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Bible Commentaries

Scott's Explanatory Notes, Practical Observations on the book Psalms

Psalms 81

Verses 1-16

Psalms 81:1-16.

V. 1-5. It is probable, that this psalm was composed in the time of David, when the ark had been removed to mount Zion ; and that it was especially intended for the new moons, and that in particular which began the seventh month, called the feast of trumpets, or the new year according to the old computation. (Notes, Exodus 12:2. Leviticus 23:24-25. Numbers 10:2-10; Numbers 29:1-6.) Some think, that on this day Moses came down from the mount the second time, with the tables of the law, and full orders to erect a tabernacle, in the most sacred place of which these tables might be placed, in the ark of the covenant, and covered with the mercy-seat, over which the glory of God, as dwelling among his people was displayed ; and that this day was observed as a memorial of that event, and a testimony of the relation which subsisted between God and Israel. The word rendered " Psalrn (2)," may signify the instruments of psalmody, some of which are afterwards enumerated. ’ Joseph’s ’ family was counted the chief before that Judah was preferred.’ No doubt the descendants of Joseph were counted the chief, during most of the time, that the Israelites continued in Egypt ; as Joseph had there been the protector of the whole family. God went through the land of Egypt destroying all the first born ; or against the land (marg.) in all the plagues which he inflicted : (Notes, Exodus 11:4-5; Exodus 12:11-14; Exodus 12:29-30:) yet the feast of trumpets did not take place till almost seven months after Israel left Egypt; for their deliverance was in some sense incomplete, till Moses descended the second time from the mount, with the tokens of God’s reconciliation to his offending people. In the last clause, the Psalmist evidently speaks in the name of the nation, or the church of God, as a corporate body from age to age. It seems that the Israelites did not understand the language of their haughty oppressors, which must have tended to render their bondage more distressing. (Notes, Psalms 114:1-2. Genesis 42:23.)

V. 6. It is evident that the Lord himself speaks, through the remainder of the psalm, though the change of person is not noticed. Some suppose, that the voice of God, with which Israel in Egypt was unacquainted, was meant by " the language which he understood not (5) ; " and then this and the following verses may be considered as a recapitulation of the messages of God to the nation, by Moses, during the events attending its deliverance. God then said concerning Israel, " I remove his shoulder, &c." It is not certain what is meant by the word (in) translated " the pots : " whether any earthen vessels which the Israelites were employed to make ; or the kilns in which the bricks were burnt, or baskets used in their work; (marg.) or the pots, in which the food for this immense number of slaves was prepared, the flesh pots which they afterwards regretted. (Note, Exodus 16:1-3.)

V. 7 (Marg. Ref.) The secret place, &c.] Some think that this refers to the cloudy pillar, from the hidden recess of which JEHOVAH spake in mercy to his people, and in thunder to his enemies. (Notes, Psalms 99:6-7) But perhaps mount Sinai is meant, from whose inaccessible summit, out of the midst of the thunder and lightning the Lord spake the ten commandments, the first of which is afterwards referred to. (10. Notes, Exodus 19:20:) / proved thee, &c.] Notes, Exodus 17:1-7 - Numbers 20:2-13.

V. 8 10. The old translation of these verses seems as literal as the present version, and more expressive. " Hear, " O my people, and I will protest unto thee : O Israel, if " thou wilt hearken unto me, and wilt have no strange god " in thee, neither worship any strange god ; ( I am the " LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of "Egypt;) open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it." ’If thou adherest to the worship of JEHOVAH alone, according to the terms of the national covenant ; I will grant the largest desires of thy heart, and requests of thy lips.’ According to the present translation of the ninth verse, the future is evidently put for the imperative, as is the case with several of the ten commandments ; and it means " Let no strange God, &c." ’ There will be no need ; I will abundantly supply all thy wants.’ The larger their desires and expectations were, and the more copious and comprehensive their prayers, the more abundantly would they receive from the all-sufficiency of God. It is almost impossible not to think in this place of our Lord’s address to the Jews, " If any man thirst, let him come unto me " and drink." (Marg. Ref. Note, John 7:37-39.) The former part of the tenth verse may perhaps be rendered ; " I, JEHOVAH, who brought thee out of the land " of Egypt, am thy God." ’ With such an omnipotent and all-sufficient Protector and Friend, thou canst not want any other god.’ (Notes, Ezekiel 20:7-9; Ezekiel 20:17-22.)

