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Psalm 75

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
God Abases the Proud, but Exalts the Righteous
MT Intro
For the choir director; set to Al-tashheth. A Psalm of Asaph. A Song
Thanksgiving For God's Righteous Judgment National Thanksgiving for God's Mighty Acts God the Judge The Universal Judge
75:1-5 75:1 75:1 75:1 75:1
  75:2-3 75:2-5 75:2-5 75:2-3
  75:4-5     75:4-5
75:6-8 75:6-8 75:6-9 75:6-8 75:6-8
75:9-10 75:9   75:9-10 75:9-10
  75:10 75:10    

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. It is difficult to know when the psalmist is speaking and when he is speaking for God.

1. Psalm 75:1 - obviously the psalmist

2. Psalm 75:2-3 - obviously God

3. Psalm 75:4-5 - could be either one

4. Psalm 75:6-8 - the psalmist

5. Psalm 75:9 - God (MT, "I")

B. God acts and then His acts must be recorded and explained (i.e., inspiration) to human authors to put this revelation into a form that can be passed on to future generations (i.e., oral, written, stories).

C. The Creator will require an account of every human creature's stewardship of the gift of life and revelation (cf. Ps. 19:1-6,7-11)! Justice will come one day!

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 75:1-5
 1We give thanks to You, O God, we give thanks,
 For Your name is near;
 Men declare Your wondrous works.
 2"When I select an appointed time,
 It is I who judge with equity.
 3The earth and all who dwell in it melt;
 It is I who have firmly set its pillars.  Selah.
 4I said to the boastful, ‘Do not boast,'
 And to the wicked, ‘Do not lift up the horn;
 5Do not lift up your horn on high,
 Do not speak with insolent pride.'"

75:1 "We give thanks" This verb (BDB 392, KB 389, Hiphil perfect) is repeated twice for emphasis (note Ps. 107:1,8,15,21,31). The term in the Hiphil is used often (65 times) in the Psalter. It is translated mostly as "praise," but in Ps. 32:5 it is translated "confess."

NASB, NKJV,
NRSV"For Your name is near"
NJB, RSV,
Peshitta, LXX"we call upon your name"
JPSOA"Your presence is near"

The MT is followed by NASB. The UBS Text Project (p. 326) gives the second option a "C" rating (considerable doubt), but accepts it as the most likely original text.

The problem is, what does "and near Your name" mean?

1. we tell of Your presence with Your people in acts of deliverance

2. You (i.e., "Your name," which equals YHWH's personal presence) are near now and we can expect You to act (because of Israel's sin YYWH had not always delivered them)

3. we call on Your name and tell what You have done for the covenant people (two separate acts)

4. AB makes it a title for God, "O Near One," as it does

a. "the Exalted One" in Ps. 75:5a

b. "the Victor" in Ps. 75:6 (twice)

c. "the Eternal" in Ps. 74:9

d. "the Just One" in Ps. 74:10

AB claims there are twelve divine names in this Psalm.

▣ "Men declare Your wondrous works" As Israel taught her children about their ancestors and God's promises (cf. Deut. 4:9,10; 6:7,20-25; 11:19; 32:46), they were passing on the promises and their fulfillment in the next generation. These "wondrous acts" (BDB 810, KB 927, see Special Topic: Wonderful Things) were the powerful acts of deliverance, protection, and provision that Israel had experienced throughout her history.

This revelation of the character, promises, and faithful interventions of YHWH were a way to

1. keep Israel in faith

2. bring the nations to faith

The NIDOTTE, vol. 3, p. 284, lists the different words used to describe God's acts which reveal His character.

1. wonders, cf. Ps. 9:1; 26:7; 40:5; 75:1

2. work/acts, cf. Ps. 44:1; 73:28; 107:22; 118:17

3. glory, cf. Ps. 96:3

4. righteousness, cf. Ps. 71:15

5. loyal love, cf. Ps. 88:11

6. greatness, cf. Ps. 145:6

75:2-5 "When I select an appointed time" In these verses, God is the speaker. It is possible this relates to Ps. 74:22-23 (i.e., God pleading His case).

75:2 "I select an appointed time" This is a literary way of asserting God's sovereignty. He sets the time and place of all world events (i.e., Ps. 74:12-17; Deut. 32:8; Romans 9-11).

1. seasons - Gen. 1:14-18; Ps. 72:17; 74:16-17; 104:19; 136:7-8

2. worship days - Gen. 2:3; Exod. 20:8-11; Leviticus 23; Numbers 28-29

3. all things are appointed by God - Eccl. 3:1-11 (cf. Job 14:5; Ps. 31:15; Acts 17:31)

God's people do not understand His timetable. He delivers on His schedule, not His people's. Often judgment, even invasion, is His will! But one day He will set all things straight!

▣ "I who judge with equity" Two theological points are asserted.

1. God will judge the earth

2. He will do it fairly based on His revelation (cf. Ps. 9:8; 58:11; 67:4; 96:10,13; 98:9)

75:3 "The earth and all who dwell in it melt" The verbal (BDB 556, KB 555, Niphal participle, cf. Exod. 15:15; Jos. 2:9,24; 1 Sam. 14:16; Isa. 14:31; Jer. 49:23) denotes the fear of a population.

Not only people's hearts melt but the earth itself is affected by the presence of its Creator/Judge (cf. Ps. 46:6; Isa. 24:19-20; Amos 9:5; Micah 1:4; Nahum 1:5).

In the NT 2 Peter 3:10 predicts the dissolving of this planet (cf. Matt. 5:18; 24:35; Rev. 21:1).

There is a new heaven and a new earth coming. The new covenant of Jer. 31:31-34 will be fully implemented. The Bible describes this new age in terms of Garden of Eden imagery (compare Genesis 1-2 with Revelation 21-22).

▣ "It is I who have firmly set its pillars" This is a literary way of referring to the foundations of the earth (i.e., initial creation, cf. 1 Sam. 2:8; Job 38:4-6).

In Jonah 2:6 the "roots of the mountains" is also creation imagery. See my notes below from Jonah 2:6.

Jonah 2:6 "I descended to the roots of the mountains" The OT uses the physical direction "down" to describe Sheol (BDB 432, KB 434, Qal PERFECT, cf. Num. 16:30,33; Ps. 55:15; Isa. 5:14; 14:19). The term Sheol and "pit" (BDB 1001) are parallel (cf. Ps. 30:3). It is this metaphorical expression of Jonah's sense of approaching the underworld that makes his experience the object of Jesus' comment (cf. Matt. 12:40-41; Luke 11:30). Jonah believed he was going to die, but God had mercy on him! God's judgment was not His last word. There was purpose in the punishment.

The psalmist and the covenant people did not understand why they faced such difficulties when they knew their God was in control of all things! Even amidst chaos, invasion, and injustice God's sovereignty was stable and sure (cf. Revelation 4-5)! His timetable is geared to His larger redemptive purposes, not our immediate wants/desires/needs!

▣ "Selah" See note at Psalm 3:2 and Introduction VII.

75:4-5 The Creator speaks as the Moral Guide. YHWH's laws reflected His character. The ones who face His judgment were those who

1. boast - "do not boast," BDB 237, KB 248, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

2. wicked - "do not lift up your horn," BDB 926, KB 1202 (twice), Hiphil imperfects used in a jussive sense

3. prideful - "do not speak. . .," BDB 180, KB 210, Piel imperfect used in a jussive sense

It seems that "the wicked," (Ps. 7:4) of this Psalm are

1.  pagan nations who are attempting an invasion

2. arrogant Israelites (cf. Ps. 78:3,8-9,18-19)

75:4 "horn" This is an animal symbol of power and preeminence (see SPECIAL TOPIC: HORNS USED BY ISRAEL, cf. Ps. 75:10; 1 Sam. 2:1,10; Daniel 7-8).

75:5

NASB"pride"
NKJV, NRSV,
Peshitta"neck"
NEB, LXX"Rock"

The MT has "neck" (BDB 848). The REB has "rock." The two words are very similar (i.e., "rock" has one more consonant). Possibly REB reflects the usage of Job 15:26. The UBS Text Project (p. 326) gives "neck" a "C" rating (considerable doubt). The JPSOA has "in vainglorious bluster."

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 75:6-8
 6For not from the east, nor from the west,
 Nor from the desert comes exaltation;
 7But God is the Judge;
 He puts down one and exalts another.
 8For a cup is in the hand of the Lord, and the wine foams;
 It is well mixed, and He pours out of this;
 Surely all the wicked of the earth must drain and drink down its dregs.

75:6-8 This strophe reflects the universal presence of YHWH, much like Psalm 139 does, but here the context focuses on His judgment of the wicked (cf. Ps. 75:4-5).

Often the wicked seem to have the upper hand but God will set things straight (cf. Ps. 146:7; 1 Sam. 2:7; Romans 9; James 4:10). This divine action will be a reversal of expectations.

75:6 This verse is using Palestinian/Canaanite imagery to assert universality.

1. east - west

2. sunrise - sunset

3. desert (south) - mountains (or "uplifting") which would denote the north

75:8 "a cup" This is usually an idiom for human destiny and it is usually negative (cf. Isa. 51:17,22; Jer. 25:15-16,27-28). See full note at Ps. 11:6.

▣ "It is well mixed" This refers to the ancient method of mixing different types of fermented fruits and grains to form more intoxicating drinks. See Special Topic: Alcohol and Alcohol Abuse.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 75:9-10
 9But as for me, I will declare it forever;
 I will sing praises to the God of Jacob.
 10And all the horns of the wicked He will cut off,
 But the horns of the righteous will be lifted up.

75:9-10 This strophe is the closing words of the psalmist.

1. he will declare YHWH's wondrous deeds (cf. Ps. 75:1)

2. he will sing praises to the God of Jacob

3. he will affirm the reversal of YHWH's righteous judgment

This reflects a temple worship setting!

75:9 The MT has "I will declare" but the LXX and Peshitta have, "I will rejoice" (cf. NRSV). The difference is one consonant. The LXX is attempting to establish a synonymous parallelism between Ps. 75:9a and 9b.

75:10 "He will cut off" The MT has "I will." The UBS Text Project (p. 328) gives this an "A" rating.

This Psalm has several speakers. Possibly Ps. 75:9 is the psalmist and 75:10 is YHWH.

▣ "horns" Notice that this idiom can be used positively or negatively (see SPECIAL TOPIC: HORNS USED BY ISRAEL).

1. negatively - cf. Ps. 75:4-5,10a; Jer. 48:25; Lam. 2:17

2. positively -cf. Ps. 75:10b; 1 Sam. 2:1,10; Ps. 89:17,24; 92:10; 112:9

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. List the different speakers in this Psalm.

2. Does this Psalm magnify God as Creator or Judge?

3. Explain the imagery of

a. "pillars"

b. "horn"

c. "cup"

4. Does this Psalm look toward a temporal judgment or an end-time judgment?

Psalm 76

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Victorious Power of the God of Jacob
MT Intro
For the choir director; on stringed instruments. A Psalm of Asaph. A Song.
The Majesty of God in Judgment A Song of Zion Celebrating God's Ultimate Victory Over the Nations God the Victor Hymn to God the Awe-inspiring
76:1-3 76:1-3 76:1-3 76:1-3 76:1-3
76:4-7 76:4-6 76:4-6 76:4-6 76:4-6
  76:7-9 76:7-9 76:7-9 76:7-9
76:8-10        
  76:10-12 76:10-12 76:10 76:10-12
76:11-12     76:11-12  

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. The OT mentions what seems to be conflicting revelation.

1. God's special care and attention to the family of Abraham (Ps. 76:1-7)

2. God's desire for all the nations to know Him (Ps. 76:8-12)

B. I think this very issue is the purpose of the new covenant which is revealed in the NT (i.e., the gospel of Jesus Christ). I have tried to express this theological tension in two Special Topics.

1. Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan

2. Special Topic: OT Predictions of the Future vs. NT Predictions

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 76:1-3
 1God is known in Judah;
 His name is great in Israel.
 2His tabernacle is in Salem;
 His dwelling place also is in Zion.
 3There He broke the flaming arrows,
 The shield and the sword and the weapons of war.  Selah.

76:1-3 This strophe reflects the "holy war" imagery (Ps. 76:3). The historical setting seems to be the period of the Divided Monarchy (i.e., 922 b.c.-586 b.c.) because it mentions both Judah and Israel (922-722 b.c.). Exactly which military campaign or invasion by a pagan neighbor or ANE power is uncertain.

76:1 "known" The Hebrew connotation has two aspects.

1. information about something or someone (cf. Gen. 4:1; Jer. 1:5)

2. personal relationship

See Special Topic: Know.

▣ "His name" Notice that "His name" is parallel to Elohim.

For "name" see Special Topic at Ps. 1:6. For Elohim see SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY.

76:2 "Salem. . .Zion" See Special Topic:

SPECIAL TOPIC: Moriah, Salem, Jebus, Jerusalem, Zion

76:3 There are several military items listed to illustrate YHWH's military victory.

1. arrows (BDB 905)

2. shield (BDB 171)

3. sword (BDB 352)

4. weapons of war (BDB 536)

The destruction of the enemies' weapons (cf. Ps. 46:9; Isa. 9:5; Ezek. 39:9-10) became a way of showing that

1. the enemy is completely defeated

2. Israel trusted in YHWH and did not need the weapons

 

▣ "Selah" See notes at Psalm 3:2 and Introduction, VII.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 76:4-7
 4You are resplendent,
 More majestic than the mountains of prey.
 5The stouthearted were plundered,
 They sank into sleep;
 And none of the warriors could use his hands.
 6At Your rebuke, O God of Jacob,
 Both rider and horse were cast into a dead sleep.
 7You, even You, are to be feared;
 And who may stand in Your presence when once You are angry?

76:4-7 This strophe continues the military imagery.

76:4

NASB"resplendent. . .majestic"
NKJV"glorious and excellent"
NRSV, TEV"glorious. . .majestic"
NJB"radiant. . .renowned"
JPSOA"resplendent. . .glorious"

These two terms describe YHWH.

1. The first (BDB 21) may be another term related to "thunder bolt" (cf. Ps. 78:48) of Ps. 76:3, emphasizing a luminous aspect (i.e., light) to YHWH's presence, like the Shekinah Cloud of the Exodus.

2. The second (BDB 15) may refer to YHWH's superiority among all gods (idols), which is alluded to in Ps. 76:7 (cf. 1 Chr. 16:25; Ps. 89:7; 96:4).

 

NASB, NKJV,
JPSOA"the mountains of prey"
NRSV, REB,
LXX"the everlasting mountains"
NJB"the mountain of booty"
NET"you descend from the hills where you killed your prey"

Obviously this is a difficult phrase to interpret. The UBS Text Project (p. 330) gives the NRSV option a "C" rating (considerable doubt). This imagery may be the focus of Hab. 3:6. UBS suggests the NRSV or NJB options. The NET Bible sees it as a metaphor of a "lion."

76:5 "the stouthearted" This term (BDB 7 construct BDB 524) implies a stubborn, anti-God attitude (cf. Isa. 46:12). This characterizes the invaders who will be

1. killed (i.e., sleep, as a metaphor for death)

2. plundered (BDB 1021, KB 1531, Hithpoel perfect)

because they were so afraid they could not fight (i.e., use their hands).

NASB, NKJV"plundered"
NRSV"stripped of their spoil"
TEV"stripped of all they had"
NJB"taken from them" (used as verb for Ps. 76:4b)
LXX"were troubled"
REB, JPSOA"despoiled"
Peshitta"were dismayed"

This rare form (Hithpolel) is defined by KB (1531) as "to be robbed." BDB (1021) defines it as "spoiled." The invaders wanted to despoil God's city/temple, but were despoiled themselves.

76:6 "At Your rebuke" YHWH's powerful voice wins victories (cf. Ps. 80:16), as it creates (cf. Genesis 1; Job 26:5-11; Ps. 18:7-15; 104:5-9). His voice is an idiom of His will in the world. He speaks, it is done!

It is possible the rebuke (BDB 172) may refer to (1) a lion's roar from Ps. 76:4b. The JPSOA sees Ps. 76:2 as referring to a lion's den (uses Job 38:39-40 as a reference) or (2) a battle cry.

▣ "O God of Jacob" This is a title that focuses on YHWH's promises and covenant with the Patriarchs.

▣ "Both rider and horse were cast in a dead sleep" This is terminology from the splitting of the Red Sea for Israel's escape, but its closure on the elite Egyptian military unit (cf. Exod. 14:28,30; 15:1,21). This same imagery is found in Jeremiah's description of the defeat of Babylon (cf. Jer. 51:21).

It is possible that Ps. 76:6 is restating 76:5. If so, "sleep" is the warriors' inability to perform their skills (i.e., limp hands), not a reference to death, which is often described as "sleep" (cf. Deut. 31:16; 2 Sam. 7:12; 1 Kgs. 1:21; Job 7:21).

The OT often speaks of God's causing people to not understand by using "sleep," "seeing," "hearing" (i.e., Deut. 29:4; Ps. 69:23; Isa. 6:9-10; 29:10; Micah 3:6).

76:7 "to be feared" This may refer to

1. the enemies of the covenant God and His people

2. the idols of the nations (cf. Ps. 89:7; 96:4; 1 Chr. 16:25)

 

▣ "who may stand in Your presence" This is court scene imagery, usually associated with the end-time (cf. Ezra 9:15; Ps. 130:3; Nah. 1:6; Mal. 3:2; Rev. 6:17). God's people will be able to stand before Him on that day (i.e., Luke 21:36; Jude vv. 24-25).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 76:8-10
 8You caused judgment to be heard from heaven;
 The earth feared and was still
 9When God arose to judgment,
 To save all the humble of the earth.  Selah.
 10For the wrath of man shall praise You;
 With a remnant of wrath You will gird Yourself.

76:8-10 It is possible that Ps. 76:7 should go with this strophe (cf. NKJV, NRSV, TEV, NJB).

In this context "all the humble of the earth" refers to those who fear/revere YHWH (cf. Ps. 40:13-17). Note the universal element and the contrast between

1. God saves the humble

2. but all acknowledge Him (cf. Ps. 72:11; 76:12; Phil. 2:6-11)

 

76:10 "remnant" This word is used in several different senses.

 

SPECIAL TOPIC: The Remnant (BDB 984), Three Senses

This striking imagery alludes to YHWH as warrior (cf. Isa. 59:17). This same imagery is used by Paul in Eph. 6:10-17, which denotes "spiritual warfare." YHWH is the victor! YHWH is the champion of those who trust Him!

The UBS Handbook (p. 669) mentions that the NAB and NEB (also REB) change the vowels in this verse to geographical locations in the north (city) and south (nation) of Palestine to make it parallel to Ps. 76:11b.

1. man (אדם) becomes Edom (אדם)

2. wrath (המת) becomes Hamath (המת)

The problem is that the word "wrath" is used twice in Ps. 76:10. Unless it is a purposeful word play, this change of vowels is speculation and is not supported by any ancient versions.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 76:11-12
 11Make vows to the Lord your God and fulfill them;
 Let all who are around Him bring gifts to Him who is to be feared.
 12He will cut off the spirit of princes;
 He is feared by the kings of the earth.

76:11-12 As Ps. 76:7 could go with 76:8 and 9, so too, Ps. 76:10 could go with 76:11-12 (cf. NKJV, NRSV, TEV, NJB). Paragraphing does not have a textual marker. It is not an inspired aspect of the Hebrew text. Paragraphing must be ascertained from the context (i.e., every paragraph has one central truth or subject).

76:11a This describes "the humble" of Ps. 76:9. Two imperatives are used to describe their actions.

1. make vows - BDB 623, KB 674, Qal imperative

2. fulfill them - BDB 1022, KB 1532, Piel imperative (cf. Leviticus 27; Numbers 30; Deut. 23:21-23)

 

76:11b The second line of Ps. 76:11 has a Hiphil imperfect used in a jussive sense ("let all who are around Him bring gifts to Him. . ."). This is a third descriptive phrase referring to either

1. thank offering for the termination of a vow

2. appropriate sacrifice (cf. Leviticus 1-7)

If Ps. 76:11a refers to faithful followers in the covenant people, then 76:11b refers to worldwide followers who will worship YHWH (cf. Ps. 45:12; 68:29,31; 72:10; Isa. 18:7; Zeph. 3:10).

76:11 "bring gifts to Him" In Gen. 49:10, the famous prophecy of Jacob/Israel denotes Judah as the tribe from which Messiah will come. There the name Shiloh, שׁילה (BDB 1017) parallels "ruler," however it is possible to divide the consonants into שׁי לה, "tribute to him" (BDB 1010) by adding new vowels (cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 4, p. 1223). If this is correct then the concept of YHWH accepting "tribute" from the nations is confirmed (cf. Ps. 68:29; 76:11; Isa. 18:7). This tribute was an ANE way of showing sovereignty. One day the nations will come to YHWH (see Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan).

76:12 As YHWH's deliverance/salvation is universal (cf. Ps. 76:9), so too, His judgment (Ps. 76:12).

The term "spirit" (ruach, BDB 924) means human person.

The verb "cut off" (BDB 130, KB 148, Qal imperfect) is a Hebrew root that has several meanings.

1. cut off - meaning to take away

2. cut off - meaning to gather, such as a grape harvest

3. cut off - by fortifying an enclosed place (i.e., fortress)

Because of Ps. 76:11 one wonders if option #2 may denote an end-time gathering of believing nations (i.e., "princes," BDB 617, cf. Ezek. 28:2) who fear (lit. who is terrible, BDB 431, KB 432, Niphal participle) God by denoting His awesome power in protecting Jerusalem and His covenant people.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Does Ps. 76:1 reflect the period of the divided Monarchy?

2. Why is Ps. 76:4 so hard to translate?

3. Is Ps. 76:9 another universal allusion or a reference to the Jews in exile?

4. How do Ps. 76:11-12 relate to the preceding verses?

Psalm 77

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Comfort In Trouble From Recalling God's Mighty Deeds
MT Intro
For the choir director; according to Jeduthun.
A Psalm of Asaph.
The Consoling Memory of God's Redemptive Works Prayer For Deliverance From Personal Trouble Comfort in Times of Distress Meditations on Israel's Past
77:1-6 77:1-3 77:1-3 77:1-3 77:1
        77:2-3
  77:4-6 77:4-10 77:4-10 77:4-6
77:7-10 77:7-9     77:7-9
  77:10-15     77:10-12
77:11-15   77:11-15 77:11-15  
        77:13-15
77:16-20 77:16-20 77:16-20 77:16-20 77:16-17
        77:18-19
        77:20

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. This Psalm is characterized by cohortatives (8). The psalmist is remembering what he did and what YHWH has done in the past.

B. Psalm 77:11-15, 16-20 focus on YHWH's acts of

1. deliverance

2. creation

C. YHWH is the

1. creator

2. warrior

3. sustainer

4. shepherd

D. This Psalm specifically mentions

1. Jacob, Ps. 77:15

2. Joseph, Ps. 77:15

3. Moses, Ps. 77:20

4. Aaron, Ps. 77:20

YHWH's past acts of deliverance and provision seem long ago and far away. Note the series of questions in Ps. 77:7-9.

E. Psalm 77:16-20 are similar in theology and imagery to YHWH as Creator in Ps. 74:13-17. The water imagery could refer to Genesis 1 (i.e., creation) or Exodus 14-15 (i.e., the exodus).

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 77:1-6
 1My voice rises to God, and I will cry aloud;
 My voice rises to God, and He will hear me.
 2In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord;
 In the night my hand was stretched out without weariness;
 My soul refused to be comforted.
 3When I remember God, then I am disturbed;
 When I sigh, then my spirit grows faint.  Selah.
 4You have held my eyelids open;
 I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
 5I have considered the days of old,
 The years of long ago.
 6I will remember my song in the night;
 I will meditate with my heart,
 And my spirit ponders:

77:1 "My voice rises to God" This phrase with no verb is repeated twice for emphasis. The psalmist has prayed often and intensely but with no peace/result! He trusts YHWH but longs for Him to act as He has in the past on behalf of the covenant people.

▣ "I will cry aloud" This verb (BDB 858, KB 1042, Qal cohortative) is used often in the exodus and wilderness wandering period (cf. Exod. 14:10,15; 17:4; Num. 12:13; 20:16; Deut. 26:7). It is possible that the description of Ps. 77:16-19 refers to this same period. There was no silent prayer in the ancient world. Reading and prayer were spoken aloud!

▣ "He will hear me" This is both affirmation and request! The rest of this strophe (Ps. 77:1-6) expresses the psalmist's distress at the apparent silence of YHWH.

77:2 "In the day of my trouble" This is a recurrent phrase in the Psalms (cf. Ps. 50:15; 86:7; slightly different phrasing but the same concept in Ps. 91:15; 107:6,15).

The use of "day" denotes a period of time, not a specific 24 hour period. See Special Topic: Day (yom).

▣ "In the night my hand was stretched out" Notice that "in the day" of line 1 is parallel to "in the night" of line 2. This was a way of expressing constant (i.e., "without weariness"), around-the-clock prayer (i.e., "hand stretched out").

Jewish prayer posture was usually

1. standing

2. hands raised

3. eyes open, lifted to heaven

The verb (BDB 620, KB 669, Niphal perfect) is literally "poured out." NIDOTTE, vol. 3, p. 27, thinks that two aspects of prayer are combined in this verse (cf. Lam. 2:19).

1. pouring one's heart out to God in prayer

2. lifting/stretching one's hands out to God in prayer

 

▣ "My soul refused to be comforted" YHWH seemed not to hear and act so the psalmist continued to pray! This is theologically parallel to Habakkuk (i.e., Hab. 2:1).

77:3 This is a series of three Qal cohortatives. The psalmist could not find peace in prayer. It seemed YHWH's actions in the past (cf. Ps. 77:5) on the covenant people's behalf had changed (cf. Ps. 77:10b).

▣ "Selah" See note at Ps. 3:2. Notice it appears at the end of Ps. 77:3, 9, 15. The NJB and NKJV see its use as closing separate strophes.

77:4a This line of poetry is confusing. The psalmist wants to quit praying but YHWH causes (BDB 28, KB 31, Qal perfect) him to keep on. It is possible to interpret this as God allowing him to remain awake so that he can continue to pray. It seems that Ps. 77:4-6 serves as an introduction to the six questions of 77:7-9 with the possible shocking conclusion of Ps. 77:10!

This first strophe describes the psalmist's acts in detail (as does Ps. 77:11-12). This is a record of the psalmist's theological struggle for more information about God and His will and way for the covenant people. The psalmist sees the obvious disconnect between the past and the present. He cannot understand why!

77:6 "I will remember. . .I will meditate. . .ponder" These are three verbs which describe the psalmist's mental actions (cf. Ps. 143:5) from despair (Ps. 77:1-5) and doubt (Ps. 77:7-10). It is not until Ps. 77:11-15,16-20 that he regains his sense of trust in YHWH's character and actions on Israel's behalf.

Notice three verbs (two the same) reappear in Ps. 77:11-12. Faith takes time and thought! The trustworthiness of revelation and personal experience merge into settled conviction.

▣ "song in the night" Because of Ps. 42:8 this phrase may be an allusion to YHWH's gracious actions which turn into night-time praises (both conscious and unconscious). The psalmist knew days and nights of praise and peace but his current experience was very different.

The UBS Text Project gives three possibilities to the term NASB translates "song" (BDB 618).

1. music - נגינתי (MT, NASB)

2. murmur/meditate - והגיתי (LXX, Peshitta, NJB)

3. sorrow - נוגנתי (NEB)

 

▣ "my spirit ponders" The verb is literally "searches" (BDB 344, KB 341, Piel imperfect with waw). It is masculine and "spirit" (BDB 924) is feminine. Therefore, it could refer to

1. the psalmist himself

2. God searching him (cf. Ps. 139:1,23)

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 77:7-10
 7Will the Lord reject forever?
 And will He never be favorable again?
 8Has His lovingkindness ceased forever?
 Has His promise come to an end forever?
 9Has God forgotten to be gracious,
 Or has He in anger withdrawn His compassion?  Selah.
 10Then I said, "It is my grief,
 That the right hand of the Most High has changed."

77:7-10 This strophe is connected to the psalmist's disturbing prayer of Ps. 77:1-6. He cannot understand. He asks a series of stark, scary questions that seem to question YHWH's covenant promises and unchanging character! These are the most frightening questions in the OT! He apparently does not perceive that the problem might be the sin, idolatry, and covenant faithlessness of the covenant people.

The most distressing aspect to these questions is his false conclusion (i.e., Ps. 77:10)! YHWH has not changed (BDB 1039, KB 1597) but His people have!

Derek Kidner, Tyndale OT Commentaries (pp. 308-309) takes the view that Ps. 77:10 is a positive turning point verse, introducing Ps. 77:11-20. "Selah" appears at the end of Ps. 77:9, which may imply that Ps. 77:10-15 comprise a strophe (cf. NKJV, JPSOA). The tone of the Psalm surely changes at 77:11-20.

77:7-8 Psalm 77:7 and 8 have four words or phrases that describe the psalmist's feeling that YHWH has permanently abandoned Israel.

1. forever, Ps. 77:7 - BDB 761 

2. forever, Ps. 77:8 - BDB 664 

3. ceased forever (lit. "are at an end"), Ps. 77:8 - BDB 170, KB 197, Qal perfect

4. come to an end, Ps. 77:8 - BDB 189 construct BDB 189

For #1 see Special Topic: Forever ('olam). This repetition shows the fear and doubt of the psalmist.

77:8 "lovingkindness" See Special Topic: Lovingkindness (hesed).

77:10 "the Most High" This Hebrew title, "Elyon" (BDB 71, see SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY) is from the word "high" or "upper." It was used of God in Gen. 14:18-22; Num. 24:16; Deut. 32:8 by non-Israelites.

This Psalm uses several different names for Deity.

