Attention!
StudyLight.org has pledged to build one church a year in Uganda. Help us double that pledge and support pastors in the heart of Africa.
Click here to join the effort!

Bible Commentaries

Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms

Psalms 74

Introduction

Psalms 74

THE prayer to help the people sunk in the deepest misery, Psalms 74:1 and Psalms 74:2, is followed by its basis, which consists of a picture of this misery, in Psalms 74:3-9: the sanctuary is destroyed, and all traces of the presence of God among his people have disappeared. The prayer briefly renewed in Psalms 74:10 and Psalms 74:11 seeks, Psalms 74:12-17, its support and stay in the consideration of the omnipotence of the God of Israel. At the conclusion, Psalms 74:18-23, the prayer breaks out in an expanded form.

Expositors refer the Psalm partly to the Chaldean destruction, and partly to the time of the Maccabees. But the reason against the latter view which has been defended with much zeal by Hitzig, which is perfectly decisive. The temple appears in the Psalm as entirely destroyed, and that by fire, in all its parts. From 1Ma_4:38 , where the condition in which Judas found the sanctuary is described, it is evident that at that time the chief buildings of the temple were untouched, and that it was only the gates that had been burnt. 2Ma_1:8 , 2Ma_8:33 , are in entire accordance with this. The reason why the Jews, according to 1Ma_4:28 , build the holy and the most holy place, is not because these had been destroyed, but because, as is almost in so many words affirmed in 1Ma_4:43 , the stones which had been removed, as being polluted, had to be replaced with others. This ground is perfectly sufficient for any unprejudiced person. To this we may add, that we find nothing here of what characterized the time of the Maccabees, no trace of an apostate party among the Jews themselves, which Venema in vain endeavours to discover in the Psalm, no trace of any attempt to bring the Israelites to idolatry, no trace of a religious war. We stand here entirely upon Assyrian-Chaldean ground, as will be obvious on comparing 2 Kings 18 and 2 Kings 19. (compare particularly 2 Kings 19:4 with the ( Psalms 74:10) 10th verse of our Psalm):—the contest is not, God against God, but Man against God. Finally, in 1Ma_7:16-17 , the closely allied Psalm, the (Psalms 79) 79th, is quoted in such a way as is done only with sacred scripture. The reasons against the Chaldean destruction will be answered in the course of our exposition. In favour of it, we may yet further urge the agreement between our Psalm and the Lamentations, and Jeremiah 52:12.

Several expositors, from the vivid representation of what was at the time going on in Psalms 74:5 and Psalms 74:6, have been led to adopt the idea that the Psalm was composed at the time when the work of destruction had just begun. But Psalms 74:3, Psalms 74:7, and Psalms 74:8, are decisive against this; for there the destruction is represented as already completely finished. The author of the Psalm must have been one of the few Israelites who were left by the conquerors in the land.

Asaph is named as the author of the Psalm. In those Psalms which bear his name, we must, when there are no strong reasons against it, conclude that the person meant is the Asaph who lived in the time of David. That he occupied a prominent place among the sacred poets, and that therefore there must be some of the Psalms of his composition, is evident from 2 Chronicles 29:30, according to which Hezekiah brought into use, in the worship of God, not only the songs of David, but also the songs of Asaph, and where Asaph is named the Seer, or the divinely illuminated, and from Nehemiah 12:46, where the days of the flower of Israelitish sacred poetry are called the days of David and of Asaph. For these reasons, we are perfectly justified in considering this Asaph as the author of Psalms 50, Psalms 73, Psalms 78 : and these are perfectly sufficient of themselves to have procured for him his poetic fame. But here we cannot have the least idea of the authorship belonging to David’s time. We must not, however, on this account, convict the title of a mistake: for just in proportion as the contents are decidedly and manifestly inconsistent with David’s age, was it unlikely that the title would announce that the Psalm was composed at that time. Asaph was the founder of a family of singers, who went by the name of the sons of Asaph, even in the time of Isaiah, compare 2 Chronicles 35:15, yea even in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, Ezra 2:41, Ezra 3:10, Nehemiah 7:44, Nehemiah 11:22. That the Holy Ghost, who inspired the founder, continued to exert his influence upon the members of this family from age to age, is manifest from the example of Jehaziel, one of the sons of Asaph in Jehosaphat’s time, on whom the Spirit, of the Lord came down in the midst of the assembly, 2 Chronicles 20:14. All the sacred compositions of the different members of this family, from time to time, were classed among the songs of Asaph, just as in the title of the Psalms 62 Psalm, Jeduthun stands for the Jeduthunic choir. If the family had not possessed a founder so very famous in this department, these Psalms, like those which bear the name of the sons of Korah, would have had inscribed on their titles “the sons of Asaph.”

