Psalm 81

Psalm 81


To the leader:A according to The Gittith.B Of Asaph.C

Notes on superscript

A “leader” = natsach. Properly, something that glitters from a distance. So, something that stands out, excels, has status/standing (such as a chief musician or superintendent of Temple services). This can also mean to be permanent or enduring.
B “Gittith” = Gittith. 3x in OT– all psalms. From gitti (someone from Gath); from Gath (Philistine city called Gath, meaning “wine press”); from the same as gath (wine press); from nagan (to play a stringed instrument, song, melody, make music). This is Gittith – some kind of musical notation, perhaps referring to a harp from Gath.
C “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.

Sing aloudD to GodE our strength;F
    shout for joyG to the God of Jacob.H

Notes on verse 1

D “sing aloud” = ranan. This is a cry of joy or a joyful song. Properly, it is emitting a shrill sound, especially one of joy.
E “God” = Elohim.
F “strength” = 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.
G “shout for joy” = rua. To break or destroy something so figuratively, an ear splitting sound such as a call of alarm or a joyful sound.
H “Jacob” = Yaaqob. From the same as aqeb (heel, hind part, hoof, rear guard of an army, one who lies in wait, usurper). This is Isaac’s son and his descendants. The name means heel-catcher or supplanter.

RaiseI a song,J soundK the tambourine,L

Notes on verse 2a

I “raise” = nasa. This is to lift in a broad sense, literally and figuratively. So it could be to carry, take, or arise. It could also be bring forth, advance, accept.
J “song” = zimrah. 4x in OT. From zamar (making music; used specially of music to worship God; music with singing, singing praise, singing psalms); may be from zamar (to trim or prune). This is a melody, psalm, or sound. It is sung to praise God or it might be a song sung with an instrument.
K “sound” = natan. This is to give, put, set, offer. It is to give literally or figuratively.
L “tambourine” = toph. 17x in OT. Perhaps from taphaph (to play a drum, timbrel, or tambourine). This is a timbrel or tambourine.

    the sweetM lyreN with the harp.O

Notes on verse 2b

M “sweet” = na’iym. 13x in OT. From na’em (to be pleasant or lovely; to surpass in beauty; to be delightful in a literal or figurative sense). This is sweet, lovely, or delightful.
N “lyre” = kinnor. Root may be to twang. This is a lyre or harp.
O “harp” = nebel. From nabel (to fall away, faint, wither, languish, sink; figuratively, being senseless, foolish, or wicked; to despise, disgrace, or fall to nothing, to be seen with contempt). This is a vessel, perhaps made of skins for holding liquids. It could be a skin, vase, or lyre as having a similar shape.

BlowP the trumpetQ at the new moon,R
    at the full moon,S on our festalT day.U

Notes on verse 3

P “blow” = taqa. This is to clap, clatter, thrust, sound an instrument, hammer a nail, be a bondsman.
Q “trumpet” = shophar. From shaphar (being beautiful or lovely). This is a ram’s horn, trumpet, or cornet. A shofar is still blown at Jewish festivals such as Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish new year celebration).
R “new moon” = chodesh. From chadash (to renew, repair). This refers to a new moon. It can also mean monthly.
S “full moon” = kese. 2x in OT. Perhaps from kasah (to cover, conceal, overwhelm; to cover as clothes do or to hide a secret). This is full moon or the festival associated with it.
T “festal” = chag. From chagag (feast, celebrating a festival, making a pilgrimage; properly, going in a circle or marching in sacred procession; implies giddiness and dancing; reeling to and fro). This is a feast, a sacrifice as part of a festival, or the gathering of the festival.
U “day” = yom. Root may mean being hot. This is the day in a literal or figurative sense. It can also mean birth, age, daylight, continually or other references to time.

For it is a statuteV for Israel,W
    an ordinanceX of the God of Jacob.

