Psalms

PSALM 81*

An Admonition to Fidelity

1For the leader; “upon the gittith.”* Of Asaph.

I

2Sing joyfully to God our strength;a

raise loud shouts to the God of Jacob!

3Take up a melody, sound the timbrel,

the pleasant lyre with a harp.

4*Blow the shofar at the new moon,

at the full moon, on our solemn feast.b

5For this is a law for Israel,

an edict of the God of Jacob,c

6He made it a decree for Joseph

when he came out of the land of Egypt.

II

7*I heard a tongue I did not know:

“I removed his shoulder from the burden;*

his hands moved away from the basket.*d

8In distress you called and I rescued you;

I answered you in secret with thunder;

At the waters of Meribah* I tested you:e 9‘Listen, my people, I will testify against you

Selah

If only you will listen to me, Israel!f

10There shall be no foreign god among you;*g

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

14O that my people would listen to me,

that Israel would walk in my ways,i

15In a moment I would humble their foes,

and turn back my hand against their oppressors.j

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

* [Psalm 81] At a pilgrimage feast, probably harvest in the fall, the people assemble in the Temple in accord with the Sinai ordinances (Ps 81:26). They hear a divine word (mediated by a Temple speaker) telling how God rescued them from slavery in Egypt (Ps 81:79), gave them the fundamental commandment of fidelity (Ps 81:911), which would bring punishment if they refused to obey (Ps 81:1213). But if Israel repents, God will be with them once again, bestowing protection and fertility (Ps 81:1416).

* [81:1] Upon the gittith: probably the title of the melody to which the Psalm was to be sung or a musical instrument.

* [81:4] 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).

* [81:7] I heard a tongue I did not know: a Temple official speaks the word of God (Ps 81:5b16), which is authoritative and unlike merely human words (cf. Nm 24:4, 16).

* [81:7] 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.

* [81:8] Meribah: place of rebellion in the wilderness; cf. Ex 17:7; Nm 20:13.

* [81:10] 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.

a. [81:2] Ps 43:4; 68:26; 149:3; 150:34; Jdt 16:1.

b. [81:4] Lv 23:24; Nm 29:1.

c. [81:5] Ex 23:14ff.

d. [81:7] Ex 1:14; 6:6.

e. [81:8] Ps 95:8; Ex 2:23ff; 17:7; 19:16; Nm 20:13; 27:14.

f. [81:9] Ex 1:14; 6:6.

g. [81:1011] Ex 20:26; Dt 5:610.

h. [81:13] Jer 3:17; 7:24.

i. [81:14] Is 48:18.

j. [81:15] Lv 26:78.

k. [81:17] Ps 147:14; Dt 32:1314.

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