Wesley's Notes on the Bible
78:1 My law - The doctrine which I am about to deliver.
I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old:
78:2 Parable - Weighty sentences. Dark sayings - Not that the words are hard to be understood, but the things, God's transcendent goodness, their unparallel'd ingratitude; and their stupid ignorance and insensibleness, under such excellent teachings of God's word and works, are prodigious and hard to be believed. Of old - Of things done in ancient times.
Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done.
For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children:
78:5 Established - This is justly put in first place, as the chief of all his mercies. A testimony - His law, called a testimony, because it is a witness between God and men, declaring the duties which God expects from man, and the blessings which man may expect from God.
That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children:
That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments:
And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not stedfast with God.
The children of Ephraim, being armed, and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle.
78:9 Ephraim - That Ephraim is here put for all Israel seems evident from the following verse s, wherein the sins, upon which this overthrow is charged, are manifestly the sins of all the children of Israel, and they who are here called Ephraim are called Jacob and Israel, ver.21, and this passage may refer to that dreadful overthrow related, 1Sam 4:10,11, which is particularly named, because as the ark, so the flight was in that tribe. And the psalmist having related this amazing providence, falls into a large discourse of the causes of it, namely, the manifold sins of that and the former generations, which having prosecuted from hence to ver.60, he there returns to this history, and relates the sad consequence of that disaster, the captivity of the ark, and God's forsaking of Shiloh and Ephraim, and removing thence to the tribe of Judah and mount Zion. Bows - These are put for all arms.
They kept not the covenant of God, and refused to walk in his law;
And forgat his works, and his wonders that he had shewed them.
Marvellous things did he in the sight of their fathers, in the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan.
78:12 Field - In the territory. Zoan - An ancient and eminent city of Egypt.
He divided the sea, and caused them to pass through; and he made the waters to stand as an heap.
In the daytime also he led them with a cloud, and all the night with a light of fire.
He clave the rocks in the wilderness, and gave them drink as out of the great depths.
78:15 Wilderness - In Rephidim, and again in Kadesh.
He brought streams also out of the rock, and caused waters to run down like rivers.
78:16 Streams - Which miraculously followed them in all their travels, even to the borders of Canaan.
And they sinned yet more against him by provoking the most High in the wilderness.
78:17 Wilderness - Where they had such singular obligations to obedience. This was a great aggravation of their sins.
And they tempted God in their heart by asking meat for their lust.
78:18 Tempted - Desired a proof of God's power. Lust - Not for their necessary subsistence, but out of an inordinate and luxurious appetite.
Yea, they spake against God; they said, Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?
Behold, he smote the rock, that the waters gushed out, and the streams overflowed; can he give bread also? can he provide flesh for his people?
Therefore the LORD heard this, and was wroth: so a fire was kindled against Jacob, and anger also came up against Israel;
Because they believed not in God, and trusted not in his salvation:
78:22 Trusted not - That he both could, and would save them from the famine which they feared.
Though he had commanded the clouds from above, and opened the doors of heaven,
78:23 Heaven - Which he compares to a store - house, whereof God shuts or opens the doors, as he sees fit.
And had rained down manna upon them to eat, and had given them of the corn of heaven.
Man did eat angels' food: he sent them meat to the full.
78:25 Angels food - Manna, so called, because it was made by the ministry of angels.
He caused an east wind to blow in the heaven: and by his power he brought in the south wind.
78:26 South wind - First an eastern, and afterwards a southern wind.
He rained flesh also upon them as dust, and feathered fowls like as the sand of the sea:
78:27 Fowl - But God took away from them the use of their wings, and made them to fall into the hands of the Israelites.
And he let it fall in the midst of their camp, round about their habitations.
So they did eat, and were well filled: for he gave them their own desire;
They were not estranged from their lust. But while their meat was yet in their mouths,
The wrath of God came upon them, and slew the fattest of them, and smote down the chosen men of Israel.
78:31 Mightiest - The most healthy and strong, who probably were most desirous of this food, and fed most eagerly upon it.
For all this they sinned still, and believed not for his wondrous works.
Therefore their days did he consume in vanity, and their years in trouble.
78:33 Vanity - In tedious and fruitless marches hither and thither. Trouble - In manifold diseases, dangers, and perplexities.
When he slew them, then they sought him: and they returned and inquired early after God.
78:34 Returned - From their idols. Enquired - Speedily sought to God for ease and safety.
And they remembered that God was their rock, and the high God their redeemer.
78:35 Redeemer - That God alone had preserved them in all their former exigencies, and that he only could help them.
Nevertheless they did flatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongues.
78:36 Lied - They made but false protestations of their sincere resolutions of future obedience.
For their heart was not right with him, neither were they stedfast in his covenant.
