Psalm 81:13
Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways!
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(13, 14) Hearken . . . subdue.—The verbs should be taken in a future sense, “Oh that my people would hearken . . . I should soon subdue,” &c. The poet changes from reminiscences of the past to the needs of the present.

Psalm 81:13. O that my people had hearkened unto me — In this way does God testify his good-will to, and concern for, the welfare and happiness of these most refractory, disobedient, and obstinate sinners. The expressions are very affecting, and much like those he uttered by Moses concerning them, Deuteronomy 5:29, “O that there were such a heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever.” Or like those which Christ breathed forth over the same people, when, beholding the city, he wept over it, and said, “If thou hadst known in this thy day the things which belong to thy peace,” &c. Or those other words of similar import, “O Jerusalem! Jerusalem! how often would I have gathered thy children together,” &c. All these, and such like passages, manifest the tender mercies of God, and show that he is not only careful to provide for mankind the means of salvation, but that he grieves, speaking after the manner of men, and mourns, with paternal affection, over them, when their frowardness and obstinacy disappoint the efforts of his love. They demonstrate two things; 1st, How unwilling he is that any should perish, and how desirous that all should come to repentance; and, 2d, What enemies sinners are to themselves; and what an aggravation it will be of their misery, that they might have been happy on such easy terms, but would not.

81:8-16 We cannot look for too little from the creature, nor too much from the Creator. We may have enough from God, if we pray for it in faith. All the wickedness of the world is owing to man's wilfulness. People are not religious, because they will not be so. God is not the Author of their sin, he leaves them to the lusts of their own hearts, and the counsels of their own heads; if they do not well, the blame must be upon themselves. The Lord is unwilling that any should perish. What enemies sinners are to themselves! It is sin that makes our troubles long, and our salvation slow. Upon the same conditions of faith and obedience, do Christians hold those spiritual and eternal good things, which the pleasant fields and fertile hills of Canaan showed forth. Christ is the Bread of life; he is the Rock of salvation, and his promises are as honey to pious minds. But those who reject him as their Lord and Master, must also lose him as their Saviour and their reward.Oh that my people had hearkened unto me - This passage is designed mainly to show what would have been the consequences if the Hebrew people had been obedient to the commands of God, Psalm 81:14-16. At the same time, however, it expresses what was the earnest desire - the wish - the preference of God, namely, that they had been obedient, and had enjoyed his favor. This is in accordance with all the statements, all the commands, all the invitations, all the warnings, in the Bible. In the entire volume of inspiration there is not one command addressed to people to walk in the ways of sin; there is not one statement that God desires they should do it; there is not one intimation that he wishes the death of the sinner. The contrary is implied in all the declarations which God has made - in all his commands, warnings, and invitations - in all his arrangements for the salvation of people. See Deuteronomy 5:29; Deuteronomy 32:29-30; Isaiah 48:18; Ezekiel 18:23, Ezekiel 18:32; Ezekiel 33:11; 2 Peter 3:9; Luke 19:42.

And Israel had walked in my ways! - Had kept my commandments; had been obedient to my laws. When people, therefore, do not walk in the ways of God it is impossible that they should take refuge, as an excuse for it, in the plea that God desires this, or that he commands it, or that he is pleased with it, or that he approves it. There is no possible sense in which this can be true; in every sense, and on every account, he prefers that people should be obedient, and not disobedient; good, and not bad; happy, and not miserable; saved, and not lost. Every doctrine of theology should be held and interpreted in consistency with this as a fundamental truth. That there are things which are difficult to be explained on the supposition that this is true, must be admitted; but what truth is there in reference to which there are not difficulties to be explained? And is there anything in this, or in any of the truths of the Bible, which more demands explanation than the facts which are actually occurring under the government of God: the fact that sin and misery have been allowed to come into the universe; the fact that multitudes constantly suffer whom God could at once relieve?

13-16. Obedience would have secured all promised blessings and the subjection of foes. In this passage, "should have," "would have," &c., are better, "should" and "would" expressing God's intention at the time, that is, when they left Egypt. No text from Poole on this verse.

O that my people had hearkened unto me,.... This might have been expected from them, as they were his professing people; and it would have been to their advantage if they had hearkened to him, as well as it would have been well pleasing to him; for that is what is designed by this wish, which does not express the purposing will of God; for who hath resisted that? if he had so willed, he could have given them ears to hear; but his commanding will, and what is his approving one: to hearken to him is not only to hearken to what he commands, but to what he approves of; it is the good and acceptable will of God that men should hearken to the declarations of his will in the law, and to the declarations of his grace in the Gospel; and indeed it is the voice of Christ, the Angel of God's presence, who went before the children of Israel in the wilderness, which they were to hearken to and obey, that is here meant; see Exodus 23:20, and Hebrews 3:6,

and Israel had walked in my ways; which he marked out and directed them unto, meaning his ordinances and commandments; which to walk in, as it denotes progress and continuance, and supposes and requires life and strength, so it is both pleasant and profitable.

{k} Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways!

(k) God by his word calls all, but his secret election appoints who will bear fruit.

13. O that my people were hearkening unto me,

That Israel would walk in my ways!

13–16. Yet God’s mercy is inexhaustible. Even now if Israel would obey Him, He would subdue their enemies, and bless them abundantly. Cp. Isaiah 48:17-19.

Verse 13. - Oh that my people had hearkened unto me! rather, would hearken unto me! (see Professor Driver's 'Hebrew Tenses,' § 145, and compare the Revised Version). And Israel had walked in my ways! rather would walk! Psalm 81:13The Passover discourse now takes a sorrowful and awful turn: Israel's disobedience and self-will frustrated the gracious purpose of the commandments and promises of its God. "My people" and "Israel" alternate as in the complaint in Isaiah 1:3. לא־אבה followed by the dative, as in Deuteronomy 13:9 ([8], ου ̓ συνθελήσεις αὐτῷ). Then God made their sin their punishment, by giving them over judicially (שׁלּח as in Job 8:4) into the obduracy of their heart, which rudely shuts itself up against His mercy (from שׁרר, Aramaic שׁרר, Arabic sarra, to make firm equals to cheer, make glad), so that they went on (cf. on the sequence of tense, Psalm 61:8) in their, i.e., their own, egotistical, God-estranged determinations; the suffix is thus accented, as e.g., in Isaiah 65:2, cf. the borrowed passage Jeremiah 7:24, and the same phrase in Micah 6:16. And now, because this state of unfaithfulness in comparison with God's faithfulness has remained essentially the same even to to-day, the exalted Orator of the festival passes over forthwith to the generation of the present, and that, as is in accordance with the cheerful character of the feast, in a charmingly alluring manner. Whether we take לוּ in the signification of si (followed by the participle, as in 2 Samuel 18:12), or like אם above in Psalm 81:9 as expressing a wish, o si (if but!), Psalm 81:15. at any rate have the relation of the apodosis to it. From כּמעט (for a little, easily) it may be conjectured that the relation of Israel at that time to the nations did not correspond to the dignity of the nation of God which is called to subdue and rule the world in the strength of God. השׁיב signifies in this passage only to turn, not: to again lay upon. The meaning is, that He would turn the hand which is now chastening His people against those by whom He is chastening them (cf. on the usual meaning of the phrase, Isaiah 1:25; Amos 1:8; Jeremiah 6:9; Ezekiel 38:12). The promise in Psalm 81:16 relates to Israel and all the members of the nation. The haters of Jahve would be compelled reluctantly to submit themselves to Him, and their time would endure for ever. "Time" is equivalent to duration, and in this instance with the collateral notion of Prosperity, as elsewhere (Isaiah 13:22) of the term of punishment. One now expects that it should continue with ואאכילהוּ, in the tone of a promise. The Psalm, however, closes with an historical statement. For ויּאכילהו cannot signify et cibaret eum; it ought to be pronounced ויאכילהו. The pointing, like the lxx, Syriac, and Vulgate, takes v. 17a (cf. Deuteronomy 32:13.) as a retrospect, and apparently rightly so. For even the Asaphic Psalm 77 and 78 break off with historical pictures. V. 17b is, accordingly, also to be taken as retrospective. The words of the poet in conclusion once more change into the words of God. The closing word runs אשׂבּיעך, as in Psalm 50:8, Deuteronomy 4:31, and (with the exception of the futt. Hiph. of Lamed He verbs ending with ekka) usually. The Babylonian system of pointing nowhere recognises the suffix-form ekka. If the Israel of the present would hearken to the Lawgiver of Sinai, says v. 17, then would He renew to it the miraculous gifts of the time of the redemption under Moses.
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