1. Elohim, Ps. 77:1 (twice), 3, 13,16

2. Adonai, Ps. 77:2, 7 (lit. "my Lord")

3. Most High, Ps. 77:10

4. Yah, Ps. 77:11 (abbreviation for YHWH)

5. El, Ps. 77:9, 13, 14 (general name for deity in the ANE)

 

NASB, NRSV"It is my grief"
NKJV"It is my anguish"
NJB"This is what wounds me"
JPSOA"It is my fault"
Peshitta"This is my infirmity"

There is disagreement among modern scholars as to the Hebrew root.

1. חלה, BDB 317 I - "to sicken" (NASB, NRSV, TEV, NET, REB, Peshitta)

2. חלה, BDB 318 II - "to entreat the favor of" (NIV)

3. חלל, BDB 319 - "to pierce" (NJB, UBS Text Project's suggestion, "my being wounded," p. 333)

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 77:11-15
 11I shall remember the deeds of the Lord;
 Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.
 12I will meditate on all Your work
 And muse on Your deeds.
 13Your way, O God, is holy;
 What god is great like our God?
 14You are the God who works wonders;
 You have made known Your strength among the peoples.
 15You have by Your power redeemed Your people,
 The sons of Jacob and Joseph.  Selah.

77:11-15 The psalmist again tries to focus on YHWH's past acts (cf. Ps. 77:11-12, 14-15). He refocuses on His unchanging, unique character (cf. Ps. 77:13, see SPECIAL TOPIC: MONOTHEISM).

Note the purposeful parallel of the verbs in Ps. 77:11-12 to those of Ps. 77:6.

77:11 "wonders" It denotes YHWH's acts of creation and deliverance. See Special Topic: Wonderful Things. The same word (BDB 810) is used in Ps. 77:14 and the same root in Ps. 78:4,11,32; 107:8,15,21,24,31; 119:18,27.

77:13 "Your way" The term "way" (BDB 202) speaks of

1. His revelation, cf. Ps. 119:14; Jer. 18:15, see SPECIAL TOPIC: TERMS FOR GOD'S REVELATION

2. His characteristic actions (i.e., Ps. 119:3)

 

▣ "holy" This could refer to

1. God's character

2. God's temple

 

SPECIAL TOPIC: HOLY

77:14-15 Notice the parallelism between Ps. 77:14b and 15a. However, there is a distinction between

1. Your strength among the peoples (i.e., non-Israelites, see Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan)

2. Your arm redeemed Your people (i.e., Israelites)

 

77:15 "redeemed" See Special Topic: Ransom/Redeem.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 77:16-20
 16The waters saw You, O God;
 The waters saw You, they were in anguish;
 The deeps also trembled.
 17The clouds poured out water;
 The skies gave forth a sound;
 Your arrows flashed here and there.
 18The sound of Your thunder was in the whirlwind;
 The lightnings lit up the world;
 The earth trembled and shook.
 19Your way was in the sea
 And Your paths in the mighty waters,
 And Your footprints may not be known.
 20You led Your people like a flock
 By the hand of Moses and Aaron.

77:16-20 The psalmist looks backwards to Genesis (cf. Ps. 77:15) and to the Exodus (cf. Ps. 77:20). The God of creation has become the warrior of Israel!

The Psalm does not state the psalmist's final conclusion. Hopefully, his remembrance and meditation on YHWH's person and acts caused him to reject his conclusion/question of Ps. 77:10.

77:16 "the waters"

SPECIAL TOPIC: Waters

77:20a This phrase is characteristic of Asaph's Psalms (cf. Ps. 74:1; 78:52,70-76; 79:13; 80:2). What a beautiful title (i.e., Shepherd) for the Creator/Redeemer God! He is with us and for us (cf. Psalm 23).

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Is this Psalm an individual lament or a national lament?

2. Why are Ps. 77:7-10 so theologically significant??

3. Is Ps. 77:10 a positive message or a negative message?

4. Does this Psalm use imagery from creation or the exodus?

Psalm 78

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
God's Guidance of His People in Spite of Their Unfaithfulness
MT Intro
Maskil of Asaph.
God's Kindness to Rebellious Israel The Story of God's Great Deeds and His People's Faithlessness God and His People The Lessons of Israelite History
78:1-4 78:1-4 78:1-4 78:1-4 78:1-2
        78:3-4b
        78:4c-5b
78:5-8 78:5-8 78:5-8 78:5-8 78:5c-6b
        78:6c-7
        78:8
78:9-16 78:9-11 78:9-16 78:9-16 78:9-10
        78:11-12
  78:12-16      
        78:13-14
        78:15-16
78:17-20 78:17-20 78:17-20 78:17-20 78:17-18
        78:19-20
78:21-33 78:21-25 78:21-31 78:21-31 78:21-22
        78:23-25
  78:26-31     78:26-28
        78:29-31
  78:32-33 78:32-55 78:32-37 78:32-33
78:34-39 78:34-39     78:34-35
        78:36-37
      78:38-39 78:38-39
78:40-53 78:40-55   78:40-51 78:40-42
        78:43-44
        78:45-46
        78:47-48
        78:49-50a
        78:50b-51
      78:52-55 78:52-53
78:54-64       78:54-55
  78:56-64 78:56-66 78:56-64 78:56-60
        78:61-62
        78:63-64
78:65-72 78:65-66   78:65-69 78:65-66
  78:67-72 78:67-72   78:67-69
      78:70-72 78:70-72

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. This Psalm affirms the need to pass on the faith to the next generation (Ps. 78:1-4, 5-8).

1. God's acts

2. God's revelations

B. This Psalm documents the faithful acts of God and the faithless acts of Israel.

1. the exodus

2. the wilderness wandering

3. the conquest

C. Possibly the best way to see the parallels and allusions is a chart of verses related to other OT texts.

 

Ps. 78: 12b - Num. 13:22 Ps. 78: 42 - Jdgs. 8:24
Ps. 78: 13 - Exod. 14:16,21 Ps. 78: 43 - Exod. 4:21; 7:3
Ps. 78: 14 - Exod. 13:21 Ps. 78: 45 - Exod. 8:6,24
Ps. 78: 15 - Exod. 17:6; Deut. 8:15 Ps. 78: 46 - Exod. 10:14
Ps. 78: 16 - Num. 20:8,10,11 Ps. 78: 47 - Exod. 9:23
Ps. 78: 18 - Num. 11:4 Ps. 78: 48 - Exod. 9:19
Ps. 78: 19 - Exod. 16:3; Num. 11:4; 20:3; 21:5 Ps. 78: 49 - Exod. 15:7
Ps. 78: 20 - Num. 11:18 Ps. 78: 50 - Exod. 12:29,30
Ps. 78: 21 - Num. 11:1 Ps. 78: 52 - Exod. 15:22
Ps. 78: 22 - Deut. 1:32; 9:23 Ps. 78: 53 - Exod. 14:19,20,27,28
Ps. 78: 24 - Exod. 16:4 Ps. 78: 54 - Exod. 15:17
Ps. 78: 25 - Exod. 16:3 Ps. 78: 58 - Exod. 20:4; Lev. 26:1,30; Deut. 4:25; 32:16,21
Ps. 78: 26 - Num. 11:31 Ps. 78: 59 - Lev. 26:30; Deut. 1:34; 9:19; 32:19
Ps. 78: 27 - Exod. 16:13 Ps. 78: 60 - 1 Sam. 4:11
Ps. 78: 29 - Num. 11:19,20 Ps. 78: 61 - 1 Sam. 4:17
Ps. 78: 31 - Num. 11:33,34 Ps. 78: 62 - 1 Sam. 4:10
Ps. 78: 32 - Num. 14:11,16-17 Ps. 78: 63 - Num. 11:1; 21:28
Ps. 78: 33 - Num. 14:29,35 Ps. 78: 64 - 1 Sam. 4:17; 22:18
Ps. 78: 34 - Num. 21:7 Ps. 78: 66 - 1 Sam. 5:6
Ps. 78: 35 - Exod. 15:13; Deut. 9:26; 32:4 Ps. 78: 69 - 1 Kings 6
Ps. 78: 36 - Exod. 24:7,8; 32:7,8 Ps. 78: 70 - 1 Sam. 16:12
Ps. 78: 38 - Exod.34:6; Num. 14:20 Ps. 78: 71 - 1 Sam. 10:1; 2 Sam. 5:2; 7:8
Ps. 78: 41 - Exod. 14:22 Ps. 78: 72 - 1 Kgs. 9:4

D. The best parallel of this overview of Israel's faithlessness and YHWH's faithfulness is Nehemiah 9 (also note Acts 7).

1. call of Abraham - Ps. 78:6-8

2. exodus - Ps. 78:9-14

3. wilderness wanderings - Ps. 78:15-21

4. conquest - Ps. 78: 22-25

5. judges - Ps. 78: 26-31

Also note Psalms 105-106 are also about God's faithfulness and Israel's unfaithfulness!

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 78:1-4
 1Listen, O my people, to my instruction;
 Incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
 2I will open my mouth in a parable;
 I will utter dark sayings of old,
 3Which we have heard and known,
 And our fathers have told us.
 4We will not conceal them from their children,
 But tell to the generation to come the praises of the Lord,
 And His strength and His wondrous works that He has done.

78:1-4 The psalmist implores the covenant people to hear and respond appropriately to God's revelation (cf. Ps. 78: 4c). He also implores them to pass on the truths to their children and grandchildren and so on to each new generation (cf. Deut. 4:9-10; 6:7,20-25; 11:19; 32:46).

78:1 There are two imperatives.

1. listen (lit. "hear") - BDB 24, KB 27, Hiphil imperative

2. incline your ears (lit. "turn") - BDB 639, KB 692, Hiphil imperative

 

▣ "instruction" This is literally "teaching" (BDB 435). This is parallel to "the words of my mouth." There are several different Hebrew words used in this Psalm for YHWH's revelation.

1. instruction/teaching, Ps. 78:1 - BDB 435

2. testimony, Ps. 78:5 - BDB 730

3. law, Ps. 78:5,10 - BDB 435

4. commandment, Ps. 78:51 - BDB 846

5. testimonies, Ps. 78:56 - BDB 729 I

See SPECIAL TOPIC: TERMS FOR GOD'S REVELATION.

This Psalm is written to the covenant people (usually the Psalms are addressed to God). It seems this historical survey was used (read) in an annual feast or ceremony at the temple to encourage God's people to learn from the past and live appropriately as God's people.

78:2 "parable. . .dark sayings"

1. parable - BDB 605

2. dark saying - BDB 295

The verb and noun forms of both these words are found in Ezek. 17:2. I have included my notes from there below.

Ezek. 17:2 This verse has two parallel imperatives.

1."propound a riddle," BDB 295, KB 295, Qal imperative, cf. Jdgs. 14:12-19

2."speak a parable," BDB 605 II, KB 647, Qal imperative, cf. 12:23; 16:44; 17:2; 18:2; 20:49; 24:3

The term "riddle" (BDB 295, note the relation of the verb, BDB 295, and noun, BDB 295) means a statement that needs to have some information hinted at or supplied to be understood (cf. Pro. 1:6).

The term "parable" (BDB 605 II, note the relation of the verb, BDB 605 II, and noun, BDB 605 II) implies a brief poetic structure, possibly a proverb which uses comparison as a way to illustrate truth.

Ezekiel has been using highly figurative language to convince the exiles of the just and sure judgment of Jerusalem.

YHWH is not trying to hide truth but assert that the key to understanding comes from His speakers/prophets. The past acts of God need to be interpreted fresh for every generation.

Jesus quotes this verse in Matt. 13:35. He uses it to explain why the crowds did not understand His teachings. He, too, reinterpreted Israel's past. He asserted that the ultimate focus of Israel's history was Himself! However, this amazing truth was not immediately self evident but had to be revealed! He was the true, ultimate revealer (cf. Matt. 5:17-19,21-48)! As Israel refused to see YHWH's will and purpose in her history, so too, Jesus' generation lived out the prophecies of Isa. 6:9-10; 29:13. They were like the Israelites of Ps. 78:8!

78:4 Each generation must teach their children about God. This is a recurrent emphasis in Deuteronomy. I have included my notes from Deut. 4:9 and 6:7.

4:9 "teach their children" This is a recurrent theme in Deuteronomy (cf. Deut. 4:10; 6:7, 20-25; 11:19; 31:13; 32:46; and note Exod. 10:2; 12:26; 13:8,14). If believers do not teach their children about God, they are failures as parents (biblically speaking)! Faith runs through families (cf. Deut. 5:10; 7:9)!

6:7 "you shall teach them diligently to your sons" The verb (BDB 1041, KB 1606, Piel perfect) means "to sharpen" and in Piel this is the only usage. The term in Ugaritic means "to repeat." That seems to be the basic emphasis of this verse. The rabbis use this verse to assert that the Shema should be "repeated" morning and evening. We are to talk about God's will for our lives during the entire scope of daily activities. It is the responsibility of parents to pass on lifestyle faith (cf. Deut. 4:9; 6:20-25; 11:19; 32:46, see full note at 4:9). It is interesting that the flow of these different times for teaching falls into the same literary pattern as Ps. 139:2-6 and Pro. 6:20-22. This emphasis on parental responsibility is repeated in Pro. 22:6. Our modern day church school cannot take the place of parental training but it surely can supplement it!

▣ "His strength and His wondrous works" This Psalm has several different terms to describe YHWH's acts of revelation and deliverance.

1. Ps. 78:4

a. the glorious deeds (lit. "praises") - BDB 239, #4, cf. Ps. 9:14; 35:28; 79:13; 102:21; 106:2,47; Isa. 43:21; 60:6; 63:7

b. His strength - BDB 739, cf. Ps. 145:6

c. His wondrous works - BDB 810, KB 927, Niphal participle, cf. Micah 7:15, see Special Topic: Wonderful Things

2. Ps. 78:7 - the works of God - BDB 760, cf. Ps. 77:11,12; Micah 2:7

3. Ps. 78:11

a. His deeds - BDB 760, same as #2, and verse 32

b. His miracles - BDB 810, same as #1, c

4. Ps. 78:12 - His wonders - BDB 810, same as #1, c

5. Ps. 78:32 - His wonderful works - BDB 810, same as #1, c and Ps. 78:11

6. Ps. 78:42 - His power (lit. "hand") - BDB 388, cf. SPECIAL TOPIC: HAND

7. Ps. 78:43

a. His signs - BDB 16, #4, cf. Exod. 10:2; Ps. 65:8

b. His marvels - BDB 68, #1, cf. Deut. 4:34; 6:22; 7:19; 26:8; 29:2; 34:11; Neh. 9:10; Ps. 105:27; 135:9; Jer. 32:20-21

8. Ps. 78:54 - His right hand had gained - BDB 411, see SPECIAL TOPIC: HAND

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 78:5-8
 5For He established a testimony in Jacob
 And appointed a law in Israel,
 Which He commanded our fathers
 That they should teach them to their children,
 6That the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born,
 That they may arise and tell them to their children,
 7That they should put their confidence in God
 And not forget the works of God,
 But keep His commandments,
 8And not be like their fathers,
 A stubborn and rebellious generation,
 A generation that did not prepare its heart
 And whose spirit was not faithful to God.

