1 Giue eare, O my people, to my Lawe: incline your eares to the wordes of my mouth.
2 I will open my mouth in a parable: I wil vtter darke sayings of old:
3 Which we haue heard, & knowen: and our fathers haue told vs.
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.
5 For he established a Testimony in Iacob, and appointed a Law in Israel, which he commaunded our fathers: that they should make them knowen to their children.
6 That the generation to come might know them, euen the children which should be borne: who should arise and declare them to their children:
7 That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God: but keepe his Commandements,
8 And might not bee as their fathers, a stubborne and rebellious generation, a generation that set not their heart aright: and whose spirit was not stedfast with God.
9 The children of Ephraim being armed, and carying bowes, turned backe in the day of battell.
10 They kept not the couenant of God: and refused to walke in his Law:
11 And forgat his workes: and his wonders that he had shewed them.
12 Marueilous things did he in the sight of their fathers: in the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan.
13 Hee diuided the Sea, and caused them to passe through: and he made the waters to stand as an heape.
14 In the day time also he led them with a cloud: and all the night with a light of fire.
15 Hee claue the rockes in the wildernes: and gaue them drinke as out of the great depthes.
16 Hee brought streames also out of the rocke, and caused waters to runne downe like riuers.
17 And they sinned yet more against him: by prouoking the most High in the wildernes.
18 And they tempted God in their heart: by asking meat for their lust.
19 Yea, they spake against God: they said, Can God furnish a table in the wildernes?
20 Behold, he smote the rocke, that the waters gushed out, & the streames ouerflowed; can he giue bread also? can he prouide flesh for his people?
21 Therefore the Lord heard this, and was wroth, so a fire was kindled against Iacob: and anger also came vp against Israel.
22 Because they beleeued not in God: and trusted not in his saluation:
23 Though he had commanded the cloudes from aboue: and opened the doores of heauen:
24 And had rained downe Manna vpon them to eate, and had giuen them of the corne of heauen.
25 Man did eate Angels food: hee sent them meat to the full.
26 He caused an East wind to blow in the heauen: and by his power hee brought in the South wind.
27 He rained flesh also vpon them as dust: and feathered soules like as the sand of the sea.
28 And hee let it fall in the midst of their campe, round about their habitations.
29 So they did eate, & were well filled: for he gaue them their owne desire.
30 They were not estranged from their lust: but while their meate was yet in their mouthes,
31 The wrath of God came vpon them, and slew the fattest of them: and smote downe the chosen men of Israel.
32 For all this they sinned still: and beleeued not for his wondrous works.
33 Therefore their dayes did he consume in vanitie, and their yeeres in trouble.
34 When hee slew them, then they sought him: and they returned, and inquired early after God.
35 And they remembred that God was their rocke: and the high God, their redeemer.
36 Neuerthelesse they did flatter him with their mouth: and they lyed vnto him with their tongues.
37 For their heart was not right with him: neither were they stedfast in his couenant.
38 But hee being full of compassion, forgaue their iniquity, and destroyed them not; yea many a time turned he his anger away, and did not stirre vp all his wrath.
39 For he remembred that they were but flesh; a wind that passeth away, and commeth not againe.
40 How oft did they prouoke him in the wildernesse: and grieue him in the desert?
41 Yea they turned backe and tempted God: and limited the holy one of Israel.
42 They remembred not his hand: nor the day when hee deliuered them from the enemie:
43 How he had wrought his signes in Egypt: and his wonders in the field of Zoan:
44 And had turned their riuers into blood: and their flouds, that they could not drinke.
45 Hee sent diuers sorts of flies among them, which deuoured them: and frogges which destroyed them.
46 He gaue also their increase vnto the caterpiller: and their labour vnto the locust.
47 He destroyed their vines with haile: and their Sycomore trees with frost.
48 He gaue vp their cattel also to the haile: and their flockes to hot thunder-bolts.
49 He cast vpon them the fiercenesse of his anger, wrath and indignation, and trouble: by sending euill angels among them.
50 He made a way to his anger, hee spared not their soule from death: but gaue their life ouer to the pestilence.
51 And smote all the first borne in Egypt: the chiefe of their strength in the tabernacles of Ham:
52 But made his owne people to goe forth like sheepe: and guided them in the wildernesse like a flocke.
53 And he led them on safely, so that they feared not: but the sea ouerwhelmed their enemies.
54 And he brought them to the border of his sanctuarie: euen to this mountaine which his right hand had purchased.
55 He cast out the heathen also before them, and diuided them an inheritance by line: and made the tribes of Israel to dwell in their tents.
56 Yet they tempted and prouoked the most high God: and kept not his testimonies:
57 But turned backe, and dealt vnfaithfully like their fathers: they were turned aside like a deceitfull bowe.
58 For they prouoked him to anger with their high places: and moued him to ielousie with their grauen images.
59 When God heard this, hee was wroth, and greatly abhorred Israel:
60 So that he forsooke the tabernacle of Shiloh: the tent which he placed among men,
61 And deliuered his strength into captiuitie: and his glory into the enemies hand.
62 He gaue his people ouer also vnto the sword: and was wroth with his inheritance.
63 The fire consumed their young men: and their maidens were not giuen to mariage.
64 Their priests fell by the sword: and their widowes made no lamentation.
65 Then the Lord awaked as one out of sleepe: and like a mighty man that shouteth by reason of wine.
66 And he smote his enemies in the hinder parts: he put them to a perpetuall reproch.
67 Moreouer he refused the tabernacle of Ioseph: and chose not the tribe of Ephraim.
68 But chose the tribe of Iudah: the mount Sion which he loued.
69 And he built his sanctuarie like high palaces: like the earth which he hath established for euer.
70 He chose Dauid also his seruant, and tooke him from the sheepe-folds:
71 From following the ewes great with young, hee brought him to feed Iacob his people, and Israel his inheritance.
72 So he fed them according to the integritie of his heart: and guided them by the skilfulnesse of his hands.
Attention called for. (1-8) The history of Israel. (9-39) Their settlement in Canaan. (40-55) The mercies of God to Israel contrasted with their ingratitude. (56-72)
1-8 These are called dark and deep sayings, because they are carefully to be looked into. The law of God was given with a particular charge to teach it diligently to their children, that the church may abide for ever. Also, that the providences of God, both in mercy and in judgment, might encourage them to conform to the will of God. The works of God much strengthen our resolution to keep his commandments. Hypocrisy is the high road to apostacy; those that do not set their hearts right, will not be stedfast with God. Many parents, by negligence and wickedness, become murderers of their children. But young persons, though they are bound to submit in all things lawful, must not obey sinful orders, or copy sinful examples.
9-39. Sin dispirits men, and takes away the heart. Forgetfulness of God's works is the cause of disobedience to his laws. This narrative relates a struggle between God's goodness and man's badness. The Lord hears all our murmurings and distrusts, and is much displeased. Those that will not believe the power of God's mercy, shall feel the fire of his indignation. Those cannot be said to trust in God's salvation as their happiness at last, who can not trust his providence in the way to it. To all that by faith and prayer, ask, seek, and knock, these doors of heaven shall at any time be opened; and our distrust of God is a great aggravation of our sins. He expressed his resentment of their provocation; not in denying what they sinfully lusted after, but in granting it to them. Lust is contented with nothing. Those that indulge their lust, will never be estranged from it. Those hearts are hard indeed, that will neither be melted by the mercies of the Lord, nor broken by his judgments. Those that sin still, must expect to be in trouble still. And the reason why we live with so little comfort, and to so little purpose, is, because we do not live by faith. Under these rebukes they professed repentance, but they were not sincere, for they were not constant. In Israel's history we have a picture of our own hearts and lives. God's patience, and warnings, and mercies, imbolden them to harden their hearts against his word. And the history of kingdoms is much the same. Judgments and mercies have been little attended to, until the measure of their sins has been full. And higher advantages have not kept churches from declining from the commandments of God. Even true believers recollect, that for many a year they abused the kindness of Providence. When they come to heaven, how will they admire the Lord's patience and mercy in bringing them to his kingdom!
40-55. Let not those that receive mercy from God, be thereby made bold to sin, for the mercies they receive will hasten its punishment; yet let not those who are under Divine rebukes for sin, be discouraged from repentance. The Holy One of Israel will do what is most for his own glory, and what is most for their good. Their forgetting former favours, led them to limit God for the future. God made his own people to go forth like sheep; and guided them in the wilderness, as a shepherd his flock, with all care and tenderness. Thus the true Joshua, even Jesus, brings his church out of the wilderness; but no earthly Canaan, no worldly advantages, should make us forget that the church is in the wilderness while in this world, and that there remaineth a far more glorious rest for the people of God.
56-72 After the Israelites were settled in Canaan, the children were like their fathers. God gave them his testimonies, but they turned back. Presumptuous sins render even Israelites hateful to God's holiness, and exposed to his justice. Those whom the Lord forsakes become an easy prey to the destroyer. And sooner or later, God will disgrace his enemies. He set a good government over his people; a monarch after his own heart. With good reason does the psalmist make this finishing, crowning instance of God's favour to Israel; for David was a type of Christ, the great and good Shepherd, who was humbled first, and then exalted; and of whom it was foretold, that he should be filled with the Spirit of wisdom and understanding. On the uprightness of his heart, and the skilfulness of his hands, all his subjects may rely; and of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end. Every trial of human nature hitherto, confirms the testimony of Scripture, that the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, and nothing but being created anew by the Holy Ghost can cure the ungodliness of any.
Commentary by Matthew Henry, 1710.