The peculiarity of this Psalm is marked by the very frequent use of the נצח , for ever: Psalms 74:1, Psalms 74:3, Psalms 74:10. It shows how the church of God, and particular individual believers, have to conduct themselves in times when every thing appears to be lost, and to lie in ruins. More particularly, we are instructed, that in such desperate circumstances, we have to represent to ourselves that it is not our cause but the cause and glory of God that are at stake: compare 2 Kings 19, where, at the Assyrian invasion, it is the conduct of the enemy directed against the Lord, that is most prominent, and that kindles zeal for his glory into a flame.

Verses 1-2

Ver. 1. An Instruction of Asaph

Why, O God, hast thou cast us of for ever, does thine anger smoke against the sheep of thy pasture? Ver. 2. Remember thy congregation, which thou hast acquired of old, thine inheritance which thou redeemest, Mount Zion, on which thou hast dwelt.

On “thou hast cast off” compare at Psalms 43:2, Psalms 44:23; and on “for ever,” at Psalms 13:1, and Lamentations 5:20, “why wilt thou forget me for ever”. A feeble faith supposes in the severe visitations of God, that all is over for ever. The object of the Psalm is to deliver the congregation of God from these thoughts; and hence its title, a Psalm of Instruction. The smoke comes into notice as the attendant of fire: compare Psalms 18:8. That בצאן is not to be connected with the “ anger” but with the “ smoke”, is evident from the fundamental passage, Deuteronomy 29:20, “the anger of the Lord and his jealousy shall smoke against that man,” and from the parallel passage, similar to our verse, and referring to it, Psalms 80:5, “Lord God, how long wilt thou smoke against the prayer of thy people.” That the מרעית is not the “feeding”, but the “food”, is evident,—besides the form, from Hosea 13:6, (compare Michaelis), and Jeremiah 25:36, also Jeremiah 10:21, where the “pasture” stands for the “flock who feed on it.” Israel is named the pasture-flock of the Lord, because he gave them possession of the fertile land of Canaan. Compare Hosea 13:6, Jeremiah 25:36, Jeremiah 25:38. The reference is peculiar to the times of the captivity, when Israel was driven away from his rich pasture: compare Psalms 79:13, Psalms 100:3. Calvin: “It is to be observed that the faithful, when oppressed by the profane, lift their eyes to God, as if struck by his hand. For they knew that it was only in consequence of the anger of the Lord that the profane had been permitted to injure them. And hence, under the conviction that they have not to fight with flesh and blood, but that they are afflicted through the just judgment of God, they consider that the proper cause and fountain of all their troubles, is, that God, whose favour had formerly imparted to them salvation, had now cast them off, and considered them as no longer worthy of being his flock.”

The Psalmist grounds, in Psalms 74:2 nd, his prayer for the deliverance of Israel, upon the election of God, and upon the manifestations of this given from the earliest antiquity, which would not permit him to now dissolve the connection of love which, through his grace, had so long existed. Moses in his day, in Deuteronomy 9:26, Deuteronomy 9:29, based his prayer that the Lord would not cast off his people, upon their deliverance from Egypt. God acquired his congregation, by delivering it from the bondage of Egypt. In the second clause, גלאת occupies the place of a noun:— think of “thou hast redeemed,” think of the redemption, compare Psalms 74:18. שבט נחלה , the inheritance-rod, is the staff with which the inheritance is measured; &שבט קנה המדה , the land-surveyor’s rod, Ezekiel 40:3: and this is used as גורל , the lot, is for the portion, for the inheritance itself. Others explain “thy inheritance-tribe,” and refer to Isaiah 63:17. But the fundamental passage is in favour of the measuring-rod, Deuteronomy 32:9, “but the Lord’s portion is his people, Jacob his inheritance-line,” (compare Psalms 105:11); and שבט , tribe, is never used to denote the whole of Israel. This peculiar expression occurs again in Jeremiah 10:16, Jeremiah 51:19,—a reference, which can scarcely be accidental.

