Psalms 74

Prayer for Israel


A Maskil of Asaph.

1 Why have You rejected [us] forever, God?[a] Why does Your anger burn against the sheep of Your pasture?[b]
2 Remember Your congregation, which You purchased long ago and redeemed as the tribe for Your own possession.[c] [Remember] Mount Zion where You dwell.[d]
3 Make Your way[e] to the everlasting ruins, to all that the enemy has destroyed in the sanctuary.
4 Your adversaries roared in the meeting place where You met with us.[f] They set up their emblems as signs.
5 It was like men in a thicket of trees, wielding axes,
6 then smashing all the carvings with hatchets and picks.
7 They set Your sanctuary on fire; they utterly[g] desecrated the dwelling place of Your name.
8 They said in their hearts, "Let us oppress them relentlessly." They burned down every place throughout the land where God met with us.[h]
9 We don't see any signs for us. There is no longer a prophet.[i] And none of us knows how long this will last.
10 God, how long will the foe mock? Will the enemy insult Your name forever?[j]
11 Why do You hold back Your hand? Stretch out[k] Your right hand and destroy [them]!
12 God my king[l] is from ancient times, performing saving acts on the earth.
13 You divided the sea with Your strength; You smashed the heads of the sea monsters in the waters;[m]
14 You crushed the heads of Leviathan;[n] You fed him to the creatures of the desert.
15 You opened up springs and streams;[o] You dried up ever-flowing rivers.[p]
16 The day is Yours, also the night; You established the moon and the sun.[q]
17 You set all the boundaries of the earth;[r] You made summer and winter.[s]
18 Remember this: the enemy has mocked the Lord, and a foolish people has insulted Your name.[t]
19 Do not give the life of Your dove to beasts;[u] do not forget the lives of Your poor people forever.
20 Consider the covenant,[v] for the dark places of the land are full of violence.
21 Do not let the oppressed turn away in shame; let the poor and needy praise Your name.
22 Arise, God, defend Your cause! Remember the insults that fools bring against You all day long.
23 Do not forget the clamor of Your adversaries, the tumult of Your opponents that goes up constantly.

Psalms 74 Commentary

Chapter 74

The desolations of the sanctuary. (1-11) Pleas for encouraging faith. (12-17) Petitions for deliverances. (18-23)

Verses 1-11 This psalm appears to describe the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by the Chaldeans. The deplorable case of the people of God, at the time, is spread before the Lord, and left with him. They plead the great things God had done for them. If the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt was encouragement to hope that he would not cast them off, much more reason have we to believe, that God will not cast off any whom Christ has redeemed with his own blood. Infidels and persecutors may silence faithful ministers, and shut up places of worship, and say they will destroy the people of God and their religion together. For a long time they may prosper in these attempts, and God's oppressed servants may see no prospect of deliverance; but there is a remnant of believers, the seed of a future harvest, and the despised church has survived those who once triumphed over her. When the power of enemies is most threatening, it is comfortable to flee to the power of God by earnest prayer.

Verses 12-17 The church silences her own complaints. What God had done for his people, as their King of old, encouraged them to depend on him. It was the Lord's doing, none besides could do it. This providence was food to faith and hope, to support and encourage in difficulties. The God of Israel is the God of nature. He that is faithful to his covenant about the day and the night, will never cast off those whom he has chosen. We have as much reason to expect affliction, as to expect night and winter. But we have no more reason to despair of the return of comfort, than to despair of day and summer. And in the world above we shall have no more changes.

Verses 18-23 The psalmist begs that God would appear for the church against their enemies. The folly of such as revile his gospel and his servants will be plain to all. Let us call upon our God to enlighten the dark nations of the earth; and to rescue his people, that the poor and needy may praise his name. Blessed Saviour, thou art the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. Make thy people more than conquerors. Be thou, Lord, all in all to them in every situation and circumstances; for then thy poor and needy people will praise thy name.

Footnotes 23

  • [a]. Ps 60:1,10; 108:11
  • [b]. Ps 79:13; 95:7; 100:3
  • [c]. Isa 63:17; Jr 10:16; 51:19
  • [d]. Isa 8:18
  • [e]. Lit Lift up Your steps
  • [f]. Lit in Your meeting place
  • [g]. Lit they to the ground
  • [h]. Lit every meeting place of God in the land
  • [i]. 1 Sm 3:1; Lm 2:9; Ezk 7:26
  • [j]. Ps 74:18,22; Ex 32:12-13; Dt 32:27
  • [k]. Lit From Your bosom
  • [l]. Ps 47:6-8; 95:3; Jr 10:10
  • [m]. Isa 27:1; Ezk 32:2
  • [n]. Isa 27:1
  • [o]. Ps 78:15; 104:10-11; Hab 3:9
  • [p]. Jos 4:23; Isa 42:15; 44:27
  • [q]. Gn 1:14,16
  • [r]. Jb 38:10-11; Pr 8:29; Jr 5:22
  • [s]. Ps 104:19; Gn 1:14; 8:22
  • [t]. Ps 14:1; Dt 32:6,21
  • [u]. One Hb ms, LXX, Syr read Do not hand over to beasts a soul that praises You
  • [v]. Lv 26:9; Dt 4:31; 7:9,12
  • [w]. Ps 9:19; 82:8; Nm 10:35

Chapter Summary

Maschil of Asaph. Some think that Asaph, the penman of this psalm, was not the same that lived in the times of David, but some other of the same name, a descendant of his {k}, that lived after the Babylonish captivity, since the psalm treats of things that were done at the time the Jews were carried captive into Babylon, or after; but this hinders not that it might be the same man; for why might he not, under a spirit of prophecy, speak of the sufferings of the church in later ages, as well as David and others testify before hand of the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow? The psalm is called "Maschil," because it gives knowledge of, and causes to understand what afflictions should befall the church and people of God in later times. The Targum is, "a good understanding by the hands of Asaph."

Some think the occasion of the psalm was the Babylonish captivity, as before observed, when indeed the city and temple were burnt; but then there were prophets, as Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and after them Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi; which is here denied, Psalm 74:9, others think it refers to the times of Antiochus Epiphanes; but though prophecy indeed had then ceased, and the temple was profaned, yet not burnt. The Jews apply it to their present captivity, and to the profanation of the temple, by Titus {l}, and to the destruction both of the city and temple by him; so Theodoret: the title of it in the Syriac version is, "when David saw the angel slaying the people, and he wept and said, on me and my seed, and not on these innocent sheep; and again a prediction of the siege of the city of the Jews, forty years after the ascension, by Vespasian the old man, and Titus his son, who killed multitudes of the Jews, and destroyed Jerusalem; and hence the Jews have been wandering to this day."

But then it is not easy to account for it why a psalm of lamentation should be composed for the destruction of that people, which so righteously came upon them for their sins, and particularly for their contempt and rejection of the Messiah. It therefore seems better, with Calvin and Cocceius, to suppose that this psalm refers to the various afflictions, which at different times should come upon the church and people of God; and perhaps the superstition, wickedness, and cruelty of the Romish antichrist, may be hinted at.

Psalms 74 Commentaries

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