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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Psalms 79


A.M. 3416. B.C. 588.

This Psalm was doubtless composed upon the mournful occasion of the destruction of Judea and Jerusalem by the Chaldeans. It might be written by the latter Asaph, or, as some think, by Jeremiah, who lived at that time, and in whose book more than one whole verse of this Psalm is found. See Jeremiah 10:25 . It contains a representation of the deplorable condition of the Jews, Psalms 79:1-5 . And a petition for deliverance, Psalms 79:6-13 .

Verse 1

Psalms 79:1. O God, the heathen are come As invaders and conquerors; into thine inheritance Into Canaan and Judea, which thou didst choose for thine inheritance. Thy holy temple have they defiled By entering into it, and touching and carrying away its holy vessels, and shedding blood in it, and burning of it; they have laid Jerusalem on heaps Made of the ruins of those goodly houses which they have burned and thrown down. Thus, in this verse, the psalmist enumerates three deplorable calamities which were come upon God’s people: “the alienation of God’s inheritance, the profanation of his sanctuary, and the desolation of the beloved city.”

Verses 2-3

Psalms 79:2-3. The dead bodies of thy servants Either, 1st, Of thy faithful and holy servants, whom they used as cruelly as the worst of the people. Or, 2d, Of the Jews in general, whom, though most of them were wicked, he calls God’s servants and saints, because they were such by profession; and some of them were really such; and the Chaldeans neither knew nor regarded those that were so, but promiscuously destroyed all that came in their way; have they given to be meat to the fowls, &c. By casting them out, like dung upon the earth, and not suffering any to bury them. This is the fourth of those calamities which are bewailed in this Psalm: and a dreadful one it is. For “to behold, or even imagine,” as Dr. Horne observes, “the heaps of slaughtered bodies lying unburied, and exposed to birds and beasts of prey, is inexpressibly shocking to humanity.” Their blood they shed like water Plentifully and contemptuously, valuing it no more than common water; and there was none to bury them Because their friends, who should have done it, were either slain or fled, or were not permitted, or durst not undertake to perform that office to them.

Verse 4

Psalms 79:4 . We are become a reproach, &c. We, who were the terror of our neighbours, and whom they stood in awe of, and were afraid to offend, are now neither feared nor pitied, but are become the objects of their scoffs and reproaches. For they study to abuse us and load us with contempt, upbraiding us with our sins and sufferings, and giving the lie to our relation to God, and expectations from him. If God’s professing people degenerate from what themselves and their fathers were, they must expect to be told of it; and it is well if a just reproach will help to bring them to a true repentance. But it has been the lot of the gospel Israel to be unjustly made a reproach and derision. The apostles and evangelists themselves, who were the wisest and best men that ever lived, and the greatest friends and benefactors of the human race, were counted as the filth of the world, and the offscouring of all things.

Verses 6-7

Psalms 79:6-7. Pour out thy wrath upon the heathen Though we confess that we have deserved thy wrath, yet the heathen, by whom thou hast scourged us, have deserved it much more, as being guilty of far greater impieties than we, living in gross ignorance and contempt of thee and thy worship. And, therefore, we pray thee to transfer thy wrath from us to them. But the prayer is rather to be considered as a prophecy, in which the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. For they have devoured Jacob The posterity of Jacob, whom thou didst love, and with whom, and his seed, thou madest a sure and everlasting covenant; whereby thou didst engage thyself to be an enemy to their enemies, Exodus 23:22. Besides, thou hatest cruelty, especially when the wicked devour those that are more righteous than themselves, Habakkuk 1:13.

Verse 8

Psalms 79:8. Remember not against us former iniquities The sins committed by our forefathers, and by us who have filled up the measure of their sins, for which we confess thou hast most righteously brought this desolating judgment upon us. Let thy tender mercies Upon which all our confidence is fixed; for merit and righteousness we have none; see Daniel 9:7; Daniel 9:9. Speedily prevent us Prevent our utter extirpation, which we have deserved, and have great reason to expect; for we are brought very low Past the hopes of all human help, and therefore the glory of our deliverance will be wholly thine.

Verses 9-10

Psalms 79:9-10. Help us, O God of our salvation From whom we have often received, and from whom alone we now expect salvation, that is, deliverance, or protection; for the glory of thy name Which is now obscured by the insolence and blasphemy of thine enemies, who ascribe their conquest to their idols, and triumph over thee, no less than over thy people, as one unable to deliver them out of their hands: see Daniel 3:15. Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is their God He whom they served, and of whom they boasted? He is lost and gone, or grown impotent or idle. Let him be known among the heathen By the execution of his judgments upon them, according to Psalms 9:16; in our sight That we may live to see it, and praise thy name for it; by the revenging of the blood of thy servants which is shed Or, rather, Let the vengeance (Hebrew, נקנת דם , nikmath dam) of thy servants’ blood which is shed be known among the heathen that are in our sight. “It is for the glory of God’s name to deliver his church; because, while she is in trouble, that name is blasphemed by the enemy, as if he wanted either power or will to prevent or remove the calamities of his servants. Prayer is therefore here made by the faithful, that God, not to gratify any vindictive spirit of theirs, but to vindicate his own attributes, would break the teeth of the oppressor, and work a public and glorious salvation for his chosen; at beholding which the very adversaries themselves might possibly be converted.” Horne.

Verses 11-12

Psalms 79:11-12. Let the sighing of the prisoner Of thy poor people now in prison, or, at least, in captivity; come before thee Be taken cognizance of by thee, and be as prevalent with thee as these prayers; according to the greatness of thy power Hebrew, זרועךְ , zerognacha, of thine arm; with which no creature can contend; preserve thou those that are appointed to die Hebrew, בני תמותה , benee temutha, the children of death, that is, which were either designed for death, or were in manifest danger of it, as being wholly in the power of their cruel and barbarous enemies. Thus, “next to those who had been slain, the case of such as groaned in captivity, lying bound in chains and fetters, under sentence of death, to be inflicted at the will of their cruel and insulting conquerors, is recommended to God.” And render unto our neighbours sevenfold That is, either, 1st, Abundantly, as this phrase signifies, Isaiah 65:6-7; Jeremiah 32:18; Luke 6:38. Or, 2d, Sensibly, so that it may come home to them, and fall heavily upon them in their own persons. The reproach wherewith they have reproached thee As impotent, or unfaithful, or unmerciful to thy people. As if he had said, “As they have reproached thee with weakness, so manifest to others their weakness, who are but sinful dust and ashes; as they have endeavoured to make thee contemptible, so let the world have just cause to despise them, who have thus presumptuously offended; according as it is written, Them that honour me, I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed,”

1 Samuel 2:30. And be assured, reader, however different the appearance of things may now be, this will certainly be found true in every instance at the last day.

Verse 13

Psalms 79:13. So we thy people will give thanks for ever “Such is the resolution of a church under persecution; and such ought to be the practice of every church when delivered out of it, and restored to the favour and protection of her God. The same is the duty of every soul with regard to afflictions and mercies of a private kind. But how glorious will be the day, when, triumphant over sin and sorrow, over every thing that exalteth itself, the church universal shall behold the adversary disarmed for ever.” When the Lord God, having swallowed up death in victory, will wipe away tears from off all faces, and take away the rebuke of his people from off all the earth: when it shall be said, Lo! this is our God, we have waited for him, and he hath saved us: this is Jehovah; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation, Isaiah 25:8-9.

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Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 79". Joseph Benson's Commentary. 1857.