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.
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.
Zoan--for Egypt, as its ancient capital (Nu 13:22; Isa 19:11).
15, 16. There were two similar miracles
great depths--and--rivers--denote abundance.
18. in their heart--
for their lust--literally, "soul," or, "desire."
provoking--and--tempted--illustrated by their absurd doubts,
19, 20. in the face of His admitted power.
25. angels' food--literally, "bread of the mighty" (compare
so called, as it came from heaven.
meat--literally, "victuals," as for a journey.
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--
chosen--the young and strong (Isa 40:31), and so none could resist.
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.
43. wrought--set or held forth.
45. The dog-fly or the mosquito.
46. caterpillar--the Hebrew name, from its voracity,
and that of--
locust--from its multitude.
47, 48. The additional effects of the storm here mentioned (compare Ex 9:23-34) are consistent with Moses' account.
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.
51. chief of their strength--literally, "first-fruits," or,
Ham--one of whose sons gave name (Mizraim, Hebrew) to Egypt.
55. by line--or, the portion thus measured.
divided them--that is, the heathen, put for their possessions, so tents--that is, of the heathen (compare De 6:11).
56, 57. a deceitful bow--which turns back, and so fails to project the arrow (2Sa 1:22; Ho 7:16). They relapsed.
63. fire--either figure of the slaughter
or a literal burning by the heathen.
given to marriage--literally, "praised"--that is, as brides.
and there were, doubtless, others.
made no lamentation--either because stupefied by grief, or hindered by the enemy.
66. And he smote . . . part--or, "struck His enemies' back." The Philistines never regained their position after their defeats by David.
69. Exalted as--
high palaces--or, "mountains," and abiding as--the earth.
70-72. God's sovereignty was illustrated in this choice. The contrast is striking--humility and exaltation--and the correspondence is beautiful.