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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Psalms 77

 

 

Verse 1

Psalms 77:1. I cried unto God, &c. — This verse seems to contain the sum of the whole Psalm, consisting of two parts, namely, his earnest cry to God in his deep distress, and God’s gracious answer to his prayers, by supporting him under his troubles, and giving him assurance of a good issue out of them; of both which he speaks distinctly and particularly as he proceeds in the Psalm.


Verse 2

Psalms 77:2. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord — Being afflicted, he prayed, James 5:13, and being in an agony he prayed the more fervently: he cried unto God. He did not apply to the diversion of business, or of any recreation, that he might by that means shake off his trouble; but he had recourse to God in prayer, and sought his favour and grace. In this he is an example for our imitation. When under any trouble, and especially trouble of mind for sin, we must apply to God and spread our case before him. We must not endeavour to get rid of our trouble some other way, but must entreat him to remove it by lifting up the light of his countenance upon us. This, and only this, will give us peace of mind, and put joy and gladness into our hearts. My sore ran — Hebrew, ידי נגרה, jadi niggerah, my hand flowed, or poured forth, that is, was spread abroad, or stretched out to God in prayer and ceased not. — So Hammond, Patrick, Waterland, and Houbigant. In the night — Which to others was a time of rest and refreshment, but to me of sorrow and distress. My soul refused to be comforted — Without a gracious answer from God, and an assurance that he had not cast me off, but was again reconciled to me, Psalms 77:7-9. Till I should obtain this, I rejected all those consolations which either my friends or my own mind suggested.


Verse 3

Psalms 77:3. I remembered God, and was troubled — Yea, the thoughts of God, and of his infinite power, wisdom, truth, and goodness, which used to be very sweet and consolatory to me, were now causes of terror and trouble, because these divine attributes appeared to be all engaged against me; and God himself, my only friend, now seemed to be very angry with me, and to have become mine enemy. The word אהמיה, ehemajah, here rendered I was troubled, properly signifies, I was in a state of perturbation, like that of the tumultuous waves of the sea in a storm. I complained — Unto God in prayer; and my spirit was overwhelmed — So far was I from finding relief by my complaints, that they increased my misery. Hebrew, אשׁיחה ותתעשׂŠ רוחי, ashicha vetithgnatteph ruchi, I meditated, and my spirit covered, overwhelmed, or obscured itself. My own reasonings, instead of affording me light and comfort, only served to overwhelm me with greater darkness and misery. How frequently is this the case with persons in distress of soul, through a consciousness of their guilt, depravity, and weakness, and their desert of the wrath of God! This verse “is a fine description,” says Dr. Horne, “of what passes in an afflicted and dejected mind. Between the remembrance of God and his former mercies, and the meditation on a seeming desertion, under present calamities, the affections are variously agitated, and the prayers disturbed like the tumultuous waves of a troubled sea; while the fair light from above is intercepted, and the face of heaven overwhelmed with clouds and darkness.”


Verse 4

Psalms 77:4. Thou holdest mine eyes waking — By those bitter and continual griefs, and those perplexing and distressing thoughts and cares, which thou excitest within me. I am so troubled that I cannot speak — The greatness of my sorrow so stupifies and confuses my mind, that I can scarcely open my mouth to declare my grief in proper terms; nor can any words sufficiently express the extremity of my misery: see Job 2:13.


Verse 5-6

Psalms 77:5-6. I have considered the days of old — The mighty works of God, wrought for his people in former times, if by that means I could get any comfort. I call to remembrance my song in the night — The many and great mercies and favours of God vouchsafed to me and his people, which have obliged me to adore him and sing his praise, not only in the day, the time appointed for that work, but also by night, as often as they came into my mind. My spirit made diligent search — What should be the reason of this strange and vast alteration, and how this sore trouble could come from the hand of so gracious and merciful a God as ours is, and what might be expected as to its continuance or removal. “A recollection of former mercies is the proper antidote against a temptation to despair in the day of calamity: and as in the divine dispensations, which are always uniform and like themselves, whatever has happened may, and probably will, happen again when the circumstances are similar; the experience of ancient times is to be called in to our aid, and duly consulted. Upon these topics we should, in the night of affliction, commune with our own hearts, and make diligent search, as Daniel did in Babylon, into the cause of our troubles, with the proper methods of shortening and bringing them to an end; by suffering them to have their intended and full effect in a sincere repentance, and thorough reformation.” — Horne.


