Psalms 78

A maskil of Asaph.

1 [a]My people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth.
2 I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from of old—
3 things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us.
4 We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done.
5 He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach their children,
6 so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children.
7 Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.
8 They would not be like their ancestors— a stubborn and rebellious generation, whose hearts were not loyal to God, whose spirits were not faithful to him.
9 The men of Ephraim, though armed with bows, turned back on the day of battle;
10 they did not keep God’s covenant and refused to live by his law.
11 They forgot what he had done, the wonders he had shown them.
12 He did miracles in the sight of their ancestors in the land of Egypt, in the region of Zoan.
13 He divided the sea and led them through; he made the water stand up like a wall.
14 He guided them with the cloud by day and with light from the fire all night.
15 He split the rocks in the wilderness and gave them water as abundant as the seas;
16 he brought streams out of a rocky crag and made water flow down like rivers.
17 But they continued to sin against him, rebelling in the wilderness against the Most High.
18 They willfully put God to the test by demanding the food they craved.
19 They spoke against God; they said, “Can God really spread a table in the wilderness?
20 True, he struck the rock, and water gushed out, streams flowed abundantly, but can he also give us bread? Can he supply meat for his people?”
21 When the LORD heard them, he was furious; his fire broke out against Jacob, and his wrath rose against Israel,
22 for they did not believe in God or trust in his deliverance.
23 Yet he gave a command to the skies above and opened the doors of the heavens;
24 he rained down manna for the people to eat, he gave them the grain of heaven.
25 Human beings ate the bread of angels; he sent them all the food they could eat.
26 He let loose the east wind from the heavens and by his power made the south wind blow.
27 He rained meat down on them like dust, birds like sand on the seashore.
28 He made them come down inside their camp, all around their tents.
29 They ate till they were gorged— he had given them what they craved.
30 But before they turned from what they craved, even while the food was still in their mouths,
31 God’s anger rose against them; he put to death the sturdiest among them, cutting down the young men of Israel.
32 In spite of all this, they kept on sinning; in spite of his wonders, they did not believe.
33 So he ended their days in futility and their years in terror.
34 Whenever God slew them, they would seek him; they eagerly turned to him again.
35 They remembered that God was their Rock, that God Most High was their Redeemer.
36 But then they would flatter him with their mouths, lying to him with their tongues;
37 their hearts were not loyal to him, they were not faithful to his covenant.
38 Yet he was merciful; he forgave their iniquities and did not destroy them. Time after time he restrained his anger and did not stir up his full wrath.
39 He remembered that they were but flesh, a passing breeze that does not return.
40 How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness and grieved him in the wasteland!
41 Again and again they put God to the test; they vexed the Holy One of Israel.
42 They did not remember his power— the day he redeemed them from the oppressor,
43 the day he displayed his signs in Egypt, his wonders in the region of Zoan.
44 He turned their river into blood; they could not drink from their streams.
45 He sent swarms of flies that devoured them, and frogs that devastated them.
46 He gave their crops to the grasshopper, their produce to the locust.
47 He destroyed their vines with hail and their sycamore-figs with sleet.
48 He gave over their cattle to the hail, their livestock to bolts of lightning.
49 He unleashed against them his hot anger, his wrath, indignation and hostility— a band of destroying angels.
50 He prepared a path for his anger; he did not spare them from death but gave them over to the plague.
51 He struck down all the firstborn of Egypt, the firstfruits of manhood in the tents of Ham.
52 But he brought his people out like a flock; he led them like sheep through the wilderness.
53 He guided them safely, so they were unafraid; but the sea engulfed their enemies.
54 And so he brought them to the border of his holy land, to the hill country his right hand had taken.
55 He drove out nations before them and allotted their lands to them as an inheritance; he settled the tribes of Israel in their homes.
56 But they put God to the test and rebelled against the Most High; they did not keep his statutes.
57 Like their ancestors they were disloyal and faithless, as unreliable as a faulty bow.
58 They angered him with their high places; they aroused his jealousy with their idols.
59 When God heard them, he was furious; he rejected Israel completely.
60 He abandoned the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent he had set up among humans.
61 He sent the ark of his might into captivity, his splendor into the hands of the enemy.
62 He gave his people over to the sword; he was furious with his inheritance.
63 Fire consumed their young men, and their young women had no wedding songs;
64 their priests were put to the sword, and their widows could not weep.
65 Then the Lord awoke as from sleep, as a warrior wakes from the stupor of wine.
66 He beat back his enemies; he put them to everlasting shame.
67 Then he rejected the tents of Joseph, he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim;
68 but he chose the tribe of Judah, Mount Zion, which he loved.
69 He built his sanctuary like the heights, like the earth that he established forever.
70 He chose David his servant and took him from the sheep pens;
71 from tending the sheep he brought him to be the shepherd of his people Jacob, of Israel his inheritance.
72 And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.

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.

