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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Psalms 79

Verse 1

O God, the heathen are come into thine inheritance; thy holy temple have they defiled; they have laid Jerusalem on heaps.

Psalms 79:1-13.-THE COMPLAIG the pagan have seized God's land, desecrated the temple, and laid Jerusalem in ruins; the dead bodies of the saints are given to the fowls and beasts; the survivors are and object of reproach (Psalms 79:1-4). THE PRAYER (Psalms 79:5-8): appeal to the glory of God's name as at stake (Psalms 79:9-12); concluding promises of perpetual praise (Psalms 79:13). Jeremiah 10:25 quotes Psalms 79:6: 1Ma 7:16-17 quotes Psalms 79:2; a proof that the reference is not to Judah's sufferings under Antiochus Epiphanes. The Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem is referred to here and Psalms 74:1-23. The destruction of the sanctuary is prominent there; here its "defilement" (Psalms 79:1) is alluded to, including its destruction.

Of Asaph. The singers of the Asaph school looked upon themselves as the mouthpiece of Asaph by which he, though long dead, yet spake. Hence, the psalms with this title have a mutual resemblance.

The heathen - `the Gentile nations.'

Have come into thine inheritance - the Holy Land. Thine honour is therefore at stake, to rectify this monstrous anomaly, affecting us thy people. Compare the same plea, Isaiah 63:18-19.

Thy holy temple have they defiled. The pagan would never have been permitted to defile it, had not Israel herself first defiled it: rendered necessary God's just retribution on them in kind, Ezekiel 5:11, "Because thou hast defiled my sanctuary;" 23:38; 24:21, "Behold I will profane my sanctuary the excellency of your strength." Psalms 74:7 is parallel, 2,3.

The dead bodies of thy servants have they given to be meat unto the fowls of the heaven ... and there was none to bury them. Compare 2 Chronicles 36:17 for the historical picture of one of the fulfillments of the poetical picture here set forth. The description reaches prophetically beyond the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon, to that by the Roman Titus, and still further to that yet to come, (Zechariah 13:1-9; Zechariah 14:1-21.) Compare also Revelation 11:9, "And they of the people, and kindreds, and tongues and nations ... three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves." Compare, in reference to the same times 5:1 with Daniel 11:31, "and they (Antichrist and his followers) shall pollute the sanctuary of strength."

Verses 2-3

The dead bodies of thy servants have they given to be meat unto the fowls of the heaven, the flesh of thy saints unto the beasts of the earth.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 4

We are become a reproach to our neighbours, a scorn and derision to them that are round about us.

We are become a reproach to our neighbours - (Psalms 44:13).

Verse 5

How long, LORD? wilt thou be angry for ever? shall thy jealousy burn like fire?

How long Lord? wilt thou be angry - (Psalms 74:10.) Thine anger against thy people, though justly merited, anger now at length turn from them upon their and thy foes. Though judgment must begin at the house of God (1 Peter 4:17), yet it is not designed to make an utter end of them: that is the doom of the God-opposed peoples against whom the hand of the Lord must at last be turned. Now that thy people are turning to thee in prayer, it is the time for thee to turn to them in mercy, and to turn against their enemies in judgment.

For ever. God's anger will burn forever against the ungodly; but against believers, when they incur punishment, His wrath burns hotly indeed, but not eternally (Deuteronomy 32:36; Deuteronomy 32:43; Ezekiel 38:19-23).

Shall thy jealousy burn like fire? "Jealousy" exists only where love is. God's relation to Israel was that of a loving husband (Isaiah 54:5; Jeremiah 3:14; Psalms 78:58; cf. also Deuteronomy 29:20).

Verse 6

Pour out thy wrath upon the heathen that have not known thee, and upon the kingdoms that have not called upon thy name.

Pour out thy wrath upon the heathen that have not known thee - even as they have "shed" or 'poured out' (the same Hebrew) the blood of thy people like water round about Jerusalem (Psalms 79:3). Compare also Psalms 79:10. The nations to be judged are not all the pagan, but those only which rise up against Israel. So it shall be in the judgment to be inflicted on those kings and peoples who shall be seduced by Antichrist to join in "the battle of that great day of God Almighty" (Revelation 16:14; Zephaniah 3:8).

Not called upon thy name. To 'call upon the name of God,' in Scripture conception, is, from one's experimental knowledge of His attributes, His love, power, and faithfulness, to apply heartily to Him for salvation.

Verse 7

For they have devoured Jacob, and laid waste his dwelling place.

For they have devoured Jacob, and laid waste. In the Hebrew "devoured" is singular; whereas "laid waste" is plural. The singular implies that the enemies of Israel, though many, are animated by the one spirit of enmity against God and His people; just as, on the other hand, the members of the Church, though many, form one body animated by one spirit. The several 'nations' and "kingdoms" (Psalms 79:6) served under Babylon against Jerusalem. So in the last days it shall be under Antichrist (Revelation 17:12-13; Revelation 17:15-17). Through ignorance of the design of the singular, most of the old versions and some manuscripts have altered the singular into plural. Jeremiah, in quoting it, has done so (Jeremiah 10:25). The sacred writers, under the Spirit, often vary the Scriptures which they quote. This is a proof that the psalms is the original, not Jeremiah. It is usual with the latter to borrow from the older Scriptures. So Jeremiah 10:24 quotes Psalms 6:1.