Verses 3-9

Ver. 3. Lift up thy footsteps to the eternal ruins, the enemy has destroyed every thing in the sanctuary. Ver. 4. Thine adversaries roar in the midst of thy places of revelation, they make their signs for signs. Ver. 5. He makes himself look like one lifting up the axe in a forest thicket. Ver. 6. And now they break down its carved work all at once with hatchet and hammer. Ver. 7. They set thy sanctuaries on fire, they desecrate to the ground the habitation of thy name. Ver. 8. They say in their hearts, We will recompense it all at once, we will burn all the places of the revelation of God in the land. Ver. 9. We see not our signs, and there is no longer any prophet, and there is no one by us who knows how long.

In reference to the משאות , ruins, in Psalms 74:3, compare at Psalms 73:18. The Psalmist speaks of eternal ruins, because the complete destruction had cut off all human hope of a restoration. The prayer for deliverance from misery runs on, in the second clause, into a description of that misery, which is carried forward as far as Psalms 74:9 th. This description begins with the general expression: “the enemy in the sanctuary has laid every thing waste.” Then follows its developement in detail; the whole scene of destruction is pictured forth in vivid colours before the eyes:—they roar, they lift the axe, they cut down, they burn. In the ( Psalms 74:8) 8th verse, the conclusion assumes the general form of the introductory clause: they burn all the places of revelation of God in the land. In Psalms 74:4, the reading מוֹ עֲ דֶ יךָ? with a Iod, which is given by very many MSS. and editions, and is in agreement with the plu. in Psalms 74:8, is proved to be the correct one, by the feminine suffix which refers to it in Psalms 74:6. The plural is to be explained as מקדשים is, compare at Psalms 68:35. The temple, according to many expositors, got the name of “the place of meeting,” because the people met there for public worship. But there is a manifest allusion to the name of the tabernacle: “The Tabernacle of meeting.” Now the import of this name is expressly given in Exodus 25:8, Exodus 29:42-43, Exodus 29:45-46, Num. 17:19:—the tabernacle was so called, not because the people assembled there, but because God met the people there: compare Beitr. P. III. p. 628, et seq. Inasmuch as מועד אל is the place where God himself dwells among his people, it appears to be the very height of all that is dreadful, that even there the enemies roar, (comp. Lamentations 2:7, “they have made a noise in the house of the Lord”), and lift up the signs of their dominion. If מעוד be rightly interpreted, it will be impossible to entertain the idea that the Psalm was composed during the time of the Maccabees. In this case the word would denote the synagogues. It is, however, far too lofty a word to admit of being thus used. The prerogative of the temple would be injured. There was only one place in the land which God chose to put his name there, Deuteronomy 12:5, Deuteronomy 12:11. The signs of the enemies must, at all events, be interpreted as “the signs of their dominion.” The connection will not allow of any thing else. When they let their signs be seen in the house of the Lord, their object can only be to proclaim themselves as masters of that house. The word never signifies usages. There is nothing said as to what the signs consisted of, because nothing depends on that. But inasmuch as the Chaldeans, and also the Assyrians (compare Isaiah 10:13) made their own strength their God, (compare Habakkuk 1:11, Habakkuk 1:16, and Delitzsch on the last passage), and concerned themselves very little about religion, there is no reason whatever for supposing that the enemies brought in the images of their gods into the temple as signs of their dominion, and set up the worship of them there. The signs of their dominion are rather to be considered as of a military character; and the more so that the description directs attention not only to the setting up of military standards, but to the whole furious conduct of the enemies, for example, their shouts, their gestures, Psalms 74:5:—where formerly every thing had testified of the dominion of God, now every thing testifies of the dominion of the heathen. The sense in the ( Psalms 74:5) 5th verse is: they destroy and cut down with as much indifference as if they were felling trees in a forest. The subject is the enemy of Psalms 74:3. The suffix in פתוחיה cannot, except arbitrarily, be referred to an omitted noun, or be taken as standing in a general sense. It refers, according to the usual construction of the plural with the feminine, to מועדים in Psalms 74:4; and the reference is quite a natural one, inasmuch as the temple has all along been the subject spoken of. Before the Chaldeans set fire to the temple, which, according to Jeremiah, happened a month after the capture of the city, ( Jeremiah 52:12), they removed out of it all the precious metals, Jeremiah 51:17. 2 Kings 25:13. 