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Psalms 81:5-10

Context

81:5 He decreed it as a regulation in Joseph,

when he attacked the land of Egypt. 1 

I heard a voice I did not recognize. 2 

81:6 It said: 3  “I removed the burden from his shoulder;

his hands were released from holding the basket. 4 

81:7 In your distress you called out and I rescued you.

I answered you from a dark thundercloud. 5 

I tested you at the waters of Meribah. 6  (Selah)

81:8 I said, 7  ‘Listen, my people!

I will warn 8  you!

O Israel, if only you would obey me! 9 

81:9 There must be 10  no other 11  god among you.

You must not worship a foreign god.

81:10 I am the Lord, your God,

the one who brought you out of the land of Egypt.

Open your mouth wide and I will fill it!’

1 tn Heb “in his going out against the land of Egypt.” This apparently refers to the general time period of Israel’s exodus from Egypt. The LXX reads, “from Egypt,” in which case “Joseph” (see the preceding line) would be the subject of the verb, “when he [Joseph = Israel] left Egypt.”

2 tn Heb “a lip I did not know, I heard.” Here the term “lip” probably stands for speech or a voice. Apparently the psalmist speaks here and refers to God’s voice, whose speech is recorded in the following verses.

3 tn The words “It said” are not included in the Hebrew text. They are supplied in the translation for clarification.

4 sn I removed the burden. The Lord speaks metaphorically of how he delivered his people from Egyptian bondage. The reference to a basket/burden probably alludes to the hard labor of the Israelites in Egypt, where they had to carry loads of bricks (see Exod 1:14).

5 tn Heb “I answered you in the hidden place of thunder.” This may allude to God’s self-revelation at Mount Sinai, where he appeared in a dark cloud accompanied by thunder (see Exod 19:16).

6 sn The name Meribah means “strife.” Two separate but similar incidents at the place called Meribah are recorded in the Pentateuch (Exod 17:1-7; Num 20:1-13). In both cases the Israelites complained about lack of water and the Lord miraculously provided for them.

7 tn The words “I said” are supplied in the translation for clarification. Verses 8-10 appear to recall what the Lord commanded the generation of Israelites that experienced the events described in v. 7. Note the statement in v. 11, “my people did not listen to me.”

8 tn Or perhaps “command.”

9 tn The Hebrew particle אִם (“if”) and following prefixed verbal form here express a wish (GKC 321 §109.b). Note that the apodosis (the “then” clause of the conditional sentence) is suppressed.

10 tn The imperfect verbal forms in v. 9 have a modal function, expressing what is obligatory.

11 tn Heb “different”; “illicit.”



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