Psalm 81:1
To the chief Musician upon Gittith, A Psalm of Asaph. Sing aloud unto God our strength: make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob.
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Psalm 81:1-3. Sing aloud unto God our strength — Our refuge and defence against all our enemies. Bring hither the timbrel, &c. — All which instruments were then prescribed and used in their solemn meetings. Blow up the trumpet in the new-moon — Which was a sacred and festival time. But this may be understood, either, 1st, Generally of every new-moon; or, rather, 2d, Specially of that new-moon which began the seventh month, the month Tisri, when a solemn feast was kept, which was always proclaimed by the sound of trumpets. Compare this passage with Leviticus 23:24, and Numbers 29:1, where this day is called a day of blowing of trumpets; it being the first day of the Jewish civil year, and the time when the world was supposed to have been created, the fruits being then ripe. “The fixing of the time of the new-moon among the Jews, for want of astronomical tables, was done in this manner. The first persons who observed, or thought they observed, the new-moon, were to repair immediately to the grand council to give notice of it. Inquiry was then made into the credibility of the informers, and whether their information agreed with such computations as they were then able to make. After which the president proclaimed the new-moon, by saying, מקדשׁ, mikdash, it is consecrated, or holy. This word was twice repeated aloud by the people, after which it was ordered to be proclaimed everywhere by the sound of the trumpet.” — Univ. Hist., vol. 3. p. 33.

81:1-7 All the worship we can render to the Lord is beneath his excellences, and our obligations to him, especially in our redemption from sin and wrath. What God had done on Israel's behalf, was kept in remembrance by public solemnities. To make a deliverance appear more gracious, more glorious, it is good to observe all that makes the trouble we are delivered from appear more grievous. We ought never to forget the base and ruinous drudgery to which Satan, our oppressor, brought us. But when, in distress of conscience, we are led to cry for deliverance, the Lord answers our prayers, and sets us at liberty. Convictions of sin, and trials by affliction, prove his regard to his people. If the Jews, on their solemn feast-days, were thus to call to mind their redemption out of Egypt, much more ought we, on the Christian sabbath, to call to mind a more glorious redemption, wrought out for us by our Lord Jesus Christ, from worse bondage.Sing aloud unto God our strength - The strength and support of the nation; he from whom the nation has derived all its power. The word rendered sing aloud means to rejoice; and then, to make or cause to rejoice. It would be appropriate to a high festal occasion, where music constituted an important part of the public service. And it would be a proper word to employ in reference to any of the great feasts of the Hebrews.

Make a joyful noise - A noise indicating joy, as distinguished from a noise of mourning or lamentation.

Unto the God of Jacob - Not here particularly the God of the patriarch himself, but of the people who bore his name - his descendants.


Ps 81:1-16. Gittith—(See on [614]Ps 8:1, title). A festal Psalm, probably for the passover (compare Mt 26:30), in which, after an exhortation to praise God, He is introduced, reminding Israel of their obligations, chiding their neglect, and depicting the happy results of obedience.

1. our strength—(Ps 38:7).

1 Sing aloud unto God our strength: make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob.

2 Take a Psalm, and bring hither the timbrel, the pleasant harp with the psaltery.

3 Blow up the trumpet in the new moon, in the time appointed, on our solemn feast day.

4 For this was a statute for Israel, and a law of the God of Jacob.

5 This he ordained in Joseph for a testimony, when he went out through the land of Egypt: where I heard a language that I understood not.

6 I removed his shoulder from the burden: his hands were delivered from the pots.

7 Thou calledst in trouble, and I delivered thee; I answered thee in the secret place of thunder: I proved thee at the waters of Meribah. Selah.

Psalm 81:1

"Sing" in tune and measure, so that the public praise may be in harmony; sing with joyful notes, and sounds melodious. "Aloud." For the heartiest praise is due to our good Lord. His acts of love to us speak more loudly than any of our words of gratitude can do. No dulness should ever stupify our psalmody, or half-heartedness cause it to limp along. Sing aloud, ye debtors to sovereign grace, your hearts are profoundly grateful: let your voices express your thankfulness. "Unto God our strength." The Lord was the strength of his people in delivering them out of Egypt with a high hand, and also in sustaining them in the wilderness, placing them in Canaan, preserving them from their foes, and giving them victory. To whom do men give honour but to those upon whom they rely, therefore let us sing aloud unto our God, who is our strength and our song. "Make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob." The God of the nation, the God of their father Jacob, was extolled in gladsome music by the Israelitish people: let no Christian be silent, or slack in praise, for this God is our God. It is to be regretted that the niceties of modern singing frighten our congregations from joining lustily in the hymns. For our part we delight in full bursts of praise, and had rather discover the ruggedness of a want of musical training than miss the heartiness of universal congregational song. The gentility which lisps the tune in wellbred whispers, or leaves the singing altogether to the choir, is very like a mockery of worship. The gods of Greece and Rome may be worshipped well enough with classical music, but Jehovah can only be adored with the heart, and that music is the best for his service which gives the heart most play.

Psalm 81:2

"Take a psalm." Select a sacred song, and then raise it with your hearty voices. "And bring hither the timbrel." Beat on your tambourines, ye damsels, let the sound be loud and inspiriting. "Sound the trumpets, beat the drums." God is not to be served with misery but with mirthful music, sound ye then the loud timbrel, as of old ye smote it by "Egypt's dark sea." "The pleasant harp with the psaltery." The timbrel for sound, must be joined by the harp for sweetness, and this by other stringed instruments for variety. Let the full compass of music be holiness unto the Lord.

Psalm 81:3

"Blow up the trumpet in the new moon." Announce the sacred month, the beginning of months, when the Lord brought his people out of the house of bondage. Clear and shrill let the summons be which calls all Israel to adore the Redeeming Lord. "In the time appointed, on our solemn feast day." Obedience is to direct our worship, not whim and sentiment: God's appointment gives a solemnity to rites and times which no ceremonial pomp or hierarchical ordinance could confer. The Jews not only observed the ordained month, but that part of the month which had been divinely set apart. The Lord's people in the olden time welcomed the times appointed for worship; let us feel the same exultation, and never speak of the Sabbath as though it could be other than "a delight" and "honourable." Those who plead this passage as authority for their man-appointed feasts and fasts must be moonstruck. We will keep such feasts as the Lord appoints, but not those which Rome or Canterbury may ordain.

Psalm 81:4

continued...THE ARGUMENT

This Psalm seems to have been made for the use of the church in solemn feasts; particularly either upon every first day of the month, or upon the first day of the seventh mouth, which was celebrated with more solemn blast of trumpets, Leviticus 23:24 Numbers 29:1; because that month was more sacred than others by reason of the concurrence of divers religious solemnities in it.

Gittith; of which title See Poole "Psalm 8:1".

An exhortation to a solemn praising of God, Psalm 81:1-3; which he requireth for his manifold mercies and deliverances, Psalm 81:4-7; and, exhorting to obedience, and the worshipping of him the true God, Psalm 81:8-10, complaineth of their disobedience, which tended to their own hurt and affliction, Psalm 81:11-16.

Our strength; who is all our refuge and safeguard against all our enemies.

Sing aloud unto God our strength,.... The strength of Israel, who, by strength of hand, and a mighty arm, brought Israel out of Egypt, protected and upheld them in the wilderness, and brought them to, and settled and established them in the land of Canaan; and who is the strength of every true Israelite, from whom they have both their natural and spiritual strength; so that they can exercise grace, perform duty, bear afflictions, withstand temptations, fight with and conquer enemies, and hold on and out unto the end; and therefore have reason to sing the praises of God with great fervour, zeal, and affection:

make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob; or Israel, being the God that had made a covenant with them, had chosen them for his peculiar people, and had redeemed them out of the house of bondage, and bestowed peculiar favours upon them; and therefore were under obligation to show forth his praise vocally and audibly, and with strong expressions of joy; and the spiritual Israel of God much more so, who have an interest in the covenant of grace, and share in electing, redeeming, and calling grace, by all which he appears to be their God and Father, in a special sense.

<{a} Gittith, A Psalm of Asaph.>> Sing {b} aloud unto God our strength: make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob.

(a) An instrument of music brought from Geth.

(b) It seems that this psalm was appointed for solemn feasts and assemblies of the people to whom for a time these ceremonies were ordained, but now under the gospel are abolished.

1. God our strength] Cp. Exodus 15:2; Psalm 46:1.

1–3. A call to the joyous celebration of the festival, addressed to the whole congregation (Psalm 81:1), to the Levites as the appointed leaders of the Temple music (Psalm 81:2), and to the Priests, whose special duty it was to blow the trumpets (Psalm 81:3). See Numbers 10:8; Numbers 10:10; Joshua 6:4 ff.; 2 Chronicles 5:12 ff; 2 Chronicles 7:6; Ezra 3:10.

Verse 1. - Sing aloud unto God our Strength. "Loud" singing is regarded as indicative of earnestness and sincerity (see 2 Chronicles 20:19; Nehemiah 12:42; Psalm 33:3; Psalm 98:4, etc.). (On God as Israel's "Strength," see Psalm 27:1; Psalm 28:8; Psalm 46:1; Psalm 111:7.) Make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob. The word translated "make a joyful noise" is especially used of the blare of trumpets (Leviticus 23:24; Numbers 29:1). Psalm 81:1The summons in Psalm 81:2 is addressed to the whole congregation, inasmuch as הריעוּ is not intended of the clanging of the trumpets, but as in Ezra 3:11, and frequently. The summons in Psalm 81:3 is addressed to the Levites, the appointed singers and musicians in connection with the divine services, 2 Chronicles 5:12, and frequently. The summons in Psalm 81:4 is addressed to the priests, to whom was committed not only the blowing of the two (later on a hundred and twenty, vid., 2 Chronicles 5:12) silver trumpets, but who appear also in Joshua 6:4 and elsewhere (cf. Psalm 47:6 with 2 Chronicles 20:28) as the blowers of the shophar. The Talmud observes that since the destruction of the Temple the names of instruments שׁופרא and חצוצרתּא are wont to be confounded one for the other (B. Sabbath 36a, Succa 34a), and, itself confounding them, infers from Numbers 10:10 the duty and significance of the blowing of the shophar (B. Erachin 3b). The lxx also renders both by σάλπιγξ; but the Biblical language mentions שׁופר and חצצרה, a horn (more especially a ram's horn) and a (metal) trumpet, side by side in Psalm 98:6; 1 Chronicles 15:28, and is therefore conscious of a difference between them. The Tפra says nothing of the employment of the shophar in connection with divine service, except that the commencement of every fiftieth year, which on this very account is called שׁנת היּבל, annus buccinae, is to be made known by the horn signal throughout all the land (Leviticus 25:9). But just as tradition by means of an inference from analogy derives the blowing of the shophar on the first of Tishri, the beginning of the common year, from this precept, so on the ground of the passage of the Psalm before us, assuming that בּחרשׁ, lxx ἐν νεομηνίᾳ, refers not to the first of Tishri but to the first of Nisan, we may suppose that the beginning of every month, but, in particular, the beginning of the month which was at the same time the beginning of the ecclesiastical year, was celebrated by a blowing of the shophar, as, according to Josephus, Bell. iv. 9, 12, the beginning and close of the Sabbath was announced from the top of the Temple by a priest with the salpinx. The poet means to say that the Feast of the Passover is to be saluted by the congregation with shouts of joy, by the Levites with music, and even beginning from the new moon (neomenia) of the Passover month with blowing of shophars, and that this is to be continued at the Feast of the Passover itself. The Feast of the Passover, for which Hupfeld devises a gloomy physiognomy,

(Note: In the first of his Commentationes de primitiva et vera festorum apud Hebraeos ratione, 1851, 4to.)

was a joyous festival, the Old Testament Christmas. 2 Chronicles 30:21 testifies to the exultation of the people and the boisterous music of the Levite priests, with which it was celebrated. According to Numbers 10:10, the trumpeting of the priests was connected with the sacrifices; and that the slaying of the paschal lambs took place amidst the Tantaratan of the priests (long-drawn notes interspersed with sharp shrill ones, תקיעה תרועה וקיעה), is expressly related of the post-exilic service at least.

(Note: Vid., my essay on the Passover rites during the time of the second Temple in the Luther. Zeitschr. 1855; and cf. Armknecht, Die heilige Psalmidoe (1855), S. 5.)

The phrase נתן תּף proceeds from the phrase נתן קול, according to which נתן directly means: to attune, strike up, cause to be heard. Concerning כּסה (Proverbs 7:20 כּסא) tradition is uncertain. The Talmudic interpretation (B. Rosh ha-Shana 8b, Betza 16a, and the Targum which is taken from it), according to which it is the day of the new moon (the first of the month), on which the moon hides itself, i.e., is not to be seen at all in the morning, and in the evening only for a short time immediately after sunset, and the interpretation that is adopted by a still more imposing array of authorities (lxx, Vulgate, Menahem, Rashi, Jacob Tam, Aben-Ezra, Parchon, and others), according to which a time fixed by computation (from כּסה equals כּסס, computare) is so named in general, are outweighed by the usage of the Syriac, in which Keso denotes the full moon as the moon with covered, i.e., filled-up orb, and therefore the fifteenth of the month, but also the time from that point onwards, perhaps because then the moon covers itself, inasmuch as its shining surface appears each day less large (cf. the Peshto, 1 Kings 12:32 of the fifteenth day of the eighth month, 2 Chronicles 7:10 of the twenty-third day of the seventh month, in both instances of the Feast of Tabernacles), after which, too, in the passage before us it is rendered wa-b-kese, which a Syro-Arabic glossary (in Rosenmller) explains festa quae sunt in medio mensis. The Peshto here, like the Targum, proceeds from the reading חגּינוּ, which, following the lxx and the best texts, is to be rejected in comparison with the singular חגּנוּ. If, however, it is to be read chgnw, and כּסה (according to Kimchi with Segol not merely in the second syllable, but with double Segol כּסה, after the form טנא equals טנא) signifies not interlunium, but plenilunium (instead of which also Jerome has in medio mense, and in Proverbs 7:20, in die plenae lunae, Aquila ἡμέρᾳ πανσελήνου), then what is meant is either the Feast of Tabernacles, which is called absolutely החג in 1 Kings 8:2 (2 Chronicles 5:3) and elsewhere, or the Passover, which is also so called in Isaiah 30:29 and elsewhere. Here, as Psalm 81:5 will convince us, the latter is intended, the Feast of unleavened bread, the porch of which, so to speak, is ערב פּסח together with the ליל שׁמּרים (Exodus 12:42), the night from the fourteenth to the fifteenth of Nisan. In Psalm 81:2, Psalm 81:3 they are called upon to give a welcome to this feast. The blowing of the shophar is to announce the commencement of the Passover month, and at the commencement of the Passover day which opens the Feast of unleavened bread it is to be renewed. The ל of ליום is not meant temporally, as perhaps in Job 21:30 : at the day equals on the day; for why was it not ביום? It is rather: towards the day, but בכסה assumes that the day has already arrived; it is the same Lamed as in Psalm 81:2, the blowing of the shophar is to concern this feast-day, it is to sound in honour of it.

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