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Bible Commentaries

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Psalms 79

Verses 1-4

1. A lament over Jerusalem’s destruction 79:1-4

Enemies had invaded Israel, defiled the temple, destroyed Jerusalem, and left the bodies of Israel’s soldiers unburied. To lie unburied, like an animal for which no one cared, was the final humiliation. Consequently, God’s inheritance had become an object of derision for her neighbors.

"The issue here is not God’s justice in judging his people but the means used by the Lord [cf. Habakkuk 1-2]. The pagans must be held accountable for their desecration of the holy people and the holy temple so that they may be restored and God’s people no longer experience defilement and disgrace (cf. Isaiah 35:8; Isaiah 52:1)." [Note: VanGemeren, p. 519.]

Verses 1-13

Psalms 79

In this national (communal) lament psalm: Asaph mourned Jerusalem’s destruction and pleaded with God to have mercy on His people, despite their sins, for His name’s sake (cf. Psalms 74). This Asaph may have lived after the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem. The writer’s viewpoint seems to be that of the survivors left in Jerusalem, rather than that of the deportees, which Psalms 137 reflects.

"This psalm repeats the themes of Psalms 74, but seemingly with more venom. The situation is the same: the temple is destroyed, Israel is bereft, and the conquering enemy gloats. Yahweh cannot afford to be a disinterested party. Appeal is made to the partisan holiness of God which works beyond visible religiosity. Israel here presses Yahweh to decide what counts with him." [Note: Brueggemann, p 71.]

Verses 5-9

The psalmist wondered how long God would be angry with His people and allow them to suffer defeat and humiliation. Would He let His jealousy for Israel’s affection burn as a fire forever? Asaph urged God to direct His rage at Israel’s enemies who disregarded Him and devoured His habitation. He also asked God to forget the sins of the Israelites’ ancestors and show compassion on His lowly people. He based his petition on God’s glory as well as the Israelites’ need.

Verses 5-12

2. A plea for deliverance 79:5-12

Verses 10-12

Asaph continued to appeal for physical salvation on the basis of God’s honor. He asked for vengeance against the enemy that had slain many of God’s elect. He urged God to answer the prayers of the prisoners who appealed to Him for deliverance. He wanted a thorough repayment of the reproach the enemy had heaped on Yahweh’s name because the Lord had not given Israel victory.

"Such a prayer may trouble us, and we would not think to pray that way very often, but it is thoroughly biblical. The speaker is honest enough to know that yearning, and the speaker is faithful enough to submit the yearning to "God." [Note: Brueggemann, p. 72.]

Verse 13

3. A promise of future praise 79:13

The psalmist promised that God’s people would reward Him with unceasing praise if He would give them deliverance. He viewed the people as God’s helpless sheep. He said their praise for this salvation would be public from then on.

"The cross of Jesus Christ is for us today the only evidence we need that God loves us (Romans 5:8)." [Note: Wiersbe, The . . . Wisdom . . ., p. 235.]

It is appropriate to petition God for vengeance when enemies defeat God’s people and consequently make Him look bad. He will deliver eventually because He has promised to preserve His own. However, discipline may continue a long time if sin has been gross.

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Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Psalms 79". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.