Psalms 77

1I will cry out to God
Heb “my voice to God.” The Hebrew verb קָרָא (qara’, “to call out; to cry out”) should probably be understood by ellipsis (see Ps 3:4) both here and in the following (parallel) line.
and call for help!
I will cry out to God and he will pay attention
The perfect with vav (ו) consecutive is best taken as future here (although some translations render this as a past tense; cf. NEB, NIV). The psalmist expresses his confidence that God will respond to his prayer. This mood of confidence seems premature (see vv. 3–4), but v. 1 probably reflects the psalmist’s attitude at the end of the prayer (see vv. 13–20). Having opened with an affirmation of confidence, he then retraces how he gained confidence during his trial (see vv. 2–12).
to me.
2 In my time of trouble I sought
Here the psalmist refers back to the very recent past, when he began to pray for divine help.
the Lord.
I kept my hand raised in prayer throughout the night.
Heb “my hand [at] night was extended and was not growing numb.” The verb נָגַר (nagar), which can mean “flow” in certain contexts, here has the nuance “be extended.” The imperfect form (תָפוּג, tafug, “to be numb”) is used here to describe continuous action in the past.

Or “my soul.” The Hebrew term נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh) with a pronominal suffix is often equivalent to a pronoun, especially in poetry (see BDB 660 s.v. נֶפֶשׁ 4.a).
refused to be comforted.
3 I said, “I will remember God while I groan;
I will think about him while my strength leaves me.”
Heb “I will remember God and I will groan, I will reflect and my spirit will grow faint.” The first three verbs are cohortatives, the last a perfect with vav (ו) consecutive. The psalmist’s statement in v. 4 could be understood as concurrent with v. 1, or, more likely, as a quotation of what he had said earlier as he prayed to God (see v. 2). The words “I said” are supplied in the translation at the beginning of the verse to reflect this interpretation (see v. 10).
4 You held my eyelids open;
Heb “you held fast the guards of my eyes.” The “guards of the eyes” apparently refers to his eyelids. The psalmist seems to be saying that God would not bring him relief, which would have allowed him to shut his eyes and get some sleep (see v. 2).

I was troubled and could not speak.
The imperfect is used in the second clause to emphasize that this was an ongoing condition in the past.

5 I thought about the days of old,
about ancient times.
Heb “the years of antiquity.”

6 I said, “During the night I will remember the song I once sang;
I will think very carefully.”
I tried to make sense of what was happening.
Heb “I will remember my song in the night, with my heart I will reflect. And my spirit searched.” As in v. 4, the words of v. 6a are understood as what the psalmist said earlier. Consequently the words “I said” are supplied in the translation for clarification (see v. 10). The prefixed verbal form with vav (ו) consecutive at the beginning of the final line is taken as sequential to the perfect “I thought” in v. 6.

7 I asked,
As in vv. 4 and 6a, the words of vv. 7–9 are understood as a quotation of what the psalmist said earlier. Therefore the words “I asked” are supplied in the translation for clarification.
“Will the Lord reject me forever?
Will he never again show me his favor?
8 Has his loyal love disappeared forever?
Has his promise
Heb “word,” which may refer here to God’s word of promise (note the reference to “loyal love” in the preceding line).
failed forever?
9 Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has his anger stifled his compassion?”
10 Then I said, “I am sickened by the thought
that the sovereign One
Heb “Most High.” This divine title (עֶלְיוֹן, ’elyon) pictures God as the exalted ruler of the universe who vindicates the innocent and judges the wicked. See especially Pss 7:17; 9:2; 18:13; 21:7; 47:2.
might become inactive.
Heb “And I said, ‘This is my wounding, the changing of the right hand of the Most High.’” The form חַלּוֹתִי (khallotiy) appears to be a Qal infinitive construct (with a first person singular pronominal suffix) from the verbal root חָלַל (khalal, “to pierce; to wound”). The present translation assumes an emendation to חֲלוֹתִי (khalotiy), a Qal infinitive construct (with a first person singular pronominal suffix) from the verbal root חָלָה (khalah, “be sick, weak”). The form שְׁנוֹת (shenot) is understood as a Qal infinitive construct from שָׁנָה (shanah, “to change”) rather than a plural noun form, “years” (see v. 5). “Right hand” here symbolizes by metonymy God’s power and activity. The psalmist observes that his real problem is theological in nature. His experience suggests that the sovereign Lord has abandoned him and become inactive. However, this goes against the grain of his most cherished beliefs.

11 I will remember the works of the Lord.
Yes, I will remember the amazing things you did long ago!
Heb “yes, I will remember from old your wonders.”
The psalmist refuses to allow skepticism to win out. God has revealed himself to his people in tangible, incontrovertible ways in the past and the psalmist vows to remember the historical record as a source of hope for the future.

12 I will think about all you have done;
I will reflect upon your deeds!”
Verses 13–20 are the content of the psalmist’s reflection (see vv. 11–12). As he thought about God’s work in Israel’s past, he reached the place where he could confidently cry out for God’s help (see v. 1).
O God, your deeds are extraordinary!
Heb “O God, in holiness [is] your way.” God’s “way” here refers to his actions. “Holiness” is used here in the sense of “set apart, unique,” rather than in a moral/ethical sense. As the next line and the next verse emphasize, God’s deeds are incomparable and set him apart as the one true God.

What god can compare to our great God?
Heb “Who [is] a great god like God?” The rhetorical question assumes the answer, “No one!”

14 You are the God who does amazing things;
you have revealed your strength among the nations.
15 You delivered
Or “redeemed.”
your people by your strength
Heb “with [your] arm.”

the children of Jacob and Joseph. (Selah)
16 The waters
The waters of the Red Sea are here personified; they are portrayed as seeing God and fearing him.
saw you, O God,
the waters saw you and trembled.
The prefixed verbal form may be taken as a preterite or as an imperfect with past progressive force.

Yes, the depths of the sea
The words “of the sea” are supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons.
shook with fear.
The prefixed verbal form may be taken as a preterite or as an imperfect with past progressive force.

17 The clouds poured down rain;
Heb “water.”

the skies thundered.
Heb “a sound the clouds gave.”

Yes, your arrows
The lightning accompanying the storm is portrayed as the Lord’s “arrows” (see v. 18).
flashed about.
18 Your thunderous voice was heard in the wind;
the lightning bolts lit up the world;
the earth trembled and shook.
The prefixed verbal form may be taken as a preterite or as an imperfect with past progressive force.
Verses 16–18 depict the Lord coming in the storm to battle his enemies and subdue the sea. There is no record of such a storm in the historical account of the Red Sea crossing. The language the psalmist uses here is stereotypical and originates in Canaanite myth, where the storm god Baal subdues the sea in his quest for kingship. The psalmist has employed the stereotypical imagery to portray the exodus vividly and at the same time affirm that it is not Baal who subdues the sea, but Yahweh.

19 You walked through the sea;
Heb “in the sea [was] your way.”

you passed through the surging waters,
Heb “and your paths [were] in the mighty waters.”

but left no footprints.
Heb “and your footprints were not known.”

You led your people like a flock of sheep,
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

Psalm 78

Psalm 78. The author of this lengthy didactic psalm rehearses Israel’s history. He praises God for his power, goodness and patience, but also reminds his audience that sin angers God and prompts his judgment. In the conclusion to the psalm the author elevates Jerusalem as God’s chosen city and David as his chosen king.

A well-written song by Asaph.

The meaning of the Hebrew term מַשְׂכִּיל (maskil) is uncertain. See the note on the phrase “well-written song” in the superscription of Ps 74.
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