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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Psalms 78



Verse 1

Psalms 78:1 « Maschil of Asaph. » Give ear, O my people, [to] my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth.

Maschil of Asaph] Ode didasealiea Asaphi. The six first verses are proemial, wooing attention from the dignity, difficulty, antiquity, certainty, &c., of the matter in this psalm discoursed on, containing an abstract of the whole Pentateuch, and acquainting us with the ancient way of preaching, which was a historical narration of the miraculous mercies that God had from time to time conferred upon his people, their hateful abuse of his benefits, and their punishments thereupon. This is to be seen in various psalms, in St Stephen’s sermon, Acts 7:1-60, and St Paul’s, Acts 13:1-52, et est sane valde venerandum istud sanctae antiquitatis monumentum, This is a very venerable monument of holy antiquity, and teacheth us the right use of history, quae dicta est παρα το ισταναι τον ρουν, saith Plato.

Ver. 1. Give ear, O my people, to my law] i.e. To my doctrine, which hath its name in Hebrew from darting it into the soul; and these are the psalmist’s words in God’s name, calling for utmost attention.

Incline your ears, &c.] Lay them close to my lips, that no parcel of this sacred language fall to the ground by your default. Eνωτιζεσθε, Aurizate, auribus haurite, Receive it into your ears; yea, draw up the ears of your mind to the ears of your bodies, that one sound may pierce both, Acts 2:14, Isaiah 55:3. "Hear, and give ear; be not proud; for the Lord hath spoken it," Jeremiah 13:15.

Verse 2

Psalms 78:2 I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old:

Ver. 2. I will open my mouth in a parable] I will speak freely and plainly (I will open my mouth, Matthew 5:2, Acts 10:34), and yet acutely and accurately. See Psalms 49:4, {See Trapp on "Psalms 49:4"}

I will utter dark sayings of old] Heb. I will well out (as from a spring or fountain) dark or sharp sayings, transacted and recorded of old, but of good use for ever. Difficulty doth not discourage, but rather whet on heroic spirits to a more diligent inquiry. Aben Ezra noteth here, that Psalms 78:9, "The children of Ephraim," &c., is a parable, and Psalms 78:25, "Man did eat angels’ food," is a riddle, or dark saying.

Verse 3

Psalms 78:3 Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us.

Ver. 3. Which we have heard and known] Hearing and seeing are the two learned senses, whereby knowledge, yea, life, entereth into the soul, Proverbs 2:2; Proverbs 2:10, Isaiah 55:3.

And our fathers have told us] Have delivered down to us from hand to hand, whetting upon us the written word, Deuteronomy 6:7, and adding thereunto, for explication, many other things fit to be known.

Verse 4

Psalms 78:4 We will not hide [them] from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done.

Ver. 4. We will not hide them from their children] The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit with, 1 Corinthians 12:7, neither is any one born (much less born again) for himself; but must be as useful as may be in his generation,

Paulum sepultae distat inertiae

Celata virtus - (Hor.).

The praises of the Lord] The praise worthy acts of God for his people, and against their enemies; for these two are not sundered, Philippians 1:28.

Verse 5

Psalms 78:5 For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children:

Ver. 5. For he established a testimony in Jacob, &c.] Lest any should attribute too much to ancient traditions, and to show that antiquity must have no more authority than what it can maintain; the psalmist here (as afterwards the prophet Isaiah) calleth them to the law and to the testimonies; for if any speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them, Isaiah 8:20.

Verse 6

Psalms 78:6 That the generation to come might know [them, even] the children [which] should be born; [who] should arise and declare [them] to their children:

Ver. 6. Who shall arise and declare them] i.e. Succeed their parents both in their place and office of teaching their posterity; not suffering the truth which is after godliness [Titus 1:1] to fail and fall in the streets, Isaiah 59:14-15, or if it do, raising it up again, and restoring it to their utmost.

Verse 7

Psalms 78:7 That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments:

Ver. 7. That they might set their hope in God] Summa legis divinae et scopus, this is a brief of the Bible, viz. to believe in God and obey his law; both which men shall the better do, if they forget not his works.

Verse 8

Psalms 78:8 And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation [that] set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not stedfast with God.

Ver. 8. And might not be as their fathers] Fathers are not always to be followed, Ezekiel 20:18-19. He zealously affected his fathers, but not well, who said, I will follow them sicut bos armentum, etiamsi ruant, though I fall with them (Cicero Epist.).

A stubborn and rebellious generation] Aver satrix et irritatrix.

