Psalm 81
Matthew Poole's Commentary
To the chief Musician upon Gittith, A Psalm of Asaph. Sing aloud unto God our strength: make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob.

This Psalm seems to have been made for the use of the church in solemn feasts; particularly either upon every first day of the month, or upon the first day of the seventh mouth, which was celebrated with more solemn blast of trumpets, Leviticus 23:24 Numbers 29:1; because that month was more sacred than others by reason of the concurrence of divers religious solemnities in it.

Gittith; of which title See Poole "Psalm 8:1".

An exhortation to a solemn praising of God, Psalm 81:1-3; which he requireth for his manifold mercies and deliverances, Psalm 81:4-7; and, exhorting to obedience, and the worshipping of him the true God, Psalm 81:8-10, complaineth of their disobedience, which tended to their own hurt and affliction, Psalm 81:11-16.

Our strength; who is all our refuge and safeguard against all our enemies.

Take a psalm, and bring hither the timbrel, the pleasant harp with the psaltery.
All which instruments were then prescribed and used in their solemn meetings.

Blow up the trumpet in the new moon, in the time appointed, on our solemn feast day.
The new moon; which was a sacred and festival time, as appears from Numbers 10:10 28:11,14 2 Kings 4:23 Isaiah 66:23. But this may be understood either,

1. Generally of every new moon. Or rather,

2. Specially of that new moon, as the word may be rendered, which begun the seventh month; as may be gathered both from the following words, and by comparing this place with Leviticus 23:24 Numbers 29:1, where this very day is called a day of blowing of trumpets. In the time appointed, on our solemn feast day; or, for the day or time of our solemn festivity; whereby may be understood either,

1. The day of the new moon, on which the trumpets were blown for the celebration of that solemn time. Or,

2. The seventh month, which that new moon did introduce or begin, and in which, besides other solemnities, they kept the feast of tabernacles, which the Hebrew doctors call the feast by way of eminency, and Josephus affirms to have been the most sacred and the chief of all the Jewish feasts.

For this was a statute for Israel, and a law of the God of Jacob.
For this is no human device, but an appointment and command of the great God, and your Lord.

This he ordained in Joseph for a testimony, when he went out through the land of Egypt: where I heard a language that I understood not.
This he ordained, to wit, the blowing of trumpets. In Joseph; among the posterity of Joseph, to wit, the people of Israel, as is evident both from the foregoing verse, where they are called Israel, and from the following words in this verse, where they are described by their coming out of Egypt, which was common to all the tribes of Israel, who are sometimes called by the name of Joseph, of which see on Psalm 80:1.

For a testimony; either,

1. For a law, which is oft called a testimony. Or rather,

2. For a witness and memorial of that glorious deliverance mentioned in the following words. For,

1. That this was a statute and law be had expressed, Psalm 81:4, which it is not likely that he would here repeat, especially in a more dark and doubtful phrase.

2. He seems to declare the end of that law, which was to be a


When he, to wit, God, he who ordained, as was now said, went out, as a captain at the head or on the behalf of his people, through the land of Egypt, to execute his judgments upon that land or people. Or, against, &c., to destroy it. Or, out of it, as both ancient and other interpreters render this particle al, which is elsewhere put for meal, and meal is put for min, from or out of, as is manifest by comparing 2 Kings 21:8 with 2 Chronicles 33:8. So this text notes the time when this and the other feasts were instituted; which was at or presently after their coming out of Egypt, even at Sinai.

Where I; i.e. my progenitors; for all the successive generations of Israel make one body, and are sometimes spoken of as one person;

heard a language that I understood not; either,

1. The language of God himself speaking from heaven at Sinai, which was strange and terrible to me. Or rather,

2. The Egyptian language, which at first was very ungrateful and unknown to the Israelites, Genesis 42:23, and probably continued so for some considerable time, because they were much separated both in place and conversation from the Egyptians, through Joseph’s pious and prudent design. This exposition is confirmed from Psalm 114:1, where this very thing is mentioned as an aggravation of their misery; and from other places of Scripture, where this is spoken of as a curse and plague, to be with a people of strange language, as Deu 28:49 Jeremiah 5:15.

I removed his shoulder from the burden: his hands were delivered from the pots.
I delivered him from burdensome slavery. Pots; as this word is taken, 1 Samuel 2:14 2 Chronicles 35:13. Or, baskets, as it signifies, 2 Kings 10:7 Jeremiah 24:2. In the general, it seems to note all those vessels wherein they carried water, straw, lime, bricks, &c.

Thou calledst in trouble, and I delivered thee; I answered thee in the secret place of thunder: I proved thee at the waters of Meribah. Selah.
Thou calledst in trouble; at the Red Sea, Exodus 14:10-12.

In the secret place of thunder; from the dark and cloudy pillar, whence I thundered and fought against the Egyptians. See Exodus 13:21 14:19,24. Others refer this to the thunder at Sinai. But at that time they were

not in trouble, but in a safe and glorious condition.

Hear, O my people, and I will testify unto thee: O Israel, if thou wilt hearken unto me;
I will testify unto thee, concerning my will and thy duty. I will give thee statutes and judgments, in the execution of which thou mayst live and be happy for ever. This God did presently after he brought them from Meribah, even at Sinai.

There shall no strange god be in thee; neither shalt thou worship any strange god.
Thou shalt renounce all false gods and worship, and worship me only.

I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.
Open thy mouth wide; either,

1. To pray for mercies. Ask freely, and abundantly, and boldly, (as this phrase oft signifies,) whatsoever you need, or in reason can desire. Or,

2. To receive the mercies which I am ready to give you.

I will fill it; I will give or grant them all, upon condition of your obedience.

But my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me.
Or, did not assent to me, or acquiesce in me, or obey me, or my commands.

So I gave them up unto their own hearts' lust: and they walked in their own counsels.
Upon their obstinate and oft-repeated rebellions and rejections of my grace and mercy offered to them, I withdrew all the restraints of my providence, and my Holy Spirit, and grace from them, and wholly left them to follow their own vain and foolish imaginations and wicked lusts.

They walked in their own counsels; they practised those things, both in common conversation and in religious worship, which were most agreeable, not to my commands or counsels, but to their own fancies and inclinations, as appeared in the golden calf and many other things.

Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways!
No text from Poole on this verse.

I should soon have subdued their enemies, and turned my hand against their adversaries.
Those remainders of the Canaanites whom now for their unbelief and apostacy I have left in the land to be snares and plagues to them.

The haters of the LORD should have submitted themselves unto him: but their time should have endured for ever.
The haters of the Lord; all the haters and enemies of God’s people, as the neighbouring nations were; whom he calls haters of God, partly because they hated the Israelites for God’s sake, and for the singularity of their religious worship, as the heathen oft declared; and partly to show the strict league and union which was betwixt God and them, by virtue whereof God had declared all their friends and enemies to be his own, which was a great aggravation of their wickedness.

Should have submitted themselves unto him; should have professed and owned their subjection to him. For the phrase, See Poole "Psalm 18:44". Their time, i.e. Israel’s time; the relative belonging to the remoter antecedent; as it is in many other places of Scripture, whereof I have formerly given instances. By their time he means either,

1. Their happy time, as life is oft put for a happy life or State, as Psalm 34:12 49:18 Deu 4:1 5:33, &c. Or,

2. The duration of their commonwealth. Endured for ever, i.e. lasted for a very long time; whereas now their latter and doleful end is hastening towards them.

He should have fed them also with the finest of the wheat: and with honey out of the rock should I have satisfied thee.
With honey; either,

1. Metaphorically, with all pleasant and precious fruits, and with all delights, as all necessaries may be expressed under the name of wheat. Or rather,

2. Properly; this land of Canaan being commended for its excellent and plentiful honey; and the bees there did oft-times harbour and make their honey in the holes of rocks and such-like places, from which it flowed down upon the ground. See Deu 32:13 1 Samuel 14:25,26.

Matthew Poole's Commentary

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