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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Psalms 77



Verse 1

1. I cried unto God— “My distresses were great, and I had none but God to go to.”Hammond.

He gave ear unto me—The rabbinical construction takes the verb as a peculiar form of the imperative, (hear thou me,) which suits better the feelings of the psalmist as not having yet received the answer to prayer. The complaint goes on to Psalms 77:9, and the subsequent part of the psalm describes only the triumph of faith, not the formal fulfilment of his request. Compare Habakkuk 3:17-19

Verse 2

2. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord—Not only the depth of the psalmist’s sufferings is here indicated, such as God only could relieve, but his true piety. His troubles brought him nearer to God. Psalms 50:15.

My sore ran in the night—Hebrew, My hand was stretched out all night; that is, in the posture of earnest supplication. Psalms 44:20; Psalms 88:9.

Ceased notRested not. Compare the painfulness of the attitude with Exodus 17:11-12

Verse 3

3. I remembered God, and was troubled—Or, moaned. This remembrance of God corresponds to his seeking him in the previous verse, and the trouble, or moaning, to the stretching out of his hand, specimens of poetic parallelism. He was “troubled” because God was now withdrawn and hidden from him.

I complained—Hebrew, meditated, same word as is rendered “commune,” Psalms 77:6. To meditate is to hold a subject steadily before the mind, to consider it in all its relations; more intensive than remember; thus, “I remembered God and was troubled; I meditated and was overwhelmed.”

Verse 4

4. Thou holdest mine eyes waking—Thou holdest the watches, or guards, of my eyes; that is, my eyelids. Sleep is God’s merciful gift, (Psalms 127:2,) and wakefulness is here confessed as a judgment.

I cannot speak—But he could moan, as in Psalms 77:3. The extremes of loud moaning and speechless silence indicate the paroxysm and excess of his sorrow.

Verse 5

5. I have considered the days of old—I recount the providence of God toward the nation in ancient times, and contrast with that its present forsaken condition.

Verse 6

6. My song in the night—In my happier days my nights were often spent in praise and thanksgiving, now in mourning or silent grief. This applied to the nation in comparing their earlier history with their present state. These meditations lead the psalmist to the earnest inquiries of Psalms 77:7-9, to ascertain if the known ways of God with his people offer any hope in the present distress.

Verse 7

7. Will the Lord cast off for ever—Hebrew, to eternity. The word is one of the strongest to denote endless duration.

Will he be favourable no more—A strong negative, agreeing with the former member in intensity.

Verse 8

8. Is his mercy… gone for ever— “For ever,” here, is another of the class of strongest Hebrew words to denote eternal duration, and never occurs but once (Psalms 44:23) in such connexion, except in the psalms of the captivity. In Psalms 74 it occurs four times, (Psalms 77:1; Psalms 77:3; Psalms 77:10; Psalms 77:19,) also in Psalms 79:5; Psalms 89:46.

For evermore—Hebrew, to generation and generation.

Verse 9

9. Forgotten to be gracious… shut up his tender mercies— “He asks whether it is, then, all at an end with God’s loving-kindness and promise, at the same time saying to himself that this, nevertheless, is at variance with the unchangeableness of his nature and the inviolability of his covenant.” Delitzsch. Here end the dark questionings of his agitated mind.

Verse 10

10. The tone of the psalm abruptly changes. The remaining portion describes the grounds of his faith and hope.

This is my infirmity— Literally, This is my disease; that is, my complaint and despondency are the natural outworkings of my excessive sufferings.

Years of the right hand of the Most High—The transition is abrupt, like Habakkuk 3. The ellipsis is supplied, in our English version, by the words, “But I will remember,” which is in analogy with Psalms 77:11. The idea is, that he would rally and sustain his faith and hope by recalling the great works of God toward his people of old, and his original purpose concerning them. This was a common antidote to unbelief and despair during the captivity, as the psalms of that period show. הלותי, (hallothee,) translated infirmity, in Piel takes the sense of entreaty, supplication, and many read it, “This is my entreaty the years of the right hand,” etc. But the sense already given seems most natural and most in accordance with the connexion. By changing the Hebrew accents Dr. Conant reads the verse:

“And I said, This is my infirmity!

Years of the right hand of the Most High Will I commemorate—the deeds of Jah,

For I will remember thy wonders of old.”

Verse 11

11. The works of the Lord—Hebrew, The doings of Jah. A poetic abbreviation of Jehovah, which appears in the earlier Hebrew poetry.

Exodus 15:2; Exodus 17:16, and often in the psalms.

Verse 13

13. Thy way—The way of God is his historical path, or mode of dispensation, especially in redemption.

In the sanctuary—The word is rarely used in the abstract for holiness, but almost always in the concrete for holy name, person, or place. So here it is to be understood of the holy place, or sanctuary. God’s way is in his sanctuary, where is the oracle, the living word. See Psalms 73:17

Verse 15

15. Sons of Jacob and Joseph— “Joseph,” here, represents the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, (Genesis 48,) and these, in later times, the kingdom of Israel. Psalms 80:2; Isaiah 11:13. “Jacob and Joseph” stand for the total Hebrew family. See introductory note, Psalms 81. The thought of the psalmist is on the redemption of his race.

Verse 16

16. The waters saw thee—A bold figure. The waters saw God fighting for his people, and were afraid, or seized with pain, as the word denotes.

Troubled—Agitated. The word indicates an irregular motion, like an army which trembles, wavers, and staggers when stricken with fear. The allusion is to the Red Sea passage. Compare Psalms 104:7-9

Verse 17

17. The clouds poured out water—The rain refers to the desert life of the people, not to the passage of the Red Sea, which was not in a thunderstorm. Psalms 68:7-9, where see note.

A sound—Thunder.

Arrows—Lightnings. A beautiful poetic conception. Psalms 77:18; Habakkuk 3:11; Psalms 18:14

Verse 18

18. Earth trembled and shook—A description of an earthquake, which associates literally with Sinai, not the Red Sea. See Exodus 19:18; Exodus 20:18; Hebrews 12:18-19

Verse 19

19. Thy way is in the sea—So wonderful and unsearchable are the ways of God! Pharaoh essayed to follow the divine footsteps, and perished. The true explanation of this sentence is in the last clause of the verse: “Thy footsteps are not known.” God had walked through the sea, and it had closed and left no track. So his invisible footsteps in providence and redemption may not be discovered or followed by curious and presumptuous inquiry. This is the admonition of Ecclesiastes 7:14

Verse 20

20. Thou leddest thy people like a flock—A beautiful Asaphic figure, (Psalms 80:1,) and a resting of faith at last in the great Shepherd of Israel. Here the psalm abruptly closes, as if the author had left it unfinished. But “where our psalm leaves off, Habakkuk, chap. 3, goes on, taking it up from that point like a continuation. For the prophet begins with the prayer to revive that deed of redemption of the Mosaic days of old, and in the midst of wrath to remember mercy; and, in expressions and figures which are borrowed from our psalm, he then beholds a fresh deed of redemption, by which that of old is eclipsed.”Delitzsch.


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 77:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

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