A generation that set not, &c.] Double-minded men, unstable in all their ways, James 1:8, having religionem ephemeram, as Beza said of Baldwin, that Ecebolius II.

And whose spirit was not stedfast with God] As was that martyr’s who said, Though you may pluck the heart out of nay body, yet you shall never pluck the truth out of my heart. The heavens shall sooner fall, said another, than I will forsake the truth I have once received.

Verse 9

Psalms 78:9 The children of Ephraim, [being] armed, [and] carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle.

Ver. 9. The children of Ephraim being armed, &c.] This the Rabbis interpret of eight thousand Ephraimites, who would needs break prison, as it were, out of Egypt (before the time that God had set for their deliverance thence), and seize upon Palestine, the promised land; but with evil success; for they were slain by the men of Gath, to the great grief of their father Ephraim, 1 Chronicles 7:21-23, and to the increase of their servitude in Egypt, Exodus 1:8-14 This is historia Caballica. See R. Solomon on those words, Exodus 15:14, the people shall hear and be afraid; sorrow shall take hold on the inhabitants of Palestina, who, remembering what a slaughter they once made of these Ephraimites, shall fear the just revenge of that cruelty. Others interpret this text by 1:29, and some by 2 Kings 17:1-18, with Hosea 10:6-8, &c., but this to me seemeth most likey. These are ancient things, and of such the psalmist promiseth to treat, Psalms 78:2-3.

Being armed and carrying bows] Trusting to their own strength and warlike preparations, and choosing rather to be counted temerarious than timorous.

Turned back in the day of battle] Carnal confidence seldom comes home otherwise than weeping.

Verse 10

Psalms 78:10 They kept not the covenant of God, and refused to walk in his law;

Ver. 10. They kept not the covenant, &c.] And so betrayed themselves into the hands of divine justice, they were worthily worsted. See 2 Chronicles 15:2.

And refused to walk in his law] They were set upon it, and would not be ruled by their father Ephraim, or any other that counselled them to the contrary; and haply said the like to them that Archidamus did to his too daring son, Aut viribus adde aut animis adime, Either add to thy forces or abate of thy courage.

Verse 11

Psalms 78:11 And forgat his works, and his wonders that he had shewed them.

Ver. 11. And forgat his works, and his wonders] Forgetfulness is a grave; et ingrato quicquid donatur, deperditur, all is lost that is conferred on an ungrateful person.

Verse 12

Psalms 78:12 Marvellous things did he in the sight of their fathers, in the land of Egypt, [in] the field of Zoan.

Ver. 12. Marvellous things did he, &c.] Whereof they were eye-witnesses, and therefore could not plead ignorance or excuse. The Hebrew hath it, a marvel, or a miracle, collective.

In the field of Zoan] Corruptly called afterward Tan and Tanis; a populous and principal city of Egypt even in Isaiah’s time, Isaiah 19:11-13; about 23 miles from Memphis, saith Josephus: there Moses wrought his miracles (Ptolemy. Strabo).

Verse 13

Psalms 78:13 He divided the sea, and caused them to pass through; and he made the waters to stand as an heap.

Ver. 13. He divided the sea] Making it fordable for them, and fixing those fluid waters, like stone walls, on each hand of them, while they passed through with ease and safety. Every main affliction is our Red Sea; which, while it threatens to swallow, preserveth us.

Verse 14

Psalms 78:14 In the daytime also he led them with a cloud, and all the night with a light of fire.

Ver. 14. In the daytime also he led them with a cloud] This cloud not only conducted them, but also compassed them in on every side, both to keep them from the parching heat of the sun, and to save them from the sight and violence of their enemies, Exodus 13:21. A figure of God’s guidance of his Church, and protection over the same, Isaiah 4:5, Nehemiah 9:9.

Verse 15

Psalms 78:15 He clave the rocks in the wilderness, and gave [them] drink as [out of] the great depths.

Ver. 15. He clave the rocks] And set them abroach, both that in Rephidim, Exodus 17:1-8, and the other in Kadesh, Numbers 20:1-13 Moses Nehamides, on Exodus 17:1-8, saith, that the old Jewish doctors held that the rock of Rephidim not only yielded waters like a river all those forty years wherein they were in the wilderness, but followed them also there whithersoever they went. This agreeth well with that of the apostle St Paul, 1 Corinthians 10:4, who sweetly allegorizeth this history.

As out of the great depths] i.e. In great abundance, Ad satietatem usque. Rocks sooner yield fire than water; but what cannot God do?

Verse 16

Psalms 78:16 He brought streams also out of the rock, and caused waters to run down like rivers.

Ver. 16. He brought streams also out of the rock] Idem enuntiat per Epexegesim, ad miraculi magnitudinem ostendendam. The same again, to set forth the greatness of the miracle. This was a standing miracle, as was also the pillar of cloud, the pillar of fire, and the manna.

Verse 17

Psalms 78:17 And they sinned yet more against him by provoking the most High in the wilderness.

Ver. 17. And they sinned yet more against him] The better he was to them the worse were they toward him, as if God had hired them to be wicked; and this was ordinary with them, and is still among us. Oh the Divine patience!

By provoking the most High in the wilderness] In terra arida ubi Deo indies indigebant, ibi peccabant, saith Aben Ezra here. This was another aggravation of their sin.

Verse 18

Psalms 78:18 And they tempted God in their heart by asking meat for their lust.

Ver. 18. And they tempted God in their heart] In their hearts first, but afterwards also with their lips. The psalmist here striketh at the root of their wickedness.

By asking meat for their lust] Not for their necessity (that had been more excusable, Proverbs 6:30), but to satisfy their inordinate appetite, to gratify their licorish palate.

Verse 19

Psalms 78:19 Yea, they spake against God; they said, Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?

Ver. 19. Yea, they stake against God] Their villanous and foul thoughts blistered and brake out at their lips.

Can God furnish a table?] This was a blasphemous question. God can do more than he will; but whatsoever he will do shall be done, and nothing can hinder it. "Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean," said he in the Gospel. And this was better than that of the other, who said, "If thou canst do any thing, help us," Mark 9:22

Verse 20

Psalms 78:20 Behold, he smote the rock, that the waters gushed out, and the streams overflowed; can he give bread also? can he provide flesh for his people?

Ver. 20. Behold, he smote the rock, &c.] And so showed his power; we cannot deny it; but now for his will.

Can he give bread also?] They should have said, Will he serve our lusts? but that they were ashamed to say.

Can he provide flesh for his people?] i.e. Dainty and delicate flesh, such as is that of quails, meat for a king; for they carried their cattle out of Egypt with them; and so they could not be without ordinary flesh, too good for such unthankful miscreants.

Verse 21

Psalms 78:21 Therefore the LORD heard [this], and was wroth: so a fire was kindled against Jacob, and anger also came up against Israel;

Ver. 21. Therefore the Lord heard this, and was wroth] Efferbuit, excanduit. Anger is a kind of fire, a boiling of the blood about the heart, through desire of revenge. "But fury is not in me," saith God, Isaiah 27:4. If anger be ascribed unto him, as here, it is an expression fitted to our apprehension, because he doeth that which angry men use to do, viz. chide and smite for sin; but all in a way of justice, and without the least perturbation.

So a fire was kindled] It began to smoke and burn.

And anger also came up] Ascended, i.e. Flamed, for anger beginneth at the heart, and then cometh up into the brain, face, nostrils.

Verse 22

Psalms 78:22 Because they believed not in God, and trusted not in his salvation:

Ver. 22. Because they believed not in God] As faith is a radical and complex grace; so is unbelief a radical sin, a teeming vice, Hebrews 3:12, a wellspring of wickedness; many sins are bound up in it, as Cicero saith of parricide.

And trusted not in his salvation] i.e. In his saving promises.

Verse 23

Psalms 78:23 Though he had commanded the clouds from above, and opened the doors of heaven,

Ver. 23. Though he had commanded the clouds] Though he had served them as never prince was served in his greatest state, yet all served not turn.

And opened the doors of heaven] Rupturas nubium, raining down upon them plenty of manna; so that it was not hunger, but humour, that set them a lusting.

Verse 24

Psalms 78:24 And had rained down manna upon them to eat, and had given them of the corn of heaven.

Ver. 24. And had rained down manna upon them] Manna signifieth, What is this? whereunto in the allegory answereth, This is my body. Or, according to others, it signifieth a prepared portion, prepared by God, so that they might presently eat of it, though they might grind, or pound, or bake, or boil it also, they might do anything with it, as they might with meal; whence it is here called the corn of heaven, that is, a seed which was unto them instead of corn.

Verse 25

Psalms 78:25 Man did eat angels’ food: he sent them meat to the full.

Ver. 25. Man did eat angels’ food] Heb. the bread of the mighty, Pan de nobles (Hispan.); (Angels are called mighties, Isaiah 10:34, Revelation 18:21); such delicate bread as might beseem angels to eat, if they did eat any at all; such as the poets feign to be their Nectar, and Ambrosia. Or, the bread of the mighty, sc. that mightily strengthened them.

