Psalm 78:64
Their priests fell by the sword; and their widows made no lamentation.
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(64) And their widows . . .—Undoubtedly referring to the fact that the wife of Phinehas died in premature labour, and so could not attend the funeral of her husband with the customary lamentations, which in Oriental countries are so loud and marked. The Prayer-Book version, therefore, gives the right feeling—“there were no widows to make lamentations.”

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.Their priests fell by the sword - Compare 1 Samuel 4:11. It was considered a special calamity that the ministers of religion were cut down in war.

And their widows made no lamentation - That is, the public troubles were so great, the danger was still so imminent, the calamities thickened so fast, that there was no opportunity for public mourning by formal processions of women, and loud lamentations, such as were usual on these occasions. See the notes at Job 27:15. The meaning is not that there was a want of affection or attachment on the part of the friends of the slain, or that there was no real grief, but that there was no opportunity for displaying it in the customary manner.

64. (Compare 1Sa 4:17); and there were, doubtless, others.

made no lamentation—either because stupefied by grief, or hindered by the enemy.

Their priests, Hophni and Phinehas, and others.

No lamentation; no funeral solemnities; either because they were prevented by their own death, as the wife of Phinehas was, or disturbed by the invasion of the enemy; or so overwhelmed with the sense of the public calamity, that the resentment of their private losses was swallowed up by it. See Job 27:15 Ezekiel 24:23. Their priests fell by the sword,.... Hophni and Phinehas, the sons of Eli, and other priests; which shows the cruelty of the enemy, not to spare men unarmed, as the priests were; and the justice of God, which pursued these men, who were very wicked, and whose character and office could not secure them from divine wrath:

and their widows made no lamentation; for their husbands the priests, who fell by the sword; particularly the widow of Phinehas, who upon the news fell into labour, and as soon as she brought forth her child died, and while she lived took no notice of the death of her husband, nor lamented that, only that the ark of the Lord was taken, 1 Samuel 4:19, and which might be the case of others; nor could they attend their funerals, or follow them to the grave with lamentations, they falling in battle; and such was their concern for the public loss, that their private sorrow was swallowed up in it. Some understand it of the disrespect and neglect of others, who came not to lament with them, and comfort them, as was usual: one of the Targums paraphrases the whole thus,

"at the time that the Philistines carried captive the ark of the Lord, the priests of Shiloh, Hophni, and Phinehas, fell by the sword; and at the time they brought their wives the news of it, they wept not, for they died even the same day.''

Their priests fell by the sword; and their {p} widows made no lamentation.

(p) Either they were slain before or taken prisoner by their enemies, and so were forbidden.

64. and their widows &c.] This line recurs word for word in Job 27:15. In the universal distress the customary rites of mourning were not performed, even for a husband (2 Samuel 11:26-27).Verse 64. - Their priests fell by the sword. As Hophni and Phinehas at the taking of the ark (1 Samuel 4:11), and, no doubt, many others on other occasions. And their widows made no lamentation. The solemn funeral dirge could not take place, since the bodies remained on the battlefield. When 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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