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Ps 78:1-72. This Psalm appears to have been occasioned by the removal of the sanctuary from Shiloh in the tribe of Ephraim to Zion in the tribe of Judah, and the coincident transfer of pre-eminence in Israel from the former to the latter tribe, as clearly evinced by David's settlement as the head of the Church and nation. Though this was the execution of God's purpose, the writer here shows that it also proceeded from the divine judgment on Ephraim, under whose leadership the people had manifested the same sinful and rebellious character which had distinguished their ancestors in Egypt.
1. my people . . . my law--the language of a religious teacher (Ps 78:2; La 3:14; Ro 2:16, 27; compare Ps 49:4). The history which follows was a "dark saying," or riddle, if left unexplained, and its right apprehension required wisdom and attention.
3-8. This history had been handed down (Ex 12:14; De 6:20) for God's honor, and that the principles of His law might be known and observed by posterity. This important sentiment is reiterated in (Ps 78:7, 8) negative form.
5. testimony-- (Ps 19:7).
9-11. The privileges of the first-born which belonged to Joseph (1Ch 5:1, 2) were assigned to Ephraim by Jacob (Ge 48:1). The supremacy of the tribe thus intimated was recognized by its position (in the marching of the nation to Canaan) next to the ark (Nu 2:18-24), by the selection of the first permanent locality for the ark within its borders at Shiloh, and by the extensive and fertile province given for its possession. Traces of this prominence remained after the schism under Rehoboam, in the use, by later writers, of Ephraim for Israel (compare Ho 5:3-14; 11:3-12). Though a strong, well-armed tribe, and, from an early period, emulous and haughty (compare Jos 17:14; Jud 8:1-3; 2Sa 19:41), it appears, in this place, that it had rather led the rest in cowardice than courage; and had incurred God's displeasure, because, diffident of His promise, though often heretofore fulfilled, it had failed as a leader to carry out the terms of the covenant, by not driving out the heathen (Ex 23:24; De 31:16; 2Ki 17:15).
12-14. A record of God's dealings and the sins of the people is now
made. The writer gives the history from the exode to the retreat from
Kadesh; then contrasts their sins with their reasons for confidence,
shown by a detail of God's dealings in Egypt, and presents a summary of
the subsequent history to David's time.
15, 16. There were two similar miracles
19, 20. in the face of His admitted power.
22. (Compare Heb 8:8, 9).
23-29. (Compare Ex 16:11-15; Nu 11:4-9).
29. their . . . desire--what they longed for.
30, 31. not estranged . . . lust--or, "desire"--that is, were indulging it.
31. slew . . . fattest--or, "among the fattest"; some of them--
33-39. Though there were partial reformations after chastisement, and God, in pity, withdrew His hand for a time, yet their general conduct was rebellious, and He was thus provoked to waste and destroy them, by long and fruitless wandering in the desert.
36. lied . . . tongues--a feigned obedience (Ps 18:44).
40, 41. There were ten temptations (Nu 14:22).
41. limited--as in
Ps 78:19, 20.
Though some prefer "grieved" or "provoked." The retreat from Kadesh
is meant, whether--
43. wrought--set or held forth.
45. The dog-fly or the mosquito.
46. caterpillar--the Hebrew name, from its voracity,
and that of--
48. gave . . . cattle--literally, "shut up" (compare Ps 31:8).
49. evil angels--or, "angels of evil"--many were perhaps employed, and other evils inflicted.
50, 51. made a way--removed obstacles, gave it full scope.
52-54. made his . . . forth--or, brought them by periodical journeys (compare Ex 15:1).
54. border of his sanctuary--or, "holy
border"--i. e., region of which--
58. Idolatry resulted from sparing the heathen (compare Ps 78:9-11).
62. gave--or, "shut up."
and there were, doubtless, others.
65. (Compare Ps 22:16; Isa 42:13).
66. And he smote . . . part--or, "struck His enemies' back." The Philistines never regained their position after their defeats by David.
67, 68. tabernacle of Joseph--or, "home," or, "tribe," to which--
69. Exalted as--
70-72. God's sovereignty was illustrated in this choice. The contrast is striking--humility and exaltation--and the correspondence is beautiful.