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Bible Commentaries

Hamilton Smith's Writings

Psalms 74

Verses 1-23


An appeal to God to act in judgment against the wicked, on behalf of His people and for His own glory.

(vv. 1-2) The psalm opens with the godly in Israel appealing to God in their distress. They recognize that they are suffering under the governmental anger of God; but they plead that, however much they may have failed, they are the sheep of His pasture, they are God's assembly, they are God's portion in the earth. Moreover God has purchased them, and dwelt in their midst on Mount Zion.

God has to deal with His people because of their sins; but can God forsake forever His sheep, His redeemed, and Zion that He had chosen?

(vv. 3-8) They spread out before God the work of the enemy. They say, “Lift up thy feet unto the perpetual desolations.” They appeal to God to look upon the ruin caused by the enemy - a ruin that is beyond repair. The enemy has destroyed everything in the place of God's assembly. In the house of God man has set up his signs in place of God's signs. Instead of setting forth God, the house of God becomes a place for the display of man. All that which speaks of the beauty of God's house - the carved work - is ruthlessly broken down with as little concern as one would feel in felling the trees of the wood. God's house is defiled, and the aim of the enemy is to destroy every meeting place of God's people throughout the land.

(v. 9) Moreover among God's people there are no signs of God's work. There is no prophet to recall the people to God, or any who can give hope of any limit to the evil. There are none who can say “how long” the trial will continue.

This leads to a fresh appeal to God. It is not now “how long” will God's people suffer, but “how long” will God allow the adversary to reproach and blaspheme His Name. If it is a question of God and the enemy, can God remain inactive? Will not God show His hand and act?

Thus the godly have pleaded that the enemy is attacking God's people (vv. 1-2); God's sanctuary (vv. 3-9); and God's name (v. 10).

(vv. 12-17) Having fully spread the trial out before God, the psalmist encourages himself in God. In spite of all failure amongst the people of God, and all the power of the enemy, God is King, and God is working salvation in the midst of the earth.

He recalls what God has done in the past. He divided the sea, and destroyed the power of Pharaoh, figured by monsters (vv. 13-14). God brought water from the rock, and thus sustained His people in the wilderness; He dried up the Jordan, and brought them into the land (v. 15).

Then, passing from these miraculous interventions of God, the psalmist sees in creation the ever-present witness of God's mercy to man. The day and the night, the moon and the sun, the land and water, summer and winter, are a perpetual witness that God is not unmindful of His creatures.

(vv. 18-21) Having encouraged his soul by the remembrance of God's past interventions on behalf of His people, the psalmist now boldly appeals to God to remember that His Name is being reproached; and that His people are defenceless - like a turtle dove - and poor, oppressed, and needy. Moreover God cannot be unmindful of the covenant that He has made in regard to the blessing of His people.

(vv. 22-23) The soul makes a final appeal that God would “arise” and plead His own cause. It is not now “our cause,” for God's Name is being reproached. For the third time in the course of this psalm, we have the plea that God is being reproached (vv. 10, 18, 22). In this final appeal there is no word about the people or the temple. The one plea is that it is God's cause. The voice that is raised comes from God's enemies; the tumult comes from those that rise up against God, and this tumult “increaseth continually.”

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on Psalms 74". "Hamilton Smith's Writings". 1832.