April 3, 2017

Tom Lowe



("To the chief Musician upon aGittith, [A Psalm] of Asaph." Sing aloud unto God our strength: make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob.)



Theme: Israel’s God is a Jealous God and He Will Punish those who Worship Idols.

Psalm 81 (KJV)

1 Sing aloud unto God our strength: make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob.

2 Take a psalm, and bring hither the timbrel, the pleasant harp with the psaltery.

3 Blow up the trumpet in the new moon, in the time appointed, on our solemn feast day.

4 For this was a statute for Israel, and a law of the God of Jacob.

5 This he ordained in Joseph for a testimony, when he went out through the land of Egypt: where I heard a language that I understood not.

6 I removed his shoulder from the burden: his hands were delivered from the pots.

7 Thou calledst in trouble, and I delivered thee; I answered thee in the secret place of thunder: I proved thee at the waters of Meribah. Selah.

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.



Preface to Psalm 81


This psalm is classified as a festal Psalm, for it seems to have been written for a solemn feast, festival, holiday, or social event (For a time these ceremonies were ordained, but now under the Gospel are abolished.); probably for the Passover, in which, after an exhortation to praise God, He is introduced by reading and/or singing Psalm 81, reminding Israel of their obligations, scolding them for their neglect, and depicting the happy results of obedience.




1 Sing aloud unto God our strength: make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob.


“Sing aloud unto God our strength”

The word rendered “sing aloud”means to rejoice; and then, to make or cause to rejoice. It would be appropriate for singing at any of the great feasts of the Hebrews, where music constituted an important part of the public service.


The “strength” of Israel is the God of Israel, who, by strength of hand, and a mighty arm, brought Israel out of Egypt, protected and upheld them in the wilderness, and brought them to, and settled and established them in the land of Canaan. Moreover, the strength of every true Israelite is the God of Israel, from whom they receive both their natural and spiritual strength; so that they can exercise grace, perform their duty, bear afflictions, withstand temptations, fight with and conquer enemies, and hold on and hold out unto the end; and therefore have reason to sing the praises of God with great passion, zeal, and affection. There is much meaning here: as God is our “strength,” let that strength be devoted to His service; therefore, “sing aloud!” This is principally addressed to the priests and Levites.


“make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob”

The “God of Jacob” (Israel) had made a covenant with Israel, had chosen them for His peculiar people, and had redeemed them out of the house of bondage, and bestowed special favors upon them. Therefore, the people of Israel were under obligation to praise Him vocally and audibly, and with strong expressions of joy. How much more so should the spiritual Israel of God―who have an interest in the covenant of grace, and share in electing, redeeming, and calling grace, and who have Him as their God and Father, in a special sense―praise Him vocally and audibly, and with strong expressions of joy.


2 Take a psalm, and bring hither the timbrel, the pleasant harp with the psaltery.


“Take a psalm”

Or “lift one up”; hold up the book, and read and sing it; or rather, lift up the voice in singing a psalm. Today we might say “Strike up a tune.” One Bible scholar said, “I rather think that this was the name of a musical instrument.”


“and bring hither the timbrel”

Literally, give a “timbrel” (or, drum), which evidently means “sound the timbrel,” also translated tabret. This was some kind of drum or tom tom; a sort of hand drum, such as the tambourine. It was often used in public festivities and triumphal processions, as a bass accompaniment, and often played by women―“The singers went before, the players on instruments followed after; among them were the damsels playing with timbrels.” (Psalms 68:25).


“the pleasant harp with the psaltery”

Musical instruments were used in Old Testament times to express spiritual joy and melody in the heart, but under the New Testament, vocal singing was added―And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints” (Revelation 5:8).


“Harp”—the favorite national stringed instrument of the Hebrews, which is here called “the pleasant harp,” for it was often used on occasions of joyfulness and praise, though it was not unsuitable to meditative or solemn strains―“Upon an instrument of ten strings, and upon the psaltery; upon the harp with a solemn sound” (Psalms 92:3). It had ten, sometimes twenty-four, and even forty-seven strings. Its general shape was triangular, like the modern harp, with a rounded or arched rim at its broadest end.


