by the hand of Moses and Aaron; the one was their civil and the other their ecclesiastical governor, and both under the Lord, and instruments of his, in guiding and conducting the people in all things needful for them. The Arabic version adds, "Allelujah"; from all this the psalmist concluded, though it is not mentioned, that as God had delivered his people of old out of their straits and difficulties, so he hoped and believed, that as he could, he would deliver him in his own time and way; and by this means his faith was relieved and strengthened.
INTRODUCTION TO Psalm 78
Maschil of Asaph. Or for "Asaph" (f); a doctrinal and "instructive" psalm, as the word "Maschil" signifies; see Psalm 32:1, which was delivered to Asaph to be sung; the Targum is,
"the understanding of the Holy Spirit by the hands of Asaph.''
Some think David was the penman of it; but from the latter part of it, in which mention is made of him, and of his government of the people of Israel, it looks as if it was wrote by another, and after his death, though not long after, since the account is carried on no further than his times; and therefore it is probable enough it was written by Asaph, the chief singer, that lived in that age: whoever was the penman of it, it is certain he was a prophet, and so was Asaph, who is called a seer, the same with a prophet, and who is said to prophesy, 2 Chronicles 29:30 and also that he represented Christ; for that the Messiah is the person that is introduced speaking in this psalm is clear from Matthew 13:34 and the whole may be considered as a discourse of his to the Jews of his time; giving them an history of the Israelites from their first coming out of Egypt to the times of David, and in it an account of the various benefits bestowed upon them, of their great ingratitude, and of the divine resentment; the design of which is to admonish and caution them against committing the like sins, lest they should be rejected of God, as their fathers were, and perish: some Jewish writers, as Arama observes, interpret this psalm of the children of Ephraim going out of Egypt before the time appointed.
to my law; meaning neither the moral nor the ceremonial law, but the doctrine of the Gospel, or law of faith, called the Messiah's law, Isaiah 2:3. This is the doctrine which he as man received of his Father, and which he taught and delivered to his disciples, and which concerns himself, his person, office, and grace, and is sometimes called the doctrine of Christ, 2 John 1:9,
incline your ears to the words of my mouth; the several doctrines of the everlasting Gospel preached by him, which were words of wisdom and of grace, of righteousness and eternal life, of peace, pardon, and everlasting salvation: these ought to be heard and diligently attended to; the matter contained in them requires attention; the office Christ bears demands it of men; all that have ears to hear should hear; all Christ's sheep do hear his voice, understand it, and act according to it: hear ye him was the instruction of Moses, and the direction of Christ's heavenly Father, Deuteronomy 18:15, and great is the danger such incur who hear him not, but neglect and despise his word, Hebrews 2:2.
(f) , Sept. "ipsi Asaph", Pagninus, Montanus; "tradita Asapho", Piscator.
in a parable; not that what follows in this psalm was such, but what were delivered by our Lord in the days of his flesh, who spake many parables; as of the sower, and of tares, and of the grain of mustard seed, and many others, and without a parable he spake not, and so fulfilled what he here said he would do, Matthew 13:34.
I will utter dark sayings of old; sayings that relate to things of old; meaning not to the coming of the children of Israel out of Egypt, and what follows in the psalm, delivered, as Aben Ezra and Kimchi observe, in figurative and topical terms, as in Psalm 78:19, but to the things which were from the foundation of the world, as the phrase is rendered in Matthew 13:35, spoken of Christ in his ministry, such as the fall of the angels, the ruin of man by Satan, the murder of Abel, Abraham's sight of his day with joy, and many things that were said by them of old, Luke 10:18 or rather this refers to the Gospel, and the sayings and doctrines of it, which were kept secret since the world began, Matthew 13:3, yea, which were ordained before the world was, and therefore called the everlasting Gospel, 1 Corinthians 2:7 and here in the Arabic version, "eternal mysteries"; such as concerning the everlasting love of God to his people, his everlasting choice of them, and everlasting covenant with them: and the sayings or doctrines of the Gospel may he called "dark", because secret, hidden, and mysterious; and were so under the legal dispensation, in comparison of the more clear light under the Gospel dispensation; they having been wrapped up in types and shadows, and in the rites and ceremonies of the law, but now held forth clearly and plainly in the ministry of Christ and his apostles, as in a glass: these Christ says he would "utter" or deliver out as water from a fountain, in great plenty, as he did; he came in the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel; and being full of grace and truth, the doctrines of grace and truth, these came by him, and were delivered from him in all their fulness and glory.
and our fathers have told us; this may not only regard the Jewish ancestors, from whom our Lord descended according to the flesh, and so refer to the following account of the wonderful things done for the people of Israel; but also the divine Father of Christ, from whom, as his only begotten Son that lay in his bosom, and as Mediator, and the Angel of the great council, he heard and became acquainted with the secrets and mysteries of grace, and with his Father's mind and will; all which he declared and made known to his apostles, and in so doing used them as his friends, John 1:18 and so the apostles of Christ, what they had from him their everlasting Father, and who had used to call them his children, even what they had seen, and heard, and learned, they made known to others, Acts 4:20.
showing to the generation to come; and so in all successive ages, by the ministration of the word, and the Spirit attending it; see Psalm 22:30,
the praises of the Lord; what he has done in predestination, redemption, and effectual calling, which is to the praise of the glory of his grace, Ephesians 1:6, and so all other truths of the Gospel, which are to the praise of Father, Son, and Spirit, and engage men to show it forth:
and his strength displayed; in Christ, the man of his right hand, made strong for himself, and in the redemption wrought out by him, as well as in the conversion of sinners by his mighty grace, and in the preservation of them by his power:
and his wonderful works that he hath done; in providence and grace; the miracles wrought by Christ, which were the wonderful works given him to finish, as proofs of his deity and Messiahship, and are testified in the Gospel for the confirmation of it; and especially the wonders of redeeming love, and calling grace, which are peculiarly to be ascribed unto him as the works his hands have wrought, and the wonderful decrees of God he made in eternity concerning these things.
