Psalm 78:48
He gave up their cattle also to the hail, and their flocks to hot thunderbolts.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(48) Hail.—Some copies read “pestilence,” which from its association with resheph, as in Habakkuk 3:5, a word there denoting some contagious malady (comp. Deuteronomy 32:24; see Note Psalm 76:3), is probably to be preferred here though the authority of the LXX. is against it. If so, we must refer this verse to the murrain that came on the cattle.

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.He gave up their cattle also to the hail - Margin, he shut up. Exodus 9:22-25.

And their flocks to hot thunderbolts - Margin, lightnings. The original word means flame; then, lightning. There is no allusion in the word to the idea of a bolt, or shaft, accompanying the lightning or the thunder, by which destruction is produced. The destruction is caused by the lightning, and not by the thunder, and it is hardly necessary to say that there is no shaft or bolt that accompanies it. Probably this notion was formerly entertained, and found its way into the common language used. The same idea is retained by us in the word thunderbolt. But this idea is not in the original; nor is there any foundation for it in fact.

48. gave … cattle—literally, "shut up" (compare Ps 31:8). He gave up, Heb. he shut up, as in a prison, that they could not escape them. He gave up their cattle also to the hail,.... For the hail fell upon man and beast, as well as upon herbs and trees, Exodus 9:22,

and their flocks to hot thunderbolts: which were killed by them: this is to be understood of the fire that was mingled with the hail, and ran upon the ground, and destroyed their flocks, Exodus 9:23. Jarchi, out of the Midrash, interprets the words of fowls which devoured the sheep killed by the hail.

He gave up their cattle also to the hail, and their flocks to hot thunderbolts.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
48. And he gave over their beasts to the hail,

And their cattle to fiery lightnings.

As the text stands, the reference is to the destruction of the Egyptian cattle as well as the crops by the lightning which accompanied the hailstorm (Exodus 9:28). But two Hebrew MSS., with which agrees the version of Symmachus, read Deber, ‘pestilence’ in place of Bârâd, ‘hail.’ Now Deber is the word used in Exodus 9:3 ff. of the murrain which attacked the cattle. Resheph, the word rendered fiery lightnings, is also used of burning fever in Deuteronomy 32:24; Habakkuk 3:5; in the latter passage in parallelism with Deber. It seems possible, therefore, that this verse originally referred to the fifth plague, the murrain on the cattle. The LXX, Syr., Jer., Targ. however support the Massoretic Text.Verse 48. - He gave up their cattle also to the hall (comp. Exodus 9:19-21, 25). And their flocks to hot thunderbolts (see Exodus 9:24, 28, 29, 34). The "fire which ran along the ground" (Exodus 9:23) must have been caused by electrified clouds of high tension; the highly charged drops of rain meeting the inductively charged earth, and sparking across when within striking distance. This is believed to accompany every thunderstorm, though generally invisible to the eye. When exceptionally severe, it would convey the idea of running fire, and would of course be very destructive of life. It is no wonder that most of the cattle which were left "in the field" died (Exodus 9:21, 25). The second part of the Psalm now begins. God, notwithstanding, in His compassion restrains His anger; but Israel's God-tempting conduct was continued, even after the journey through the desert, in Canaan, and the miracles of judgment amidst which the deliverance out of Egypt had been effected were forgotten. With והוּא in Psalm 78:38

(Note: According to B. Kiddushin 30a, this Psalm 78:38 is the middle one of the 5896 פסוקין, στίχοι, of the Psalter. According to B. Maccoth 22b, Psalm 78:38, and previously Deuteronomy 28:58-59; Deuteronomy 29:8 [9], were recited when the forty strokes of the lash save one, which according to 2 Corinthians 11:24 Paul received five times, were being counted out to the culprit.)

