Psalm 78

1 Give ear, O my people, to my law:
Incline your ears to the words of my mouth.

1-7. The Word was given to the children of Jacob, and they were confirmed in it by means of miracles; ” P. P.

2 I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings of old,
3 Which we have heard and known,
And our fathers have told us.
4 We will not hide them from their children,
Telling to the generation to come the praises of
And his strength, and his wondrous works that he hath

2-4, The mode of expression of the Most Ancient Church was such that when they mentioned earthly and worldly things, they thought of the spiritual and celestial things which they represented. They therefore expressed themselves not only by representatives, but also formed these in a certain historical series. This is the style of which Hannah prophesied — i. Samuel ii. 3 — such representatives are called in David ” Dark sayings of old.” A. 66.

5 For he established a testimony in Jacob,
And appointed a law in Israel,
Which he commanded our fathers,
That they should make them known to their children;
6 That the generation to come might know them, even
the children that should be born;
Who should arise and tell them to their children,
7 That they might set their hope in God,
And not forget the works of God,
But keep his commandments,

5 See Psalm xiv. 7. A. 4281.

The second essential of the New Church, which is conjunction with the Lord by a life according to the precepts of the Decalogue, is a testimony. Here the decalogue is called the testimony. R. 490.

The testimony is Divine truth, and in particular it is these two things — that the Lord is God of heaven and earth, and that the precepts of the Decalogue are precepts of life, on which account the Decalogue is also called the testimony. R. 555.

Here by Jacob and Israel is signified the church, by Jacob the internal church. By the law and testimony is signified the Word. By the testimony is signified that in the Word which teaches the good of life, and by the law that which teaches the truth of doctrine. E. 392.

5, 6. See Psalm xix. 8. A. 4197.

8 And might not be as their fathers,
A stubborn and rebellious generation,
A generation that set not their heart aright,
And whose spirit was not stedfast with God.
9 The children of Ephraim, being armed and carrying
Turned back in the day of battle.

8 A heart not right stands for a will not right. A spirit not constant with God stands for the understanding and faith of Divine truth not constant. A. 9818.

See Psalm xxxii. 2. L. 48.

Spirit here signifies such things as are of a perverted and wicked mind. T. 156.

Heart in the opposite sense signifies evil, and spirit what is false. E. 183.

8-10. But their fathers and the children had gone back, and had not lived according to it. P. P.

9 That the spiritual man was in old times called a shooter and an archer, and that doctrine was called a bow and a quiver, and that the truths of doctrine, or rather doctrinal tenets, were called darts, javelins, and arrows is further evident in David. Ephraim stands for the intellectual of the church. A. 2709.

By Ephraim is meant the intellectual of the church. Hence also the sons of Ephraim are called shooters with the bow. A. 5354.

See Psalm lx. 9, add: and the sons of Ephraim are called “armed” and “shooters” with the bow. By the bow is signified doctrine from the Word righting against falsities. S. 79.

The foregoing statement repeated in T. 247. By Ephraim is signified the understanding of truth, and by his children the truths themselves, wherefore they are also said to be armed, and carrying bows, that is combating against evils and falsities. That in this case they did not resist those evils and falsities, because they were not conjoined to the Lord is signified by their turning back in the day of battle, and their not keeping the covenant
of God. E. 357.

The day of battle. D. P., Page 72.

10 They kept not the covenant of God,
And refused to walk in his law;
11 And they forgat his doings,
And his wondrous works that he had showed them.
12 Marvellous things did he in the sight of their fathers,
In the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan.
13 He clave the sea, and caused them to pass through;
And he made the waters to stand as a heap.
14 In the day-time also he led them with a cloud,
And all the night with a light of fire.

10 The covenant of God is called the law of God. By the law is meant in an extended sense the whole Word, in a less extended sense the historical Word, in a limited sense the Word written by Moses. A. 9396.

11-13. The miracles in the desert even having no effect, all of which involved how the Lord teaches and leads those whom He calls to His church. All these things recited. P. P.