He sent them meat to the full] Heb. meat taken in hunting; so called, because dainty as venison, or, quia semper ambulabant, et in via quasi eam venabantur, sc. Joshua 1:11 (Aben Ezra).

Verse 26

Psalms 78:26 He caused an east wind to blow in the heaven: and by his power he brought in the south wind.

Ver. 26. He caused an east wind to blow] Pergere, to go, to pass away, and to give place to the south wind.

And by his power he brought in the south wind] That it might bring in the quails. Now Pliny writeth (lib. 10, c. 23), that quails, though they love to fly with the wind, because of their heavy bodies and small strength, yet not with the south wind, because it is moist, and so more heavy than the north wind, which therefore they rather delight in. And if this be true, here is another miracle, saith an expositor, that these quails were brought in by that wind, which, when it bloweth, they commonly rest and hide themselves.

Verse 27

Psalms 78:27 He rained flesh also upon them as dust, and feathered fowls like as the sand of the sea:

Ver. 27. He rained flesh also upon them as dust] Dapibus illos compluit. This he had done once before for them; see Exodus 16:12-13, with Numbers 11:18-21; Numbers 11:31-33; their unbelief, therefore, and impatience this second time was the more heinous.

Verse 28

Psalms 78:28 And he let [it] fall in the midst of their camp, round about their habitations.

Ver. 28. And he let it fall in the midst of their camp] A day’s journey on each side, and about two cubits above the earth, Numbers 11:31, in such abundance, that Moses could not believe it were possible to be done, though all the fish in the sea should be gathered together, and turned into flesh, Numbers 11:31.

Verse 29

Psalms 78:29 So they did eat, and were well filled: for he gave them their own desire;

Ver. 29. So they did eat, and were well filled] But better they had fasted. Many eat that on earth which they must digest in hell; these here were murdering morsels.

He gave them their own desire] They were heard, ad voluntatem, non ad utilitatem. Deus saepe dat iratus quod negat propitius. God’s gifts to a graceless man are giftless gifts; and he had better a great deal be without them.

Verse 30

Psalms 78:30 They were not estranged from their lust. But while their meat [was] yet in their mouths,

Ver. 30. They were not estranged from their lust] Satiated they were, but not satisfied. It is as easy to quench the fire of Aetna as the thoughts set on fire by lust.

Verse 31

Psalms 78:31 The wrath of God came upon them, and slew the fattest of them, and smote down the chosen [men] of Israel.

Ver. 31. The wrath of God came upon them] Heb. ascended, as a flame, which the bigger it groweth the higher it getteth.

And slew the fattest of them] Those that had glutted and stuffed themselves like a woolpack, being nitida et bene curata cute pingues, fat and fair-liking.

And smote down the chosen men of Israel] Or, The young men, who by a hasty testament bequeathed that new name, Kibroth-hattaavah, that is, the graves of lust, to the place they lay buried In.

Verse 32

Psalms 78:32 For all this they sinned still, and believed not for his wondrous works.

Ver. 32. For all this they sinned still] They utterly lost the fruit of their calamities; which godly men hold a very great loss.

And believed not] Neither mercies nor crosses duly affected them.

Verse 33

Psalms 78:33 Therefore their days did he consume in vanity, and their years in trouble.

Ver. 33. Therefore their days did he consume in vanity] So that they never saw the promised land, for the which they came out of Egypt; but their carcasses fell in the wilderness. Who knoweth, saith a reverend man, whether God purpose not to wear out this present generation that hath been defiled with the superstition of the world, that we may not see the good that he will bring upon this Church?

And their years in trouble] Or, in terror, for they were in continual fear of God’s wrath, of their enemies round about, of wild beasts, fiery serpents, &c.

Verse 34

Psalms 78:34 When he slew them, then they sought him: and they returned and enquired early after God.

