Psalm 78

Lessons from Israel’s Past

A Maskil of Asaph.(A)

My people, hear my instruction;
listen to what I say.(B)
I will declare wise sayings;
I will speak mysteries from the past(C)
things we have heard and known
and that our fathers have passed down to us.(D)
We must not hide them from their children,
but must tell a future generation
the praises of the Lord,
His might, and the wonderful works
He has performed.(E)
He established a testimony in Jacob
and set up a law in Israel,
which He commanded our fathers
to teach to their children(F)
so that a future generation—
children yet to be born—might know.
They were to rise and tell their children(G)
so that they might put their confidence in God
and not forget God’s works,
but keep His commands.(H)
Then they would not be like their fathers,
a stubborn and rebellious generation,
a generation whose heart was not loyal
and whose spirit was not faithful to God.(I)

The Ephraimite archers turned back
on the day of battle.(J)
10 They did not keep God’s covenant
and refused to live by His law.(K)
11 They forgot what He had done,
the wonderful works He had shown them.(L)
12 He worked wonders in the sight of their fathers
in the land of Egypt, the region of Zoan.(M)
13 He split the sea and brought them across;
the water stood firm like a wall.(N)
14 He led them with a cloud by day
and with a fiery light throughout the night.(O)
15 He split rocks in the wilderness
and gave them drink as abundant as the depths.(P)
16 He brought streams out of the stone
and made water flow down like rivers.(Q)

17 But they continued to sin against Him,
rebelling in the desert against the Most High.(R)
18 They deliberately[a] tested God,
demanding the food they craved.(S)
19 They spoke against God, saying,
“Is God able to provide food in the wilderness?
20 Look! He struck the rock and water gushed out;
torrents overflowed.(T)
But can He also provide bread
or furnish meat for His people?”(U)
21 Therefore, the Lord heard and became furious;
then fire broke out against Jacob,
and anger flared up against Israel(V)
22 because they did not believe God
or rely on His salvation.(W)
23 He gave a command to the clouds above
and opened the doors of heaven.(X)
24 He rained manna for them to eat;
He gave them grain from heaven.(Y)
25 People[b] ate the bread of angels.[c]
He sent them an abundant supply of food.(Z)
26 He made the east wind blow in the skies
and drove the south wind by His might.(AA)
27 He rained meat on them like dust,
and winged birds like the sand of the seas.
28 He made them fall in His camp,
all around His tent.[d][e](AB)
29 They ate and were completely satisfied,
for He gave them what they craved.(AC)
30 Before they had satisfied their desire,
while the food was still in their mouths,
31 God’s anger flared up against them,
and He killed some of their best men.
He struck down Israel’s choice young men.(AD)

32 Despite all this, they kept sinning
and did not believe His wonderful works.(AE)
33 He made their days end in futility,
their years in sudden disaster.(AF)
34 When He killed some of them,
the rest began to seek Him;
they repented and searched for God.(AG)
35 They remembered that God was their rock,
the Most High God, their Redeemer.(AH)
36 But they deceived Him with their mouths,
they lied to Him with their tongues,(AI)
37 their hearts were insincere toward Him,
and they were unfaithful to His covenant.(AJ)
38 Yet He was compassionate;
He atoned for[f] their guilt
and did not destroy them.
He often turned His anger aside
and did not unleash[g] all His wrath.(AK)
39 He remembered that they were only flesh,
a wind that passes and does not return.(AL)

40 How often they rebelled against Him
in the wilderness
and grieved Him in the desert.
41 They constantly tested God(AM)
and provoked the Holy One of Israel.(AN)
42 They did not remember His power shown
on the day He redeemed them from the foe,(AO)
43 when He performed His miraculous signs in Egypt
and His wonders in the region of Zoan.(AP)
44 He turned their rivers into blood,
and they could not drink from their streams.(AQ)
45 He sent among them swarms of flies,(AR)
which fed on them,
and frogs, which devastated them.(AS)
46 He gave their crops to the caterpillar
and the fruit of their labor to the locust.(AT)
47 He killed their vines with hail
and their sycamore fig trees with a flood.
48 He handed over their livestock to hail
and their cattle to lightning bolts.(AU)
49 He sent His burning anger against them:
fury, indignation, and calamity—
a band of deadly messengers.[h](AV)
50 He cleared a path for His anger.
He did not spare them from death
but delivered their lives to the plague.(AW)
51 He struck all the firstborn(AX) in Egypt,
the first progeny of the tents of Ham.[i](AY)
52 He led His people out like sheep
and guided them like a flock in the wilderness.(AZ)
53 He led them safely, and they were not afraid;
but the sea covered their enemies.(BA)
54 He brought them to His holy land,
to the mountain His right hand acquired.(BB)
55 He drove out nations before them.(BC)
He apportioned their inheritance by lot
and settled the tribes of Israel in their tents.(BD)

56 But they rebelliously tested the Most High God,
for they did not keep His decrees.(BE)
57 They treacherously turned away like their fathers;
they became warped like a faulty bow.(BF)
58 They enraged Him with their high places
and provoked His jealousy with their carved images.(BG)
59 God heard and became furious;
He completely rejected Israel.(BH)
60 He abandoned the tabernacle at Shiloh,
the tent where He resided among men.[j](BI)
61 He gave up His strength[k] to captivity
and His splendor to the hand of a foe.(BJ)
62 He surrendered His people to the sword
because He was enraged with His heritage.(BK)
63 Fire consumed His chosen young men,
and His young women had no wedding songs.[l](BL)
64 His priests fell by the sword,
but the[m] widows could not lament.[n](BM)

65 Then the Lord awoke as if from sleep,
like a warrior from the effects of wine.(BN)
66 He beat back His foes;
He gave them lasting shame.(BO)
67 He rejected the tent of Joseph
and did not choose the tribe of Ephraim.
68 He chose instead the tribe of Judah,
Mount Zion, which He loved.(BP)
69 He built His sanctuary like the heights,[o]
like the earth that He established forever.(BQ)
70 He chose David His servant
and took him from the sheepfolds;(BR)
71 He brought him from tending ewes
to be shepherd over His people Jacob—
over Israel, His inheritance.(BS)
72 He shepherded them with a pure heart
and guided them with his skillful hands.(BT)


  1. Psalm 78:18 Lit in their heart
  2. Psalm 78:25 Lit Man
  3. Psalm 78:25 Lit mighty ones
  4. Psalm 78:28 LXX, Syr read in their camp, all around their tents
  5. Psalm 78:28 Or in its camp, all around its tents
  6. Psalm 78:38 Or He wiped out, or He forgave
  7. Psalm 78:38 Or stir up
  8. Psalm 78:49 Or angels
  9. Psalm 78:51 Ham’s descendants who settled in Egypt
  10. Psalm 78:60 Hb adam
  11. Psalm 78:61 = the ark of the covenant
  12. Psalm 78:63 Lit virgins were not praised
  13. Psalm 78:64 Lit His
  14. Psalm 78:64 War probably prevented customary funerals.
  15. Psalm 78:69 Either the heights of heaven or the mountain heights

Psalm 78

A maskil[a] of Asaph.

My people, hear my teaching;(A)
    listen to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth with a parable;(B)
    I will utter hidden things, things from of old—
things we have heard and known,
    things our ancestors have told us.(C)
We will not hide them from their descendants;(D)
    we will tell the next generation(E)
the praiseworthy deeds(F) of the Lord,
    his power, and the wonders(G) he has done.
He decreed statutes(H) for Jacob(I)
    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,(J)
    and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God
    and would not forget(K) his deeds
    but would keep his commands.(L)
They would not be like their ancestors(M)
    a stubborn(N) and rebellious(O) generation,
whose hearts were not loyal to God,
    whose spirits were not faithful to him.