14 The reason why there was a cloud upon the tabernacle by day, and a fire by night, was because the tabernacle represented heaven and the church, the cloud the presence of the Lord by Divine truth, and the fire His presence by Divine good, which is called the good of faith, each ultimate in order, whence they were as coverings for the tabernacle. E. 594.

15 See Psalm xxxvi. 7. E. 538.

15 He clave rocks in the wilderness,
And gave them drink abundantly as out of the depths.
16 He brought streams also out of the rock,
And caused waters to run down like rivers.
17 Yet went they on still to sin against him,
To rebel against the Most High in the desert.
18 And they tempted God in their heart
By asking food according to their desire.
19 Yea, they spake against God;
They said, Can God prepare a table in the wilderness ?
20 Behold, he smote the rock, so that waters gushed out,
And streams overflowed;
Can he give bread also ?
Will he provide flesh for his people ?
21 Therefore Jehovah heard, and was wroth;
And a fire was kindled against Jacob,
And anger also went up against Israel;
22 Because they believed not in God,
And trusted not in his salvation.

15, 16. The rock stands for the Lord, waters, rivers, and depths from it, for truths from Him. A. 2702.

Deeps stand for waters in store, and waters in store or deeps for the truths of faith in abundance. To make them to drink great deeps out of the rock means the truths of faith without scarcity, for the rock is faith from the Lord, thus the Lord as to faith. A. 8278.

15, 16, 20. Rivers signify truths in abundance. R. 409. Divine truth from the Lord, from the reception of which intelligence flows is signified by the waters from the rock in Horeb, concerning which it is thus written in David. E. 518.

15, 16, 20, 35. The rock signifies the Lord as to Divine truth, or what is the same thing, Divine truth from the Lord. This is evident from the subjects here treated of, which are the redemption and the regeneration of the men of the church, which are effected by Divine truth from the Lord. E. 411.

16, 20, 35. By rock throughout the Word the Divine truth is understood. Inv. 35.

16 Waters signify the truths of faith. E. 71.

18 Soul stands for the life of the spirit of man, which is called his spiritual life. E. 750.

23 Yet he commanded the skies above,
And opened the doors of heaven;

23 Opening the doors of the heavens stands for giving communication with the truths and goods which are from the Lord in the heavens. A. 8989.

23, 24. It is called the bread of heaven — See Psalm cv. 40 — because it rained down from heaven with the dew, but in the spiritual sense it is called the bread of heaven because it flows down from the Lord through the angelic heaven. In this sense no other heaven is understood and no other bread, than what nourishes the soul of man. E. 146.

See Psalm xxxvi. 6. E. 541.

24 And he rained down manna upon them to eat,
And gave them food from heaven.
25 Man did eat the bread of the mighty:
He sent them food to the full.

24 Manna in the spiritual sense is the good of truth, that is the good of the spiritual church. Therefore it is also called the corn of heaven. A. 8464.

24, 25. By provision — meat — is also signified support from truth and good. A. 5490.

26 He caused the east wind to blow in the heavens;
And by his power he guided the south wind.
27 He rained flesh also upon them as the dust,
And winged birds as the sand of the seas:
28 And he let it fall in the midst of their camp,
Round about their habitations.
29 So they did eat, and were well filled;
And he gave them their own desire.
30 They were not estranged from that which they desired,
Their food was yet in their mouths,

26, 27. By the east wind is signified what is of lusts and their fantasies. By the flesh which that wind brought are signified lusts, and by the winged fowl their fantasies. A. 5215.

  1. See Psalm xvii. 8. R. 782.

31 When the anger of God went up against them,
And slew of the fattest of them,
And smote down the young men of Israel.
32 For all this they sinned still,
And believed not in his wondrous works.
33 Therefore their days did he consume in vanity,
And their years in terror.
34 When he slew them, then they inquired after him;
And they returned and sought God earnestly.
35 And they remembered that God was their rock,
And the Most High God their redeemer.
36 But they flattered him with their mouth,
And lied unto him with their tongue.
37 For their heart was not right with him,
Neither were they faithful in his covenant.

32-37. On account of the miracles they returned, indeed, but only with the mouth, not with the heart. P. P.
35 It may be seen that the Divine of the Lord, which is called the Father, and Jehovah, and God; and the Divine Human, which is here called Redeemer are not two but one. L. 34.

The Lord is called the God of Israel, Redeemer, and Saviour. L. 39.

That the Lord is called Lord and God is manifest. L. 41.

They did not remember that God was their rock, and the high God their Redeemer. D. P., Page 87.

35, 42. That the Lord is called a rock appears from these passages. Coro. 2.

37 See Psalm 1. 5, 16. E. 701.

Where mention is made of propitiation or expiation it is manifest that cleansing from evils, thus the remission of sins is signified. A. 9506.

38 But he, being merciful, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed
them not:
Yea, many a time turned he his anger away,
And did not stir up all his wrath.
39 And he remembered that they were but flesh,
A wind that passeth away, and cometh not again.
40 How oft did they rebel against him in the wilderness,
And grieve him in the desert!

38-40. The Lord forgave them. P. P.

39 This is said of the people desiring flesh in the wilderness, that they were corporeal. That they desired flesh represented that they lusted only for things of the body. A. 574-
Since by flesh when predicated of man is signified the proprium, which is the evil of the love of self and the world, it is evident what is signified by flesh when predicated of the Lord, namely, His proprium, which is the Divine good of the Divine love. A. 10283.

By spirit is meant the life of man, a spirit — wind — that passeth away. L. 47.

By flesh are signified the things proper to any one which have relation to goods and truths, and in the opposite sense to evils and falsities. R. 748.

The evil of man’s will, which is his proprium from birth is here signified by flesh, just as in Numbers xi. 4-33. E. 1082.

41 And they turned again and tempted God,
And provoked the Holy One of Israel.
42 They remembered not his hand,
Nor the day when he redeemed them from the adversary;

41 See Psalm xlvi. 7, 8. A. 3305.

See Psalm lxxi. 22. A. 9229.
See Psalm lxxi. 22. A. 9680.

The Lord is called the Holy One of Israel. L. 40.

The Lord alone is Holy because He is the Divine truth itself. R. 173.

The Lord as to the Human is called the Holy One of Israel. T. 93.

They tempted God and aggrieved the Holy One of Israel. D. P., Page 63.

43 How he set his signs in Egypt,
And his wonders in the field of Zoan,
44 And turned their rivers into blood,
And their streams, so that they could not drink.

41-51. Again they were seemingly converted when they recalled the miracles in Egypt, all of which involve the removal and dispersion from them of the hells. A recital of these things. P. P.

42, 43. That signs were testifications of the truth is manifest. See also John vi. 30-33: Isaiah vii. 11, 14; xxxviii. 22, etc. R. 598.

It is evident that the miracles performed in Egypt, and afterwards with the sons of Israel are called signs and miracles, signs because they testified and persuaded, and miracles because they excited and induced astonishment. E. 706.

45 He sent among them swarms of flies, which devoured
And frogs, which destroyed them.
46 He gave also their increase unto the caterpillar,
And their labor unto the locust.

45 The fly stands for the falsities in the extremes of the natural mind, thus in the sensual, nearest the body. These falsities are compared to such an insect because things in that part of the mind are like insects flying in the air, obscuring interior things, and also bringing harm to them, for they are mostly imaginary and are fallacies, the reasonings from which are like things built upon air. Swarms of flies of this kind are here meant. A. 7441. By frogs are signified ratiocinations from lusts, because they croak and are lascivious. R. 702.

See Psalm xviii. 5. E. 518.

45 46. These things are said of Egypt, and the caterpillar is mentioned, though there is no mention made of it in Moses, but only the locust. That the caterpillar also is mentioned, is because by it is signified evil, and by the locust falsity, each in the outmosts of the natural. A. 7643.

Since by locusts is signified the sensual as to falsity and evil, or what is the same thing, the falsity and evil of the sensual man, therefore the same is signified by the caterpillar. E. 543.

46 Falsities in the outermost things, because they consume the truths and goods of the church springing up in man, are signified by the locusts which consume the grass in the plains and the herbs in the fields. R. 424.

