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Psalms 81:6-16

Context

81:6 It said: 1  “I removed the burden from his shoulder;

his hands were released from holding the basket. 2 

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

I answered you from a dark thundercloud. 3 

I tested you at the waters of Meribah. 4  (Selah)

81:8 I said, 5  ‘Listen, my people!

I will warn 6  you!

O Israel, if only you would obey me! 7 

81:9 There must be 8  no other 9  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!’

81:11 But my people did not obey me; 10 

Israel did not submit to me. 11 

81:12 I gave them over to their stubborn desires; 12 

they did what seemed right to them. 13 

81:13 If only my people would obey me! 14 

If only Israel would keep my commands! 15 

81:14 Then I would quickly subdue their enemies,

and attack 16  their adversaries.”

81:15 (May those who hate the Lord 17  cower in fear 18  before him!

May they be permanently humiliated!) 19 

81:16 “I would feed Israel the best wheat, 20 

and would satisfy your appetite 21  with honey from the rocky cliffs.” 22 

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

2 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).

3 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).

4 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.

5 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.”

6 tn Or perhaps “command.”

7 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.

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

9 tn Heb “different”; “illicit.”

10 tn Heb “did not listen to my voice.”

11 tn The Hebrew expression אָבָה לִי (’avah liy) means “submit to me” (see Deut 13:8).

12 tn Heb “and I sent him away in the stubbornness of their heart.”

13 tn Heb “they walked in their counsel.” The prefixed verbal form is either preterite (“walked”) or a customary imperfect (“were walking”).

14 tn Heb “if only my people were listening to me.” The Hebrew particle לוּ (lu, “if not”) introduces a purely hypothetical or contrary to fact condition (see 2 Sam 18:12).

15 tn Heb “[and if only] Israel would walk in my ways.”

16 tn Heb “turn my hand against.” The idiom “turn the hand against” has the nuance of “strike with the hand, attack” (see Isa 1:25; Ezek 38:12; Amos 1:8; Zech 13:7).

17 tn “Those who hate the Lord” are also mentioned in 2 Chr 19:2 and Ps 139:21.

18 tn See Deut 33:29; Ps 66:3 for other uses of the verb כָּחַשׁ (kakhash) in the sense “cower in fear.” In Ps 18:44 the verb seems to carry the nuance “to be weak; to be powerless” (see also Ps 109:24). The prefixed verbal form is taken as a jussive, parallel to the jussive form in the next line.

19 tc Heb “and may their time be forever.” The Hebrew term עִתָּם (’ittam, “their time”) must refer here to the “time” of the demise and humiliation of those who hate the Lord. Some propose an emendation to בַּעֲתָתָם (baatatam) or בִּעֻתָם (biutam; “their terror”; i.e., “may their terror last forever”), but the omission of bet (ב) in the present Hebrew text is difficult to explain, making the proposed emendation unlikely.

tn The verb form at the beginning of the line is jussive, indicating that this is a prayer. The translation assumes that v. 15 is a parenthetical “curse” offered by the psalmist. Having heard the reference to Israel’s enemies (v. 14), the psalmist inserts this prayer, reminding the Lord that they are God’s enemies as well.

20 tn Heb “and he fed him from the best of the wheat.” The Hebrew text has a third person form of the preterite with a vav (ו) consecutive attached. However, it is preferable, in light of the use of the first person in v. 14 and in the next line, to emend the verb to a first person form and understand the vav as conjunctive, continuing the apodosis of the conditional sentence of vv. 13-14. The third masculine singular pronominal suffix refers to Israel, as in v. 6.

sn I would feed. After the parenthetical “curse” in v. 15, the Lord’s speech continues here.

21 tn Heb “you.” The second person singular pronominal suffix refers to Israel, as in vv. 7-10.

22 sn The language in this verse, particularly the references to wheat and honey, is reminiscent of Deut 32:13-14.



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