Psalms 81

1Shout for joy to God, our source of strength!
Shout out to the God of Jacob!
2 Sing
Heb “lift up.”
a song and play the tambourine,
the pleasant sounding harp, and the ten-stringed instrument!
3 Sound the ram’s horn on the day of the new moon,
Heb “at the new moon.”
New moon festivals were a monthly ritual in Israel (see R. de Vaux, Ancient Israel, 469–70). In this context the New Moon festival of the seventh month, when the Feast of Tabernacles was celebrated (note the reference to a “festival” in the next line), may be in view.

and on the day of the full moon when our festival begins.
Heb “at the full moon on the day of our festival.” The Hebrew word כֶּסֶה (keseh) is an alternate spelling of כֶּסֶא (kese’, “full moon”).
The festival in view is probably the Feast of Tabernacles (Booths), which began on the fifteenth day of the seventh month when the moon was full. See Lev 23:34; Num 29:12.

4 For observing the festival is a requirement for Israel;
Heb “because a statute for Israel [is] it.”

it is an ordinance given by the God of Jacob.
5 He decreed it as a regulation in Joseph,
when he attacked the land of Egypt.
Heb “in his going out against the land of Egypt.” This apparently refers to the general time period of Israel’s exodus from Egypt. The LXX reads, “from Egypt,” in which case “Joseph” (see the preceding line) would be the subject of the verb, “when he [Joseph = Israel] left Egypt.”

I heard a voice I did not recognize.
Heb “a lip I did not know, I heard.” Here the term “lip” probably stands for speech or a voice. Apparently the psalmist speaks here and refers to God’s voice, whose speech is recorded in the following verses.

6 It said:
The words “It said” are not included in the Hebrew text. They are supplied in the translation for clarification.
“I removed the burden from his shoulder;
his hands were released from holding the basket.
I removed the burden. The Lord speaks metaphorically of how he delivered his people from Egyptian bondage. The reference to a basket/burden probably alludes to the hard labor of the Israelites in Egypt, where they had to carry loads of bricks (see Exod 1:14).

7 In your distress you called out and I rescued you.
I answered you from a dark thundercloud.
Heb “I answered you in the hidden place of thunder.” This may allude to God’s self-revelation at Mount Sinai, where he appeared in a dark cloud accompanied by thunder (see Exod 19:16).

I tested you at the waters of Meribah.
The name Meribah means “strife.” Two separate but similar incidents at the place called Meribah are recorded in the Pentateuch (Exod 17:1–7; Num 20:1–13). In both cases the Israelites complained about lack of water and the Lord miraculously provided for them.
8 I said,
The words “I said” are supplied in the translation for clarification. Verses 8–10 appear to recall what the Lord commanded the generation of Israelites that experienced the events described in v. 7. Note the statement in v. 11, “my people did not listen to me.”
‘Listen, my people!
I will warn
Or perhaps “command.”
O Israel, if only you would obey me!
The Hebrew particle אִם (“if”) and following prefixed verbal form here express a wish (GKC 321 #109.b). Note that the apodosis (the “then” clause of the conditional sentence) is suppressed.

9 There must be
The imperfect verbal forms in v. 9 have a modal function, expressing what is obligatory.
no other
Heb “different”; “illicit.”
god among you.
You must not worship a foreign god.
10 I am the Lord, your God,
the one who brought you out of the land of Egypt.
Open your mouth wide and I will fill it!’
11 But my people did not obey me;
Heb “did not listen to my voice.”

Israel did not submit to me.
The Hebrew expression אָבָה לִי (’avah liy) means “submit to me” (see Deut 13:8).

12 I gave them over to their stubborn desires;
Heb “and I sent him away in the stubbornness of their heart.”

they did what seemed right to them.
Heb “they walked in their counsel.” The prefixed verbal form is either preterite (“walked”) or a customary imperfect (“were walking”).

13 If only my people would obey me!
Heb “if only my people were listening to me.” The Hebrew particle לוּ (lu, “if not”) introduces a purely hypothetical or contrary to fact condition (see 2 Sam 18:12).

If only Israel would keep my commands!
Heb “[and if only] Israel would walk in my ways.”

14 Then I would quickly subdue their enemies,
and attack
Heb “turn my hand against.” The idiom “turn the hand against” has the nuance of “strike with the hand, attack” (see Isa 1:25; Ezek 38:12; Amos 1:8; Zech 13:7).
their adversaries.”
15 (May those who hate the Lord
“Those who hate the Lord” are also mentioned in 2 Chr 19:2 and Ps 139:21.
cower in fear
See Deut 33:29; Ps 66:3 for other uses of the verb כָּחַשׁ (kakhash) in the sense “cower in fear.” In Ps 18:44 the verb seems to carry the nuance “to be weak; to be powerless” (see also Ps 109:24). The prefixed verbal form is taken as a jussive, parallel to the jussive form in the next line.
before him!
May they be permanently humiliated!)
Heb “and may their time be forever.” The Hebrew term עִתָּם (’ittam, “their time”) must refer here to the “time” of the demise and humiliation of those who hate the Lord. Some propose an emendation to בַּעֲתָתָם (baatatam) or בִּעֻתָם (biutam; “their terror”; i.e., “may their terror last forever”), but the omission of bet (ב) in the present Hebrew text is difficult to explain, making the proposed emendation unlikely.
The verb form at the beginning of the line is jussive, indicating that this is a prayer. The translation assumes that v. 15 is a parenthetical “curse” offered by the psalmist. Having heard the reference to Israel’s enemies (v. 14), the psalmist inserts this prayer, reminding the Lord that they are God’s enemies as well.

“I would feed Israel the best wheat,
Heb “and he fed him from the best of the wheat.” The Hebrew text has a third person form of the preterite with a vav (ו) consecutive attached. However, it is preferable, in light of the use of the first person in v. 14 and in the next line, to emend the verb to a first person form and understand the vav as conjunctive, continuing the apodosis of the conditional sentence of vv. 13–14. The third masculine singular pronominal suffix refers to Israel, as in v. 6.
I would feed. After the parenthetical “curse” in v. 15, the Lord’s speech continues here.

and would satisfy your appetite
Heb “you.” The second person singular pronominal suffix refers to Israel, as in vv. 7–10.
with honey from the rocky cliffs.”
The language in this verse, particularly the references to wheat and honey, is reminiscent of Deut 32:13–14.

Psalm 82

Psalm 82. The psalmist pictures God standing in the “assembly of El” where he accuses the “gods” of failing to promote justice on earth. God pronounces sentence upon them, announcing that they will die like men. Having witnessed the scene, the psalmist then asks God to establish his just rule over the earth.

A psalm of Asaph.

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