Cross References 110

  • 1. Isaiah 51:4; Isaiah 55:3
  • 2. S Psalms 49:4; S Matthew 13:35*
  • 3. S Judges 6:13; Psalms 44:1
  • 4. S Deuteronomy 11:19
  • 5. S Deuteronomy 32:7; S Psalms 71:18
  • 6. Psalms 26:7; Psalms 71:17
  • 7. S Job 5:9
  • 8. Psalms 19:7; Psalms 81:5
  • 9. Psalms 147:19
  • 10. S Psalms 22:31; Psalms 102:18
  • 11. S Deuteronomy 6:12
  • 12. S Deuteronomy 5:29
  • 13. S 2 Chronicles 30:7
  • 14. S Exodus 32:9
  • 15. ver 37; S Exodus 23:21; S Deuteronomy 21:18; Isaiah 30:9; Isaiah 65:2
  • 16. ver 57; 1 Chronicles 12:2; Hosea 7:16
  • 17. S Judges 20:39
  • 18. S Joshua 7:11; S 2 Kings 17:15
  • 19. S Exodus 16:28; S Jeremiah 11:8
  • 20. Psalms 106:13
  • 21. S Nehemiah 9:17; Psalms 106:22
  • 22. Exodus 11:9; Ex 7-12
  • 23. S Numbers 13:22
  • 24. S Exodus 14:21; Psalms 66:6; Psalms 136:13
  • 25. S Exodus 14:22; S Exodus 15:8
  • 26. Exodus 13:21; Psalms 105:39
  • 27. S Numbers 20:11; 1 Corinthians 10:4
  • 28. ver 32,40; Deuteronomy 9:22; Isaiah 30:1; Isaiah 63:10; Hebrews 3:16
  • 29. S Exodus 17:2; 1 Corinthians 10:9
  • 30. S Exodus 15:24; Exodus 16:2; Numbers 11:4
  • 31. Numbers 21:5
  • 32. S Numbers 20:11; S Isaiah 35:6
  • 33. Numbers 11:18
  • 34. S Numbers 11:1
  • 35. S Deuteronomy 1:32; Hebrews 3:19
  • 36. Genesis 7:11; S 2 Kings 7:2; Malachi 3:10
  • 37. Exodus 16:4; John 6:31*
  • 38. S Numbers 11:31
  • 39. S Exodus 16:13; Numbers 11:31
  • 40. S Numbers 11:20
  • 41. S Numbers 11:33
  • 42. Isaiah 10:16
  • 43. S ver 17
  • 44. ver 11
  • 45. ver 22
  • 46. Numbers 14:29,35
  • 47. S Deuteronomy 4:29; Hosea 5:15
  • 48. S Genesis 49:24; Deuteronomy 32:4
  • 49. S Deuteronomy 9:26
  • 50. Ezekiel 33:31
  • 51. ver 8; Acts 8:21
  • 52. S Exodus 34:6
  • 53. Isaiah 1:25; Isaiah 27:9; Isaiah 48:10; Daniel 11:35
  • 54. Psalms 25:11; Psalms 85:2; Numbers 14:18,20
  • 55. S Job 9:13; S Isaiah 30:18
  • 56. S Genesis 6:3; Psalms 103:14; S Isaiah 29:5
  • 57. S Job 7:7; James 4:14
  • 58. S Exodus 23:21; Hebrews 3:16
  • 59. Psalms 95:8; Psalms 106:14
  • 60. Ephesians 4:30
  • 61. S Exodus 17:2; Numbers 14:22
  • 62. S 2 Kings 19:22; Psalms 71:22; Psalms 89:18
  • 63. S Judges 3:7; S Nehemiah 9:17
  • 64. S Psalms 27:11
  • 65. Exodus 10:1
  • 66. S Exodus 3:20
  • 67. Exodus 7:20-21; Psalms 105:29
  • 68. Exodus 8:24; Psalms 105:31
  • 69. S Exodus 8:2,6
  • 70. Nahum 3:15
  • 71. S Exodus 10:13
  • 72. Exodus 9:23; Psalms 105:32; Psalms 147:17
  • 73. Exodus 9:25
  • 74. Exodus 15:7
  • 75. S Genesis 19:13; 1 Corinthians 10:10
  • 76. S Exodus 12:12; Exodus 12:29; Psalms 135:8
  • 77. Psalms 105:23; Psalms 106:22
  • 78. S Job 21:11; S Psalms 28:9; Psalms 77:20
  • 79. S Exodus 14:28
  • 80. Exodus 15:7; Psalms 106:10
  • 81. Exodus 15:17; Psalms 44:3
  • 82. Psalms 44:2
  • 83. S Deuteronomy 1:38; S Joshua 13:7; Acts 13:19
  • 84. S 2 Chronicles 30:7; Ezekiel 20:27
  • 85. S ver 9; Hosea 7:16
  • 86. S Judges 2:12
  • 87. S Leviticus 26:30
  • 88. Exodus 20:4; S Deuteronomy 5:8; Deuteronomy 32:21
  • 89. Psalms 55:19
  • 90. S Leviticus 26:28; S Numbers 32:14
  • 91. S Deuteronomy 32:19
  • 92. S Joshua 18:1
  • 93. Ezekiel 8:6
  • 94. Psalms 132:8
  • 95. S 1 Samuel 4:17
  • 96. S Deuteronomy 28:25
  • 97. S 1 Samuel 10:1
  • 98. S Numbers 11:1
  • 99. S 1 Kings 4:32; Jeremiah 7:34; Jeremiah 16:9; Jeremiah 25:10
  • 100. 1 Samuel 4:17; 1 Samuel 22:18
  • 101. Psalms 44:23
  • 102. 1 Samuel 5:6
  • 103. Jeremiah 7:15; Hosea 9:13; Hosea 12:1
  • 104. S Numbers 1:7; Psalms 108:8
  • 105. S Exodus 15:17; S Psalms 68:16; Psalms 87:2
  • 106. S Psalms 15:1
  • 107. S 1 Samuel 16:1
  • 108. S Genesis 37:2
  • 109. 2 Samuel 5:2; S Psalms 28:9
  • 110. S Genesis 17:1; 1 Kings 9:4

Footnotes 1

  • [a]. Title: Probably a literary or musical term

Chapter Summary

Psalms 78 Commentaries

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