78:5-8 This strophe emphasizes the need for each generation of faithful followers to pass on their faith and understanding of God's will to their families (see notes at Ps. 78:4).

Faithful followers are characterized as

1. putting their confidence (lit. "hope," BDB 492) in God

2. not forgetting His works, cf. Deut. 4:9,23; 31:6:12; 8:11,14,19 (twice); 9:7; 25:19

3. keeping His commandments, cf. Deut. 4:2,6,10; 5:1,10,29,32; 6:2,3,17,25; 7:9,11,12; 27:1; Jos. 22:5

Psalm 78:7 is the positive theme of the entire Psalm and 78:8 is a powerful warning of what not to do!

78:8 Even with all YHWH had done for the descendants of Abraham, they still were faithless (i.e., 2 Chr. 30:7; Ezek. 20:13,18). Psalm 78:8 contrasts the faithless with the faithful.

1. stubborn - BDB 710, KB 770, Qal participle, cf. Deut. 9:6,13; 10:16; 31:27

2. rebellious - BDB 598, KB 632, Qal participle, cf. Deut. 9:34; 31:27

3. did not prepare their hearts - BDB 465, KB 464, Hiphil perfect, cf. Ps. 78:37

4. whose spirit was not faithful to God - BDB 52, KB 63, Niphal perfect

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 78:9-16
 9The sons of Ephraim were archers equipped with bows,
 Yet they turned back in the day of battle.
 10They did not keep the covenant of God
 And refused to walk in His law;
 11They forgot His deeds
 And His miracles that He had shown them.
 12He wrought wonders before their fathers
 In the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan.
 13He divided the sea and caused them to pass through,
 And He made the waters stand up like a heap.
 14Then He led them with the cloud by day
 And all the night with a light of fire.
 15He split the rocks in the wilderness
 And gave them abundant drink like the ocean depths.
 16He brought forth streams also from the rock
 And caused waters to run down like rivers.

78:9-16 This strophe alludes to the exodus. Some of the allusions are unclear (i.e., Ps. 78:9), but many are (Contextual Insights, C) very clear.

Ephraim may be a way of referring to the Northern Tribes. Joseph and Joshua were both from the tribe of Ephraim, which numerically was the largest tribe. Ephraim and Manasseh were both sons of Joseph by an Egyptian mother. Jacob blessed Ephraim above the firstborn Manasseh (cf. Gen. 48:14-20).

78:10 Note the verbs "keep" (BDB 1036, KB 1581, Qal perfect, negated) and "walk" (BDB 229, KB 246) are parallel and describe covenant life. Obedience to the Mosaic covenant was crucial (cf. Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 27-30).

78:11 The current generation of the Israelites forgot all that YHWH had done for them during the exodus (cf. Deut. 8:11-20). So in the verses that follow many of YHWH's mighty acts of deliverance are enumerated.

78:12 "Zoan" This term (BDB 858) is from an Egyptian root for "stronghold." This stronghold/fort was located in the Delta region of Egypt, also known as Goshen (eastern Nile Delta), where the Israelites settled in Joseph's day. The city was known by different names in different periods.

1. Zoan (cf. Num. 13:22)

2. Tannis

3. Avaris

4. Rameses (named after Rameses II, cf. Exod. 1:11; 12:37; Num. 33:3)

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 78:17-20
 17Yet they still continued to sin against Him,
 To rebel against the Most High in the desert.
 18And in their heart they put God to the test
 By asking food according to their desire.
 19Then they spoke against God;
 They said, "Can God prepare a table in the wilderness?
 20Behold, He struck the rock so that waters gushed out,
 And streams were overflowing;
 Can He give bread also?
 Will He provide meat for His people?"

78:17-20 This strophe continues to describe the acts of the ungrateful, disobedient Israelites of the exodus and wilderness wandering period.

78:18 "they put God to the test" The verb (BDB 650, KB 702, Piel imperfect with waw) is used several times of Israel testing God (cf. Exod. 17:2; Num. 14:22; Deut. 6:16; Ps. 78:18,41,56; 95:9; 106:14).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 78:21-33
 21Therefore the Lord heard and was full of wrath;
 And a fire was kindled against Jacob
 And anger also mounted against Israel,
 22Because they did not believe in God
 And did not trust in His salvation.
 23Yet He commanded the clouds above
 And opened the doors of heaven;
 24He rained down manna upon them to eat
 And gave them food from heaven.
 25Man did eat the bread of angels;
 He sent them food in abundance.
 26He caused the east wind to blow in the heavens
 And by His power He directed the south wind.
 27When He rained meat upon them like the dust,
 Even winged fowl like the sand of the seas,
 28Then He let them fall in the midst of their camp,
 Round about their dwellings.
 29So they ate and were well filled,
 And their desire He gave to them.
 30Before they had satisfied their desire,
 While their food was in their mouths,
 31The anger of God rose against them
 And killed some of their stoutest ones,
 And subdued the choice men of Israel.
 32In spite of all this they still sinned
 And did not believe in His wonderful works.
 33So He brought their days to an end in futility
 And their years in sudden terror.

78:21-33 Israel's continued disobedience causes YHWH to judge them. One example used is YHWH's supernatural provisions of meat (quail). He told them how to receive His blessing but again they disobeyed (cf. Numbers 11). Their actions showed their attitude toward YHWH.

1. they did not believe, Ps. 78:22

2. they did not trust, Ps. 78:22

3. in spite of all this they still sinned, Ps. 78:32

 

78:22 "believe. . .trust" See Special Topic: Believe, Trust, Faith and Faithfulness in the OT.

78:23 "opened the doors of heaven" The "heavens" (see SPECIAL TOPIC: HEAVEN and SPECIAL TOPIC: HEAVEN and the Third Heaven) were thought of as a dome covered with skin, like a drum. This dome separated the waters above from falling to earth. They were imagined to have windows that could be opened or shut, depending on God's will and mankind's actions (cf. Gen. 7:11; Mal. 3:10). God could provide

1. rain (Genesis)

2. food (Psalm)

3. blessings (Malachi)

 

78:24-25 "food from heaven. . .the bread of angels" This is referring to manna (cf. Exodus 16). YHWH was gracious (cf. Ps. 78:38), but they were rebellious.

Manna (BDB 577 I) was a white substance that appeared as dew. The name may come from Exod. 16:4, "What is it?" It was a miraculous provision of food during the wilderness wandering period. It could be gathered for only one day at a time (God's daily provision) or it went bad (cf. Exod. 16:16-21), except for the day before the Sabbath when enough for two days was gathered and did not turn bad (cf. Exod. 16:22-29). It was cooked like flour. It stopped when the Israelites crossed the Jordan (cf. Jos. 5:12).

78:27 "dust. . .sand" These are two of three terms (dust, sand, stars) used to describe something numerous. They are regularly connected to the numerous descendants of the Patriarchs (i.e., God's promise to Abraham, cf. Gen. 12:2).

1. dust - Gen. 13:16; 28:14; Num. 23:10

2. sand - Gen. 22:17; 32:12; 2 Sam. 17:11; 1 Kgs. 4:20

3. stars - Gen. 15:5; 22:17; 26:4; Exod. 32:13; Deut. 1:10; 10:22; 28:62

 

78:29-31 God provided quail but the people again did not trust God's provision and tried to gather a large quantity of birds for future consumption. This displeased God and His judgment fell on them (cf. Num. 11:31-35).

Again and again in the OT, God told His people what to do but they refused and did it their way. Every time this resulted in judgment! The issue was "trust"! And it still is!

78:33

NASB, NKJV"end in futility"
NASB margin"vanity, a mere breath"
NRSV"vanish like a breath"
NJB"vanish in midst"

This term (BDB 210 I) is a key term in Ecclesiastes. See my note below from Ecclesiastes 1.

Eccl. 1:2 "vanity of vanities" This is a Hebrew superlative (cf. 1:2 and 12:8). The word means "vapor," "breath," or "mist" (BDB 210 I, cf. James 4:14). Its emphasis is either (1) nothingness or (2) the transitoriness of human life. The context supports the latter (cf. H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Ecclesiastes, p. 41).

This is a key term and recurrent phrase in this book (cf. Eccl. 1:2,14; 2:1,11,15,17,19,21, 23,26; 3:19; 4:4,7,8,16; 5:7,10; 6:2,4,9,11,12; 7:6,15; 8:10,14; 9:9; 11:8,10; 12:8). The term is used sparingly in other wisdom books: Job, 5 times; Psalms, 9 times; and Proverbs, 3 times.

For different theories about how it views the strong statements in this book, see Introduction, Authorship, H. I prefer option #1. This theological presupposition will be the grid through which I interpret the book.

▣ "all is vanity" Notice the root, "vanity" (BDB 210 I), is used five times in this one verse! The Handbook on Ecclesiastes by UBS, says the term should be understood as

1.incomprehensible

2.enigmatic

3.mysterious

4.impossible to understand

Therefore, it communicates the reality that life is full of unanswerable questions (p. 4). The person knowledgeable in wisdom will know this, but will continue to trust God and keep His commandments.

This refers to the uncertain and unpredictable activities of life. These are a result of fallen humanity trying to live life in their own strength, independent from God. This is the condition left by the Fall (cf. Genesis 3)!

The Hebrew term "all" (BDB 481), often translated "everything," is a common word, but is used often in Ecclesiastes (i.e., 9 times in chapter 1; 17 times in chapter 2; 13 times in chapter 3, etc.). Qoheleth uses this inclusive language to express his theological emphasis on

1. God's control and sovereignty

2. human ineffectiveness and transitoriness

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 78:34-39
 34When He killed them, then they sought Him,
 And returned and searched diligently for God;
 35And they remembered that God was their rock, 
 And the Most High God their Redeemer.
 36But they deceived Him with their mouth
 And lied to Him with their tongue.
 37For their heart was not steadfast toward Him,
 Nor were they faithful in His covenant.
 38But He, being compassionate, forgave their iniquity and did not destroy them;
 And often He restrained His anger
 And did not arouse all His wrath.
 39Thus He remembered that they were but flesh,
 A wind that passes and does not return.

78:34-39 This strophe describes the false repentance of the surviving Israelites and YHWH's reaction to it.

1. the seeming repentance, Ps. 78:34-35

a. they sought Him

b. they returned to Him

c. they searched diligently for Him

d. they remembered God was their rock/redeemer

2. their true thoughts/actions (Ps. 78:36-37)

a. they deceived Him by lying (Ps. 78:36 a and b, cf. Isa. 29:13)

b. their hearts were not steadfast toward Him

c. they were not faithful to His covenant

3. YHWH's reactions (Ps. 78:38-39)

a. He is compassionate (cf. Exod. 34:6; Neh. 9:17; Ps. 103:8, see SPECIAL TOPIC: CHARACTERISTICS OF ISRAEL'S GOD)

b. He forgave (lit. "covered over," BDB 497, KB 493, Piel imperfect)

c. He did not destroy them

d. He restrained (lit. "turned away") His anger

e. He did not arouse all His wrath

f. He remembered that they were but flesh (cf. Ps. 103:14) which is here today and gone tomorrow

Psalm 78:38-39 does not mean that they were not judged (cf. Ps. 78:34a), but that YHWH did not completely destroy them.

Psalm 78:38-39 is used in many rabbinical writings. It is a summary of the character of God (cf. Exod. 34:6; Neh. 9:17; Ps. 103:8-14).

78:35 Notice the different names and titles for Deity.

1. Elohim (BDB 43, KB 52)

2. their rock (cf. Ps. 18:2; 19:14)

3. El (BDB 42, KB 48)

4. Elyon (BDB 751, KB 832)

5. their redeemer (cf. Ps. 19:14)

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 78:40-53
 40How often they rebelled against Him in the wilderness
 And grieved Him in the desert!
 41Again and again they tempted God,
 And pained the Holy One of Israel.
 42They did not remember His power,
 The day when He redeemed them from the adversary,
 43When He performed His signs in Egypt
 And His marvels in the field of Zoan,
 44And turned their rivers to blood,
 And their streams, they could not drink.
 45He sent among them swarms of flies which devoured them,
 And frogs which destroyed them.
 46He gave also their crops to the grasshopper
 And the product of their labor to the locust.
 47He destroyed their vines with hailstones
 And their sycamore trees with frost.
 48He gave over their cattle also to the hailstones
 And their herds to bolts of lightning.
 49He sent upon them His burning anger,
 Fury and indignation and trouble,
 A band of destroying angels.
 50He leveled a path for His anger;
 He did not spare their soul from death,
 But gave over their life to the plague,
 51And smote all the firstborn in Egypt,
 The first issue of their virility in the tents of Ham.
 52But He led forth His own people like sheep
 And guided them in the wilderness like a flock;
 53He led them safely, so that they did not fear; 
 But the sea engulfed their enemies.

78:40-53 There seems to be a confusion in this strophe between YHWH's judgment on the Israelites (cf. Ps. 78:40-42) and His judgment on Egypt during the exodus. The plagues alluded to in Ps. 78:43-51 were directed at the recalcitrant Egyptian leadership.

Instead of YHWH judging faithless Israel (i.e., wilderness wandering period, cf. Ps. 78:40-43), He was a shepherd to them (cf. Ps. 78:52-53).

Notice how Israel's faithlessness is characterized.

1. they rebelled against Him, Ps. 78:40

2. they grieved Him, Ps. 78:40

3. they tempted Him, Ps. 78:41

4. they pained Him, Ps. 78:41

5. they did not remember His power/signs/marvels, Ps. 78:42

 

78:44-51 These verses describe the plagues on Egypt.

1. water/river to blood - Exod. 7:17-19

2. flies - Exod. 8:16-18

3. frogs - Exod. 8:2-6

4. grasshopper/locusts - Exod. 8:21; 10:4-6

5. hailstones - Exod. 9:18

6. plague/sickness - Exod. 9:8-10

7. death of firstborn - Exodus 11

The order and number are not exact but obviously the ten plagues of Exodus 7-11 are what is being referred to, unless they became idioms of YHWH's judgment.

78:49 This verse uses a litany of terms to describe God's wrath (Ps. 78:38).

1. burning anger - BDB 354 construct BDB 60 I

2. fury - BDB 720

3. indignation - BDB 276

4. trouble - BDB 865

5. a band of destroying angels

Number 5 is an idiom which personifies God's elements of wrath. In the Exodus account of the death of the firstborn in the unmarked homes, it is God who Himself causes the event (cf. Exod. 11:4; 12:12). This later became Judaism's understanding of "the Death Angel" (i.e., Samael or Azrael), but the Bible does not specifically mention him, although 2 Sam. 24:16; 2 Kgs. 19:35; 1 Chr. 21:15; Isa. 37:36, do imply one. The rabbis also assert that Ps. 89:48 refers to him (i.e., Targum, "seeing the angel of death"). The theological point is that God, not Satan or an angel, controls death!

78:50 This is an idiom for the preparation for an action. The next two lines show that in this case it was YHWH's judgment.

78:52 God as shepherd is a recurrent theme in the Psalms of Asaph. See note at Ps. 77:20.

78:53 This verse has two historical allusions.

