PSALM 81#At a pilgrimage feast, probably harvest in the fall, the people assemble in the Temple in accord with the Sinai ordinances (Ps 81:2–6). They hear a divine word (mediated by a Temple speaker) telling how God rescued them from slavery in Egypt (Ps 81:7–9), gave them the fundamental commandment of fidelity (Ps 81:9–11), which would bring punishment if they refused to obey (Ps 81:12–13). But if Israel repents, God will be with them once again, bestowing protection and fertility (Ps 81:14–16).
An Admonition to Fidelity
1For the leader; “upon the gittith.”#Upon the gittith: probably the title of the melody to which the Psalm was to be sung or a musical instrument. Of Asaph.
2Sing joyfully to God our strength;#a. [81:2] Ps 43:4; 68:26; 149:3; 150:3–4; Jdt 16:1.
raise loud shouts to the God of Jacob!
3Take up a melody, sound the timbrel,
the pleasant lyre with a harp.
4#New moon…full moon: the pilgrimage feast of harvest began with a great assembly (Lv 23:24; Nm 29:1), used the new moon as a sign (Nm 29:6), and included trumpets (Lv 23:24).Blow the shofar at the new moon,
at the full moon, on our solemn feast.#b. [81:4] Lv 23:24; Nm 29:1.
5For this is a law for Israel,
an edict of the God of Jacob,#c. [81:5] Ex 23:14ff.
6He made it a decree for Joseph
when he came out of the land of Egypt.
7#I heard a tongue I did not know: a Temple official speaks the word of God (Ps 81:5b–16), which is authoritative and unlike merely human words (cf. Nm 24:4, 16).I heard a tongue I did not know:
“I removed his shoulder from the burden;#I heard a tongue I did not know: a Temple official speaks the word of God (Ps 81:5b–16), which is authoritative and unlike merely human words (cf. Nm 24:4, 16).
his hands moved away from the basket.#I removed his shoulder from the burden: A reference to the liberation of Israel from slavery in Egypt. The basket: for carrying clay to make bricks, cf. Ex 1:14.#d. [81:7] Ex 1:14; 6:6.
8In distress you called and I rescued you;
I answered you in secret with thunder;
At the waters of Meribah#Meribah: place of rebellion in the wilderness; cf. Ex 17:7; Nm 20:13. I tested you:#e. [81:8] Ps 95:8; Ex 2:23ff; 17:7; 19:16; Nm 20:13; 27:14. 9‘Listen, my people, I will testify against youSelah
If only you will listen to me, Israel!#f. [81:9] Ex 1:14; 6:6.
10There shall be no foreign god among you;#There shall be no foreign god among you: as in Ps 50 and 95, Israel is challenged to obey the first commandment of fidelity to God after the proclamation of the exodus.#g. [81:10–11] Ex 20:2–6; Dt 5:6–10.
you shall not bow down to an alien god.
11“I am the Lord your God,
who brought you up from the land of Egypt.
Open wide your mouth that I may fill it.’
12But my people did not listen to my words;
Israel would not submit to me.
13So I thrust them away to the hardness of their heart;
‘Let them walk in their own machinations.’#h. [81:13] Jer 3:17; 7:24.
14O that my people would listen to me,
that Israel would walk in my ways,#i. [81:14] Is 48:18.
15In a moment I would humble their foes,
and turn back my hand against their oppressors.#j. [81:15] Lv 26:7–8.
16Those who hate the Lord will try flattering him,
but their fate is fixed forever.
17But Israel I will feed with the finest wheat,
I will satisfy them with honey from the rock.”#k. [81:17] Ps 147:14; Dt 32:13–14.