Psalm 78:41
Yes, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(41) Limited.—A verb used in Ezekiel 9:4 for putting a mark on the forehead, which has been very variously explained. Some render branded or cast a stigma oni.e., brought discredit on the Divine name. The LXX. and Vulg. have “exasperated,” and so some moderns “crossed,” “thwarted.” Grätz emends to “asked signs from,” but perhaps the ideas of marking something that has been tried, and that of trying or tempting are sufficiently near to allow us to render tempted.

Psalm 78:41-42. And limited the Holy One of Israel — Prescribing to him what proofs he should give of his power and presence with them, and what methods he should take in leading them and providing for them; directing him what to do, and when, and in what manner, to do it, and murmuring if he did not always grant their particular and various desires. They remembered not his hand — How strong it is, and how it had been stretched out for them; or the great and glorious works of his hand on their behalf. Nor the day — That remarkable and never to be forgotten day, that self-same day, as it is called, Exodus 12:41, which God had fixed four hundred years before, Genesis 15:13; when he delivered them from the enemy — Namely, from their greatest enemy, the tyrant Pharaoh, that zealously and unweariedly sought their ruin. There are some days, made remarkable by signal deliverances, which ought never to be forgotten; for the remembrance of them is calculated to encourage us in our greatest straits.78:40-55. Let not those that receive mercy from God, be thereby made bold to sin, for the mercies they receive will hasten its punishment; yet let not those who are under Divine rebukes for sin, be discouraged from repentance. The Holy One of Israel will do what is most for his own glory, and what is most for their good. Their forgetting former favours, led them to limit God for the future. God made his own people to go forth like sheep; and guided them in the wilderness, as a shepherd his flock, with all care and tenderness. Thus the true Joshua, even Jesus, brings his church out of the wilderness; but no earthly Canaan, no worldly advantages, should make us forget that the church is in the wilderness while in this world, and that there remaineth a far more glorious rest for the people of God.Yea, they turned back, and tempted God - They turned away from his service; they were disposed to return to Egypt, and to place themselves in the condition in which they were before they were delivered from bondage.

And limited the Holy One of Israel - The idea is, that they set a limit to the power of God; they fancied or alleged - (and this is a thing often done practically even by the professed people of God) - that there was a boundary in respect to power which he could not pass, or that there were things to be done which he had not the ability to perform. The original word - תוה tâvâh - occurs but three times in the Scriptures; in 1 Samuel 21:13, where it is rendered scrabbled (in the margin, made marks); in Ezekiel 9:4, where it is rendered set, that is, set a mark (margin, mark); and in the place before us. It is rendered here by the Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate, to provoke to anger. DeWette translates it troubled. Professor Alexander, "On the Holy One of Israel (they) set a mark." The idea in the word would seem to be that of making a mark for any purpose; and then it means to delineate; to scrawl; or to set a mark for a limit or boundary. Thus it might be applied to God - as if, in estimating his character or his power, they set limits or bounds to it, as one does in marking out a farm or a house-lot in a city or town. There was a limit, in their estimation, to the power of God, beyond which he could not act; or, in other words, his power was defined and bounded, so that beyond a certain point he could not aid them.

41. limited—as in Ps 78:19, 20. Though some prefer "grieved" or "provoked." The retreat from Kadesh (De 1:19-23) is meant, whether—

turned—be for turning back, or to denote repetition of offense.

They limited either,

1. God’s power, as above, Psalm 78:19,20. Or,

2. God’s will, directing and prescribing to him what to do, and when, and in what manner, and murmuring at him if he did not always grant their particular and various desires. Yea, they turned back, and tempted God,.... They talked of going back to Egypt, and of choosing a captain to lead them back thither, Numbers 14:3, and they turned back from the Lord, and from his good ways, and chose their own ways, and followed after idols; or the sense is, they again tempted God, not only at Meribah, but elsewhere; they tempted him again and again, even ten times, as before observed:

and limited the Holy One of Israel; or "signed" (d) him; signed him with a sign, so the Targum; they tempted him by asking a sign of him, as Jarchi interprets it; insisting that a miracle be wrought, by which it might be known whether the Lord was among them or not, Exodus 17:7, with which compare Matthew 16:1, or they set bounds, so Kimchi; to his power and goodness, saying, this he could do, and the other he could not; see Psalm 78:19, and so men limit the Lord when they fix on a blessing they would have, even that, and not another; and the measure of it, to what degree it should be bestowed on them, as well as set the time when they would have it; whereas the blessing itself, and the degree of it, and the time of giving it, should be all left with the Lord; who knows which and what of it is most convenient for us, and when is the best time to bestow it on us.

(d) "signaverunt", Pagninus.

Yea, they {y} turned back and tempted God, and {z} limited the Holy One of Israel.

(y) That is, they often tempted him.

(z) As they all do who measure the power of God by their capacity.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
41. And they turned again and tempted God,

And provoked the Holy One of Israel.

limited (A.V.) would mean “entertained mean and circumscribed notions of His power and goodness and faithfulness” (Kay), or ‘hindered His action by their unbelief’ (Matthew 13:58). But more probably the word means provoked (LXX, Syr., Jer.).

the Holy One of Israel] A title characteristic of the Book of Isaiah, and found in the Psalter only here and in Psalm 71:22, Psalm 89:18. It denotes that it was in His character of a Holy God that Jehovah had become the God of Israel. Though the title is not used in the Pentateuch, the thought is expressed there. In the chastisements of His people Jehovah proved Himself to be a Holy God, Who could not tolerate sin; and it was because Moses and Aaron failed to acknowledge that holiness, that they were punished by exclusion from Canaan (Numbers 20:12-13).Verse 41. - Yea, they turned back and tempted God; rather, again and again they tempted God (Hengstenberg, Kay, Cheyne); see Exodus 17:2, 7; Deuteronomy 6:16. And limited the Holy One of Israel (comp. Numbers 34:7, 8). This may mean either "they set limits to his power in their own minds" (see ver. 20), or "they actually limited his power to help and succour them by their want of faith" (comp. Mark 6:5, "He could there do no mighty work," explained in Matthew 13:58 to have been "because of their unbelief"). The other meanings suggested - "disgraced" and" provoked" - are less probable. 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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