Psalm 81:8
Hear, O my people, and I will testify to you: O Israel, if you will listen to 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!" 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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