Psalm 78:1-2, 34-38

Psalm 78:1-2, 34-38
Holy Cross ABC


A MaskilA of Asaph.B

Give ear,C O my people,D to my teaching;E

Notes on superscript - verse 1a

A “Maskil” = maskiyl. 13x in OT. From sakal (to consider or be prudent; to instruct, be an expert; dealing prudently, which implies success and prospering; can mean laying cross-wise). This is maskil or maschil. It is a poem used for instruction.
B “Asaph” = Asaph. From asaph (to gather, assemble, bring, take away, destroy, or remove). This is Asaph, meaning “gatherer” or “collector.” It is a personal name.
C “give ear” = azan. Perhaps from ozen (ear, hearing, audience, show; properly, broadness – applied to its ear in reference to its shape). Properly, this is to expand or broaden one’s ear i.e. listen intently, pay attention, heed.
D “people” = am. From amam (to darken, hide, associate; creating shadows by huddling together). This is people or nation. It can be used specifically for a tribe, collectively of troops or armies, or figuratively to refer to a flock of animals.
E “teaching” = torah. From yarah (to throw, shoot, be stunned; to flow as water so figuratively to instruct or teach). This is law, instruction, teaching, or statute. It can also refer to the first five books of the Bible – the Torah.

    inclineF your earsG to the wordsH of my mouth.I

Notes on verse 1b

F “incline” = natah. This is to stretch or spread out, to extend, or bend. In can also imply moral deflection.
G “ears” = ozen. Related to “give ear” in v1. See note C above.
H “words” = emer. From amar (to say, answer, challenge). This is something that is said – a word, saying, speech.
I “mouth” = peh. This is mouth in a literal or figurative sense. So, more literally, it can be beak or jaws. More figuratively, it refers to speech, commands, or promises.

I will openJ my mouth in a parable;K
    I will utterL dark sayingsM from of old,N

Notes on verse 2

J “open” = pathach. This is to open wide in a literal or figurative sense. So, it is open, draw out, let something go free, break forth. It can also mean to plow, engrave, or carve.
K “parable” = mashal. From mashal (to compare, speak in a proverb or riddle – to speak in allegory or liken). This is proverb, parable, taunt, discourse, maxim, adage, poem.
L “utter” = naba. 11x in OT. This is to spring up, flow, gush, or spout. It can also mean to belch as in emitting a bad smell. Figuratively, it can mean to speak, whether positively or negatively.
M “dark sayings” = chidah. 17x in OT– including the riddle of Samson’s marriage in Judges 14 and “hard questions” posed by the Queen of Sheba in 1 Kings 10. Perhaps from chud (to tie a knot, offer a riddle). This is a riddle, proverb, question, puzzle, intrigue, dark saying.
N “old” = qedem. Perhaps from qadam (to come in front or be in front; to meet, anticipate, confront, receive, or rise; sometimes to meet for help). This is front, formerly, before, east, eternal, everlasting, antiquity.

34 When he killedO them, they searchedP for him;
    they repentedQ and sought GodR earnestly.S

Notes on verse 34

O “killed” = harag. This is to strike with deadly intent so it can be kill, destroy, murder, or put to death.
P “searched” = darash. This is seek, ask, inquire, care for. Generally it means following in pursuit or following as part of a search, which implies seeking or asking. Also used specially to mean worship.
Q “repented” = shub. To turn back, return, turn away – literally or figuratively. Doesn’t necessarily imply going back to where you started from. This is also the root verb for the Hebrew word for repentance “teshubah.”
R “God” = El.
S “sought…earnestly” = shachar. 12x in OT. From shachar (dawn, early light, or morning). This is to seek in a diligent or eager way. It is to look for early as someone who stays up for the morning watch to see at the dawn. Often used for seeking God or seeking good.

