Today we reach the last verse of Psalm 78. “So he fed them according to the integrity of his heart; and guided them by the skilfulness of his hands.” Here Israel is depicted as having a good leader, which was often not the case in her history.
Upon reading our verse, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Who is this competent leader?”
In my heart I thought, “It must be the Lord himself.” Who else would have possessed such “integrity” of heart?” The Hebrew noun used here is derived from “taman,” meaning “complete, finished,” also “full, whole,” that is, not divided in any way.
But I can’t find a single scholar, commentator, or preacher to agree with that assessment! Instead, based on the “context” of the verse, all present “David” as the skilled King of Israel!
Now, here is that “setting” (“context”) in which the verse is embedded, to which it is linked. “He (the Lord, no doubt) chose David also his servant, and took him from the sheepfolds: from following the ewes great with young he brought him to feed Jacob his people, and Israel his inheritance. So he fed them according to the integrity of his heart; and guided them by the skilfulness of his hands.”
I have underlined the pronouns, whose antecedent perplexes me.
If verse 72 hinges on verse 70, David is in view. And, indeed, despite his sins, David was called (in the Bible) “a man after God’s Own Heart.” Here’s the exact verse, Acts 13:22. “I (the Lord) have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will.” What grace!
Furthermore, the verb “guided” in our Text (“So he fed them … Israel … according to the integrity of his heart; and guided them by the skilfulness of his hands”) is spelled “nachah” and means “to lead,” but also “to govern,” like a King I suppose.
And the word “skillfulness” is “tabun,” grammatically suggesting “understanding, discretion,” often a parallel to wisdom in Scripture.
So, David certainly may be the protagonist (main character) in the verse. If so, the Psalm certainly does lead us from slavery in Egypt … to the Monarchy in the Holy Land, David being King.
BUT … I STILL REALLY WONDER IF THE PSALM COULD NOT END WITH AN EMPHASIS NOT JUST ON DAVID, VERSES 70-71 … BUT AN INSISTENCE THAT GOD IS THE ONE WHO FEEDS WITH INTEGRITY AND LEADS WITH SKILL … VERSE 72.
Our great God!
For truly, David aside for a second, Who but our Heavenly Father, our true Shepherd, could completely fulfill the verse? “So he fed them according to the integrity of his heart; and guided them by the skilfulness of his hands.” That’s my thought, anyway.
That, in keeping with Colossians 1:18 … “And He (Jesus) is the Head of the body, the church: Who is the beginning, the Firstborn from the dead; that in all things He (still Jesus) might have the preeminence.”
— Dr. Mike Bagwell