Psalm 78:5
For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children:
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(5) For he . . .—Better, taking the relative of time (comp. Deuteronomy 11:6; Psalm 139:15), For he established (it as) a testimony in Jacob and (as) a law appointed (it) in Israel when he commanded our forefathers to make them (the “wonderful works” of last verse) known to their children. For the custom see reference in margin.

78:1-8 These are called dark and deep sayings, because they are carefully to be looked into. The law of God was given with a particular charge to teach it diligently to their children, that the church may abide for ever. Also, that the providences of God, both in mercy and in judgment, might encourage them to conform to the will of God. The works of God much strengthen our resolution to keep his commandments. Hypocrisy is the high road to apostacy; those that do not set their hearts right, will not be stedfast with God. Many parents, by negligence and wickedness, become murderers of their children. But young persons, though they are bound to submit in all things lawful, must not obey sinful orders, or copy sinful examples.For he established a testimony in Jacob - He ordained or appointed that which would be for a "witness" for him; that which would bear testimony to his character and perfections; that which would serve to remind them of what he was, and of his authority over them. Any law or ordinance of God is thus a standing and permanent witness in regard to his character as showing what he is.

And appointed a law in Israel - That is, He gave law to Israel, or to the Hebrew people. Their laws were not human enactments, but were the appointments of God.

Which he commanded our fathers ... - He made it a law of the land that these testimonies should be preserved and faithfully transmitted to future times. See Deuteronomy 4:9; Deuteronomy 6:7; Deuteronomy 11:19. They were not given for themselves only, but for the benefit of distant generations also.

5. testimony—(Ps 19:7). He established: this is justly put in the first place, as the chief of all the following mercies, and the foundation both of their temporal and of their eternal felicity.

A testimony, i.e. his law, as it is called in the next clause; which is very oft called a testimony, because it is a witness between God and men, declaring both the duties which God expects from man, and the promises and blessings which man in the performance of his duty may expect from God.

In Jacob, peculiarly; for no other nation enjoyed this privilege, as is more fully expressed, Psalm 147:19,20. Which testimony or law God revealed to them, not for their own private use, but for the benefit of all their posterity, whom their parents were obliged to teach, Deu 6:7, and all their children to hear, and read, and study; by which we may see how contrary to the mind of God that foolish and wicked assertion is, that ignorance is the mother of devotion.

For he established a testimony in Jacob,.... So the law is called, being a testification of the divine will, Exodus 25:16 and the Scriptures, the writings of the Old Testament, which testify of Christ, his person, office, sufferings, and death, Isaiah 8:20 and particularly the Gospel, which is the testimony of God, of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of his apostles, 2 Timothy 1:8 which bears witness to the love and grace of God in the salvation of men by Christ; to the dignity of Christ's person, to the fulness of his grace, to each of the offices and relations he bears and stands in to his people; to the virtue of his obedience, sufferings, and death; to redemption, righteousness, peace and pardon by him: this is established in the house of Jacob, as the Targum; in the church, which is the pillar and ground of truth, among the saints and people of God, to whom it is delivered, and by whom it will be kept, and with whom it will remain throughout all ages; for it is the everlasting Gospel:

and appointed a law in Israel; the law given on Mount Sinai was peculiar to them, and so were the word and oracles, they were committed to them; and not only the writings of Moses, but the prophets, are called the law, John 10:34, but the Gospel seems to be here meant; see Gill on Psalm 78:1, this was ordained before the world for our glory, and is put and placed in the hands and hearts of the faithful ministers of it, and is published among, and received by, the true Israel of God:

which he commanded our fathers that they should make them known to their children; that is, the testimony and the law, and the things contained in them; the Jewish fathers were frequently commanded to teach their children the law of Moses, Deuteronomy 4:9 and it was their practice to instruct them in the knowledge of the Scriptures, 2 Timothy 3:15, and it becomes Christian parents to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, by making known to them the principles of the Christian religion, and the truths of the Gospel, Ephesians 6:4.

For he established a {d} testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children:

(d) By the testimony and law, he means your law written, which they were commanded to teach their children, De 6:7.

5. a testimony … a law] Not the Mosaic legislation generally, but the express precept which enjoined upon Israelite parents the duty of teaching their children the great facts of Israel’s history, that the remembrance of them might be handed down from generation to generation. See Exodus 10:2; Exodus 12:26-27; Exodus 13:8 ff., Exodus 13:14; Deuteronomy 4:9; Deuteronomy 6:20 ff. Cp. in the N.T. 2 Timothy 2:2.

that they should make them known] Them refers to “the things which we have heard and known” &c., Psalm 78:3-4. Cp. Deuteronomy 4:9.

Verse 5. - For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel. The "testimony" and the "law" are the whole series of commands given by God to his people, beginning with the directions concerning circumcision in Genesis (Genesis 17:10-14), and terminating with the last precept in Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 32:46). They may include also the teachings of God through history. These he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children (see Exodus 12:26, 27; Exodus 13:8, 14, 15; Deuteronomy 4:9; Deuteronomy 6:7; Deuteronomy 11:19; Deuteronomy 32:46, etc.). Psalm 78:5The 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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