Psalms 78

1 An Instruction of Asaph. Give ear, O my people, to my law, Incline your ear to sayings of my mouth.
2 I open with a simile my mouth, I bring forth hidden things of old,
3 That we have heard and do know, And our fathers have recounted to us.
4 We do not hide from their sons, To a later generation recounting praises of Jehovah, And His strength, and His wonders that He hath done.
5 And He raiseth up a testimony in Jacob, And a law hath placed in Israel, That He commanded our fathers, To make them known to their sons.
6 So that a later generation doth know, Sons who are born, do rise and recount to their sons,
7 And place in God their confidence, And forget not the doings of God, But keep His commands.
8 And they are not like their fathers, A generation apostate and rebellious, A generation! it hath not prepared its heart, Nor stedfast with God [is] its spirit.
9 Sons of Ephraim -- armed bearers of bow, Have turned in a day of conflict.
10 They have not kept the covenant of God, And in His law they have refused to walk,
11 And they forget His doings, And His wonders that He shewed them.
12 Before their fathers He hath done wonders, In the land of Egypt -- the field of Zoan.
13 He cleft a sea, and causeth them to pass over, Yea, He causeth waters to stand as a heap.
14 And leadeth them with a cloud by day, And all the night with a light of fire.
15 He cleaveth rocks in a wilderness, And giveth drink -- as the great deep.
16 And bringeth out streams from a rock, And causeth waters to come down as rivers.
17 And they add still to sin against Him, To provoke the Most High in the dry place.
18 And they try God in their heart, To ask food for their lust.
19 And they speak against God -- they said: `Is God able to array a table in a wilderness?'
20 Lo, He hath smitten a rock, And waters flow, yea, streams overflow. `Also -- bread [is] He able to give? Doth He prepare flesh for His people?'
21 Therefore hath Jehovah heard, And He sheweth Himself wroth, And fire hath been kindled against Jacob, And anger also hath gone up against Israel,
22 For they have not believed in God, Nor have they trusted in His salvation.
23 And He commandeth clouds from above, Yea, doors of the heavens He hath opened.
24 And He raineth on them manna to eat, Yea, corn of heaven He hath given to them.
25 Food of the mighty hath each eaten, Venison He sent to them to satiety.
26 He causeth an east wind to journey in the heavens, And leadeth by His strength a south wind,
27 And He raineth on them flesh as dust, And as sand of the seas -- winged fowl,
28 And causeth [it] to fall in the midst of His camp, Round about His tabernacles.
29 And they eat, and are greatly satisfied, And their desire He bringeth to them.
30 They have not been estranged from their desire, Yet [is] their food in their mouth,
31 And the anger of God hath gone up against them, And He slayeth among their fat ones, And youths of Israel He caused to bend.
32 With all this they have sinned again, And have not believed in His wonders.
33 And He consumeth in vanity their days, And their years in trouble.
34 If He slew them, then they sought Him, And turned back, and sought God earnestly,
35 And they remember that God [is] their rock, And God Most High their redeemer.
36 And -- they deceive Him with their mouth, And with their tongue do lie to Him,
37 And their heart hath not been right with Him, And they have not been stedfast in His covenant.
38 And He -- the Merciful One, Pardoneth iniquity, and destroyeth not, And hath often turned back His anger, And waketh not up all His fury.
39 And He remembereth that they [are] flesh, A wind going on -- and it returneth not.
40 How often do they provoke Him in the wilderness, Grieve Him in the desolate place?
41 Yea, they turn back, and try God, And the Holy One of Israel have limited.
42 They have not remembered His hand The day He ransomed them from the adversary.
43 When He set His signs in Egypt, And His wonders in the field of Zoan,
44 And He turneth to blood their streams, And their floods they drink not.
45 He sendeth among them the beetle, and it consumeth them, And the frog, and it destroyeth them,
46 And giveth to the caterpillar their increase, And their labour to the locust.
47 He destroyeth with hail their vine, And their sycamores with frost,
48 And delivereth up to the hail their beasts, And their cattle to the burning flames.
49 He sendeth on them the fury of His anger, Wrath, and indignation, and distress -- A discharge of evil messengers.
50 He pondereth a path for His anger, He kept not back their soul from death, Yea, their life to the pestilence He delivered up.
51 And He smiteth every first-born in Egypt, The first-fruit of the strong in tents of Ham.
52 And causeth His people to journey as a flock, And guideth them as a drove in a wilderness,
53 And He leadeth them confidently, And they have not been afraid, And their enemies hath the sea covered.
54 And He bringeth them in unto the border of His sanctuary, This mountain His right hand had got,
55 And casteth out nations from before them, And causeth them to fall in the line of inheritance, And causeth the tribes of Israel to dwell in their tents,
56 And they tempt and provoke God Most High, And His testimonies have not kept.
57 And they turn back, And deal treacherously like their fathers, They have been turned like a deceitful bow,
58 And make Him angry with their high places, And with their graven images make Him zealous,
59 God hath heard, and sheweth Himself wroth. And kicketh exceedingly against Israel.
60 And He leaveth the tabernacle of Shiloh, The tent He had placed among men,
61 And He giveth His strength to captivity, And His beauty into the hand of an adversary,
62 And delivereth up to the sword His people, And with His inheritance shewed Himself angry.
63 His young men hath fire consumed, And His virgins have not been praised.
64 His priests by the sword have fallen, And their widows weep not.
65 And the Lord waketh as a sleeper, As a mighty one crying aloud from wine.
66 And He smiteth His adversaries backward, A reproach age-during He hath put on them,
67 And He kicketh against the tent of Joseph, And on the tribe of Ephraim hath not fixed.
68 And He chooseth the tribe of Judah, With mount Zion that He loved,
69 And buildeth His sanctuary as a high place, Like the earth, He founded it to the age.
70 And He fixeth on David His servant, And taketh him from the folds of a flock,
71 From behind suckling ones He hath brought him in, To rule over Jacob His people, And over Israel His inheritance.
72 And he ruleth them according to the integrity of his heart, And by the skilfulness of his hands leadeth 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.

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

Young's Literal Translation is in the public domain.