Notes on verse 4

V “statute” = choq. From chaqaq (to inscribe, carve, or decree; a lawmaker; literally, this is engraving, but it implies enacting a law because laws were carved into stone or metal). This is statute, boundary, condition, custom, limit, ordinance It is something that is prescribed or something that is owed.
W “Israel” = Yisrael. Related to “God” in v1. From sarah (to persist, exert oneself, contend, persevere, wrestle, prevail) + el (see note E above). This is Israel, meaning God strives or one who strives with God; new name for Jacob and for his offspring. This refers to the people and to the land.
X “ordinance” = mishpat. From shaphat (to judge, defend, pronounce judgment, condemn, govern). This is a verdict or formal sentence whether from humans or from God. It includes the act of judging as well as the place that judging takes place, the suit itself, and the penalty. Abstractly, this is justice, which includes the rights of the participants.

5 He madeY it a decreeZ in Joseph,AA
    when he went outBB over the landCC of Egypt.DD

Notes on verse 5a

Y “made” = sum. This is to put or place in a literal or figurative sense. It can be appoint, care, change, make, and may other things.
Z “decree” = eduth. From ed (witness, testimony, recorder); from ud (to admonish, repeat, duplicate, testify, restore, record, relieve). This is testimony, ordinance, decree, warning, or witness.
AA “Joseph” = Yehoseph. 1x in OT. From the same as Yoseph (he increases; Joseph); from yasaph (to add, increase, continue, exceed). This is Joseph or Jehoseph, meaning “he increases.”
BB “went out” = yatsa. This is to go or come out, bring forth, appear. It is to go out in a literal or figurative sense.
CC “land” = erets. Root may mean to be firm. This is earth, ground, field land, or country.
DD “Egypt” = Mitsrayim. Perhaps from matsor (besieged or fortified place, bulwark, entrenchment; something hemmed in; a siege or distress or fastness); from tsur (to confine, besiege, to cramp). This is Egypt.

I hearEE a voiceFF I had not known:GG

Notes on verse 5b

EE “hear” = shama. This is to hear, call, consent, or consider. It implies listening intelligently, giving attention, and, because of these two factors, obedience and action are often implied.
FF “voice” = saphah. This is lip, edge, border, bank – used for a boundary. It can also be speech or language.
GG “known” = yada. This is to know, acknowledge, advise, answer, be aware, be acquainted with. Properly, this is to figure something out by seeing. It includes ideas of observation, recognition, and care about something. It can be used causatively for instruction, designation, and punishment.

“I relievedHH your shoulderII of the burden;JJ

Notes on verse 6a

HH “relieved” = sur. This is to turn aside in a literal or figurative sense – to depart, decline, rebel, remove, or withdraw.
II “shoulder” = shekem. Perhaps from shakam (to rise early, begin work early; properly, this is leaning one’s shoulder or back into a load or a burden; also, loading an animal for work). This is shoulder, neck, or some other place that bears burdens. Figuratively, it can refer to the spur of a hill, or one’s allotted portion.
JJ “burden” = sebel. 3x in OT. From sabal (to carry a heavy load, do strong labor, be a burden; specially, to be pregnant). This is a load or burden in a literal or figurative sense. It can also refer to forced labor.

    your handsKK were freedLL from the basket.MM

Notes on verse 6b

KK “hands” = kaph. From kaphaph (to bend – from a root meaning curve or bend down). This is palm of the hand or sole of the foot, footstep, grasp. Figuratively, it can also mean power.
LL “freed” = abar. This is to pass over or cross over. It is used for transitions, whether literal or figurative. It can also mean to escape, alienate, or fail. This is the root verb from which “Hebrew” is drawn.
MM “basket” = dud. 7x in OT. From the same as dod (beloved, love, uncle, love token; root may mean to boil). This is a pot or kettle used for boiling. It can also be a jar or basket.

7 In distressNN you called,OO and I rescuedPP you;

Notes on verse 7a

NN “distress” = tsarah. From tsar (properly, a narrow or constricted place; figuratively, trouble, a pebble, an enemy, anguish, or distress); from tsarar (to bind, restrict, narrow, be cramped, an adversary). This is tightness, distress, affliction, trouble, or adversary.
OO “called” = qara. This is to call or call out – to call someone by name. Also used more broadly for calling forth.
PP “rescued” = chalats. This is to turn back or away in a literal or figurative sense. So, it could be return, break, build, retreat. It doesn’t necessarily imply going back to the place you started.