2 Chronicles 36:18. But they could not get at these without destroying the walls, which, according to 1 Kings 6 and 1 Kings 7, were in part overlaid with the purest gold, and especially without destroying the beautiful carved work on the walls, spoken of in 1 Kings 6:29. There are no traces of any such destruction in the time of the Maccabees. The second temple, from its poverty, had not so much to tempt the avarice of the enemies. Moreover, such a work supposes that the temple was devoted to destruction, which was not the case in the time of the Maccabees. At that time it was merely devoted to heathen worship. Instead of מקדשך , in Psalms 74:7, many MSS. and editions read מקדשיך in the plural, thy sanctuaries; compare at Psalms 68:35. The circumstance that the plural rarely occurs is in favour of this reading. And it becomes necessary, if we refer the first clause of Psalms 74:8 to the sanctuary. “They desecrate to the ground” is illustrated by Lamentations 2:2, “he has thrown down to the ground, desecrated.” There was nothing in the least like this in the time of the Maccabees. The temple was not then levelled to the ground, and thus polluted. It remained standing. In Psalms 74:8, the נינם is fut. with the connecting vowel Kamets instead of Tseri, as is the case with נירם in Numbers 21:30; it is from ינה , to rage, here, to destroy in a rage. The suffix is generally supposed to allude to the Israelites, and a reference is made to Psalms 83:4. But we must refer it to the sanctuaries, as this word forms the subject throughout the whole passage, and especially in the parallel clause. That by “the places of revelation of God” we are to understand the temple, with all its apartments, is evident from the word itself, (compare at Psalms 74:4), from the whole connection, (compare at Psalms 74:3), and from the first clause, in which the “all at once” corresponds to the expression here “all in the land.” The expression, “all in the land,” has been incorrectly supposed not to be applicable to the temple. The sanctuaries in Jerusalem, were all the places of revelation of God that were in the land; and the circumstance, that when the temple was destroyed, there was not another such place to be found, must have peculiarly aggravated the pain which an Israelite felt, and was a proof of the extent to which God’s honour was at stake, and his interests endangered. 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. The “signs of the Israelites,” in Psalms 74:9, are the signs of the dominion of their God, whose places had been occupied by the signs of the enemies, Psalms 74:4. The wonderful works of God, Psalms 78:43, Psalms 86:17, form the most prominent of these, by which the people had been delivered, when in similar circumstances, on former occasions, such as the bondage of the Egyptians or the invasion of the Assyrians. Then follows prophecy,—of the cessation of which the prophet expressly complains in the second clause, which stands related to the first as the particular to the general. The expression, “there is no longer any prophet,” has without good reason been maintained to favour the Maccabean reference: it is, however, altogether against it, For it takes for granted that the people of the Lord had a little while ago enjoyed the presence of prophets. It is only of fresh wounds that the Psalmist complains; he cannot be understood as expressing a desire for something of which the people had been deprived for a hundred years, and with the want of which they had long since become familiar. The words are to be explained from Ezekiel 7:26, where it is threatened, “and they seek (in vain) the face of the prophet,” from Lamentations 2:9, “and their prophets find not the face of the Lord,” and from 1 Samuel 28:6, 1 Samuel 28:15, according to which Saul got no answer from the Lord through the prophets. Jeremiah did indeed survive the destruction of the temple, (and to this reference has been made in support of the Maccabean exposition), but his prophetical office terminated with it. It was assuredly the cessation of his office that more immediately gave occasion to the painful cry: there is no longer any prophet. This standing ruin of the prophetical class proclaimed, even in louder accents than the non-appearance of other prophets, that God was no longer Israel’s King. It was necessary, that along with the other signs of the dominion of God, this one also should cease for a long period of time, that the people might be taught how they had treated it, wherein they had offended, and might, at the same time, be led with tears of repentance to seek its return. [Note: Arnd: “Such punishments were frequently inflicted upon the Jews, as it is written: At that time there was no word of God, and no prophet in the land. This is the most severe punishment and soul destitution, as, on the other hand, the pure word of God is the greatest consolation, as Jeremiah says, ch. 15: “thy words were found, and I did eat them, and thy word was to me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart.” This is not observed till God and the precious treasure are away. Then men may dig holes in the earth, and run after it like a hungry dog; but it cannot be found.”] By the “ knowing how long,” is meant a living knowledge. The exact length of the captivity had been foretold by Jeremiah as fixed; but on the first infliction of the stroke, no man could take the comfort of this announcement, and no man ought to have done so, till the infliction had served its purpose. Psalms 74:10-11.

