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Psalm 78 New English Translation (NET Bible)

Psalm 78[a]

A well-written song[b] by Asaph.

78 Pay attention, my people, to my instruction.
Listen to the words I speak.[c]
I will sing a song that imparts wisdom;
I will make insightful observations about the past.[d]
What we have heard and learned[e]
that which our ancestors[f] have told us—
we will not hide from their[g] descendants.
We will tell the next generation
about the Lord’s praiseworthy acts,[h]
about his strength and the amazing things he has done.
He established a rule[i] in Jacob;
he set up a law in Israel.
He commanded our ancestors
to make his deeds known to their descendants,[j]
so that the next generation, children yet to be born,
might know about them.
They will grow up and tell their descendants about them.[k]
Then they will place their confidence in God.
They will not forget the works of God,
and they will obey[l] his commands.
Then they will not be like their ancestors,
who were a stubborn and rebellious generation,
a generation that was not committed
and faithful to God.[m]
The Ephraimites[n] were armed with bows,[o]
but they retreated in the day of battle.[p]
10 They did not keep their covenant with God,[q]
and they refused to obey[r] his law.
11 They forgot what he had done,[s]
the amazing things he had shown them.
12 He did amazing things in the sight of their ancestors,
in the land of Egypt, in the region of Zoan.[t]
13 He divided the sea and led them across it;
he made the water stand in a heap.
14 He led them with a cloud by day,
and with the light of a fire all night long.
15 He broke open rocks in the wilderness,
and gave them enough water to fill the depths of the sea.[u]
16 He caused streams to flow from the rock,
and made the water flow like rivers.
17 Yet they continued to sin against him,
and rebelled against the Most High[v] in the desert.
18 They willfully challenged God[w]
by asking for food to satisfy their appetite.
19 They insulted God, saying,[x]
“Is God really able to give us food[y] in the wilderness?
20 Yes,[z] he struck a rock and water flowed out;
streams gushed forth.
But can he also give us food?
Will he provide meat for his people?”
21 When[aa] the Lord heard this, he was furious.
A fire broke out against Jacob,
and his anger flared up[ab] against Israel,
22 because they did not have faith in God,
and did not trust his ability to deliver them.[ac]
23 He gave a command to the clouds above,
and opened the doors in the sky.
24 He rained down manna for them to eat;
he gave them the grain of heaven.[ad]
25 Man ate the food of the mighty ones.[ae]
He sent them more than enough to eat.[af]
26 He brought the east wind through the sky,
and by his strength led forth the south wind.
27 He rained down meat on them like dust,
birds as numerous as the sand on the seashores.[ag]
28 He caused them to fall right in the middle of their camp,
all around their homes.
29 They ate until they were beyond full;[ah]
he gave them what they desired.
30 They were not yet filled up;[ai]
their food was still in their mouths,
31 when the anger of God flared up against them.
He killed some of the strongest of them;
he brought the young men of Israel to their knees.
32 Despite all this, they continued to sin,
and did not trust him to do amazing things.[aj]
33 So he caused them to die unsatisfied[ak]
and filled with terror.[al]
34 When he struck them down,[am] they sought his favor;[an]
they turned back and longed for God.
35 They remembered that God was their protector,[ao]
and that God Most High[ap] was their deliverer.[aq]
36 But they deceived him with their words,[ar]
and lied to him.[as]
37 They were not really committed to him,[at]
and they were unfaithful to his covenant.
38 Yet he is compassionate.
He forgives sin and does not destroy.
He often holds back his anger,
and does not stir up his fury.[au]
39 He remembered[av] that they were made of flesh,
and were like a wind that blows past and does not return.[aw]
40 How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness,
and insulted him[ax] in the wastelands.
41 They again challenged God,[ay]
and offended[az] the Holy One of Israel.[ba]
42 They did not remember what he had done,[bb]
how he delivered them from the enemy,[bc]
43 when he performed his awesome deeds[bd] in Egypt,
and his acts of judgment[be] in the region of Zoan.
44 He turned their rivers into blood,
and they could not drink from their streams.
