.
12 Peleh (marvellous things) did He in the sight of their avot, in Eretz Mitzrayim, in the sadeh (area) of Tzoan.
13 He divided the yam, and caused them to pass through; and He made the mayim to stand like a heap.
14 In the daytime also He led them with an anan, and all the lailah with an ohr of eish.
15 He split the rocks in the midbar, and gave them drink as out of the great tehomot.
16 He brought streams also out of the rock, and caused mayim to run down like rivers.
17 And they sinned yet more against Him by provoking Elyon in the wilderness.
18 And they tested G-d by their lev by demanding ochel for their lust.
19 And they spoke against Elohim; they said, Can G-d spread a shulchan in the midbar?
20 Behold, He struck the Tzur, that the mayim gushed out, and the streams overflowed; can He give lechem also? Can He provide meat for His people?
21 Therefore Hashem heard this, and was in wrath; so an eish was kindled against Ya’akov, and anger also came up against Yisroel;
22 Because they believed not in Elohim, and trusted not in His Yeshuah (salvation);
23 Though He had commanded the clouds from above, and opened the daletei Shomayim (doors of heaven),
24 And had rained down manna upon them to eat, and had given them of the bread of Shomayim [see Yn 6:31 OJBC].
25 Ish did eat the bread of angels; He sent them lechem to the full.
26 He caused an east wind to blow from Shomayim; and by His oz He brought in the south wind.
27 He rained meat also upon them like aphar, and winged fowls like the chol (sand) of the sea;
28 And He let it fall in the midst of their machaneh, all around their mishkenot (habitations).
29 So they did eat, and were well filled; for He gave them their own ta’avah (evil desire).
30 They were not estranged from their ta’avah. But while their food was yet in their mouths,
31 The Af Elohim (wrath of G-d) came upon them, and slaughtered the stoutest of them, and cut down the bochurim of Yisroel.
32 For all this they sinned still, and believed not in His nifla’ot (wondrous works).
33 Therefore their yamim did He consume in hevel (futility, vanity) and their shanim in terror.
34 When He slaughtered them, then they sought Him; and they returned and inquired diligently after G-d.
35 And they remembered that Elohim was their Tzur, and the El Elyon their Go’el (Redeemer).
36 Nevertheless they did flatter Him with their mouth, and they lied unto Him with their leshon.
37 For their lev was not right with Him, neither were they faithful in His Brit.
38 But He, being full of compassion, made kapporah for their avon and destroyed them not; and He many times turned His anger away, and did not stir up all His wrath.
39 For He remembered that they were but basar; a ruach (wind) that passeth away, and cometh not again.
40 How oft did they provoke Him in the midbar, and grieve Him in the desert!
41 Again and again they turned back and tested G-d, and imposed limits on Kadosh Yisroel.
42 They remembered not His Yad (Hand, Power), nor the yom (day) when He redeemed them from the enemy.
43 How He had wrought His otot in Mitzrayim, and His mofetim in the area of Tzoan.
44 And had turned their rivers into dahm; and their streams, that they could not drink.
45 He sent swarms of flies among them, which devoured them; and tzfarde’a (frogs), which destroyed them.
46 He gave also their crop unto the grasshopper, and their produce unto the arbeh (locust).
47 He destroyed their gefen with barad (hail), and their fig trees with frost.
48 He gave up their cattle also to the barad (hail), and their livestock herds to hot thunderbolts.
49 He cast upon them His charon af, evrah (wrath), and za’am (indignation), and tzarah, by sending malachim ra’im among them.
50 He made a way for His anger; He spared not their nefesh from mavet (death), but gave their beasts over to the dever (plague);
51 And struck all the bechor in Mitzrayim; the reshit (first fruit) of their strength in the ohalim of Cham;
52 But made His own people to go forth like tzon, and guided them in the midbar like an eder (flock).
53 And He led them in safety, so that they had no terror; but the yam overwhelmed their oyevim.
54 And He brought them to His gevul kadosh (His holy border), even to this Har, which His Yamin had purchased.
55 He cast out the Goyim also before them, and divided by measure a nachalah for them, and made the Shivtei Yisroel to dwell in their ohalim.
56 Yet they tested and provoked Elohim Elyon, and were not shomer over His edot;
57 But turned back, and dealt unfaithfully like their avot; they turned like a treacherous keshet.
58 For they provoked Him to anger with their high places, and moved Him to jealousy with their pesilim.
59 When Elohim heard this, He was in wrath, and greatly abhorred Yisroel;
60 So that He forsook the Mishkan of Shiloh, the Ohel which He placed among adam (men);
61 And delivered His oz (strength) into captivity, and His tiferet into the hand of the enemy.
62 He gave His people over also unto the cherev; and was in wrath with His nachalah.
63 The eish consumed their bochurim; and their betulot had no wedding celebration.
64 Their kohanim fell by the cherev; and their almanot made no lamentation.
65 Then Adonoi awaked as one from sleep, and like a gibbor that shouteth from yayin.
66 And He struck down His enemies behind; He put them to cherpat olam (perpetual reproach).
67 Moreover He rejected the Ohel Yosef, and chose not the Shevet Ephrayim;
68 But chose the Shevet Yehudah, Har Tziyon which He loved.
69 And He built His Mikdash like heavenly heights, like Eretz which He hath established l’olam.
70 He chose Dovid also His Eved, and took him from the mikhle’ot tzon (sheepfolds);
71 From following the nursing ewes He brought him to shepherd Ya’akov His people, and Yisroel His nachalah.
72 So he shepherded them according to the tohm (integrity, guilelessness) of his lev; and led them by the skillfulness of his hands.

Tehillim 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.

Tehillim 78 Commentaries

The Orthodox Jewish Bible fourth edition, OJB. Copyright 2002,2003,2008,2010, 2011 by Artists for Israel International. All rights reserved.