Psalm 78:51
And smote all the firstborn in Egypt; the chief of their strength in the tabernacles of Ham:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
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.And smote all the firstborn in Egypt - See Exodus 11:4-5; Exodus 12:29-30.

The chief of their strength - Those on whom they relied; their firstborn; their pride; their glory; their heirs. Compare Genesis 49:3.

In the tabernacles of Ham - The tents; the dwelling-places of Ham; that is, of Egypt. Compare Genesis 10:6; Psalm 105:23, Psalm 105:27; Psalm 106:22,

51. chief of their strength—literally, "first-fruits," or, "first-born" (Ge 49:3; De 21:17).

Ham—one of whose sons gave name (Mizraim, Hebrew) to Egypt.

The chief of their strength; another expression noting the first-born, who are so called, Genesis 49:3.

Of Ham; of the Egyptians, the posterity of Ham, Genesis 10:6; which title he there gives them, to intimate that they were the cursed children of a cursed parent, Ham, Genesis 9:25, and therefore were proper objects for Divine wrath and vengeance.

And smote all the firstborn in Egypt,.... From the prince to the peasant; and not only the firstborn of men, but of beasts also, Exodus 12:29,

the chief of their strength; or first of it, as the firstborn is called, Genesis 49:3,

in the tabernacles of Ham; in the several cities, towns, villages, and houses of the Egyptians, the descendants of cursed Ham; for Mizraim, from whom the Egyptians have their name, and from whence they sprung, was a son of Ham's, Genesis 10:6. Perhaps No Ammon may be particularly meant, Nahum 3:8, the same with Memphis, and which signifies the mansion or palace of Ammon, that is, Ham; and so Chemmis, another city in Egypt, signifies the same (n); of which see Psalm 105:23 this was the tenth and last plague: according to Suidas (o), the plagues of Egypt continued forty days.

(n) Dickinson Delph. Phoeniciz. cap. 4. (o) In voce

And smote all the firstborn in Egypt; the {e} chief of their strength in the tabernacles of {f} Ham:

(e) The firstborn are so called, as in Ge 49:3.

(f) That is, Egypt: for it was called Mizraim, or Egypt of Mizraim that was the son of Ham.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
51. the chief of their strength] The beginning, or, firstlings of strength, a term applied to firstborn sons in Genesis 49:3; Deuteronomy 21:17. So Psalm 105:36.

in the tabernacles of Ham] R.V. tents. Ham was the ancestor of Mizraim, i.e. Egypt, Genesis 10:6. Cp. Psalm 105:23; Psalm 105:27; Psalm 106:22.