1. "led them" refers to the Shekinah cloud of glory that guided the Israelites (cf. Exod. 13:21; 14:19,24; 33:9,10)

2. "the sea engulfed their enemies" refers to the splitting of the Red Sea and then its returning water drowning Egypt's elite soldiers and chariots (cf. Exodus 14-15)

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 78:54-64
 54So He brought them to His holy land,
 To this hill country which His right hand had gained.
 55He also drove out the nations before them
 And apportioned them for an inheritance by measurement,
 And made the tribes of Israel dwell in their tents.
 56Yet they tempted and rebelled against the Most High God
 And did not keep His testimonies,
 57But turned back and acted treacherously like their fathers;
 They turned aside like a treacherous bow.
 58For they provoked Him with their high places
 And aroused His jealousy with their graven images.
 59When God heard, He was filled with wrath
 And greatly abhorred Israel;
 60So that He abandoned the dwelling place at Shiloh,
 The tent which He had pitched among men,
 61And gave up His strength to captivity
 And His glory into the hand of the adversary.
 62He also delivered His people to the sword,
 And was filled with wrath at His inheritance.
 63Fire devoured His young men,
 And His virgins had no wedding songs.
 64His priests fell by the sword,
 And His widows could not weep.

78:54-64 This strophe recounts the conquest and settlement of the Promised Land (cf. Gen. 15:12-21). The Canaanite tribes (see SPECIAL TOPIC: PRE-ISRAELITE INHABITANTS OF PALESTINE) were defeated and removed by God because of their sin. Tragically the same thing happens to the Israelite tribes.

78:55b The book of Joshua, chapters 12-19, describes the divine allotment of the land to Jacob's children.

78:56-58 These lines of poetry describe Israel's sin and rebellion, which is all the more terrible because of all that God had done for them (cf. Luke 12:48).

1. they tempted God, Ps. 78:56a

2. they rebelled against God, Ps. 78:56a

3. they did not keep His covenant, Ps. 78:56b

4. they turned their backs to Him, Ps. 78:57a

5. they acted treacherously as their fathers did, Ps. 78:57a

6. they turned aside like a treacherous bow, Ps. 78:57b

7. they provoked Him with Canaanite idolatry, Ps. 78:58a

8. they aroused His jealousy with graven images, Ps. 78:58b

 

78:59-64 These verses describe what God did to Israel in light of their actions (Ps. 78:56-58).

1. He was filled with wrath

2. He greatly abhorred Israel

3. He abandoned the dwelling place at Shiloh (cf. 1 Sam. 4:11)

4. He allowed Israel to be defeated

5. He delivered Israel to the sword

6. He was filled with wrath at His inheritance

a. fire devoured the young men

b. the virgins had no wedding

c. the priests were killed

d. the widows wept

Human choices have consequences, both temporal and eternal!

78:62 "His inheritance" This is a parallel to "His people" (cf. Ps. 106:40). The origin of this imagery is Deut. 9:29. It, like so many other images, is family oriented.

78:63 "fire" See SPECIAL TOPIC: FIRE.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 78:65-72
 65Then the Lord awoke as if from sleep,
 Like a warrior overcome by wine.
 66He drove His adversaries backward;
 He put on them an everlasting reproach.
 67He also rejected the tent of Joseph,
 And did not choose the tribe of Ephraim,
 68But chose the tribe of Judah,
 Mount Zion which He loved.
 69And He built His sanctuary like the heights,
 Like the earth which He has founded forever.
 70He also chose David His servant
 And took him from the sheepfolds;
 71From the care of the ewes with suckling lambs He brought him
 To shepherd Jacob His people,
 And Israel His inheritance.
 72So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart,
 And guided them with his skillful hands.

78:65-72 This concluding strophe describes how God turned from wrath to continue His redemptive purposes (see Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan).

1. God is described as a person who comes to his senses (see SPECIAL TOPIC: GOD DESCRIBED AS HUMAN (ANTHROPOMORPHISM))

2. He defeats the adversaries of His people

3. He gives them an everlasting reproach

4. He reorients the order of the tribes as to places of leadership

a. rejects Joseph and Ephraim

b. chooses the tribe of Judah (cf. Gen. 49:8-12; Deut. 33:7)

5. He chooses to locate the temple in Judah on Mt. Moriah (called Zion)

6. He chooses David as His special leader (and his descendants, cf. 2 Samuel 7)

a. described as a shepherd

b. has a heart of integrity

c. has skillful hands

With the allusion to God's rejection of the Northern Tribes and choice of Judah, it seems this Psalm's final form was written after the fall of Israel/Ephraim/Samaria in 722 b.c. to Assyria.

This strophe is a good example of how God asserts His sovereignty. The cultural expectation is altered to show God's control.

1. Judah not Ephraim

2. Zion not Shiloh

3. David not other sons of Jesse

This is similar theologically to the Patriarchs all marrying barren women. Their children were supernatural-natural gifts from God. He is in control of time, space, history, election, and salvation!

Psalm 79

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
A Lament Over the Destruction of Jerusalem, and Prayer for Help
MT Intro
A Psalm of Asaph
A Dirge and A Prayer for Israel, Destroyed by Enemies Prayer for Deliverance from National Enemies A Prayer for the Nation's Deliverance National Lament
79:1-7 79:1-7 79:1-4 79:1-7 79:1-2
        79:3-5
    79:5-7    
        79:6-7
79:8-13 79:8-10 79:8-10 79:8-10 79:8-9
        79:10-11
  79:11-12 79:11-13 79:11-13  
        79:12-13
  79:13      

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 79:1-7
 1O God, the nations have invaded Your inheritance;
 They have defiled Your holy temple;
 They have laid Jerusalem in ruins.
 2They have given the dead bodies of Your servants for food to the birds of the heavens,
 The flesh of Your godly ones to the beasts of the earth.
 3They have poured out their blood like water round about Jerusalem;
 And there was no one to bury them.
 4We have become a reproach to our neighbors,
 A scoffing and derision to those around us.
 5How long, O Lord? Will You be angry forever?
 Will Your jealousy burn like fire?
 6Pour out Your wrath upon the nations which do not know You,
 And upon the kingdoms which do not call upon Your name.
 7For they have devoured Jacob
 And laid waste his habitation.

79:1-3 These verses delineate what the Gentile invaders have done to the covenant people (perfects).

1. invaded Your inheritance (lit. "came in") - BDB 97, KB 112, Qal perfect

2. defiled Your holy temple - BDB 379, KB 375, Piel perfect

3. laid Jerusalem in ruins (lit. "put," "place," "set") - BDB 962, KB 1321, Qal perfect

4. given the dead bodies. . .for food to the birds - BDB 678, KB 733, Qal perfects, cf. Jer. 7:33; 16:4; 19:7; 34:20

5. poured out their blood - BDB 1049, KB 1629, Qal perfect, cf. Ps. 79:6, 10

6. there was no one to bury them - BDB 868, KB1064, Qal participle

The Jews could not understand how their God could allow the invasion of the land and defilement of the temple (i.e., Habakkuk). It seemed to question His:

1. power

2. promises

3. purpose for Israel

Psalm 79:8-13 gives the answer (cf. Dan. 9:1-14).

79:1 "O God" This is the first of several vocatives.

1. O God (Elohim), Ps. 79:1

2. O Lord (YHWH), Ps. 79:5

3. O God (Elyon), Ps. 79:9

4. O Lord (Adonai), Ps. 79:12

The AB adds two more (p. 249).

5. O God, Ps. 79:6

6. O Scribe, Ps. 79:8

 

▣ "Your inheritance" Notice the number of times the psalmist accentuates that the objects of attack belong to YHWH.

1. Your inheritance, Ps. 79:1

2. Your temple, Ps. 79:1

3. Your servants, Ps. 79:2, 10

4. for the glory of Your name, Ps. 79:9

5. for Your name's sake, Ps. 79:9

6. Your people, Ps. 79:13

7. sheep of Your pasture, Ps. 79:13

 

▣ "in ruins" This is a rare term (BDB 730) which is used twice in Micah.

1. for the destruction of Samaria, Mic. 1:6

2. for the destruction of Jerusalem, Mic. 3:12 (quoted in Jer. 26:18)

This Psalm seems to reflect the fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar in 586 b.c. (see 2 Kings 25; 2 Chronicles 36 and Lamentations).

79:2 To be improperly buried was a horror to ANE people. To be eaten by animals was a fearful prospect (cf. Jer. 7:33; 8:2; 34:20; Ezek. 29:5; 32:4-6; 33:27; 39:4-5,17-20). Psalm 79:2 is a fulfillment of the curse for disobedience in Deut. 28:26!

SPECIAL TOPIC: BURIAL PRACTICES

79:3 The first line of this verse alludes to the ritual procedure where the blood of sacrifices was poured out at the base of the altar of sacrifice after a small amount was smeared on the horns of the altar (i.e., Lev. 4:7). Jerusalem was destroyed as a ritual sacrifice and the bodies of the dead as a banquet for the wild animals.

79:4 The covenant people have become

1. a reproach (lit. "a taunt," BDB 357) to their Gentile neighbors, cf. Ps. 44:13; 69:9,19; 80:6; 89:41

2. a scoffing (lit. "mocked," BDB 541), cf. Ps. 44:13; Ezek. 23:32; 36:4

3. a derision, cf. Ps. 44:13; Jer. 20:8 (noun , BDB 887, used only three times and the verb form four more in the OT)

This was exactly opposite to YHWH's purpose for Israel, which was to help the nations know Him and come to Him (cf. Ezek. 36:22-23).

79:5 These three questions,

1. How long? (cf. Ps. 13:1; 74:10; 80:4; 89:46; 90:13; 94:3)

2. Will You be angry forever? (cf. Ps. 44:23 74:1; 77:7; 85:5; 89:46)

3. Will Your jealousy burn like fire? (cf. Ps. 89:46)

are the focus of Israel's confusion and prayer. Has YHWH's special relationship with the descendants of Abraham changed (cf. Ps. 89:1-4)?

YHWH has an unchanging purpose for Israel (cf. Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 27-30, see Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan), but they must remember that the promises of protection, provision, and presence are conditional (see SPECIAL TOPIC: COVENANT). Each generation must embrace and live out the covenant. Remember the Psalms are part of the OT's "two ways" (cf. Deut. 30:15-20; Psalm 1).

79:6-7 This is a prayer ("pour out," BDB 1049, KB 1629, Qal imperative) for YHWH to act in judgment and deliverance (cf. Ps. 79:9) for His covenant people (cf. Jer. 10:25). Notice how the nations (BDB 156) are characterized.

1. which do not know You (see Special Topic: Know)

2. which do not call upon Your name (see Special Topic: Shadow as a Metaphor for Protection and Care)

It must be remembered that the nations

1. do not have true revelation

2. are controlled by the demonically inspired pagan idols

Israel was to be "the" channel of YHWH's revelations about Himself. It is not surprising that the nations act in inappropriate ways (cf. Ps. 79:7). What is surprising is that Israel, with all the spiritual benefits (cf. Rom. 9:4-5), acts the way she does (cf. Luke 12:48)!

79:7 "For they have" The MT has "for he has," but the ancient versions have "they" (LXX, Syriac, Vulgate). The change involves only a revocalization.

NASB, NRSV"habitation"
NASB margin"pasture"
NKJV"dwelling places"
TEV"country"
NJB, JPSOA"home"
REB"homeland"

This root (BDB 627) has several meanings.

1. abode of a shepherd (i.e., Jer. 33:12) or person (i.e., Job 18:15)

2. habitation of a nation (i.e., Jer. 31:23 - Judah; 49:20 - Edom; 50:45 - Babylon)

3. a city (cf. Isa. 33:20)

4. remote military outposts (NIDOTTE, vol. 3, p. 55, i.e., Ps. 79:7; Isa. 27:10; Jer. 10:25; 25:30)

5. habitation (i.e., the earth, cf. Jer. 25:30)

6. place of rest (BDB 628, cf. Isa. 32:18 parallels)

Psalm 79:7 follows the usage of #2.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 79:8-13
 8Do not remember the iniquities of our forefathers against us;
 Let Your compassion come quickly to meet us,
 For we are brought very low.
 9Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of Your name;
 And deliver us and forgive our sins for Your name's sake.
 10Why should the nations say, "Where is their God?"
 Let there be known among the nations in our sight,
 Vengeance for the blood of Your servants which has been shed.
 11Let the groaning of the prisoner come before You;
 According to the greatness of Your power preserve those who are doomed to die.
 12And return to our neighbors sevenfold into their bosom
 The reproach with which they have reproached You, O Lord.
 13So we Your people and the sheep of Your pasture
 Will give thanks to You forever;
 To all generations we will tell of Your praise.

79:8-9 Two significant issues emerge in these verses.

1. Israel's prayer for God to remember His covenant

2. Israel's prayer for God to not remember their continual covenant rebellion and disobedience

They base their prayers on the fact that the nations will misunderstand YHWH (cf. Ps. 79:10).

These two verses have four imperatives of entreaty and two imperfects used as jussives.

1. do not remember - BDB 269, KB 269, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

2. come quickly - BDB 554, KB 553, Piel imperative

3. to meet us - BDB 869, KB 1068, Piel imperfect used in a jussive sense

4. help us - BDB 740, KB 810, Qal imperative

5. deliver us - BDB 664, KB 717, Hiphil imperative

6. forgive our sin - BDB 497, KB 493, Piel imperative

 

79:8 Line 1 is an allusion to the theological issue of the transference of sin (and/or blessing/forgiveness) to future generations. In the Ten Commandments

1. the results of sin are visited to the third and fourth generations (cf. Exod. 20:5; Deut. 5:9)

2. lovingkindness to many generations of those who love YHWH and keep His commandments (cf. Exod. 34:7; Deut. 5:10; 7:9)

Both the effects of sin and mercy move through time but each is based on human choices!

79:9 "O God of our salvation" This phrase is a repeated title for Israel's God (cf. Ps. 18:46; 24:5; 25:5; 27:9; 65:5; 85:4).

The BDB lists several ways the term "salvation" (BDB 447) is used in the OT.

1. feminine

a. welfare, prosperity

b. deliverance

c. salvation from external evils (i.e., Ps. 78:22; 80:2)

d. victory (i.e., Ps. 20:5; 21:1,5; 44:4)

2. masculine

a. safety, welfare, prosperity (i.e., Ps. 12:5)

b. salvation (usage here)

c. victory (i.e., Ps. 20:6)

 

79:10-13 Notice the two kinds of people (i.e., Israelite - Gentile). The Gentiles are ignorant of YHWH and they act in inappropriate ways. Israel pleads for judgment in order that His people may

1. "give thanks" - BDB 392, KB 389, Hiphil imperfect

2. "tell of Your praise" - BDB 707, KB 765, Piel imperfect

It is shocking to see the pain of the psalmist over the fall of Jerusalem, the desecration of the temple, and the exile of the Davidic seed. However, by faith, he can still envision a future time of praise!

79:10 "Where is their God?" The nations ask a powerful question (cf. Ps. 42:3,10; 115:2). In Psalm 42 it is asked by other Israelites but in Psalm 115 and here, by Gentiles. Are they seeking information or ridiculing Israel's God? The second option is obvious from the context but the first option is the ultimate purpose of God (see Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan).