    I answeredQQ you in the secret placeRR of thunder;SS

Notes on verse 7b

QQ “answered” = anah. This is answer, respond, announce, sing, shout, or testify. It means to pay attention, which implies responding and, by extension, starting to talk. Used in a specific sense for singing, shouting, testifying, etc.
RR “secret place” = sether. From sathar (hide, conceal, or be absent; hiding because something is covered – used in a literal or figurative sense). This is covering, shelter, protection, hiding place. It can be hidden by a mountain, by clouds, in the womb, in a matter of secrecy, through slander, or of nations.
SS “thunder” = raam. 6x in OT. Perhaps from raam (to trouble, be agitated, irritated, angered; a peal of thunder). This is thunder (the noun).

    I testedTT you at the watersUU of Meribah.VV SelahWW

Notes on verse 7c

TT “tested” = bachan. This is to examine, test, or prove – as one tests metals. It can also be used literally or figuratively for investigating or trying.
UU “waters” = mayim. This is water, waters, or waterway in a general sense. Figuratively, it can also mean juice, urine, or semen.
VV “Meribah” = Meribah. 6x in OT. From the same as meribah (strife, quarrel); from rib (properly to toss or grapple; used figuratively to mean wrangling and so for arguments, complaints, or disputes; used in a legal setting for pleading or defending a case). This is Meribah, a place whose name means “strife.”
WW “Selah” = selah. From salal (to lift up, build, pile, extol, exalt; can also be used for opposing as a dam holds back water). This is to lift up or exalt. Also, “selah” in the psalms where its precise meaning is uncertain. It could be a pause in the music, a moment of silence. It could signal a change in the service or mean something akin to amen.

Hear, O my people,XX while I admonishYY you;
    O Israel, if you would but listenZZ to me!

Notes on verse 8

XX “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.
YY “admonish” = ud. Related to “decree” in v5. See note Z above.
ZZ “listen” = shama. Same as “hear” in v5. See note EE above.

There shall beAAA no strangeBBB godCCC among you;
    you shall not bow downDDD to a foreignEEE god.FFF

Notes on verse 9

AAA “be” = hayah. This is to be or become, to happen.
BBB “strange” = zuwr. This is one who comes from someone else – a stranger. It is one who stops for lodging. Figuratively, it can also mean profane or one who commits adultery.
CCC “god” = el. Related to “God” in v1 & “Israel” in v4. See note W above.
DDD “bow down” = shachah. This is to bow down, make a humble entreaty, to do homage to royalty or to God.
EEE “foreign” = nekar. From the same as neker (misfortune, disaster). This is foreign or something that is foreign i.e. strange.
FFF “god” = el. Same as “god” in v9. See note CCC above.

10 I am the LordGGG your God,HHH
    who brought you upIII out of the land of Egypt.

Notes on verse 10a

GGG “Lord” = YHVH. Related to “be” in v9. From havah (to be, become) or hayah (see note AAA above). This is the name of the God of Israel, the self-existent and eternal one, the tetragrammaton. This pronunciation has been lost to time so “Lord” is generally used in its place.
HHH “God” = Elohim. Same as “God” in v1. See note E above.
III “brought…up” = alah. This is to go up, approach, ascend, be high, be a priority; to arise in a literal or figurative sense.

    Open your mouthJJJ wideKKK and I will fillLLL it.

Notes on verse 10b

JJJ “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.
KKK “open…wide” = rachab. This is to grow wide or enlarge in a literal or figurative sense. It can also mean extend, relieve, rejoice, or speak boldly. This is the verb that Rahab comes from.
LLL “fill” = male. This is fill, satisfy, replenish, accomplish, fulfill, confirm, or consecrate. It is fill in a literal or figurative sense.

