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Commentary on Psalms - Volume 3
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PSALM 81

This psalm consists of two parts. Whoever was its author, he exhorts the people to remember the unparalleled grace of God towards them, in delivering them by his outstretched arm, and choosing them to be a kingdom of priests, and a peculiar Church to himself; that thus they may be excited devoutly to honor their deliverer, both by celebrating his praises, and by leading a holy life. God is next introduced as upbraiding them for their ingratitude in continuing obstinately to refuse to submit to the yoke of the law, notwithstanding the tender and gracious manner in which he allured them to himself.

To the chief musician upon Gittith. A Psalm of Asaph. 401401     There are various opinions as to the time and occasion of the composition of this psalm. Bishop Horsley observes, “It is certainly older than the time of David; for the use of Joseph’s name, in the 5th verse, as the name of the whole nation, shows that it was composed before Judah became the principal tribe, while the place of worship was in the tribe of Ephraim; that is, among Joseph’s descendants.” “This, however,” says Fry, “is not conclusive, as a psalm, whenever composed, referring to the events of those times, might use the same distinctions.” According to Walford, it “was most likely written to be sung at some celebration of the feast of the Passover, during the reign of Jehoshaphat or of Hezekiah.” But the generally received opinion is, that it was composed, in the first instance, for the feast of trumpets. This feast was celebrated on the first day of the month Tisri, which was the beginning of the Jewish year, answering to our September. It has been supposed by some, that this feast was appointed in commemoration of the creation of the world, which is conjectured to have been completed at that season of the year. The Hebrew months were lunar, and the first day of each month had its religious services, accompanied with sound of trumpets, Numbers 10:10; but the feast of trumpets was kept with additional sacrifices, Leviticus 23:24; Numbers 29:1. The trumpets were blown from sunrise until sunset. It appears from the book of the Jewish Liturgy, that this psalm is still sung at that feast. “It may have been used,” observes Dr Adam Clarke, “in celebrating the feast of trumpets on the first of Tisri; the feast of tabernacles, on the fifteenth of the same month; the creation of the world; the feast of the new moons; and the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt; to all which circumstances it appears to refer.”


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