begins an adversative clause, which is of universal import as far as ישׁהית, and then becomes historical. Psalm 78:38 expands what lies in רחוּם: He expiates iniquity and, by letting mercy instead of right take its course, arrests the destruction of the sinner. With והרבּה (Ges. ֗֗142, 2) this universal truth is supported out of the history of Israel. As this history shows, He has many a time called back His anger, i.e., checked it in its course, and not stirred up all His blowing anger (cf. Isaiah 42:13), i.e., His anger in all its fulness and intensity. We see that Psalm 78:38 refers to His conduct towards Israel, then Psalm 78:39 follows with the ground of the determination, and that in the form of an inference drawn from such conduct towards Israel. He moderated His anger against Israel, and consequently took human frailty and perishableness into consideration. The fact that man is flesh (which not merely affirms his physical fragility, but also his moral weakness, Genesis 6:3, cf. Genesis 8:21), and that, after a short life, he falls a prey to death, determines God to be long-suffering and kind; it was in fact sensuous desire and loathing by which Israel was beguiled time after time. The exclamation "how oft!" Psalm 78:40, calls attention to the praiseworthiness of this undeserved forbearance.

But with Psalm 78:41 the record of sins begins anew. There is nothing by which any reference of this Psalm 78:41 to the last example of insubordination recorded in the Pentateuch, Numbers 35:1-9 (Hitzig), is indicated. The poet comes back one more to the provocations of God by the Israel of the wilderness in order to expose the impious ingratitude which revealed itself in this conduct. התוה is the causative of תּוה equals Syriac tewā', תּהא, to repent, to be grieved, lxx παρώξυναν. The miracles of the tie of redemption are now brought before the mind in detail, ad exaggerandum crimen tentationis Deu cum summa ingratitudine conjunctum (Venema). The time of redemption is called יום, as in Genesis 2:4 the hexahemeron. שׂים אות (synon. עשׂה, נתן) is used as in Exodus 10:2. We have already met with מנּי־צר in Psalm 44:11. The first of the plagues of Egypt (Exodus 7:14-25), the turning of the waters into blood, forms the beginning in Psalm 78:44. From this the poet takes a leap over to the fourth plague, the ערב (lxx κυνόμυια), a grievous and destructive species of fly (Exodus 8:20-32), and combines with it the frogs, the second plague (Exodus 8:1-15). צפרדּע is the lesser Egyptian frog, Rana Mosaica, which is even now called Arab. ḍfd‛, ḍofda. Next in Psalm 78:46 he comes to the eighth plague, the locusts, חסיל (a more select name of the migratory locusts than ארבּה), Exodus 10:1-20; the third plague, the gnats and midges, כּנּים, is left unmentioned in addition to the fourth, which is of a similar kind. For the chastisement by means of destructive living things is now closed, and in Psalm 78:47 follows the smiting with hail, the seventh plague, Exodus 9:13-35. חנמל (with pausal , not ā, cf. in Ezekiel 8:2 the similarly formed החשׁמלה) in the signification hoar-frost (πάχνη, lxx, Vulgate, Saadia, and Abulwald), or locusts (Targum כּזוּבא equals חגב), or ants (J. D. Michaelis), does not harmonize with the history; also the hoar-frost is called כּפוּר, the ant נּמלה (collective in Arabic neml). Although only conjecturing from the context, we understand it, with Parchon and Kimchi, of hailstones or hail. With thick lumpy pieces of ice He smote down vines and sycamore-trees (Fayum was called in ancient Egyptian "the district of the sycamore"). הרג proceeds from the Biblical conception that the plant has a life of its own. The description of this plague is continued in Psalm 78:48. Two MSS present לדּבר instead of לבּרד; but even supposing that רשׁפים might signify the fever-burnings of the pestilence (vid., on Habakkuk 3:5), the mention of the pestilence follows in Psalm 78:50, and the devastation which, according to Exodus 9:19-22, the hail caused among the cattle of the Egyptians is in its right place here. Moreover it is expressly said in Exodus 9:24 that there was conglomerate fire among the hail; רשׁפים are therefore flaming, blazing lightnings.

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