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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

Psalms 78



Verses 1-72

This long historical Ps. may be compared with Psalms 105, 106, and with Deuteronomy 32. It traces the course of God's relations with His people from the exodus down to the time of David, and dwells on the repeated manifestations of Israel's rebelliousness, on the chastisements by which they were visited, and on the patient mercy of God which continued to bless them in spite of all their sins. The Ps. does not follow a strict chronological order, but records first Israel's ingratitude for God's provision of food and drink in the wilderness (Psalms 78:12-34), and afterwards the plagues of Egypt (Psalms 78:43-51), the journey to Canaan (Psalms 78:52-55), the defections of Israel in the days of the Judges (Psalms 78:56-58), the calamities of the Philistine wars (Psalms 78:56-64), and the establishment of David's kingdom (Psalms 78:65-72). While the conduct of the whole nation is in view throughout the Ps. the tribe of Ephraim is singled out for special condemnation at the first (Psalms 78:9-11), and emphasis is afterwards laid on its rejection in favour of Judah, and on the rejection of Shiloh in favour of Jerusalem as the national sanctuary (Psalms 78:67-69). The date of the Ps. is subsequent to the building of the Temple (Psalms 78:69), but apparently before its destruction by the Babylonians. The phrase 'the Holy One of Israel' (Psalms 78:41) is characteristic of Isaiah's prophecies (Isaiah 6:13; Isaiah 10:17; Isaiah 29:23), and suggests that the Ps. was written in or after his time. The historical allusions are confined to the primitive narrative of the Pentateuch (JE), which was earlier than the exile. The references to Ephraim indicate a time after the disruption of the kingdom (1 Kings 12; 2 Chronicles 10), but the object of the Ps. was probably not to rebuke Ephraim, but rather to warn the whole nation by recalling the lessons of the past.

1. Law] RM 'teaching.'

2. Parable] in the sense of 'didactic poem.' Dark sayings] lit. 'riddles.' The history of Israel is an enigma, requiring an explanation such as the Psalmist gives. These two words occur together in Psalms 49:4; Proverbs 1:6; Ezekiel 17:2. The v. is quoted in Matthew 13:34-35 with reference to Christ's method of teaching by parables.

3, 4. The vv. are connected. Read, 'The things which we have heard.. we will not hide from their children': cp. Deuteronomy 4:9; Deuteronomy 6:7; Deuteronomy 11:19.

9. This v. does not refer to a particular incident, but is a general figurative description of Ephraim's opportunity and failure, anticipating what is said in Psalms 78:67. Even before the revolt of Jeroboam Ephraim had shown a tendency to rivalry with Judah (2 Samuel 19:41 to 2 Samuel 20:22).

12. Zoan] Tanis, a city in the Delta of the Nile: see Psalms 78:43.

18, 21. Cp. Exodus 16, 17 Null.

26. The wind that brought the quails (Numbers 11:31).

29. Their own desire] RV 'that they lusted after.'

36, 37. There was no real change of heart. His covenant] see Exodus 24:7.

40. Provoke] RV 'rebel against.'

41. Limited] RV 'provoked.'

43-51. The plagues in Egypt.

44. Floods] RV 'streams.'

45. Divers sorts] RV'swarms.'

47. Frost] RM 'great hailstones.'

48. Hot thunderbolts] lightning (Exodus 9:24).

49. By sending evil angels among them] RV 'aband of evil angels,' the disasters being personified as messengers of God.

51. Tabernacles] RV 'tents.'

Ham] or Kem, meaning 'black,' because of the soil, was the Egyptian name for Egypt.

54. Sanctuary] the land of Canaan, as sacred to God. This mountain] the mountain land of Canaan: cp. Exodus 15:17.

55. Heathen] RV 'nations.' Divided.. an inheritance] see Joshua 13, etc.

56-64. The reference is to the days of the Judges.

57. Unfaithfully] RV 'treacherously.'

A deceitful bow] which causes the archer to miss the mark (Hosea 7:16).

60. Shiloh] see on Judges 18:31; 1 Samuel 1:3, 1 Samuel 1:24; Jeremiah 7:12-14; Jeremiah 26:6.

61. Strength.. glory] the ark: see 1 Samuel 4.

64. Priests] see 1 Samuel 4:11. Made no lamentation] In the perils of the time mourning rites could not be observed: see Job 27:15.

65. For this bold figure cp. Isaiah 42:13, Isaiah 42:14.

66. In the hinder parts] RV 'backward.'

67. Joseph.. Ephraim] Joseph was the father of Ephraim. Both names are used for the northern kingdom as a whole. Shiloh, where the ark had been, was in the territory of Ephraim. Now it was taken to Zion.

69. High palaces] RV'heights,'the heavens. Like the earth] firm as the earth.

71. Great with young] RV 'that give suck,' as in Isaiah 40:11.


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Psalms 78:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". 1909.

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