Psalm 77:10
And I said, This is my infirmity: but I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(10) And I said . . .—The word rendered “infirmity” may, by derivation, mean “wounding” or “piercing.” So Symmachus, “my wound;” Aquila, “my sickness.” Gesenius says, “that which makes my sickness.” If we keep this meaning we must understand mental sickness or “madness,” and understand the poet to say that to indulge in despairing cries is mere madness (comp. King Lear’s, “Oh! that way madness lies”), he will recall God’s ancient deliverances, and so re-establish his faith. But it seems more natural to take a sense which the cognate verb very commonly bears (Leviticus 19:8; Ezekiel 36:22; Psalm 74:7; Psalm 89:39), and render, “I said this (such despair) is on my part profanation, profanation of the years of the right hand of the Most High.” To despair of continued help from One who had been so gracious in the past is a kind of blasphemy. The word “profanation” must be understood as repeated for the sake of the grammar.

Psalm 77:10. And I said — I thus answered these objections; This is my infirmity — These suspicions of God’s faithfulness and goodness proceed from the weakness of my faith, and from the mistake of a diseased mind. But I will remember the years, &c. — That is, the years in which God hath done great and glorious works, which are often ascribed to God’s right hand in the Scriptures. It may be proper to observe here, that as the word שׁנות, shenoth, here rendered years, also signifies changes, the verse is rendered otherwise by some learned interpreters, without any such supplement as is in our translation, thus; This is my affliction, or grievance, the change of the right hand of the Most High — Namely, that that right hand of God, which formerly hath done such great and wonderful things for his people, is, at this time, not only not drawn forth for their defence, but is also stretched out against them. So Bishop Patrick. “This is the thing which sorely afflicts me, to see such alterations in the proceedings of the Most High, that the same hand which formerly protected us, now severely scourges us.” As if he had said, I could bear the malice and rage of our enemies, from whom we could not expect better things, but that our gracious and covenanted God should forsake and afflict his own people, is to me intolerable. The reader will observe that this interpretation proceeds on the supposition that the psalmist’s distress was occasioned by public, and not by private calamities, which supposition, however, does not seem to be sufficiently supported by the general tenor of the Psalm.

77:1-10 Days of trouble must be days of prayer; when God seems to have withdrawn from us, we must seek him till we find him. In the day of his trouble the psalmist did not seek for the diversion of business or amusement, but he sought God, and his favor and grace. Those that are under trouble of mind, must pray it away. He pored upon the trouble; the methods that should have relieved him did but increase his grief. When he remembered God, it was only the Divine justice and wrath. His spirit was overwhelmed, and sank under the load. But let not the remembrance of the comforts we have lost, make us unthankful for those that are left. Particularly he called to remembrance the comforts with which he supported himself in former sorrows. Here is the language of a sorrowful, deserted soul, walking in darkness; a common case even among those that fear the Lord, Isa 50:10. Nothing wounds and pierces like the thought of God's being angry. God's own people, in a cloudy and dark day, may be tempted to make wrong conclusions about their spiritual state, and that of God's kingdom in the world. But we must not give way to such fears. Let faith answer them from the Scripture. The troubled fountain will work itself clear again; and the recollection of former times of joyful experience often raises a hope, tending to relief. Doubts and fears proceed from the want and weakness of faith. Despondency and distrust under affliction, are too often the infirmities of believers, and, as such, are to be thought upon by us with sorrow and shame. When, unbelief is working in us, we must thus suppress its risings.And I said, This is my infirmity - The meaning of this phrase is not, as would appear from our translation, that his reflections on the subject were to be traced to his weakness, or were a proof of weakness of mind, but that the subject overpowered him. This verse has been very variously rendered. The Septuagint and the Vulgate translate it, "And I said, now I begin; this is a change of the right hand of the Most High," with what meaning it is difficult to see. Luther renders it, "But yet I said, I must suffer this; the right hand of the Most High can change all;" a beautiful sentiment, but probably not the idea in the original. The Hebrew means, "This makes me sick;" that is, "This distresses me; it afflicts me; it overwhelms me. Such reflections prostrate me, and I cannot bear up under them. I "must" seek relief. I "must" find it somewhere. I "must" take some view of this matter which will save me from these dreadful thoughts that overpower and crush the soul." Any deep mental emotion may have this effect, and it is not strange that such a result should be produced by the momentous thoughts suggested by religion, as it sometimes attends even the manifestation of the divine mercy to the soul. Compare the notes at Daniel 10:8-9. The course of thought which the psalmist pursued, and in which he found relief, is stated in the following verses. It consisted of an attempt to obtain, from the remembrance of the divine administration in past times, views of God which would lead to confidence in him. The views thus obtained, as will be seen, were two-fold:

(a) That, as far as his dealings could be understood, God was worthy of confidence; and

(b) That in the ways of God there are, and must be, many things which man cannot comprehend.

But I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High - That is, the years when God displayed his power; when he reached out his right hand; when he manifested his true character; when there was a proper exhibition to the world of what he is, and of the true principles of his administration. The words "But I will remember" are not in the original, though, as they occur in the following verse, they are not improperly supplied by the translators. The original, however, is more striking and emphatic: "This makes me sick! The years of the right hand of the Most High!" The history of those years occurred to his mind. They rose to his view suddenly in his sorrow. They came before him in such a form and manner that he felt they should be inquired into. Their history should be examined. In that history - in those remembered years - "relief" might be found. It was natural to look there for relief. He instinctively turned, therefore, to examine the records of those years, and to inquire what testimony they bore in regard to God; what there might be in them that would give relief to a troubled heart.

10. Omitting the supplied words, we may read, "This is my affliction—the years of," &c., "years" being taken as parallel to affliction (compare Ps 90:15), as of God's ordering.10 And I said, This is my infirmity: but I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High.

11 I will remember the works of the Lord: surely I will remember thy wonders of old.

12 I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings.

13 Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary: who is so great a God as our God?

14 Thou art the God that doest wonders: thou hast declared thy strength among the people.

15 Thou hast with thine arm redeemed thy people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah.

Psalm 77:10

"And I said, This is my infirmity." He has won the day, he talks reasonably now, and surveys the field with a cooler mind. He confesses that unbelief is an infirmity, a weakness, a folly, a sin. He may also be understood to mean, "this is my appointed sorrow," I will bear it without complaint. When we perceive that our affliction is meted out by the Lord, and is the ordained portion of our cup, we become reconciled to it, and no longer rebel against the: inevitable. Why should we not be content if it be the Lord's will? What he arranges it is not for us to cavil at. "But I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High." Here a good deal is supplied by our translators, and they make the sense to be that the Psalmist would console himself by remembering the goodness of God to himself and others of his people in times gone by: but the original seems to consist only of the words, "the years of the right hand of the most High," and to express the idea that his long continued affliction, reaching through several years, was allotted to him by the Sovereign Lord of all. 'Tis well when a consideration of the divine goodness and greatness silences all complaining, and creates a childlike acquiescence.

Psalm 77:11

"I will remember the works of the Lord." Fly back, my soul, away from present turmoils, to the grandeurs of history, the sublime deeds of Jehovah, the Lord of Hosts; for he is the same and is ready even now to defend his servants as in the days of yore. "Surely I will remember thy wonders of old." Whatever else may glide into oblivion, the marvellous works of the Lord in the ancient days must not be suffered to be forgotten. Memory is a fit handmaid for faith. When faith has its seven years of famine, memory like Joseph in Egypt opens her granaries.