and appointed a law in Israel; the law given on Mount Sinai was peculiar to them, and so were the word and oracles, they were committed to them; and not only the writings of Moses, but the prophets, are called the law, John 10:34, but the Gospel seems to be here meant; see Gill on Psalm 78:1, this was ordained before the world for our glory, and is put and placed in the hands and hearts of the faithful ministers of it, and is published among, and received by, the true Israel of God:
which he commanded our fathers that they should make them known to their children; that is, the testimony and the law, and the things contained in them; the Jewish fathers were frequently commanded to teach their children the law of Moses, Deuteronomy 4:9 and it was their practice to instruct them in the knowledge of the Scriptures, 2 Timothy 3:15, and it becomes Christian parents to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, by making known to them the principles of the Christian religion, and the truths of the Gospel, Ephesians 6:4.
even the children which should be born, who should arise and declare them to their children; and so be transmitted from age to age: it is the will of God, that, besides private instructions, there should be a standing ministry kept up in all ages, to the end of the world; and he will have some that shall receive the Gospel, and profess his name; there has been and will be a succession of regenerate persons; instead of the fathers come up the children, a seed to serve the Lord, accounted to him for a generation; the seed and the seed's seed of the church, from whose mouth the word of God shall never depart; but they shall declare it one to another, by which means it shall be continued to the latest posterity, Psalm 22:30.
and not forget the works of God; which the Gospel declares; not only the miracles of Christ recorded by the evangelists, but the works of grace, redemption, and salvation; the remembrance of which is kept up by the ministry of the word, and the administration of ordinances:
but keep his commandments; the commandments of Christ, and which are peculiar to the Gospel dispensation; and are to be kept in faith, from a principle of love, through the grace and strength of Christ, and to the glory of God by him; see John 14:15.
a stubborn and rebellions generation; as the generation in the wilderness was, Deuteronomy 9:6 and so were their posterity in Christ's time, Matthew 12:34,
a generation that set not their heart aright; to seek the Lord, serve and obey him; their hearts were removed far from him, and they were hypocritical in their prayers to him, and service of him:
and whose spirit was not steadfast with God; did not continue in the faith of God, in the true religion, but departed and apostatized from him; see Psalm 78:37. Apostasy is generally the fruit and effect of hypocrisy; all the following facts support the character which is here given of them.
but turned back in the day of battle; fled from the enemy, could not stand their ground when the onset was made: what this refers to is not easy to determine; some think this with what follows respects the defection of the ten tribes in Rehoboam's time, which frequently go under the name of Ephraim; but we have no account of any battle then fought, and lost by them; and besides the history of this psalm reaches no further than the times of David; others are of opinion that it regards the time of Eli, when the Israelites were beaten by the Philistines, the ark of God was taken, Eli's two sons slain, and thirty thousand more, 1 Samuel 4:1. Ephraim being put for the rest of the tribes, the ark being in that tribe; others suppose that the affair between the Gileadites and Ephraimites, in the times of Jephthah, is referred to, when there fell of the Ephraimites forty and two thousand, Judges 12:1, many of the Jewish (b) writers take it to be the history of a fact that was done in Egypt before the children of Israel came out from thence; see 1 Chronicles 7:20, so the Targum,
"when they dwelt in Egypt, the children of Ephraim grew proud, they appointed the end (or term of going out of Egypt), and they erred, and went out thirty years before the end, with warlike arms, and mighty men carrying bows, turned back, and were slain in the day of battle;''
though it seems most likely to have respect to what was done in the wilderness, as Kimchi observes, after they were come out of Egypt, and had seen the wonders of God there, and at the Red sea, and in the wilderness; and perhaps reference is had to the discomfiture of the Israelites by the Amalekites, when they went up the hill they were forbid to do, and in which, it may be, the Ephraimites were most forward, and suffered most; see Numbers 14:40.
(a) "jacientes arcu", Pagninus, Montanus; "jaculantes arcu", Tigurine version, Musculus, Junius & Tremellius, Gejerus, Michaelis. (b) See Pirke Eliezer, c. 48. Shalshalet Hakabala, fol. 7. 2.
and refused to walk in his law; the law of God, which was given forth by him, by the disposition of angels, through the hands of a mediator, Moses, as a rule of their walk and conversation; but they refused to order their conversation according to it, being unwilling to be subject to it, but despised and cast it away; a sad instance of the corruption of human nature, and the depravity of man's will, boasted of for its freedom, yet what is common, and to be observed in all mankind.
"before Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the tribes of their fathers, he did marvellous things;''
but these were dead before this time; the Jews have a fancy, that these were brought to the sea, and placed upon it; and the Lord showed them what he would do for their children, and how he would redeem them; but this is to be understood of the plagues which were brought upon the Egyptians, and which are called wonders, Exodus 11:10, and were so to the Egyptians themselves; and these were done by the hands of Moses and Aaron, and in their sight:
in the land of Egypt; where the Israelites were in bondage, and while they were there, and on their account were these things done:
in the field of Zoan; that is, in the territory of Zoan, which was an ancient city of Egypt, Numbers 13:22, the metropolis of the land where Pharaoh kept his court; hence we read of the princes of Zoan, Isaiah 19:11, it is the same with Tanis, and so it is called here in the Septuagint and Vulgate Latin versions, and also in the Targum; it is said to have been two miles from Heliopolis, and one from Memphis; and at this day these three cities are become one, which is fifteen miles in compass, and goes by the name of Alcair. In this great city, the metropolis of the nation, before Pharaoh and all his court, were the above wonders done.
