Psalm 78:17
And they sinned yet more against him by provoking the most High in the wilderness.
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(17) They sinned yet more and more.—This implies the discontent which had already shown itself before the miraculous supply of water.

Psalm 78:17-20. And they sinned yet more — Hebrew, ויוסיפו עוד לחשׂאלו, They added yet to sin against him. All these miraculous works did not alter their depraved nature; but it broke out into new and greater provocations; in the wilderness — In that very place where they were under such strong and singular obligations to obedience, both for the great things which God had then and there done for them, and from their dependance upon his favour and help for their safety and subsistence; where, indeed, without his singular providence, they had all perished. This was certainly a great aggravation of their sin and folly. And they tempted God — Desired a new trial and proof of his power, as the next verse shows. See Numbers 11:4. By asking meat for their lust — Not for their necessary subsistence, for which they had in manna, but out of an inordinate and luxurious appetite. Yea, they spake against God, &c. — At last they openly declared and manifested that distrust of his power which was in their hearts, saying, Can God furnish a table? — Is he able to provide, not only bare support and sustenance, but variety of nourishing and pleasant food, here in this barren wilderness? Behold, he smote the rock, &c. — It is true he hath brought water out of a rock for us in abundance; but can he give bread also? — Not such light food as this manna is, but more substantial bread, here where no corn grows? Can he provide flesh for his people? — Can he make an ample provision for all this multitude of such flesh as this place does not afford? They should have said, Lord, if thou wilt thou canst. For is any thing too hard for Omnipotence? When once the ordinary powers of nature are exceeded, and God has made bare his arm, and put forth his almighty power, we must conclude nothing is impossible with him.

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!And they sinned yet more against him - literally, "They added to sin against him." The idea is, that his mercies, and the proofs of his presence were only made the occasion of greater sin on their part. This may have been in two ways;

(1) their sin was thus more aggravated, as being committed against greater light; and

(2) they evinced more and more their depravity, in proportion as he bestowed mercies on them - not an uncommon thing with people.

By provoking the Most High - literally, "embittering." They rebelled against him. They refused to submit to him. They forgot his mercies. Compare Deuteronomy 9:22.

In the wilderness - literally, "in the dry place;" in the desert. In the very place where they were most manifestly dependent on him - where there were no natural streams of water - where their needs were met by a miraculous supply - even there did they provoke him, and rebel against him. If he had simply stopped that miraculous supply of water they must have perished. But sinners forget how dependent they are on God, when they sin against him. On what can they rely, if he withdraws from them, and leaves them to themselves?

17-20. yet more—literally, "added to sin," instead of being led to repentance (Ro 2:4). Where they had such strong and singular obligations to obedience, both from the great things which God had then and there done for them, and from their dependence upon God’s favour and help for their safety and subsistence. This was a great aggravation of their sin and folly.

And they sinned yet more against him,.... Or, "and they added yet to sin against him" (c); which was great ingratitude; they had sinned before, and it might have been hoped that the goodness of God to them would have engaged them to have sinned no more, at least at such a rate, and in such a manner, as they had done; but instead of sinning less, they sinned more and more, they added sin to sin; such is the corrupt heart of man, notwithstanding the grace of God, and the blessings of it vouchsafed unto him:

by provoking the most High in the wilderness; everything is aggravating; the object against whom they sinned was the most High, which betrays their impiety, folly, and vanity; and they did not slightly sin against him, but did those things which were highly provoking and exasperating; and that in the wilderness, where they received so many favours, and where they must have been starved and perish, and could not have lived, without immediate provision, support, and protection, from the hand of the Lord.

(c) "et addiderunt adhuc ad peccandum ei", Montanus, "vel peccare", Musculus, Gejerus, Michaelis.

And they {k} sinned yet more against him by provoking the most High in the wilderness.

(k) Their wicked malice could be overcome by no benefits, which were great and many.

17. Yet went they on still to sin against him,

Rebelling against the Most High in the land of drought.

Both the occasions referred to in Psalm 78:15-16 were connected with murmuring. The names of Massah and Meribah preserved the memory of Israel’s sin in tempting God and striving with Him. And to these sins they added other sins. Note how the words ‘rebel’ and ‘tempt’ recur like a refrain at the beginning of each division of the Psalm (Psalm 78:17-18; Psalms 40, 41; Psalms 56). Cp. Psalm 95:9; Psalm 106:7; Psalm 106:14; Psalm 106:33; Psalm 106:43; Exodus 17:2; Exodus 17:7; Numbers 14:22; Numbers 20:10; Numbers 20:24; Deuteronomy 1:26; Deuteronomy 1:43; Deuteronomy 6:16; Deuteronomy 9:23; Deuteronomy 33:8; &c. The two words sum up Israel’s behaviour: they rebelled against God by constant disobedience to His revealed Will; they tempted Him, by sceptical doubts of His goodness, and insolent demands that He should prove His power.

17–31. In spite of these miracles of mercy they sinned yet more, and tempted God in their unbelief, so that while He supplied their wants He was compelled to punish them for their sin. The order is logical not chronological. The first murmurings for food (Exodus 16) preceded the giving of the water: and the narratives of Exodus 16 and Numbers 11 are fused into one.

Verse 17. - And they sinned yet more against him by provoking the Most High in the wilderness. The two provocations of a demand for bread (Exodus 16:3) and a demand for flesh (Numbers 11:4) are joined together in the present passage, as the two occasions of giving water are in vers. 15, 16. Only the second of these two provocations was subsequent to the (first) giving of water; but the psalmist does not allow himself to be bound by considerations of strict chronological accuracy. He is a poet, and not an historian; though at present he is treating of history. Psalm 78:17It 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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