Archive for the ‘Psalm 81:13’ Category


Deuteronomy 5:29 (26 in Heb.); 32:29; Psalm 81:13ff. (14ff.); Isaiah 48:18. The purpose of adducing these texts is to note the optative force of that which is expressed. There can be no reasonable question as to the optative force of Deuteronomy 5:29 (26). It is introduced by the idiom mi yitten which literally means “who will give?” but is really a strong optative expression meaning “Oh that there were!” Consequently the text reads, “Oh that there were such a heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!” It is the Lord who is speaking and we shall have to conclude that here we have the expression of earnest desire or wish or will that the people of Israel were of a heart to fear him and keep all his commandments always. It is apparent from the book of Deuteronomy itself (cf. 31:24-29) and from the whole history of Israel that they did not have a heart to fear God and to keep all his commandments always. Since they did not fulfil that which was optatively expressed in 5:29 (26), we must conclude that God had not decreed that they should have such a heart. If God had decreed it, it would have been so. Here therefore we have an instance of desire on the part of God for the fulfilment of that which he had not decreed; in other words, a will on the part of God to that which he had not decretively willed.

In Deuteronomy 32:29 the construction is somewhat different. In our English versions it is translated, “Oh that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end.” This rendering is distinctly optative and has the same effect as Deuteronomy 5:29 (26), considered above. It must be admitted that this is a perfectly legitimate rendering and interpretation. The conjunction lu with which the verse begins has undoubtedly this optative force. It has such force unquestionably in Genesis 17:18; Numb. 14:2, 20:3; 22:29; Joshua 7:7; Isaiah 63:19, and possibly, if not probably, in Genesis 23:13, 30:34. When lu has this optative force it means “Oh that” or “if only” and expresses strong desire. In view of what we found in Deut. 5:26 there is no reason why the optative force of lu should not be adopted here. We may not, however, insist that lu must have optative force here because lu is also used with conditional force, as in Judges 8:19; 13:23; II Samuel 18:12 and elsewhere. If lu is understood conditionally, Deut. 32:29 would be rendered as follows: “If they were wise they would understand this, they would consider their latter end.” This, however, is not the most natural rendering. The optative interpretation is smoother and more meaningful in the context. If this more natural construction is followed it shows the same thing as we found in Deut. 5:26, that earnest desire is expressed for what is contrary to fact (cf. v. 28).

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The Westminster Annotations on Psalm 81:13

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism


O that my people had harkened unto me] God shows, that the obedience of his people is as pleasing to him, as things wished for are to men, Deut. 5:29, Isa. 48:18. See before upon the title of the Psalm 72 of God’s conditional promises, out of Ezek. 33:13, &c.

Annotations Upon all the Books of the Old and New Testament: This Second Edition so enlarged, As they make an entire Commentary on the Sacred Scripture: The like never before published in English. Wherein The Text is Explained, Doubts Resolved, Scriptures Paralleled (London: Printed by John Legat, 1651).


Matthew Henry (1662-1714) on Psalm 81:13

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism


IV. He charges them with a high contempt of his authority as their lawgiver and his grace and favour as their benefactor, v. 11. He had done much for them, and designed to do more; but all in vain: “My people would not hearken to my voice, but turned a deaf ear to all I said.” Two things he complains of:—1. Their disobedience to his commands. They did hear his voice, so as never any people did; but they would not hearken to it, they would not be ruled by it, neither by the law nor by the reason of it. 2. Their dislike of his covenant-relation to them: They would none of me. They acquiesced not in my word (so the Chaldee); God was willing to be to them a God, but they were not willing to be to him a people; they did not like his terms. “I would have gathered them, but they would not.” They had none of him; and why had they not? It was not because they might not; they were fairly invited into covenant with God. It was not because they could not; for the word was nigh them, even in their mouth and in their heart. But it was purely because they would not. God calls them hi people, for they were bought by him, bound to him, his by a thousand ties, and yet even they had not hearkened, had not obeyed. “Israel, the seed of Jacob my friend, set me at nought, and would have none of me.” Note, All the wickedness of the wicked world is owing to the wilfulness of the wicked will. The reason why people are not religious is because they will not be so.

V. He justifies himself with this in the spiritual judgments he had brought upon them (v. 12): So I gave them up unto their own hearts’ lusts, which would be more dangerous enemies and more mischievous oppressors to them than any of the neighbouring nations ever were. God withdrew his Spirit from them, took off the bridle of restraining grace, left them to themselves, and justly; they will do as they will, and therefore let them do as they will. Ephraim is joined to idols; let him alone. It is a righteous thing with God to give those up to their own hearts’ lusts that indulge them, and give up themselves to be led by them; for why should his Spirit always strive? His grace is his own, and he is debtor to no man, and yet, as he never gave his grace to any that could say they deserved it, so he never took it away from any but such as had first forfeited it: They would none of me, so I gave them up; let them take their course. And see what follows: They walked in their own counsels, in the way of their heart and in the sight of their eye, both in their worships and in their conversations. “I left them to do as they would, and then they did all that was ill;” they walked in their own counsels, and not according to the counsels of God and his advice. God therefore was not the author of their sin; he left them to the lusts of their own hearts and the counsels of their own heads; if they do not well, the blame must lie upon their own hearts and the blood upon their own heads.

