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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Psalms 81

Verse 1

Psalms 81:0.

An exhortation to a solemn praising of God. God challengeth that duty by reason of his benefits. God, exhorting to obedience, complaineth of their disobedience, which proverb their own hurt.

To the chief musician, upon Gittith: A Psalm of Asaph.

Title. ףּלאס הגתית על למנצח lamnatseach al haggittith leasaph.] This psalm is supposed to have been written for the feast of trumpets. See Leviticus 23:24. In the Jewish Liturgy it is still made use of upon this occasion. To this the blowing of the trumpet (Psalms 81:3.) refers; for the new moon in the month Tisri, when this feast was celebrated, was the first day of the Jewish year; at which time the world was supposed to have been created. See Numbers 29:0.

Verse 2

Psalms 81:2. Take a psalm Lift up your voices in a psalm, or take up a psalm. Green.

Verse 3

Psalms 81:3. Blow up the trumpet, &c.— Blow up the trumpet on the first day of the month, on the new moon, on the day of our feast. The feast of the new moon was always proclaimed by the sound of trumpets. The fixing the time of the new moon, for want of astronomical tables, was done in the following manner: the first persons who observed, or thought they observed, the new moon, were to repair immediately to the grand council to give notice of it. Inquiry was then made into the credibility of the informers, and, secondly, whether their information agreed with such computations as they were then able to make. After which the president proclaimed the new moon by saying מקדשׁ mekaddesh; i.e. it is consecrated: this word was twice repeated aloud by the people; after which it was ordered to be proclaimed every where by the sound of the trumpet. See Univ. Hist. vol. i 2: p. 33. 8vo.

Verse 5

Psalms 81:5. This he ordained in Joseph A solemn charge, which he laid on Joseph when he marched out in the face of the land of Egypt. I heard a language I did not know: Psalms 81:6. I removed, &c. God is asserting his title to their obedience, from three very remarkable providences towards them: his saving them when they cried to him in their distress, ver.7 whether in Egypt, or at the Red Sea; his speaking to them on mount Sinai, from the midst of thunder, where he was hid in darkness; and his giving them water out of the rock. He begins with saying he had heard a language which he did not understand. That is, (as some explain it) they did not speak the true genuine Hebrew, but a corrupted language, perhaps, with a mixture of Egyptian. This (according to them) is said to shew that contemptible state of barbarism to which they were reduced in Egypt before he rescued them. Others, by this language, understand the voice of God, which the Israelites soon after their departure from Egypt heard from mount Sinai, to their great astonishment, as having never before been acquainted with it: and, accordingly, what the purport of that voice or language was, we see in the following verses, even to the end of the psalm, where God is introduced as speaking in his own person, and instructing the Israelites concerning the design of this solemnity; and withal complaining of their forgetfulness of his benefits, in giving them so great a deliverance from Egyptian slavery.

Verse 6

Psalms 81:6. His hands were delivered from the pots His hands from the pots through which they had passed: Chandler. See Psalms 68:13.

Verse 7

Psalms 81:7. I answered thee in the secret place of thunder I spoke to thee in the obscurity of thunder.

Verse 10

Psalms 81:10. Open thy mouth wide, &c.— i.e. "I will satisfy thy desires, be they ever so large. Be faithful to me, and I will fill thee with blessings in profusion." The Chaldee reads, Open thy mouth to the words of the law, and I will fill it with every thing which is good. Houbigant renders it, Who have enlarged thy mouth, and filled it.

Verse 15

Psalms 81:15. The haters of the Lord should have submitted themselves The haters of the Lord should have lied to him. "The enemies of the Lord; or, (passively, by a different pointing,) the hated of the Lord, who were at the same time enemies of the Jewish nation should have been obliged to speak, fawn, and pretend great respect to him; i.e. to the Jewish people." The course of the sense requires it to be thus understood. The singular number is no objection; for that recurs in the next verse, and there is through this whole speech of God a frequent change of number and person.

Verse 16

Psalms 81:16. He should have fed them—with the finest of the wheat i.e. "He would have blessed thee with such plenty, that in the desarts thou shouldst have found the sweetest refreshments; and, without any care of thine, bees should have laid up honey for thee in the rocks, and holes of trees." In Judaea, the bees used the rocks and ground as hives to lay up their honey. This verse is not to be understood of miraculous feeding; but is a poetical description of the land of Canaan. Green, after Houbigant, reads, I would have fed them with the finest wheat, and satisfied them with the choicest honey.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, Before we join the songs of angels, the work of praise should be our joyful employment here below. The Psalmist therefore excites the people of God to unite heart and voice in adoring their covenant God, the rock of their salvation; by whose strength every faithful Israelite is enabled to grapple with all the enemies of his soul, to fulfil every service, and endure every suffering to which the Lord is pleased to call him. To raise the concert high, sweet instruments of music are employed, and the loud trumpet's sound proclaims, on the solemn feast-day, the appointed season for the general assembly, the great Jehovah's praise. Note; The more we regard God as our strength, the surer is our stability.

2nd, When the eternal Jehovah speaks, let every mortal ear attend. Hear, O my people, peculiarly bound to be advised and governed by him; O Israel, if thou wilt, or, O that thou wouldst, hearken unto me. It was their duty, and God wishes it might be their desire to do so. His peculiar charge to them is,

1. Flee from idolatry. There shall no strange god be in thee; neither shalt thou worship any strange god. This is the first and great commandment: God must be made the supreme object of our faith, fear, and love: whatever creature rivals him in our heart, makes us spiritual idolaters.

2. He enforces the command by two considerations. [1.] His right in them, and their obligations to him. I am the Lord thy God, the only object of worship, standing in a peculiar relation to them, and therefore especially demanding it from them; which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, and therefore from gratitude are they most bound to love and serve him. [2.] It would be their highest interest also to cleave to him alone; Open thy mouth wide and I will fill it: he will be their all-sufficient portion; and they cannot ask more than he is willing to bestow on them, provided they continue faithful. Note; (1.) God's service is our highest interest, as well as duty. (2.) If we had no future promises in view, past obligations should engage our hearts to him. (3.) The prayer of faith can never ask too much. (4.) They who now have God for their portion, have all that heart can wish.

3. He charges them with their disobedience and ingratitude. But my people, from whom he had such just expectations, would not hearken to my voice, inattentive and perverse; and Israel would none of me; foolishly as wickedly rejecting their own mercies, and neither willing to serve God as their master, nor content with his love as their portion.

4. Justly God visited their iniquities. So I gave them up unto their own hearts' lust; which is of all judgments the most terrible; for, his grace withdrawn, we are then abandoned to sin and misery, and rush on our destruction, as the horse into the battle: and they walked in their own counsels. Since they were headstrong and obstinate, he left them to their own devices, and the dreadful consequences which must ensue. Note; They who resist God's word and Spirit, have only their own wilfulness to blame, when their destruction cometh.

5. He expresses his kind wishes for them, and his gracious designs towards them, had they been faithful. Oh that my people, bound by every tie to approve themselves to him, had hearkened unto me, obeyed my law, and attended to my warnings, and Israel had walked in my ways, so much their interest as well as duty. For then, [1.] They would have been for ever victorious over their foes, and God himself would have appeared to fight their battles, and make them more than conquerors. [2.] They would have uninterruptedly enjoyed the possession of their good land; and all who hated God and his worship, should have submitted themselves unto him, or, lied unto him; so that, though it might be a feigned and forced submission, they should not be able to disturb them. [3.] They would have been blest with plenty of every earthly good: the finest wheat, and honey ready provided for them in the rock, where the bees had formed their hive, would have been their food; of all which, their folly and sin would deprive them, and leave them as wretched as they might have been happy. Note; (1.) Sinners are the greatest enemies to their own souls. (2.) They who attend to the voice of Christ will see all their foes become their footstool. (3.) The supplies of his grace to his faithful people are more strengthening than bread, and sweeter than honey. (4.) If any perish, it is not through want of compassion in God, but through the hardness and impenitence of their own hearts.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 81". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/psalms-81.html. 1801-1803.