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Psalms 77 Summary - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

This Psalm breathes the spirit of Habakkuk, and uses language closely resembling that of his ‘Prayer.’ As Habakkuk watched the advance of the Chaldeans, and foresaw that they were to be the executioners of God’s judgement upon Judah, his faith was tried to the uttermost. Could such an apparent triumph of pride and violence be consistent with the Divine government of the world? His questionings were answered with the assurance that pride and injustice must inevitably come to ruin, while righteousness endures; but the assurance was coupled with the warning that its realisation might be long delayed. And when the prophet prayed that God would hasten His work lest the delay should prove too great a strain for the faith of His waiting people, in place of a direct answer there rose before his mind the vision of God’s Advent to judge His enemies and redeem His people. That Advent he describes in language borrowed from the great deliverances and visitations of the past, conveying the same fundamental idea as that of this Psalm, that Israel’s past is the pledge for Israel’s future [41] .

[41] For fuller explanation of Habakkuk’s magnificent ode I may refer to my Doctrine of the Prophets, pp. 281 ff.

When the Psalmist wrote, the blow had fallen. Israel was in exile. It is clearly no merely private and personal sorrow which overwhelms his spirit, but the apparent rejection of Israel by God. But in the light of Israel’s past history he is taught to believe that this rejection cannot be permanent. In the recollection of that marvellous past he finds the ground of hope for the future. The God who led His people out of the bondage of Egypt can bring them back from their Exile in Babylon.

The structure of the Psalm is regular. There are two main divisions, in each of which there are two stanzas, marked off by Selah. The second and third stanzas fall into equal subdivisions of three verses. In the fourth stanza the rhythm changes; instead of six distichs we have four tristichs; but the number of lines is the same. The last verse stands by itself as the conclusion.

i. The problem.

1. Introduction. The Psalmist relates how in the day of distress he strove, but in vain, to find comfort in prayer (Psa 77:1-3).

2. In the watches of the night he pondered on the past history of Israel (Psa 77:4-6), and asked himself whether God could have irrevocably rejected His people (Psa 77:7-9).

3. The answer to such questionings must, he feels, be looked for in God’s revelation of Himself in history (Psa 77:10-12), especially in His redemption of Israel out of Egypt (Psa 77:13-15).

4. On the grandeur of that manifestation he dwells at length (Psa 77:16-19).

In conclusion he points to God’s guidance of His people through the wilderness (Psa 77:20).

Some commentators regard Psa 77:16-19 as a fragment of another Psalm, mainly on the ground of the change of rhythm, and a supposed want of connexion with what precedes and follows. But though the rhythm changes, tristichs taking the place of distichs, the length of the stanza is the same twelve lines as that of the two preceding ones. The first stanza contains a tristich ( Psa 77:2), and it should be noted that Psa 77:1 ; Psa 77:16 are both marked by the figure of ‘epanaphora’ or rhetorical repetition.

Attention has also been called to the abruptness of the close of the Psalm, and it has been suggested that it is either incomplete or mutilated. But this abruptness is a mark of the poet’s skill. He ends with the thought which he would leave impressed on the reader’s mind for his consolation God’s providential guidance of His people. Any addition would weaken the effect. The reader is left to draw the inference that God’s guidance will continue, and that, as He redeemed Israel from the bondage of Egypt, He can redeem them from exile in Babylon. The parallel between the Exodus from Babylon and the Exodus from Egypt is constantly present to the minds of the prophets.

The resemblance of the Psalm to the Prayer of Habakkuk has already been referred to. It has been much disputed whether the Psalmist is imitating the Prophet, or the Prophet the Psalm. On literary grounds alone it would be difficult to decide, though the presumption is perhaps in favour of the originality of Habakkuk. But if (as I believe) the Prayer of Habakkuk is an integral part of his book, not a later addition, and if the Psalm belongs to the time of the Exile, the Psalmist must be the borrower.

Compare, besides Habakkuk 3, Exodus 15; and Psa 142:1-3; Psa 143:4-6.

On the title, For the chief Musician; after the manner of Jeduthun (R.V.), see Introd. to Psalms 62.

Consult other comments:

Psalms 77:0 - Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible

Psalms 77:0 - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

Psalms 77:0 - Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers (Old and New Testaments)

Psalms 77:0 - John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

Psalms 77:0 - Matthew Henry's Whole Bible Commentary

Psalms 77:0 - Jamieson, Fausset and Brown's Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Psalms 77:0 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament

Psalms 77:0 - English Annotations on the Holy Bible by Matthew Poole

Psalms 77:0 - Whedon's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges