Psalm 78:23-29

Psalm 78:23-29
Ordinary B36


23 Yet he commandedA the skiesB above,C

Notes on verse 23a

A “commanded” = tsavah. This is to charge, command, order, appoint, or enjoin. This is the root that the Hebrew word for “commandment” comes from (mitsvah).
B “skies” = shachaq. From shachaq (to rub off, wear away, pulverize). This is powder, dust, vapor. It can also refer to the sky or a cloud.
C “above” = maal. From alah (to go up, ascend, be high, be a priority; to arise in a literal or figurative sense). This is the upper part, forward, high above, upwards, greater, heaven, or exceedingly.

    and openedD the doorsE of heaven;F

Notes on verse 23b

D “opened” = 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.
E “doors” = delet. From dalah (to draw, lift up; properly, to dangle; draw water; figuratively, to deliver). This is something that swings like a door, gate, leaf, lid, or other opening.
F “heaven” = shamayim. Root may mean being lofty. This is sky, the air, or heaven. It is in a dual noun form so this might refer to the part of the sky where the clouds move on the one hand and the part beyond that where the sun, moon, and stars are on the other hand.

24 he rained down on them mannaG to eat,H
    and gaveI them the grainJ of heaven.

Notes on verse 24

G “manna” = man. 14x in OT. From mah (what, how, how long, why – a question or exclamation). This is manna, literally a whatzit.
H “eat” = akal. This is to eat, devour, burn up, or otherwise consume. It can be eating in a literal or figurative sense.
I “gave” = natan. This is to give, put, set, offer. It is to give literally or figuratively.
J “grain” = dagan. Perhaps from dagah (to multiply, move quickly, breed greatly, grow). This is grain or other cereal.

25 MortalsK ate of the breadL of angels;M

Notes on verse 25a

K “mortals” = ish. Perhaps from enosh (human, humankind, mortal); from anash (to be weak, sick, or frail). This is man, husband, another, or humankind.
L “bread” = lechem. From lacham (to eat, feed on). This is bread, food, loaf. It can refer to food more generally for people or for animals.
M “angels” = abbir. 17x in OT. From abir (strong, mighty); from abar (to fly, soar). This is mighty or valiant. It could refer to a mighty one broadly, an angel, or a bull.

    he sentN them foodO in abundance.P

Notes on verse 25b

N “sent” = shalach. This is to send out, away, send for, forsake. It can also mean to divorce or set a slave free.
O “food” = tsedah. 11x in OT. From the same as tsayid (food or provision). This is food, meat, or other provisions.
P “abundance” = soba. 8x in OT. From saba (to be satisfied or full in a literal or figurative sense; to have plenty of). This is abundance, fullness, satisfaction. Properly, it is being sated – having enough food. Figuratively, it is fullness of joy.

26 He caused the east windQ to blowR in the heavens,
    and by his powerS he led outT the south wind;U

Notes on verse 26

Q “east wind” = qadim. From the same as qedem (front, formerly, before, east, eternal, everlasting, antiquity). This is the front part and so eastward. Sometimes used as a shorthand for the east wind.
R “blow” = nasa. This is properly pulling up as when one pulls up tent pegs or stakes. This would imply striking tents in order to start a journey. So this could be bring, pullout, set out, journey, or cause to go away.
S “power” = oz. From azaz (to be strong, become fixed, be bold, prevail, be impudent; it means to be stout literally or figuratively. A Late Hebrew word). This is strength in the sense of force, majesty, praise, material and physical strength, the abstract notion of security. It can also speak of social or political power.
T “led out” = nahag. This is to drive as in driving flocks, but also driving in animal or vehicle like a chariot. It can mean to carry away, lead, drive away, proceed, or guide. It can also relate to behavior and what one is accustomed to.
U “south wind” = teman. From the same as yamin (right hand or side; that which is stronger or more agile; the south); {perhaps yamam (to go or choose the right, use the right hand; to be physically fit or firm)}. This is south, towards the south, wind from the south.

27 he rained fleshV upon them like dust,W
    wingedX birdsY like the sandZ of the seas;AA

Notes on verse 27

V “flesh” = sheer. 16x in OT. Perhaps from sha’ar (properly, swelling up i.e. being left over; a remnant, remaining, being redundant). This is flesh, body, meat, kin, self.
W “dust” = aphar. Related to aphar (to throw dust, be dust). This is dust as powdered, perhaps gray colored. It could be ashes, powder, ground, dry earth, clay mud, or rubbish.
X “winged” = kanaph. This is wing, edge, corner, extremity. It can also be a flap or fold of a garment or the pinnacle of a building.
Y “birds” = oph. From uph (to fly, flee, shine, be weary, be faint). This is a flying creature.
Z “sand” = chol. From chul (whirling around so dancing as in a circle or writhing in pain; used particularly for the pain of childbirth or from writhing due to fear; can also be falling in pain or waiting). This is sand, perhaps because of its roundness or the way that the grains can whirl.
AA “seas” = yam. Root may mean to roar. This is the sea, often referring to the Mediterranean. It comes from the root in the sense of the roar of crashing surf. This word is sometimes used for rivers or other sources of water. It can mean to the west or to the south.

28 he let them fallBB withinCC their camp,DD
    all aroundEE their dwellings.FF

Notes on verse 28

BB “fall” = naphal. This is to fall, whether by accident, to fall prostrate, or to fall in violent death. Figuratively, it can refer to personal ruin or calamity, a city falling, an attack or a falling away. It can also be a deep sleep or wasting away.
CC “within” = qereb. Perhaps from qarab (to come near or approach). This is among, in the midst, before, the center It is the inward part, whether literal or figurative. It can also be used for the heart, the site of thoughts and feelings. This word is also used as a technical term for the entrails of the animals who are sacrificed.
DD “camp” = machaneh. From chanah (to decline, bending down, or living in tents; can be camping to create a home or camping as a part of battle). This is an encampment, whether of people traveling together or soldiers. So, it can be a camp band, or company as well as an army of soldiers. Also can be used of other groups like animals, angels or stars.
EE “all around” = sabib. From sabab (turning around, going around; to surround, cast, walk, fetch; to revolve or border in a literal or figurative sense). This is a circuit or a circle. It could refer to an environment, one’s neighbors, or a circular path round about.
FF “dwellings” = mishkan. From shakan (to settle down in the sense of residing somewhere or staying there permanently; to abide or continue). This is a place where one lives – a tabernacle, tent, or other kind of dwelling. It can also be a lair where animals live, the grave, the Temple, or the Tabernacle.

29 And they ate and were wellGG filled,HH
    for he gaveII them what they craved.JJ

Notes on verse 29

GG “well” = meod. Perhaps from the same as uwd (firebrand, a poker). This is very, greatly, exceedingly. It can also mean vehemence, force, abundance.
HH “were…filled” = saba. Related to “abundance” in v25. See note P above.
II “gave” = bo. This is to enter, come in, advance, fulfill, bring offerings, enter to worship, attack. It can also have a sexual connotation.
JJ “what they craved” = taavah. From the same as avah (to desire, crave, wish for, lust after). This is what is desirable, a delight, greedy, satisfaction, a charm.

Image credit: “A Common Quail Coturnix coturnix in Lebanon” by KaouroV, 2015.

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