11 “But my people did not listen to my voice;MMM
    Israel would not submitNNN to me.
12 So I gave them overOOO to their stubbornPPP hearts,QQQ

Notes on verses 11-12a

MMM “voice” = qol. This is a sound, used often for human voices. Also used when God speaks or angels, animals or instruments. It can be a cry or a noise, thunder or earthquakes and so on.
NNN “submit” = abah. This is to breathe after, be willing, obey, accept, be content with, satisfy.
OOO “gave…over” = shalach. This is to send out, away, send for, forsake. It can also mean to divorce or set a slave free.
PPP “stubborn” = sheriruth. 10x in OT.  From the same as shor (body, umbilical cord, core of strength); from sharar (enemy or watcher); see shorer (foe, a treacherous watcher); from shur (to behold, see, watch, perceive; to spy out, lie in wait, lurk for; can also be to care for). This is stubbornness or lust.
QQQ “hearts” = 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.

    to followRRR their own counsels.SSS
13 O that my people would listen to me,
    that Israel would walkTTT in my ways!UUU

Notes on verses 12b-13

RRR “follow” = halak. This is go, come, walk. It is walk literally and figuratively and includes people and animals. It can be used figuratively for one’s moral life – how we walk according to God’s way or against it. It can also refer to the walk of life as in the course one’s life takes, the choices we make, etc.
SSS “counsels” = moetsah. 7x in OT. From yaats (to counsel, advise, determine). This is counsel, plan, purpose, or device.
TTT “walk” = halak. Same as “follow” in v12. See note RRR above.
UUU “ways” = derek. From darak (to tread, march, to walk. Can also mean affixing a string to a box since one needs to step on it to bend it in the process; so also an archer). This is a road as a thing that is walked on. Can be used figuratively for the path that one’s life takes or how one chooses to live one’s life.

14 Then I would quicklyVVV subdueWWW their enemies,XXX
    and turnYYY my handZZZ against their foes.AAAA

Notes on verse 14

VVV “quickly” = me’at. From ma’at (being or becoming small, decrease, diminish, pare off). This is a little or few, lightly little while, very small matter.
WWW “subdue” = kana. This is to be humble, subdue, humiliate, conquer. Properly, it means to bend the knee.
XXX “enemies” = oyeb. From ayab (to hate or be hostile to). This is a foe or enemy as one that you are hostile to.
YYY “turn” = 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.”
ZZZ “hand” = yad. This is hand, ability, power. Hand in a literal sense, but also what one can do or the means by which one does it.
AAAA “foes” = tsar. Related to “distress” in v7. See note NN above.

15 Those who hateBBBB the Lord would cringeCCCC before him,
    and their doomDDDD would lastEEEE forever.FFFF

Notes on verse 15

BBBB “hate” = sane. This is an enemy or foe. It is one that is hated with a personal hatred.
CCCC “cringe” = kachash. This is deceive, fail, or deny. It can be lying or disappointing. It can also mean becoming lean or cringe.
DDDD “doom” = eth. Related to “answered” in v7. Probably from anah (see note QQ above) OR from ad (forever, all, old); from adah (to pass on, advance, decorate oneself). This is a period or season. It can also mean whenever or continually.
EEEE “last” = hayah. Same as “be” in v9. See note AAA above.
FFFF “forever” = olam. This is a long scope of time whether in the past (antiquity, ancient time) or in the future (eternal, everlasting).

16 I would feedGGGG you with the finestHHHH of the wheat,IIII
    and with honeyJJJJ from the rockKKKK I would satisfyLLLL you.”

Notes on verse 16

GGGG “feed” = akal. This is to eat, devour, burn up, or otherwise consume. It can be eating in a literal or figurative sense.
HHHH “finest” = cheleb. This is fat, finest, marrow. It is fat in a literal or figurative sense. It refers to the richest or best part.
IIII “wheat” = chittah. Perhaps from chanat (to spice, ripen, embalm). This is wheat, referring to the plant or its product.
JJJJ “honey” = debash. Root may mean being gummy. This is honey or honeycomb because it is so sticky. It can also refer to syrup.
KKKK “rock” = tsur. Related to “Egypt” in v5. Perhaps from tsur (see note DD above). This is rock, stone, cliff, boulder, rocky. It can also be a refuge, a way to refer to God.
LLLL “satisfy” = saba. To be satisfied or full in a literal or figurative sense. Also, to have plenty of.

Image credit: “Moses” by John August Swanson, 1983.

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