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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Chapter 78
Chapter 78

This psalm is historical; it is a narrative of the great mercies God had bestowed upon Israel, the great sins wherewith they had provoked him, and the many tokens of his displeasure they had been under for their sins. The psalmist began, in the foregoing psalm, to relate God’s wonders of old, for his own encouragement in a difficult time; there he broke off abruptly, but here resumes the subject, for the edification of the church, and enlarges much upon it, showing not only how good God had been to them, which was an earnest of further finishing mercy, but how basely they had conducted themselves towards God, which justified him in correcting them as he did at this time, and forbade all complaints. Here is, I. The preface to this church history, commanding the attention of the present age to it and recommending it to the study of the generations to come, Ps. 78:1-8. II. The history itself from Moses to David; it is put into a psalm or song that it might be the better remembered and transmitted to posterity, and that the singing of it might affect them with the things here related, more than they would be with a bare narrative of them. The general scope of this psalm we have (Ps. 78:9-11) where notice is taken of the present rebukes they were under (Ps. 78:9), the sin which brought them under those rebukes (Ps. 78:10), and the mercies of God to them formerly, which aggravated that sin, Ps. 78:11. As to the particulars, we are here told, 1. What wonderful works God had wrought for them in bringing them out of Egypt (Ps. 78:12-16), providing for them in the wilderness (Ps. 78:23-29), plaguing and ruining their enemies (Ps. 78:43-55), and at length putting them in possession of the land of promise, Ps. 78:54, 55. 2. How ungrateful they were to God for his favours to them and how many and great provocations they were guilty of. How they murmured against God and distrusted him (Ps. 78:17-20), and did but counterfeit repentance and submission when he punished them (Ps. 78:34-37), thus grieving and tempting him, Ps. 78:40-42. How they affronted God with their idolatries after they came to Canaan, Ps. 78:56-58. 3. How God had justly punished them for their sins (Ps. 78:21, 22) in the wilderness, making their sin their punishment (Ps. 78:29-33), and now, of late, when the ark was taken by the Philistines, Ps. 78:59-64. 4. How graciously God had spared them and returned in mercy to them, notwithstanding their provocations. He had forgiven them formerly (Ps. 78:38, 39), and now, of late, had removed the judgments they had brought upon themselves, and brought them under a happy establishment both in church and state, Ps. 78:65-72. As the general scope of this psalm may be of use to us in the singing of it, to put us upon recollecting what God has done for us and for his church formerly, and what we have done against him, so the particulars also may be of use to us, for warning against those sins of unbelief and ingratitude which Israel of old was notoriously guilty of, and the record of which was preserved for our learning. “These things happened unto them for ensamples,” 1 Cor. 10:11; Heb. 4:11.