Psalm 81:7
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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(7) Thou calledst.—The recital of God’s past dealings with the people usual at the Feast of the Tabernacles (Deuteronomy 31:10-13; Nehemiah 8:18) appears to follow here as if the feast were actually in progress and the crowd were listening to the psalmist.

I answered thee in the secret place of thunder.—Mr. Burgess is undoubtedly right in taking the verb as from ānan, “to cover,” instead of ānah, “to answer.” I sheltered thee in the thundercloud, with plain allusion to the “cloudy pillar.” The same verb is used in Psalm 105:39, “He spread out the cloud for a covering.”

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.Thou calledst in trouble - The people of Israel. Exodus 2:23; Exodus 3:9; Exodus 14:10.

And I delivered thee - I brought the people out of Egypt.

I answered thee in the secret place of thunder - That is, in the lonely, retired, solemn place where the thunder rolled; the solitudes where there was no voice but the voice of thunder, and where that seemed to come from the deep recesses of the mountain gorges. The allusion is doubtless to Sinai. Compare Exodus 19:17-19. The meaning is, that he gave a response - a real reply - to their prayer - amid the solemn scenes of Sinai, when he gave them his law; when he recognized them as his people; when he entered into covenant with them.

I proved thee - I tried you; I tested your fidelity.

At the waters of Meribah - Margin, as in Hebrew, strife. This was at Mount Horeb. Exodus 17:5-7. The trial - the proof - consisted in his bringing water from the rock, showing that he was God - that he was their God.

7. secret place—the cloud from which He troubled the Egyptians (Ex 14:24).

proved thee—(Ps 7:10; 17:3)—tested their faith by the miracle.

Thou calledst in trouble; at the Red Sea, Exodus 14:10-12.

In the secret place of thunder; from the dark and cloudy pillar, whence I thundered and fought against the Egyptians. See Exodus 13:21 14:19,24. Others refer this to the thunder at Sinai. But at that time they were

not in trouble, but in a safe and glorious condition.

Thou calledst in trouble, and I delivered thee,.... That is, when Israel were in trouble in Egypt, as the Targum adds, and they cried unto the Lord in their distress, he heard them, and answered them, and sent them a deliverer, and brought them out of all their troubles, Exodus 3:7.

I answered thee in the secret place of thunder; by bringing the plague of thunder and lightnings upon the Egyptians, when the Israelites were hidden from them; a sense given by some, as Kimchi observes: or rather this was done when the Lord looked out of the pillar of cloud at the Red sea upon the Egyptian host, and troubled them; at which time the voice of his thunder was heard in heaven, Psalm 77:16. Some think this has reference to the thunder at the giving of the law on Mount Sinai; but the sense before given is best:

I proved thee at the waters of Meribah; by withholding water from them to try them, and see whether they would behave patiently, and put their trust and confidence in the Lord, or not; see Exodus 17:4.

Selah. See Gill on Psalm 3:2.

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

(g) By a strange and wonderful fashion.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
7. From the divine decree for Israel’s liberation the transition to an address to Israel is easy. Israel of the present is regarded as one with Israel of the past.

Thou calledst &c.] For the phrase cp. Psalm 50:15; and for the fact, Exodus 2:23 ff.

in the secret place of thunder] In the covert of the thunder-cloud God conceals and reveals Himself (Psalm 18:11; Psalm 18:13; Psalm 77:17 ff.). At the passage of the Red Sea, when Israel was sore afraid and cried out unto Jehovah, He “looked forth upon the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of cloud, and discomfited the host of the Egyptians” (Exodus 14:10; Exodus 14:24).

I proved thee at the waters of Meribah] Testing thy faith and obedience. The name Meribah or Strife was a reminder of repeated unbelief and ingratitude (Exodus 17:7; Numbers 20:13; Psalm 78:20); of the long ‘controversy’ (Micah 6:2) of a long-suffering God with an obstinate people. It is possible that the reference to this miracle in particular was suggested by the libations of water at the Feast of Tabernacles, which commemorated the supply of water in the wilderness.

Verse 7. - Thou calledst in trouble, and I delivered thee (see Exodus 2:23; Exodus 3:7; Exodus 14:10, etc.). I answered thee in the secret place of thunder. The pillar of the cloud seems to be meant. In this, and from this, God answered the cry of his people (Exodus 14:24). I proved thee at the waters of Meribah (Exodus 17:7). The "selah" after these words marks a pause, during which the people addressed might reflect on the manifold mercies which God had vouchsafed to them in Egypt, in the wilderness, and elsewhere. Psalm 81:7It is a gentle but profoundly earnest festival discourse which God the Redeemer addresses to His redeemed people. It begins, as one would expect in a Passover speech, with a reference to the סבלות of Egypt (Exodus 1:11-14; Exodus 5:4; Exodus 6:6.), and to the duwd, the task-basket for the transport of the clay and of the bricks (Exodus 1:14; Exodus 5:7.).

(Note: In the Papyrus Leydensis i. 346 the Israelites are called the "Aperiu (עברים), who dragged along the stones for the great watch-tower of the city of Rameses," and in the Pap. Leyd. i. 349, according to Lauth, the "Aperiu, who dragged along the stones for the storehouse of the city of Rameses.")

Out of such distress did He free the poor people who cried for deliverance (Exodus 2:23-25); He answered them בּסתר רעם, i.e., not (according to Psalm 22:22; Isaiah 32:2): affording them protection against the storm, but (according to Psalm 18:12; Psalm 77:17.): out of the thunder-clouds in which He at the same time revealed and veiled Himself, casting down the enemies of Israel with His lightnings, which is intended to refer pre-eminently to the passage through the Red Sea (vid., Psalm 77:19); and He proved them (אבחנך, with ŏ contracted from ō, cf. on Job 35:6) at the waters of Merbah, viz., whether they would trust Him further on after such glorious tokens of His power and loving-kindness. The name "Waters of Merı̂bah," which properly is borne only by Merı̂bath Kadesh, the place of the giving of water in the fortieth year (Numbers 20:13; Numbers 27:14; Deuteronomy 32:51; Deuteronomy 33:8), is here transferred to the place of the giving of water in the first year, which was named Massah u-Merı̂bah (Exodus 17:7), as the remembrances of these two miracles, which took place under similar circumstances, in general blend together (vid., on Psalm 95:8.). It is not now said that Israel did not act in response to the expectation of God, who had son wondrously verified Himself; the music, as Seal imports, here rises, and makes a long and forcible pause in what is being said. What now follows further, are, as the further progress of Psalm 81:12 shows, the words of God addressed to the Israel of the desert, which at the same time with its faithfulness are brought to the remembrance of the Israel of the present. העיד בּ, as in Psalm 50:7; Deuteronomy 8:19, to bear testimony that concerns him against any one. אם (according to the sense, o si, as in Psalm 95:7, which is in many ways akin to this Psalm) properly opens a searching question which wishes that the thing asked may come about (whether thou wilt indeed give me a willing hearing?!). In Psalm 81:10 the key-note of the revelation of the Law from Sinai is struck: the fundamental command which opens the decalogue demanded fidelity to Jahve and forbade idol-worship as the sin of sins. אל זר is an idol in opposition to the God of Israel as the true God; and אל נכר, a strange god in opposition to the true God as the God of Israel. To this one God Israel ought to yield itself all the more undividedly and heartily as it was more manifestly indebted entirely to Him, who in His condescension had chosen it, and in His wonder-working might had redeemed it (המּעלך, part. Hiph. with the eh elided, like הפּדך, Deuteronomy 13:6, and אכלך, from כּלּה, Exodus 33:3); and how easy this submission ought to have been to it, since He desired nothing in return for the rich abundance of His good gifts, which satisfy and quicken body and soul, but only a wide-opened mouth, i.e., a believing longing, hungering for mercy and eager for salvation (Psalm 119:131)!

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