Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
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
Ro 2:16, 27;
The history which follows was a "dark saying," or riddle, if left
unexplained, and its right apprehension required wisdom and
3-8. This history had been handed down
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)
8. stubborn and rebellious--
set not their heart--on God's service
9-11. The privileges of the first-born which belonged to Joseph
(1Ch 5:1, 2)
were assigned to Ephraim by Jacob
The supremacy of the tribe thus intimated was recognized by its
position (in the marching of the nation to Canaan) next to the ark
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
Ho 5:3-14; 11:3-12).
Though a strong, well-armed tribe, and, from an early period, emulous
and haughty (compare
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
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
15, 16. There were two similar miracles
great depths--and--rivers--denote abundance.
17-20. yet more--literally, "added to sin," instead of being led to
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.
21. fire--the effect of the "anger"
Heb 8:8, 9).
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
31. slew . . . fattest--or, "among the fattest"; some of them--
chosen--the young and strong
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.
36. lied . . . tongues--a feigned obedience
37. heart . . . not right--or, "firm"
39. a wind . . . again--literally, "a breath," thin air (compare
40, 41. There were ten temptations
41. limited--as in
Ps 78:19, 20.
Though some prefer "grieved" or "provoked." The retreat from Kadesh
is meant, whether--
turned--be for turning back, or to denote repetition of offense.
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
are consistent with Moses' account.
48. gave . . . cattle--literally, "shut up" (compare
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.
52-54. made his . . . forth--or, brought them by periodical journeys
54. border of his sanctuary--or, "holy
border"--i. e., region of which--
this mountain--(Zion) was, as the seat of civil and religious
government, the representative, used for the whole land, as afterwards
for the Church
(Isa 25:6, 7).
purchased--or, "procured by His right hand" or power
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
56, 57. a deceitful bow--which turns back, and so fails to project
58. Idolatry resulted from sparing the heathen (compare
59, 60. heard--perceived
abhorred--but not utterly.
60. tent . . . placed--literally, "caused to dwell," set up
61. his strength--the ark, as symbolical of it
62. gave--or, "shut up."
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.
67, 68. tabernacle of Joseph--or, "home," or, "tribe," to which--
tribe of Ephraim--is parallel (compare
Its pre-eminence was, like Saul's, only permitted. Judah had been the
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
71. following . . . ewes, &c.--literally, "ewes giving
On the pastoral terms, compare