Psalm 78 Bible Commentary

The Geneva Study Bible

(Read all of Psalm 78)
78:1 «a Maschil of Asaph.» Give ear, O my people, [to] my b law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth.

(a) Read (Psalms 32:1).
(b) The prophet under the name of a teacher calls the people his, and the doctrine his, as Paul calls the gospel his, of which he was but the preacher, as in (Romans 2:16,16:25).

78:3 Which we have heard and known, and our c fathers have told us.

(c) Who were the people of God.

78:5 For he established a d testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children:

(d) By the testimony and law, he means your law written, which they were commanded to teach their children, (Deuteronomy 6:7).

78:6 That the e generation to come might know [them, even] the children [which] should be born; [who] should arise and declare [them] to their children:

(e) He shows how the children would be like their father's: that is, in maintaining God's pure religion.

78:7 That they might f set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments:

(f) He shows where the use of this doctrine exists: in faith, in the meditation of God's benefits, and in obedience.

78:8 And might not be as their g fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation [that] set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not stedfast with God.

(g) Though these fathers were the seed of Abraham and the chosen people, yet he shows by their rebellion, provocation, falsehood, and hypocrisy, that the children should not follow their examples.

78:9 The children of h Ephraim, [being] armed, [and] carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle.

(h) By Ephraim he means also the rest of the tribes, because they were most in number: whose punishment declares that they were unfaithful to God, and by their multitude and authority had corrupted all others.

78:12 Marvellous things did he in the sight of their i fathers, in the land of Egypt, [in] the field of Zoan.

(i) He proves that not only the posterity but also their forefathers were wicked and rebellious to God.

78:17 And they k sinned yet more against him by provoking the most High in the wilderness.

(k) Their wicked malice could be overcome by no benefits, which were great and many.

78:18 And they tempted God in their heart by l asking meat for their lust.

(l) Then to require more than is necessary, and to separate God's power from his will, is to tempt God.

78:19 Yea, they spake against God; they said, Can God m furnish a table in the wilderness?

(m) Thus when we give place to sin, we are moved to doubt God's power, unless he is always ready to serve our lust.

78:22 Because they believed not in God, and n trusted not in his salvation:

(n) That is, in his fatherly providence, by which he cares for his, and provides sufficiently.

78:23 Though he had commanded the o clouds from above, and opened the doors of heaven,

(o) So that they had that which was necessary and sufficient: but their lust made them cover that which they knew God had denied them.

78:26 He caused an p east wind to blow in the heaven: and by his power he brought in the south wind.

(p) God used the wind to show them that all the elements were at his command, and that no distance could restrain his working.

78:30 They were not estranged from their q lust. But while their meat [was] yet in their mouths,

(q) Such is the nature of concupiscence, that the more it has the more it lusts.

78:31 The wrath of God came upon them, and slew r the fattest of them, and smote down the chosen [men] of Israel.

(r) Though others were not spared, yet chiefly they suffered, who trusted in their strength against God.

78:32 For all this they s sinned still, and believed not for his wondrous works.

(s) Thus sin by continuance makes man insensible, so that by no plagues they can be amended.

78:34 When he t slew them, then they sought him: and they returned and enquired early after God.

(t) Such was their hypocrisy, that they sought God out of fear of punishment, though in their heart they did not love him.

78:37 For their u heart was not right with him, neither were they stedfast in his covenant.

(u) Whatever does not come from the pure fountain of the heart is hypocrisy.

78:38 But he, [being] full of compassion, x forgave [their] iniquity, and destroyed [them] not: yea, many a time turned he his anger away, and did not stir up all his wrath.

(x) Because he would always have some remnant of a Church to praise his Name in earth, he did not permit their sins to overcome his mercy.

78:41 Yea, they y turned back and tempted God, and z limited the Holy One of Israel.

(y) That is, they often tempted him.
(z) As they all do who measure the power of God by their capacity.

78:42 They a remembered not his hand, [nor] the day when he delivered them from the enemy.

(a) The forgetfulness of God's benefits is the root of rebellion and all vice.

78:45 He sent b divers sorts of flies among them, which devoured them; and frogs, which destroyed them.

(b) This word signifies a confused mixture of flies and venomous worms. Some take it for all sorts of serpents: some for all wild beasts.

78:46 He c gave also their increase unto the caterpiller, and their labour unto the locust.

(c) He does not repeat here all the miracles that God did in Egypt, but certain which might be sufficient to convince the people of malice and ingratitude.

78:49 He cast upon them the fierceness of his anger, wrath, and indignation, and trouble, by sending d evil angels [among them].

(d) So called either for the effect, that is, of punishing the wicked: or else because they were wicked spirits, whom God permitted to vex men.

78:51 And smote all the firstborn in Egypt; the e chief of [their] strength in the tabernacles of f Ham:

(e) The firstborn are so called, as in (Genesis 49:3).
(f) That is, Egypt: for it was called Mizraim, or Egypt of Mizraim that was the son of Ham.

78:53 And he led them on safely, so that they g feared not: but the sea overwhelmed their enemies.

(g) That is, they had no opportunity to fear, even as God destroyed their enemies and delivered them falsely.

78:54 And he brought them to the border of his h sanctuary, [even to] this mountain, [which] his right hand had purchased.

(h) Meaning, Canaan, which God had consecrated to himself and appointed to his people.

78:57 But turned back, and dealt i unfaithfully like their fathers: they were turned aside like a deceitful bow.

(i) Nothing more displeases God in the children, than when they continue in that wickedness, which their fathers had begun.

78:58 For they k provoked him to anger with their high places, and moved him to jealousy with their graven images.

(k) By serving God other than he had appointed.

78:60 So that he l forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent [which] he placed among men;

(l) For their ingratitude he permitted the Philistines to take the Ark which was the sign of his presence, from among them.

78:61 And delivered his m strength into captivity, and his glory into the enemy's hand.

(m) The Ark is called his power and beauty because by this he defended his people, and beautifully appeared to them.

78:63 The fire n consumed their young men; and their maidens were not o given to marriage.

(n) They were suddenly destroyed, (1 Samuel 4:10).
(o) They had no marriage songs: that is, they were not married.

78:64 Their priests fell by the sword; and their p widows made no lamentation.

(p) Either they were slain before or taken prisoner by their enemies, and so were forbidden.

78:65 Then the Lord awaked as one out of sleep, [and] like a mighty man that q shouteth by reason of wine.

(q) Because they were drunk in their sins, they judged God's patience to be slumbering, as though he were drunk, therefore he answering their beastly judgment, says, he will awake and take sudden vengeance.

78:67 Moreover he refused the tabernacle of r Joseph, and chose not the tribe of Ephraim:

(r) Showing that he did not spare the Israelites altogether, though he punished their enemies.

78:69 And he s built his sanctuary like high [palaces], like the earth which he hath established for ever.

(s) By building the temple, and establishing the kingdom, he declares that the signs of his favour were among them.

78:72 So t he fed them according to the integrity of his heart; and guided them by the skilfulness of his hands.

(t) He shows where a kings charge stands: that is, to provide faithfully for his people, to guide them by counsel, and defend them by power.