An exhortation both to learn and to preach the law of God, 1-8. The story of God's wrath against the incredulous and disobedient, 9-66. The Israelites being rejected, God chose Judah, Zion, and David, 67-72.
1 [Maschil of Asaph.] Give ear, O my people, to my law. Incline your ear to the words of my mouth.
2 I will open my mouth in a parable. I will utter dark sayings of old,
3 Which we have heard and known and our fathers have told us.
4 We will not hide them from their children, showing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, his strength, and his wonderful works that he has done.
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,
6 So that the generation to come might know them, even the children who should be born, who should arise and declare them to their children;
7 So that they might set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments,
8 And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that did not set their heart aright and whose spirit was not steadfast with God.
9 The children of Ephraim, being armed and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle.
10 They did not keep the covenant of God and refused to walk in his law,
11 And forgot his works and his wonders that he had shown them.
12 He did marvelous things in the sight of their fathers, in the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan.
13 He divided the sea and caused them to pass through. He made the waters to stand as a heap.
14 In the day-time he also led them with a cloud and all the night with a light of fire.
15 He cleaved the rocks in the wilderness and gave them drink as out of the great depths.
16 He also brought streams out of the rock and caused waters to run down like rivers.
17 And they sinned yet more against him by provoking the Most High in the wilderness.
18 And they tested God in their heart by asking food for their desire.
19 They even spoke against God. They said, "Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?
20 Behold, he smote the rock so that the waters gushed out and the streams overflowed. Can he give bread also? Can he provide flesh for his people?"
21 Therefore, the LORD heard this and was angry. Thus a fire was kindled against Jacob and anger also came up against Israel,
22 Because they did not believe in God and did not trust in his salvation,
23 Though he had commanded the clouds from above and opened the doors of heaven,
24 And had rained down manna upon them to eat and given them of the grain of heaven.
25 Man ate angels' food. He sent them food to the full.
26 He caused an east wind to blow in the heaven. And by his power he brought in the south wind.
27 He also rained flesh upon them as dust, and feathered birds as the sand of the sea.
28 And he let it fall in the midst of their camp around their habitations.
29 So they ate and were well filled, for he gave them their own desire.
30 They were not estranged from their desire. But while their food was yet in their mouths,
31 The wrath of God came upon them and slew the fattest of them and smote down the chosen men of Israel.
32 For all this they sinned still and did not believe in his wondrous works.
33 Therefore, he consumed their days in vanity and their years in trouble.
34 When he slew them, they sought him. They returned and inquired early after God.
35 And they remembered that God was their rock and the high God their redeemer.
36 Nevertheless, they flattered him with their mouth and they lied to him with their tongues.
37 For their heart was not right with him, neither were they steadfast in his covenant.
38 But he, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity and did not destroy them. Many a time he even turned his anger away and did not stir up all his wrath.
39 For he remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passes away and does not return.
40 How often they provoked him in the wilderness and grieved him in the desert!
41 They even turned back and tested God and limited the Holy One of Israel.
42 They did not remember his hand, nor the day when he delivered them from the enemy,
43 How he had wrought his signs in Egypt and his wonders in the field of Zoan,
44 And had turned their rivers into blood, and also their floods, so that they could not drink.
45 He sent swarms of flies among them which devoured them, and also frogs which destroyed them.
46 He also gave their increase to the ravaging-locust and their labor to the swarming-locust.
47 He destroyed their vines with hail and their sycamore trees with frost.
48 He also gave up their cattle to the hail and their flocks to hot thunderbolts.
49 He cast upon them the fierceness of his anger, wrath, indignation, and trouble, by sending evil angels among them.
50 He made a way to his anger. He did not spare their soul from death, but gave their life over to the pestilence,
51 And smote all the first-born in Egypt, the chief of their strength in the tabernacles of Ham,
52 But made his own people to go forth like sheep and guided them in the wilderness like a flock.
53 And he led them on safely so that they did not fear. But the sea overwhelmed their enemies.
54 And he brought them to the border of his sanctuary, even to this mountain, which his right hand had purchased.
55 He also cast out the heathen before them. He divided them an inheritance by line and made the tribes of Israel to dwell in their tents.
56 Yet they tested and provoked the most high God and did not keep his testimonies,
57 But turned back and dealt unfaithfully like their fathers. They were turned aside like a deceitful bow.
58 For they provoked him to anger with their high places and moved him to jealousy with their engraved images.
59 When God heard this, he was angry and greatly abhorred Israel,
60 So that he forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent which he placed among men,
61 And delivered his strength into captivity and his glory into the enemy's hand.
62 He also gave over his people to the sword and was angry with his inheritance.
63 The fire consumed their young men and their maidens were not given to marriage.
64 Their priests fell by the sword and their widows made no lamentation.
65 Then the Lord awoke as one out of sleep and like a mighty man who shouts by reason of wine.
66 And he smote his enemies backward. He put them to a perpetual reproach.
67 Moreover, he refused the tabernacle of Joseph and did not choose the tribe of Ephraim,
68 But chose the tribe of Judah, the mount Zion which he loved.
69 And he built his sanctuary like high palaces, like the earth which he has established forever.
70 He also chose David his servant and took him from the sheep-folds.
71 From following the ewes great with young he brought him to feed Jacob his people and Israel his inheritance.
72 Thus he fed them according to the integrity of his heart and guided them by the skillfulness of his hands.
Matthew Henry Commentary - Psalms, Chapter 78[➚]
John Calvin's Chapter Summary:
To comprehend many things within small compass, it is to be observed, that in this psalm there are two leading topics. On the one hand, it is declared how God adopted for himself a Church from the posterity of Abraham, how tenderly and graciously he cherished it, how wonderfully he brought it out of Egypt, and how varied were the blessings which he bestowed upon it. On the other hand, the Jews, who were so much indebted to him for the great blessings which he had conferred upon them, are upbraided for having from time to time perversely and treacherously revolted from so liberal a father; so that his inestimable goodness was clearly manifested, not only in his free adoption of them at first, but also in continuing by the uninterrupted course of his goodness to strive against the rebellion of so perfidious and stiff-necked a people. Moreover, mention is made of the renewal of God's grace, and as it were of a second election which he made when he chose David out of the tribe of Judah to sway the scepter over the kingdom of Israel.
[v.2] - Quoted in Matthew 13:35.
[v.15] - Reference, 1st Corinthians 10:4.
[v.24] - Quoted in John 6:31.
[v.46] - "the ravaging-locust... the swarming-locust" - See the note for Joel 1:4.