Psalm 74:8

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 8. They said in their hearts, Let us destroy them together. It was no idle wish, their cruelty was sincere, deep seated, a matter of their inmost heart. Extirpation was the desire of Haman, and the aim of many another tyrant; not a remnant of the people of God would have been left if oppressors could have had their way. Pharaoh's policy to stamp out the nation has been a precedent for others, yet the Jews survive, and will: the bush though burning has not been consumed. Even thus the church of Christ has gone through baptism of blood and fire, but it is all the brighter for them.

They have burned up all the synagogues of God in the land. Here is no allusion to places called synagogues, but to assemblies; and as no assemblies for worship here held in but one place, the ruin of the temple was the destruction of all the holy gatherings, and so in effect all the meeting places were destroyed. One object of persecutors has always been to put an end to all conventicles, as they have called them. Keep them from meeting and you will scatter them, so have the enemy said; but, glory be to God, saints are independent of walls, and have met on the hill side, by the moss, or in the catacombs, or in a boat at sea. Yet has the attempt been almost successful, and the hunt so hot, that the faithful have wandered in solitude, and their solemn congregations have been, under such circumstances, few and far between. What sighs and cries have in such times gone up to the ears of the Lord God of Sabaoth. How happy are we that we can meet for worship in any place we choose, and none dare molest us.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 8. The synagogues of God. It is the opinion of Spencer, Vitringa, and of the learned in general, that the institution of synagogues for worship originated in the reading of the law publicly after the collection of its volumes by Ezra, and that, consequently, there were no such places of solemn assembly previous to the Babylonish captivity. Some of the Jews themselves have expressed a conviction that this is the fact, and the Scriptures give no intimation of their existence antecedently to that time. We are aware, however, that one of the first Hebraists of the present day, the Rev. Dr. Macaul, inclines to the opinion of an earlier origin than that generally adopted. We quote his words: "The existence of such places before the Babylonish captivity has been much disputed"; and most writers, arguing from the silence of the Old Testament, incline to the opinion that they originated in Babylon, and that after the restoration similar oratories were opened in the land of Israel; and hence some infer that the Seventy-fourth Psalm, which says in the eighth verse, They have burned up all the synagogues in the land, was written in the post Babylonian times. The argument from silence is, however, far from conclusive. The translation of yr[wm as synagogues, in the verse just cited, might fairly lead to a similar translation in some other passages which were confessedly written before the captivity; and the circumstances, character, and necessities of the Israelites, the great body of whom were far removed from the temple, prove indisputably that in their towns and villages they must have had some locality where they assembled on their sabbaths, new moons, and other solemn days, for the purpose of receiving instruction in the law, and for public prayer. That locality, however different from subsequent arrangements, was the origin of the synagogue. How such assemblies were conducted before the captivity it is now impossible to say. F. A. Cox.

Verse 8. Synagogues. Dr. Prideaux affirms that they had no synagogues before the Babylonish captivity; for the main service of the synagogue, says he, being the reading of the law unto the people, where there was no book of the law to be read, there certainly could be no synagogues. But how rare the book of the law was through all Judaea, before the Babylonish captivity, many texts of Scripture tell us. When Jehoshaphat sent teachers through all Judaea, to instruct the people in the law of God, they carried a book of the law with them ( 2 Chronicles 17:9 ), which they needed not have done if there had been any copies of the law in those cities to which they went; which certainly there would have been had there been any synagogues in them. And when Hilkiah found the law in the temple ( 2 Kings 22:8 ), neither he nor king Josiah needed to have been so surprised at it, had books of the law been common on those times. Their behaviour on that occasion sufficiently proves they had never seen it before, which could not be the case had there then been any other copies of it to be found among the people; and if there were no copies of the law at that time among them, there could then be most certainly no synagogues for them to resort to for the hearing of it read unto them. From whence he concludes there could be no synagogues among the Jews, till after the Babylonish captivity. Cruden's Concordance.

Verse 8. Synagogues. The assertion of those who are in favour of the Maccabean origin of the Psalm, that these words describe the destruction of the synagogues, is met by the remark, that in all the copious accounts which we have of the transactions of these times, there is nothing said of any such work of destruction. E. W. Hengstenberg.

Verse 8. Synagogues. In the Old Testament we find no traces of meetings for worship in synagogues. Temporary altars, groves, and high places were used alike by the Jewish saints and sinners for the worship of God and idols. The only pre-exile instance which seems to indicate that the devout in Israel were in the habit of resorting to pious leaders for blessings and instruction on stated occasions, is to be found in 2 Kings 4:23 , where the Shunammite's husband asks, "Wherefore wilt thou go to him (Elish

  1. today? It is neither new moon nor Sabbath." Yet 2 Kings 22:8 , etc.; 2 Chronicles 34:14 , etc., testify undoubtedly against the existence of places of worship under the monarchy. It is during the exile, whilst the temple worship was in abeyance, that we find indubitable proof of the systematic meetings on fasts for devotion and instruction ( Zechariah 7:3-5 8:19). Religious meetings were also held on Sabbaths and fasts, to instruct the exiles in the divine law, and to admonish them to obey the divine precepts, ( Ezra 10:1-9 Nehemiah 8:1-3 9:1-3 13:1-3). These meetings, held near the temple and in other localities, were the origin of the synagogue, and the place in which the people assembled was denominated the house of assembly. Hence, also, the synagogue in the temple itself... These synagogues soon became very popular, so that the psalmist in depicting worship in the time of the Maccabees declares that the many meeting places of God -- or the Synagogues of God as the A.V. rightly renders it -- have been laid waste. Christian D. Ginsburg, in Cyclopaedia of Biblical Literature.

Verse 8. (second clause). The sense seems to be, they (the Chaldaean invaders) have abolished all the solemnities in the land. They have taken away the daily sacrifice; they have put an end to the festivals and feasts of our holy ritual. Compare La 2:6: "He hath violently taken away his tabernacle; he hath destroyed his places of the assembly," (or rather, his assembly, his moed). "The Lord hath caused the solemn feasts and sabbaths to be forgotten in Zion." Christopher Wordsworth.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 8. The destruction of rural churches, the aim of our enemies: the injury they would so do, and our duty to prevent it: the means the destroyers use: bribery, oppression, etc. Our proper method for sustaining such churches.