79:11 "those who are doomed to die" This is a rare phrase (cf. Ps. 102:20). It could refer to

1. those exiled survivors of the invasion

2. those awaiting execution

3. those kept from the temple (JPSOA footnote, cf. Ps. 79:13)

 

79:12 "sevenfold" The number seven usually denotes "perfection" (see SPECIAL TOPIC: SYMBOLIC NUMBERS IN SCRIPTURE) but here it denotes a complete (cf. Deut. 28:25; Ps. 12:6; Pro. 6:31) judgment (cf. Gen. 4:15,24).

▣ "into their bosom" The term "bosom" (BDB 300) is used in many senses in the Bible. Here it denotes the inner part of a person (cf. Ps. 35:13; Jer. 32:18). The psalmist is praying for a complete judgment on the Gentile invaders (i.e., Isa. 65:6,7).

▣ "The reproach with which they have reproached You" The noun and verb "reproach" or "taunt" (BDB 357, cf. Ps. 74:10,18 and a similar root in Ps. 74:22; Lam. 3:30,61; 5:1) is used often in Scripture. The psalmist sees an attack on Jerusalem as an attack on YHWH.

79:13 "the sheep of Your pasture" It is interesting that in the Psalms of Asaph this theme concludes Psalms 77, 78, and 79 (also note how Psalm 80 begins). It reflects the powerful, personal truth/imagery of Psalm 23!

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Why is 586 b.c. the best guess at the historical setting of this Psalm?

2. Why was God angry at His people? In this Psalm who are His people?

3. Does sin move through generations?

4. How is Ps. 79:10 related to God's eternal redemptive purpose? (see Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan).

5. How is Ps. 79:12b related to the prayer for forgiveness and deliverance?

Psalm 80

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
God Implored to Rescue His People From Their Calamities
MT Intro
For the choir director; set to El Shoshannim; Eduth. A Psalm of Asaph
Prayer for Israel's Restoration Prayer for Deliverance From National Enemies A Prayer for The Nation's Restoration Prayer for the Restoration of Israel
80:1-3 80:1-2 80:1-2 80:1-2 80:1-2
  80:3 80:3 80:3 80:3
80:4-7 80:4-6 80:4-6 80:4-6 80:4-6
  80:7 80:7 80:7 80:7
80:8-13 80:8-11 80:8-13 80:8-15 80:8-9
        80:10-11
  80:12-13     80:12-13
80:14-19 80:14-18 80:14-18   80:14-16
      80:16-18  
        80:17-18
  80:19 80:19 80:19 80:19

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. Notice the different names/titles of Israel's Deity.

1. Shepherd of Israel, Ps. 80:1 (see note at Ps. 23:1)

2. O God (Elohim), Ps. 80:3

3. Lord (YHWH), Ps. 80:4,19

4. God of hosts, Ps. 80:4,7,14,19

See the SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY.

B. There is a chorus phrase that concludes several strophes: Ps. 80:1-3, 4-7, 14-19. It has two imperatives and one cohortative. It is a prayer for mercy, forgiveness, and restoration.

C. There may be a "Messianic" reference related to

1. "shoot" (BDB 488), which may have theological connections to "Branch" (BDB 666, cf. Isa. 4:2; 11:1; 53:2; Jer. 23:5) and for "sprout" (BDB 855, cf. Jer. 33:15; Zech. 3:8; 6:12)

2. "the man of Your right hand"

3. "the son of man whom You made strong for Yourself"

4. and even possibly "Shepherd of Israel," which would bring connotations of a Davidic seed

The other option is that all the imagery relates to national Israel or Judah.

D. Because of the placement of this Psalm (i.e., in the Psalms of Asaph) and Ps. 80:12-13 pointing toward an invasion of Judah, the date is possibly 586 b.c.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 80:1-3
 1Oh, give ear, Shepherd of Israel,
 You who lead Joseph like a flock;
 You who are enthroned above the cherubim, shine forth!
 2Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh, stir up Your power
 And come to save us!
 3O God, restore us
 And cause Your face to shine upon us, and we will be saved.

80:1-3 This strophe is made up of a series of imperatives of request.

1. give ear, Ps. 80:1 - BDB 24, KB 27, Hiphil imperative

2. shine forth, Ps. 80:1 - BDB 422, KB 424, Hiphil imperative

3. stir up, Ps. 80:2 - BDB 734, KB 802, Polel imperative

4. come to save, Ps. 80:2 - BDB 229, KB 246, Qal imperative

5. restore us, Ps. 80:3 - BDB 996, KB 1427, Hiphil imperative

6. cause to shine, Ps. 80:3 - BDB 21, KB 24, Hiphil imperative (this may reflect the Aaronic blessing of Num. 6:25, also note Ps. 31:16)

7. we will be saved, Ps. 80:3 - BDB 446, 448, Niphal cohortative

 

80:1 "Shepherd of Israel" This phrase denotes God's presence and tender care (cf. Gen. 49:24; Ps. 23:1-3) and also links to David, who was called by God from tending the sheep. This makes the Messianic allusion in Ps. 80:15-17 more probable (see Contextual Insights, C).

Notice how God is characterized.

1. Who led Joseph like a flock (Joseph is also mentioned in Ps. 77:15; 78:67)

2. Who is enthroned above the cherubim. This is an allusion to Exod. 25:22. YHWH symbolically dwelt above the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant between the two cherubim (cf. 1 Sam. 4:4; 2 Sam. 6:2; Ps. 99:1). This was where heaven and earth met in the place of mercy and revelation!

For "cherubim" see Special Topic: Cherubim.

▣ "shine forth" This emphasis on God's involvement in the earthly, daily affairs of Israel is described as a light coming from above the ark. Notice the refrain in this Psalm (cf. Ps. 80:3,7,19) has another imperative verb (BDB 21, KB 24) denoting light. Light in the ANE was a symbol of revelation, health, goodness. In the OT it often relates to the brightness of a theophany (physical appearance of God). Note Ps. 50:2; 94:1, as well as the Shekinah cloud of glory during the exodus and wilderness wandering period (i.e., Exod. 13:21-22; 33:9).

God is light - Ps. 27:1; Isa. 60:20; Mic. 7:8; James 1:17; 1 John 1:5

Jesus is light - Isa. 9:2; John 1:4; 8:12; 12:35,46

believers are light - Matt. 5:14-16; John 8:12b

 

80:2 There is some question why only these tribes are mentioned. From Num. 2:18-24 we know they camped together on the west side of the tabernacle as they traveled through the wilderness.

Ephraim and Manasseh were the children of Joseph. Joseph and Benjamin were the sons of Jacob's favorite wife, Rachel.

Joseph's children were fully adopted by Jacob (i.e., thirteen tribes) and became the largest tribe when the united monarchy (i.e., Saul, David, Solomon) split in 922 b.c. They became the leaders of the northern coalition known as Israel, Samaria, or Ephraim. The first leader/king was an Ephraimitic labor leader, Jeroboam I.

Benjamin became part of the southern coalition of Judah along with most of the Levites. Simeon had earlier been incorporated into Judah, therefore, it may be a way of referring to all the covenant people.

80:3 This refrain (cf. Ps. 80:7,19) shows that this Psalm was written during a time of national difficulty. If Psalms 77-80 by Asaph come from the same historical period, then this is possibly related to the invasion of Judah by Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar. He invaded several times (i.e., 605, 597, 586, 582 b.c.), but it is possible to see this Psalm as relating to the fall of Israel in 722 b.c., when Samaria fell after a three year siege by Assyria. The Jewish Study Bible (p. 1372) suggests that it was originally written for the fall of Samaria but was reworked to refer to the fall of Jerusalem because of the proximity and phrasing connections to Psalm 79, which is obviously 586 b.c.

Because Ps. 80:14 uses the same imperative (BDB 996, KB 1427), some scholars see it as an additional refrain, thereby having each strophe close the same. However, Ps. 80:14 is not the same, even the same verb is a Qal not Hiphil.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 80:4-7
 4O Lord God of hosts,
 How long will You be angry with the prayer of Your people?
 5You have fed them with the bread of tears,
 And You have made them to drink tears in large measure.
 6You make us an object of contention to our neighbors,
 And our enemies laugh among themselves.
 7O God of hosts, restore us
 And cause Your face to shine upon us, and we will be saved.

80:4-7 This strophe is a plea for God to intervene on behalf of His people.

1. how long will You be angry - the question of God's action or inaction is recurrent (cf. Ps. 74:10; 90:13; 94:3; Pro. 1:22)

2. You have fed them with the bread of tears (powerful imagery, cf. Ps. 42:3; 102:9)

3. You have made them to drink tears in large measure (lit. "third part," BDB 1026 I, only here and Isa. 40:12)

4. You make us an object of contention to our neighbors (cf. Ps. 44:13; 79:4; Ezek. 5:14; 22:4; Dan. 9:16)

5. You have made it so our enemies laugh among themselves (at us). The TEV and NJB follow the LXX, "our enemies mock us."

These consequences of Israel/Judah's covenant disobedience and idolatry are exactly the opposite of what God wanted them to do in relation to their Gentile neighbors of the ANE. They were meant to be a light (cf. Ezek. 36:22-23) but became a joke (cf. Ps. 79:10; 115:2).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 80:8-13
 8You removed a vine from Egypt;
 You drove out the nations and planted it.
 9You cleared the ground before it,
 And it took deep root and filled the land.
 10The mountains were covered with its shadow,
 And the cedars of God with its boughs.
 11It was sending out its branches to the sea
 And its shoots to the River.
 12Why have You broken down its hedges,
 So that all who pass that way pick its fruit?
 13A boar from the forest eats it away
 And whatever moves in the field feeds on it.

80:8-13 This strophe uses the vineyard as a metaphor for the covenant people.

1. YHWH brought them out of Egypt (as He promised in Gen. 15:12-21)

2. YHWH defeated the Canaanite tribes (i.e., Joshua's conquest)

3. YHWH planted them in the good soil of the Promised Land

Even with all these divine blessings they were unfaithful (cf. Nehemiah 9; Psalm 78). So the curses of Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 27-30 came into effect.

1. His protection (i.e., the wall of the vineyard) was removed

2. He allowed invaders to take Canaan (Ps. 80:12-13). As the Israelites drove out the sinful Canaanites (i.e., Gen. 15:12-21) so now the sinful covenant people are removed.

 

80:8 "vine" This could refer to all of the covenant people (cf. Isaiah 5; Hosea 10:1) or be a specific reference to the northern kingdom (cf. Gen. 49:22).

80:11 "sea. . .the River" This refers to the Mediterranean to the west and the head waters of the Euphrates River to the northeast (cf. Exod. 23:31).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 80:14-19
 14O God of hosts, turn again now, we beseech You;
 Look down from heaven and see, and take care of this vine,
 15Even the shoot which Your right hand has planted,
 And on the son whom You have strengthened for Yourself.
 16It is burned with fire, it is cut down;
 They perish at the rebuke of Your countenance.
 17Let Your hand be upon the man of Your right hand,
 Upon the son of man whom You made strong for Yourself.
 18Then we shall not turn back from You;
 Revive us, and we will call upon Your name.
 19O Lord God of hosts, restore us;
 Cause Your face to shine upon us, and we will be saved.

80:14-19 This strophe is a concluding prayer (3 Qal imperatives of request in Ps. 80:14) for YHWH to have mercy on the descendants of Abraham.

The real question of interpretation is how they view this divine action to occur.

1. restore a strong nation (i.e., the shoot [BDB 488, only here in the OT] or vine of Ps. 80:8,14)

2. send a special Davidic seed (Ps. 80:15,17)

a. the son whom You have strengthened or secured (BDB 54)

b. Your hand be upon the man of Your right hand, the son of man whom You have made strong (BDB 54, parallel to Ps. 80:15) for Yourself (cf. Ps. 110:1)

It is obvious this imagery could refer to

1. national Israel/Judah

2. a Davidic king/Messiah (cf. 2 Samuel 7 and Aramaic Targums)

 

80:16 Notice that Israel/Judah's difficulties are a direct result of God's actions, not the power of the invader. God used pagan nations to judge His people (cf. Habakkuk). This was shocking to Jewish people. He had fought on their side (cf. Ps. 76:6) but now He was on the side of the invaders (i.e., a reversal of "holy war" imagery).

80:17 "Your hand" See Special Topic: Hand.

▣ "the son of man" This phrase is recurrent in Ezekiel. See my commentary notes below from Ezekiel 2:1.

Ezek. 2:1 "Son of man" This is literally "ben-Adam" (BDB 119 construct, BDB 9). This is used often in Ezekiel as a way of referring to Ezekiel as a human being (93 times, cf. Ps. 8:4). In Ezekiel it is the way God addresses Ezekiel. This same phrase is found in Job and Psalms. In Dan. 7:13 this term takes on divine characteristics as one likened to "a son of man" coming before the Ancient of Days (i.e., deity) riding on the clouds of heaven. Daniel 7:13 is the background for Jesus' use of this term for himself, which combines humanity and deity (i.e., 1 John 4:1-3). The phrase had no nationalistic or militaristic rabbinical overtones.

80:18 This verse lists several promises spoken by the psalmist but on behalf of the covenant people.

1. then (i.e., after God turns again to them, cf. Ps. 80:14) we shall not turn back (i.e., backslide, BDB 690, KB 744, Qal imperfect) from You

2. give us life/revive us (BDB 310, KB 309, Piel imperfect)

3. if God acts on their behalf they will call upon (BDB 894, KB 1128, Qal imperfect) His name in the temple

Notice this use of imperfects, which denotes an ongoing action.

80:19 See note at Ps. 80:3.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Does this Psalm refer to an invasion? If so, which historical period fits best?

2. Is this Psalm written about Israel or Judah?

3. List and explain the different terms and allusions to "light."

4. Why does the refrain of Ps. 80:3,7,19 add to God's name each time?

5. Why are nations often referred to in plant metaphors?

6. Are there "Messianic" hints in this Psalm or do they all refer to the nation as a whole?

Psalm 81

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
God's Goodness and Israel's Waywardness
MT Intro
For the choir director; on the Gittith. A Psalm of Asaph
An Appeal For Israel's Repentance Liturgy For A Festival A Song For A Festival For the Feast of Shelters
81:1-5 81:1-2 81:1-5b 81:1-5b 81:1
        81:2-3
  81:3-5      
        81:4-5b
    81:5c-10 81:5c-10 81:5c-7a
81:6-10 81:6-7      
        81:7b-8
  81:8-10      
        81:9-10
81:11-16 81:11-12 81:11-16 81:11-16 81:11-12
  81:13-16     81:13-14
        81:15-16

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. There is much debate over whether this refers to the Feast of Booths or Passover.

B. The Targum adds Tishri to Ps. 81:3, which is the month of the Feast of Booths.

C. This Psalm obviously refers to the exodus and wilderness experience, so both the Passover and Feast of Booths fit. I think it is the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles, which commemorates the wilderness wanderings. JPSOA thinks it refers to the "New Year" liturgy. The difficulty is that Ps. 81:4 seems to refer to two different dates (i.e., first of the month and middle of the month).

