Psalm 78:2
I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old:
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(2, 3) I will open.—A difficulty is started by the fact that the psalm deals with history, and is neither a proverb (māshal) nor riddle (chîdah). But the Divine rejection of the northern tribes may be the covert meaning which the poet sees to have been wrapped up in all the ancient history. The word māshal is also sometimes used in a wide, vague sense, embracing prophetic as well as proverbial poetry. (See Numbers 21:27.)

For “dark sayings,” literally, knotty points, see Numbers 12:8. In Habakkuk 2:6 the word seems to mean a sarcasm.

For the use of this passage in Matthew 13:35, see Note, New Testament Commentary.

78:1-8 These are called dark and deep sayings, because they are carefully to be looked into. The law of God was given with a particular charge to teach it diligently to their children, that the church may abide for ever. Also, that the providences of God, both in mercy and in judgment, might encourage them to conform to the will of God. The works of God much strengthen our resolution to keep his commandments. Hypocrisy is the high road to apostacy; those that do not set their hearts right, will not be stedfast with God. Many parents, by negligence and wickedness, become murderers of their children. But young persons, though they are bound to submit in all things lawful, must not obey sinful orders, or copy sinful examples.I will open my mouth in a parable - See the notes at Psalm 49:4. The word "parable" here means a statement by analogy or comparison; that is, he would bring out what he had to say by a course of reasoning founded on an analogy drawn from the ancient history of the people.

I will utter dark sayings of old - Of ancient times; that is, maxims, or sententious thoughts, which had come down from past times, and which embodied the results of ancient observation and reflection. Compare Psalm 49:4, where the word rendered "dark sayings" is explained. He would bring out, and apply, to the present case, the maxims of ancient wisdom.


Ps 78:1-72. This Psalm appears to have been occasioned by the removal of the sanctuary from Shiloh in the tribe of Ephraim to Zion in the tribe of Judah, and the coincident transfer of pre-eminence in Israel from the former to the latter tribe, as clearly evinced by David's settlement as the head of the Church and nation. Though this was the execution of God's purpose, the writer here shows that it also proceeded from the divine judgment on Ephraim, under whose leadership the people had manifested the same sinful and rebellious character which had distinguished their ancestors in Egypt.

1. my people … my law—the language of a religious teacher (Ps 78:2; La 3:14; Ro 2:16, 27; compare Ps 49:4). The history which follows was a "dark saying," or riddle, if left unexplained, and its right apprehension required wisdom and attention.

Open my mouth, speak to you with all freedom and plainness, in a parable; uttering divers and weighty sentences (for such are oft called

parables in Scripture) or passages of great moment for your instruction and advantage.

Dark sayings; so he calls the following passages, not because the words and sentences are in themselves hard to be understood, for they are generally historical and easy, but because the things contained in them, concerning God’s transcendent goodness to an unworthy people, and their unparalleled ingratitude for and abuse of such eminent favours, and their stupid ignorance and insensibleness under such excellent and constant teachings of God’s word and works, are indeed prodigious and hard to be believed.

Of old; of things done in ancient times, and in a great measure worn out of men’s minds.

I will open my mouth,.... Speak freely, boldly, and without reserve, Ephesians 6:19, so Christ opened his mouth, Matthew 5:2,

in a parable; not that what follows in this psalm was such, but what were delivered by our Lord in the days of his flesh, who spake many parables; as of the sower, and of tares, and of the grain of mustard seed, and many others, and without a parable he spake not, and so fulfilled what he here said he would do, Matthew 13:34.

I will utter dark sayings of old; sayings that relate to things of old; meaning not to the coming of the children of Israel out of Egypt, and what follows in the psalm, delivered, as Aben Ezra and Kimchi observe, in figurative and topical terms, as in Psalm 78:19, but to the things which were from the foundation of the world, as the phrase is rendered in Matthew 13:35, spoken of Christ in his ministry, such as the fall of the angels, the ruin of man by Satan, the murder of Abel, Abraham's sight of his day with joy, and many things that were said by them of old, Luke 10:18 or rather this refers to the Gospel, and the sayings and doctrines of it, which were kept secret since the world began, Matthew 13:3, yea, which were ordained before the world was, and therefore called the everlasting Gospel, 1 Corinthians 2:7 and here in the Arabic version, "eternal mysteries"; such as concerning the everlasting love of God to his people, his everlasting choice of them, and everlasting covenant with them: and the sayings or doctrines of the Gospel may he called "dark", because secret, hidden, and mysterious; and were so under the legal dispensation, in comparison of the more clear light under the Gospel dispensation; they having been wrapped up in types and shadows, and in the rites and ceremonies of the law, but now held forth clearly and plainly in the ministry of Christ and his apostles, as in a glass: these Christ says he would "utter" or deliver out as water from a fountain, in great plenty, as he did; he came in the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel; and being full of grace and truth, the doctrines of grace and truth, these came by him, and were delivered from him in all their fulness and glory.

I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old:
2. On the words parable and dark sayings or enigmas see note on Psalm 49:4. The Psalmist has no mere narrative of facts to recount, but a history full of significance for those who can penetrate its hidden meaning. It is a ‘parable’ not for Israel only, but for every individual in the Christian Church. dark sayings of old] Lessons drawn from the history of ancient times, from the Exodus, when Israel was ‘born’ as a nation, onward. Cp. Psalm 77:5.

This verse is freely quoted by St Matthew (Matthew 13:34-35), in a form which does not agree exactly either with the Heb. or with the LXX, with reference to our Lord’s teaching in parables. “All these things spake Jesus in parables unto the multitudes; and without a parable spake he nothing unto them: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through the prophet, saying,

I will open my mouth in parables;

I will utter things hidden from the foundation of the world.”