Psaltery— Another harp-like stringed instrument, made to accompany the voice. In Psalms 33:2, it is translated, “an instrument of ten strings,” literally, the ten-stringed psaltery.


3 Blow up the trumpet in the new moon, in the time appointed, on our solemn feast day.


“Blow up the trumpet”

This phrase means to make a noise like that made by a trumpet. The trumpet was, like the timbrel, the harp, and the psaltery, a common musical instrument, and was employed on all their festive occasions. Perhaps some chanted a psalm in unison, while all these instruments were used as accompaniments. This trumpet (Heb., shophar) or cornet, (See Exodus 19:16; Psalms 47:5.) looked nothing like our modern trumpet, but was shaped like a species of animal horn.It was originally made of horn―commonly the horn of the ram or chamois―and then was made similar in shape to a horn, but of metal. Compare Joshua 6:5; Leviticus 25:9; Job 39:25.


Blow up the trumpet” could easily have been an order to the priests, whose business it was to give public notice, by sound of “trumpet,” of the new year, the beginning of months, the calling of assemblies to the festivals, the jubilee, the sacrifice, etc. It is the only ancient Hebrew instrument which is still in use on solemn occasions.


“In the new moon”

The Hebrews reckoned time by lunar months, and the sacred calendar rested with the priests, who were to announce every “new moon” by the sound of the trumpets, but especially that of Nisan, corresponding to the “moon” of our March, which was the beginning of the ecclesiastical year and the month of the Passover (Exodus 12:2). The beginning of the month was greeted with joy, as was the feast of the Passover with music and trumpets (2 Chronicles 30:21). There was a high festival on the appearance of the new moon in the month of Tisri, or October, which was the beginning of their civil year, and it is not improbable that the return of each new moon was celebrated with special services.


The feast of the “new moon” was always proclaimed by the sound of trumpets. The Jews, who lacked planetary knowledge, found it difficult to know the real time of the new moon. They normally sent persons to the top of some hill or mountain about the time which, according to their suppositions, the “new moon” should appear. The first who saw it was to give immediate notice to the Sanhedrin; they closely examined the reporter as to his credibility, and whether his information agreed with their calculations. If all was found satisfactory, the president proclaimed the “new moon” by shouting out mikkodesh!”; “It is consecrated.” This word was repeated aloud twice by the people; and was then proclaimed everywhere by blowing of horns, or what is called the sound of trumpets.


“In the time appointed”

The word used here (keseh) means the full moon; the time of the full moon; a set fixed time; the time just before the change of the moon, when it is covered. In the Syriac language the word means either “the first day of the full moon,” or “the whole time of the full moon.” Thus, the word means, “at the full moon,” not “in the time appointed,” as in our translation, and would refer to the time of the Passover, which was celebrated on the fourteenth day of the lunar month; that is, when the moon was “full.” The content of the psalm shows that it was composed exclusively for the Passover (Psalms 81:5-7; Psalms 81:10). The horn―the instrument named here (not the trumpets named in Numbers 10:10, blown in the beginnings of months)―is only one among many instruments. Music and singing formed an important part in the celebration of the Passover (2 Chronicles 30:21).


“On our solemn feast day”

In Hebrew, this clause is “in the day of our feast.” The word “solemn” is not necessarily in the original, though the day was one of great solemnity. “On our solemn feast day,” which must refer to a feast which was held when the moon was full; and so must be either the feast of the Passover, which was on the fourteenth day of the month Nisan, and was a type of Christ our Passover, sacrificed for us, on which account we should keep the feast (Exodus 12:6), or else the feast of tabernacles, which was on the fifteenth of the month Tisri, kept in commemoration of the Israelites dwelling in booths (Leviticus 23:34) and which is called the feast, and was indeed a solemn feast. The Passover was the most “solemn feast” of Israel, celebrating, as it did, the fundamental event in their history―their deliverance out of Egypt by God. The Passover is doubtless the feast referred to here.


4 For this was a statute for Israel, and a law of the God of Jacob.


“For this was a statute for Israel”

It was not a case of bwill worship, or a device of the children of Israel, but was a divine edict; that the Passover should be kept at the time it was; and that the trumpets should be blown on the new moon, or first of Tisri; and that the Feast Of Tabernacles should be kept on the fifteenth of the same month. Since these areGod’s “statutes for Israel,” the keeping of them is not arbitrary, but necessary.


“and a law of the God of Jacob”

And therefore it is to be observed by Jacob's posterity: the law for the one is in Exodus 12:18 [“In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at even, ye shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day of the month at even.”] and for the other is in Leviticus 23:24 [“Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation.”] and so, all the ordinances of Christ, and of the Gospel dispensation, are to be regarded as having the same authority, because they are also the statutes and schedule of God.


5 This he ordained in Joseph for a testimony, when he went out through the land of Egypt: where I heard a language that I understood not.


“This he ordained in Joseph for a testimony”

That is, this law concerning the blowing of trumpets on the new moon, and the keeping of the solemn feast at the full of the moon, was to be observed by all Israel―here, Joseph is put for Israel―for a testimony of God's good will to them, and of their duty and obedience to Him.


“when he went out through the land of Egypt”

Over “the land of Egypt is better. Some understand this to relate to Joseph, who is said to go over all the land of Egypt, to gather corn, wheat, etc. and store it in anticipation of the seven years of famine―“And Pharaoh called Joseph's name Zaphnathpaaneah; and he gave him to wife Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On. And Joseph went out over all the land of Egypt” (Genesis 41:45).


There is another interpretation of this clause which applies it to the exodus of Israel (here called Joseph) out of Egypt. The Feast of Passover was instituted at the time of Israel's going out of Egypt, and was the solemn feast day ordained for a statute, law and testimony in Israel. A little time afterwards, while in the wilderness, and dwelling in tents, the Feast Of Tabernacles was instituted. The new moon, or month, on which the trumpet was to be blown, was the month Abib, the beginning of months, by an ordinance of God (Exodus 12:2).


“where I heard a language that I understood not”

Here the psalmist depicts the people of Israel in Egypt. There he heard, but did not understand the language of the Egyptians without an interpreter (Genesis 42:23) which is confirmed by Psalm 114:1, and this is mentioned because it aggravated their affliction in Egypt (Jeremiah 5:15). However, some say he is referring either to the voice of God out of the fire, which was never heard in this unusual manner before, nor understood (Deuteronomy 5:24); or the speech of Moses, who had Aaron for his mouth and spokesman.


6 I removed his shoulder from the burden: his hands were delivered from the pots.


“I removed his shoulder from the burden”

“The burden” is the hardships which the people of Israel were made to bear in Egypt. The reference is undoubtedly to their burdens in making bricks, and conveying them to the place where they were to be used; and perhaps also to the fact that they were required to carry stone used in building houses and towns for the Egyptians. That is the subject of Exodus 1:11-14: “So they appointed taskmasters over them to afflict them with hard labor. And they built for Pharaoh storage cities, Pithom and Raamses. But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and the more they spread out, so that they were in dread of the sons of Israel. The Egyptians compelled the sons of Israel to labor rigorously; and they made their lives bitter with hard labor in mortar and bricks and at all kinds of labor in the field, all their labors which they rigorously imposed on them.” (see also, Exodus 5:4-17). The meaning is, that He had saved them from these burdens by delivering them from their hard bondage. The speaker here evidently is God. In the previous verse it is the people. Such a change of person is not uncommon in the Scriptures.


“His hands were delivered from the pots”

That is, they (the Israelites) were separated from them (the Egyptians), or made free. The word rendered “pots” usually has that significance (Job 41:20; 1 Samuel 2:14; 2 Chronicles 35:13); but it may also mean a basket (Jeremiah 24:2; 2 Kings 10:7). The latter is probably the meaning here. The allusion is to baskets which might have been used in carrying clay, or conveying the bricks after they were made: perhaps a kind of hamper that was swung over the shoulders, with clay or bricks in each―somewhat like the piece of equipment used now by the Chinese in carrying tea; or like the neck-yoke which is employed in carrying sap where maple sugar is manufactured, or milk on dairy farms. There are many representations on Egyptian sculptures which would illustrate this. The idea is that of a burden, or task, and the allusion is to the deliverance that was accomplished by removing them to another land


7 Thou calledst in trouble, and I delivered thee; I answered thee in the secret place of thunder: I proved thee at the waters of Meribah. Selah.


“Thou calledst in trouble, and I delivered thee”

That is, when Israel was in trouble in Egypt, and they cried unto the Lord in their distress, He heard them, and answered them, and sent them a deliverer, and brought them out of all their troubles―“And the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows” (Exodus 3:7).


“I answered thee in the secret place of thunder”

The Lord answered by bringing the plague of thunder and lightning upon the Egyptians, when the Israelites were hidden from them; or rather this was done when the Lord looked out of the pillar of cloud at the Red sea upon the Egyptian host, and troubled them; at which time the voice of His thunder was heard in heaven (Psalm 77:16). Some think this has reference to the thunder at the giving of the law on Mount Sinai; but the first explanation given is best.


“I proved thee at the waters of Meribah”

by withholding water from them to test them, and see whether they would behave patiently, and put their trust and confidence in the Lord, or not (Exodus 17:4). The name Meribah was given to the place where water was produced miraculously by Moses striking the rock (Numbers 20:13.)



This word “Selah”  is only found in this poetical Book of the Psalms, and in the song of Habakkuk (3:3, 9, 13); it was probably a musical note, directing the singer either to lift up his voice, or to make a short stop or pause, or to lengthen out the tune.


8 Hear, O my people, and I will testify unto thee: O Israel, if thou wilt hearken unto me;


“Hear, O my people, and I will testify unto thee”

God will testify in two ways―first, of Himself; and second, of His people. He doesn’t brag about Himself; rather, He states the facts and expects them to be His witnesses in the world―to testify of His existence and perfections; what He was to them, had done for them, and would do for them, as in the following verses. This is the Lord’s testimony to His people; but others render the last three words as "testify in thee,” which means to bear witness to their spirits, that they were His people, and He was their God. This is a witness who the people of God have in them; it is the inward testimony of the Spirit; what's more, there is the outward testimony of the word, and which also may be meant here; 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 Bible testifies of Christ, His person, offices, obedience, sufferings, and death. But some others render it, "testify against thee,” for their complaining, 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, seeing that they are His people; and as such He addresses them, which demonstrates interest in them, affection for them, and an acknowledgment of them, and carries in it a reason why they should hear him.The fact that ye are "my people," called into being, redeemed, and sustained by me, is the strongest reason why ye should "hear."


“O Israel, if thou wilt hearken unto me”

Here he explains who are meant by the Lord's people (O my 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, where it says, “Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways!”; and some take these words to be a wish, as  in Isaiah 48:18; "Israel, O that thou wouldest hearken unto me."


9 There shall no strange god be in thee; neither shalt thou worship any strange god.


“There shall no strange god be in thee”

Or in the midst of thee, that is owned and worshipped as God; or in thine heart, for whatever absorbs the affection, or whatever a man puts his trust and confidence in, that he makes his god, and it is a strange one. Luther said, “This is the first and chief commandment, wherein all the rest are contained.” Thus, if any friend or relation, father or mother, wife or children, are loved more than God, they are set up as such in His place; thus the gourmet, that seeks the gratification of his carnal lusts, makes his belly his god; and the covetous man trusts in his money as his god, and therefore is called an idolater; and the self-righteous man has his righteousness, on which he depends for salvation: hence we read of idols set up in the heart, from which they are severed in conversion, and kept from them―“When any of the Israelites or any foreigner residing in Israel separate themselves from me and set up idols in their hearts and put a wicked stumbling block before their faces and then go to a prophet to inquire of me, I the LORD will answer them myself” (Ezekiel 14:7).


The word rendered here as “strange” has reference to the god of a foreign nation; and the meaning is, that they were not to worship or adore the gods that were worshipped by foreigners. This was a fundamental law of the Hebrew commonwealth.


“neither shall thou worship any strange god”

Only the Lord God is to be worshipped, Matthew 28:19 and there is but one God; though this is to be understood not to the exclusion of the Son and Spirit, who are with the Father, and to be worshipped equally with Him, and are―“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).


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.


“I am the Lord thy God” (See Exodus 20:2).

The meaning is, “I am Yahweh, that God; the God to be worshipped and honored by thee; I only am thy God, and no other god is to be recognized or acknowledged by thee.” The foundation of the claim to exclusive service and devotion is divulged here in the fact that He had brought them out of the land of Egypt. Literally, had caused them to ascend, or go up from that land. This claim seems to be twofold:

(a) that in doing this, He had shown that He was God, or that He had done something which only God could do, and which had shown His existence and power; and

(b) that by this He had brought them under special obligations to Himself, inasmuch as they owed all that they had―their national existence and liberty―entirely to Him.


“Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it”

Possibly an allusion to young birds, when fed by the parent-bird. The meaning here is, “I can amply supply all your needs. You need not go to other gods―the gods of other lands―as if there were deficiencies in my power or resources; as if I were not able to meet your necessities. I can meet all your needs. Ask what you need―what you want; come to me and make any request with reference to yourselves as individuals or as a nation―to this life or the life to come―and you will find in Me an abundant supply for all your needs, and a willingness to bless you that is equivalent to my resources.” What is said here of the Hebrews may be said of the people of God at all times. There is nothing we want for our bodies or our souls; a want pertaining to this life or the life to come―to ourselves, to our families, to our friends, to the church, or to our country―which God is not able to supply; and there is not a real necessity in any of these respects which He is not willing to provide. Why, then, should His people ever turn for happiness to the “weak and down-and-out elements of the world” [“But now that you have come to know God (or rather to be known by God), how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless basic forces? Do you want to be enslaved to them all over again?” Galatians 4:9], as if God could not satisfy them? Why should they seek for happiness in vain amusements, or in sensual pleasures, as if God could not, or would not, supply the real needs of their souls?


11 But my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me.


“But my people would not hearken to my voice”

They turned a deaf ear to all I said. There were two things the Lord complains of; first, their disobedience to His commands. They heard His voice, and they heard it in a manner that no people ever did before or after. But they would not “hearken” to it; they would not be governed by it, neither by the law, nor by the reasoning of it, namely, that he was Jehovah their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt. Second, they disliked His covenant-relationship to them: 


“and Israel would none of me”

They did not comply with My word. God was willing to be a God to them, but they were not willing to be a people to Him. They did not like His terms. I would have gathered them to Me, but they would not give in. They had none of Him; and why was that? It was not because they might not; they were fairly invited into covenant with God: it was not because they could not; for the word was near them, even in their mouth, and in their heart: it was purely because they would not. Note, the reason why people are not religious is because they will not be so.


12 So I gave them up unto their own hearts' lust: and they walked in their own counsels.


 “So I gave them up unto their own hearts' lust”

 I left them like a ship without a rudder; like a horse without reins, to go wherever they wanted, and do whatever they wanted. This is a fearful judgment (Hosea 4:14, Romans 1:28, 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12). Upon their obstinate and oft-repeated acts of disobedience, and their rejection of my grace and mercy offered to them, I withdrew all the restraints of my providence, and my Holy Spirit and grace from them, and left them to follow their own vain and foolish imaginations, and wicked lusts (stubbornness). 


Sometimes God gave them up, when they sinned, into the hands of the Moabites, or Ammonites, or Philistines, or other neighboring nations, for their chastisement; but to be delivered up unto their own hearts' lust is worse than that; worse than to be delivered to Satan.


And they walked in their own counsels”

The consequence of My giving them up to their own depraved inclinations was, that they practiced all those things, both in common conversation and in religious worship, which were most agreeable, not to my commands or counsels, but to their own fancies and lusts, as appeared in the affair of the golden calf, and many other things. They walked in their own counsels; which were bad; after the imagination of their own evil hearts, and not after the counsels and directions of God in His word, and by His servants.


13 Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways!