Moreover, in Jeremiah the words occur without connection with the context. Here they are the prayer flowing out of the previous complaint (the word "pour" referring back to Psalms 79:3, "shed" or 'poured their blood'); and Jeremiah has expanded "devoured Jacob" into "they have eaten up Jacob, and devoured him, and consumed him." Though parts of Jeremiah's prophecies represent the destruction of Jerusalem as still future, yet there are other passages, as this verse, which were added subsequently to the destruction, when the whole collection of his prophecies assumed their present form.

And laid waste his dwelling place. The Chaldaic translates 'the house of his sanctuary.' As in Psalms 79:13 the people of God are termed the "sheep of God's pasture," translate 'they have laid waste His pasture,' keeping up the image.

Verse 8

O remember not against us former iniquities: let thy tender mercies speedily prevent us: for we are brought very low.

O remember not against us former iniquities - rather, 'the iniquities of our forefathers.' Leviticus 26:45 confirms this: after threatening in Ps. 79:39 , "In the iniquities of their fathers shall they pine away," God proceeds to promise, "If they snail confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers ... I will for their sakes remember the covenant of their ancestors." The Jews now plead this promise, after they have experienced the fulfillment of the threat (cf. Lamentations 5:7). The children, when innocent, are not punished for the guilt of their fathers, but for personal guilt: the entail of guilt might be cut off by repentance and faith; but the guilty children, inheriting the sinful dispositions of their fathers, sought not the Spirit of God to create them anew, but followed their fathers' steps and exceeded them in sin, hardening themselves the more in proportion as the long-suffering of God delayed to execute judgment. Thus the accumulated guilt of fathers and sons fell in vengeance on the last generation. 'They (here) acknowledge an obstinacy of long standing, in which they have hardened themselves against God. Sacred history testifies that the punishment of the captivity was postponed until God had proved that their wickedness was incurable' (Calvin). (Isaiah 64:9.)

Let thy tender mercies speedily prevent us - i:e., come steadily and unexpectedly, taking us by a joyful surprise (Psalms 21:3, note).

Verse 9

Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of thy name: and deliver us, and purge away our sins, for thy name's sake.

Purge away our sins - or 'pardon' them (Psalms 65:3.)

For the glory of thy name ... for thy name's sake - i:e., for the sake of thy glory set forth in former manifestations of thy power and goodness (Psalms 23:3; Psalms 29:1-2), Let the pagan see that this glory was justly ascribed to thee.

Verse 10

Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is their God? let him be known among the heathen in our sight by the revenging of the blood of thy servants which is shed.

Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is their God? The Psalmist here has in mind Deuteronomy 32:12; especially Joel 2:17, which is here repeated verbatim - i:e., What has become of His much-celebrated omnipotence and unfailing love to His people? (Deuteronomy 9:28.)

Let him be known among the heathen in our sight (by) the revenging of the blood of thy servants which is shed - rather 'let there be known among the pagan in our sight (Deuteronomy 6:22) the revenging of the blood of thy servants which is shed.' The Psalmist has in mind Deuteronomy 32:43.

Verse 11

Let the sighing of the prisoner come before thee; according to the greatness of thy power preserve thou those that are appointed to die;

Let the sighing of the prisoner come before thee - literally, 'into thy sight,' even as the sighing of Israel in the Egyptian bondage "came up unto God by reason of the bondage." Now again the people are as it were a "prisoner."

According to the greatness of thy power - literally, 'of thine arm' (Psalms 74:11).

Preserve thou those that are appointed to die - literally, 'the children of the dying;' a Hebrew idiom (Psalms 72:4), "the children of the needy;" i:e., the needy. Compare with this clause Numbers 14:19, "according unto the greatness of thy mercy" (Deuteronomy 3:24). The answer to the prayer appears in the prophetic anticipation in Psalms 102:19-20, "He hath looked down from the height of His sanctuary ... to loose those that are appointed to death," - literally, 'the children, if dying.'

Verse 12

And render unto our neighbours sevenfold into their bosom their reproach, wherewith they have reproached thee, O Lord. And render unto our neighbours seven-fold into their bosom - (Isaiah 65:6-7.) The fold of the garment at the lap was the receptacle wherein they used to receive whatever was presented. Thus Luke 6:38. Whatever men give to others, good or bad, God gives back into their own bosom.

Their reproach, wherewith they have reproach thee - saying, "Where is their God?" (Psalms 79:10.)


Verse 13

So we thy people and sheep of thy pasture will give thee thanks for ever: we will shew forth thy praise to all generations.

So we thy people, and sheep of thy pasture - (Psalms 74:1.) will give thee thanks forever: we will show forth thy praise to all generations. Upon the confident anticipation of God's answering the foregoing prayer, there is here made a vow of perpetual praise to God (Psalms 44:8).

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Psalms 79". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.