35 They rememberedT that GodU was their rock,V

Notes on verse 35a

T “remembered” = zakar. This is to remember, to mark something so that it can be recalled, to be mindful of, to mention.
U “God” = Elohim. Related to “God” in v34. See note R above.
V “rock” = tsur. From tsur (to confine, cramp, or bind in a literal or figurative sense; to besiege, assault, or distress). This is rock, stone, cliff, boulder, rocky. It can also be a refuge, a way to refer to God.

    the Most HighW GodX their redeemer.Y
36 But they flatteredZ him with their mouths;
    they liedAA to him with their tongues.BB

Notes on verses 35b-36

W “Most High” = Elyon. From alah (to go up, ascend, be high, be a priority; to arise in a literal or figurative sense). This is most high, upper. It refers to elevation – so, lofty.
X “God” = El. Same as “God” in v34. See note R above.
Y “redeemer” = gaal. This is to redeem someone or something according to kinship laws. So, it could be acting on a relative’s behalf to buy back their property, to marry one’s brother’s widow, etc. This could be more briefly translated as to redeem, acts as kinsman, or purchase. As a noun, it could be deliverer or avenger.
Z “flattered” = pathah. This is to be wide, open, or roomy. Figuratively, it can mean to be simple. Alternately, it can mean to delude, deceive, entice, or flatter.
AA “lied” = kazab. 18x in OT. This is to lie, be false or in vain, to fail. It is to deceive in a literal or figurative sense.
BB “tongues” = lashon. This is tongue, talker, language, or wedge. It can also be a tongue of flame or a water cove.

37 Their heartCC was not steadfastDD toward him;
    they were not trueEE to his covenant.FF

Notes on verse 37

CC “heart” = leb. May be related to labab (to encourage; properly, to be encased as with fat; used in a good sense, this means to transport someone with love; used in a bad sense, it can mean to dull one’s senses). This is the heart, courage, one’s inner self, the mind, or the will. Heart is only used in a figurative sense in the Old and New Testaments.
DD “was…steadfast” = kun. Properly, this means in a perpendicular position. So, it is set up in a literal sense – establish, fix, fasten, prepare. In a figurative sense, it is certainty, to be firm, faithfulness, render sure or prosperous.
EE “were…true” = aman. This is to believe, endure, fulfill, confirm, support, be faithful. It is to put one’s trust in, be steadfast. Figuratively, this is to be firm, steadfast, or faithful, trusting, believing, being permanent, morally solid. This is where the word “amen” comes from.
FF “covenant” = berit. Perhaps from barah (to eat, choose, make clear); perhaps from bar (grain, wheat); from bara (to select, purify, cleanse, test, brighten, polish). This is a compact, covenant, alliance, treaty, or league.

38 Yet he, being compassionate,GG
    forgaveHH their iniquityII
    and did not destroyJJ them;

Notes on verse 38a

GG “compassionate” = rachum. 13x in OT. From the same as rechem (womb); from racham (to love, have compassion, have mercy); from racham (compassion, tender love, womb, compassion; the womb as that which cherishes the fetus). This is compassionate or merciful.
HH “forgave” = kaphar. This is to appease, cover, pacify, cancel, make atonement, placate. Specifically, it can mean to cover with bitumen.
II “iniquity” = avon. Perhaps related to avah (to bend, twist, be amiss). This is sin, mischief, guilt, fault, punishment for iniquity, or moral evil.
JJ “destroy” = shachat. This is to go to ruin, perish, decay, batter, cast off, lose, one who destroys. This can be used in a literal or figurative sense.

oftenKK he restrainedLL his angerMM

Notes on verse 38b

KK “often” = rabah. This is increasing in any aspect whether quantity, authority, size, quality, greatness, etc.
LL “restrained” = shub. Same as “repented” in v34. See note Q above.
MM “anger” = aph. From anaph (to be angry; properly, breathing hard as a signifier of being enraged). This properly refers to the nose or nostril and by extension the face. It can specifically refer to anger or wrath as one breathes hard and nostrils flare in times of great anger.

    and did not stir upNN allOO his wrath.PP

Notes on verse 38c

NN “stir up” = ur. This is to arise, lift, exult, or stir. It is to wake in a literal or figurative sense.
OO “all” = kol. From kalal (to complete). This is all or every.
PP “wrath” = chemah. From yacham (to be hot, mate; figuratively, to conceive). This is heat – figuratively it can be anger or fury. It can also refer to poison or venom as they can cause fever.

Image credit: “A Cluster of Tulips” in the Negev in Israel by Moshe28, 2022.

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