45 He sent swarms of biting insects against them,[bf]
as well as frogs that overran their land.[bg]
46 He gave their crops to the grasshopper,
the fruit of their labor to the locust.
47 He destroyed their vines with hail,
and their sycamore-fig trees with driving rain.
48 He rained hail down on their cattle,[bh]
and hurled lightning bolts down on their livestock.[bi]
49 His raging anger lashed out against them.[bj]
He sent fury, rage, and trouble
as messengers who bring disaster.[bk]
50 He sent his anger in full force.[bl]
He did not spare them from death;
he handed their lives over to destruction.[bm]
51 He struck down all the firstborn in Egypt,
the firstfruits of their reproductive power[bn] in the tents of Ham.
52 Yet he brought out his people like sheep;
he led them through the wilderness like a flock.
53 He guided them safely along, and they were not afraid;
but the sea covered their enemies.
54 He brought them to the border of his holy land,
to this mountainous land[bo] that his right hand[bp] acquired.
55 He drove the nations out from before them;
he assigned them their tribal allotments[bq]
and allowed the tribes of Israel to settle down.[br]
56 Yet they challenged and defied[bs] God Most High,[bt]
and did not obey[bu] his commands.[bv]
57 They were unfaithful[bw] and acted as treacherously as[bx] their ancestors;
they were as unreliable as a malfunctioning bow.[by]
58 They made him angry with their pagan shrines,[bz]
and made him jealous with their idols.
59 God heard and was angry;
he completely rejected Israel.
60 He abandoned[ca] the sanctuary at Shiloh,
the tent where he lived among men.
61 He allowed the symbol of his strong presence to be captured;[cb]
he gave the symbol of his splendor[cc] into the hand of the enemy.[cd]
62 He delivered his people over to the sword,
and was angry with his chosen nation.[ce]
63 Fire consumed their[cf] young men,
and their[cg] virgins remained unmarried.[ch]
64 Their[ci] priests fell by the sword,
but their[cj] widows did not weep.[ck]
65 But then the Lord awoke from his sleep;[cl]
he was like a warrior in a drunken rage.[cm]
66 He drove his enemies back;
he made them a permanent target for insults.[cn]
67 He rejected the tent of Joseph;
he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim.
68 He chose the tribe of Judah
and Mount Zion, which he loves.
69 He made his sanctuary as enduring as the heavens above,[co]
as secure as the earth, which he established permanently.[cp]
70 He chose David, his servant,
and took him from the sheepfolds.
71 He took him away from following the mother sheep,[cq]
and made him the shepherd of Jacob, his people,
and of Israel, his chosen nation.[cr]
72 David[cs] cared for them with pure motives;[ct]
he led them with skill.[cu]


  1. Psalm 78:1 sn 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.
  2. Psalm 78:1 tn 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.
  3. Psalm 78:1 tn Heb “Turn your ear to the words of my mouth.”
  4. Psalm 78:2 tn Heb “I will open with a wise saying my mouth, I will utter insightful sayings from long ago.” Elsewhere the Hebrew word pair חִידָה + מָשָׁל (mashal + khidah) refers to a taunt song (Hab 2:6), a parable (Ezek 17:2), proverbial sayings (Prov 1:6), and an insightful song that reflects on the mortality of humankind and the ultimate inability of riches to prevent death (Ps 49:4).
  5. Psalm 78:3 tn Or “known.”
  6. Psalm 78:3 tn Heb “fathers” (also in vv. 5, 8, 12, 57).
  7. Psalm 78:4 tn The pronominal suffix refers back to the “fathers” (“our ancestors,” v. 3).
  8. Psalm 78:4 tn Heb “to a following generation telling the praises of the Lord.” “Praises” stand by metonymy for the mighty acts that prompt worship. Cf. Ps 9:14.
  9. Psalm 78:5 tn The Hebrew noun עֵדוּת (ʿedut) refers here to God’s command that the older generation teach their children about God’s mighty deeds in the nation’s history (see Exod 10:2; Deut 4:9; 6:20-25).
  10. Psalm 78:5 tn Heb “which he commanded our fathers to make them known to their sons.” The plural suffix “them” probably refers back to the Lord’s mighty deeds (see vv. 3-4).
  11. Psalm 78:6 tn Heb “in order that they might know, a following generation, sons [who] will be born, they will arise and will tell to their sons.”
  12. Psalm 78:7 tn Heb “keep.”
  13. Psalm 78:8 tn Heb “a generation that did not make firm its heart and whose spirit was not faithful with God.” The expression “make firm the heart” means “to be committed, devoted” (see 1 Sam 7:3).
  14. Psalm 78:9 tn Heb “the sons of Ephraim.” Ephraim probably stands here by synecdoche (part for whole) for the northern kingdom of Israel.
  15. Psalm 78:9 tn Heb “ones armed, shooters of bow.” It is possible that the term נוֹשְׁקֵי (nosheqey, “ones armed [with]”) is an interpretive gloss for the rare רוֹמֵי (rome, “shooters of”; on the latter see BDB 941 s.v. I רָמָה). The phrase נוֹשְׁקֵי קֶשֶׁת (nosheqe qeshet, “ones armed with a bow”) appears in 1 Chr 12:2; 2 Chr 17:17.
  16. Psalm 78:9 sn They retreated. This could refer to the northern tribes’ failure to conquer completely their allotted territory (see Judg 1), or it could refer generally to the typical consequence (military defeat) of their sin (see vv. 10-11).
  17. Psalm 78:10 tn Heb “the covenant of God.”
  18. Psalm 78:10 tn Heb “walk in.”
  19. Psalm 78:11 tn Heb “his deeds.”
  20. Psalm 78:12 sn The region of Zoan was located in the Egyptian delta, where the enslaved Israelites lived (see Num 13:22; Isa 19:11, 13; 30:4; Ezek 30:14).
  21. Psalm 78:15 tn Heb “and caused them to drink, like the depths, abundantly.”
  22. Psalm 78:17 sn The divine title “Most High” (עֶלְיוֹן ʿelyon) 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.
  23. Psalm 78:18 tn Heb “and they tested God in their heart.” The “heart” is viewed here as the center of their volition.
  24. Psalm 78:19 tn Heb “they spoke against God, they said.”
  25. Psalm 78:19 tn Heb “to arrange a table [for food].”
  26. Psalm 78:20 tn Heb “look.”
  27. Psalm 78:21 tn Heb “therefore.”
  28. Psalm 78:21 tn Heb “and also anger went up.”
  29. Psalm 78:22 tn Heb “and they did not trust his deliverance.”
  30. Psalm 78:24 sn Manna was apparently shaped like a seed (Exod 16:31), perhaps explaining why it is here compared to grain.
  31. Psalm 78:25 sn Because of the reference to “heaven” in the preceding verse, it is likely that mighty ones refers here to the angels of heaven. The LXX translates “angels” here, as do a number of modern translations (NEB, NIV, NRSV).
  32. Psalm 78:25 tn Heb “provision he sent to them to satisfaction.”
  33. Psalm 78:27 tn Heb “and like the sand of the seas winged birds.”
  34. Psalm 78:29 tn Heb “and they ate and were extremely filled.” The verb שָׂבַע (savaʿ, “be satisfied, full”) is often used of eating and/or drinking one’s fill, to have had fully enough and want no more. See BDB 959 s.v. שָׂבַע. In some cases it means to have had more than enough of something (cf. Prov 25:17; Isa 1:11). Here the use of מְאֹד (meʾod, “very”) and the context of the account indicate they felt filled beyond capacity.
  35. Psalm 78:30 tn Heb “they were not separated from their desire.”
  36. Psalm 78:32 tn Heb “and did not believe in his amazing deeds.”
  37. Psalm 78:33 tn Heb “and he ended in vanity their days.”
  38. Psalm 78:33 tn Heb “and their years in terror.”
  39. Psalm 78:34 tn Or “killed them,” that is, killed large numbers of them.
  40. Psalm 78:34 tn Heb “they sought him.”
  41. Psalm 78:35 tn Heb “my high rocky summit.”
  42. Psalm 78:35 sn The divine title “Most High” (עֶלְיוֹן ʿelyon) 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.
  43. Psalm 78:35 tn Heb “redeemer”
  44. Psalm 78:36 tn Heb “with their mouth.”
  45. Psalm 78:36 tn Heb “and with their tongue they lied to him.”
  46. Psalm 78:37 tn Heb “and their heart was not firm with him.”
  47. Psalm 78:38 tn One could translate v. 38 in the past tense (“he was compassionate…forgave sin and did not destroy…held back his anger, and did not stir up his fury”), but the imperfect verbal forms are probably best understood as generalizing. Verse 38 steps back briefly from the narrational summary of Israel’s history and lays the theological basis for v. 39, which focuses on God’s mercy toward sinful Israel.
  48. Psalm 78:39 tn The prefixed verbal form with vav (ו) consecutive signals a return to the narrative.
  49. Psalm 78:39 tn Heb “and he remembered that they [were] flesh, a wind [that] goes and does not return.”
  50. Psalm 78:40 tn Or “caused him pain.”
  51. Psalm 78:41 tn Heb “and they returned and tested God.” The Hebrew verb שׁוּב (shuv, “to return”) is used here in an adverbial sense to indicate that an earlier action was repeated.
  52. Psalm 78:41 tn Or “wounded, hurt.” The verb occurs only here in the OT.
  53. Psalm 78:41 sn The basic sense of the word “holy” is “set apart from that which is commonplace, special, unique.” The Lord’s holiness is first and foremost his transcendent sovereignty as the ruler of the world. He is “set apart” from the world over which he rules. At the same time his holiness encompasses his moral authority, which derives from his royal position. As king he has the right to dictate to his subjects how they are to live; indeed his very own character sets the standard for proper behavior. This expression is a common title for the Lord in the book of Isaiah.
  54. Psalm 78:42 tn Heb “his hand,” symbolizing his saving activity and strength, as the next line makes clear.
  55. Psalm 78:42 tn Heb “[the] day [in] which he ransomed them from [the] enemy.”
  56. Psalm 78:43 tn Or “signs” (see Ps 65:8).
  57. Psalm 78:43 tn Or “portents, omens” (see Ps 71:7). The Egyptian plagues are referred to here (see vv. 44-51).
  58. Psalm 78:45 tn Heb “and he sent an insect swarm against them and it devoured them.”
  59. Psalm 78:45 tn Heb “and a swarm of frogs and it destroyed them.”
  60. Psalm 78:48 tn Heb “and he turned over to the hail their cattle.”
  61. Psalm 78:48 tn Heb “and their livestock to the flames.” “Flames” here refer to the lightning bolts that accompanied the storm.
  62. Psalm 78:49 tn Heb “he sent against them the rage of his anger.” The phrase “rage of his anger” employs an appositional genitive. Synonyms are joined in a construct relationship to emphasize the single idea. For a detailed discussion of the grammatical point with numerous examples, see Y. Avishur, “Pairs of Synonymous Words in the Construct State (and in Appositional Hendiadys) in Biblical Hebrew,” Semitics 2 (1971): 17-81.
  63. Psalm 78:49 tn Heb “fury and indignation and trouble, a sending of messengers of disaster.”
  64. Psalm 78:50 tn Heb “he leveled a path for his anger.” There were no obstacles to impede its progress; it moved swiftly and destructively.
  65. Psalm 78:50 tn Or perhaps “[the] plague.”
  66. Psalm 78:51 tn Heb “the beginning of strength.” If retained, the plural form אוֹנִים (ʾonim, “strength”) probably indicates degree (“great strength”), but many ancient witnesses read “their strength,” which presupposes an emendation to אֹנָם (ʾonam; singular form of the noun with third masculine plural pronominal suffix).
  67. Psalm 78:54 tn Heb “this mountain.” The whole land of Canaan seems to be referred to here. In Exod 15:17 the promised land is called the “mountain of your [i.e., God’s] inheritance.”
  68. Psalm 78:54 tn The “right hand” here symbolizes God’s military strength (see v. 55).
  69. Psalm 78:55 tn Heb “he caused to fall [to] them with a measuring line an inheritance.”
  70. Psalm 78:55 tn Heb “and caused the tribes of Israel to settle down in their tents.”
  71. Psalm 78:56 tn Or “tested and rebelled against.”
  72. Psalm 78:56 sn The divine title “Most High” (עֶלְיוֹן ʿelyon) 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.
  73. Psalm 78:56 tn Or “keep.”
  74. Psalm 78:56 tn Heb “his testimonies” (see Ps 25:10).
  75. Psalm 78:57 tn Heb “they turned back.”
  76. Psalm 78:57 tn Or “acted treacherously like.”
  77. Psalm 78:57 tn Heb “they turned aside like a deceitful bow.”
  78. Psalm 78:58 tn Traditionally, “high places.”
  79. Psalm 78:60 tn Or “rejected.”
  80. Psalm 78:61 tn Heb “and he gave to captivity his strength.” The expression “his strength” refers metonymically to the ark of the covenant, which was housed in the tabernacle at Shiloh.
  81. Psalm 78:61 tn Heb “and his splendor into the hand of an enemy.” The expression “his splendor” also refers metonymically to the ark of the covenant.
  82. Psalm 78:61 sn Verses 60-61 refer to the Philistines’ capture of the ark in the days of Eli (1 Sam 4:1-11).
  83. Psalm 78:62 tn Heb “his inheritance.”
  84. Psalm 78:63 tn Heb “his.” The singular pronominal suffix is collective, referring back to God’s “people” (v. 62).
  85. Psalm 78:63 tn Heb “his.” The singular pronominal suffix is collective, referring back to God’s “people” (v. 62).
  86. Psalm 78:63 tn Heb “were not praised,” that is, in wedding songs. The young men died in masses, leaving no husbands for the young women.
  87. Psalm 78:64 tn Heb “his.” The singular pronominal suffix is collective, referring back to God’s “people” (v. 62).
  88. Psalm 78:64 tn Heb “his.” The singular pronominal suffix is collective, referring back to God’s “people” (v. 62).
  89. Psalm 78:64 sn Because of the invading army and the ensuing panic, the priests’ widows had no time to carry out the normal mourning rites.
  90. Psalm 78:65 tn Heb “and the master awoke like one sleeping.” The Lord’s apparent inactivity during the time of judgment is compared to sleep.
  91. Psalm 78:65 tn Heb “like a warrior overcome with wine.” The Hebrew verb רוּן (run, “overcome”) occurs only here in the OT. The phrase “overcome with wine” could picture a drunken warrior controlled by his emotions and passions (as in the present translation), or it could refer to a warrior who awakes from a drunken stupor.
  92. Psalm 78:66 tn Heb “a permanent reproach he made them.”
  93. Psalm 78:69 tc Heb “and he built like the exalting [ones] his sanctuary.” The phrase כְּמוֹ־רָמִים (kemo ramim, “like the exalting [ones]”) is a poetic form of the comparative preposition followed by a participial form of the verb רוּם (rum, “be exalted”). The text should be emended to כִּמְרֹמִים (kimromim, “like the [heavenly] heights”). See Ps 148:1, where “heights” refers to the heavens above.
  94. Psalm 78:69 tn Heb “like the earth, [which] he established permanently.” The feminine singular suffix on the Hebrew verb יָסַד (yasad, “to establish”) refers to the grammatically feminine noun “earth.”
  95. Psalm 78:71 tn Heb “from after the ewes he brought him.”
  96. Psalm 78:71 tn Heb “to shepherd Jacob, his people, and Israel, his inheritance.”
  97. Psalm 78:72 tn Heb “He”; the referent (David, God’s chosen king, mentioned in v. 70) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  98. Psalm 78:72 tn Heb “and he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart.”
  99. Psalm 78:72 tn Heb “and with the understanding of his hands he led them.”
New English Translation (NET)

NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2017 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://netbible.com All rights reserved.


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