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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Psalms 78



Verse 1

Psalm 78:1-72. This Psalm appears to have been occasioned by the removal of the sanctuary from Shiloh in the tribe of Ephraim to Zion in the tribe of Judah, and the coincident transfer of pre-eminence in Israel from the former to the latter tribe, as clearly evinced by David‘s settlement as the head of the Church and nation. Though this was the execution of God‘s purpose, the writer here shows that it also proceeded from the divine judgment on Ephraim, under whose leadership the people had manifested the same sinful and rebellious character which had distinguished their ancestors in Egypt.

my people … my law — the language of a religious teacher (Psalm 78:2; Lamentations 3:14; Romans 2:16, Romans 2:27; compare Psalm 49:4). The history which follows was a “dark saying,” or riddle, if left unexplained, and its right apprehension required wisdom and attention.

Verses 3-8

This history had been handed down (Exodus 12:14; Deuteronomy 6:20) for God‘s honor, and that the principles of His law might be known and observed by posterity. This important sentiment is reiterated in (Psalm 78:7, Psalm 78:8) negative form.

Verse 5

testimony — (Psalm 19:7).

Verse 8

stubborn and rebellious — (Deuteronomy 21:18).

set not their heart — on God‘s service (2 Chronicles 12:14).

Verses 9-11

The privileges of the first-born which belonged to Joseph (1 Chronicles 5:1, 1 Chronicles 5:2) were assigned to Ephraim by Jacob (Genesis 48:1). The supremacy of the tribe thus intimated was recognized by its position (in the marching of the nation to Canaan) next to the ark (Numbers 2:18-24), by the selection of the first permanent locality for the ark within its borders at Shiloh, and by the extensive and fertile province given for its possession. Traces of this prominence remained after the schism under Rehoboam, in the use, by later writers, of Ephraim for Israel (compare Hosea 5:3-14; Hosea 11:3-12). Though a strong, well-armed tribe, and, from an early period, emulous and haughty (compare Joshua 17:14; Judges 8:1-3; 2 Samuel 19:41), it appears, in this place, that it had rather led the rest in cowardice than courage; and had incurred God‘s displeasure, because, diffident of His promise, though often heretofore fulfilled, it had failed as a leader to carry out the terms of the covenant, by not driving out the heathen (Exodus 23:24; Deuteronomy 31:16; 2 Kings 17:15).

Verses 12-14

A record of God‘s dealings and the sins of the people is now made. The writer gives the history from the exode to the retreat from Kadesh; then contrasts their sins with their reasons for confidence, shown by a detail of God‘s dealings in Egypt, and presents a summary of the subsequent history to David‘s time.

Zoan — for Egypt, as its ancient capital (Numbers 13:22; Isaiah 19:11).

Verse 15-16

There were two similar miracles (Exodus 17:6; Numbers 20:11).

great depths — and - rivers — denote abundance.

Verses 17-20

yet more — literally, “added to sin,” instead of being led to repentance (Romans 2:4).

Verse 18

in their heart — (Matthew 15:19).

for their lust — literally, “soul,” or, “desire.”

provoking — and - tempted — illustrated by their absurd doubts,

Verse 19-20

in the face of His admitted power.

Verse 21

fire — the effect of the “anger” (Numbers 11:1).

Verse 22

(Compare Hebrews 8:8, Hebrews 8:9).

Verses 23-29

(Compare Exodus 16:11-15; Numbers 11:4-9).

Verse 25

angels‘ food — literally, “bread of the mighty” (compare Psalm 105:40); so called, as it came from heaven.

meat — literally, “victuals,” as for a journey.

Verse 29

their … desire — what they longed for.

Verse 30-31

not estranged … lust — or, “desire” - that is, were indulging it.

Verse 31
fattest — or, “among the fattest”; some of them -

chosen — the young and strong (Isaiah 40:31), and so none could resist.

Verses 33-39

Though there were partial reformations after chastisement, and God, in pity, withdrew His hand for a time, yet their general conduct was rebellious, and He was thus provoked to waste and destroy them, by long and fruitless wandering in the desert.

Verse 36
tongues — a feigned obedience (Psalm 18:44).

Verse 37
not right — or, “firm” (compare Psalm 78:8; Psalm 51:10).

Verse 39
again — literally, “a breath,” thin air (compare Psalm 103:16; James 4:14).

Verse 40-41

There were ten temptations (Numbers 14:22).

Verse 41

limited — as in Psalm 78:19, Psalm 78:20. Though some prefer “grieved” or “provoked.” The retreat from Kadesh (Deuteronomy 1:19-23) is meant, whether -

turned — be for turning back, or to denote repetition of offense.

Verse 43

wrought — set or held forth.

Verse 45

The dog-fly or the mosquito.

Verse 46

caterpillar — the Hebrew name, from its voracity, and that of -

locust — from its multitude.

Verse 47-48

The additional effects of the storm here mentioned (compare Exodus 9:23-34) are consistent with Moses‘ account.

Verse 48
cattle — literally, “shut up” (compare Psalm 31:8).

Verse 49

evil angels — or, “angels of evil” - many were perhaps employed, and other evils inflicted.

Verse 50-51

made a way — removed obstacles, gave it full scope.

Verse 51

chief of their strength — literally, “first-fruits,” or, “first-born” (Genesis 49:3; Deuteronomy 21:17).

Ham — one of whose sons gave name ({Mizraim}, Hebrew) to Egypt.

Verses 52-54
forth — or, brought them by periodical journeys (compare Exodus 15:1).

Verse 54

border of his sanctuary — or, “holy border” - i.e., region of which -

this mountain — (Zion) was, as the seat of civil and religious government, the representative, used for the whole land, as afterwards for the Church (Isaiah 25:6, Isaiah 25:7).

purchased — or, “procured by His right hand” or power (Psalm 60:5).

Verse 55

by line — or, the portion thus measured.

divided them — that is, the heathen, put for their possessions, so tents - that is, of the heathen (compare Deuteronomy 6:11).

Verse 56-57

a deceitful bow — which turns back, and so fails to project the arrow (2 Samuel 1:22; Hosea 7:16). They relapsed.

Verse 58

Idolatry resulted from sparing the heathen (compare Psalm 78:9-11).

Verse 59-60

heard — perceived (Genesis 11:7).

abhorred — but not utterly.

Verse 60
placed — literally, “caused to dwell,” set up (Joshua 18:1).

Verse 61

his strength — the ark, as symbolical of it (Psalm 96:6).

Verse 62

gave — or, “shut up.”

his people — (Psalm 78:48; 1 Samuel 4:10-17).

Verse 63

fire — either figure of the slaughter (1 Samuel 4:10), or a literal burning by the heathen.

given to marriage — literally, “praised” - that is, as brides.

Verse 64

(Compare 1 Samuel 4:17); and there were, doubtless, others.

made no lamentation — either because stupefied by grief, or hindered by the enemy.

Verse 65

(Compare Psalm 22:16; Isaiah 42:13).

Verse 66

And he smote … part — or, “struck His enemies‘ back.” The Philistines never regained their position after their defeats by David.

Verse 67-68

tabernacle of Joseph — or, “home,” or, “tribe,” to which -

tribe of Ephraim — is parallel (compare Revelation 7:8). Its pre-eminence was, like Saul‘s, only permitted. Judah had been the choice (Genesis 49:10).

Verse 69

Exalted as -

high palaces — or, “mountains,” and abiding as - the earth.

Verses 70-72

God‘s sovereignty was illustrated in this choice. The contrast is striking - humility and exaltation - and the correspondence is beautiful.

Verse 71
ewes, etc. — literally, “ewes giving suck” (compare Isaiah 40:11). On the pastoral terms, compare Psalm 79:13.


Copyright Statement
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.

Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Psalms 78:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". 1871-8.

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