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Psalm 78

How Often They Rebelled

A maskil by Asaph.

A Solemn Call to Hear

Give ear, O my people, to my instruction.
Turn your ear to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth to share a lesson.
I will speak about puzzling problems from long ago,
things we have heard and known,
things our fathers 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 that he has done.
He set up testimony for Jacob.
In Israel he established the law.
He commanded our fathers to make it known to their children.
Then the next generation would know it,
even the children not yet born.
They would rise up and tell their children.
Then they would put their confidence in God,
and they would not forget the deeds of God,
but they would keep his commands.
Then they would not be like their fathers,
a stubborn, rebellious generation,
a generation that did not keep their hearts steadfast,
whose spirits were not faithful to God.

The Rebellion

The tribe of Ephraim, equipped and armed with bows,
    deserted on the day of battle.
10 They did not keep God’s covenant, and they refused to walk in his law.
11 They forgot his deeds, the wonders he had shown to them.

God’s Goodness in the Wilderness

12 In the presence of their fathers he had performed a wonder,
in the land of Egypt, in the region of Zoan.
13 He split the sea and let them cross through it.
He made the water stand like a wall.
14 He led them with the cloud by day
and all through the night with light from the fire.
15 He split the rocks in the wilderness,
and he let them drink water as plentiful as the deep sea.
16 He brought streams out of the rocky cliff.
He made water flow down like rivers.

Israel’s Rebellion in the Wilderness

17 But they continued to sin against him even more,
    by rebelling against the Most High in the desert.
18 They tested God in their hearts by demanding food for their cravings.
19 Then they spoke against God.
They said, “Is God able to set a table in the wilderness?
20 Sure, he struck the rock and water flowed out,
and stream beds overflowed,
but can he really give us bread?
Can he really supply meat for his people?”

God’s Judgment in the Wilderness

21 Then the Lord heard, and he showed his anger.
Fire broke out against Jacob,
and his anger rose against Israel,
22 because they did not believe in God,
and they did not trust in his salvation.

God’s Mercy in the Wilderness

23 Nevertheless, he gave a command to the skies above,
and he opened the doors of the heavens.
24 He rained down manna for them to eat,
and he gave them the grain of heaven.
25 Each of them ate the bread of the mighty ones.
He sent them all the food they could eat.
26 He sent out the east wind from the heavens,
and he led out the south wind by his power.
27 Then he rained meat down on them like dust,
and flying birds like sand on the seashore.
28 He made the birds fall down inside their camp,
    all around their dwellings.
29 Then they ate until they had more than enough,
for he had brought them what they craved.
30 They had not yet turned away from what they craved.
Their food was still in their mouths.
31 Then God’s anger rose up against them.
He killed the strongest among them.
He cut down the best young men of Israel.
32 In spite of all this, they kept sinning,
and they did not believe in his wonders.
33 So he ended their days in frustration[a]
and their years in terror.
34 Whenever he struck them down, they would seek him.
Then they turned and sought God.
35 Then they remembered that God was their Rock,
that God Most High was their Redeemer.
36 But then they would deceive him with their mouths,
and with their tongues they would lie to him.
37 Their hearts were not committed to him,
and they were not faithful to his covenant.
38 Yet he was compassionate.
He atoned for their guilt and did not destroy them.
Many times he restrained his anger,
and he did not stir up his full wrath.
39 He still remembered that they were only flesh,
like a wind that goes by and does not return.
40 How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness!
How often they grieved him in the wasteland!
41 They repeatedly put God to the test.
They provoked[b] the Holy One of Israel.

God’s Power Displayed in Egypt (Exodus 5–14)

42 They did not remember the power of his hand—
the day when he redeemed them from the foe,
43 when he displayed his signs in Egypt
and his wonders in the region of Zoan,
44 when he turned their rivers to blood,
so they could not drink from their streams.
45 He sent against them a swarm of flies that bit them.
Then he sent frogs that destroyed them.
46 Then he gave their crops to the grasshopper.
He gave what they worked for to the locust.
47 He killed their grapevines with hail,
and their sycamore fig trees with sleet.
48 Then he turned over their cattle to hail,
and their livestock to lightning bolts.
49 He sent against them his burning anger,
his wrath and indignation and distress
    by sending destroying angels.[c]
50 He prepared a path for his anger.
He did not spare their lives from death,
but he delivered their lives to the plague.
51 Then he struck down all the firstborn in Egypt,
the firstfruit of their virility in the tents of Ham.
52 But he led his people out like sheep.
He led them like a flock through the wilderness.
53 Then he guided them safely, so they were not afraid,
but the sea covered their enemies.

God’s Power Displayed in Canaan (Joshua)

54 Then he brought them to the border of his holy land,
to this mountain which his right hand had taken.
55 He drove out nations before them.
He marked the boundaries of their inheritance,
and he settled the tribes of Israel in their tents.

Rebellion in the Land (Judges)

56 But they tested him.
They rebelled against God Most High,
and they did not keep his testimonies.
57 Yes, they turned aside and were treacherous like their fathers.
They were as undependable as a crooked bow.
58 Then they angered him with their high places,
and they made him jealous with their idols.

Judgment in the Land

59 God heard, and he showed his anger.
He completely rejected Israel.
60 So he abandoned his dwelling in Shiloh,
the tent where he dwelled among people.
61 So he sent the symbol of his strength[d] away into captivity.
He gave his splendor into the hand of the foe.
62 He also handed over his people to the sword,
and he showed his anger against his possession.
63 Fire consumed their best young men,
so their virgins were not praised in wedding songs.
64 Their priests fell by the sword,
and their widows did not weep.

Mercy in the Land

65 Then the Lord awoke like someone who has been sleeping,
like a warrior overcome by wine.
66 Then he drove back his foes.
He gave them everlasting shame.
67 Then he rejected the tent of Joseph,
and he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim.
68 But he chose the tribe of Judah,
Mount Zion, which he loved.
69 Then he built up his sanctuary like the heights,
like the world that he established for all time.
70 Then he chose David his servant
and took him from the sheep pens.
71 He brought him from following the mother sheep
    to shepherd his people Jacob
    and his possession Israel.
72 So he shepherded them with a sincere heart,
and with skillful hands he led them.


  1. Psalm 78:33 Or he made their days vanish like vapor
  2. Psalm 78:41 Or caused pain to. The word occurs only once in the Old Testament. God does not, of course, feel literal physical pain, but this is a dramatic way of describing his sorrow over the consequences of human sin.
  3. Psalm 78:49 Literally a delegation of messengers of evils. This could refer to angels like the angel of death in the tenth plague, or perhaps the plagues themselves were “evil messengers.”
  4. Psalm 78:61 That is, the Ark of the Covenant