"by the rod of Moses their master;''
which he was ordered to lift up, and to stretch out his hand over the sea; which he did, and at the same time a strong east wind was raised, which caused the sea to go back, and divided the waters of it; see Exodus 14:16.
and caused them to pass through; that is, he caused the Israelites to pass through the sea; this they did in faith, Hebrews 11:29, in the faith of the power and promise of God, and of future grace and blessings, which this was an emblem of; for it was a representation of baptism, and is so called, 1 Corinthians 10:1 and of the sea of Christ's blood, or of his sufferings and death; whereby all enemies are overcome and destroyed, as sin and Satan, signified by the Egyptians, and salvation is wrought, and every blessing of grace procured; and of the passage of God's people through the sea of this world, and afflictions in it, safe to glory:
and he made the waters to stand as an heap; and were as a wall on the right hand and on the left hand so they continued until the Israelites had passed through; and then they returned, and covered the Egyptians, and drowned them, Exodus 14:22.
and all the night with a light of fire; which also was in the form of a pillar, and went before them, and gave light in the night, and the Lord was in it; and this also was typical of Christ, who is the light of his people amidst all their darkness in this world.
but Moses was only the instrument, it was the Lord that did it; Moses with his rod could never have done it, had not the power of God went along with it. This smiting and cleaving the rocks were an emblem of the sufferings of Christ, who was smitten of God with the rod of justice, according to the law of Moses, in a judicial way, for the sins of his people, and in order to obtain salvation for them:
and gave them drink as out of the great depths; such a large quantity of water flowed out of the rocks when smitten, as if it came out of the great sea, which furnished them with drink sufficient, and more than enough for them and their cattle; this was typical of the large abundance of grace, and the blessings of it, which flow freely and plentifully from Christ and his fulness, and through his sufferings and death.
(b) De loc. Heb. fol. 93. L.
and caused waters to run down like rivers; from the descent of the rock, which followed them all the way in the wilderness; this was a most marvellous thing, that water should flow from a flinty rock upon striking it, from whence fire rather than water might have been expected; and that it should flow in such great abundance, and that from a rock in a wilderness.
by provoking the most High in the wilderness; everything is aggravating; the object against whom they sinned was the most High, which betrays their impiety, folly, and vanity; and they did not slightly sin against him, but did those things which were highly provoking and exasperating; and that in the wilderness, where they received so many favours, and where they must have been starved and perish, and could not have lived, without immediate provision, support, and protection, from the hand of the Lord.
(c) "et addiderunt adhuc ad peccandum ei", Montanus, "vel peccare", Musculus, Gejerus, Michaelis.
by asking meat for their lust; or, "for their soul"; such as their souls lusted after, and their sensitive appetites craved; for they were not satisfied with the bread they had, which was sufficient for their sustenance and support; they wanted food for pleasure and wantonness; to ask for daily bread is right, but to ask for more to consume on our lusts is wrong, James 4:3.
can God furnish a table in the wilderness? these are the words which they spoke against him, and by which they tempted him, questioning his power and his goodness, and expressing their dissatisfaction with their present and daily allowance; they were not content with the manna they had every day, but they wanted to have a table ordered and spread with all kind of dainties. The sense of the question is, can the Lord do this for us? give us a plentiful table in the wilderness, as well as drop the manna about our tents? if he can, why does not he? if he does not, it must be either for want in himself, or want of good will to us; and thus tried and tempted the Lord.
but can he give bread also? solid, substantial bread, and not like this light bread, the manna, as they called it, Numbers 21:5, can he give us bread of corn, in a wilderness which is not a place of seed, where no corn grows? can he do this? this would show his power indeed:
can he provide flesh for his people? for so great a multitude, and in a place where no cattle are? let him do this, and we will believe his power; or else the words intimate that the smiting of the rock, and the waters flowing in such large streams, were an instance of his power, and therefore he that could do the one could do the other; he that could bring such large quantities of water out of a rock could give them solid bread and suitable flesh, and fulness of both; and should he not do so, they must conclude that he bore no good will to them, and had no love and kindness for them.
so a fire was kindled against Jacob; the posterity of Jacob; or in Jacob (b), in the camp of Israel; which was literally true, because of the murmurings of the people against the Lord fire came down from heaven, and burnt among them, and consumed the uttermost parts of the camp; wherefore the name of the place was called Taberah, which signifies a burning, Numbers 11:1, or it may be taken figuratively for the wrath of God, which is oftentimes compared to fire; see Nahum 1:6 hence it follows,
and anger also came up against Israel; the people of Israel, the same with Jacob before; the allusion is to men when angry, in whose breasts anger burns, and from thence it rises up, and shows itself in their countenance, in their eyes, and by the words of their mouth.
(a) "transiit in hithpael de transitu vel exundatione bilis solet usurpari", Gejerus. (b) "in Jahacob", Pagninus, Montanus, Musculus.
and trusted not in his salvation; which he promised them, and bid them stand still and see, Exodus 14:13, and of which they had had some proofs and instances in leading them through the Red sea, and thus far guiding them through the wilderness, and providing for them; and therefore had reason and encouragement to trust in the Lord, that he would yet be with them, and save them, and complete the mercy promised unto them.
(c) which Suidas, in voce interprets a foolish thing; and it is thought by his learned editor Kusterus, in ibid. to allude to foolish persons, who stand round about a mountebank or juggler, gazing at his tricks with pleasure and admiration, being insnared by them.
and opened the doors of heaven; as a large granary, from whence the manna, afterwards called the corn of heaven, was given out in great abundance, which is signified by opening the doors; see Malachi 3:10.
and had given them of the corn of heaven; bread corn springs out of the earth, but this was corn from heaven, very unusual and wonderful; this greatly aggravated the unbelief of the Israelites, and shows their great ingratitude, that after all this they should disbelieve the Lord, and not trust in his salvation; the manna was a type of Christ, who is called the hidden manna, 1 Corinthians 10:3; see Gill on John 6:32.
