|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
78:9-39. Sin dispirits men, and takes away the heart. Forgetfulness of God's works is the cause of disobedience to his laws. This narrative relates a struggle between God's goodness and man's badness. The Lord hears all our murmurings and distrusts, and is much displeased. Those that will not believe the power of God's mercy, shall feel the fire of his indignation. Those cannot be said to trust in God's salvation as their happiness at last, who can not trust his providence in the way to it. To all that by faith and prayer, ask, seek, and knock, these doors of heaven shall at any time be opened; and our distrust of God is a great aggravation of our sins. He expressed his resentment of their provocation; not in denying what they sinfully lusted after, but in granting it to them. Lust is contented with nothing. Those that indulge their lust, will never be estranged from it. Those hearts are hard indeed, that will neither be melted by the mercies of the Lord, nor broken by his judgments. Those that sin still, must expect to be in trouble still. And the reason why we live with so little comfort, and to so little purpose, is, because we do not live by faith. Under these rebukes they professed repentance, but they were not sincere, for they were not constant. In Israel's history we have a picture of our own hearts and lives. God's patience, and warnings, and mercies, imbolden them to harden their hearts against his word. And the history of kingdoms is much the same. Judgments and mercies have been little attended to, until the measure of their sins has been full. And higher advantages have not kept churches from declining from the commandments of God. Even true believers recollect, that for many a year they abused the kindness of Providence. When they come to heaven, how will they admire the Lord's patience and mercy in bringing them to his kingdom!
Verses 9-72. - The historical portion of the psalm now follows. It commences with some general remarks on the transgressions of Ephraim, i.e. of Israel while under the guidance of Ephraim - from Joshua to Samuel (vers. 9-11). It then proceeds to details, and sketches the Israelite history. from the deliverance out of Egypt to the establishment of David's kingdom (vers, 12-72). Verse 9. - The children of Ephraim (comp. ver. 67). Ephraim was the leading tribe, from the appointment of Joshua to succeed Moses until the establishment of Saul as king. Hence the tabernacle was set up within the territory of Ephraim (Joshua 18:1). The importance of Ephraim appears in Judges 3:27; Judges 7:24; Judges 8:1, 2; Judges 10:9; Judges 12:1-6. Being armed, and carrying bows. There is no "and" in the original. "Carrying bows" is exegetical of "being armed" (comp. 2 Chronicles 17:17). Turned back in the day of battle. The allusion is not to any one particular occasion, but to the ill success of Israel under the leadership of Ephraim during the whole period of the Judges (see Judges 2:14; Judges 3:8, 13, 31; Judges 4:2; Judges 6:1; Judges 10:7, 12, etc.).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
The children of Ephraim being armed, and carrying bows,.... Or "casting" arrows out of the "bow" (a); they went out well armed to meet the enemy, and they trusted in their armour, and not in the Lord; and being skilful in throwing darts, or shooting arrows, promised themselves victory:
but turned back in the day of battle; fled from the enemy, could not stand their ground when the onset was made: what this refers to is not easy to determine; some think this with what follows respects the defection of the ten tribes in Rehoboam's time, which frequently go under the name of Ephraim; but we have no account of any battle then fought, and lost by them; and besides the history of this psalm reaches no further than the times of David; others are of opinion that it regards the time of Eli, when the Israelites were beaten by the Philistines, the ark of God was taken, Eli's two sons slain, and thirty thousand more, 1 Samuel 4:1. Ephraim being put for the rest of the tribes, the ark being in that tribe; others suppose that the affair between the Gileadites and Ephraimites, in the times of Jephthah, is referred to, when there fell of the Ephraimites forty and two thousand, Judges 12:1, many of the Jewish (b) writers take it to be the history of a fact that was done in Egypt before the children of Israel came out from thence; see 1 Chronicles 7:20, so the Targum,
"when they dwelt in Egypt, the children of Ephraim grew proud, they appointed the end (or term of going out of Egypt), and they erred, and went out thirty years before the end, with warlike arms, and mighty men carrying bows, turned back, and were slain in the day of battle;''
though it seems most likely to have respect to what was done in the wilderness, as Kimchi observes, after they were come out of Egypt, and had seen the wonders of God there, and at the Red sea, and in the wilderness; and perhaps reference is had to the discomfiture of the Israelites by the Amalekites, when they went up the hill they were forbid to do, and in which, it may be, the Ephraimites were most forward, and suffered most; see Numbers 14:40.
(a) "jacientes arcu", Pagninus, Montanus; "jaculantes arcu", Tigurine version, Musculus, Junius & Tremellius, Gejerus, Michaelis. (b) See Pirke Eliezer, c. 48. Shalshalet Hakabala, fol. 7. 2.
The Treasury of David
9 The children of Ephraim, being armed, and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle.
10 They kept not the covenant of God, and refused to walk in his law;
11 And forgat his works, and his wonders that he had shewed them.
12 Marvellous things did he 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; and he made the waters to stand as an heap.
14 In the daytime also he led them with a cloud, and all the night with a light of fire.
15 He clave the rocks in the wilderness, and gave them drink as out of the great depths.
16 He brought streams also 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 tempted God in their heart by asking meat for their lust.
19 Yea, they spake against God; they said, Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?
20 Behold, he smote the rock, 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 wroth: so a fire was kindled against Jacob, and anger also came up against Israel;
22 Because they believed not in God, and trusted not in his salvation:
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
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).
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