Verses 7-9

Psalms 77:7-9. Will the Lord cast off for ever? — “The psalmist now relates the process of his meditations, and of that controversy which arose in his heart between faith and distrust.” Most commentators suppose that the psalmist’s distress and despondency were occasioned chiefly, if not solely, by public calamities. Thus Poole seems to have understood the passage. “Will the Lord cast off — His peculiar and chosen people? This does not seem to agree either with God’s nature, or with that everlasting covenant which he hath made with them. Is his mercy clean gone for ever? — Are all the stores of his mercy quite spent? Doth he now cease to be what he hath styled himself, The Lord, gracious and merciful? &c. Doth his promise fail for evermore? — Will he never make good those gracious promises in which he hath commanded us to hope? Hath God forgotten to be gracious? — Because he hath so long disused so to be? Hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? — So as they can never flow forth, no, not to his own people?” In the same light it is considered by Dr. Horne, who observes upon it, “While he (the psalmist) viewed the distressful scene around him, he found himself strongly tempted to question God’s love of the church; to think that he had finally rejected his people; that the promised mercy of redemption would never be accomplished; and that indignation had restrained the bowels of our heavenly Father, which no longer yearned toward his afflicted children. These were the thoughts suggested to a desponding soul by the desolations of Zion at that time; and the state of things in the world may possibly be such as to suggest the like thoughts to many in the Christian Church, before our Lord shall appear again for her final redemption.” But there does not seem to be any intimation in the Psalm that the author’s trouble and dejection arose from public miseries. Personal trials and temptations might, and it seems probable from the expressions here used, that they were at least the principal causes of his distress and despondency. Thus Henry: “This is the language of a disconsolate soul, now walking in darkness, and having no light, a case not uncommon even with those who fear the Lord, and obey the voice of his servant, Isaiah 50:10.” Especially, we may add, when exercised with afflictive and trying dispensations of providence, or assaulted with sore temptations. Even “God’s own people, in a cloudy and dark day,” and the rather if they have grieved the Holy Spirit, which should have witnessed their sonship, and have defiled their conscience by yielding to any known sin, in temper, word, or work, or to lukewarmness and sloth, or the spirit of the world, “may be tempted to make desperate conclusions about their own spiritual state, or the condition of God’s church and kingdom in the world; and, as to both, may be ready to give up all for gone. We may be tempted to think that God has abandoned and cast us off; that the covenant of grace fails us, and that the tender mercy of our God shall be for ever withheld from us. But we must not give way to such suggestions as these. If fear and melancholy ask such peevish questions, let faith answer them from the Scripture. Will the Lord cast off for ever? God forbid, Romans 11:1. No; the Lord will not cast off his” obedient “people, Psalms 94:14. Will he be favourable no more? Yes, he will; for though he cause grief, yet he will have compassion, Lamentations 3:32. Is his mercy clean gone for ever? No; his mercy endureth for ever; as it is from everlasting, so it is to everlasting, Psalms 103:17. Doth his promise fail for evermore? No; it is impossible for God to lie, Hebrews 6:18. Hath God forgotten to be gracious? No; he cannot deny himself, and his own name, which he hath proclaimed to be gracious and merciful, Exodus 34:6. Has his anger shut up his tender mercies? No; they are new every morning, Lamentations 3:22.” Thus Henry. To whose encouraging observations we may add, nearly in the words of Sherlock, that “whether the calamities which afflicted the psalmist were private to himself, or public to his people and country, yet as long as his thoughts dwelt on them, and led him into expostulations with God for the severity of his judgments, he found no ease or relief. He complained heavily, but what did he get by his complaint? Was he not forced immediately to confess the impropriety and folly of it? I said, This is my infirmity. He said very right. In complaining, he followed the natural impressions of passion and impatience: in acknowledging the folly of his complaint, he spoke not only the language of grace, but of sense and reason. But this good man, being well grounded in religion, was able so far to get the better of his doubts and fears as to pass a right judgment in his own case: and to call to his assistance the proper reflections which the great works of Providence administered for the support and confirmation of his hope and confidence toward God. Here then was his comfort; here the cure of all his grief. The scene around him was dark and gloomy; but, dark as it was, it was under the guidance and direction of the hand which had never failed the faithful, to deliver him out of all his troubles.”


Verse 10

Psalms 77:10. And I said — I thus answered these objections; This is my infirmity — These suspicions of God’s faithfulness and goodness proceed from the weakness of my faith, and from the mistake of a diseased mind. But I will remember the years, &c. — That is, the years in which God hath done great and glorious works, which are often ascribed to God’s right hand in the Scriptures. It may be proper to observe here, that as the word שׁנות, shenoth, here rendered years, also signifies changes, the verse is rendered otherwise by some learned interpreters, without any such supplement as is in our translation, thus; This is my affliction, or grievance, the change of the right hand of the Most High — Namely, that that right hand of God, which formerly hath done such great and wonderful things for his people, is, at this time, not only not drawn forth for their defence, but is also stretched out against them. So Bishop Patrick. “This is the thing which sorely afflicts me, to see such alterations in the proceedings of the Most High, that the same hand which formerly protected us, now severely scourges us.” As if he had said, I could bear the malice and rage of our enemies, from whom we could not expect better things, but that our gracious and covenanted God should forsake and afflict his own people, is to me intolerable. The reader will observe that this interpretation proceeds on the supposition that the psalmist’s distress was occasioned by public, and not by private calamities, which supposition, however, does not seem to be sufficiently supported by the general tenor of the Psalm.