VI. He testifies his good-will to them in wishing they had done well for themselves. He saw how sad their case was, and how sure their ruin, when they were delivered up to their own lusts; that is worse than being given up to Satan, which may be in order to reformation (1 Tim. i. 20) and to salvation (1 Cor. v. 5); but to be delivered up to their own hearts’ lusts is to be sealed under condemnation. He that is filthy, let him be filthy still. What fatal precipices will not these hurry a man to! Now here God looks upon them with pity, and shows that it was with reluctance that he thus abandoned them to their folly and fate. How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? Hos. xi. 8, 9. So here, O that my people had hearkened! See Isa. xlviii. 18. Thus Christ lamented the obstinacy of Jerusalem. If thou hadst known, Luke xix. 42. The expressions here are very affecting (v. 13-16), designed to show how unwilling God is that any should perish and desirous that all should come to repentance (he delights not in the ruin of sinful persons or nations), and also what enemies sinners are to themselves and what an aggravation it will be of their misery that they might have been happy upon such easy terms. Observe here,

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John Calvin on Psalm 81:13

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism


O if my people had hearkened to me! By the honorable designation which God gives to the people of Israel, He exposes the more effectually their shameful and disgraceful conduct. Their wickedness was doubly aggravated, as will appear from the consideration, that although God called them to be his people, they differed nothing from those who were the greatest strangers to him. Thus he complains by the Prophet Isaiah, “The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.” (Isaiah 1:3) The Hebrew particle lu, which I have rendered O if! is not to be understood as expressing a condition, but a wish; and therefore God, I have no doubt, like a man weeping and lamenting, cries out, O the wretchedness of this people in wilfully refusing to have their best interests carefully provided for! He assumes the character of a father, and observing, after having tried every possible means for the recovery of his children, that their condition is utterly hopeless, he uses the language of one saddened, as it were, with sighing and groaning; not that he is subject to human passions, but because he cannot otherwise express the greatness of the love which he bears towards us.

The Prophet seems to have borrowed this passage from the song of Moses in Deuteronomy 32:29, where the obstinacy of the people is bewailed in almost the same words: “Oh that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!” He means tacitly to upbraid the Jews, and to impress upon their minds the truth, that their own perverseness was the only cause which prevented them from enjoying a state of great outward prosperity.

If it is objected, that God in vain and without ground utters this complaint, since it was in his power to bend the stiff necks of the people, and that, when he was not pleased to do this, he had no reason to compare himself to a man deeply grieved; I answer, that he very properly makes use of this style of speaking on our account, that we may seek for the procuring cause of our misery nowhere but in ourselves. We must here beware of mingling together things which are totally different as widely different from each other as heaven is distant from the earth. God, in coming down to us by his word, and addressing his invitations to all men without exception, disappoints nobody. All who sincerely come to him are received, and find from actual experience that they were not called in vain. At the same time, we are to trace to the fountain of the secret electing purpose of God this difference, that the word enters into the heart of some, while others only hear the sound of it. And yet there is no inconsistency in his complaining, as it were, with tears, of our folly when we do not obey him.

In the invitations which he addresses to us by the external word, he shows himself to be a father; and why may he not also be understood as still representing himself under the image of a father in using this form of complaint? In Ezekiel 18:32, he declares with the strictest regard to truth, “I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth,” provided in the interpretation of the passage we candidly and dispassionately take into view the whole scope of it. God has no pleasure in the death of a sinner: How? Because he would have all men turned to himself. But it is abundantly evident, that men by their own free-will cannot turn to God, until he first change their stony hearts into hearts of flesh: yea, this renovation, as Augustine judiciously observes, is a work surpassing that of the creation itself.

Now what hinders God from bending and framing the hearts of all men equally in submission to him? Here modesty and sobriety must be observed, that instead of presuming to intrude into his incomprehensible decrees, we may rest contented with the revelation which he has made of his will in his word. There is the justest ground for saying that he wills the salvation of those to whom that language is addressed, (Isaiah 21:12,) “Come unto me, and be ye converted.” In the second part of the verse before us, we have defined what it is to hear God. To assent to what he speaks would not be enough; for hypocrites will grant at once that whatever proceeds from his mouth is true, and will affect to listen just as if an ass should bend its ears. But the clause is intended to teach us that we can only be said to hear God, when we submit ourselves to his authority. Calvin, Commentary, Psalm 81:13.