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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Psalms 77

 

 

Verse 1

I cried unto God with my voice, even unto God with my voice; and he gave ear unto me.

Psalms 77:1-20.-Complaint under desertion by God; past deliverances remembered, aggravate present pain (Psalms 77:1-3); cause of grief, God holds His eyes sleepless even at night; he can scarcely speak for grief, and can only ask, Will the Lord cast off forever? (Psalms 77:4-9;) faith rises above infirmity; he calls to mind God's past wonders, as the deliverance at the Red Sea, and His leading Israel like a flock: the remembrance no longer aggravates his pain, but assures of deliverance (Psalms 77:10-20). Habakkuk 3:1-19 seems derived from this psalm in part. So this psalm cannot be later than Josiah's reign, when Habakkuk lived. The carrying away of the Ten tribes, and the prospect of Judah sharing a like fate, was probably the cause of the Psalmist's grief. Hence, he alludes to the deliverance out of Egyptian bondage, now that a like bondage existed in part, and was in part impending.

On the Title, Jeduthun, see note on title, Psalms 39:1-13; Psalms 62:1-12.

I cried unto God with my voice ... and he gave ear unto me. He anticipates the result at the beginning, giving at one glance a view of the whole psalm. The Hebrew is literally 'My voice to God! and I will cry [the final Hebrew character, he (h), implies effort] ... and by hearing unto me.' As the first verse is joined with the second and third in the strophe, and does not stand by itself as an introduction, it is perhaps better to translate, 'My voice (shall be directed) to God, and I will cry ... and may He hear me!'


Verse 2

In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord: my sore ran in the night, and ceased not: my soul refused to be comforted.

I sought the Lord - rather, 'I seek the Lord.'

My sore ran in the night, and ceased not - rather ( yadiy (Hebrew #3027) nigraah (Hebrew #5064)), 'my hand was stretched out,' or, better, 'hangs open;' literally, flowed out. So Symmachus, Jerome, Arabic, and Ethiopic. The phrase 'flowed out' implies the weak and powerless relaxation of the body indicated by the open hand (2 Samuel 14:14); on "ceased not," cf. Lamentations 3:49; Lamentations 2:18.

My soul refused to be comforted - like Jacob on bearing of the death of Joseph (Genesis 37:35; Jeremiah 31:15). From Psalms 77:15 we see that the Psalmist had before his eyes the second loss of "Joseph" to Israel or "Jacob," in the carrying away of the Ten tribes.


Verse 3

I remembered God, and was troubled: I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah. I remembered God, and was troubled - rather, 'I will remember God, and will moan.' Note, Psalms 55:2, 'Make a noise' (the same Hebrew). He resolves to remember God, and the deliverances formerly vouchsafed, though he knows this will only aggravate his pain in the present calamity (Psalms 42:4). I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed-rather, 'I will meditate (meditatively pray, 'aasiychaah (Hebrew #7878)), and my spirit is overwhelmed,' - i:e., I desire to pray with meditation, but my powers of meditative prayer fail (cf. Psalms 77:4, end).


Verses 4-6

Thou holdest mine eyes waking: I am so troubled that I cannot speak.

-His sleepless nights, and his inability to speak, are attributed to the remembrance of the sad contrast which God's present desertion of His people forms to His former deliverances of them.

Verse 4. Thou holdest mine eyes waking - literally, 'Thou holdest the watches [ sh


Verses 7-9

Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favourable no more?

-The contrast of the past with the sad present suggests the question, Has God, as appearances would imply, completely cast off His people forever? He feels such a supposition at variance with the known faithfulness of God. Verse 8. Doth his promise fail for evermore? - doth he cease to give His people a promise to encourage hope? It is true, the written law could never fail, and they had it still. But the Psalmist and his people desired a special promise under the national calamity which had befallen the Ten tribes, and which threatened the remaining one-Judah. Such a promise God by Isaiah gave to Hezekiah when threatened by Sennacherib. But now there is none. Compare Psalms 74:9.

Verse 9. Hath God forgotten to be gracious? - though he has so emphatically called Himself "The Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth" (Exodus 34:6; Psalms 103:8). Compare Israel's similar appeal in Isaiah 63:11-15, in the day of her turning to God.


Verses 10-12

And I said, This is my infirmity: but I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High.

-This is the transition point to hope. The recalling of past deliverances vouchsafed by God, which had hitherto only aggravated the Psalmist's despondency, here suggests firm faith.

Verse 10. And I said, This is my infirmity - i:e., my affliction appointed by God; literally, my sickness ( chalowtiy (Hebrew #2470)) (Jeremiah 10:19; Psalms 39:9).

(But I will remember) the years of the right hand of the Most High. The words italicized in the English version are supplied from Psalms 77:11. Instead of yielding to despair, because of my affliction, I will remember the many years wherein formerly God manifested His grace and power in His people's behalf. Hengstenberg takes the whole verse, 'it is my sickness ... the years of the right hand of the Most High.' These years of affliction are only the years which the right hand of the Most High has brought in; therefore they are to be borne patiently. So 1 Peter 5:6, 'the mighty hand of God' - i:e., His afflicting hand. I prefer the English version, as there is an allusion to Psalms 77:5, 'I consider the years of ancient times'-namely, when He interposed in His people's behalf. The ellipsis is natural, since he had already spoken of considering the years of God's former grace (Psalms 77:5). Then the consideration of them only added to His present pain by the contrast; but now the consideration suggests hope and trust. The abruptness of the exclamatory clause standing without a verb, implies the sudden transition from despondency to believing, "The years of the right hand of the Most High." The mere mention of them is enough. Faith supplies the ellipsis. The Chaldaic, Septuagint, Vulgate, Ethiopic, and Arabic take the Hebrew, sh


Verse 13

Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary: who is so great a God as our God?

Thy way, O God - i:e., Thy course of action.

Is in the sanctuary - in the heavenly holy place (Habakkuk 2:20; Psalms 11:4; Psalms 18:6; Psalms 29:2 (margin), 9). Thy way is in heaven, exalted far above our ways (Isaiah 55:9). As the people, and even the Levites and the priests themselves, except at times, were not permitted to see the sacred things in the inner sanctuary (Leviticus 16:2; Numbers 4:15; Numbers 4:20) (Ainsworth). Thy way is understood rightly in thy Church, but not among the people of the world (Belgian version) (Psalms 73:17). Or, thy way is always holy, though we do not always comprehend it; and at present thy dealings may seem hard toward us. 'Thy way is in holiness' - i:e., thy doing rests upon holiness: is holy, and elevated far above all that is creaturely, much less sinful. This is favoured by the passage, which may have been before the Psalmist's mind, Exodus 15:11, "Who is like thee, glorious in holiness ... doing wonders!" (cf. Psalms 22:3; but Psalms 73:17 favours the English version).

Who is so great a God as our God? - (Exodus 15:11; Deuteronomy 3:24.)} 'He does not hereby recognize the existence of other gods, but pours contempt upon the foolishness of the world for not being more careful to cultivate the friendship of the One God whose glory is so manifest' (Calvin).


Verse 14

Thou art the God that doest wonders: thou hast declared thy strength among the people.

Thou hast declared thy strength among the people - Hebrew, 'peoples' (Exodus 9:16; Exodus 15:14).


Verse 15

Thou hast with thine arm redeemed thy people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah.

Thou hast with thine arm redeemed thy people - (Exodus 6:6.)

The sons of Jacob and Joseph. Joseph is mentioned, as the head of the Ten tribes was Ephraim, descended from Joseph (Psalms 78:67; Psalms 80:1). The recent loss of the Ten tribes - "the house of Joseph" (Zechariah 10:6) - to the covenant people weighed heavily on the Psalmist's mind; so God's special favour to Joseph, in redeeming his house out of Egypt, suggests the hope of their restoration from their present bondage-a hope even still remaining to be realized. A special possession in Canaan belonged, by Jacob's original gift, to Joseph (Genesis 48:22). He was the preserver, under God, of Israel's other sons and their households; and was thus as it were their second father in Egypt (Genesis 50:21) (Muis). Genesis 49:24 says of Joseph, "from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel."

Selah. This note invites us to enjoy the calm tranquillity of soul that depends on God for redemption.


Verse 16

The waters saw thee, O God, the waters saw thee; they were afraid: the depths also were troubled.

The waters saw thee, O God ... they were afraid - (Psalms 114:3; Habakkuk 3:8-10).


Verse 17

The clouds poured out water: the skies sent out a sound: thine arrows also went abroad.

The clouds poured out water. So the English version rightly; not as margin, passively.

The skies sent out a sound - namely, thunder.

Thine arrows also went abroad - God's arrow-like lightnings (Psalms 77:18; Habakkuk 3:11; Psalms 18:14). The thunderstorm here described, though it did not accompany the passage of Israel through the Red Sea, yet is implied in the account (Exodus 14:24) of the destruction of their Egyptian enemies immediately after. So it forms part of the couragement under the present trial.


Verse 18

The voice of thy thunder was in the heaven: the lightnings lightened the world: the earth trembled and shook.

The voice of thy thunder was in the heaven ( bagalgal (Hebrew #1534)) - literally, 'in the wheel;' in the sphere; implying the phenomenal rotation of the visible heaven around the earth. The Septuagint, Chaldaic, Vulgate, and Ethiopic translate, 'was in a wheel' (as the same Hebrew means in Psalms 83:13; Ezekiel 10:13) - i:e., was in a whirl; whirled round, or rolled about, with rapid peals in succession.


Verse 19

Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known.

Thy way (is) in the sea. The general inference from the particular case of the redemption of Israel at the Red Sea, as above, in Psalms 77:13. So Nahum 1:3. God's way is one open to Him alone: for He to whom is possible what is impossible to man (Psalms 77:14) can make a path through even the pathless waters (Isaiah 51:10; Isaiah 51:15; Isaiah 63:11-12, which seems to have in view this passage; Habakkuk 3:15). This encourages His people to hope for deliverance even now, m their deep waters of trial (Isaiah 43:2).

And thy path. So the Qeri' reading; but the Hebrew text, Ketib, 'thy paths' - i:e., thy many ways of leading thy people in difficulties.

And thy footsteps are not known - even as at the Red Sea no traces were left of the steps whereby thou didst lead Israel through the Red Sea, the waters having returned (Exodus 14:26-28). So all God's ways (Romans 11:33).


Verse 20

Thou leddest thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

Thou leadest thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron - (Hosea 12:13; Isaiah 63:11-12; Micah 6:4).

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Psalms 77:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/psalms-77.html. 1871-8.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, December 11th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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