Psalm 81

81:0Harvest time is when we pick fruit and vegetables. The Jews had three big harvest times:

– April, when they picked barley (to make bread)

– May, when they picked wheat (also to make bread)

– October, when they picked grapes (to make wine). Wine is a drink with alcohol in it.

Psalm 81 is a Festival Psalm. The festival was at the time of the grape harvest. They called it ‘the festival of tents.’ Tents were houses made of animal skins. At the festival of tents the Jews lived for a week in tents. This taught them how they lived when God took them out of Egypt, hundreds of years before. It told them how good God was to them.

Psalm 81 taught the Jews that, now God had brought them into their own land, they should have no other gods. Then he would give them help against their enemies, as he did in Egypt.

Some Bible students think that Psalm 81 came from the north part of Israel. Its date was about 750 years before Christ came to the earth.

Start the Music!

This is for the music leader.

Use Gittith.

It is a psalm of Asaph.

81:0The psalm is in three parts:

Verses 1-4: Now the Festival

Verses 5-7: What God did in Egypt

Verses 8-16: Trouble when you have other gods

1 Sing to God because you are so happy!

Do this because God makes us strong!

Shout aloud to the God of Jacob.

81:1Jacob’ is another name for ‘Israel’, so ‘God of Jacob’ means ‘God of Israel.’

2 Start the music! Hit the tambourine

and make beautiful sounds on the harp and the lyre.

3 Start the New Moon Festival with the sound of the shofar.

Also do it at the Full Moon Festival.

81:3There were two festivals in October, one when the moon was new, the other 2 weeks later when it was full. The second one was the Feast of Tents.

4 For this is a rule for Israel,

something that the God of Jacob said that we must do.

5 He told it to Joseph when he attacked the land of Egypt.

I heard a language that I did not understand.

81:5In verse 5, Bible students are not certain whether the second ‘he’ is Joseph or God. Joseph, as Jacob, is another name for Israel. If it is God, then ‘attacked’ is when God led his people out from Egypt. If it is Joseph, then we should translate ‘attacked’ as ‘became great in.’ ‘The language’ must have been words that God said. Maybe ‘understand’ means ‘believe!’ Verse 6 tells us about the hard work that God's people did in Egypt. Some parts of the Bible suggest that God lives in storms, verse 7. The Waters (or Lakes) of Meribah were on the way from Egypt to Israel. The story is in Exodus 17:1-7.

6 It said: ‘I took the weight off his shoulders.

His hands did not have to carry a heavy basket any more.

7 When you had trouble, you called to me and I made you safe.

I gave you help from the centre of the storm.

I tested you at the Waters of Meribah.


8 My people, hear me! You are near to danger.

Israel, I really want you to listen to me!

9 There should not be another god among you

and you certainly should not go down on your knees to another god.

10 I am the Lord your God.

I brought you out of the land of Egypt.

Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.’

81:10In verses 8-10, God speaks to his people. He warns them (tells them of the danger) of other gods. These gods are false gods, because there is only one real God. ‘Open your mouth wide’ means ‘open it as much as you can.’ ‘I will fill it’ may mean:

– With food, as in verse 16, or

– With the right words to say and pray, not the wrong ones as in verses 10 and 11.

11 But my people did not listen to my voice

and Israel did not obey me.

81:11In verse 11 ‘follow their own ideas’ is an English way to say ‘do whatever they think.’

12 And so I let them follow their own ideas.

They did whatever they wanted to do.

13 I want my people to listen to me!

I want Israel to walk in my ways!

14 Then I would quickly beat all their enemies

and fight against all those that are angry with them.

81:14Verses 13 and 14 suggest that ‘following their own ideas’ had brought trouble. The psalm does not say what the trouble was. But it does say that if they obey God the trouble will stop. God would make their enemies obey him, verse 15, and be good to his own people, verse 16.

15 The people that hate the Lord will be afraid of him

and this will happen for a long time.

16 But he would feed him Israel with the best wheat

and I would give you Israel plenty of honey from the rock.