Psalms 81

For the director of music. According to gittith. Of Asaph.

1 [a][b]Sing for joy to God our strength; shout aloud to the God of Jacob!
2 Begin the music, strike the timbrel, play the melodious harp and lyre.
3 Sound the ram’s horn at the New Moon, and when the moon is full, on the day of our festival;
4 this is a decree for Israel, an ordinance of the God of Jacob.
5 When God went out against Egypt, he established it as a statute for Joseph. I heard an unknown voice say:
6 “I removed the burden from their shoulders; their hands were set free from the basket.
7 In your distress you called and I rescued you, I answered you out of a thundercloud; I tested you at the waters of Meribah.[c]
8 Hear me, my people, and I will warn you— if you would only listen to me, Israel!
9 You shall have no foreign god among you; you shall not worship any god other than me.
10 I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.
11 “But my people would not listen to me; Israel would not submit to me.
12 So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices.
13 “If my people would only listen to me, if Israel would only follow my ways,
14 how quickly I would subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes!
15 Those who hate the LORD would cringe before him, and their punishment would last forever.
16 But you would be fed with the finest of wheat; with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”

Psalms 81 Commentary

Chapter 81

God is praised for what he has done for his people. (1-7) Their obligations to him. (8-16)

Verses 1-7 All the worship we can render to the Lord is beneath his excellences, and our obligations to him, especially in our redemption from sin and wrath. What God had done on Israel's behalf, was kept in remembrance by public solemnities. To make a deliverance appear more gracious, more glorious, it is good to observe all that makes the trouble we are delivered from appear more grievous. We ought never to forget the base and ruinous drudgery to which Satan, our oppressor, brought us. But when, in distress of conscience, we are led to cry for deliverance, the Lord answers our prayers, and sets us at liberty. Convictions of sin, and trials by affliction, prove his regard to his people. If the Jews, on their solemn feast-days, were thus to call to mind their redemption out of Egypt, much more ought we, on the Christian sabbath, to call to mind a more glorious redemption, wrought out for us by our Lord Jesus Christ, from worse bondage.

Verses 8-16 We cannot look for too little from the creature, nor too much from the Creator. We may have enough from God, if we pray for it in faith. All the wickedness of the world is owing to man's wilfulness. People are not religious, because they will not be so. God is not the Author of their sin, he leaves them to the lusts of their own hearts, and the counsels of their own heads; if they do not well, the blame must be upon themselves. The Lord is unwilling that any should perish. What enemies sinners are to themselves! It is sin that makes our troubles long, and our salvation slow. Upon the same conditions of faith and obedience, do Christians hold those spiritual and eternal good things, which the pleasant fields and fertile hills of Canaan showed forth. Christ is the Bread of life; he is the Rock of salvation, and his promises are as honey to pious minds. But those who reject him as their Lord and Master, must also lose him as their Saviour and their reward.

Cross References 26

  • 1. S Psalms 66:1
  • 2. S Exodus 15:20
  • 3. Psalms 92:3
  • 4. S Job 21:12
  • 5. S Exodus 19:13
  • 6. S Nehemiah 10:33
  • 7. ver 1
  • 8. S Exodus 11:4
  • 9. Psalms 114:1
  • 10. S Exodus 1:14
  • 11. Isaiah 9:4; Isaiah 52:2
  • 12. S Exodus 2:23; Psalms 50:15
  • 13. Exodus 19:19
  • 14. S Exodus 17:7; S Deuteronomy 33:8
  • 15. Psalms 50:7; Psalms 78:1
  • 16. S Exodus 20:3; Deuteronomy 32:12; Isaiah 43:12
  • 17. S Exodus 6:6; S Exodus 13:3; S Exodus 29:46; Exodus 20:2
  • 18. Ezekiel 2:8
  • 19. Psalms 107:9
  • 20. Exodus 32:1-6
  • 21. Ezekiel 20:25; Acts 7:42; Romans 1:24
  • 22. S Deuteronomy 5:29; Isaiah 48:18
  • 23. Psalms 47:3
  • 24. Amos 1:8
  • 25. S 2 Samuel 22:45
  • 26. S Deuteronomy 32:14

Footnotes 3

  • [a]. In Hebrew texts 81:1-16 is numbered 81:2-17.
  • [b]. Title: Probably a musical term
  • [c]. The Hebrew has "Selah" (a word of uncertain meaning) here.

Chapter Summary

To the chief Musician upon Gittith, A [Psalm] of Asaph. Of "gittith," See Gill on "Ps 8:1." The Targum renders it, "upon the harp which came from Gath;" and so Jarchi says it was a musical instrument that came from Gath. The Septuagint, and the versions which follow that, render it, "for the winepresses." This psalm, according to Kimchi, is said concerning the going out of the children of Israel from Egypt; and was composed in order to be sung at their new moons and solemn feasts, which were typical of Gospel things in Gospel times; see Colossians 2:16 and so the Syriac version, "a psalm of Asaph, when David by him prepared himself for the solemnities."

Psalms 81 Commentaries

Scripture quoted by permission.  Quotations designated (NIV) are from THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®.  NIV®.  Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica.  All rights reserved worldwide.