Psalm 78:31
The wrath of God came on them, and slew the fattest of them, and smote down the chosen men of Israel.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(31) Slew the fattest.—This may mean either the strongest or the noblest.

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!The wrath of God came upon them - See Numbers 11:33.

And slew the fattest of them - literally, "slew among their fat ones." That is, The most vigorous among them were cut down; the people most eminent for rank, for influence, for strength, for valor. How far this was the natural effect of indulgence in eating, and how far it was a direct miracle, cannot now be ascertained. In either case it would equally show the divine displeasure.

And smote down - Margin, as in Hebrew, "made to bow." That is, they were made to bow in death.

The chosen men of Israel - Margin, "Young men." The idea is that of select men; men that would be chosen from among the others; men distinguished for vigor or influence. Not the aged or the feeble particularly, not those who might be naturally expected to fall, but men of strength who might be supposed to be capable of resisting the ordinary attacks of disease. God showed in this way that the judgment came directly from his hand.

31. slew … fattest—or, "among the fattest"; some of them—

chosen—the young and strong (Isa 40:31), and so none could resist.

The fattest of them; the most healthy and strong, who probably were most desirous of this food, and fed most eagerly upon it, and grew fatter by it, and least suspected their own danger. The wrath of God came upon them,.... Either by causing fire to come down from heaven, or by suffering them to be surfeited by excessive eating, or by sending a plague among them; see Numbers 11:33,

and slew the fattest of them; such perhaps who had been most guilty of the sin of gluttony, and had fed the most inordinately upon the flesh that was sent them; or this designs the chief among their princes and nobles, though not only them, but them as well as the common people; so the Targum,

"and slew their mighty ones:''

or the words may be rendered, "and slew them among their fatness", or "fat things" (o); while they were feeding on their feast of fat things, the fat quails, which were brought among them, in such plenty; for the quail is a very fat bird, as Kimchi observes (p):

and smote down the chosen men of Israel; or the young men, as the Targum, who were within the twentieth and fiftieth year of their age; who were chosen and fit for war within that time, as well as were the choicest for comeliness, strength, and service; or "made" them "to bow" (q) to death and the grave; whose power they could not withstand, though in the prime and vigour of youth, and while they were freely and heartily feeding upon the food they lusted after.

(o) "in opimis ipsorum", Cocceius; "inter pinguedines eorum", Michaelis. (p) In Sepher Shorashim, rad. (q) "incurvavit", Pagninus, Montanus.

The wrath of God came upon them, and slew {r} the fattest of them, and smote down the chosen men of Israel.

(r) Though others were not spared, yet chiefly they suffered, who trusted in their strength against God.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
31. When the anger of God went up against them,

And slew of the lustiest of them,

And laid low the young men of Israel.

Even before they had been surfeited with the quails—an allusion to Numbers 11:20—the judgement fell upon them (Numbers 11:33), and the plague broke out. God punishes men by answering their prayers, a truth which even heathen moralists recognised.Verse 31. - The wrath of God came upon them, and slew the fattest of them (comp. Numbers 11:33, "While the flesh was yet between their teeth, ere it was chewed, the wrath of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord smote the people with a very great plague"). By "the fattest of them," we are to understand the strongest and healthiest. And smote down the chosen men of Israel; rather, the young men, as in the margin, "the ripened youths" (Cheyne). Here, again, the author adds touches which he has not obtained from the Pentateuch. It is now related how wonderfully God led the fathers of these Ephraimites, who behaved themselves so badly as the leading tribe of Israel, in the desert; how they again and again ever indulged sinful murmuring, and still He continued to give proofs of His power and of His loving-kindness. The (according to Numbers 13:22) very ancient Zoan (Tanis), ancient Egyptian Zane, Coptic G'ane, on the east bank of the Tanitic arm of the Nile, so called therefrom - according to the researches to which the Turin Papyrus No. 112 has led, identical with Avaris (vid., on Isaiah 19:11)

(Note: The identity of Avaris and Tanis is in the meanwhile again become doubtful. Tanis was the Hyksos city, but Pelusium equals Avaris the Hyksos fortress; vid., Petermann's Mittheilungen, 1866, S. 296-298.)