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 81:1-5
 1Sing for joy to God our strength;
 Shout joyfully to the God of Jacob.
 2Raise a song, strike the timbrel,
 The sweet sounding lyre with the harp.
 3Blow the trumpet at the new moon,
 At the full moon, on our feast day.
 4For it is a statute for Israel,
 An ordinance of the God of Jacob.
 5He established it for a testimony in Joseph
 When he went throughout the land of Egypt.
 I heard a language that I did not know:

81:1-5 This strophe is an admonition of the psalmist to the covenant people to rejoice at YHWH's powerful deliverance of Israel from Egyptian bondage.

1. sing for joy - BDB 943, KB 1247, Hiphil imperative, cf. Ps. 32:11

2. shout joyfully - BDB 929, KB 1206, Hiphil imperative

3. raise a song - BDB 669, KB 724, Qal imperative

4. strike the timbrel - BDB 678, KB 733, Qal imperative

5. blow the trumpet - BDB 1075, KB 1785, Qal imperative

Notice the word play between #1 and 2; #3 and 4.

81:1 "to God our strength" "Strength" (BDB 738) is often linked with "refuge" (see Special Topic: Refuge) to describe God (cf. Ps. 14:6; 46:1; 62:6-7). Faithful followers' hope, peace, and joy are in Him, not in

1. personal merit

2. circumstances

3. physical resources

 

81:3 "the timbrel" This musical instrument (BDB 1074) was a small handheld, circular frame with stretched animal skin. It was used in association with women dancing in the exodus victory in Exod. 15:20 (also note Jdgs. 11:34; 1 Sam. 18:6).

81:3 This verse is an admonition to worship God at the appropriate time and place.

1. the new moon - Israel's way to mark a new month (BDB 294, i.e., totally dark, cf. Num. 10:10; 28:11-15)

2. full moon (BDB 409, i.e., totally bright, its use found only here and Pro. 7:20; it denoted the middle of the month)

3. feast day (lists of several annual feast days, cf. Exodus 23 and Leviticus 23)

Surprisingly Sabbaths are not mentioned (cf. 1 Chr. 23:31; 2 Chr. 2:4; Hos. 2:11).

SPECIAL TOPIC: ANCIENT NEAR EASTERN CALENDARS

▣ "blow the trumpet" This instrument (BDB 1051) is mentioned in Exod. 19:16,19, when Israel prepared herself for YHWH's giving of His laws. Again this is an allusion to the exodus experience. See SPECIAL TOPIC: HORNS USED BY ISRAEL.

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE FEASTS OF ISRAEL

81:4-5 "statute. . .ordinance. . .testimony" These terms are ways to designate YHWH's revelations to Israel.

1. statutes - BDB 349

2. ordinance - BDB 1048

3. testimony - BDB 730

In context these seem to refer to the revelations about feast days (cf. Exodus 23; Leviticus 23). See SPECIAL TOPIC: TERMS FOR GOD'S REVELATION.

These laws seem to be the crux of what Ps. 81:5c means.

1. Joseph's testimony of his faith in YHWH as he traveled through Egypt

2. Moses' testimony as he shared YHWH's predictions of plagues

3. the language of the Egyptians, which the Hebrews did not originally understand

4. YHWH's laws that Israel rejected (cf. Ps. 81:8,11,13)

5. the fearful voice of God on Mt. Sinai (i.e., relates Ps. 81:5c to Ps. 81:6) spoken in Hebrew, which by this time most Israelites did not understand because they spoke Egyptian. If so, Ps. 81:5c is more first person masculine singular verbs, which would denote YHWH.

 

81:5 "a language that I did not know" This is a literary idiom for Israel's time in Egypt (cf. Ps. 114:1). It is also used of the invasion and occupation of Canaan by

1. Assyria - Deut. 28:49

2. Babylon - Jer. 5:15

Many modern translations see Ps. 81:5c as going with 81:6, not 81:5b. If so, it applies to YHWH speaking on Mt. Sinai (i.e., in Hebrew or in thunder). Israel was afraid of the powerful physical manifestation of YHWH on Mt. Sinai (cf. Exodus 19-20).

The remaining verses record YHWH speaking (i.e., Ps. 81:6-16).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 81:6-10
  6"I relieved his shoulder of the burden,
 His hands were freed from the basket.
 7You called in trouble and I rescued you;
 I answered you in the hiding place of thunder;
 I proved you at the waters of Meribah.  Selah.
 8Hear, O My people, and I will admonish you;
 O Israel, if you would listen to Me!
 9Let there be no strange god among you;
 Nor shall you worship any foreign god.
 10I, the Lord, am your God,
 Who brought you up from the land of Egypt;
 Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.

81:6-10 This strophe is a summary of all the gracious acts of YHWH in the exodus and wilderness wandering period. Notice all the first person masculine singular verbs! YHWH is directly addressing His people.

1. I relieved (lit. "removed"), Ps. 81:6 - BDB 693, KB 747, Hiphil perfect

2. I rescued (lit. "delivered"), Ps. 81:7 - BDB 322, KB 321, Piel imperfect with waw

3. I answered, Ps. 81:7 - BDB 772, KB 851, Qal imperfect

4. I proved, Ps. 81:7 - BDB 103, KB 119, Qal imperfect

5. I will admonish, Ps. 81:8 - BDB 729, KB 795, Hiphil cohortative

6. I, the Lord, am your God, Ps. 81:10 - covenant language

7. I will fill it, Ps. 81:10 - BDB 569, KB 583, Piel imperfect used in a cohortative sense

Also notice

8. I gave them over to, Ps. 81:12 - BDB 1018, KB 1511, Piel imperfect with waw (cf. Rom. 1:24,26,28)

9. I would quickly subdue, Ps. 81:14

10. I would feed you, Ps. 81:16 - BDB 37, KB 46, Hiphil imperfect with waw

11. I would satisfy you, Ps. 81:16 - BDB 959, KB 1302, Hiphil imperfect

YHWH speaks from Ps. 81:6 through 16 by means of a priest or prophet.

81:6 This verse refers to the forced labor of the Hebrew slaves (i.e., Exod. 1:8-14).

81:7 "You called in trouble and I rescued you" This is an allusion to YHWH's dialog with Moses in Exod. 3:7-10.

▣ "I answered you in the hiding place of thunder" This seems to allude to Israel's Mt. Sinai experience (cf. Exod. 19:19; 20:18).

▣ "I proved you at the waters of Meribah" This refers to the Israelites' experience recorded in Exod. 17:6-7 and Num. 20:13. The AB (pp. 265-266) sees this line as "though I was provoked by you" (cf. Exod. 17:7; Num. 14:22; 20:24; 27:14; Deut. 33:8; Ps. 93:8-9). Each of these texts states that Israel tested God, not God tested Israel.

Deuteronomy 33:8 seems to support the MT of Ps. 81:7c as God testing the Israelites.

▣ "Selah" See notes at Psalm 3:2.

81:8 "Hear" This is a Qal imperative! It begins a series of references to Israel's lack of responding appropriately to YHWH's revelation (cf. Neh. 9:34).

1. if you would listen - Ps. 81:8

2. My people did not listen - Ps. 81:11

3. Israel did not obey Me - Ps. 81:11

4. Oh that My people would listen to Me - Ps. 81:13

Derek Kidner, in the Tyndale Commentary series (p. 326), thinks "Hear, O My people" is an allusion to the Shema prayer of Deut. 6:4-6. It may well be!

81:9 Israel was commanded not to make or go after foreign gods (cf. Exod. 20:3,23). The Israelites were attracted to the fertility gods of Canaan. Israel's uniqueness in the ANE was her monotheism, which allowed for no rivals!

The Jewish Study Bible (p. 1374) asserts that Ps. 81:9-10 are an allusion to Exod. 20:1-2; Deut. 5:6, but in reverse order.

81:10 This refers to YHWH's provision of food and water during the wilderness wandering period.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 81:11-16
 11"But My people did not listen to My voice,
 And Israel did not obey Me.
 12So I gave them over to the stubbornness of their heart,
 To walk in their own devices.
 13Oh that My people would listen to Me,
 That Israel would walk in My ways!
 14I would quickly subdue their enemies
 And turn My hand against their adversaries.
 15Those who hate the Lord would pretend obedience to Him,
 And their time of punishment would be forever.
 16But I would feed you with the finest of the wheat,
 And with honey from the rock I would satisfy you."

81:11-16 This strophe contrasts what Israel did with what YHWH wanted to do for them.

1. Israel's history of rebellion (cf. Ps. 78:17,40)

a. did not listen

b. did not obey

c. had stubborn hearts

d. walked in their own devices

2. YHWH's reaction

a. judgment

(1) gave them over to (cf. Ps. 78:29; Isa. 6:9-10; Rom. 1:24,26,28) the stubbornness of their hearts, Ps. 81:12

(2) gave them over to walk in their own devices, Ps. 81:12

(3) those who pretend obedience would suffer eternal loss, Ps. 81:15

b. His desire

(1) that they would listen to Him, Ps. 81:13

(2) that they would walk in His ways, Ps. 81:13

c. His blessings

(1) subdue their enemies, Ps. 81:14

(2) turn His hand against their adversaries, Ps. 81:14

(3) feed them

(a) the finest of the wheat (cf. Deut. 32:14)

(b) honey from the rock (i.e., the best food of the land, cf. Deut. 32:13)

(4) satisfy them

Psalm 82

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Unjust Judgment Rebuked
MT Intro
A Psalm of Asaph
A Plea For Justice Liturgy of the Lord's Judgment on pagan gods God the Supreme Ruler Against the Judge of the Nations
82:1-4 82:1-4 82:1-4 82:1-4 82:1
        82:2-3
        82:4
82:5-8 82:5 82:5 82:5-7 82:5-7
  82:6-7 82:6-7    
  82:8 82:8 82:8 82:8

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. The real question about this Psalm is "to whom is it addressed"?

1. Israeli judges (Elohim used of Israeli judges, Exod. 21:6; 22:8-9; also note Targums and possibly Ps. 58:1)

2. pagan judges (NRSV and NJB readings possibly alluded to in Ps. 81:8) or pagan kings (NASB Study Bible, p. 825)

3. pagan gods (NET Bible, p. 953; AB, p. 268, using Ezek. 28:1-10 as a parallel; and NIDOTTE, vol. 4, p. 216)

4. national angels (cf. Deut. 4:19; 32:8, angels of the nations, cf. Dan. 10:13)

5. angels of the heavenly council (i.e., "sons of Elohim, cf. Ps. 8:5; 95:3; 96:4; 97:7; 138:1; Job 1:6; 38:7

B. The judgments of Elohim (i.e., the One) are contrasted with the judgments of elohim (i.e., judges or the angels). Psalm 82:7 demands angels!

C. Jesus uses this Psalm in John 10:31-38, in which He sees it as referring to human judges. I think Jesus is quoting Psalm 82 but alluding to Exod. 21:6; 22:8-9. His point is that "elohim" can be used in several senses!

The NASB Study Bible asserts that Jesus is using a known rabbinical interpretation to confound the charges against Him (p. 825).

D. It seems that the imagery of a Canaanite pantheon, which included an angelic assembly, is being used to assert YHWH's

1. moral character

2. universal reign

The OT often uses imagery from the ANE to communicate truth without affirming the reality of pagan mythology (i.e., [1] defeat of chaos, watery monsters, [2] tree of life; [3] actions and titles of Ba'al, etc.). Imagery communicates reality in ways so that fallen mankind can grasp the central truths! YHWH is much greater than humans can imagine and separation from Him is much worse!

It is difficult to know for sure what is ANE imagery and what is biblical, doctrinal truth. Westerners tend to be literalists whereas the Bible has a literary quality. Literal does not always adequately or accurately convey the original author's intent.

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 82:1-4
 1God takes His stand in His own congregation;
 He judges in the midst of the rulers.
 2How long will you judge unjustly
 And show partiality to the wicked?  Selah.
 3Vindicate the weak and fatherless;
 Do justice to the afflicted and destitute.
 4Rescue the weak and needy;
 Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.

82:1 "God" This is the title Elohim (BDB 43, see SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY). It is used twice in this verse and again in Ps. 82:6 and 8.

The general term El (BDB 42) is the common name for deity in the ANE.

▣ "takes His stand" Here, this term (BDB 662, KB 714, Niphal participle) is used of Elohim (the One, using singular participle) taking the authoritative position (same term is used in the sense of "presiding over" in 1 Sam. 19:20) in "the congregation of El." This refers to the heavenly council (cf. 1 Kgs. 22:19; 2 Chr. 18:18; Job 1:6; 2:1), possibly made up of

1. worshiping angels

2. national angels, Deut. 32:8; Ps. 89:5-8; Isa. 6:1; 24:19

3. servant angels, Job 38:7; Dan. 7:9-10

 

82:2-4 these verses represent YHWH's revealed will in the Pentateuch (i.e., Genesis - Deuteronomy). YHWH is the speaker in Ps. 82:2-4.

1. show no partiality to the wicked (cf. Lev. 19:15; Deut. 1:17; 16:19; this is because YHWH judges impartially, Deut. 10:17)

2. vindicate the weak - BDB 1047, KB 1622, Qal imperative

3. vindicate the fatherless (implied imperative from #2, cf. Deut. 24:17)

4. do justice to the afflicted - BDB 842, KB 1003, Hiphil imperative

5. do justice to the destitute - implied imperative from #4

6. rescue the weak - BDB 812, KB 930, Piel imperative

7. rescue the needy - implied imperative from #6

8. deliver them out of the hand of the wicked (ties back to Ps. 82:2b) - BDB 664, KB 717, Hiphil imperative

Human judges, even Israel's judges, acted unfairly in their judgments. Apparently they are influenced by the angelic rebellion and fall. Psalm 82:5-7 refers to inappropriate angelic actions and God's judgment of them (cf. Ps. 82:7a).

82:2 There is an obvious contrast set up between the Elohim (i.e., the one true God) and the plural elohim (i.e., the angelic council). This implies that the national angels also ignored YHWH's covenant revelations to Israel, especially the powerless and needy of society. God loves human beings made in His image, all human beings!

▣ "show partiality" This verb (BDB 669, KB 724, Qal imperfect) is literally "to lift the face." It was a way to see if you recognized a person and accepted them (cf. Gen. 32:20; Job 42:8-9). However, for a judge it became an act of showing favor or partiality and was condemned (cf. Deut. 1:17; 16:19; Lev. 19:15; Job 13:8; 32:21; 34:19; Pro. 17:15; 18:5; 24:23; 28:21).

▣ "Selah" See notes at Psalm 3:2.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 82:5-8
 5They do not know nor do they understand;
 They walk about in darkness;
 All the foundations of the earth are shaken.
 6I said, "You are gods,
 And all of you are sons of the Most High.
 7Nevertheless you will die like men
 And fall like any one of the princes."
 8Arise, O God, judge the earth!
 For it is You who possesses all the nations.

82:5-8 This strophe cannot refer to humans but must refer to angels.

1. "all the foundations of the earth are shaken"

2. You are gods (i.e., elohim)

3. sons of the Most High (see Special Topic: The Sons of God [Genesis 6])

4. you will die like men

5. fall like one of the princes ("princes" used of national angels in Dan. 10:5,20; but humans in Isa. 3:13-14)

6. judge the earth. . .possess all the nations

 

82:5 Those addressed by the Psalm are characterized as

1. they do not know

2. they do not understand

3. they walk in darkness

These, like Ps. 82:2-4, can refer to Israelis. This is why some commentators take "elohim" in Ps. 82:1b and 6a to refer to human judges (cf. Exod. 21:6; 22:8-9). I think the evidence of the Psalm as a whole points to national angels.

If Ps. 82:2-4 shows YHWH speaking, who is speaking in Ps. 82:5-7? It must be the psalmist himself as the first words of Ps. 82:6, 7, and 8 as a whole, seem to demand. However, it must be admitted that they could also reflect the words of YHWH Himself (UBS Handbook, p. 730).

▣ "They walk about in darkness" The verb "walk about" (BDB 229, KB 246, Hithpael imperfect) denotes lifestyle action.

The "darkness" is a metaphor for evil or rejection of God's revelation. The concept is expressed in several idioms.

1. ways of darkness - Pro. 2:13; 4:19; Isa. 9:2; 50:10; John 3:19-20

2. works of darkness - Job 24:13-17; Jer. 23:12

3. grope in darkness - Deut. 28:29; Job 5:14; 12:25; Isa. 59:9-10

4. call light darkness - Job 17:12; Isa. 5:20

Spiritual, intentional blindness is a terrible thing. Both angels and humans purposefully choose not to see (cf. Isa. 24:21)! They put out their own spiritual eyes!

▣ "the foundations of the earth are shaken" This could be taken in two senses.

1. the moral foundations, cf. Ps. 11:3; Isa. 24:7-13, esp. Ps. 82:18

2. the physical foundations, cf. Ps. 93:1; 96:10; 104:5

 

82:6 "sons of the Most High" See the Special Topic: The Sons of God, where I discuss the phrase in Genesis 6. I think it refers to angels there also.

For "Most High" see SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY.

82:7 "fall" AB asserts this refers to falling into Sheol and uses Isa. 14:12-15 and Ezek. 28:1-10 as examples (p. 270). Again, notice the confusion between an angel (i.e., Satan) and humans (i.e., king of Babylon and king of Tyre). There is mystery here! The OT is using imagery, analogy, and idioms in ways moderns do not fully understand. In the ANE there was no division between the spiritual realm and the physical realm.

82:8 These last two Qal imperatives ("arise" and "judge") have a universal focus. God is not only creator but also judge. He reigns over all creation (cf. Ps. 2:8; Rev. 11:15).

As Jesus functioned as YHWH's agent in creation (cf. John 1:3,10; Rom. 11:36; 1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2), He is also YHWH's agent in judgment (cf. John 5:22-23,27; 9:39; Acts 10:42; 17:31; 2 Tim. 4:1; 1 Pet. 4:5).

The last verb is a Qal imperfect, not a Qal imperative. It asserts that YHWH does possess, not should possess. It is a statement of truth!

If the angelic interpretation is true (and there is some doubt because of Jesus' usage in John 10), then the psalmist is praying that YHWH would defeat the pagan gods or national angels and set up His righteous system on all the earth as He originally intended in Eden (before the Fall, the flood and/or the tower of Babel). One day it will be so (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:24-28)!

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Explain the concept of a heavenly council. Is it made up of righteous or wicked angels?

2. Explain the two different usages of "elohim."

3. List the elements in this Psalm that point toward "humans" and those that point toward "angels."

4. What do we mean when we say God created a moral universe?

5. Do the psalmist and Jesus use Ps. 82:6 in the same way?

6. Who are "the princes" of Ps. 82:7?

7. Explain how the universal thrust of Ps. 82:8 fits the rest of the Psalm.

8. Does Scripture use ANE imagery and mythology?

Psalm 83

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
God Implored to Confound His Enemies
MT Intro
A Song, A Psalm of Asaph
Prayer To Frustrate Conspiracy Against Israel Prayer for Deliverance From National Enemies Prayer for the Defeat of Israel's Enemies Against the Enemies of Israel
83:1-8 83:1-4 83:1-8 83:1-4 83:1-2
        83:3-4
  83:5-8   83:5-8 83:5-8
83:9-12 83:9-12 83:9-12 83:9-12 83:9-12
83:13-18 83:13-18 8:13-18 83:13-18 83:13-18

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. YHWH is intimately linked to His covenant people. The planning and scheming of the surrounding ANE nations to attack Israel, is a plan to attack Him (cf. Ps. 83:5 and note Ps. 83:12).

B. Several nations and people groups are mentioned.

1. Edom

2. Ishmaelites

3. Moab

4. Hagrites

5. Gebal

6. Ammon

7. Amalek

8. Philistia

9. Tyre (i.e., Phoenicia)

10. Assyria

11. Midian (Numbers 11-14 refer to events in Israel's past where YHWH helped them)

12. Sisera and Jabin

13. Oreb and Zech

14. Zebah and Zalmunna

C. This Psalm of prayer (5 imperatives) for the destruction of Israel's enemies is characterized by a large number of imperfects used in a jussive sense.

1. Ps. 83:1 - two stated but three implied

2. Ps. 83:15-18 - six (possibly eight with Ps. 83:15)

D. This Psalm uses several names for Deity.

1. God, Ps. 83:1a, 12b - Elohim (BDB 43)

2. God, Ps. 83:16 - El (BDB 42)

3. God, Ps. 83:13a - Eloah (BDB 43)

4. Lord, Ps. 83:16b, 18a - YHWH (BDB 217)

5. Most High, Ps. 83:18b - Elyon (BDB 751)

See SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY

E. This Psalm has a strong

1. evangelistic thrust (i.e., Ps. 83:16b, 18)

2. universal focus (Ps. 83:18b)

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 83:1-8
 1O God, do not remain quiet;
 Do not be silent and, O God, do not be still.
 2For behold, Your enemies make an uproar,
 And those who hate You have exalted themselves.
 3They make shrewd plans against Your people,
 And conspire together against Your treasured ones.
 4They have said, "Come, and let us wipe them out as a nation,
 That the name of Israel be remembered no more."
 5For they have conspired together with one mind;
 Against You they make a covenant:
 6The tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites,
 Moab and the Hagrites;
 7Gebal and Ammon and Amalek,
 Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre;
 8Assyria also has joined with them;
 They have become a help to the children of Lot.  Selah.

83:1-8 This strophe describes the inappropriate activities of the surrounding nations. The psalmist requests that God act on Israel's behalf.

1. do not remain quiet - BDB 198, no verb but parallel to #2, #3

2. do not be silent - BDB 361, KB 357, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense, cf. Ps. 28:1; 35:22; 50:3; 109:1

3. do not be still (i.e., inactive) - BDB 1052, KB 1641, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

The fact that the surrounding nations planned and acted out their aggression (Ps. 83:2-8) caused the covenant people to wonder at YHWH's apparent inactivity.

Notice the activity of the surrounding nations.

1. make un uproar - BDB 242, KB 250, Qal imperfect, cf. Ps. 46:6 and very similar to Ps. 2:1-2

2. exalted themselves (lit. raised their heads) - BDB 669, KB 724, Qal perfect, cf. Jdgs. 8:28; Zech. 1:21

3. made shrewd plans - BDB 791, KB 886, Hiphil imperfect, only here in Hiphil in the OT

4. conspire together - BDB 419, KB 421, Hithpael imperfect, used in the sense of "determine" in 2 Chr. 30:23

a. come - BDB 229, KB 246, Qal imperative

b. wipe them out - BDB 470, KB 469, Hiphil imperfect used in a cohortative sense, cf. Ps. 74:8

c. that the name of Israel be remembered no more - BDB 269, KB 269, Niphal imperfect, which is an idiom for total destruction and death

The conclusion to this list is stated in Ps. 83:5. An attack on Israel is an attack on YHWH, cf. Ps. 83:2; Ps. 2:2; 74:18,23.

83:3 "Your people. . .Your treasured ones" The second expression (BDB 860, KB 1049, Qal passive participle) has two possible connotations in BDB.

1. treasured (JPSOA), cf. Exod. 19:5; Deut. 7:6; 14:2; 26:18

2. hidden with God, cf. Ps. 27:5; 31:21

The NKJV has "sheltered ones" (#2), while NJB has "those you cherish" (#1).

83:4b "the name of Israel" This is a way of referring to the nation (cf. Ps. 83:4a).

For the meaning of the name "Israel" see Special Topic: Israel (the Name).

83:5 "covenant" See Special Topic: Covenant.

83:6 "tents of. . ." This is an idiomatic anachronism of when Israel lived in "tents," but at this period most of them lived in cities and villages with more permanent housing.

The other possibility is that it is idiomatic for a nation (cf. Ps. 74:51; 120:5).

AB (p. 274) mentions a scroll fragment found at Masada that has "the gods of Edom. . ." This fits well with the imagery of "arm" in Ps. 83:8. It would also link up well with the national angels of Psalm 82. AB lists Yigael Yardin, Israel Exploration Journal, 15 (1965), 104, as the place to see the phrase.

▣ "Edom"

SPECIAL TOPIC: EDOM AND ISRAEL

▣ "Ishmaelites" This refers to the descendants of Ishmael, Abraham's first child by Hagar (cf. Gen. 25:12-16). They became the Arab tribes.

▣ "Moab" This is one of the two nations descended from Lot and his daughters (cf. Gen. 19:30-38, esp. Ps. 83:37).

▣ "Hagrites" This is a tribe from Ishmael mentioned in 1 Chr. 5:10,18-22. The name may come from "Hagar," Ishmael's Egyptian mother. They lived to the east of Canaan and some parts of the tribe, more to the southeast.

83:7 "Gebal" This name (BDB 148, KB 174) can have two possible references.

1. from the word for "mountain," may refer to an area in the trans-Jordan area near Petra, thereby connected to Arab tribe

2. from the name of an old Phoenician coastal city and, therefore, would parallel Tyre (Ps. 83:7b), later known as Byblos

 

▣ "Ammon" See notes on Moab, Ps. 83:6.

▣ "Amalek" A descendant of Esau, who became chief in Edom (cf. Gen. 30:15-16). They were especially problematic to Israel during the wilderness wandering period (cf. Exod. 17:8-16; Num. 24:20; Deut. 25:12-19. Saul was commanded to destroy them (cf. 1 Samuel 15).

▣ "Philistia" The Philistines were apparently Greeks from the Aegean Islands. They were the only group of people in this part of the world who were uncircumcized. They were apparently a mercenary force who tried to attack Egypt in the twelfth century b.c. but were defeated. They then settled on the southern coast of Palestine. They had five major cities which are delineated in Jos.13:3: Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gad, and Ekron. They were a major military problem throughout the period of the judges and even throughout the reign of Saul and David. The name "Palestine" comes from the word "Philistine."

▣ "Tyre" This is the famous seaport of the Phoenician Empire north of Israel. The older capital was "Sidon" (and possibly older than that, Gebal).

▣ "Assyria" This was a major empire of the Tigris/Euphrates. It became powerful in about the middle 900's b.c. to 609 b.c., when the capital of Nineveh fell (Nahum). See Special Topic: Survey of the Powers of Mesopotamia (Assyria, Babylon, Persia).

The mentioning of Assyria and not Babylon is a hint of the date this Psalm was written.

83:8 The Assyrians had become a help (lit. "arm") for the trans-Jordan nations that descended from Lot and his two daughters (cf. Gen. 19:30-38).

1. Moab

2. Ammon

 

▣ "Selah" See notes at Psalm 3:2.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 83:9-12
 9Deal with them as with Midian,
 As with Sisera and Jabin at the torrent of Kishon,
 10Who were destroyed at En-dor,
 Who became as dung for the ground.
 11Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb
 And all their princes like Zebah and Zalmunna,
 12Who said, "Let us possess for ourselves
 The pastures of God."

83:9-12 This strophe reminds the current Israelites of YHWH's presence and help in the past when invaders plotted to take Israel's land.

1. as with Midian - Jdgs. 7:22

2. Sisera and Jabin - Jdgs. 4:22-23

3. Oreb and Zeeb - Jdgs. 7:25

4. Zebah and Zalmunna - Jdgs. 8:21

 

83:10 "as dung for the ground" This refers to the huge number of dead bodies after a battle. The prospect of being improperly buried or eaten by animals would terrify ANE people (cf. 2 Kgs. 9:37; Ps. 79:2-3; Jer. 8:2; 22:19; 36:30). This was a curse formula!

▣ "En-dor" This location is mentioned in Saul's day but not in the book of Judges. The NEB changes it to En-harod, which is mentioned in Jdgs. 7:1 and fits with the historical allusions of Ps. 83:9-11 (i.e., Judges 4-8). The UBS Text Project (p. 341) gives En-dor an "A" rating and rejects the emendation. Though not mentioned by name, it is still in the general area (cf. Jos. 17:11).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 83:13-18
 13O my God, make them like the whirling dust,
 Like chaff before the wind.
 14Like fire that burns the forest
 And like a flame that sets the mountains on fire,
 15So pursue them with Your tempest
 And terrify them with Your storm.
 16Fill their faces with dishonor,
 That they may seek Your name, O Lord.
 17Let them be ashamed and dismayed forever,
 And let them be humiliated and perish,
 18That they may know that You alone, whose name is the Lord,
 Are the Most High over all the earth.

83:13-18 This strophe is a prayer for YHWH to act in judgment on Israel's behalf.

1. make them - BDB 1011, KB 1483, Qal imperative

a. like whirling dust, cf. Isa. 17:13; 29:5; 41:15-16

b. like chaff before the wind, cf. Isa. 17:13

c. like fire that burns the forest

d. like a flame that sets the mountains on fire

2. pursue them - BDB 922, KB 1191, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

3. terrify them - BDB 96, KB 111, Piel imperfect used in a jussive sense

4. fill their faces with dishonor - BDB 569, KB 583, Piel imperative

5. let them be ashamed - BDB 101, KB 116, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

6. let them be dismayed - BDB 96, KB 111, Niphal imperfect used in a jussive sense

7. let them be humiliated - BDB 344, KB 340, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

8. let them perish - BDB 1, KB 2, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

There are two more which show the intended purpose of judgment, which is to help the nations come to worship YHWH (see Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan).

1. that they may seek Your name, O YHWH - BDB134, KB 152, Piel imperfect used in a jussive sense (Ps. 83:16)

2. that they may know that You alone are the Most High over all the earth - BDB 393, KB 390, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense (Ps. 83:17)

 

83:17 Notice the parallelism between "forever" and "persists." These reflect on Ps. 83:4, where the nations wanted Israel to cease to exist!

83:18 "over all the earth" This universal element is common in the Psalms of Asaph! It is the obvious necessary conclusion to monotheism (see SPECIAL TOPIC: MONOTHEISM).

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Does this Psalm reflect a historical invasion by a coalition of nations or historical imagery?

2. How does Ps. 83:1 reflect the fear and confusion of Israel?

3. How are Ps. 83:4-5 related to YHWH's larger redemptive plan? Is there a Satanic attempt to thwart God's redemptive activity?

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