But he, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not: yea, many a time turned he his anger away, and did not stir up all his wrath.
For he remembered that they were but flesh; a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again.
How oft did they provoke him in the wilderness, and grieve him in the desert!
Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel.
They remembered not his hand, nor the day when he delivered them from the enemy.
78:42 Hand - The glorious works of his hand. Enemy - That remarkable day, in which God delivered them from their greatest enemy, Pharaoh.
How he had wrought his signs in Egypt, and his wonders in the field of Zoan:
And had turned their rivers into blood; and their floods, that they could not drink.
He sent divers sorts of flies among them, which devoured them; and frogs, which destroyed them.
78:45 Flies - These flies were doubtless extraordinary in their nature, and hurtful qualities. And the like is to be thought concerning the frogs.
He gave also their increase unto the caterpiller, and their labour unto the locust.
78:46 Labour - The herbs which were come up by their care and labour.
He destroyed their vines with hail, and their sycomore trees with frost.
78:47 Sycamore - trees - Under these and the vines, all other trees are comprehended. This hail and frost destroyed the fruit of the trees, and sometimes the trees themselves.
He gave up their cattle also to the hail, and their flocks to hot thunderbolts.
He cast upon them the fierceness of his anger, wrath, and indignation, and trouble, by sending evil angels among them.
78:49 Evil angels - Whom God employed in producing these plagues.
He made a way to his anger; he spared not their soul from death, but gave their life over to the pestilence;
And smote all the firstborn in Egypt; the chief of their strength in the tabernacles of Ham:
78:51 Ham - Of the Egyptians, the posterity of Ham, the cursed children of a cursed parent.
But made his own people to go forth like sheep, and guided them in the wilderness like a flock.
And he led them on safely, so that they feared not: but the sea overwhelmed their enemies.
And he brought them to the border of his sanctuary, even to this mountain, which his right hand had purchased.
78:54 Holy place - The land of Canaan, separated by God from all other lands. Mountain - The mountainous country of Canaan; the word mountain is often used in scripture for a mountainous country.
He cast out the heathen also before them, and divided them an inheritance by line, and made the tribes of Israel to dwell in their tents.
Yet they tempted and provoked the most high God, and kept not his testimonies:
But turned back, and dealt unfaithfully like their fathers: they were turned aside like a deceitful bow.
78:57 Deceitful bow - Which either breaks when it is drawn, or shoots awry, and frustrates the archer's expectation.
For they provoked him to anger with their high places, and moved him to jealousy with their graven images.
When God heard this, he was wroth, and greatly abhorred Israel:
78:59 Heard - Perceived or understood, it is spoken of God after the manner of men.
So that he forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent which he placed among men;
78:60 Shiloh - Which was placed in Shiloh. Among men - Whereby he insinuates both God's wonderful condescension, and their stupendous folly in despising so glorious a privilege.
And delivered his strength into captivity, and his glory into the enemy's hand.
78:61 His strength - The ark, called God's strength, 1Chron 16:11, because it was the sign and pledge of his strength put forth on his people's behalf. Glory - So the ark is called, as being the monument and seat of God's glorious presence. Enemies - The Philistines.
He gave his people over also unto the sword; and was wroth with his inheritance.
The fire consumed their young men; and their maidens were not given to marriage.
Their priests fell by the sword; and their widows made no lamentation.
78:64 Priests - Hophni and Phinehas. No lamentation - No funeral solemnities; either because they were prevented by their own death, as the wife of Phinehas was, or disturbed by the invasion of the enemy.
Then the Lord awaked as one out of sleep, and like a mighty man that shouteth by reason of wine.
And he smote his enemies in the hinder parts: he put them to a perpetual reproach.
78:66 Smote - Them with the piles. Reproach - He caused them to perpetuate their own reproach by sending back the ark of God with their golden emrods, the lasting monuments of their shame.
Moreover he refused the tabernacle of Joseph, and chose not the tribe of Ephraim:
78:67 Refused - He would not have his ark to abide any longer in the tabernacle of Shiloh, which was in the tribe of Joseph or Ephraim.
But chose the tribe of Judah, the mount Zion which he loved.
78:68 Chose - For the seat of the ark and of God's worship.
And he built his sanctuary like high palaces, like the earth which he hath established for ever.
78:69 Sanctuary - The temple of Solomon. Palaces - Magnificent and gloriously. Established - Not now to be moved from place to place, as the tabernacle was, but as a fixed place for the ark's perpetual residence.
He chose David also his servant, and took him from the sheepfolds:
From following the ewes great with young he brought him to feed Jacob his people, and Israel his inheritance.
So he fed them according to the integrity of his heart; and guided them by the skilfulness of his hands.