He made a way to his anger; he spared not their soul from death, but gave their life over to the pestilence;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Made a way.—Literally, levelled a path. So Symmachus.Psalm 78:50-51. He made a way to his anger — By removing every obstacle that mercy had thrown in the path of justice, he made a way for his indignation, which then rushed forth like a fiery stream. Hebrew, יפלס נתיב לאפו, He weighed a path to his anger, that is, he made a most smooth, even, and exact path, as if he had done it by weight and measure, that so his anger might pass swiftly and freely, without interruption. The phrase also may be intended to signify the wisdom and justice of God in weighing out their plagues proportionably to their sins; that is, he did not cast his anger upon them rashly, but by weight: it was weighed with the greatest exactness, in the balances of justice: and though he exercised great severity toward them, it was only such as was answerable to their great and barbarous cruelty toward his people. For in his greatest displeasure he never did, nor ever will do, any wrong to any of his creatures. The path of his anger is always weighed. He spared not their soul from death — But suffered death to ride in triumph among them; and gave their life over to the pestilence — Which cut off the thread of life immediately. And smote all the firstborn in Egypt — “An unlimited commission was given to the destroyer, who, at midnight, passed through the land, and gave the final stroke in every house.” “While all things,” says the author of the book of Wisdom, chap. Psalm 18:14, “were in quiet silence, and that night was in the midst of her swift course, thine almighty word leaped down from heaven out of thy royal throne, as a fierce man of war into the midst of a land of destruction, and brought thine unfeigned commandment as a sharp sword, and, standing up, filled all things with death: and it touched the heaven, but it stood upon the earth.” Pharaoh rose up in the night, he and all his servants, and all the Egyptians, and there was a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt; “and universal consternation reigned, inferior only to that which is to extend its empire over the world, when the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised.” — Horne.Isaiah 40:3-4.
He spared not their soul from death - He spared not their lives. That is, he gave them over to death.
But gave their life over to the pestilence - Margin, their beasts to the murrain. The original will admit of either interpretation, but the connection seems rather to demand the interpretation which is in the text. Both these things, however, occurred.He made a way, Heb. He weighed a path or causeway, i.e. he made a most smooth, and even, and exact path, as if he had done it by weight and measure, that so his anger might pass swiftly and freely without interruption. The phrase also seems to note the wisdom and justice of God in weighing out their plagues proportionably to their sins, and exercising great severity towards them answerably to their great and barbarous cruelty towards his people.
He spared not their soul from death, i.e. he punished them with death or killing plagues, as the next words explain it.
Their life; or, their beasts. So he speaks of the murrain among their cattle. But our translation seems better to agree with the next foregoing and following passages, which plainly speak of the death of persons.
he spared not their soul from death, but gave their life over to the pestilence; which some understand of their cattle, and of the murrain that came upon them, by which they were destroyed, and which was the fifth plague of Egypt, Exodus 9:3, so the Targum,
"their beasts he delivered unto death;''
but Aben Ezra interprets it of the slaughter of the firstborn, expressed in the following verse; and so others.He made a way to his anger; he spared not their soul from death, but gave their life over to the pestilence;
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)50. He made a way to his anger] Lit., he levelled a path for his anger, i.e. gave it free course.
but gave their life over to the pestilence] This is the natural rendering of the words in this context. The rendering of R.V. marg., gave their beasts over to the murrain, is that of the Ancient Versions. But a reference to the murrain is out of place here, where the Psalmist is clearly describing the culmination of the plagues in the destruction of the firstborn. He emphasises the fact that after minor plagues had failed to touch Pharaoh’s conscience, God finally attacked the very lives of the Egyptians.Verse 50. - He made a way to his anger; literally, he levelled a way for his anger; i.e. made a smooth path for it (Cheyne). He spared not their soul from death; rather, held not back their soul. But gave their life over to the pestilence. This is, undoubtedly, the true meaning, and not "he gave their beasts over to the murrain." Though no "pestilence" is expressly mentioned in Exodus 12. as having caused the death of the firstborn, yet pestilence may assuredly have been the means employed. 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 , 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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