Psalm 78:57
But turned back, and dealt unfaithfully like their fathers: they were turned aside like a deceitful bow.
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(57) Turned aside . . .—Better, turned like a relaxed bow. (See Note to Psalm 78:9.) The bows of the Hebrews, like those of other ancient nations, were probably, when unstrung, bent the reverse way to that assumed when strung, which makes the figure more expressive of the disposition which cannot be relied upon in the moment of need.

Psalm 78:57-59. And dealt unfaithfully like their fathers — They imitated their forefathers, both in their frequent apostacies from God, and in their falseness to their promises, when they pretended to repent of them. They were turned aside like a deceitful bow — Which seems likely to send the arrow to the mark, but, when it is drawn, breaks, and drops the arrow at the archer’s foot, or shoots awry, and thereby frustrates his design and expectation: so their depraved hearts made them turn aside into crooked paths, which were not directed according to the will of God. For, when they pretended, and both God and men expected obedience and gratitude to their great benefactor, they behaved themselves undutifully and unfaithfully toward him. When God heard this — That is, perceived and understood it, speaking after the manner of men, or heard the cry of their iniquity which came before him; he was wroth — He took it very heinously, as well he might, and he greatly abhorred Israel, whom he had greatly loved and delighted in. They who had been the people of his choice, became the generation of his wrath. Presumptuous sins, idolatries especially, render even Israelites odious to God’s holiness, and obnoxious to his justice.

78:56-72 After the Israelites were settled in Canaan, the children were like their fathers. God gave them his testimonies, but they turned back. Presumptuous sins render even Israelites hateful to God's holiness, and exposed to his justice. Those whom the Lord forsakes become an easy prey to the destroyer. And sooner or later, God will disgrace his enemies. He set a good government over his people; a monarch after his own heart. With good reason does the psalmist make this finishing, crowning instance of God's favour to Israel; for David was a type of Christ, the great and good Shepherd, who was humbled first, and then exalted; and of whom it was foretold, that he should be filled with the Spirit of wisdom and understanding. On the uprightness of his heart, and the skilfulness of his hands, all his subjects may rely; and of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end. Every trial of human nature hitherto, confirms the testimony of Scripture, that the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, and nothing but being created anew by the Holy Ghost can cure the ungodliness of any.But turned back ... - See the notes at Psalm 78:41.

They were turned aside like a deceitful bow - literally, a bow of deceit. That is, a bow that could not be depended on; a bow, one of whose arms was longer or more elastic than the other, so that the arrow would turn aside from the mark. The marksman would attempt to hit an object, and would fail. So it was with the people of Israel. They could not be depended on. No reliance could be put on their promises, their covenant-engagements, their attachment, their fidelity, for in these things they failed, as the arrow from a deceitful bow would fail to strike the mark. Their whole history shows how just was this charge; alas! the history of many of the professed people of God has shown how applicable the description has been to them also.

56, 57. a deceitful bow—which turns back, and so fails to project the arrow (2Sa 1:22; Ho 7:16). They relapsed. Which either breaketh when it is drawn, or shooteth awry, and frustrateth the archer’s design and expectation So when they pretended, and both God and men expected, obedience and gratitude to their great Benefactor, they behaved themselves undutifully and unfaithfully towards him.

But turned back,.... From God and his worship, apostatized from the true religion, and turned to idols:

and dealt unfaithfully, like their fathers; in the wilderness; see Psalm 78:8,

they were turned aside like a deceitful bow; that promises well to carry the arrow right, but drops it at the feet of the archer; or carries it another way, so that it misses the mark, The Targum is,

"as a bow casting arrows;''

to the ground, and not to the mark; see Hosea 7:16, or being too much stretched is suddenly broken, and kills the archer; or returns to its own nature; so Arama.

But turned back, and dealt {i} unfaithfully like their fathers: they were turned aside like a deceitful bow.

(i) Nothing more displeases God in the children, than when they continue in that wickedness, which their fathers had begun.

57. unfaithfully] Or, as R.V., treacherously. Cp. Hosea 5:7; Hosea 6:7. like a deceitful bow] Which misses the mark and disappoints its owner. Cp. Hosea 7:16.

Verse 57. - But turned back, and dealt unfaithfully like their fathers (comp. ver. 8, end the comment ad loc.). They were turned aside like a deceitful bow (comp. Hosea 7:16). A "deceitful bow" is one that fails in the hour of need, either breaking, or losing its strength, or sending its arrows wide of the mark. Psalm 78:57When 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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