Ver. 10. How long, O God, shall the adversary reproach, the enemy despise thy name for ever? Ver. 11. Why drawest thou back thy hand, and thy right hand? Recompense out of thy bosom.

In reference to the apparent contradiction, “how long—for ever,” in Psalms 74:10, compare at Psalms 13:2. “Thy right hand,” in Psalms 74:11, contains the more exact idea, just as “sun” stands related to “light” in Psalms 74:16. The right hand is the seat of strength. The annihilation, (compare כלה in Psalms 59:13), proceeds from the bosom of God, inasmuch as his omnipotent right hand is at the time reposing inoperative there. The reading of the text is חֵ קּ? without the Iod, the more rare form: Proverbs 17:23, Job 19:27: the Massorites, as usual, have substituted the more common form with Iod. [Note: Still Hitzig falsely maintains that the reading in the text is חוֹ ק . Hiller has given the correct explanation of this, and a whole class of similar cases, de Arcano Chethib. et Keri, p. 29: notandum est hie, ubi Vau aut Iod in vocalibus homogeneis quiescentes, in una lectione expressae, in altera neglectae fuerunt, placuisse Massorethis quiescentem in Chethibo transponere vel post vocalem ejus literam scribere heterogeneam: in margine autem vel transpositam quiescentem vel non transpositae quiescentis homogeneam, comp. p. 251.]

Verses 12-17

Ver. 12. And God is my king of old, who works salvation in the midst of the land. Ver. 13. Thou breakest through the sea by thy strength, thou cleavest through the heads of the dragons in the water. Ver. 14. Thou dashest to pieces the heads of leviathan, thou givest him for food to the people of the wilderness. Ver. 15. Thou cleavest the fountain and the flood, thou driest up the perpetual stream. Ver. 16. Thine is the day, thine also is the night, thou hast prepared light and the sun. Ver. 17. Thou hast set all the boundaries of the earth,—as to summer and winter, thou hast made them.