Psalm 77:12

"I will meditate also of all thy work." Sweet work to enter into Jehovah's work of grace, and there to lie down and ruminate, every thought being absorbed in the one precious subject. "And talk of thy doings." It is well that the overflow of the mouth should indicate the good matter which fills the heart. Meditation makes rich talking; it is to be lamented that so much of the conversation of professors is utterly barren, because they take no time for contemplation. A meditative man should be a talker, otherwise he is a mental miser, a mill which grinds corn only for the miller. The subject of our meditation should be choice, and then our talk will be edifying; if we meditate on folly and affect to speak wisdom, our double-mindedness will soon be known unto all men. Holy talk following upon meditation has a consoling power in it for ourselves as well as for those who listen, hence its value in the connection in which we find it in this passage.

Psalm 77:13

"Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary," or in holiness. In the holy place we understand our God, and rest assured that all his ways are just and right. When we cannot trace his way, because it is "in the sea," it is a rich consolation that we can trust it, for it is in holiness. We must have fellowship with holiness if we would understand "the ways of God to man." He who would be wise must worship. The pure in heart shall see God, and pure worship is the way to the philosophy of providence. "Who is so great a God as our God?" In him the good and the great are blended, He surpasses in both. None can for a moment be compared with the mighty One of Israel.

continued...

I said; I thus answered these objections.

This is my infirmity; these suspicions of God’s faithfulness and goodness proceed from the weakness of my faith, and from the mistake of a diseased mind.

But I will remember; which words may be understood out of the following verse, as other words frequently are in like cases.

The years of the right hand of the Most High; the years wherein God hath done great and glorious works, which are oft ascribed to God’s right hand, as Psalm 17:7 20:6 45:4 118:15. But the word rendered years doth also signify changing, and accordingly this verse is by other learned interpreters, and may well be, rendered otherwise, without any such supplement as is in our translation, thus, And I said,

This is my affliction or grievance, ( the sum of all, and the chief cause of my trouble and anxiety, is this,)

the change of the right hand of the Most High; that right hand which formerly hath done such great and wonderful things for his people, is at this time not only hid in God’s bosom, and not drawn forth for their defence, but is also stretched forth against them, and is the principal cause of all our present miseries. I could bear the malice and rage of our enemies, from whom we could not expect better things, but that our gracious and covenanted God should forsake and persecute his own people, this is that which makes it intolerable.

And I said, this is my infirmity,.... Referring either to what he had said in the preceding verses; and which is to be considered either as checking and correcting himself for what he had said, and acknowledging his evil in it; and it is as if he had said, this is a sin against God, that I am guilty of in questioning his love, and disbelieving his promises; it is an iniquity I am prone unto, a sin that easily besets me; it flows from the corruption of my nature, and the plague of my heart, and shows a distempered mind; it is owing to the weakness of my faith and judgment; I have said this rashly, and in haste, without well weighing and considering things, and I am sorry for it, I will stop and proceed no further: or else as comforting and encouraging himself in his melancholy circumstances; and the sense is, this is an "infirmity", an affliction and trouble that I am at present exercised with; but it is but a temporal one, it will not always last; I shall get over it, and out of it; it is a sickness, but not to death; and it is "mine", what is allotted to me; every man has his affliction and cross, and this is mine, and I must bear it patiently; see Jeremiah 10:19, or else this refers to what follows, which some render, "the changes of the right hand of the most High" (s); and the meaning may be, this is my affliction and trouble, that there are changes in the right hand of the most High; that is, that that hand which used to be exerted in his favour, and against his enemies, was now withdrawn, and hid in his bosom; see Psalm 74:11, and that which liberally distributed favours to him was now laid upon him in an afflictive way; and to this sense is the Targum,