Ver. 34. When he slew them, then they sought him] Fictis scilicet, quibusdam et fucatis pollicitationabus, with a few dissembled devotions. So many now, when deadly, sick, will be wondrous good. Nuper me amici cuiusdam languor admonuit, optimos esse nos dum infirmi sumus (Plin. eph 26, 1. 7). As iron is very soft and malleable while in the fire, but soon after returneth to its former hardness; so many, while afflicted, seem very well affected, but afterwards soon show what they are. William Rufus, in a fit of sickness at Gloucester, vowed upon his recovery to see all vacancies in the Church furnished; which he did, but with so great ado as showed that, having escaped the danger, he would willingly have deceived the saint, saith the chronicler. In the sweating sickness here in England, so long as the ferventness of the plague lasted there was crying, Peccavi, peccavi, I have sinned, I have sinned, the ministers were sought for in every corner, You must come to my lord, you must come to my lady, &c.; but this lasted with many little longer than the disease; so deceitful is man’s heart, and desperately wicked. Most men are nailed to the earth (saith one well), as Sisera was by Jael; and will not so much as lift up their eyes to heaven, unless it be as hogs do, who go noddling down and rooting in the earth all their life, and never look upward till, being ready to be killed, they are laid flat upon their backs and forced; so these, till wrestling with the pangs of death, they are fastened to their sick-beds, &c.

And they returned] But they gave but the half turn, they turned not even unto God with all their heart, as Joel 2:12.

And inquired early after God] Heb. Manicabant sive aurorizabant Deum, aurora velut anticipata; they were up and at it by peep of day.

Verse 35

Psalms 78:35 And they remembered that God [was] their rock, and the high God their redeemer.

Ver. 35. And they remembered] Misery is the best art of memory. But this remembrance of God was but as letters written in the sand, or as a picture drawn on the ice, that long continueth not; it was but a flash, and while they were in a good mood; it was but as Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, which he had soon forgotten. They remembered God, lingua non corde, with the tongue, but not with the heart, as Aben Ezra here glosseth. They gave God a mess of fair words, calling him Rock, Redeemer, &c., but he is not to be so courted and complimented; goats may be fed with leaves, but God is not mocked.

Verse 36

Psalms 78:36 Nevertheless they did flatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongues.

Ver 36. Nevertheless they did flatter him with their mouth] They looked pitifully, as the fox caught in a gin doth, but it is only to get out; they spake God fair, as the devil in the Gospel did our Saviour, but it was only to be rid of him. They worshipped him, as the Indians do the devil, that he may do them no hurt. The Latin word Colo, to worship, is by some derived of the Greek word κολακευειν, to flatter, and the English word flatter, from the Greek λατρευειν, to worship. Sure it is that many men’s devotion is mere dissimulation.

And they lied unto him] sc. While they called him Rock, Redeemer, and all was but from the teeth outward; which how much God abhorreth as a ludibrious devotion, see Jeremiah 3:4-5. And here it is said to be the middle of the psalter; for hitherto the Hebrews reckon one thousand two hundred sixty and three verses; and as many they note to be yet left in the second part.

Verse 37

Psalms 78:37 For their heart was not right with him, neither were they stedfast in his covenant.

Ver. 37. For their heart was not right with him] It was still the old heart, without any sincere change, and that can never hold out the hardships of holiness, but will deviate and falsify; the rack may make it roar, the rod flutter, but all is in hypocrisy. A hypocrite would cozen God of heaven if he could tell how.

Neither were they steadfast] See Psalms 78:8.

Verse 38

Psalms 78:38 But he, [being] full of compassion, forgave [their] iniquity, and destroyed [them] not: yea, many a time turned he his anger away, and did not stir up all his wrath.

Ver. 38. But he, being full of compassion] Not standing upon terms nor taking advantages; a sin pardoning God, whose mercy rejoiceth against (or glorieth over) judgment, James 2:13; it is of his mercy that we are not consumed, Lamentations 3:22, if he should deal with us in strict justice, Et delicta nostra ad calculos vocare, there were no abiding by it, Psal. cxxx. 1; clxiii 1.

Yea, many a time turned he his anger away] With patience and piety, he overcame their provocations, although they tempted him ten times, that is, very often, Numbers 14:22.

And did not stir up all his wrath] Heb. He multiplied to turn away his wrath, Strenue curavit ut cohiberet iram suam, he let fall some drops of his wrath, but would not shed the whole shower of it.

Verse 39

Psalms 78:39 For he remembered that they [were but] flesh; a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again.

Ver. 39. For he remembered that they were but flesh] i.e. Frail and feeble, full of sin and misery., {see Genesis 6:3} altogether unable to grapple with God’s wrath.

A wind that passeth away, &c.] Et in suis reciprocationibus evanescens. For winds neither return thither whence they blow, nor yet pass from one coast to another, but are wasted in the middle of the world, by the force of the sun and by their own motion, as Aristotle concludeth in his discourse concerning metaphors. Now, what is man (saith Nazianzen) but soul and soil, breath and body, a puff of wind the one, a pile of dust the other, no solidity in either?

