Psalm 81:8
Hear, O my people, and I will testify unto thee: O Israel, if thou wilt hearken unto me;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(8) Hear, O my people.—The Divine voice here repeats the warnings so frequently uttered during the desert-wandering.

Psalm 81:8-10. Hear, O my people — And who should hear me if my people will not? I have heard and answered thee, now wilt thou hear me? Hear what is said, with the greatest solemnity, and the most unquestionable certainty, for it is what I, the God of truth and love, thy lawgiver and thy judge, declare for thy profit. And I will testify unto thee — Concerning my will and thy duty. I will give thee statutes and judgments, in the execution of which thou mayest live and be happy for ever. This God did presently after he brought them from Meribah, even at Sinai. There shall no strange god be in thee — Thou shalt renounce all false gods, and false ways of worship, and shalt worship me only, and only in the manner which I shall prescribe. Thus, in effect, God addressed himself to Israel at Sinai, and thus he addressed himself to them when this Psalm was written, and thus he addresses his people in every age. He thus put them in remembrance of the first and great command, Thou shalt have no other gods before me; and of his claim to their obedience as their God and Saviour. Open thy mouth wide — That Isaiah , 1 st, Pray for my mercies; ask freely, and abundantly, and boldly, whatsoever you need, or in reason can desire. 2d, Receive the mercies which I am ready to give you. And I will fill it — I will grant them all upon condition of your obedience. Here then he testifies, that he is both able and willing to satisfy the utmost desires and wishes of such as would apply to him for blessings, especially spiritual blessings and comforts. “Behold then the rebellion, the ingratitude, and the folly of that man, who says to any creature, ‘Thou art my God;’ who bestoweth on the world that fear, love, and adoration, which are due only to its Creator and Redeemer; who wasteth his days in seeking after happiness, where all, by their inquietude, acknowledge that it is not to be found.” — Horne.

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.Hear, O my people, and I will testify unto thee ... - See the notes at the similar passage in Psalm 50:7. God calls their attention to what he required of them; to what his law demanded; to what was the condition of their being his people and of securing his favor. What the demanded was, that they should acknowledge him; obey him; serve him; that there should be no strange god among them, and that they should worship no false god, Psalm 81:9. 8. (Compare Ps 50:7). The reproof follows to Ps 81:12.

if thou wilt hearken—He then propounds the terms of His covenant: they should worship Him alone, who (Ps 81:10) had delivered them, and would still confer all needed blessings.

8 Hear, O my people, and I will testify unto thee: O Israel, if thou wilt hearken unto me;

9 There shall no strange God be in thee; neither shalt thou worship any strange god.

10 I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.

11 But my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me.

12 So I gave them up unto their own hearts' lust: and they walked in their own counsels.

13 Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways!

14 I should soon have subdued their enemies, and turned my hand against their adversaries.

15 The haters of the Lord should have submitted themselves unto him: but their time should have endured for ever.

16 He should have fed them also with the finest of the wheat: and with honey out of the rock should I have satisfied thee.

Psalm 81:8

"Hear, O my people, and I will testily unto thee." What? Are the people so insensible as to be deaf to their God? So it would seem, for he earnestly asks a hearing. Are we not also at times quite as careless and immovable? "O Israel, if thou wilt hearken unto me." There is much in this "if." How low have they fallen who will not hearken unto God himself! The deaf adder is not more grovelling. We are not fond of being upbraided, we had rather avoid sharp and cutting truths; and, though the Lord himself rebuke us, we fly from his gentle reproofs.

Psalm 81:9

"There shall no strange god be in thee." No alien god is to be tolerated in Israel's tents. "Neither shalt thou worship any strange god." Where false gods are, their worship is sure to follow. Man is so desperate an idolater that the image is always a strong temptation: while the nests are there the birds will be eager to return. No other god had done anything for the Jews, and therefore they had no reason for paying homage to any other. To us the same argument will apply, We owe all to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: the world, the flesh, the devil, none of these have been of any service to us; they are aliens, foreigners, enemies, and it is not for us to bow down before them. "Little children keep yourselves from idols," is our Lord's voice to us, and by the power of his Spirit we would cast out every false god from our hearts.

Psalm 81:10

continued...

I will testify unto thee, concerning my will and thy duty. I will give thee statutes and judgments, in the execution of which thou mayst live and be happy for ever. This God did presently after he brought them from Meribah, even at Sinai.

Hear, O my people, and I will testify unto thee,.... Of himself, his being, and perfections; what he was unto them, had done for them, and would do for them, as in the following verses: or "testify in thee" (d), bear witness to their spirits, that they were his people, and he was their God; this is a witness which the people of God have in themselves; it is the inward testimony of the Spirit; besides which, there is the outward testimony of the word, and which also may be here meant; for it may be rendered,

I will give a testimony to thee: the law is a testimony of the will of God to his people, what he would have done, or not done; and the Gospel is a testimony of his grace, and the whole word testifies of Christ, his person, offices, obedience, sufferings, and death: some render it, "testify against thee" (e), for their murmurings, rebellion, and idolatry, as in Psalm 50:7 and they are called upon to hear the voice of God in his word, and in his providences, being his people; and as such he addresses them, which bespeaks interest in them, affection to them, and an acknowledgment of them, and carries in it a reason why they should hear him:

O Israel, if thou wilt hearken unto me; this explains who are meant by the Lord's people, Israel, the posterity of Jacob, a chosen and special people, who are exhorted not only to hear, but to hearken and to obey; suggesting, it would be well with them, if they did as in Psalm 81:13, and some (f) take these words to be a wish, as there; "Israel, O that thou wouldest hearken unto me": see Isaiah 48:18.

(d) "testificabor in te", Gejerus. (e) "Ut testificer contra te", Schmidt. (f) So Michaelis, and Gussetius, and Genevenses, in ib. Comment. Ebr. p. 431.

{h} Hear, O my people, and I will testify unto thee: O Israel, if thou wilt hearken unto me;

(h) He condemns all assemblies where the people are not attentive to hear God's voice, and to give obedience to the same.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
8. Hear … and I will testify unto thee] Or, I will protest unto thee, of solemn warning and exhortation. Cp. Psalm 50:7; and numerous passages in Deuteronomy, e.g. Deuteronomy 6:4; Deuteronomy 5:1; Deuteronomy 5:6; Deuteronomy 4:26; Deuteronomy 30:19, Deuteronomy 31:28.

if thou wilt hearken &c.] Better as R.V., if thou wouldest hearken unto me!

8–10. Israel’s duty of allegiance to Jehovah alone; the fundamental principle of the covenant. Israel in the wilderness is primarily addressed, but Israel of every age is included.

Verse 8. - Hear, O my people (comp. vers. 11, 13). Israel is still "God's people," however rebellious (vers. 11, 12). God has not yet given them up. And I will testify unto thee; or, "protest unto thee" (Kay, Cheyne). O Israel, if thou wilt hearken unto me; or, "if thou wouldst but hearken unto me!" Psalm 81:8It 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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