"this is my infirmity, the change of the power of the right hand (or the powerful right hand) of the most High;''

though another Targum is,

"this is my prayer, &c. the years of the end from the right hand;''

and Aben Ezra makes mention of some as so interpreting the first clause, to which De Dieu agrees, who renders the whole, "and I said, this is my prayer, that the right hand of the most High might be changed"; that is, that his dispensations of providence might be changed; that he would bring him out of these afflicted, sorrowful, and melancholy circumstances, into a more comfortable one: as these words may be understood as what the psalmist comforted himself with, that there are "changes of the right hand of the most High"; I have been greatly troubled and distressed, and I have been so weak as to call in question the mercy and favour of God, and his promises to me, which I own is my sin; but I have reason to believe it will not be always thus with me, God will take off his hand, it shall not always lie thus heavy upon me; though he cause grief, he will have compassion, and turn again to me; there will be a change, and I will wait till that comes: but Kimchi thinks the word "I will remember", which stands at the beginning of the next verse, belongs to that and this; and is to be supplied here, as it is in our translation, and interprets the whole to the like sense;

but I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High; which the psalmist proposed to do as a means to remove his doubts, despondency, and unbelief, and to relieve and strengthen his faith; as that God was the most High in all the earth, and above his enemies; that he had a right hand of power, which in years past had been exerted on the behalf of his people, and on his behalf; which was not impaired and shortened, but the same as ever, and sooner or later would be again used in his favour.

(s) "mutationes sunt dexterae excelsi", Musculus, Muis; so Ainsworth.

And I said, This is my {g} infirmity: but I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High.

(g) Though I first doubted of my life, yet considering that God had his years, that is, change of times, and was accustomed also to lift up them whom he had beaten, I took heart again.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
10. And I said introduces the argument by which the Psalmist thrusts aside the possibility of an affirmative answer to his questionings. But the rest of the verse is obscure, and has been very variously explained. The precise sense of the word rendered my infirmity is doubtful; and in the second line the word sh’nôth may mean years, or, changing. If the rendering years is adopted, the verb I will remember must be supplied from Psalm 77:11. Two explanations deserve consideration.

(i) This apparent desertion of Israel by God is my suffering, and I must bear it (cp. Jeremiah 10:19); but for my consolation I will recall the years of the right hand of the Most High, “the years of ages past” (Psalm 77:3), in which the sovereign power of the Ruler of the world was put forth on behalf of His people.

(ii) It is my weakness which prompts these questionings. To think that the right hand of the Most High doth change! that His power can ever grow feeble (Isaiah 50:2) or His will change (Malachi 3:6)!

The explanation, ‘This is what grieveth me, that the right hand of the Most High doth change,’ is untenable, for Psalm 77:10 clearly introduces the answer to his doubts.

The authority of the Ancient Versions is in favour of taking sh’nôth in the sense of change[42], but on the other hand the first explanation retains the sense in which the word has already occurred in Psalm 77:5.

[42] The Targ. however gives alternative renderings.

10–15. The Psalmist resolves to recall the exhibition of God’s character in the deliverance of His people from Egypt.

10–20. The history of the past is the most convincing answer to these questions, the best cordial for his fainting spirits. Cp. Isaiah 63:7 ff.