On Psalms 74:12, Calvin: “The faithful mingle contemplation with their prayers, in order that they may collect new power of faith, and grow more full of earnestness in prayer. For we know how difficult it is to rise above all doubts, and to feel free and joyful in prayer. Here also the faithful recall to their recollection the memorials of the compassion and the power of God, by which he has made it known throughout all generations that he is the king of his chosen people.” God is named the King of Israel, as being their beloved deliverer, guardian, and provider. And inasmuch as he has manifested himself as such of old, by the mighty deeds by which he delivered his people from Egypt, he must continue yet farther to do so. What he was, guarantees what he continue yet farther to do so. What he was, guarantees what he will be. The participle denotes the usual dealings of God. The plural ישועוט point to the rich fulness of salvation. That we cannot, with Stier, explain “in the midst of the land,” as meaning in the midst of the earth,” is obvious from the reference to Exodus 8:22 and Psalms 74:8. The words denote the comprehensive nature of the salvation: whoever has obtained possession of the interior of a country has got the ascendancy over the whole boundaries,—whatever is done there, extends to the whole circumference: compare, besides, Exodus 8:22, “that thou mayest know that I the Lord am in the midst of the land, i.e. over the whole extent of Egypt,” Isaiah 10:23. In Psalms 74:13-17, the Psalmist turns to the contemplation of those mighty deeds, which implied divine omnipotence, to sink into which is so very comfortable to helpless feebleness. That it is only the divine omnipotence, and not the love of God, that is brought before our minds, is evident from “thy power”, in the introduction, and from the consideration of every separate particular. The sevenfold repetition of the emphatic “thou” is assuredly not accidental, standing as it does in striking contrast to the powerless “I”: it forms in fact the delivering right hand which rescues it froth the deep waters. That the preterites in Psalms 74:13-15, although they stand connected with a description of historical events, denote something going, something which God is still doing, (compare on the parallel passage Psalms 66:6, “he turns the sea into dry land,” &c.), is probable from “thou givest” in Psalms 74:14, and the mention of the floods in Psalms 74:15, while the history records the drying up of only one stream, the Jordan. In Psalms 74:13 and Psalms 74:14, the only historical event is the restraining of the sea by God, in reference to the dividing of the Red Sea: the dragon and leviathan are merely poetical figures. These appear as monarchs of the sea, and their subjection as a sign of its. The two ideas, the subjugation of the sea, and that of the great sea monsters, appear in connection in the passage Isaiah 51:9-10, which the Psalmist had decidedly before his mind: “Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord, who bringeth down pride, (not brought down, for in that case the ( Psalms 74:11) 11th verse would not connect well,—it is, as here, something going on), pierces the dragon? Art thou not he who drieth up the sea, the waters of the great flood, who maketh the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over?” and also in Job 26:12-13, “by his hand he puts in motion the sea, and by his understanding he smites the pride of the raging sea: by his breath the heaven becomes clear, his hand pierceth the flying serpent.” The last appears there as the Queen of the sea: compare also Psalms 104:26. The inhabitants of the wilderness, (compare at Psalms 72:9), are the inhabitants of the wilderness which bounds the sea, particularly the Arabian sea, the Ichthyophagi, who depend for their support upon the sea beasts cast up on the land. According to the common interpretation, the dragons and leviathan are intended figuratively to represent the Egyptians and Pharaoh, (compare Ezekiel 29:3-4, where the crocodile occurs as the emblem of the Egyptians); and the inhabitants of the wilderness are the beasts of the desert, who got for their food the carcases of the Egyptians. But, in opposition to this, it is to be observed, that throughout the whole paragraph it is the dominion of God over nature, and not over man, that is described:—the sea, Psalms 74:13 and Psalms 74:14, the fountains and rivers, Psalms 74:15, the day and the night, &c. Besides, in the passage quoted from Job, the piercing of the flying serpent occurs in connection with the general manifestation of the power of God over nature. And still further, the Psalmist has applied the word לעם , to the inhabitants of the wilderness, as if for the purpose of intimating that it was men and not beasts that he meant. The use of the word in Proverbs 30:25, as applied to ants, who are there termed a “ folk,” will not prove that it may stand for beasts here. There is a reason in the connection for the reference in that passage; but there is none here: the similarity of the ants to men is what is there spoken of. And, finally, to all this we may add, the remarkable agreement between the passage and what the ancients have recorded of the Ichthyophagi. [Note: Compare the passages in Bochart, Georgr. S. 1. 4. c. 2. “Agatharchides says: they live upon the whales cast up on the shore; Diodor.: they are supported by the whales cast up on the shore, having at the time abundance of food on account of the great size of the beasts found, &c.”] The לויתן , in Psalms 74:14, denotes the species. The plural never occurs. The historical foundation of Psalms 74:15 is to be found in the supply of water granted in the wilderness, Exodus 17 and Numbers 20, and in the opening of the passage through the Jordan. The Psalmist considers these wonderful works of God, as being always repeated. “To cleave” is a poetical expression for “to cause to break forth by cleaving”: compare Job 28:10. Constantly - enduring rivers, are large rivers which are not dried up in the heat of summer. The epithet tends to exalt the wonderful power of God. The Berleb. Bible: “Thou art also he who driest up the rivers of passion when they are like to break forth in such a way as to overflow every thing.”

The church turns from the manifestations of the omnipotence of God in history to his mighty deeds at creation, Psalms 74:16 and Psalms 74:17, which are continually renewed in providence. Day and night are thine,—they belong to thee, according to the parallelism, as their creator. The light and the sun are related to each other as the special to the general, compare Psalms 74:11: the sun being the most glorious of the heavenly luminaries, compare Genesis 1:16. The boundaries of the earth, in Psalms 74:17, are its boundaries next the sea. The Psalmist here refers again to the history of the creation: compare at Psalms 24:2.

Verses 18-23

At the conclusion, Psalms 74:18-23, we have the expanded prayer. [Note: Amyraldus on ver. 8: “From this verse to the end, the prophet brings forward and blends together with wonderful skill, all those considerations which might move God partly to compassion, and partly to zeal.”]

Ver. 18. Remember this: the enemy reproacheth the Lord, and a foolish people despiseth thy name. Ver. 19. Give not to the desire of the blood thirsty thy turtle dove, the life of thy poor ones forget not for ever. Ver. 20. Remember thy covenant, for the darknesses of the earth are full of the habitations of violence. Ver. 21. O let not the oppressed turn back ashamed, may the miserable and the poor praise thy name. Ver. 22. Arise, O God, carry on thy war, remember thy reproach by the foolish man continually. Ver. 23. Forget not the voice of thine adversaries, the tumult of thine opponents riseth up continually.

That in Psalms 74:18 the address is not to the foolish, (compare at Psalms 14— think of this, thou foolish man who despises the Lord,—but, as it is throughout the Psalm, to God, is evident from the second clause, and from Psalms 74:2 and Psalms 74:22. In Psalms 74:19, נפש stands, as it not unfrequently does, in the sense of greed: the greed-life is a poetical expression for the rapacity of the enemies, which is similar to that of wild beasts, to whom the innocent defenceless and timid doves are given over for prey. Many expositors translate: give not up to the ravenous beasts of prey the soul of thy dove. But חית cannot be the stat. absol., and the form of this case, which in general is not well ascertained, in ת—, cannot be adopted with this word, which is one of very common occurrence. Be sides חיה , is not used of wild beasts, without an epithet, except in reckoning, as in Genesis 7:14. [Note: Venema: The word חית without an epithet added, does not denote a wild beast, but is accustomed to have every where an epithet along with it, either “of the field,” “of the earth,” or “of the reeds.”] Others: “give not thy doves to the greedy host, the host of thy poor ones forget not for ever.” But חיה , in the sense of a “host,” appears, to belong exclusively to the age of David, (compare at Psalms 68:10); and it is scarcely suitable here to apply the word “host”, both to the scattered little company of the miserable remnant, and to the great throng of the wicked. Look to the covenant, Psalms 74:20: the right method of prayer is to hold up before God his covenant and his promises. [Note: Arnd: The prophet here grounds his prayer upon the covenant of grace, which God had made with the people of Israel. God had confirmed this covenant by a strong oath, and by many wonderful works, with the beloved land; and it was the peculiar source of consolation, and place of refuge to the Jews in all their trouble: thus Daniel prays, ch. 9: “O Lord who keepest covenant and grace to those who fear thee,” thus we read in Psalms 111. “He remembers his covenant for ever,” and thus aged Zecharias, Luke 1 says, “He hath remembered his holy covenant, and his oath which he swore to our father Abraham.” We also may therefore rely firmly and surely upon the eternal covenant of grace, which God in the New Testament has made with us in Christ, through his merit and death, whereby he has reconciled us, and obtained forgiveness of sin and eternal life.”] In the second clause the reference is to Genesis 6:11, Genesis 6:13, where it is said of the time before the flood: “for the earth was full of violence through them, and behold I recompense them with the earth.” This significant reference shows that by the ארץ we are not to understand the land, but the earth. The מחשכי ארץ stands opposed to the מחשכי שאול , and signifies, “the earth is full, on which there is darkness, as there is on Sheol”: compare Psalms 143:3, “for the enemy hath persecuted my soul, he hath smitten my life down to the ground, he hath made me to dwell in “ dark places, where are the dead of eternity,” Lamentations 3:6, where the same expression occurs, and Psalms 88:6. The common interpretation is: the lurking places of the land are full of the habitations of violence. But against this we would urge, with Michaelis, ‘that the plural מחשכים always involves the notion of misery;” further, the proud conquerors do not conceal themselves with their wickedness in lurking places; and there seems no reason why the lurking places should be full of the habitations,—the expression ought rather to have been, “they are the habitations.”—”May they praise,” in Psalms 74:21, is equivalent to “grant that they may be able to praise.”

On “the tumult ascends continually,” in Psalms 74:23, compare Genesis 4:10; Genesis 18:21, Genesis 19:13. “Forget not” stands in the back ground, and therefore there is no reason to adopt the somewhat flat rendering of some, “ which rises.”

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Psalms 74". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/heg/psalms-74.html.