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Psalm 81

An EasyEnglish Translation with Notes (about 1200 word vocabulary) on Psalm 81

Gordon Churchyard

Words in boxes are from the Bible.

A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.

The translated Bible text has yet to go through Advanced Checking.


Jesus said, "Can the bridegroomís friends be sad when the bridegroom is with them?" (Matthew 9: 15). (A bridegroom is a man getting married.)

Psalm 81

  (This is) for the music leader.
(Use) *Gittith.
(It is a psalm) of *Asaph.

v1   Sing to God because you are so happy!
  (Do this because) God makes us strong!
  Shout aloud to the God of *Jacob.

v2   Start the music! Hit the *tambourine
  and make beautiful sounds on the *harp and the *lyre.

v3   Start the New Moon *Festival with the sound of the *shofar.
  Do it at the Full Moon (*Festival) also.

v4   For this is a rule for Israel,
  something that the God of *Jacob said that we must do.

v5   He told it to *Joseph when he attacked the land of Egypt.
  I heard a language that I did not understand.

v6   (It said) "I took the weight off his shoulders.
  His hands did not have to carry a heavy basket (any more).

v7   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.   *SELAH

v8   My people, hear me! You are near to danger.
  Israel, I really want you to listen to me!

v9   There should not be another god among you
  and you certainly should not go down on your knees to another god.

v10   I am the *LORD your God.
  I brought you out of the land of Egypt.
  Open your mouth wide and I will fill it".

v11   But my people did not listen to my voice
  and Israel did not obey me.

v12   And so I let them follow their own ideas.
  They did whatever they wanted to do.

v13   I want my people to listen to me!
  I want Israel to walk in my ways!

v14   Then I would quickly beat all their enemies
  and fight against all those that are angry with them.

v15   The people that hate the *LORD will be afraid of him
  and this will happen for a long time.

v16   But he would feed him (Israel) with the best *wheat
  and I would give you (Israel) plenty of *honey from the rock.

The Story of Psalm 81

*Harvest 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.

What Psalm 81 means

Study the psalm in three parts:

    Verses 1 Ė 4: Now the *Festival

    Verses 5 Ė 7: What God did in Egypt

    Verses 8 Ė 16: Trouble when you have other gods

In verses 1 and 4, "*Jacob" is another name for "Israel", so "God of *Jacob" means "God of Israel". Really, there were two *festivals in October, one when the moon was new, the other 2 weeks later when it was full. They are both in verse 3. The second one was the *festival of *tents. Older Bibles may call it "the *feast of booths" or "the *feast of tabernacles".

In 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 Godís 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. Bible students think that *SELAH means "stop and pray, or think, or make music".

In 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.

In verse 11 "follow their own ideas" is an English way to say "do whatever they think".

Verses 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.

Something to do

1.  Tell God that you will listen to him and walk in his ways. ("Walk in his ways" means "do what he tells you to do".)

2.  Learn how to hear Godís voice as you read the Bible. Some words will be special to you ... that is the voice of God!

3.  Study Psalm 81 as *Hebrew *poetry. *Poetry is a special way to use words. Find how many verses in Psalm 81 say the same thing in two ways. A good example is verse 13. "I want my people to listen to me" means the same as "I want Israel to walk in my ways".

Word List

Adonai ~ *Lord or master; (or better, my *Lord or my master) in *Hebrew.

Asaph ~ look in the Introduction to the Psalms of David Book 3.

barley ~ a plant; people make bread from the seeds (called "grain").

covenant ~ two people have agreed what each should do (here, God and his people). Look after Psalm 25 in Book 1 of the Psalms of David for more about the covenant.

feast ~ another word for festival [see festival].

festival ~ a happy party with much eating, drinking, singing and dancing.

Gittith ~ maybe music from a town they called Gath.

grapes ~ the fruit of a plant called the *vine. People use them to make drink that has alcohol in it. The drink is *wine.

harp ~ you can make music with it.

harvest ~ picking fruits.

Hebrew ~ the language that the *Jews spoke when they wrote the Psalms of David.

honey ~ a special sugar made by insects called bees.

horn ~ hard bone on head of animal, showing it is strong; look at the note on Psalm 75:4.

Jacob ~ another name for Israel, both the people and the land. (Jacob was Abrahamís grandson).

Jehovah ~ how some languages say *Yahweh, one of the names of God in *Hebrew.

Jew ~ someone who was born from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their children.

Joseph ~ another name for the people Israel. (Joseph was Jacobís son.).

like ~ another word for "as".

Lord ~ a name for God; it means he has authority, or "master"; *Adonai in *Hebrew. Look also at *LORD below.

LORD ~ a special name for God that his people use. It is the *covenant name of God. In *Hebrew it is *Yahweh or *Jehovah. Look after Psalm 25 in Book 1 of the Psalms of David for more about the names of God.

lyre ~ you can make music with it.

musical instrument ~ something that makes music when you hit it (cymbals, drum), blow in it (flute, trumpet, horn, shofar) or touch it in a quiet way (harp, lyre). Many of these are in Psalm 150 in Book 5 of The Psalms of David.

poetry ~ using words in a special (often very beautiful) way.

real ~ proper.

SELAH ~ a place to pray or think or make music.

shake ~ move from one side to another and back again very fast many times.

shofar ~ a *musical instrument. They were animal *horns. They blew into them.

tambourine ~ a *musical instrument that you hit or *shake.

tent ~ a home or building made from animal skins.

tested ~ (in Psalm 81) saw if they were good or bad.

vines ~ plants that grow *grapes (to make *wine).

warn ~ say that something (usually bad) will happen.

wheat ~ plant like *barley. People make bread from its seeds. (The seeds are called "grain".).

wine ~ a drink with alcohol in it. People make it from *grapes.

Yahweh ~ the *covenant name for God. Most Bibles translate it *LORD with 4 capital letters. It means something *like "I am" or "always alive".


© 2001-2002, Wycliffe Associates (UK)

This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level A (1200 words).

January 2002

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