47 He destroyed their vines with hail,
And their sycomore-trees with frost.
48He gave over their cattle also to the hail,
And their flocks to hot thunderbolts.

47-49. Hail and rain stand for the vastation of truth and good by falsities from evil, the vine for the truth and good of the internal church, the sycamore and fig-tree for the truths and goods of the external church. A. 7553.
See Psalm xviii. 12-15. A. 7575.

See Psalm xviii. 13-15. R. 399.

By green or growing green is signified living or alive. The same that is described in Revelation viii. came to pass in- Egypt, namely, that from hail and fire mingled every tree and every herb of the field was burnt up. R. 401.

Since hail means falsity destroying the truths of the church, it is therefore said, ” he destroyed their vines with hail, and their sycamore trees with frost.” By vine is signified the spiritual truth of the church, and by sycamore its natural truth. By hot thunderbolts or fire is signified the love of evil and its ardor for destroying the goods of the church. It is therefore said, “he gave up their cattle also to the hail, and their flocks to hot thunderbolts.” Cattle and flocks signify the evil affections or lusts arising from evil love, and hot thunderbolts or fire the lust and ardor of destroying. By sending evil angels among them is signified the falsity of evil from hell. E. 503.

49 He cast upon them the fierceness of his anger,
Wrath, and indignation, and trouble,
A band of angels of evil.
50 He made a path for his anger;
He spared not their soul from death,
But gave their life over to the pestilence,

49 All these things are predicated of Jehovah although entirely contrary to His nature. They are predicated of Him for the reason explained before, and also in order that men may first lay hold of the very general idea that the Lord governs and disposes each and every event; and afterward learn that nothing of evil is from the Lord, much less does He kill, but that it is man who brings evil upon himself and ruins and destroys himself — although it is not man, but evil spirits who excite and lead him. A. 592.

By anger, wrath, fury, fire are meant punishments and condemnations, into which man casts himself when into evils, for it is of the Divine order that goods carry with them recompenses, and hence it is that evils carry with them punishments, because they are conjoined. A. 6997.

49 50. Not that Jehovah ever puts anger against any one,but they against their own selves, nor does He as is said send evil angels, but man draws them. A. 357.

Heat, anger, indignation, fury here stand for a turning away, opposition, and consequent punishment. A. 5798.
In many places in the Word anger and fury are mentioned together, and anger there is predicted of evil and fury of falsity. R. 635.

50 Speaking of the Egyptians, the pestilence stands for every kind of evil and its damnation. A. 7102.

51 And smote all the first-born in Egypt,
The chief of their strength in the tents of Ham.

51 By the firstborn in Egypt was represented faith without charity. The tents of Ham are the worship therefrom. A. 1063.

In the opposite sense tents signify worship not holy. A. 1566.

The worship of the Egyptians from principles of what is false, arising from truth separate from good, or what is the same, from faith separate from charity, is called the tents of Ham. A. 3325.

By the firstborn is signified in the genuine sense the good of charity, but in the sense of appearance the truth of faith. Because those two are the foundations of the church, therefore by the ancients the firstborn was called the might of the father and the beginning of his strength. A. 6344.

Since by tents are signified the goods of the church and of worship, therefore by tents in the opposite sense are signified the evils of worship and of the church. A. 10545.

52 But he led forth his own people like sheep,
And guided them in the wilderness like a flock.
53 And he led them safely, so that they feared not;
But the sea overwhelmed their enemies.
54 And he brought them to the border of his sanctuary,
To this mountain, which his right hand had gotten.
55 He drove out the nations also before them,
And allotted them for an inheritance by line,
And made the tribes of Israel to dwell in their tents.
56 Yet they tempted and rebelled against the Most High
And kept not his testimonies;
57 But turned back, and dealt treacherously like their
They were turned aside like a deceitful bow.
58 For they provoked him to anger with their high places,
And moved him to jealousy with their graven images.

52-55. The Lord thus led them unto the land which was the seat of the church. P. P.

55 See Psalm xvi. 6. A. 9854.

56-58. Yet they backslid and worshipped another God. P. P.