“Oh that my people had hearkened unto me”

This verse is designed mainly to show what would have been the consequences if the Hebrew people had been obedient to the commands of God (Psalm 81:14-16). At the same time, however, it expresses what was the earnest desire―the wish―the preference of God, namely, that they had been obedient, and had enjoyed His favor. This is in accordance with all the statements, all the commands, all the invitations, all the warnings, in the Bible. In the entire volume of inspiration there is not one command addressed to people to walk in the ways of sin; there is not one statement that God desires they should do it; there is not one hint that He wishes the death of the sinner. The contrary is implied in all the declarations which God has made―in all his commands, warnings, and invitations―in all His arrangements for the salvation of people. (See Deuteronomy 5:29; Deuteronomy 32:29-30; Isaiah 48:18; Ezekiel 18:23, Ezekiel 18:32; Ezekiel 33:11; 2 Peter 3:9; Luke 19:42.)


“And Israel had walked in my ways!”

Had kept My commandments; had been obedient to My laws. When people, therefore, do not walk in the ways of God it is impossible that they should have as an excuse for it, the plea that God desires this or that He commands it, or that He is pleased with it, or that He approves of it. There is no possible sense in which this can be true; in every sense, and on every account, He prefers that people should be obedient, and not disobedient; good, and not bad; happy, and not miserable; saved, and not lost. Every doctrine of theology should be held and interpreted in consistency with this as a fundamental truth. That there are things which are difficult to be explained on the supposition that this is true, must be admitted; but what truth is there in reference to which there are not difficulties to be explained? And is there anything in this, or in any of the truths of the Bible, which demands more explanation than the facts which are actually occurring under the government of God: the fact that sin and misery have been allowed to come into the universe; the fact that multitudes constantly suffer whom God could relieve?


14 I should soon have subdued their enemies, and turned my hand against their adversaries.


“I should soon have subdued their enemies

This is one of the consequences which, it is said, would have followed if they had been obedient to the laws of God. The word rendered “soon” means literally “like a little”; that is, as we might say, in a little while. The word rendered “subdued” means to bow down; to be curved or bent; and the idea is, that He would have caused them to bow down in submission before them―

They fail to see why they were defeated;
    they cannot understand what happened.
Why were a thousand defeated by one,
    and ten thousand by only two?
The Lord, their God, had abandoned them;
    their mighty God had given them up.

(Deuteronomy 32:29-30; GNT)


“Their enemies were the Canaanites, and others: He would have “subdued” them in a very little time, or at once, and He would have done it easily, and without any trouble; He would quickly have humbled them, and forced them on their knees, as the word “subdued” signifies. And they would have sued for peace and agreed to Israel’s terms; for when a man's ways please the Lord, He makes his enemies to be at peace with him―“When you please the Lord, you can make your enemies into friends” (Proverbs 16:7). Likewise, those that hearken to the voice of Christ, and walk in His ways, He subdues their iniquities, and will swiftly bruise Satan under their feet, and make them more than conquerors over the world; for he has “overcome” the men and things of it.


If God's promise in behalf of His people appeared to fail, it was because they rejected His counsel, and walked in their own ways. While they were faithful, they prospered; and not one jot or tittle of God's word failed them.


“and turned my hand against their adversaries

“Their adversariestroubled, distressed, and oppressed them; and it is a righteous thing for God to render misfortune and hardship to them that trouble His people. He removes his chastising hand from Israel, which sometimes is heavy upon them, and turns it in wrath and vindictive justice against their adversaries. This is the lighting down of his arm with the indignation of his anger, which is intolerable―“And the Lord shall cause his glorious voice to be heard, and shall shew the lighting down of his arm, with the indignation of his anger, and with the flame of a devouring fire, with scattering, and tempest, and hailstones” (Isaiah 30:30).


15 The haters of the Lord should have submitted themselves unto him: but their time should have endured for ever.


“The haters of the Lord”

 The enemies “of the Lord,” are often represented as those who hate Him; hatred is always connected with an unwillingness to submit to God. It is hatred of His law; hatred of His government; hatred of His plans; hatred of His character. (See Romans 1:30; John 7:7; John 15:18; John 15:23-25; Compare Exodus 20:5.)


