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Bible Commentaries

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

Psalms 79



The relation of this psalm to Psalms 74:0 is so close, notwithstanding some points of difference, that commentators are almost unanimous in assigning them to the same period, if not the same author. Psalms 79:1, indeed, by itself seems to point to a profanation of the Temple, such as that by Antiochus, and not a destruction like Nebuchadnezzar’s. To one of these events the psalm must refer. Great importance is attached to the similarity of Psalms 79:6-7, with Jeremiah 10:25, and it certainly looks as if the latter were an adaptation and expansion of the psalmist. Again, Psalms 79:3 (see Note) appears to be quoted in 1Ma. 7:17. On the other hand, every one allows that the best commentary on the psalm is the 1st chapter of 1 Maccabees. A Maccabæan editor may have taken a song of the Captivity period and slightly altered it to suit the events before his eyes. The psalter affords other instances of such adaptation. (See, e.g., Psalms 60:0) The verse flows smoothly, now in triplets, now in couplets.

Title.—See Title, Psalms 1:0.

Verse 1

(1) Inheritance.—Probably intended to embrace both land and people. (Exodus 15:17; Psalms 74:2, &c.)

Heapsi.e., ruins. (Comp. Micah 3:12; Jeremiah 26:18; and in singular, Micah 1:6.)

Verse 2

(2) In addition to references in Margin see Deuteronomy 28:26.

Saints.—Heb., chasîdîm. (See Note, Psalms 16:10.) Here with definite allusion to the Assdœans of 1 Maccabees 7.

Verse 3

(3) Their blood.—In 1Ma. 7:17, we read “The flesh of thy saints and their blood have they shed round about Jerusalem, and there was none to bury them,” introduced by “according to the word which he wrote.” This is evidently a free quotation from this psalm, and seems to imply a reference to a contemporary.

None to bury.—For this aggravation of the evil comp. Jeremiah 14:16; Jeremiah 22:18-19.

Verse 4

(4) This verse occurs Psalms 44:13. Also possibly a Maccabæan psalm. (See Introduction to that psalm.)

The scenes still witnessed by travellers at the Jews’ wailing-place offer a striking illustration of the foregoing verses, showing, as they do, how deep-seated is the love of an ancient place in the Oriental mind. (See a striking description in Porter’s Giant Cities of Bashan.)

Verse 5

(5) How long, Lord?—The dominant cry of the Maccabæan age. (See Psalms 74:9.)

Verses 6-7

(6-7) The poet prays in prophetical strain, that the fire of indignation may be turned from Israel and directed against the heathen oppressors, (For the relation to Jeremiah 10:25, see Introduction.)

Verse 7

(7) Dwelling place.—Literally, pasture, as in Jeremiah 23:3; Jeremiah 49:20; Jeremiah 1:19. The figure is a favourite one in the Asaphic group of psalms.

Former iniquities.—Better, iniquities of former ones, i.e., of ancestors. (Comp. Leviticus 26:45, “covenant of their ancestors,” and for the thought Exodus 20:5; Leviticus 26:39.)

Prevent.—Better, come to meet. Daniel 9:16 seems to combine the language of this verse and Psalms 79:4.

Verse 9

(9) Purge away.—Rather, put a cover on. So Cicero speaks of political crimes being covered by the plea of friendship.

Our sins.—How is this to be taken in connection with Psalms 79:8? Does the psalmist admit guilt in his own generation, as well as in those of former times? Or is he thinking only of the inherited guilt and punishment? The general tone of post-exile psalms inclines towards the latter view.

Verse 10

(10) Wherefore.—Taken from Joel 2:17.

Let him be known.—Better, Let it be known, i.e., where God is. Let the answer to the question be given in vengeance, and let us see it.

Verse 11

(11) Appointed to die.—See margin. This expression, as well as the “sighing of the prisoners,” occurs, Psalms 102:20, of the sufferers in the Captivity.

Verse 12

(12) Neighbours.—The sharpest pang of the suffering came from the taunts of “neighbours. (See Psalms 79:4.)

Sevenfold.—As in Genesis 4:15. We naturally contrast the law of Christian forgiveness.

Into their bosom.—The deep folds of the Eastern dress were used as a pocket. (Comp. Ruth 3:15; Isaiah 65:7; Jeremiah 32:18; Luke 6:38, &c)

Verse 13

(13) “The last word of the psalm is Tehillah; the one crowning privilege of God’s people; the exulting and triumphant confidence in God, which only His chosen can entertain and express. It is here placed in splendid contrast with the reproach of the heathen, and of the malicious neighbours mentioned in the preceding verse. Let them curse so long as thou dost bless (Burgess, Notes on the Hebrew Psalms).

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Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Psalms 79". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.