"Instead whereof thou feddest thine own people with angels' food, and didst send them from heaven bread prepared without their labour, able to content every man's delight, and agreeing to every taste.'' (Wisdom 16:20)
because it might be prepared in the air by the ministry of angels, and given by their disposition, as the law was, Acts 7:53 or because it came down from heaven, where they dwell, and so the Targum,
"the children of men did eat food, which came down from the habitation of angels;''
or because it was most excellent food, as the tongue of angels is the most excellent and eloquent, 1 Corinthians 13:1, or because it was such food, that, if angels ate any, it was fit for them, and not at all unworthy of them. Cocceius thinks, and so Gussetius (e), that by the mighty ones are meant the mighty God, Father, Son, and Spirit, by whom this food was prepared and given; so the word is used in the singular number, of Jehovah, who is called the mighty One of Jacob, Genesis 49:24 and of the Redeemer, Isaiah 49:26,
he sent them meat to the full; which may be understood either of the manna, of which they had great plenty, so that there was no lack for any man, and this continued with them till they came to the land of Canaan; or of the quails, of which in the following verses.
(d) "fortium", Pagninus, Montanus, &c. "magnificorum, potentium", Vatablus. (e) Comment. Ebr. p. 14. Vid. Witsium de Oeconom. Foeder. l. 4. c. 10. sect. 99.
and by his power he brought in the south wind; into the heavens, into the air, as before, and with it he brought the quails; and which made his power to appear the greater, since they do not fly with the south wind, which is too moist and heavy for them, as naturalists observe (g); it looks as if first one wind blew, and then another was used for the bringing of them from the place where they were; perhaps about the Red sea, where they are said to have been in great numbers; and that the east wind brought them to a certain point, and then the south wind blew to bring them into the camp of Israel, where, by the moistness of it, they fell; hence fowlers, as the above naturalists relate, observe the south wind, in order to take them; though it may be that only one wind is intended, namely, the southeast wind; and so Aben Ezra, Kimchi, and Ben Melech, understand it.
(f) "fecit proficisci", Pagninus, Montanus, Gejerus. (g) Aristot. de Hist. Animal. l. 8. c. 12. Plin. Hist. l. 10. c. 23.
and feathered fowls like as the sand of the sea; or "fowl of wing" (h): winged fowls, so the Targum; fowl that flies; and therefore it was the more remarkable that these should be rained and fall, and be taken by the Israelites; and which fell in great numbers, as is signified by these phrases, the dust and the sand of the sea; for there fell enough to feed six hundred thousand men, beside women and children, for a month together; they lay in heaps, two cubits high, on one another, and everyone that gathered them brought in ten homers; see Numbers 11:19, which is the history referred to; and quails are used to fly together in large bodies; and sometimes, as Pliny (i) relates, will light on ships at sea, and sink them with their numbers. Some think one sort of locusts is meant, which were used for food, and was very delicious food; and the circumstances of bringing them with an east or southeast wind, their falling in heaps, and being gathered in bushels, and spread about to be dried in the sun, seem to favour such a sense; See Gill on Numbers 11:19; see Gill on Numbers 11:20; see Gill on Numbers 11:21; see Gill on Numbers 11:31; see Gill on Numbers 11:32. The ancients interpret this mystically of the flesh of Christ, whose flesh is meat indeed, delicious food for faith, as the quails were a rich food; and as they were rained down from heaven, so Christ is the bread of life which came down from heaven, and the bread he gave for the life of the world was his flesh: and as these came up, however the first quails, in the evening, Exodus 16:13, so Christ came in the flesh, in the evening or end of the world, to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself; to which may be added, that these creatures sit upon their young, and cherish and protect them, as an hen her chickens (k) with which compare Matthew 23:37, but seeing the quails are never called spiritual meat, as the manna is, 1 Corinthians 10:3, but were given in wrath and judgment, they are rather an emblem of riches, or worldly goods, things given to carnal men; these are of God, as the quails were, and are by some persons enjoyed without care or trouble, as these were; their meat, as it is sometimes said, falls into their mouth, as these quails did into the mouths of the Israelites, as it were; and are in wrath, their blessings are cursed to them, and, while they have a great affluence of worldly things, have leanness in their souls, as the Israelites now had, Psalm 106:15, moreover, as these were feathered or winged fowl, so riches have wings, and sometimes flee away, and are very uncertain things to trust to, Proverbs 23:5.
(h) "volucres alatas", Tigurine version, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Cocceius. (i) Hist. l. 10. c. 23. (k) Arist. de Hist. Animal. l. 9. c. 8.
round about their habitations; for the space of a day's journey on every side, where they lay in heaps, here and there, two cubits high, Numbers 11:31, so that they could gather them with great ease, and had no need of arrows to shoot at them, nor nets to spread for them; they were ready at hand, and in great plenty.
(l) "castrorum ejus", Pagninus, Vatablus, Gejerus.
for he gave them their own desire; or their lust (n), what they lusted after, flesh; and they had as much of it as they would, though this was given in judgment; and a sad thing it is when God gives men a fulness of this world's things, and leaves them to the abuse of them, or sends leanness into their souls, and gives them up to their own hearts' lusts.
(m) "et saturati sunt valde", Pagninus, Montanus, &c. (n) "concupiscentiam ipsorum", Cocceius.
but while their meat was yet in their mouths; the meat of the quails, while it was between their teeth, ere it was chewed, and before it was swallowed down, while they were rolling this sweet morsel under their tongues, and were gorging themselves with it, destruction came upon them, as follows; just as Belshazzar, while he was feasting with his nobles, in the midst of his mirth and jollity, was slain by the Persians, Daniel 5:1.
and slew the fattest of them; such perhaps who had been most guilty of the sin of gluttony, and had fed the most inordinately upon the flesh that was sent them; or this designs the chief among their princes and nobles, though not only them, but them as well as the common people; so the Targum,
"and slew their mighty ones:''
or the words may be rendered, "and slew them among their fatness", or "fat things" (o); while they were feeding on their feast of fat things, the fat quails, which were brought among them, in such plenty; for the quail is a very fat bird, as Kimchi observes (p):
and smote down the chosen men of Israel; or the young men, as the Targum, who were within the twentieth and fiftieth year of their age; who were chosen and fit for war within that time, as well as were the choicest for comeliness, strength, and service; or "made" them "to bow" (q) to death and the grave; whose power they could not withstand, though in the prime and vigour of youth, and while they were freely and heartily feeding upon the food they lusted after.
