Psalm 78:1
Give ear, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(1) For the formal opening see Psalm 49:1, Note.

My people.—An expression pointing to a position of weight and authority.

My law.—Here, rather instruction, or doctrine.

Psalm 78:1-2. Give ear, O my people — In these words “the psalmist opens his commission, and speaks as one having authority from above to instruct the world. He demands a large and attentive audience, while, by a series of examples, he sets forth the goodness of God, and the ingratitude of man, for the admonition of succeeding ages to the end of time.” To my law — The doctrine which I am about to deliver to you, concerning your duty, and the danger of neglecting it. I will open my mouth in a parable — I will speak to you with all freedom and plainness, uttering divers grave and weighty sentences, (such being often termed parables in Scripture,) or things of great moment for your instruction and advantage. I will utter dark sayings — So he calls the following passages, not because the words or sentences are in themselves hard to be understood, for they are generally historical and easy, but because the things contained in them, concerning God’s transcendent goodness to an unworthy people, and their unparalleled ingratitude for, and abuse of, such eminent favours, and their stupid ignorance and insensibleness under such excellent and constant teachings of God’s word and works, are indeed prodigious and hard to be believed. Of old — Of things done in ancient times, and in a great measure worn out of men’s minds.78:1-8 These are called dark and deep sayings, because they are carefully to be looked into. The law of God was given with a particular charge to teach it diligently to their children, that the church may abide for ever. Also, that the providences of God, both in mercy and in judgment, might encourage them to conform to the will of God. The works of God much strengthen our resolution to keep his commandments. Hypocrisy is the high road to apostacy; those that do not set their hearts right, will not be stedfast with God. Many parents, by negligence and wickedness, become murderers of their children. But young persons, though they are bound to submit in all things lawful, must not obey sinful orders, or copy sinful examples.Give ear, O my people - This is not an address of God, but an address of the king or ruler of the people, calling their attention to an important subject; to wit, his right to rule over them, or showing why the power had been vested in him.

To my law - The word law here seems to mean what he would say, as if what he should choose to say would have the force and authority of law. What follows is not exactly law in the sense that it was a rule to be obeyed; but it is something that is authoritatively said, and should have the force of law.

Incline your ears ... - Be attentive. What is to be said is worthy of your particular regard. Compare the notes at Psalm 5:1.

PSALM 78

Ps 78:1-72. 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 (Ps 78:2; La 3:14; Ro 2:16, 27; compare Ps 49:4). The history which follows was a "dark saying," or riddle, if left unexplained, and its right apprehension required wisdom and attention.

1 Give ear, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth.

2 I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old:

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

4 We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done.

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

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

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

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

Psalm 78:1

"Give ear, O my people, to my law." The inspired bard calls on his countrymen to give heed to his patriotic teaching. We naturally expect God's chosen nation to be first in hearkening to his voice. When God gives his truth a tongue, and sends forth his messengers trained to declare his word with power, it is the least we can do to give them our ears and the earnest obedience of our hearts. Shall God speak, and his children refuse to hear? His teaching has the force of law, let us yield both ear and heart to it. "Incline your ears to the words of my mouth." Give earnest attention, bow your stiff necks, lean forward to catch every syllable. We are at this day, as readers of the sacred records, bound to study them deeply, exploring their meaning, and labouring to practise their teaching. As the officer of an army commences his drill by calling for "Attention," even so every trained soldier of Christ is called upon to give ear to his words. Men lend their ears to music, how much more then should they listen to the harmonies of the gospel; they sit enthralled in the presence of an orator, how much rather should they yield to the eloquence of heaven.

Psalm 78:2

"I will open my mouth in a parable." Analogies are not only to be imagined, but are intended by God to be traced between the story of Israel and the lives of believers. Israel was ordained to be a type; the tribes and their marchings are living allegories traced by the hand of an all-wise providence. Unspiritual persons may sneer about fancies and mysticisms, but Paul spake well when he said "which things are an allegory," and Asaph in the present case spake to the point when he called his narrative "a parable." That such was his meaning is clear from the quotation, "All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world." - Matthew 13:34, Matthew 13:35. "I will utter dark sayings of old;" - enigmas of antiquity, riddles of yore. The mind of the poet-prophet was so full of ancient lore that he poured it forth in a copious stream of song, while beneath the gushing flood lay pearls and gems of spiritual truth, capable of enriching those who could dive into the depths and bring them up. The letter of this song is precious, but the inner sense is beyond all price. Whereas Psalm 78:1 called for attention, the second justifies the demand by hinting that the outer sense conceals an inner and hidden meaning, which only the thoughtful will be able to perceive.

Psalm 78:3

"Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us." Tradition was of the utmost service to the people of God in the olden time, before the more sure word of prophecy had become complete and generally accessible. The receipt of truth from the lips of others laid the instructed believer under solemn obligation to pass on the truth to the next generation. Truth, endeared to us by its fond associations with godly parents and venerable friends, deserves of us our best exertions to preserve and propagate it. Our fathers told us, we heard them, and we know personally what they taught; it remains for us in our turn to hand it on. Blessed be God we have now the less mutable testimony of written revelation, but this by no means lessens our obligation to instruct our children in divine truth by word of mouth: rather, with such a gracious help, we ought to teach them far more fully the things of God. Dr. Doddridge owed much to the Dutch tiles and his mother's explanations of the Bible narratives. The more of parental teaching the better; ministers and Sabbath-school teachers were never meant to be substitutes for mothers' tears and fathers' prayers.

continued...THE ARGUMENT

The scope of this Psalm is plainly expressed Psalm 78:6-8, and is this, that the Israelites might learn to hope and trust in God, and steadfastly to keep his laws and covenant; which great lesson he presseth upon them, from the sad effects of the contrary practices in their forefathers, of which he gives a brief yet full account in a recapitulation of he most remarkable passages in the history of their church and nation.

An exhortation to attend to and instruct others in the word and works of the Lord, Psalm 78:1-8. A rehearsal of God’s love and long-suffering to the unbelieving and obstinate Israelites, Psalm 78:9-11, in their journey out of Egypt to the land of Canaan, Psalm 78:12-65. Rejecting the rest of the tribes, he chooseth Zion for a place of worship, and David to the kingdom, Psalm 78:67-72.

My people: if Asaph was the composer of this Psalm, he might well call the Israelites his people, not only as he was their prophet and teacher, but also because they were of the same country and parentage with him; upon which account this very phrase of my people is used of them, not only by queen Esther, Esther 7:3,4, but also by the Shunammitish woman, 2 Kings 4:13.

My law, i.e. the doctrine which I am about to deliver to you, concerning your duty, and the danger of neglecting it.

Give ear, O my people,.... The Jews were Christ's people, he descending from their fathers according to the flesh; they were his own, to whom he came, though rejected by them; they were his nation and people that delivered him up into the hands of the Romans; see Romans 9:4 thus it is usual with persons to call those, who are of the same nation with them, their people, Esther 7:3 and especially for kings to call their subjects so; see 1 Chronicles 28:2, and such was Christ; he was King of the Jews, though they would not have him reign over them; and therefore he here speaks as one having royal authority, and requires attention to him, and obedience to his word, which he calls his law:

to my law; meaning neither the moral nor the ceremonial law, but the doctrine of the Gospel, or law of faith, called the Messiah's law, Isaiah 2:3. This is the doctrine which he as man received of his Father, and which he taught and delivered to his disciples, and which concerns himself, his person, office, and grace, and is sometimes called the doctrine of Christ, 2 John 1:9,

incline your ears to the words of my mouth; the several doctrines of the everlasting Gospel preached by him, which were words of wisdom and of grace, of righteousness and eternal life, of peace, pardon, and everlasting salvation: these ought to be heard and diligently attended to; the matter contained in them requires attention; the office Christ bears demands it of men; all that have ears to hear should hear; all Christ's sheep do hear his voice, understand it, and act according to it: hear ye him was the instruction of Moses, and the direction of Christ's heavenly Father, Deuteronomy 18:15, and great is the danger such incur who hear him not, but neglect and despise his word, Hebrews 2:2.

(f) , Sept. "ipsi Asaph", Pagninus, Montanus; "tradita Asapho", Piscator.

<<{a} Maschil of Asaph.>> Give ear, O my people, to my {b} law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth.

(a) Read Ps 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 Rom 2:16,16:25.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1, 2. Cp. the opening of Psalms 49, noting that while there ‘all peoples’ are addressed, in accordance with the wider scope of the teaching of the ‘Wise Men,’ here Israel is addressed in the spirit of prophecy. It was the function of prophecy to interpret the past, as well as to foretell the future. my law] Rather, my teaching, as in Proverbs 1:8, and often. See note on Psalm 1:2.

1–8. The Psalmist’s solemn invitation to his countrymen to listen to his teaching. He proposes to set forth the lessons to be drawn from Israel’s past history, in obedience to God’s command to hand on the tradition of His mighty works for the encouragement and warning of each successive generation.Verses 1-8. - The introduction calls special attention to the teaching that is about to be put forth, which it declares to be traditional (ver. 3), and, further, to be the sort of instruction which God had especially commanded to be given to his people by their teachers (vers. 5, 6) for their edification (vers. 7, 8). Verse 1. - Give ear, O my people, to my law; rather, to my teaching. Hat-torah - torah with the article - is "the Law;" but torah alone is any teaching or instruction. Incline your ears to the words of my mouth. Dr. Kay regards the words of ver. 1 as "God's own words,"

(1) on account of the expression, "O my people;" and

(2) on account of "my Law." But "my people" is not inappropriate in the mouth of a psalmist, and occurs in Psalm 59:11 and Psalms 144:2. It "indicates the love in which the effort of the psalmist originated" (Hengstenberg). And "law," as already observed, is not the proper, or at any rate not the only, meaning of torah. With 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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