Psalm 78:12
Marvelous things did he in the sight of their fathers, in the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan.
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(12) Field of Zoan.—See Numbers 13:22. It is the classical “Tanis,” merely a corruption of Tsoan, i.e., low country (LXX. and Vulgate). Tanis is situated on the east bank of what was formerly called the Tanitic branch of the Nile. Between it and Pelusium, about thirty miles to the east, stretched a rich plain known as “the marshes,” or “the pastures,” or “the field” of Zoan.

The psalm now turns to the adventures in the wilderness, postponing the marvels in Egypt till Psalm 78:43.

Psalm 78:12-15. Marvellous things did he in the field — That is, in the territory or jurisdiction, not excluding the city itself; of Zoan — An ancient and eminent city of Egypt. In the day-time he led them with a cloud — Which afforded them much comfort, both as a shadow from the scorching heat of the climate and season, and as a companion and director in their journey. He clave the rocks — He uses the plural number, because it was twice done, once in Rephidim, Exodus 17:6, and again in Kadesh, Numbers 20:1; Numbers 20:11. And gave them drink as out of the great depths —

In great abundance. 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!Marvellous things did he in the sight of their fathers - Things suited to excite wonder and astonishment. Such were all the miracles that he performed, in effecting the deliverance of his people.

In the land of Egypt - In delivering them from Pharaoh.

In the field of Zoan - The Septuagint renders this ἐν πεδίῳ Τάνεως en pediō Taneōs" in the plain of Tanis." So the Latin Vulgate. Zoan or Tanis was an ancient city of Lower Egypt, situated on the eastern side of the Tanitie arm of the Nile. The name given to it in the Egyptian language signified "low region." See the notes at Isaiah 19:11. The Hebrews seem to have been located in this region, and it was in this part of Egypt - that is, in the country lying round about Zoan - that the wonders of God were principally manifested in behalf of his people.

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 (Nu 13:22; Isa 19:11).

In the field, i.e. in the territory or jurisdiction, not excluding the city itself. In the like sense we read of the field of Edom, and of Moab, Genesis 32:3 36:35 Numbers 21:20.

Zoan; an ancient, and eminent, and the royal city of Egypt. See Numbers 13:22 Isaiah 19:11 30:4. Marvellous things did he in the sight of their fathers,.... The Targum is,

"before Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the tribes of their fathers, he did marvellous things;''

but these were dead before this time; the Jews have a fancy, that these were brought to the sea, and placed upon it; and the Lord showed them what he would do for their children, and how he would redeem them; but this is to be understood of the plagues which were brought upon the Egyptians, and which are called wonders, Exodus 11:10, and were so to the Egyptians themselves; and these were done by the hands of Moses and Aaron, and in their sight:

in the land of Egypt; where the Israelites were in bondage, and while they were there, and on their account were these things done:

in the field of Zoan; that is, in the territory of Zoan, which was an ancient city of Egypt, Numbers 13:22, the metropolis of the land where Pharaoh kept his court; hence we read of the princes of Zoan, Isaiah 19:11, it is the same with Tanis, and so it is called here in the Septuagint and Vulgate Latin versions, and also in the Targum; it is said to have been two miles from Heliopolis, and one from Memphis; and at this day these three cities are become one, which is fifteen miles in compass, and goes by the name of Alcair. In this great city, the metropolis of the nation, before Pharaoh and all his court, were the above wonders done.

Marvellous things did he in the sight of their {i} fathers, in the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan.

(i) He proves that not only the posterity but also their forefathers were wicked and rebellious to God.

12. In the sight of their fathers he did wonders. Cp. Psalm 77:14.

in the field of Zoan] Zoan, known to the Greeks as Tanis, was situated on the E. bank of the Tanitic branch of the Nile. It was famous as the capital of the Hyksos dynasty, and was refounded by Ramses II, the Pharaoh of the oppression. It is described by Mr Petrie, who excavated it in 1883–4, as “a city which was only inferior to the other capitals—Thebes and Memphis—in the splendour of its sculptures.” The phrase “field of Zoan” for the district in which it was situated has been found in an Egyptian inscription.

