But made his own people to go forth like sheep, and guided them in the wilderness like a flock.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Psalm 78:52-54. But made his own people go out like sheep — Distinguishing between them and the Egyptians, as a shepherd divideth between the sheep and the goats, having set his own mark upon these sheep, by the blood of the Lamb sprinkled on their door-posts. And they went forth as sheep, not knowing whither they went. And guided them in the wilderness — As a shepherd guides his flock, with all possible care and tenderness. And he led them on safely — Though in dangerous paths; so that they feared not — That is, they did not need to fear. They were indeed afraid at first, but after Moses had encouraged them they grew bold and secure, one evidence whereof was, that they confidently went into the middle of the sea, and passed between the vast heaps of water which were on both sides of them. And he brought them to the border of his sanctuary — Or, of his holiness, or holy place; that is, the land of Canaan, which is so called, (Ezra 9:8; Zechariah 2:8,) as being separated by God from all other lands, for his people and service, and sanctified by his presence, and his dwelling in it. Even to this mountain — Either the mountain upon which the tabernacle and temple stood; or rather the mountainous country of Canaan, which is called a land of hills and valleys, Deuteronomy 11:11.Psalm 23:1-2.
and guided them in the wilderness like a flock; by the hands of Moses and Aaron, Psalm 77:20, he also going before them as the Shepherd of the flock, in a pillar of cloud by day, and in a pillar of fire by night; he kept them together as a flock from scattering, straying, and being lost; and directed their way in the untrodden wilderness, through all the windings and turnings of it, and protected them from all dangers and enemies.But made his own people to go forth like sheep, and guided them in the wilderness like a flock.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)52. But made &c.] But he led forth his people like sheep. The verb is that which is commonly used of the journeyings of the Israelites from stage to stage through the wilderness (Exodus 15:22 &c.). The figure of Israel as Jehovah’s flock is a favourite one in the Asaphite Psalms (Psalm 74:1 note).
52–55. God’s guidance of Israel through the wilderness into Canaan. Cp. Exodus 15:13-17. The circumstances of the Journey have been already recounted in Psalm 78:13 ff.Verse 52. - But made his own people to go forth like sheep (comp. Psalm 77:20; Psalm 95:7). And guided them in the wilderness like a flock. The guidance began from Succoth, and was effected by means of the pillar of the cloud and the pillar of fire (see Exodus 13:20-22). 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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