57 By father in the genuine sense is signified good, and in the supreme sense it signifies the Lord. But since most expressions in the Word have an opposite sense, so also has father and in this sense it signifies evil. So also mother which in the genuine sense signifies truth, in the opposite sense falsity. A. 3703.

To deal treacherously is a customary form of speaking in the Word, signifying in the internal sense to act contrary to the truth and good in heaven, or what is the same, contrary to Divine order. A. 8999.

They are compared to a deceitful bow, because by a bow is signified doctrine combating in both senses, that is the doctrine of false combating against truth, and of truth against false, for arrows or darts signify falses or truths by which combat is maintained. E. 866.

59 When God heard this, he was wroth,
And greatly abhorred Israel;
60 So that he forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh,
The tent which he placed among men;

59-64. Therefore they were forsaken by the Lord, and delivered over to their falsities and evils, this of themselves. P. P.

60 Tent here signifies the same as the temple in which God is said to dwell when He is present with man in love. Hence man when he lived in holy worship was called by the ancients a tent, and afterwards a temple. A. 1102.
See Psalm xv. 1, 2. R. 585.

By tabernacle is signified the church as to good, or the good of the church. E. 799.

60, 61. See Psalm lxviii. 19. R. 591.

By the habitation of Shiloh is signified the church which is in the good of love, and by the tent the church which is in the truths of doctrine. Hence it is evident what is signified by God forsaking the habitation of Shiloh, the tent which He placed among men, namely, that the goods of love and the truths of doctrine were destroyed. By the strength which He delivered into captivity is signified spiritual truth derived from celestial good, by captivity seclusion from the understanding thereof, and so destruction by falses. By the gracefulness which He delivered in the hand of the enemy is signified natural truth from spiritual, and the destruction thereof. E. 811.

61 And delivered his strength into captivity,
And his glory into the adversary’s hand.
62 He gave his people over also unto the sword,
And was wroth with his inheritance.
63 Fire devoured their young men;
And their virgins had no marriage-song.
64 Their priests fell by the sword;
And their widows made no lamentation.
65 Then the Lord awaked as one out of sleep,
Like a mighty man that shouteth by reason of wine.

62-64. Young men signify truths and virgins the affections for them. R. 620.

Treating of the devastation of the church by falses and evils. God has given up His people to the sword, and was inflamed with His inheritance, signifies that the church perishes by falses and evils, the sword denoting the destruction of truth by falses, and God’s being inflamed destruction by evils. The people in this case those who are in falses and evils. The fire has devoured His young men signifies that the love of self, and the conceit of self-derived intelligence therein originating has destroyed the understanding of truth. Virgins not given in marriage signifies that the affection for truth perished through its not being understood. His priests fallen by the sword signifies that the goods of the church, which are the goods of works, of charity, and of life were destroyed by falses. E. 863.

66 And he smote his adversaries backward:
He put them to a perpetual reproach.
67 Moreover he refused the tent of Joseph,
And chose not the tribe of Ephraim,

65-67. Thus they were rejected. P. P.
67 See Psalm lxxviii. 60. E. 799.

68 But chose the tribe of Judah,
The mount Zion which he loved.
69 And he built his sanctuary like the heights,
Like the earth which he hath established for ever.

68 See Psalm ii. 6-8, 12. R. 612.

Mount Zion signifies the Divine good and the church as to that good. E. 405.

See Psalm xlviii. 3, 4. E. 850.

68, 69. Judah In the internal sense signifies the Lord’s celestial church, and in the universal sense the Lord Himself. A. 3881.

68-72. Therefore a new church was instituted which would worship the Lord, and which the Lord could lead, P. P

70 He chose David also his servant,
And took him from the sheepfolds:
71 From following the ewes that have their young he
brought him,
To be the shepherd of Jacob his people, and Israel his
72 So he was their shepherd according to the integrity of
his heart,
And guided them by the skilfulness of his hands.

70-72. The Lord is meant by David in these places. R-3

See Psalm xxiii. 1, 2. R. 383

The Lord as to Divine truth is understood by David in the Word. E. 409

To feed stands for to instruct in truths. E. 482

Author: EMANUEL SWEDENBORG (1688-1772)