After this brief allusion to the plagues, of which he intends to speak in detail afterwards (43ff.), the Psalmist passes on at once to the Exodus and the journey through the wilderness.Verse 12. - Marvellous things did he in the sight of their fathers, in the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan. The miracles of Egypt are, perhaps, the most striking series in Jewish history. A more particular account of them is given below (vers. 44-53). They were wrought "in the field of Zoan," i.e. in the rich flat tract east and south of the city of Zoan, the Greek Tanis, now San. (On this place, see Mr. Reginald Peele's 'Cities of Egypt,' pp. 64-88.) This fact could not have been gathered from Exodus, but must have come to the writer from the tradition of which he speaks in ver. 3. The poet begins very similarly to the poet of Psalm 49. He comes forward among the people as a preacher, and demands for his tra a willing, attentive hearing. תּורה is the word for every human doctrine or instruction, especially for the prophetic discourse which sets forth and propagates the substance of the divine teaching. Asaph is a prophet, hence Psalm 78:2 is quoted in Matthew 13:34. as ῥηθὲν διὰ τοῦ προφήτου.

(Note: The reading διὰ Ἠσαΐ́ου τοῦ προφήτου is, although erroneous, nevertheless ancient; since even the Clementine Homilies introduce this passage as the language of Isaiah.)

He here recounts to the people their history מנּי־קדם, from that Egyptaeo-Sinaitic age of yore to which Israel's national independence and specific position in relation to the rest of the world goes back. It is not, however, with the external aspect of the history that he has to do, but with its internal teachings. משׁל is an allegory or parable, παραβολή, more particularly the apophthegm as the characteristic species of poetry belonging to the Chokma, and then in general a discourse of an elevated style, full of figures, thoughtful, pithy, and rounded. חידה is that which is entangled, knotted, involved, perlexe dictum. The poet, however, does not mean to say that he will literally discourse gnomic sentences and propound riddles, but that he will set forth the history of the fathers after the manner of a parable and riddle, so that it may become as a parable, i.e., a didactic history, and its events as marks of interrogation and nota-bene's to the present age. The lxx renders thus: ἀνοίξω ἐν παραβολαῖς τὸ στόμα μου, φθέγξομαι προβλήματα ἀπ ̓ ἀρχῆς. Instead of this the Gospel by Matthew has: ἀνοίξω ἐν παραβολαῖς τὸ στόμα μου, ἐρεύξομαι κεκρυμμένα ἀπὸ καταβολῆς (κόσμου), and recognises in this language of the Psalm a prophecy of Christ; because it is moulded so appropriately for the mouth of Him who is the Fulfiller not only of the Law and of Prophecy, but also of the vocation of the prophet. It is the object-clause to נכחד, and not a relative clause belonging to the "riddles out of the age of yore," that follows in Psalm 78:3 with אשׁר, for that which has been heard only becomes riddles by the appropriation and turn the poet gives to it. Psalm 78:3 begins a new period (cf. Psalm 69:27; Jeremiah 14:1, and frequently): What we have heard, and in consequence thereof known, and what our fathers have told us (word for word, like Psalm 44:1; Judges 6:13), that will we not hide from their children (cf. Job 15:18). The accentuation is perfectly correct. The Rebı̂a by מבניהם has a greater distinctive force than the Rebı̂a by אחרון (לדור); it is therefore to be rendered: telling to the later generation (which is just what is intended by the offspring of the fathers) the glorious deeds of Jahve, etc. The fut. consec. ויּקם joins on to אשׁר עשׂה. Glorious deeds, proofs of power, miracles hath He wrought, and in connection therewith set up an admonition in Jacob, and laid down an order in Israel, which He commanded our fathers, viz., to propagate by tradition the remembrance of those mighty deeds (Exodus 13:8, Exodus 13:14; Deuteronomy 4:9, and other passages). להודיעם has the same object as והודעתּם in Deuteronomy 4:9; Joshua 4:22. The matter in question is not the giving of the Law in general, as the purpose of which, the keeping of the laws, ought then to have been mentioned before anything else, but a precept, the purpose of which was the further proclamation of the magnalia Dei, and indirectly the promotion of trust in god and fidelity to the Law; cf. Psalm 81:5., where the special precept concerning the celebration of the Feast of the Passover is described as a עדוּת laid down in Joseph. The following generation, the children, which shall be born in the course of the ages, were to know concerning His deeds, and also themselves to rise up (יקוּמוּ, not: come into being, like the יבאוּ of the older model-passage Psalm 22:32) and to tell them further to their children, in order that these might place their confidence in god (שׂים כּסל, like שׁית מחסה in Psalm 73:28), and might not forget the mighty deeds of God (Psalm 118:17), and might keep His commandments, being warned by the disobedience of the fathers. The generation of the latter is called סורר וּמרה, just as the degenerate son that is to be stoned is called in Deuteronomy 21:18. הכין לבּו, to direct one's heart, i.e., to give it the right direction or tendency, to put it into the right state, is to be understood after Psalm 78:37, 2 Chronicles 20:33, Sir. 2:17.

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