(o) "in opimis ipsorum", Cocceius; "inter pinguedines eorum", Michaelis. (p) In Sepher Shorashim, rad. (q) "incurvavit", Pagninus, Montanus.
and believed not for his wondrous works: not "in" them, though the words will bear to be so rendered; for they did believe in them when they were wrought, and that they were wrought by the Lord; though they soon forgot them, and fell into distrust and unbelief; but "by" them (r), or by means of them; though such wonderful things were done for them in providence, as before related, which should have engaged their faith and trust in the Lord; yet, notwithstanding these, they called in question his providence, power, and goodness.
(r) "per miracula ejus", Schmidt; so some in Gejerus.
and their years in trouble: or "in terror" (a) and consternation; through their enemies, who smote and discomfited them, Numbers 14:45, through the earth's opening and swallowing many of them up; through fire coming from heaven on some of them, and fiery serpents being sent among them all, Numbers 16:31. It is an awful consideration, and yet it is true, of some wicked men, though not all, that they have nothing but trouble here, by what their sins bring upon them, and hell at last. Kimchi renders the word here used "suddenly", and interprets it of the sudden death of the spies; so the Syriac and Arabic versions "swiftly", following the Vulgate Latin, which renders it "with haste".
(a) "in terrore", Montanus; "per consternationem aut terrorem", Gejerus; "in terrore et consternatione", Michaelis.
then they sought him; that is, those who either survived the slain, or were threatened with destruction; these sought the Lord by prayer and supplication, that he would not destroy them; the Targum is,
"they repented and sought him;''
see Numbers 14:37,
and they returned; from their evil ways, and by repentance, at least in show and appearance:
and inquired early after God; but not earnestly, and with their whole hearts and spirits; the Targum is,
"they prayed before God;''
which is often done, by carnal professors, in trouble; see Isaiah 26:16, Hosea 5:15.
and the high God their Redeemer; who had redeemed them out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage, with a high hand and a mighty arm, and thereby showed himself to be the most high God: between this and the following verse the Masorah puts this note,
"half of the book,''
i.e. half of the book of Psalms ends here.
"they allured (or persuaded) him, with their mouth;''
they attempted to do so; the Syriac and Arabic versions are, "they loved him with their mouth"; professed great love and sincere affection to him, when they had none:
and they lied unto him with their tongues; to lie unto men is bad, but to God is worse; and it is a most vain and foolish thing, since there is not a word in the tongue of any but is known to him.
(b) "quamvis conarentur eum decipere", Junius & Tremellius; "attamen decipiebant eum", Cocceius.
neither were they steadfast in his covenant; which was made with them at Sinai, though they promised to be obedient, and to do all the Lord said unto them; but this covenant they broke, though he were an husband to them; see Exodus 24:7.
forgave their iniquity; forgiveness of sin flows from the tender mercy of God; it is according to the multitude of his mercies, and the riches of his grace; yet is through the blood and attoning sacrifice of his Son; and the word (c) that is here used signifies to expiate or atone; God never intended to pardon sinners, but through the propitiation of his Son, whom he set forth in his purpose, and sent forth in the fulness of time to be the propitiatory sacrifice for sin; he forgave the sins of Old Testament saints with a view to that; and it is for Christ's sake he forgives any; for without shedding of blood there is no remission; though perhaps, since these persons were impenitent, unbelievers and hypocrites, no more may be meant here by the forgiveness of their sins than averting a threatened judgment, or a removing of one, and putting a stop to the further execution of it, which is sometimes meant by forgiving sin; see Numbers 14:19, 1 Kings 8:30 which sense the following words incline to:
and destroyed them not; though they deserved it, and he was able to do it, he did not destroy them immediately and at once, nor all of them, at least not their seed and posterity, who were preserved and brought into the land of Canaan:
yea, many a time turned he his anger away; he does not retain it for ever, or always carry on a resentment, or the appearance of it; though he causes grief, he has and shows compassion; he is said to turn away his anger from his own people when he forgives their sins, and comforts their souls, Psalm 85:2, so when he causes the effects of his displeasure to cease, or stays a plague, or stops a judgment, by means of any of his servants; see Numbers 25:8,
and did not stir up all his wrath; which their sins deserved, and was laid up among his treasures: the wrath of a temporal king is as the roaring of a lion, Proverbs 19:12 much more that of the King of kings; and the allusion here seems to be to the arousing of some fierce creature; the wrath of God is intolerable, and, even when it is kindled but a little, it cannot be endured; and much less should it be all stirred up; but here in wrath he remembered mercy.
(c) "propitiabitur", Montanus; "propitiatus est", Pagninus, Museulus; "propitius fuit", Tigurine version; "expiabat", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Cocceius, Gejerus, Michaelis.
a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again; such is the life of man; it may be fitly compared to the wind, which moves swiftly, and, passing on, loses its strength and subsides; so the life of man is quickly gone, his days move swiftly on, he dies, and returns not again to his former state, to a mortal life; and though the spirit returns to the body again, yet not till the resurrection; and then not of itself, but by the power of God; see Job 7:7.
and grieve him in the desert; which signifies the same as before, and is spoken after the manner of men, Genesis 6:6 and like a tender parent grieved at the disobedience of his child, and that he is obliged to take the rod and chastise it. The prophet Isaiah says, they "vexed" or "grieved his Holy Spirit", Isaiah 63:10, the same word is there used as here; compare with it Ephesians 4:30.
and limited the Holy One of Israel; or "signed" (d) him; signed him with a sign, so the Targum; they tempted him by asking a sign of him, as Jarchi interprets it; insisting that a miracle be wrought, by which it might be known whether the Lord was among them or not, Exodus 17:7, with which compare Matthew 16:1, or they set bounds, so Kimchi; to his power and goodness, saying, this he could do, and the other he could not; see Psalm 78:19, and so men limit the Lord when they fix on a blessing they would have, even that, and not another; and the measure of it, to what degree it should be bestowed on them, as well as set the time when they would have it; whereas the blessing itself, and the degree of it, and the time of giving it, should be all left with the Lord; who knows which and what of it is most convenient for us, and when is the best time to bestow it on us.
(d) "signaverunt", Pagninus.
nor the day when he delivered them from the enemy; Pharaoh king of Egypt; that very memorable day in which they were delivered out of his hands, that selfsame day which had been fixed, by promise and prophecy many hundreds of years before, in which the hosts of the Lord went out of Egypt, Exodus 12:41, times when as well as places where deliverances and salvation have been wrought should not be forgotten; and forgetfulness of the goodness of God in times past is often the cause and occasion of sinning against him, which, by a remembrance of his kind appearances, might be prevented.
and his wonders in the field of Zoan, or in the country of Zoan, that is, Tanis, as the Targum renders it; so the Septuagint and Vulgate Latin versions; see Psalm 78:12, an enumeration of these signs and wonders follows; but not of all, nor in the order in which they were: only seven are mentioned, with which compare the seven vials or last plagues, Revelation 6:1.
and their floods, that they could not drink; the rivulets that flowed from the Nile, and every spring or confluence of water; or rather by these rivers and floods are meant the canals and ditches, which, as Jarchi (e) observes, were made by the hands of men, from the banks of the river Nile, to water their fields with.
(e) Comment. on Exodus 7.19. so Kimchi in Sepher Shorash. rad.
"a mixture of wild beasts;''
so Josephus (g) understood this plague of various sorts of beasts of different forms, and such as had never been seen before. Aben Ezra, on Exodus 8:24 interprets it of evil beasts mixed together, as lions, wolves, bears, and leopards; and Jarchi, on the same place, of serpents and scorpions: the Syriac and Arabic versions here, following the Septuagint, render the word "dog flies"; so called because they were, as Pliny (h) says, very troublesome to dogs, and so might give the Egyptians greater uneasiness, because they worshipped dogs. God can make use of very mean and contemptible instruments, the least of insects, to plague and distress the most powerful enemies of his people;
which devoured them; corrupted their land, Exodus 8:24, perhaps produced a pestilence, which destroyed many of the inhabitants, or consumed the vegetables of the land; as but a few years ago (e), in New England, a sort of insects came out of little holes in the ground, in the form of maggots, and turned to flies, which for the space of two hundred miles poisoned and destroyed all the trees in the country (i):
and frogs, which destroyed them; with their stench; see Exodus 8:5, with this plague compare Revelation 16:13, this was the second plague.
(e) This was written about 1750. Editor. (f) "mixtionem", Montanus; "miscellam", Vatablus; "a mixed swarm", Ainsworth. (g) Antiqu. l. 2. c. 14. sect. 3.((h) Nat. Hist. l. 11. c. 34. (i) See Philosoph. Transact. vol. 2. p. 766. See also p. 781.
and their labour unto the locust; which devoured the increase of the field, all green grass and trees, all sorts of corn, wheat, barley and rye, and the increase of vineyards, and all fruit trees, on which much labour had been used to manure and cultivate; see Revelation 9:3 this was the eighth plague.
and their sycamore trees with frost: sycamore trees, according to Kimchi, were a sort of wild figs, and these with the vines are only mentioned; though the plague of hail destroyed all sorts of trees; because there were many of these in Egypt, and are put for all others; and who also observes, that the word rendered "frost", which is only used in this place, signifies a kind of hail; and so Aben Ezra interprets it of great hailstones which beat off the fruit of the sycamore trees: but R. Saadiah Gaon explains it by the Arabic word "Al-sakia", which signifies a strong frost which breaks the buds of trees, and dries up their moisture. Jarchi will have it to be, according to the Midrash, a kind of locust, which comes and sits and cuts off the green of the trees and grass, and eats it. Aben Ezra makes mention of this sense, but rejects it.
(k) "occidit", Pagninus, Montanus, Musculus, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; "interfecit", Gejerus.
and their flocks to hot thunderbolts: which were killed by them: this is to be understood of the fire that was mingled with the hail, and ran upon the ground, and destroyed their flocks, Exodus 9:23. Jarchi, out of the Midrash, interprets the words of fowls which devoured the sheep killed by the hail.
wrath, and indignation, and trouble, are thought by some to intend the other plagues, which are not particularly mentioned; or rather they express the manner in which they were all inflicted, in great wrath and hot displeasure for their sins and iniquities, and which particularly were shown
by sending evil angels among them; not evil in themselves, but because they were the instruments God made use of to bring evil things upon the Egyptians, as good angels often are; though some think that demons, devils, or wicked spirits, were sent among them at that time; the darkness was over all the land, and frightened them; in the Apocrypha:
"3 For while they supposed to lie hid in their secret sins, they were scattered under a dark veil of forgetfulness, being horribly astonished, and troubled with strange apparitions. 4 For neither might the corner that held them keep them from fear: but noises as of waters falling down sounded about them, and sad visions appeared unto them with heavy countenances.'' (Wisdom 17)
According to Arama, the three last plagues are meant: the words may be rendered "messengers of evil things" (l), as they are by some, and be understood of Moses and Aaron, who were sent time after time with messages of evil things to Pharaoh, in which were expressed his wrath and fury against them.
(l) "numcios malorum", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator.
he spared not their soul from death, but gave their life over to the pestilence; which some understand of their cattle, and of the murrain that came upon them, by which they were destroyed, and which was the fifth plague of Egypt, Exodus 9:3, so the Targum,
"their beasts he delivered unto death;''
but Aben Ezra interprets it of the slaughter of the firstborn, expressed in the following verse; and so others.
(m) "ponderavit semitam furori suo", Pagninus, Vatablus; "libravit semitam irae suae", Tigurine version; "iter ad iram suam", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator.
the chief of their strength; or first of it, as the firstborn is called, Genesis 49:3,
in the tabernacles of Ham; in the several cities, towns, villages, and houses of the Egyptians, the descendants of cursed Ham; for Mizraim, from whom the Egyptians have their name, and from whence they sprung, was a son of Ham's, Genesis 10:6. Perhaps No Ammon may be particularly meant, Nahum 3:8, the same with Memphis, and which signifies the mansion or palace of Ammon, that is, Ham; and so Chemmis, another city in Egypt, signifies the same (n); of which see Psalm 105:23 this was the tenth and last plague: according to Suidas (o), the plagues of Egypt continued forty days.
(n) Dickinson Delph. Phoeniciz. cap. 4. (o) In voce
and guided them in the wilderness like a flock; by the hands of Moses and Aaron, Psalm 77:20, he also going before them as the Shepherd of the flock, in a pillar of cloud by day, and in a pillar of fire by night; he kept them together as a flock from scattering, straying, and being lost; and directed their way in the untrodden wilderness, through all the windings and turnings of it, and protected them from all dangers and enemies.
so that they feared not; for though they feared for a while at the Red sea, yet their fears were soon silenced, and they by faith passed through the Red sea as on dry land; and especially their fears were gone, when they saw the Egyptians dead on the sea shore; wherefore it follows:
but the sea overwhelmed their enemies; or "covered" them (p); the waters returned, and overflowed and drowned the Egyptians, who were their implacable enemies, and vowed their destruction, and were sure of it; but now the Israelites had nothing to fear from them.
(p) "operuit", Pagninus, Montanus, Musculus, Piscator, Gejerus.
"to the border of the place of the house of his sanctuary:''
even to this mountain, which his right hand purchased; the mount Moriah, on which the temple was built; this psalm being composed, as Aben Ezra and Kimchi think, after it was made known to David, by the prophet Gad, the place where the temple should be built; namely, on the very mountain, on part of which David had his palace; and this was obtained and possessed, not by the power nor through the merits of the Israelites, but through the power and goodness of God; see Psalm 44:3.
and divided them an inheritance by line: the land of Canaan was divided among the nine tribes and a half by Joshua, the other two and a half having had their portion assigned them on the other side; this distribution was made very exactly by lot, by line, and measure, so that every tribe had their proper portion and inheritance; see Joshua 13:6,
and made the tribes of Israel to dwell in their tents; in the cities, towns, villages, and houses of the Heathen cast out before them.
and kept not his testimonies; the laws of God, which testified and declared his mind and will; nor observed his word and ordinances, which testified of his grace, and of the way of salvation by Jesus Christ.
and dealt unfaithfully, like their fathers; in the wilderness; see Psalm 78:8,
they were turned aside like a deceitful bow; that promises well to carry the arrow right, but drops it at the feet of the archer; or carries it another way, so that it misses the mark, The Targum is,
"as a bow casting arrows;''
to the ground, and not to the mark; see Hosea 7:16, or being too much stretched is suddenly broken, and kills the archer; or returns to its own nature; so Arama.
and moved him to jealousy with their graven images; which they worshipped, see Judges 10:6, which idolatry was spiritual adultery, and so made the Lord jealous of them, who stood in the relation of a husband to them, as a man becomes jealous by the unchaste and lascivious conduct of his wife; and such a course of life the Israelites lived, throughout the reigns of the judges, at certain seasons, until the times of Eli and Samuel, when the ark was carried captive, of which mention is made in the following verses.
he was wroth, and greatly abhorred Israel; not his remnant among them, according to the election of grace, which he in all ages had; for this would be contrary to his everlasting love, which always continues; to the immutability of his nature, who changes not; to his Word, who says, fury is not in me; and to his oath, who hath sworn that he will not be wroth with his people: he may indeed, and does, abhor their sins, but not their persons; he may seem to them and others, in the dispensations of his providence, to be wroth with them and abhor them; but does not in reality. This is to be understood of the bulk of the people in general, and is to be explained and illustrated by those several instances of his displeasure with them in the times of the judges; when his anger waxed hot against them for their idolatries and other sins, and he delivered them up into the hands of their enemies, Judges 3:7.
the tent which he placed among men; it was as a tent moveable from place to place, and was to continue at longest but for a while, as the whole tabernacle worship and service was to do; here the divine Majesty dwelt, and among men, vile, sinful, wicked, and ungrateful men; which was a wonderful instance of his condescension and goodness, 1 Kings 8:27, but when their iniquities grew to such a degree as were intolerable, he forsook it and removed it elsewhere; see Jeremiah 7:12, rather the words may be rendered, "the tent", or "tabernacle, which he had fixed in Adam"; as they are by Doctor Lightfoot (q); that is, in the city Adam, which was in the centre of the parting of the waters of Jordan, and where was the station of the tabernacle and ark of the covenant, when Israel entered into them, and passed through them; which is mentioned as a wonderful circumstance, both with respect to the tabernacle and to the people of Israel.
(q) See his Works, vol. 2. p. 82.
and his glory into the enemy's hand; which designs the same thing, the ark being the glory of God, over which upon the mercy seat the glorious majesty of the Lord was; hence Phinehas's wife, when she heard the ark was taken, fell into labour, her time being near, and brought forth a son, and called him Ichabod, saying, the glory is departed from Israel, for the ark of God is taken, 1 Samuel 4:21.
and was wroth with his inheritance; and the above showed that he was, though they were his inheritance, his portion and possession, and he had chosen them for it, Psalm 33:12.
and their maidens were not given to marriage; the young men to whom they should have been married, and to whom they might have been espoused, being slain in battle: or, "were not honoured" (a); that with marriage, which is honourable to all, Hebrews 13:4, or "were not praised" (b); were not attended with epithalamies and nuptial songs, such as used to be sung at the time of marriage; hence, as Kimchi observes, the nuptial chamber is called , "the house of praise"; and so frequently, when a great calamity is threatened or described, it is said, the voice of the bride and bridegroom is not heard; see Jeremiah 16:9.
