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Psalm 78 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Psalm 78[a]

A New Beginning in Zion and David

A maskil of Asaph.


Attend, my people, to my teaching;
    listen to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth in a parable,[b]
    unfold the puzzling events of the past.
What we have heard and know;
    things our ancestors have recounted to us.
We do not keep them from our children;
    we recount them to the next generation,
The praiseworthy deeds of the Lord and his strength,
    the wonders that he performed.
God made a decree in Jacob,
    established a law in Israel:
Which he commanded our ancestors,
    they were to teach their children;
That the next generation might come to know,
    children yet to be born.
In turn they were to recount them to their children,
    that they too might put their confidence in God,
And not forget God’s deeds,
    but keep his commandments.
They were not to be like their ancestors,
    a rebellious and defiant generation,
A generation whose heart was not constant,
    and whose spirit was not faithful to God.
The ranks of Ephraimite archers,[c]
    retreated on the day of battle.
10 They did not keep God’s covenant;
    they refused to walk according to his law.
11 They forgot his deeds,
    the wonders that he had shown them.



12 In the sight of their ancestors God did wonders,
    in the land of Egypt, the plain of Zoan.[d]
13 He split the sea and led them across,
    making the waters stand like walls.
14 He led them with a cloud by day,
    all night with the light of fire.
15 He split rocks in the desert,
    gave water to drink, abundant as the deeps of the sea.
16 He made streams flow from crags,
    caused rivers of water to flow down.


17 But they went on sinning against him,
    rebelling against the Most High in the desert.
18 They tested God in their hearts,
    demanding the food they craved.
19 They spoke against God, and said,
    “Can God spread a table in the wilderness?
20 True, when he struck the rock,
    water gushed forth,
    the wadies flooded.
But can he also give bread,
    or provide meat to his people?”


21 The Lord heard and grew angry;
    fire blazed up against Jacob;
    anger flared up against Israel.
22 For they did not believe in God,
    did not trust in his saving power.
23 [e]So he commanded the clouds above;
    and opened the doors of heaven.
24 God rained manna upon them for food;
    grain from heaven he gave them.
25 Man ate the bread of the angels;[f]
    food he sent in abundance.
26 He stirred up the east wind in the skies;
    by his might God brought on the south wind.
27 He rained meat upon them like dust,
    winged fowl like the sands of the sea,
28 They fell down in the midst of their camp,
    all round their dwellings.
29 They ate and were well filled;
    he gave them what they had craved.
30 But while they still wanted more,
    and the food was still in their mouths,
31 God’s anger flared up against them,
    and he made a slaughter of their strongest,
    laying low the youth of Israel.
32 In spite of all this they went on sinning,
    they did not believe in his wonders.


33 God ended their days abruptly,
    their years in sudden death.
34 When he slew them, they began to seek him;
    they again looked for God.
35 They remembered[g] that God was their rock,
    God Most High, their redeemer.
36 But they deceived him with their mouths,
    lied to him with their tongues.
37 Their hearts were not constant toward him;
    they were not faithful to his covenant.
38 [h]But God being compassionate forgave their sin;
    he did not utterly destroy them.
Time and again he turned back his anger,
    unwilling to unleash all his rage.
39 He remembered that they were flesh,
    a breath that passes on and does not return.



40 How often they rebelled against God in the wilderness,
    grieved him in the wasteland.
41 Again and again they tested God,
    provoked the Holy One of Israel.
42 They did not remember his power,
    the day he redeemed them from the foe,
43 [i]When he performed his signs in Egypt,
    his wonders in the plain of Zoan.
44 God turned their rivers to blood;
    their streams they could not drink.
45 He sent swarms of insects that devoured them,
    frogs that destroyed them.
46 He gave their harvest to the caterpillar,
    the fruits of their labor to the locust.
47 He killed their vines with hail,
    their sycamores with frost.
48 He exposed their cattle to plague,
    their flocks to pestilence.
49 He let loose against them the heat of his anger,
    wrath, fury, and distress,
    a band of deadly messengers.
50 He cleared a path for his anger;
    he did not spare them from death,
    but delivered their animals to the plague.
51 He struck all the firstborn of Egypt,
    the first fruits of their vigor in the tents of Ham.
52 Then God led forth his people like sheep,
    guided them like a flock through the wilderness.
53 He led them on secure and unafraid,
    while the sea enveloped their enemies.
54 And he brought them to his holy mountain,
    the hill his right hand had won.
55 He drove out the nations before them,
    allotted them as their inherited portion,
    and settled in their tents the tribes of Israel.


56 But they tested and rebelled against God Most High,
    his decrees they did not observe.
57 They turned disloyal, faithless like their ancestors;
    they proved false like a slack bow.
58 They enraged him with their high places,
    and with their idols provoked him[j] to jealous anger.