Verse 11

Psalms 77:11. I will remember the works of the Lord — I will seriously consider what God has formerly done for his people, many times far above their expectation, and I will take comfort from hence, because he is still the same that he was, in power, goodness, and mercy, and, therefore, will pity and help in the present trial, which distresses me. Thus the psalmist, being restored to a right state of mind, instead of brooding any longer over his trouble, wisely resolves to turn his thoughts toward the divine dispensations of old; to meditate on God’s former works and wonders; the displays which he had made of his wisdom and power, of his mercy and grace in behalf of his people, as well of individuals as of the whole nation, and hereby to strengthen and invigorate his faith in the expected deliverance.


Verse 13

Psalms 77:13. Thy way, O God — That is, thy doings, or, the course of thy providence; the various methods and causes of thy dealings with thy people; is in the sanctuary — Is there contained and declared. As the prosperity of wicked men, so also the afflictions and troubles of God’s people, are great riddles and stumbling-blocks to the ignorant and ungodly world, but a full and satisfactory resolution of them may be had from God’s sanctuary, as is observed in the former case, Psalms 73:16-17, and here in the latter. Or, בקדשׁ, bakkodesh, may be rendered, in holiness; and so the sense is, God is holy, and just, and true in all his works; yea, even in his judgments upon his people, and in the afflictions and troubles wherewith he chastises or tries individuals of them. Who is so great a God as our God — So able to save or to destroy?


Verse 14-15

Psalms 77:14-15. Thou hast declared thy strength among the people — By the mighty acts of it here following. Thou hast redeemed thy people — Namely, out of Egypt, after a long and hard bondage; which he here mentions to strengthen his faith in the present trouble. The sons of Jacob and Joseph — The people of the Jews are very properly styled the sons of Joseph, as well as of Jacob. For as Jacob was, under God, the author of their being, so was Joseph the preserver of it. The Chaldee paraphrast appears to have understood the words thus, rendering them, The sons which Jacob begat and Joseph nourished. Joseph was indeed a kind of second father, and they might well be called his sons; without whose care, humanly speaking, there had been no such redemption, nor people to be redeemed.


Verses 16-18

Psalms 77:16-18. The waters saw thee, O God — They felt the visible effects of thy powerful presence. They were afraid — And stood still, as men or beasts astonished commonly do. The clouds poured out water — Namely, upon the Egyptians. The skies sent out a sound — In terrible thunder; thine arrows also went abroad — Hail-stones, or rather, lightnings, or thunderbolts, called God’s arrows, Psalms 18:14; Psalms 144:6. The earth trembled and shook — By an earthquake. This tempest is not particularly recorded in its proper place, yet it may well be collected from what is related Exodus 14:24-25. That the Lord looked on the host of the Egyptians, through the pillar of fire and the cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians. For these verses of the Psalm seem to explain in what way he looked upon them, “namely, by thunders and lightnings, storms and tempests, rain, hail, and earthquake, the usual tokens and instruments of the Almighty’s displeasure. Josephus, in like manner, relates that the destruction of the Egyptians was accompanied by storms of rain, by dreadful thunders and lightnings; and, in short, by every possible circumstance of terror, which could testify and inflict upon man the vengeance of an incensed God.”


Verse 19

Psalms 77:19. Thy way is in the sea, &c. — Or rather, was, at that time; thou didst walk and lead thy people in untrodden paths; and thy footsteps — Or, though thy footsteps were not seen — God walked before his people through the sea, though he left no footsteps of himself behind him. Thus “the dispensations and ways of God, like the passage through the Red sea, are all full of mercy to his people; but they are also, like that, often unusual, marvellous, inscrutable; and we can no more trace his footsteps than we could have done those of Israel, after the waters had returned to their place again. Let us resolve, therefore, to trust in him at all times; and let us think that we hear Moses saying to us, as he did to the Israelites, when seemingly reduced to the last extremity, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of Jehovah.” — Horne.


Verse 20

Psalms 77:20. Thou leddest thy people — First through the sea, and afterward through the vast howling wilderness to Canaan; like a flock — With singular care and tenderness, as a shepherd doth his sheep. The Psalm concludes abruptly, and does not apply those ancient instances of God’s power to the present distresses, whether personal or national, as one might have expected. For as soon as the good man began to meditate on these things he found he had gained his point. His very entrance upon this matter gave him light and joy; his fears suddenly and strangely vanished, so that he needed to go no further; he went his way and did eat, and his countenance was no more sad.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 77:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/psalms-77.html. 1857.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, August 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19
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