Verse 2. "The dead bodies of thy servants have they given to be meat unto the fowls of the heaven, the flesh of thy saints unto the beasts of the earth." The enemy cared not to bury the dead, and there was not a sufficient number of Israel left alive to perform the funeral rites; therefore, the precious relics of the departed were left to be devoured of vultures and torn by wolves. Beasts on which man could not feed fed on him. The flesh of creation's Lord became meat for carrion crows and hungry dogs. Dire are the calamities of war, yet have they happened to God's saints and servants. This might well move the heart of the poet, and he did well to appeal to the heart of God by reciting the grievous evil. Such might have been the lamentation of an early Christian as he thought of the amphitheatre and all its deeds of blood. Note in the two verses how the plea is made to turn upon God's property in the temple and the people: -- we read "thine inheritance," "thy temple," "thy servants," and "thy saints." Surely the Lord will defend his own, and will not suffer rampant adversaries to despoil them.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. This Psalm is, in every respect, the pendant of Psalm 74. The points of contact are not merely matters of style ( Psalms 79:5 , "how long for ever?" with Psalms 74:1 Psalms 74:10 79:10, [dwy, with Psalms 74:5 79:2, the giving over to the wild beasts, with Psalms 74:19 Psalms 74:14 79:13, the conception of Israel as of a flock, in which respect Psalm 79 is judiciously appended to Psalms 78:70-72 , with Psalms 74:1 and also with Psalms 74:19 .) But the mutual relationships lie still deeper. Both Psalms have the same Asaphic stamp, both stand in the same relation to Jeremiah, and both send forth their complaints out of the same circumstances of the time, concerning a destruction of the Temple and of Jerusalem, such as only the age of the Seleucidae (1 maccabees 1:31 maccabees 3:45 maccabees 1:2 8:3 ), together with the Chaldean period can exhibit, and in conjunction with a defiling of the Temple and a massacre of the servants of God, of the Chasidim (1 maccabees 7:13 maccabees 7:1 14:6 ), such as the age of the Seleucidae exclusively can exhibit. The work of the destruction of the Temple which was in progress in Psalms 74:1-23 , appears in Psalms 79:1-13 as completed, and here, as in the former Psalm, one receives the impression of the outrages, not of some war, but of some persecution: it is straightway the religion of Israel for the sake of which the sanctuaries are destroyed and the faithful are massacred. Franz Delitzsch.
Verse 1-4. See Psalms on "Psalms 79:1" for further information.
Verse 2. "The dead bodies of thy servants," etc. It is a true saying of S. Augustine, The care of our funeral, the manner of our burial, the exequial pomp, all these magis sunt vivorum solatia quam subsidia mortuorum, are rather comforts for the living than any way helps for the dead. To be interred profiteth not the party deceased; his body feels it not, his soul regards it not; and we know that many holy martyrs have been excluded from burial, who in a Christian scorn thereof bespoke their persecutors in words of those which were slain at Pharsalia: "You effect nothing by this anger; what matters it whether disease dissolve the body, or the funeral pile!" But yet there is an honesty (i.e. a right, a proper respect) which belongeth to the dead body of man. Jehu commanded Jezebel to be buried; David thanked the people of Jabesh Gilead for burying of Saul. Peter, who commanded Ananias and Sapphira, those false abdicators of their patrimony, to die, commanded to have them buried being dead. It is an axiom of charity, Mortuo non prohibeas gratiam, withhold not kindness from the dead. It shows our love and regard for men in our own flesh to see them buried; it manifests our faith and hope of the resurrection; and therefore when that body which is to rise again, and to be made glorious and immortal in heaven, shall be cast to the fowls of the air or beasts of the field, it argues in God great indignation against sin ( Jeremiah 22:19 , of Jehoiakim, "He shall be buried as an ass is buried, and cast forth without the gates of Jerusalem"); in man inhuman and barbarous cruelty. John Dunster, in "Prodromus." 1613.
Verse 2-3. (The following extract is from the writings of a godly monk who applies the language of the Psalm to the persecutions of his time. He wrote at Rome during the period of the Reformation, and was evidently a favourer of the gospel.) At this day what river is there, what brook, in this our afflicted Europe, (if it is still ours) that we have not seen flowing with the blood of Christians? And that too shed by the swords and spears of Christians? Wherefore there is made a great wailing in Israel; and the princes and elders mourn; the young men and virgins are become weak, and the beauty of the women is changed. Why? The holy place itself is desolate as a wilderness. Hast thou ever seen so dire a spectacle? They have piled up in heaps the dead bodies of thy servants to be devoured by birds: the unburied remains of thy saints, I say, they have given to the beasts of the earth. What greater cruelty could ever be committed? So great was the effusion of human blood at that time, that the rivulets, yea, rather, the rivers round the entire circuit of the city, flowed with it. And thus truly is the form of our most beautiful city laid waste, and its loveliness; and so reduced is it, that not even the men who carry forth dead bodies for burial can be obtained, though pressed with the offer of large rewards; so full of fear and horror were their minds: and this was all the more bitter, because "We are become a reproach to those round about us," and are spoken of in derision by the infidels abroad and by enemies at home. Who is so bold as to endure this and live? How long therefore shall this most bitter disquietude last? Giambattista Folengo. 1490-1559.
Verse 2. "Dead bodies of thy servants have they given to be meat unto the fowls." With what unconcern are we accustomed to view, on all sides of us, multitudes, "dead in trespasses and sins," torn in pieces, and devoured by wild passions, filthy lusts, and infernal spirits, those dogs and vultures of the moral world! Yet, to a discerning eye, and a thinking mind, the latter is by far the more melancholy sight of the two. George Horne.
Verse 2. "Thy servants." "Thy saints." No temporal wrath, no calamities whatsoever can separate the Lord's children from God's love and estimation of them, nor untie the relation between God and them: for here, albeit their carcases fall, and be devoured by the fowls of heaven and beasts of the earth, yet remain they the Lord's servants and saints under these sufferings. David Dickson.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS