Psalm 78:21
Therefore the LORD heard this, and was wroth: so a fire was kindled against Jacob, and anger also came up against Israel;
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(21) See references in margin.

Psalm 78:21-22. The Lord heard, and was wroth — Such rude and insolent language highly incensed the Divine Majesty. So a fire was kindled against Jacob — He sent lightning from heaven to consume those whom he had before cherished, Numbers 11:1. Or, the expression may be taken figuratively for the fire of God’s anger, as it follows. Observe, reader, God is a witness to all our murmurings and distrusts: he hears them, and is much displeased with them. To unbelievers our God is himself a consuming fire, and those that will not confide in the power of his mercy shall feel the power of his indignation, and be made to confess that it is a fearful thing to fall into his hands. Because they believed not in God — Because, by this their distrust and murmuring, it appeared that they did not give credit to the revelation God had made of himself to them: for they durst not commit themselves to his care, nor venture themselves in his hands; and trusted not in his salvation — That he could and would save them from the famine and destruction which they feared; they trusted not in the salvation he had begun to work for them; for, if they had, they would not thus have questioned its progress. Mark well, reader, those cannot be said to trust in God’s salvation as their felicity at last, who cannot find in their hearts to trust in his providence for food convenient in the way to it.

78:9-39. Sin dispirits men, and takes away the heart. Forgetfulness of God's works is the cause of disobedience to his laws. This narrative relates a struggle between God's goodness and man's badness. The Lord hears all our murmurings and distrusts, and is much displeased. Those that will not believe the power of God's mercy, shall feel the fire of his indignation. Those cannot be said to trust in God's salvation as their happiness at last, who can not trust his providence in the way to it. To all that by faith and prayer, ask, seek, and knock, these doors of heaven shall at any time be opened; and our distrust of God is a great aggravation of our sins. He expressed his resentment of their provocation; not in denying what they sinfully lusted after, but in granting it to them. Lust is contented with nothing. Those that indulge their lust, will never be estranged from it. Those hearts are hard indeed, that will neither be melted by the mercies of the Lord, nor broken by his judgments. Those that sin still, must expect to be in trouble still. And the reason why we live with so little comfort, and to so little purpose, is, because we do not live by faith. Under these rebukes they professed repentance, but they were not sincere, for they were not constant. In Israel's history we have a picture of our own hearts and lives. God's patience, and warnings, and mercies, imbolden them to harden their hearts against his word. And the history of kingdoms is much the same. Judgments and mercies have been little attended to, until the measure of their sins has been full. And higher advantages have not kept churches from declining from the commandments of God. Even true believers recollect, that for many a year they abused the kindness of Providence. When they come to heaven, how will they admire the Lord's patience and mercy in bringing them to his kingdom!Therefore the Lord heard this, and was wroth - See Numbers 11:1, Numbers 11:10.

So a fire was kindled against Jacob ... - Fire may be used here, as in Numbers 11:1, as an emblem of wrath; a fire may have been literally sent down to consume them.

21. fire—the effect of the "anger" (Nu 11:1). A fire was kindled; either properly, as it was Numbers 11:1; or figuratively, the fire of God’s anger, as it follows.

Therefore the Lord heard this,.... What they said in their hearts, and what they expressed with their mouths, all their murmurings against him, their distrust of his power and providence, and disbelief of his promises; see Numbers 11:1, and was wroth; exceeding wroth; he was highly displeased; there was an overflow of his indignation, as the word (a) signifies; it was running upon him, upon the thick bosses of his buckler, to arraign his perfections, call in question any of his attributes, and disbelieve his word; this must greatly exasperate him, and provoke the eyes of his glory:

so a fire was kindled against Jacob; the posterity of Jacob; or in Jacob (b), in the camp of Israel; which was literally true, because of the murmurings of the people against the Lord fire came down from heaven, and burnt among them, and consumed the uttermost parts of the camp; wherefore the name of the place was called Taberah, which signifies a burning, Numbers 11:1, or it may be taken figuratively for the wrath of God, which is oftentimes compared to fire; see Nahum 1:6 hence it follows,

and anger also came up against Israel; the people of Israel, the same with Jacob before; the allusion is to men when angry, in whose breasts anger burns, and from thence it rises up, and shows itself in their countenance, in their eyes, and by the words of their mouth.

(a) "transiit in hithpael de transitu vel exundatione bilis solet usurpari", Gejerus. (b) "in Jahacob", Pagninus, Montanus, Musculus.

Therefore the LORD heard this, and was wroth: so a fire was kindled against Jacob, and anger also came up against Israel;
21. Therefore when Jehovah heard, he was wroth:

And a fire was kindled against Jacob,

And anger also went up against Israel.

Cp. Psalm 78:59; Psalm 78:62. A fire alludes to the punishment of the murmuring Israelites by the burning at Taberah (Numbers 11:1 ff.), before the second giving of quails.

Went up is a metaphor from smoke. Cp. Psalm 18:8; Psalm 74:1.

Verse 21. - Therefore the Lord heard this. Though these might be unspoken thoughts, yet God would "hear" them, i.e. be aware of them; for "he knoweth the very secrets of the heart." And was wroth (comp. vers. 59, 62; Deuteronomy 3:26). So a fire was kindled against Jacob. Not a material fire, as in Leviticus 10:2; Numbers 11:1-3; and Numbers 16:35; but the fire of God's displeasure. And anger also came up against Israel (comp. vers. 30, 31; Numbers 11:33). Psalm 78:21It is now related how wonderfully God led the fathers of these Ephraimites, who behaved themselves so badly as the leading tribe of Israel, in the desert; how they again and again ever indulged sinful murmuring, and still He continued to give proofs of His power and of His loving-kindness. The (according to Numbers 13:22) very ancient Zoan (Tanis), ancient Egyptian Zane, Coptic G'ane, on the east bank of the Tanitic arm of the Nile, so called therefrom - according to the researches to which the Turin Papyrus No. 112 has led, identical with Avaris (vid., on Isaiah 19:11)

(Note: The identity of Avaris and Tanis is in the meanwhile again become doubtful. Tanis was the Hyksos city, but Pelusium equals Avaris the Hyksos fortress; vid., Petermann's Mittheilungen, 1866, S. 296-298.)

- was the seat of the Hyksos dynasties that ruled in the eastern Delta, where after their overthrow Rameses II, the Pharaoh of the bondage, in order to propitiate the enraged mass of the Semitic population of Lower Egypt, embraced the worship of Baal instituted by King Apophis. The colossal sitting figure of Rameses II in the pillared court of the Royal Museum in Berlin, says Brugsch (Aus dem Orient ii. 45), is the figure which Rameses himself dedicated to the temple of Baal in Tanis and set up before its entrance. This mighty colossus is a contemporary of Moses, who certainly once looked upon this monument, when, as Psalm 78 says, he "wrought wonders in the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan." The psalmist, moreover, keeps very close to the Tra in his reproduction of the history of the Exodus, and in fact so close that he must have had it before him in the entirety of its several parts, the Deuteronomic, Elohimistic, and Jehovistic. Concerning the rule by which it is appointed ‛ā'sa phéle, vid., on Psalm 52:5. The primary passage to Psalm 78:13 (cf. נוזלים Psalm 78:16) is Exodus 15:8. נד is a pile, i.e., a piled up heap or mass, as in Psalm 33:7. And Psalm 78:14 is the abbreviation of Exodus 13:21. In Psalm 78:15. the writer condenses into one the two instances of the giving of water from the rock, in the first year of the Exodus (Exodus 17) and in the fortieth year (Numbers 20). The Piel יבקּע and the plural צרים correspond to this compression. רבּה is not an adjective (after the analogy of תּהום רבּה), but an adverb as in Psalm 62:3; for the giving to drink needs a qualificative, but תהמות does not need any enhancement. ויּוצא has ı̂ instead of ē as in Psalm 105:43.

The fact that the subject is continued in Psalm 78:17 with ויּוסיפוּ without mention having been made of any sinning on the part of the generation of the desert, is explicable from the consideration that the remembrance of that murmuring is closely connected with the giving of water from the rock to which the names Massah u-Merı̂bah and Merı̂bath-Kadesh (cf. Numbers 20:13 with Numbers 27:14; Deuteronomy 32:51) point back: they went on (עוד) winning against Him, in spite of the miracles they experienced. למרות is syncopated from להמרות as in Isaiah 3:8. The poet in Psalm 78:18 condenses the account of the manifestations of discontent which preceded the giving of the quails and manna (Exodus 16), and the second giving of quails (Numbers 11), as he has done the two cases of the giving of water from the rock in Psalm 78:15. They tempted God by unbelievingly and defiantly demanding (לשׁאל, postulando, Ew. 280, d) instead of trustfully hoping and praying. בּלבבם points to the evil fountain of the heart, and לנפשׁם describes their longing as a sensual eagerness, a lusting after it. Instead of allowing the miracles hitherto wrought to work faith in them, they made the miracles themselves the starting-point of fresh doubts. The poet here clothes what we read in Exodus 16:3; Numbers 11:4., Psalm 21:5, in a poetic dress. In לעמּו the unbelief reaches it climax, it sounds like self-irony. On the co-ordinating construction "therefore Jahve heard it and was wroth," cf. Isaiah 5:4; Isaiah 12:1; Isaiah 50:2; Romans 6:17. The allusion is to the wrath-burning at Taberah (Tab'eera), Numbers 11:1-3, which preceded the giving of the quails in the second year of the Exodus. For it is obvious that Psalm 78:21 and Numbers 11:1 coincide, ויתעבר ואשׁ here being suggested by the ותבער־בם אשׁ eht yb d of that passage, and אף עלה being the opposite of ותשׁקע האשׁ in Psalm 78:2. A conflagration broke out at that time in the camp, at the same time, however, with the breaking out of God's anger. The nexus between the anger and the fire is here an outward one, whereas in Numbers 11:1 it is an internal one. The ground upon which the wrathful decree is based, which is only hinted at there, is here more minutely given in Psalm 78:22 : they believed not in Elohim (vid., Numbers 14:11), i.e., did not rest with believing confidence in Him, and trusted not in His salvation, viz., that which they had experienced in the redemption out of Egypt (Exodus 14:13; Exodus 15:2), and which was thereby guaranteed for time to come. Now, however, when Taberah is here followed first by the giving of the manna, Psalm 78:23-25, then by the giving of the quails, Psalm 78:26-29, the course of the events is deranged, since the giving of the manna had preceded that burning, and it was only the giving of the quails that followed it. This putting together of the two givings out of order was rendered necessary by the preceding condensation (in Psalm 78:18-20) of the clamorous desire for a more abundant supply of food before each of these events. Notwithstanding Israel's unbelief, He still remained faithful: He caused manna to rain down out of the opened gates of heaven (cf. "the windows of heaven," Genesis 7:11; 2 Kings 7:2; Malachi 3:10), that is to say, in richest abundance. The manna is called corn (as in Psalm 105:40, after Exodus 16:4, it is called bread) of heaven, because it descended in the form of grains of corn, and supplied the place of bread-corn during the forty years. לחם אבּירים the lxx correctly renders ἄρτον ἀγγέλων (אבּירים equals גּבּרי כח, Psalm 103:20). The manna is called "bread of angels" (Wisd. 16:20) as being bread from heaven (Psalm 78:24, Psalm 105:40), the dwelling-place of angels, as being mann es-semâ, heaven's gift, its Arabic name, - a name which also belongs to the vegetable manna which flows out of the Tamarix mannifera in consequence of the puncture of the Coccus manniparus, and is even at the present day invaluable to the inhabitants of the desert of Sinai. אישׁ is the antithesis to אבירים; for if it signified "every one," אכלוּ would have been said (Hitzig). צידהּ as in Exodus 12:39; לשׂבע as in Exodus 16:3, cf. Psalm 78:8.

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