Verse 51. - And smote all the firstborn in Egypt (see Exodus 12:29). The chief of their strength in the tabernacles of Ham; or, "the beginning (literally, firstfruits) of their strength" (comp. Genesis 49:3). "The tabernacles of Ham" is a periphrasis for "Egypt" - the Egyptians, according to the author of Genesis (Genesis 10:6), being descendants of Ham (comp. Psalm 105:23, 27; 6:22). There are no sufficient grounds for connecting the name of Ham either with the Egyptian Kem, Kemi - the native name for the country - or with Khem, one of the principal Egyptian goes. The literation is, no doubt, close in the latter case; but etymologists lay it down that close approximations are especially deceptive. Psalm 78:51When these plagues rose to the highest pitch, Israel became free, and removed, being led by its God, into the Land of Promise; but it continued still to behave there just as it had done in the desert. The poet in Psalm 78:49-51 brings the fifth Egyptian plague, the pestilence (Exodus 9:1-7), and the tenth and last, the smiting of the first-born (מכּת בּכרות), Exodus 11:1, together. Psalm 78:49 sounds like Job 20:23 (cf. below Psalm 78:64). מלאכי רעים are not wicked angels, against which view Hengstenberg refers to the scriptural thesis of Jacobus Ode in his work De Angelis, Deum ad puniendos malos homines mittere bonos angelos et ad castigandos pios usurpare malos, but angels that bring misfortune. The mode of construction belongs to the chapter of the genitival subordination of the adjective to the substantive, like אשׁת רע, Proverbs 6:24, cf. 1 Samuel 28:7; Numbers 5:18, Numbers 5:24; 1 Kings 10:15; Jeremiah 24:2, and the Arabic msjdu 'l-jâm‛, the mosque of the assembling one, i.e., the assembling (congregational) mosque, therefore: angels (not of the wicked ones equals wicked angels, which it might signify elsewhere, but) of the evil ones equals evil, misfortune-bringing angels (Ew. ֗287, a). The poet thus paraphrases the המּשׁחית that is collectively conceived in Exodus 12:13, Exodus 12:23; Hebrews 11:28. In Psalm 78:50 the anger is conceived of as a stream of fire, in Psalm 78:50 death as an executioner, and in 50c the pestilence as a foe. ראשׁית אונים (Genesis 49:3; Deuteronomy 21:17) is that which had sprung for the first time from manly vigour (plur. intensivus). Egypt is called חם as in Psalm 105 and Psalm 111:1-10 according to Genesis 10:6, and is also called by themselves in ancient Egyptian Kemi, Coptic Chmi, Kme (vid., Plutarch, De Iside et Osiride, ch. 33). When now these plagues which softened their Pharaoh went forth upon the Egyptians, God procured for His people a free departure, He guided flock-like (כּעדר like בּעדר, Jeremiah 31:24, with Dag. implicitum), i.e., as a shepherd, the flock of His people (the favourite figure of the Psalms of Asaph) through the desert, - He led them safely, removing all terrors out of the way and drowning their enemies in the Red Sea, to His holy territory, to the mountain which (זה) His right hand had acquired, or according to the accents (cf. supra, p. 104): to the mountain there (זה), which, etc. It is not Zion that is meant, but, as in the primary passage Exodus 15:16., in accordance with the parallelism (although this is not imperative) and the usage of the language, which according to Isaiah 11:9; Isaiah 57:13, is incontrovertible, the whole of the Holy Land with its mountains and valleys (cf. Deuteronomy 11:11). בּחבל נחלה is the poetical equivalent to בּנחלה, Numbers 34:2; Numbers 36:2, and frequently. The Beth is Beth essentiae (here in the same syntactical position as in Isaiah 48:10; Ezekiel 20:41, and also Job 22:24 surely): He made them (the heathen, viz., as in Joshua 23:4 their territories) fall to them (viz., as the expression implies, by lot, בגורל) as a line of inheritance, i.e., (as in Psalm 105:11) as a portion measured out as an inheritance. It is only in Psalm 78:56 (and not so early as Psalm 78:41) that the narration passes over to the apostate conduct of the children of the generation of the desert, that is to say, of the Israel of Canaan. Instead of עדוריו from עדוּת, the word here is עדוריו from עדה (a derivative of עוּד, not יעד). Since the apostasy did not gain ground until after the death of Joshua and Eleazar, it is the Israel of the period of the Judges that we are to think of here. קשׁת רמיּה, Psalm 78:57, is not: a bow of slackness, but: a bow of deceit; for the point of comparison, according to Hosea 7:16, is its missing the mark: a bow that discharges its arrow in a wrong direction, that makes no sure shot. The verb רמה signifies not only to allow to hang down slack (cogn. רפה), but also, according to a similar conception to spe dejicere, to disappoint, deny. In the very act of turning towards God, or at least being inclined towards Him by His tokens of power and loving-kindness, they turned (Jeremiah 2:21) like a vow that misses the mark and disappoints both aim and expectation. The expression in Psalm 78:58 is like Deuteronomy 32:16, Deuteronomy 32:21. שׁמע refers to their prayer to the Ba(a4lim (Judges 2:11). The word התעבּר, which occurs three times in this Psalm, is a word belonging to Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 3:26). Psalm 78:59 is purposely worded exactly like Psalm 78:21. The divine purpose of love spurned by the children just as by the fathers, was obliged in this case, as in the former, to pass over into angry provocation.
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