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."
Table of Contents Previous Chapter Next Chapter


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.

New American Bible Copyright © 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

USCCB Home Page New American Bible Home Page


New American Bible
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
3211 4th Street, N.E., Washington, DC 20017-1194 (202) 541-3000
December 09, 2002 Copyright © by United States Conference of Catholic Bishops