“Should have submitted themselves unto him”

The Hebrew word used here means “to lie,” to speak lies; then, to deceive, or disappoint; then, to feign, to flatter, to play the hypocrite. It is clearly used in this sense here, referring to those who, awed by the terror of His name and power, would come and profess subjection to Him as a conqueror. Yet the use of the word here implies that He was aware that, in many cases, this would be only a feigned submission, or that the homage would be hypocritical; homage inspired by terror, not by love. Undoubtedly, much of the professed subjection of conquered nations is of this kind, and it would be well if all conquerors understood this as David did. He accepted the compliance and the submission, but he understood the cause; and this knowledge would only tend to make his throne more secure, as it would save him from putting confidence or trust where there was no certainty that it would be well placed.


No external power, though it may make people outwardly obedient, can affect the will, or subdue it. The grace of God alone can do that, and it does it by the special triumph of grace.


“But their time”

The time of His people. They would have continued to be a happy and a flourishing nation.“Time,” here, should be taken in the sense of duration. If the pronoun “their” refers to the “haters of the Lord,” it means that their time of being held in awe and submission to Israel would have been without end; but if it refers to God’s “people,” (Psalms 81:13,) the passage declares their endless prosperity: and the next verse seems to require this latter sense.


“Should have endured for ever”

 Perpetually―as long as they continued to be obedient. If a nation were obedient to the will of God; if it clearly obeyed His laws; if it tolerates no form of sin; if it protected no iniquity; if it were peaceful, just, virtuous, honest, there is no reason why its institutions should not be perpetual, or why it should ever be overthrown. Sin is, in all cases, the cause of the ruin of nations, as it is of individuals.


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.


“He should have fed them also”

He would have given them prosperity, and their land would have produced the necessities abundantly and even the luxuries of life. This is in accordance with the usual promises of the Scriptures, that obedience to God will be followed by national temporal prosperity. (See Deuteronomy 32:13-14; 1 Timothy 4:8; Psalm 37:11. Compare the notes at Matthew 5:5.


with the finest of the wheat

Or the "fat of the wheat"; that is, the finest flour and best bread that can be made of it. Some Bible scholars interpret this as meaning the manna, which was better than the fat, or finest, of the wheat, being the corn of heaven, and angels' food (Psalm 78:24), but it probably refers to that which the Israelites would have continued to be fed with, in the land of Canaan, which was a land of “wheat”―“A land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey” (Deuteronomy 8:8).


There is food for the body, and there is food for the soul of those who hearken to the Lord, and walk in His ways, for they are fed by Him with the Gospel, which is comparable to the finest wheat, for its choiceness and excellence, for its solidity and substantiality, for its purity and cleanness, and for its being of a nourishing and strengthening nature.


There is yet a third meaning that has been suggested and it regards Christ figuratively, for He is the sum and substance of the Gospel, and food for the saints, and who is compared to a corn of wheat in John 12:24―“Truly, truly, I say to you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it stays alone: but if it die, it brings forth much fruit”―for His preciousness and excellence, for His purity and fruitfulness, and for being the food of His people, the bread of life, for which he was prepared by his sufferings and death; which may be fitly expressed by the threshing, winnowing, and grinding of wheat, and then of kneading the flour, and baking the bread.


“and with honey out of the rock would I have satisfied thee”

The land of Canaan abounded with hills and rocks, in which bees had their hives, and from whence honey dropped to lower places; and hence the land is said to flow with milk and honey (Exodus 3:8). It is not unusual to find honey in rocks, trees, and caves in other places. One commentator interprets this as referring to the water which flowed out of the rock at Horeb, which was sweeter than honey; but the former sense is best: the rock spiritually and mystically points to Christ, the Rock of salvation (1 Corinthians 10:4), the honey out of the rock, the fullness of grace in Him, and the Gospel, which is sweeter than the honey or the honeycomb; and with these the saints who hearken to Christ, and walk in His ways are filled and satisfied. This passage shows what Israel lost by disobedience, and it clearly suggests what those enjoy who hear and obey.


aGittith: a stringed instrument of music; similar to “the harp which David brought from Gath." It is the only stringed instrument named in the titles of the Psalms.

bWILL-WORSHIP: worship originating in the human will as opposed to the divine, arbitrary religious acts, worthless despite their difficulty of performance. In Colossians 2:23, Paul wrote, Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body: not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.”