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The prophet complaineth of the desolation of the sanctuary: he moveth God to help, in consideration of his power, of his reproachful enemies, of his children, and of his covenant.
Maschil of Asaph.
Title. ףּלאס משׂכיל maskiil leasaph.— This psalm seems to have been composed just upon the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by the Chaldeans. The author, after lamenting the calamities of his country, and the insults of his enemies, calls to remembrance the glorious exploits which God had performed in ancient days for his people, and prays him to exert himself afresh in their cause, which by the blasphemous defiance of the enemy was now become his own. It could not certainly have been composed by the same Asaph who wrote the foregoing psalm; (See 2 Chronicles 29:30.) but, as Bishop Patrick thinks, by some person of his posterity, who, during the captivity, was suffered to remain at Jerusalem with the Chaldeans.
Psalms 74:2. Remember thy congregation— i.e. The Israelites who are thy church, and whom, at the expence of so many miracles, thou didst make thy peculiar people. The rod, in the next clause, is put for the land itself, which was the portion of God's peculiar inheritance, the Israelites; and which, as was the custom, was measured out to them by rods or lines. See Psalms 16:6.
Psalms 74:3. Lift up thy feet, &c.— Lift up thy feet because of perpetual desolations. The phrase lift up thy feet, signifies no more than come, or return. God had deserted his sanctuary, and the Shechinah had gone up from between the cherubims. See Ezekiel 10:4. In consequence of which, the heathen people had invaded that holy place, and laid it waste. The perpetual desolations, signify those ruins of the city and country which had lasted so very long.
Psalms 74:4. Thine enemies roar, &c.— i.e. "They triumph in those places where thy people formerly met to worship thee." See Psalms 74:7. For signs, means, "As trophies, in token of their conquest over us."
Psalms 74:5-19.74.6. A man was famous, &c.— They shew themselves as one lifts up axes an high, in the thicket of the trees. Psalms 74:6. But now, &c. Houbigant renders it in the perfect tense; and, instead of the carved work thereof, reads, thy gates. But now they have broken down thy gates.
Psalms 74:9. We see not our signs— Any token of they divine presence among us. Bishop Patrick concludes from the next clause, that this psalm was composed towards the end of the captivity, because the writer complains here that there was no prophet left (as there was at the beginning of it, particularly, Jeremiah,) to tell the Jews how long it would last.
Psalms 74:11. Why withdrawest thou thy hand— Their upper garments having no sleeves, the arms were wrapped up and covered under them; and consequently, when the hand was made use of, it must have been disengaged from the garment, and made bare. The phrase, why withdrawest thou thy hand? must therefore imply inactivity, and that God suspended the exercise of his power, and was an inactive spectator of the miseries of his people. In the next verses the Psalmist proceeds to encourage himself in the hopes of deliverance from God, by a review of the mighty works which he had heretofore wrought for his people. See Taylor's Hebrew Concordance.
Psalms 74:13-19.74.14. Dragons—leviathan— The Hebrew words may mean much the same; only the latter seems to express a more distinguished kind of crocodile. It is under this character that the Egyptians and their king are designed, who were destroyed in the Red Sea, and their bodies thrown out for a prey to the desart nations, who lived on fish, and what the sea yielded. See Mudge and Ezekiel 1:4. The Targum has it; Thou crushedst the heads of the dragons, and drownedst the Egyptians in the sea; thou brakest the heads of the strong ones of Pharaoh. Some commentators suppose, that the people inhabiting the wilderness must mean figuratively the fowls of the air, and the beasts of the land; so that the meaning of this is just as if it had been said that Goliath's curse had been fulfilled upon them; I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field. 1 Samuel 17:44. And it appears from Homer's and other poets' use of the phrase, that it was proverbial.
Psalms 74:15. Mighty rivers— Perpetual springs. Schultens. Psalms 74:16. The light] The luminary, or receptacle of light, according to the original, The word מאור maour is collective, and means all the luminaries, with their chief the sun. The Psalmist here proceeds to shew, that God's power is manifested not only by the foregoing instances of it in particular, but also by the works of creation in general.
Psalms 74:19. O deliver not the soul, &c.— Do not give up thy turtle to the ravenous beast; Mudge. The Hebrew is literally, the beast of appetite, or the ravenous beast. We see in the next verse, that all the caves and coverts of the country were filled with parties, who skulked there to cut off straggling Jews: so that the covenant of God, whereby he obliged himself to perpetuate the seed of Abraham, was seemingly in danger of being defeated. It was natural therefore to express the condition of that people and their enemies, by the poor solitary helpless turtle, and the beast of prey.
Psalms 74:20. For the dark places, &c.— For the dark places of the land are full of lodgments of treachery; Mudge. i.e. "This land is now so far from being inhabited by thy people, that every dark corner of it is a den of thieves and murderers."