59 God heard and grew angry;
    he rejected Israel completely.
60 He forsook the shrine at Shiloh,[k]
    the tent he set up among human beings.
61 He gave up his might into captivity,
    his glorious ark into the hands of the foe.
62 God delivered his people to the sword;
    he was enraged against his heritage.
63 Fire consumed their young men;
    their young women heard no wedding songs.
64 Their priests fell by the sword;
    their widows made no lamentation.


65 Then the Lord awoke as from sleep,
    like a warrior shouting from the effects of wine.
66 He put his foes to flight;
    everlasting shame he dealt them.
67 He rejected the tent of Joseph,
    chose not the tribe of Ephraim.
68 [l]God chose the tribe of Judah,
    Mount Zion which he loved.
69 He built his shrine like the heavens,
    like the earth which he founded forever.
70 He chose David his servant,
    took him from the sheepfolds.
71 From tending ewes God brought him,
    to shepherd Jacob, his people,
    Israel, his heritage.
72 He shepherded them with a pure heart;
    with skilled hands he guided them.


  1. Psalm 78 A recital of history to show that past generations did not respond to God’s gracious deeds and were punished by God making the gift into a punishment. Will Israel fail to appreciate God’s act—the choosing of Zion and of David? The tripartite introduction invites Israel to learn the lessons hidden in its traditions (Ps 78:1–4, 5–7, 8–11); each section ends with the mention of God’s acts. There are two distinct narratives of approximately equal length: the wilderness events (Ps 78:12–39) and the movement from Egypt to Canaan (Ps 78:40–72). The structure of both is parallel: gracious act (Ps 78:12–16, 40–55), rebellion (Ps 78:17–20, 56–58), divine punishment (Ps 78:21–31, 59–64), God’s readiness to forgive and begin anew (Ps 78:32–39, 65–72). While the Psalm has been thought to reflect the reunification program of either King Hezekiah (late eighth century) or King Josiah (late seventh century) in that the Northern Kingdom (Ephraim, Joseph) is especially invited to accept Zion and the Davidic king, a postexilic setting is also possible. Notable is the inclusion of the David-Zion tradition into the history of Israel recounted in the sources of the Pentateuch.
  2. 78:2 Parable: Hebrew mashal literally refers to some sort of relationship of comparison and can signify a story whose didactic potential becomes clear in the telling, as here in the retrospective examination of the history of Israel. Mt 13:35 cites the verse to explain Jesus’ use of parables.
  3. 78:9 Ephraimite archers: Ephraim was the most important tribe of the Northern Kingdom. Its military defeat (here unspecified) demonstrates its infidelity to God, who otherwise would have protected it.
  4. 78:12, 43 Zoan: a city on the arm of the Nile, a former capital of Egypt.
  5. 78:23–31 On the manna and the quail, see Ex 16 and Nm 11. Unlike Ex 16, here both manna and quail are instruments of punishment, showing that a divine gift can become deadly because of Israel’s apostasy.
  6. 78:25 Bread of the angels: the translation “angels” comports with the supernatural origin of the manna, though the Hebrew lechem ‘abbirim is more literally translated as “bread of the strong ones” or “bread of the mighty.” In the context of the manna event, this phrase cannot possibly mean the Israelites or any human being.
  7. 78:35 Remembered: invoked God publicly in worship. Their words were insincere (Ps 78:36).
  8. 78:38 God is always ready to forgive and begin anew, as in choosing Zion and David (Ps 78:65–72).
  9. 78:43–55 Ex 7–12 records ten plagues. Here there are six divine attacks upon Egypt; the seventh climactic act is God’s bringing Israel to the holy land.
  10. 78:58 Provoked him: lit., “made him jealous.”
  11. 78:60 Shiloh: an important shrine in the north prior to Jerusalem. Despite its holy status, it was destroyed (Ps 78:60–64; cf. Jer 7:12, 14).
  12. 78:68, 70 God’s ultimate offer of mercy to the sinful, helpless people is Zion and the Davidic king.
New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Scripture texts, prefaces, introductions, footnotes and cross references used in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC All Rights Reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Psalm 78 New International Version (NIV)

Psalm 78

A maskil[a] of Asaph.

My people, hear my teaching;
    listen to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth with a parable;
    I will utter hidden things, things from of old—
things we have heard and known,
    things our ancestors have told us.
We will not hide them from their descendants;
    we will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord,
    his power, and the wonders he has done.
He decreed statutes for Jacob
    and established the law in Israel,
which he commanded our ancestors
    to teach their children,
so the next generation would know them,
    even the children yet to be born,
    and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God
    and would not forget his deeds
    but would keep his commands.
They would not be like their ancestors
    a stubborn and rebellious generation,
whose hearts were not loyal to God,
    whose spirits were not faithful to him.

The men of Ephraim, though armed with bows,
    turned back on the day of battle;
10 they did not keep God’s covenant
    and refused to live by his law.
11 They forgot what he had done,
    the wonders he had shown them.
12 He did miracles in the sight of their ancestors
    in the land of Egypt, in the region of Zoan.
13 He divided the sea and led them through;
    he made the water stand up like a wall.
14 He guided them with the cloud by day
    and with light from the fire all night.
15 He split the rocks in the wilderness
    and gave them water as abundant as the seas;
16 he brought streams out of a rocky crag
    and made water flow down like rivers.

17 But they continued to sin against him,
    rebelling in the wilderness against the Most High.
18 They willfully put God to the test
    by demanding the food they craved.
19 They spoke against God;
    they said, “Can God really
    spread a table in the wilderness?
20 True, he struck the rock,
    and water gushed out,
    streams flowed abundantly,
but can he also give us bread?
    Can he supply meat for his people?”
21 When the Lord heard them, he was furious;
    his fire broke out against Jacob,
    and his wrath rose against Israel,
22 for they did not believe in God
    or trust in his deliverance.
23 Yet he gave a command to the skies above
    and opened the doors of the heavens;
24 he rained down manna for the people to eat,
    he gave them the grain of heaven.
25 Human beings ate the bread of angels;
    he sent them all the food they could eat.
26 He let loose the east wind from the heavens
    and by his power made the south wind blow.
27 He rained meat down on them like dust,
    birds like sand on the seashore.
28 He made them come down inside their camp,
    all around their tents.
29 They ate till they were gorged—
    he had given them what they craved.
30 But before they turned from what they craved,
    even while the food was still in their mouths,
31 God’s anger rose against them;
    he put to death the sturdiest among them,
    cutting down the young men of Israel.

32 In spite of all this, they kept on sinning;
    in spite of his wonders, they did not believe.
33 So he ended their days in futility
    and their years in terror.
34 Whenever God slew them, they would seek him;
    they eagerly turned to him again.
35 They remembered that God was their Rock,
    that God Most High was their Redeemer.
36 But then they would flatter him with their mouths,
    lying to him with their tongues;
37 their hearts were not loyal to him,
    they were not faithful to his covenant.
38 Yet he was merciful;
    he forgave their iniquities
    and did not destroy them.
Time after time he restrained his anger
    and did not stir up his full wrath.
39 He remembered that they were but flesh,
    a passing breeze that does not return.

40 How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness
    and grieved him in the wasteland!
41 Again and again they put God to the test;
    they vexed the Holy One of Israel.
42 They did not remember his power—
    the day he redeemed them from the oppressor,
43 the day he displayed his signs in Egypt,
    his wonders in the region of Zoan.
44 He turned their river into blood;
    they could not drink from their streams.
45 He sent swarms of flies that devoured them,
    and frogs that devastated them.
46 He gave their crops to the grasshopper,
    their produce to the locust.
47 He destroyed their vines with hail
    and their sycamore-figs with sleet.
48 He gave over their cattle to the hail,
    their livestock to bolts of lightning.
49 He unleashed against them his hot anger,
    his wrath, indignation and hostility—
    a band of destroying angels.
50 He prepared a path for his anger;
    he did not spare them from death
    but gave them over to the plague.
51 He struck down all the firstborn of Egypt,
    the firstfruits of manhood in the tents of Ham.
52 But he brought his people out like a flock;
    he led them like sheep through the wilderness.
53 He guided them safely, so they were unafraid;
    but the sea engulfed their enemies.
54 And so he brought them to the border of his holy land,
    to the hill country his right hand had taken.
55 He drove out nations before them
    and allotted their lands to them as an inheritance;
    he settled the tribes of Israel in their homes.

56 But they put God to the test
    and rebelled against the Most High;
    they did not keep his statutes.
57 Like their ancestors they were disloyal and faithless,
    as unreliable as a faulty bow.
58 They angered him with their high places;
    they aroused his jealousy with their idols.
59 When God heard them, he was furious;
    he rejected Israel completely.
60 He abandoned the tabernacle of Shiloh,
    the tent he had set up among humans.
61 He sent the ark of his might into captivity,
    his splendor into the hands of the enemy.
62 He gave his people over to the sword;
    he was furious with his inheritance.
63 Fire consumed their young men,
    and their young women had no wedding songs;
64 their priests were put to the sword,
    and their widows could not weep.

65 Then the Lord awoke as from sleep,
    as a warrior wakes from the stupor of wine.
66 He beat back his enemies;
    he put them to everlasting shame.
67 Then he rejected the tents of Joseph,
    he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim;
68 but he chose the tribe of Judah,
    Mount Zion, which he loved.
69 He built his sanctuary like the heights,
    like the earth that he established forever.
70 He chose David his servant
    and took him from the sheep pens;
71 from tending the sheep he brought him
    to be the shepherd of his people Jacob,
    of Israel his inheritance.
72 And David shepherded them with integrity of heart;
    with skillful hands he led them.


  1. Psalm 78:1 Title: Probably a literary or musical term
New International Version (NIV)

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