V. 11, 12. Israel, as a nation, were the people of God, by profession, covenant, and the strongest obligations; but they were not so by their own choice of him. They would not have him for their Portion, and their Lord ; but expected more advantages from their dumb idols than from him : and therefore they were left to be judicially deceived, hardened, and ruined, as the just punishment of their sins. Thus wisdom (that is, Christ) complains, " They would " none of my counsel, they despised all my reproof;" and this was the cause of their destruction. (Notes, Proverbs 1:20-33. Acts 7:37-43. Romans 1:24-27. 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12.)

V. 13. (Notes, Deuteronomy 5:28-29; Deuteronomy 32:29.) Such expressions denote the Lord’s willingness to receive returning sinners, and the delight which he takes in shewing mercy and doing good, and in the faith and obedience of his people : and they prove, that the ruin of sinners is altogether the effect of their own pride and obstinacy. But it would be absurd to draw inferences from them, which cannot consist with other parts of Scripture. (Notes, Is. 48: 17- 19, Ezekiel 18:23; Ezekiel 33:11. 1 Timothy 2:3-4.) ’One ’ cannot help observing the similitude between the com’ plaint here uttered, and one which hath been since ’ breathed forth over the same people ; " O Jerusalem, Je’ " rusalem . . .how often would I have gathered thy children ’ " together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under ’ " her wings, and ye would not ! " Bp. Home. (Note, Matthew 23:37-39.)

V. 14, 15. ’I should in a short time have quelled all ’ their enemies ; and by one victory after another have quite ’ destroyed their adversaries. . . . All that maligned their ’ prosperity, and set themselves against the design of the ’ LORD to make them victorious over their enemies, should ’ have been so daunted, that they should have dissembled ’ their inward hatred, and been forced, at least, to a coun’ terfeit submission : but his people should have seen ’ blessed days, and enjoyed a substantial and durable happiness, without any interruption.’ Bp. Patrick. The nation of Israel, if they had been obedient, would have possessed their privileges to the coming of Christ, and have been then incorporated into his church, which shall continue on earth to the end of time, and in heaven to all eternity. Submitted. (15) " Lied." Marg. (Note, Psalms 66:1-3.)

V. 16. Marg. Ref. Notes, Deuteronomy 32:13-14.


It is our duty and privilege to attend on the ordinances of God, and to abound in praise and thanksgiving: and we should excite one another to these pleasant services, embracing every opportunity for them, and improving all our ability in them. For the Lord is the Strength of his people ; and all the worship, which we can render, is far beneath his glorious excellences, and our initmnse obligations to him, especially in our redemption from wrath and sin. When therefore he commands this reasonable service, and intimates his acceptance of it, he testifies his mercy and condescending love to us. For we ought never to forget the base and ruinous drudgery to which Satan had reduced us ; or our rebellions against God, for which we deserved to be left the bond -slaves of this cruel tyrant, and to have our final portion with him. But when in distress of conscience we are led to cry for deliverance, the Lord answers our prayers, and sets us at liberty. As the giving of the law from mount Sinai, and the trials of Israel in the wilderness, were proofs of the Lord’s peculiar regard to that people ; so humiliating convictions of sin, and sharp afflictions, are generally, and the law written in our heart is always, evidential of the love of God to our souls. But he speaks to multitudes, both by the awful requirements and sanctions of his law, and by the invitations and promises of his gospel, and even to many who profess themselves his people, who yet will not hearken to his voice, or have him for their Portion ; for they foolishly expect more satisfaction from their sins, than from the all-sufficient God. Thus they provoke him to give them up to their own heart’s lust, and to leave them to their perverse choice : and then, whilst they prosper in wickedness, and are envied by their fellow sinners, they ripen apace for eternal ruin. But the Lord delights in the conversion of sinners, and in the faith and obedience of his people. They may desire and ask as much as they will ; and he will answer and exceed their expectations : their enemies shall be subdued ; and their souls satisfied with those unspeakable- blessings, which flow from " the Rock of salvation:" their bodies also shall be fed with " food convenient for them," and their eternal inheritance secured to them ; while all the haters of the Lord shall fall under his power, and perish for ever. May he then incline our hearts to obey his call, and walk in his ways : and may he enlarge and assist our prayers ; that, being delivered from our enemies, we may " open our mouths wide," both in fervent, and copious, and large requests, and take in abundantly the waters of life and salvation, and so to drink and live for ever.

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Bibliographical Information
Scott, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 81". Scott's Explanatory Notes, Practical Observations on the book Psalms. 1804.