Verse 10. - And I said, This is my infirmity; i.e. "the fault is not in God, but in myself" - in my own weakness and want of faith. But I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High. There is no "I will remember" in the original, which expresses the thought of the writer imperfectly; but some such phrase must of necessity be supplied. The words are retained in the Revised Version and by Professor Cheyne. The remembrance of God's mercies during the many years that are past is that which best sustains us in a time of severe trouble. Psalm 77:10With ואמר the poet introduces the self-encouragement with which he has hitherto calmed himself when such questions of temptation were wont to intrude themselves upon him, and with which he still soothes himself. In the rendering of הלּותי (with the tone regularly drawn back before the following monosyllable) even the Targum wavers between מרעוּתי (my affliction) and בּעוּתי (my supplication); and just in the same way, in the rendering of Psalm 77:11, between אשׁתּניו (have changed) and שׁנין (years). שׁנות cannot possibly signify "change" in an active sense, as Luther renders: "The right hand of the Most High can change everything," but only a having become different (lxx and the Quinta ἀλλοίωσις, Symmachus ἐπιδευτέρωσις), after which Maurer, Hupfeld, and Hitzig render thus: my affliction is this, that the right hand of the Most High has changed. But after we have read שׁנות in Psalm 77:6 as a poetical plural of שׁנה, a year, we have first of all to see whether it may not have the same signification here. And many possible interpretations present themselves. It can be interpreted: "my supplication is this: years of the right hand of the Most High" (viz., that years like to the former ones may be renewed); but this thought is not suited to the introduction with ואמר. We must either interpret it: my sickness, viz., from the side of God, i.e., the temptation which befalls me from Him, the affliction ordained by Him for me (Aquila ἀῤῥωστία μου), is this (cf. Jeremiah 10:19); or, since in this case the unambiguous חלותי would have been used instead of the Piel: my being pierced, my wounding, my sorrow is this (Symmachus τρῶσίς μου, inf. Kal from חלל, Psalm 109:22, after the form חנּות from חנן) - they are years of the right hand of the Most High, i.e., those which God's mighty hand, under which I have to humble myself (1 Peter 5:6), has formed and measured out to me. In connection with this way of taking Psalm 77:11, Psalm 77:12 is now suitably and easily attached to what has gone before. The poet says to himself that the affliction allotted to him has its time, and will not last for ever. Therein lies a hope which makes the retrospective glance into the happier past a source of consolation to him. In Psalm 77:12 the Chethb אזכיר is to be retained, for the כי in Psalm 77:12 is thus best explained: "I bring to remembrance, i.e., make known with praise or celebrate (Isaiah 63:7), the deeds of Jāh, for I will remember Thy wondrous doing from days of old." His sorrow over the distance between the present and the past is now mitigated by the hope that God's right hand, which now casts down, will also again in His own time raise up. Therefore he will now, as the advance from the indicative to the cohortative (cf. Psalm 17:15) imports, thoroughly console and refresh himself with God's work of salvation in all its miraculous manifestations from the earliest times. יהּ is the most concise and comprehensive appellation for the God of the history of redemption, who, as Habakkuk prays, will revive His work of redemption in the midst of the years to come, and bring it to a glorious issue. To Him who then was and who will yet come the poet now brings praise and celebration. The way of God is His historical rule, and more especially, as in Habakkuk 3:6, הליכות, His redemptive rule. The primary passage Exodus 15:11 (cf. Psalm 68:25) shows that בּקּדשׁ is not to be rendered "in the sanctuary" (lxx ἐν τῷ ἁγίῳ), but "in holiness" (Symmachus ἐν ἁγιασμῷ). Holy and glorious in love and in anger. God goes through history, and shows Himself there as the incomparable One, with whose greatness no being, and least of all any one of the beingless gods, can be measured. He is האל, the God, God absolutely and exclusively, a miracle-working (עשׂה פלא, not עשׂה פלא cf. Genesis 1:11)

(Note: The joining of the second word, accented on the first syllable and closely allied in sense, on to the first, which is accented on the ultima (the tone of which, under certain circumstances, retreats to the penult., נסוג אחור) or monosyllabic, by means of the hardening Dagesh (the so-called דחיק), only takes place when that first word ends in ה- or ה-, not when it ends in ה-.))

God, and a God who by these very means reveals Himself as the living and supra-mundane God. He has made His omnipotence known among the peoples, viz., as Exodus 15:16 says, by the redemption of His people, the tribes of Jacob and the double tribe of Joseph, out of Egypt, - a deed of His arm, i.e., the work of His own might, by which He has proved Himself to all peoples and to the whole earth to be the Lord of the world and the God of salvation (Exodus 9:16; Exodus 15:14). בּזרוע, brachio scil. extenso (Exodus 6:6; Deuteronomy 4:34, and frequently), just as in Psalm 75:6, בּצוּאר, collo scil. erecto. The music here strikes in; the whole strophe is an overture to the following hymn in celebration of God, the Redeemer out of Egypt.

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