(a) "honoratae", Munster; so some in Vatablus. (b) "Celebratae epithalamio", Montanus; "laudatae", Tigurine version, Amama, so Ainsworth; "laudarentur", Junius & Tremellius, Michaelis; "laudabantur", Piscator; "commendabantur", Gejerus.
and their widows made no lamentation; for their husbands the priests, who fell by the sword; particularly the widow of Phinehas, who upon the news fell into labour, and as soon as she brought forth her child died, and while she lived took no notice of the death of her husband, nor lamented that, only that the ark of the Lord was taken, 1 Samuel 4:19, and which might be the case of others; nor could they attend their funerals, or follow them to the grave with lamentations, they falling in battle; and such was their concern for the public loss, that their private sorrow was swallowed up in it. Some understand it of the disrespect and neglect of others, who came not to lament with them, and comfort them, as was usual: one of the Targums paraphrases the whole thus,
"at the time that the Philistines carried captive the ark of the Lord, the priests of Shiloh, Hophni, and Phinehas, fell by the sword; and at the time they brought their wives the news of it, they wept not, for they died even the same day.''
and like a mighty man that shouteth by reason of wine; who having taken a free draught of generous wine, not to excess, goes forth with great courage and cheerfulness to meet his adversary, shouting as he goes, being sure of victory; which must be applied to God with decency, consistent with the glory of his majesty, and the perfections of his nature; and seems designed to express his power and readiness to help his people, and avenge himself on his enemies; see Isaiah 42:13.
"and he smote them that troubled them with haemorrhoids in their posteriors;''
the Greek version, as quoted by Suidas (c), is, "he smote his enemies on the back parts of the seat"; signifying, he says, a disease, modestly expressed:
he put them to a perpetual reproach; either by causing their idol Dagon to fall before his ark, and be broken upon the threshold of the house of the idol; in memory of which the priests ever after, nor any that came in thither, trod upon the threshold, 1 Samuel 5:3, or rather through their sending golden images of their haemorrhoids, and golden mice along with the ark, which were reserved to their perpetual reproach: other instances of the Lord's regard to Israel follow, in providing a proper place for the ark, and appointing a suitable governor over the people.
(c) In voce
"and he rejected the tabernacle which he had stretched out in the border of Joseph;''
he did not refuse the tabernacle, or remove his presence from it; but he refused the place it had been in, or refused that it should be any more there:
and chose not the tribe of Ephraim: the same thing is designed as before; the meaning is, not that he rejected the tribe of Ephraim from being one of the tribes of Israel; nor does it refer to the revolt of Ephraim, or the ten tribes, from the pure worship of God to idolatry, and their separation from the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin; or to their being carried captive into Assyria; since this historical narration reaches no further than the reign of David, or the time of Solomon at furthest; whereas the facts mentioned were a long time afterwards; nor does it regard the removal of government from the tribe of Ephraim, which was the seat of it in the times of Joshua, of which tribe he was, Numbers 13:8, though this tribe was overlooked in the choice of a king, one of the tribe of Benjamin being first chosen; and when he was rejected, then one of the tribe of Judah; but this purely, at least principally, intends that it was the will of God that the seat of worship should not be in this tribe any longer; that the ark and tabernacle should be no more there: perhaps the Ephraimites were more culpable, and more provoked the Lord with their idolatry, than the other tribes, since they are first and last taken notice of as the objects of the divine resentment in this account; see Psalm 78:9.
the mount Zion, which he loved; where was the city of David; into which the ark was brought when removed from Gibeah, and on part of which the temple was built: the choice of this place, for such a purpose, was from love, Psalm 87:2, it was typical of the church, the choice of which also arises from the everlasting and unchangeable love of God to it.
"as the horn of the unicorn;''
and so the Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, and Arabic versions. Jarchi interprets it as the high heavens, of which it was a figure; it was like them for magnificence and glory, and like the earth for stability, as follows:
like the earth, which he hath established for ever; as to the substance of it; though as to the qualities of it, it will be done away, and a new one arise; otherwise it will abide for ever, Ecclesiastes 1:4, this respects the continuance of the temple during the Jewish dispensation, when the Gospel temple, or Gospel church, should take place, which will continue to the end of the world: this is opposed to the frequent moves of the tabernacle and ark before the temple was built, when there was no abiding habitation provided for it.
and took him from the sheepfolds; from whence he was fetched when Samuel was sent by the Lord to anoint him, 1 Samuel 16:11, so Moses, while he was feeding his father's sheep, was called to be the saviour and deliverer of Israel, Exodus 3:1, and Amos was taken from following the flock to be a prophet of the Lord, Amos 7:13, and as David was a type of Christ, this may express the mean condition of our Lord, in his state of humiliation, previous to his exaltation, and the more open exercise of his kingly office.
he brought him to feed Jacob his people, and Israel his inheritance; that is, to rule over them: this is said in allusion to his having been a shepherd; and nothing is more common than for kings to be represented as shepherds, and their acts of government by leading and feeding; and one and the same word in the Greek language signifies to feed and rule: and so the Targum,
"he brought him to rule over Jacob his people:''
this was a great honour indeed, to be the governor of the Lord's people, a special people above all people on the face of the earth, and whom he had chosen to be his inheritance; and in this also he was a type of Christ, who has the throne of his father David given him, and who reigns over the house of Jacob, one of whose titles is King of saints; for as the government of the world in general, so of the church in particular, is on his shoulders, Luke 1:32.
(a) "de post", Montanus, Vatablus, Gejerus; "a post", Michaelis. (b) "lactantes", Vatablus, Gejerus, Michaelis.