- was the seat of the Hyksos dynasties that ruled in the eastern Delta, where after their overthrow Rameses II, the Pharaoh of the bondage, in order to propitiate the enraged mass of the Semitic population of Lower Egypt, embraced the worship of Baal instituted by King Apophis. The colossal sitting figure of Rameses II in the pillared court of the Royal Museum in Berlin, says Brugsch (Aus dem Orient ii. 45), is the figure which Rameses himself dedicated to the temple of Baal in Tanis and set up before its entrance. This mighty colossus is a contemporary of Moses, who certainly once looked upon this monument, when, as Psalm 78 says, he "wrought wonders in the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan." The psalmist, moreover, keeps very close to the Tra in his reproduction of the history of the Exodus, and in fact so close that he must have had it before him in the entirety of its several parts, the Deuteronomic, Elohimistic, and Jehovistic. Concerning the rule by which it is appointed ‛ā'sa phéle, vid., on Psalm 52:5. The primary passage to Psalm 78:13 (cf. נוזלים Psalm 78:16) is Exodus 15:8. נד is a pile, i.e., a piled up heap or mass, as in Psalm 33:7. And Psalm 78:14 is the abbreviation of Exodus 13:21. In Psalm 78:15. the writer condenses into one the two instances of the giving of water from the rock, in the first year of the Exodus (Exodus 17) and in the fortieth year (Numbers 20). The Piel יבקּע and the plural צרים correspond to this compression. רבּה is not an adjective (after the analogy of תּהום רבּה), but an adverb as in Psalm 62:3; for the giving to drink needs a qualificative, but תהמות does not need any enhancement. ויּוצא has ı̂ instead of ē as in Psalm 105:43.

The fact that the subject is continued in Psalm 78:17 with ויּוסיפוּ without mention having been made of any sinning on the part of the generation of the desert, is explicable from the consideration that the remembrance of that murmuring is closely connected with the giving of water from the rock to which the names Massah u-Merı̂bah and Merı̂bath-Kadesh (cf. Numbers 20:13 with Numbers 27:14; Deuteronomy 32:51) point back: they went on (עוד) winning against Him, in spite of the miracles they experienced. למרות is syncopated from להמרות as in Isaiah 3:8. The poet in Psalm 78:18 condenses the account of the manifestations of discontent which preceded the giving of the quails and manna (Exodus 16), and the second giving of quails (Numbers 11), as he has done the two cases of the giving of water from the rock in Psalm 78:15. They tempted God by unbelievingly and defiantly demanding (לשׁאל, postulando, Ew. 280, d) instead of trustfully hoping and praying. בּלבבם points to the evil fountain of the heart, and לנפשׁם describes their longing as a sensual eagerness, a lusting after it. Instead of allowing the miracles hitherto wrought to work faith in them, they made the miracles themselves the starting-point of fresh doubts. The poet here clothes what we read in Exodus 16:3; Numbers 11:4., Psalm 21:5, in a poetic dress. In לעמּו the unbelief reaches it climax, it sounds like self-irony. On the co-ordinating construction "therefore Jahve heard it and was wroth," cf. Isaiah 5:4; Isaiah 12:1; Isaiah 50:2; Romans 6:17. The allusion is to the wrath-burning at Taberah (Tab'eera), Numbers 11:1-3, which preceded the giving of the quails in the second year of the Exodus. For it is obvious that Psalm 78:21 and Numbers 11:1 coincide, ויתעבר ואשׁ here being suggested by the ותבער־בם אשׁ eht yb d of that passage, and אף עלה being the opposite of ותשׁקע האשׁ in Psalm 78:2. A conflagration broke out at that time in the camp, at the same time, however, with the breaking out of God's anger. The nexus between the anger and the fire is here an outward one, whereas in Numbers 11:1 it is an internal one. The ground upon which the wrathful decree is based, which is only hinted at there, is here more minutely given in Psalm 78:22 : they believed not in Elohim (vid., Numbers 14:11), i.e., did not rest with believing confidence in Him, and trusted not in His salvation, viz., that which they had experienced in the redemption out of Egypt (Exodus 14:13; Exodus 15:2), and which was thereby guaranteed for time to come. Now, however, when Taberah is here followed first by the giving of the manna, Psalm 78:23-25, then by the giving of the quails, Psalm 78:26-29, the course of the events is deranged, since the giving of the manna had preceded that burning, and it was only the giving of the quails that followed it. This putting together of the two givings out of order was rendered necessary by the preceding condensation (in Psalm 78:18-20) of the clamorous desire for a more abundant supply of food before each of these events. Notwithstanding Israel's unbelief, He still remained faithful: He caused manna to rain down out of the opened gates of heaven (cf. "the windows of heaven," Genesis 7:11; 2 Kings 7:2; Malachi 3:10), that is to say, in richest abundance. The manna is called corn (as in Psalm 105:40, after Exodus 16:4, it is called bread) of heaven, because it descended in the form of grains of corn, and supplied the place of bread-corn during the forty years. לחם אבּירים the lxx correctly renders ἄρτον ἀγγέλων (אבּירים equals גּבּרי כח, Psalm 103:20). The manna is called "bread of angels" (Wisd. 16:20) as being bread from heaven (Psalm 78:24, Psalm 105:40), the dwelling-place of angels, as being mann es-semâ, heaven's gift, its Arabic name, - a name which also belongs to the vegetable manna which flows out of the Tamarix mannifera in consequence of the puncture of the Coccus manniparus, and is even at the present day invaluable to the inhabitants of the desert of Sinai. אישׁ is the antithesis to אבירים; for if it signified "every one," אכלוּ would have been said (Hitzig). צידהּ as in Exodus 12:39; לשׂבע as in Exodus 16:3, cf. Psalm 78:8.

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