The words of the Psalmist are not a direct prophecy of the Messiah’s method of teaching; but just as Christ as perfect Man summed up in Himself and fulfilled the manifold experiences of the people of God, so as the perfect Teacher He adopted the methods of the teachers of the old dispensation, and ‘fulfilled’ them by carrying them to their highest perfection. As the Psalmist used the facts of Israel’s history to convey the lesson which he desired to teach, so Christ used the phenomena of Nature and the experiences of Life. Cp. Introd. pp. lxxix ff.

Verse 2. - I will open my mouth in a parable. The facts of Israelitish history. are the "parable," the inner meaning of which it is for the intelligent to grasp. They are φωνᾶντα συνετοῖσιν. I will utter dark sayings of old (comp. Proverbs 1:6). Khidoth (חידות) are properly "riddles" (see Judges 14:12). Here the idea is that God's dealings with his people had been "riddles," whereto the psalmist would give the clue (comp. vers. 21, 22, 33, 56-59, etc.). Psalm 78:2The poet begins very similarly to the poet of Psalm 49. He comes forward among the people as a preacher, and demands for his tra a willing, attentive hearing. תּורה is the word for every human doctrine or instruction, especially for the prophetic discourse which sets forth and propagates the substance of the divine teaching. Asaph is a prophet, hence Psalm 78:2 is quoted in Matthew 13:34. as ῥηθὲν διὰ τοῦ προφήτου.

(Note: The reading διὰ Ἠσαΐ́ου τοῦ προφήτου is, although erroneous, nevertheless ancient; since even the Clementine Homilies introduce this passage as the language of Isaiah.)

He here recounts to the people their history מנּי־קדם, from that Egyptaeo-Sinaitic age of yore to which Israel's national independence and specific position in relation to the rest of the world goes back. It is not, however, with the external aspect of the history that he has to do, but with its internal teachings. משׁל is an allegory or parable, παραβολή, more particularly the apophthegm as the characteristic species of poetry belonging to the Chokma, and then in general a discourse of an elevated style, full of figures, thoughtful, pithy, and rounded. חידה is that which is entangled, knotted, involved, perlexe dictum. The poet, however, does not mean to say that he will literally discourse gnomic sentences and propound riddles, but that he will set forth the history of the fathers after the manner of a parable and riddle, so that it may become as a parable, i.e., a didactic history, and its events as marks of interrogation and nota-bene's to the present age. The lxx renders thus: ἀνοίξω ἐν παραβολαῖς τὸ στόμα μου, φθέγξομαι προβλήματα ἀπ ̓ ἀρχῆς. Instead of this the Gospel by Matthew has: ἀνοίξω ἐν παραβολαῖς τὸ στόμα μου, ἐρεύξομαι κεκρυμμένα ἀπὸ καταβολῆς (κόσμου), and recognises in this language of the Psalm a prophecy of Christ; because it is moulded so appropriately for the mouth of Him who is the Fulfiller not only of the Law and of Prophecy, but also of the vocation of the prophet. It is the object-clause to נכחד, and not a relative clause belonging to the "riddles out of the age of yore," that follows in Psalm 78:3 with אשׁר, for that which has been heard only becomes riddles by the appropriation and turn the poet gives to it. Psalm 78:3 begins a new period (cf. Psalm 69:27; Jeremiah 14:1, and frequently): What we have heard, and in consequence thereof known, and what our fathers have told us (word for word, like Psalm 44:1; Judges 6:13), that will we not hide from their children (cf. Job 15:18). The accentuation is perfectly correct. The Rebı̂a by מבניהם has a greater distinctive force than the Rebı̂a by אחרון (לדור); it is therefore to be rendered: telling to the later generation (which is just what is intended by the offspring of the fathers) the glorious deeds of Jahve, etc. The fut. consec. ויּקם joins on to אשׁר עשׂה. Glorious deeds, proofs of power, miracles hath He wrought, and in connection therewith set up an admonition in Jacob, and laid down an order in Israel, which He commanded our fathers, viz., to propagate by tradition the remembrance of those mighty deeds (Exodus 13:8, Exodus 13:14; Deuteronomy 4:9, and other passages). להודיעם has the same object as והודעתּם in Deuteronomy 4:9; Joshua 4:22. The matter in question is not the giving of the Law in general, as the purpose of which, the keeping of the laws, ought then to have been mentioned before anything else, but a precept, the purpose of which was the further proclamation of the magnalia Dei, and indirectly the promotion of trust in god and fidelity to the Law; cf. Psalm 81:5., where the special precept concerning the celebration of the Feast of the Passover is described as a עדוּת laid down in Joseph. The following generation, the children, which shall be born in the course of the ages, were to know concerning His deeds, and also themselves to rise up (יקוּמוּ, not: come into being, like the יבאוּ of the older model-passage Psalm 22:32) and to tell them further to their children, in order that these might place their confidence in god (שׂים כּסל, like שׁית מחסה in Psalm 73:28), and might not forget the mighty deeds of God (Psalm 118:17), and might keep His commandments, being warned by the disobedience of the fathers. The generation of the latter is called סורר וּמרה, just as the degenerate son that is to be stoned is called in Deuteronomy 21:18. הכין לבּו, to direct one's heart, i.e., to give it the right direction or tendency, to put it into the right state, is to be understood after Psalm 78:37, 2 Chronicles 20:33, Sir. 2:17.

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