Psalm 81:1
Sing aloud to God our strength: make a joyful noise to the God of Jacob.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
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.

PSALM 81

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.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
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). The complaint now assumes a detailing character in this strophe, inasmuch as it contrasts the former days with the present; and the ever more and more importunate prayer moulds itself in accordance therewith. The retrospective description begins, as is rarely the case, with the second modus, inasmuch as "the speaker thinks more of the bare nature of the act than of the time" (Ew. 136, b). As in the blessing of Jacob (Genesis 49:22) Joseph is compared to the layer (בּן) of a fruitful growth (פּרת), whose shoots (בּנות) climb over the wall: so here Israel is compared to a vine (Genesis 49:22; גּפן פּריּח, Psalm 128:3), which has become great in Egypt and been transplanted thence into the Land of Promise. הסּיע, lxx μεταίρειν, as in Job 19:10, perhaps with an allusion to the מסעים of the people journeying to Canaan (Psalm 78:52).

(Note: Exod. Rabba, ch. 44, with reference to this passage, says: "When husbandmen seek to improve a vine, what do they do? They root (עוקרין) it out of its place and plant (שׁותלין) it in another." And Levit. Rabba, ch. 36, says: "As one does not plant a vine in a place where there are great, rough stones, but examines the ground and then plants it, so didst Thou drive out peoples and didst plant it," etc.)

Here God made His vine a way and a place (פּנּהּ, to clear, from פּנה, to turn, turn aside, Arabic fanija, to disappear, pass away; root פן, to urge forward), and after He had secured to it a free soil and unchecked possibility of extension, it (the vine) rooted its roots, i.e., struck them ever deeper and wider, and filled the earth round about (cf. the antitype in the final days, Isaiah 27:6). The Israelitish kingdom of God extended itself on every side in accordance with the promise. תּשׁלּח (cf. Ezekiel 17:6, and vegetable שׁלח, a shoot) also has the vine as its subject, like תּשׁרשׁ. Psalm 80:11-12 state this in a continued allegory, by the "mountains" pointing to the southern boundary, by the "cedars" to the northern, by the "sea" to the western, and by the "river" (Euphrates) to the eastern boundary of the country (vid., Deuteronomy 11:24 and other passages). צלּהּ and ענפיה are accusatives of the so-called more remote object (Ges. 143, 1). קציר is a cutting equals a branch; יונקת, a (vegetable) sucker equals a young, tender shoot; ארזי־אל, the cedars of Lebanon as being living monuments of the creative might of God. The allegory exceeds the measure of the reality of nature, inasmuch as this is obliged to be extended according to the reality of that which is typified and historical. But how unlike to the former times is the present! The poet asks "wherefore?" for the present state of things is a riddle to him. The surroundings of the vine are torn down; all who come in contact with it pluck it (ארה, to pick off, pluck off, Talmudic of the gathering of figs); the boar out of the wood (מיער with עין תלויה, Ajin)

(Note: According to Kiddushin, 30a, because this Ajin is the middle letter of the Psalter as the Waw of גחון, Leviticus 11:42, is the middle letter of the Tra. One would hardly like to be at the pains of proving the correctness of this statement; nevertheless in the seventeenth century there lived one Laymarius, a clergyman, who was not afraid of this trouble, and found the calculations of the Masora (e.g., that אדני ה occurs 222 times) in part inaccurate; vid., Monatliche Unterredungen, 1691, S. 467, and besides, Geiger, Urschrift und Uebersetzungen der Bibel, S. 258f.))

cuts it off (כּרסם, formed out of כּסם equals גּזם

(Note: Saadia appropriately renders it Arab. yqrḍhâ, by referring, as does Dunash also, to the Talmudic קרסם, which occurs of ants, like Arab. qrḍ, of rodents. So Peah ii. 7, Menachoth 71b, on which Rashi observes, "the locust (חגב) is accustomed to eat from above, the ant tears off the corn-stalk from below." Elsewhere קירסם denotes the breaking off of dry branches from the tree, as זרד the removal of green branches.))

viz., with its tusks; and that which moves about the fields (vid., concerning זיז, Psalm 50:11), i.e., the untractable, lively wild beast, devours it. Without doubt the poet associates a distinct nation with the wild boar in his mind; for animals are also in other instances the emblems of nations, as e.g., the leviathan, the water-serpent, the behemoth (Isaiah 30:6), and flies (Isaiah 7:18) are emblems of Egypt. The Midrash interprets it of Ser-Edom, and זיז שׂדי, according to Genesis 16:12, of the nomadic Arabs.

In Psalm 80:15 the prayer begins for the third time with threefold urgency, supplicating for the vine renewed divine providence, and a renewal of the care of divine grace. We have divided the verse differently from the accentuation, since שׁוּב־נא הבּט is to be understood according to Ges. 142. The junction by means of ו is at once opposed to the supposition that וכּנּה in Psalm 80:16 signifies a slip or plant, plantam (Targum, Syriac, Aben-Ezra, Kimchi, and others), and that consequently the whole of Psalm 80:16 is governed by וּפקד. Nor can it mean its (the vine's) stand or base, כּן (Bttcher), since one does not plant a "stand." The lxx renders וכנה: καὶ κατάρτισαι, which is imper. aor. 1. med., therefore in the sense of כּוננה.

(Note: Perhaps the Caph majusculum is the result of an erasure that required to be made, vid., Geiger, Urschrift, S. 295. Accordingly the Ajin suspensum might also be the result of a later inserted correction, for there is a Phoenician inscription that has יר (wood, forest); vid., Levy, Phnizisches Wrterbuch, S. 22.)

But the alternation of על (cf. Proverbs 2:11, and Arab. jn ‛lâ, to cover over) with the accusative of the object makes it more natural to derive כנה, not from כּנן equals כּוּן, but from כּנן Arab. kanna equals גּנן, to cover, conceal, protect (whence Arab. kinn, a covering, shelter, hiding-place): and protect him whom...or: protect what Thy right hand has planted. The pointing certainly seems to take כנה as the feminine of כּן (lxx, Daniel 11:7, φυτόν); for an imperat. paragog. Kal of the form כּנּה does not occur elsewhere, although it might have been regarded by the punctuists as possible from the form גּל, volve, Psalm 119:22. If it is regarded as impossible, then one might read כנּה. At any rate the word is imperative, as the following אשׁר, eum quem, also shows, instead of which, if כנה were a substantive, one would expect to find a relative clause without אשׁר, as in Psalm 80:16. Moreover Psalm 80:16 requires this, since פּקד על can only be used of visiting with punishment. And who then would the slip (branch) and the son of man be in distinction from the vine? If we take בנה as imperative, then, as one might expect, the vine and the son of man are both the people of God. The Targum renders Psalm 80:16 thus: "and upon the King Messiah, whom Thou hast established for Thyself," after Psalm 2:1-12 and Daniel 7:13; but, as in the latter passage, it is not the Christ Himself, but the nation out of which He is to proceed, that is meant. אמּץ has the sense of firm appropriation, as in Isaiah 44:14, inasmuch as the notion of making fast passes over into that of laying firm hold of, of seizure. Rosenmller well renders it: quem adoptatum tot nexibus tibi adstrinxisti.

The figure of the vine, which rules all the language here, is also still continued in Psalm 80:17; for the partt. fem. refer to גּפן ot refer, - the verb, however, may take the plural form, because those of Israel are this "vine," which combusta igne, succisa (as in Isaiah 33:12; Aramaic, be cut off, tear off, in Psalm 80:13 the Targum word for ארה; Arabic, ksḥ, to clear away, peel off), is just perishing, or hangs in danger of destruction (יאבדוּ) before the threatening of the wrathful countenance of God. The absence of anything to denote the subject, and the form of expression, which still keeps within the circle of the figure of the vine, forbid us to understand this Psalm 80:17 of the extirpation of the foes. According to the sense תּהי־ידך על

(Note: The תהי has Gaja, like שׂאו־זמרה (Psalm 81:3), בני־נכר (Psalm 144:7), and the like. This Gaja beside the Sheb (instead of beside the following vowel) belongs to the peculiarities of the metrical books, which in general, on account of their more melodious mode of delivery, have many such a Gaja beside Sheb, which does not occur in the prose books. Thus, e.g., יהוה and אלהים always have Gaja beside the Sheb when they have Rebia magnum without a conjunctive, probably because Rebia and Dech had such a fulness of tone that a first stroke fell even upon the Sheb-letters.)

coincides with the supplicatory כנה על. It is Israel that is called בּן in Psalm 80:16, as being the son whom Jahve has called into being in Egypt, and then called out of Egypt to Himself and solemnly declared to be His son on Sinai (Exodus 4:22; Hosea 11:1), and who is now, with a play upon the name of Benjamin in Psalm 80:3 (cf. Psalm 80:16), called אישׁ ימינך, as being the people which Jahve has preferred before others, and has placed at His right hand

(Note: Pinsker punctuates thus: Let Thy hand be upon the man, Thy right hand upon the son of man, whom, etc.; but the impression that ימינך and אמצתה לך coincide is so strong, that no one of the old interpreters (from the lxx and Targum onwards) has been able to free himself from it.)

continued...

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