REFLECTIONS.—1st, A day of trouble should be a day of prayer. Whence can we hope for relief, but by pouring our complaints into the bosom of our compassionate God? The Psalmist here,
1. Humbly expostulates with God on the calamities of the people of Israel. O God, why hast thou cast us off for ever; for so long their sufferings were continued, that they began to fear they would never end. Why doth thine anger smoke against the sheep of thy pasture? so fierce his wrath appeared against them, though the sheep of his pasture, whom once he had fed with a shepherd's care; and though foolishly they had strayed from him, yet cannot the Psalmist quit his hope, that Jehovah would still regard them in this endeared relation, and stay the furiousness of his displeasure.
2. He pleads for a gracious remembrance from God. Remember thy congregation, chosen by him to be a peculiar people, which thou hast purchased of old, by the blood of the Lamb, then slain in effect by virtue of the promise; the rod of thine inheritance, not only by the redemption of his Son, but by many temporal deliverances wrought for them, especially from Egypt; this mount Zion wherein thou hast dwelt, and from whence he intreats God would not remove his residence. And this is applicable to the faithful in every age, redeemed by Jesus from sin, death, and hell, in the midst of whom, as his living temple, God is pleased to dwell, and who may in every time of trouble expect a gracious remembrance from him.
2nd, We have two considerations suggested for quieting the people of God under their troubles.
1. God is Israel's king, working wonders for their salvation. God is my king of old, protecting and preserving his people from their foes, working salvation in the midst of the earth; that spiritual and eternal salvation which all the faithful should partake of through Jesus Christ; or as interposing in a miraculous manner, in delivering the Jewish people, dividing the Red Sea for their passage, and destroying Pharaoh and his captains in the waters, Note; (1.) The head of the old dragon is bruised by our divine Lord, and we may triumph over him as a vanquished foe. (2.) The same rock which followed Israel follows us, for that rock was Christ; and from the waters of his grace and consolations, believers are daily comforted and strengthened in their journey through this wilderness. (3.) If we see not these outward miracles, as great spiritual wonders are still wrought for the faithful, who, through difficulties to human apprehension insurmountable, are led safely to their heavenly Canaan.
2. He is the God of nature. The day is thine, the night also is thine; he opens the eye-lids of the morning, and draws the curtains of the evening; and in regular succession the luminaries of heaven move in their orbits. Thou hast set all the borders of the earth: fixing the bounds of nations and empires: thou hast made summer and winter; and surely he who made all these, hath power to save his faithful people: While they see these changes in the world, they must not despair; their night of adversity he can dispel with the sunshine of prosperity, and change their dreary winter, of sorrows and desolation, into the summer of abundance and joy.
3rdly, Conscious that their help cometh only from the Lord, the Psalmist calls upon Jehovah to arise and plead, not merely on their behalf, but thine own cause, his glory being intimately connected with the salvation of the faithful.
1. God was reproached and blasphemed daily by their enemies, as if he was unable to deliver them, or unfaithful to his promises, and had disappointed their hopes: the success of Israel's enemies intoxicated them, and daily they increased their proud boastings. This their foolishness and wickedness, the Psalmist hopes God will remember, and not forget, for the sake of his own glory, so dishonoured thereby. Note; (1.) Success often makes sinners more daring, and ripens them for ruin. (2.) The enemies of God's people triumph often, as if the day was their own; but the prosperity of fools destroys them. (3.) Ungodly sinners think they are very wise, when they turn things sacred into ridicule; but, to their confusion, they will be proved in the end as foolish as they are wicked. (4.) God needs no memorial, he sees and notes the ways of men; but it is right that we should plead thus, as a testimony of our regard for the glory of God, and of our confidence that he will appear to vindicate it.
2. His people were oppressed and persecuted: they are called God's turtle-dove, so mournful, harmless, pure, affectionate, constant; his poor, humble and lowly in spirit, such as God promises to regard; therefore the Psalmist prays, O deliver not the soul of thy turtle-dove unto the multitude of the wicked, who waited but for permission to destroy them; forget not the congregation of thy poor for ever; though for a time they had seemed forsaken, he hopes God will at last remember them in mercy. Have respect unto the covenant, made in Christ to all the faithful: for the dark places of the earth, and such were the mansions of their captivity, are full of the habitations of cruelty, which rendered their state more wretched and pitiable, being so cruelly treated by their enemies. O let not the oppressed return ashamed; as disappointed of their requests at a throne of grace: let the poor and needy praise thy name, give them occasion to do so, for the disappointment of their enemies, and their own salvation; and give them a heart to do so, that while the wicked blaspheme, they may adore thee.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 74". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent