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New American Bible

2002 11 11
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Chapter 81


1 2 For the leader; "upon the gittith." Of Asaph.


Sing joyfully to God our strength; shout in triumph to the God of Jacob!


Take up a melody, sound the timbrel, the sweet-sounding harp and lyre.


3 Blow the trumpet at the new moon, at the full moon, on our solemn feast.


For this is a law in Israel, an edict of the God of Jacob,


4 Who made it a decree for Joseph when he came out of the land of Egypt. II I hear a new oracle:


5 "I relieved their shoulders of the burden; their hands put down the basket.


6 In distress you called and I rescued you; unseen, I spoke to you in thunder; At the waters of Meribah I tested you and said: Selah


'Listen, my people, I give you warning! If only you will obey me, Israel!


7 There must be no foreign god among you; you must not worship an alien god.


I, the LORD, am your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt. Open wide your mouth that I may fill it.'


But my people did not listen to my words; Israel did not obey me.


So I gave them over to hardness of heart; they followed their own designs.


But even now if my people would listen, if Israel would walk in my paths,


In a moment I would subdue their foes, against their enemies unleash my hand.


Those who hate the LORD would tremble, their doom sealed forever.


But Israel I would feed with the finest wheat, satisfy them with honey from the rock."



1 [Psalm 81] At a pilgrimage feast, probably harvest in the fall, the people assemble in the temple in accord with the Sinai ordinances ( Psalm 81:2-6). They hear a divine word (mediated by a temple speaker) telling how God rescued them from slavery in Egypt ( Psalm 81:7-9), gave them the fundamental commandment of fidelity ( Psalm 81:9-11), which would bring punishment if they refused to obey ( Psalm 81:12-13). But if Israel repents, God will be with them once again, bestowing protection and fertility ( Psalm 81:14-16).

2 [1] Upon the gittith: probably the title of the melody to which the psalm was to be sung or a musical instrument.

3 [4] New moon . . . full moon: the pilgrimage feast of harvest began with a great assembly ( Lev 23:24; Numbers 29:1), used the new moon as a sign ( Numbers 29:6), and included trumpets ( Lev 23:24).

4 [6] I hear a new oracle: literally, "a tongue I do not know I hear." A temple official speaks the word of God ( Psalm 81:5b-16), which is authoritative and unlike merely human words (cf Numbers 24:4, 16).

5 [7] I relieved their shoulders of the burden: literally, "his [Israel's] shoulder," hence the plural translation. A reference to the liberation of Israel from slavery in Egypt. The basket: for carrying clay to make bricks. Cf Exodus 1:14.

6 [8] Meribah: place of rebellion in the wilderness; cf Exodus 17:7; Numbers 20:13.

7 [10] There must be no foreign god among you: as in Psalm 50 and 95, Israel is challenged to obey the first commandment of fidelity to God after the proclamation of the exodus.

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