Psalm 81:7
You called in trouble, and I delivered you; I answered you in the secret place of thunder: I proved you at the waters of Meribah. Selah.
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(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.

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. The 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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