The men of Ephraim, though armed with bows,(P)
    turned back on the day of battle;(Q)
10 they did not keep God’s covenant(R)
    and refused to live by his law.(S)
11 They forgot what he had done,(T)
    the wonders he had shown them.
12 He did miracles(U) in the sight of their ancestors
    in the land of Egypt,(V) in the region of Zoan.(W)
13 He divided the sea(X) and led them through;
    he made the water stand up like a wall.(Y)
14 He guided them with the cloud by day
    and with light from the fire all night.(Z)
15 He split the rocks(AA) 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(AB) against him,
    rebelling in the wilderness against the Most High.
18 They willfully put God to the test(AC)
    by demanding the food they craved.(AD)
19 They spoke against God;(AE)
    they said, “Can God really
    spread a table in the wilderness?
20 True, he struck the rock,
    and water gushed out,(AF)
    streams flowed abundantly,
but can he also give us bread?
    Can he supply meat(AG) for his people?”
21 When the Lord heard them, he was furious;
    his fire broke out(AH) against Jacob,
    and his wrath rose against Israel,
22 for they did not believe in God
    or trust(AI) in his deliverance.
23 Yet he gave a command to the skies above
    and opened the doors of the heavens;(AJ)
24 he rained down manna(AK) 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(AL) from the heavens
    and by his power made the south wind blow.
27 He rained meat down on them like dust,
    birds(AM) 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—(AN)
    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,(AO)
31 God’s anger rose against them;
    he put to death the sturdiest(AP) among them,
    cutting down the young men of Israel.

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

40 How often they rebelled(BF) against him in the wilderness(BG)
    and grieved him(BH) in the wasteland!
41 Again and again they put God to the test;(BI)
    they vexed the Holy One of Israel.(BJ)
42 They did not remember(BK) his power—
    the day he redeemed them from the oppressor,(BL)
43 the day he displayed his signs(BM) in Egypt,
    his wonders(BN) in the region of Zoan.
44 He turned their river into blood;(BO)
    they could not drink from their streams.
45 He sent swarms of flies(BP) that devoured them,
    and frogs(BQ) that devastated them.
46 He gave their crops to the grasshopper,(BR)
    their produce to the locust.(BS)
47 He destroyed their vines with hail(BT)
    and their sycamore-figs with sleet.
48 He gave over their cattle to the hail,
    their livestock(BU) to bolts of lightning.
49 He unleashed against them his hot anger,(BV)
    his wrath, indignation and hostility—
    a band of destroying angels.(BW)
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,(BX)
    the firstfruits of manhood in the tents of Ham.(BY)
52 But he brought his people out like a flock;(BZ)
    he led them like sheep through the wilderness.
53 He guided them safely, so they were unafraid;
    but the sea engulfed(CA) their enemies.(CB)
54 And so he brought them to the border of his holy land,
    to the hill country his right hand(CC) had taken.
55 He drove out nations(CD) before them
    and allotted their lands to them as an inheritance;(CE)
    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(CF) they were disloyal and faithless,
    as unreliable as a faulty bow.(CG)
58 They angered him(CH) with their high places;(CI)
    they aroused his jealousy with their idols.(CJ)
59 When God heard(CK) them, he was furious;(CL)
    he rejected Israel(CM) completely.
60 He abandoned the tabernacle of Shiloh,(CN)
    the tent he had set up among humans.(CO)
61 He sent the ark of his might(CP) into captivity,(CQ)
    his splendor into the hands of the enemy.
62 He gave his people over to the sword;(CR)
    he was furious with his inheritance.(CS)
63 Fire consumed(CT) their young men,
    and their young women had no wedding songs;(CU)
64 their priests were put to the sword,(CV)
    and their widows could not weep.

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


  1. Psalm 78:1 Title: Probably a literary or musical term