Verse 40

Psalms 78:40 How oft did they provoke him in the wilderness, [and] grieve him in the desert!

Ver. 40. How oft did they provoke him in the wilderness] Exclamatio pathetica. Ten times at least in the first two years, Numbers 16:1-50; Numbers 17:1-13; Numbers 18:1-32; Numbers 19:1-22 What, then, in all the rest? Quis fando possit enarrare tot rebelliones. From the very day they came out of Egypt they were always contending against the Lord, as Moses telleth them, when he was taking his leave of them, Deuteronomy 31:16-18.

And grieve him in the desert] Where they were at his mercy, and at his immediate finding.

Verse 41

Psalms 78:41 Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel.

Ver. 41. Yea, they turned back and tempted God] They did it afresh, and after some resolutions and short winded wishes of doing better.

And limited the Holy One] Designarunt, they prescribed to him, and set him his bounds which he must not pass; as Popilius, the Roman ambassador, drew a circle round about King Antiochus, and bade him give answer ere he stirred out of it, for he would be put off no longer. Now, God is limited, when as either his power is questioned, as Psalms 78:20, or his will circumscribed, as if he were bound to serve man’s lusts, or means appointed him whereby he must work, and not otherwise.

Verse 42

Psalms 78:42 They remembered not his hand, [nor] the day when he delivered them from the enemy.

Ver. 42. They remembered not his hand] Forgetfulness is the root of rebellion and of all vice, as the Genevists well note here. Eaten bread is soon forgotten, Nihil citius senescit quam gratia (Seneca).

Nor the day when he delivered them] viz. From Pharaoh, but so soon as they had sucked the honey they despised the flower.

Verse 43

Psalms 78:43 How he had wrought his signs in Egypt, and his wonders in the field of Zoan:

Ver. 43. How he had wrought his signs in Egypt] That stage of wonders. See Psalms 78:12.

In the field of Zoan] A great city in Egypt, whereof read Isaiah 19:11; Isaiah 19:13; Isaiah 30:4, Ezekiel 30:14. Josephus, Antiq. lib. 1, cap. 9. See Psalms 78:12.

Verse 44

Psalms 78:44 And had turned their rivers into blood; and their floods, that they could not drink.

Ver. 44. And had turned their rivers into blood, &c.] Seven of those ten plagues of Egypt are here instanced, to aggravate the forgetfulness or perfidy of the Israelites. Good turns aggravate unkindness, and our offences are increased by our obligations.

And their floods, that they could not drink] Usque adeo ut aquae potabiles totam, alioqui stagnantem Aegyptum, deficerent. The Rabbis say (who told them I know not) that out of the same vessel an Egyptian drank blood and an Israelite water (Midras Tilling).

Verse 45

Psalms 78:45 He sent divers sorts of flies among them, which devoured them; and frogs, which destroyed them.

Ver. 45. He sent divers sorts of flies among them] Miscellam muscarum venenatarum, venomous flies and flying serpents, whose poison and sting did even corrupt the land, Exodus 8:24. The Greek rendereth it κυνομυιαν, the dog-fly.

Verse 46

Psalms 78:46 He gave also their increase unto the caterpiller, and their labour unto the locust.

Ver. 46. He gave also their increase unto the caterpillar] Together with the grasshopper, Exodus 10:12-15, God’s great army, Joel 2:11

And their labour] i.e. The fruits of the earth, which they had laboured for; they lost both their husbandry and their harvest.

Verse 47

Psalms 78:47 He destroyed their vines with hail, and their sycomore trees with frost.

Ver. 47. He destroyed their vines with hail] Heb. He killed, Quia planta habet animam vegetativain, ut Job 14:8, saith Kimchi.

And their sycamores with frost] Or, with great hailstones mingled with fire, running along and catching, Exodus 9:24. Confer Revelation 16:21.

Verse 48

Psalms 78:48 He gave up their cattle also to the hail, and their flocks to hot thunderbolts.

Ver. 48. He gave up their cattle also to the hail] Moses saith men also, who were brained and burned by it.

Verse 49

Psalms 78:49 He cast upon them the fierceness of his anger, wrath, and indignation, and trouble, by sending evil angels [among them].

Ver. 49. By sending evil angels among them] i.e. Some messengers of his wrath and displeasure, whether good or evil angels it skills not.

Verse 50

Psalms 78:50 He made a way to his anger; he spared not their soul from death, but gave their life over to the pestilence;

Ver. 50. He made a way to his anger] Heb. He weighed a path, recompensing their unjust stiffness with his just judgments, and proceeding in his anger from lighter plagues to that heaviest of all the rest, the slaying of all the flower of Egypt in one night, Psalms 78:51.

Verse 51

Psalms 78:51 And smote all the firstborn in Egypt; the chief of [their] strength in the tabernacles of Ham:

Ver. 51. And smote all the firstborn in Egypt] Certo pestis genere perniciocissimo et acutissimo. The Rabbis say that in each house was a dead corpse, viz. the chieftain of the family, whether there were a firstborn in it or not, Exodus 12:30.

In the tabernacle of Ham] Who was the father of Mizraim, the founder of the Egyptians, Genesis 10:6, who vainly boasted that they were αυτοχθονες, as ancient as their land. Herodotus, the author of that story, tells us also of a certain great town in Egypt called Chemmim, from Cham likely.

Verse 52

Psalms 78:52 But made his own people to go forth like sheep, and guided them in the wilderness like a flock.

Ver. 52. But made his own people to go forth like sheep] i.e. Tuto et lente, softly and safely, as Genesis 33:13, tending them with all tenderness, and providing for their necessities.

Verse 53

Psalms 78:53 And he led them on safely, so that they feared not: but the sea overwhelmed their enemies.

Ver. 53. And he led them on safely, so that they feared not] Or, if they did, it was without cause, Cur enim metuat hominem homo in sinu Dei positus.

Verse 54

Psalms 78:54 And he brought them to the border of his sanctuary, [even to] this mountain, [which] his right hand had purchased.

Ver. 54. And he brought them to the border of his sanctuary] i.e. Of Judea, which country he had consecrated to himself for the place and chief seat of religion; whence it is called, the holy land. It had been a loathsome land, Ezra 9:11, filled with filthiness from corner to corner, but now otherwise. How it was afterwards again polluted, see Isaiah 1:21-23.

Even to this mountain] Moriah, whereon stood the temple; or, to this mountainous country of Judea.

Which his right hand, &c.] See Psalms 44:3.

Verse 55

Psalms 78:55 He cast out the heathen also before them, and divided them an inheritance by line, and made the tribes of Israel to dwell in their tents.

Ver. 55. He cast out the heathen also before them] i.e. In their sight, and for their sake.

He divided them an inheritance by line] Not a material line, but mathematical, saith an interpreter; whereby we may perceive that the way of making maps was anciently in use among the Hebrews (Geneb.).

And made the tribes of Israel, &c.] Notwithstanding all their former provocations. "See that none render evil for evil to any man, but ever follow" (by God’s example) "that which is good, both among yourselves and toward all men," 1 Thessalonians 5:15.

Verse 56

Psalms 78:56 Yet they tempted and provoked the most high God, and kept not his testimonies:

Ver. 56. Yet they tempted and provoked, &c.] Neither God’s judgments on their enemies nor his mercies to themselves could keep them within the bounds of obedience; but in a land of uprightness they would deal unjustly, and not behold the majesty of the Lord, Isaiah 26:10.

Verse 57

Psalms 78:57 But turned back, and dealt unfaithfully like their fathers: they were turned aside like a deceitful bow.

Ver. 57. But turned back, &c.] They had a kind of willingness and velleity, a kind of wambling, as one speaketh, but it boiled not up to the full height of resolution for God.

They were turned aside like a deceitful bow] Non semper feriet quodcunque minabitur arcus; but a deceitful bow, that turneth back into belly, as we say, will be sure to deceive the archer, though he level his eye and his arrow never so directly to the mark, and think with himself to hit it. Lo, such a false rotten bow is man’s deceitful heart; and hence the arrows of his purposes and promises vanish oft in the air, as smoke.

Verse 58

Psalms 78:58 For they provoked him to anger with their high places, and moved him to jealousy with their graven images.

Ver. 58. For they provoked him to anger with their high places] After the manner of the heathens; yet with a good intention, as they called it; because God is to be everywhere worshipped. But this was against an express law, Deuteronomy 12:2, Exodus 20:3-4.

Verse 59

Psalms 78:59 When God heard [this], he was wroth, and greatly abhorred Israel:

Ver. 59. When God heard this] Sin crieth aloud in God’s ears, though it be never so closely and cunningly carried.

And greatly abhorred Israel] As appeareth all along the Book of Judges, whereof this verse is a summary.

Verse 60

Psalms 78:60 So that he forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent [which] he placed among men;

Ver. 60. So that he forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh] Whither it had been brought from Gilgal, and where it had rested a long while, but was forsaken of God when once idolized, 1 Samuel 4:3-5

The tent which he placed among men.] Which was a very great condescension, Isaiah 66:1. Confer John 1:14, Proverbs 8:31.

Verse 61

Psalms 78:61 And delivered his strength into captivity, and his glory into the enemy’s hand.

Ver. 61. And delivered his strength … his glory, &c.] i.e. His ark, which is elsewhere called the strength of God, 1 Chronicles 16:11, 2 Chronicles 6:41, and the glory of God, Psalms 26:8; Psalms 63:3, because out of it he was wont to declare his power and glory, and to make himself visible after a sort.

Verse 62

Psalms 78:62 He gave his people over also unto the sword; and was wroth with his inheritance.

Ver. 62. He gave his people also unto the sword] sc. Of the Philistines, who slew thirty thousand of them in one battle, 1 Samuel 4:10, they lost him and themselves too; the ark having been a far better defence to them than the Palladium to the Trojans.

Verse 63

Psalms 78:63 The fire consumed their young men; and their maidens were not given to marriage.

Ver. 63. The fire consumed] The fire of warlike force, which quickly licketh up all, and layeth waste.

And their maidens were not given in marriage] Heb. praised, as they were wont to be at their weddings with nuptial songs, and epithalamia , which the Hebrews call Hillulim, and the bridechamber, Beth-halulah, the house of praise.

Verse 64

Psalms 78:64 Their priests fell by the sword; and their widows made no lamentation.

Ver. 64. Their priests fell by the sword] Hophni and Phineas did, 1 Samuel 4:11, both in one day, as had been foretold, 1 Samuel 2:34.

And their widows made no lamentation] As being themselves either killed with grief, as Phineas’s wife, or carried captive. Here were ingentia beneficia, flagitia, supplicia.

Verse 65

Psalms 78:65 Then the Lord awaked as one out of sleep, [and] like a mighty man that shouteth by reason of wine.

Ver. 65. The Lord awaked as one out of sleep] Humanitus dictum; the Philistines haply had such bald conceits of him, that either he slept, or, if awake, that he was overcome with wine.

Verse 66

Psalms 78:66 And he smote his enemies in the hinder parts: he put them to a perpetual reproach.

Ver. 66. And he smote his enemies in the hinder parts] viz. With emerods, 1 Samuel 5:6; 1 Samuel 5:9; 1 Samuel 5:12, infami podicis ignominia affecit illos, he punished them, as we do puny boys on their posteriors.

Verse 67

Psalms 78:67 Moreover he refused the tabernacle of Joseph, and chose not the tribe of Ephraim:

Ver. 67. Moreover he refused, &c.] He would dwell no longer at Shiloh, which was in the tribe of Ephraim.

Verse 68

Psalms 78:68 But chose the tribe of Judah, the mount Zion which he loved.

Ver. 68. But chose the tribe of Judah] He chose it for his love, and then loved it for his choice. The word tribe we borrow from the Romans, who at first divided the multitudes into three parts, called thereof tribes. The Hebrew name signifieth a rod or sceptre, and fitly agreeth to Judah.

Verse 69

Psalms 78:69 And he built his sanctuary like high [palaces], like the earth which he hath established for ever.

Ver. 69. Like high palaces] Not places, as some books absurdly have it. Like the earth, there shall be a Church to the world’s end.

Verse 70

Psalms 78:70 He chose David also his servant, and took him from the sheepfolds:

Ver. 70. He chose David also] God chooseth not as man doth, 1 Corinthians 1:26, yet Alexander the Great advanced Abdolominus, a poor gardener, to be king in Sidon.

And took him from the sheepfolds] The art of feeding cattle and the art of ruling men are sisters, saith Basil.

Verse 71

Psalms 78:71 From following the ewes great with young he brought him to feed Jacob his people, and Israel his inheritance.

Ver. 71. From following the ewes] So Saul from seeking asses, Agathocles from making pots, Valentinian, ropes, &c. Placilla called upon her husband Theodosius, the emperor, to remember from what mean estate God had called him to the highest honours, εξ οιων, εις οια.~

Verse 72

Psalms 78:72 So he fed them according to the integrity of his heart; and guided them by the skilfulness of his hands.

Ver. 72. So he fed them, &c.] See Psalms 78:70. He was not malus vir bonus princeps (as is said of our Richard III), but every way accomplished, and active for the good of his subjects.


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Psalms 78:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.

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