Psalm 78:33
Therefore their days did he consume in vanity, and their years in trouble.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Psalm 78:33. Their days did he consume in vanity — In tedious and fruitless marches hither and thither, sometimes forward and sometimes backward, which they knew would never bring them, in their own persons, to their promised and much desired land; and their years in trouble — In manifold diseases, dangers, and perplexities. In such vanity and trouble were they condemned, by an irreversible doom, for their unbelief, distrust of God, their murmurings and rebellions against him, their idolatries and other sins, to wear out thirty-eight tedious years in that wilderness, which indeed were consumed in it: for in all those years there was not one step taken nearer Canaan, nor one stroke struck toward the conquest of it. Observe, reader, those that sin still must expect to be in trouble still; and the reason why we spend our days in so much vanity and trouble, why we live with so little comfort, and to so little purpose, is because we live in sin, or do not live by faith.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!Therefore their days did he consume in vanity - He suffered them to spend their days - the days of that entire generation - in vain and fruitless wanderings in the desert. Instead of leading them at once to the promised land, they were kept there to wear out their life in tedious monotony, accomplishing nothing - wandering from place to place - until all the generation that had come out of Egypt had died.

And their years in trouble - literally, "in terror." Amidst the troubles, the alarms, the terrors of a vast and frightful desert. Sin - rebellion against God - leads to a course of life, and a death, of which these gloomy, sad, and cheerless wanderings in the desert were a striking emblem.

33-39. Though there were partial reformations after chastisement, and God, in pity, withdrew His hand for a time, yet their general conduct was rebellious, and He was thus provoked to waste and destroy them, by long and fruitless wandering in the desert. In vanity; in tedious and fruitless marches hither and thither, sometimes forward, and sometimes backward, which they knew would never bring them in their own persons to their promised and much-desired land.

In trouble; in manifold diseases, dangers, perplexities, and horrors of their own minds and consciences. Therefore their days did he consume in vanity,.... They were not immediately cut off by the hand of God, though some were; but the greatest part spent their time, for about eight and thirty years together, in fruitless marches to and fro in the wilderness, and never entered into the land of Canaan, where they were gradually wasted and consumed, till at length all their carcasses fell in the wilderness; see Numbers 14:32, time spent in sin is all waste time, and is spent in vanity; let a man enjoy ever so much of worldly things, it is all vanity and vexation of spirit; if he does not get to heaven at last, his life here is lived in vain; it had been better if he had never been born:

and their years in trouble: or "in terror" (a) and consternation; through their enemies, who smote and discomfited them, Numbers 14:45, through the earth's opening and swallowing many of them up; through fire coming from heaven on some of them, and fiery serpents being sent among them all, Numbers 16:31. It is an awful consideration, and yet it is true, of some wicked men, though not all, that they have nothing but trouble here, by what their sins bring upon them, and hell at last. Kimchi renders the word here used "suddenly", and interprets it of the sudden death of the spies; so the Syriac and Arabic versions "swiftly", following the Vulgate Latin, which renders it "with haste".

(a) "in terrore", Montanus; "per consternationem aut terrorem", Gejerus; "in terrore et consternatione", Michaelis.

Therefore their days did he consume in vanity, and their years in trouble.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
33. in vanity … in trouble] Or, as a breath, unsubstantial and transitory (Psalm 39:5; Psalm 39:11; Psalm 62:9): with sudden terror (Leviticus 26:16).Verse 33. - Therefore their days did he consume in vanity, and their years in trouble. Their faithlessness was punished by their forty years of vain and purposeless wandering in the wilderness, and by the "troubles" that befell them there. Passing over to the giving of the quails, the poet is thinking chiefly of the first occasion mentioned in Exodus 16, which directly preceded the giving of the manna. But the description follows the second: יסּע (He caused to depart, set out) after Numbers 11:31. "East" and "south" belong together: it was a south-east wind from the Aelanitic Gulf. "To rain down" is a figurative expression for a plentiful giving of dispensing from above. "Its camp, its tents," are those of Israel, Numbers 11:31, cf. Exodus 16:13. The תּעוה, occurring twice, Psalm 78:29-30 (of the object of strong desire, as in Psalm 21:3), points to Kibroth-hattaavah, the scene of this carnal lusting; הביא is the transitive of the בּוא in Proverbs 13:12. In Psalm 78:30-31 even in the construction the poet closely follows Numbers 11:33 (cf. also זרוּ with לזרא, aversion, loathing, Numbers 11:20). The Waw unites what takes place simultaneously; a construction which presents the advantage of being able to give special prominence to the subject. The wrath of God consisted in the breaking out of a sickness which was the result of immoderate indulgence, and to which even the best-nourished and most youthfully vigorous fell a prey. When the poet goes on in Psalm 78:32 to say that in spite of these visitations (בּכל־זאת) they went on sinning, he has chiefly before his mind the outbreak of "fat" rebelliousness after the return of the spies, cf. Psalm 78:32 with Numbers 14:11. And Psalm 78:33 refers to the judgment of death in the wilderness threatened at that time to all who had come out of Egypt from twenty years old and upward (Numbers 14:28-34). Their life devoted to death vanished from that time onwards בּהבל, in breath-like instability, and בּבּהלה, in undurable precipitancy; the mode of expression in Psalm 31:11; Job 36:1 suggests to the poet an expressive play of words. When now a special judgment suddenly and violently thinned the generation that otherwise was dying off, as in Numbers 21:6., then they inquired after Him, they again sought His favour, those who were still preserved in the midst of this dying again remembered the God who had proved Himself to be a "Rock" (Deuteronomy 32:15, Deuteronomy 32:18, Deuteronomy 32:37) and to be a "Redeemer" (Genesis 48:16) to them. And what next? Psalm 78:36-37

(Note: According to the reckoning of the Masora this Psalm 78:36 is the middle verse of the 2527 verses of the Psalter (Buxtorf, Tiberias, 1620, p. 133).)

tell us what effect they gave to this disposition to return to God. They appeased Him with their mouth, is meant to say: they sought to win Him over to themselves by fair speeches, inasmuch as they thus anthropopathically conceived of God, and with their tongue they played the hypocrite to Him; their heart, however, was not sincere towards Him (עם like את in Psalm 78:8), i.e., not directed straight towards Him, and they proved themselves not stedfast (πιστοί, or properly βέβαιοι) in their covenant-relationship to Him.

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