Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Ps 74:1-23. If the historical allusions of Ps 74:6-8, &c., be referred, as is probable, to the period of the captivity, the author was probably a descendant and namesake of Asaph, David's contemporary and singer (compare 2Ch 35:15; Ezr 2:41). He complains of God's desertion of His Church, and appeals for aid, encouraging himself by recounting some of God's mighty deeds, and urges his prayer on the ground of God's covenant relation to His people, and the wickedness of His and their common enemy.
1. cast … off—with abhorrence (compare Ps 43:2; 44:9). There is no disavowal of guilt implied. The figure of fire to denote God's anger is often used; and here, and in De 29:20, by the word "smoke," suggests its continuance.
sheep … pasture—(Compare Ps 80:1; 95:7).
Remember thy congregation, which thou hast purchased of old; the rod of thine inheritance, which thou hast redeemed; this mount Zion, wherein thou hast dwelt.
2. The terms to denote God's relation to His people increase in force: "congregation"—"purchased"—"redeemed"—"Zion," His dwelling.
Lift up thy feet unto the perpetual desolations; even all that the enemy hath done wickedly in the sanctuary.
3. Lift … feet—(Ge 29:1)—that is, Come (to behold) the desolations (Ps 73:19).
Thine enemies roar in the midst of thy congregations; they set up their ensigns for signs.
4. roar—with bestial fury.
congregations—literally, "worshipping assemblies."
ensigns—literally, "signs"—substituted their idolatrous objects, or tokens of authority, for those articles of the temple which denoted God's presence.
A man was famous according as he had lifted up axes upon the thick trees.
5, 6. Though some terms and clauses here are very obscure, the general sense is that the spoilers destroyed the beauties of the temple with the violence of woodmen.
was famous—literally, "was known."
But now they break down the carved work thereof at once with axes and hammers.
6. carved work—(1Ki 6:29).
thereof—that is, of the temple, in the writer's mind, though not expressed till Ps 74:7, in which its utter destruction by fire is mentioned (2Ki 25:9; Isa 64:11).
They have cast fire into thy sanctuary, they have defiled by casting down the dwelling place of thy name to the ground.
7. defiled—or, "profaned," as in Ps 89:39.
They said in their hearts, Let us destroy them together: they have burned up all the synagogues of God in the land.
8. together—at once, all alike.
synagogues—literally, "assemblies," for places of assembly, whether such as schools of the prophets (2Ki 4:23), or "synagogues" in the usual sense, there is much doubt.
We see not our signs: there is no more any prophet: neither is there among us any that knoweth how long.
9. signs—of God's presence, as altar, ark, &c. (compare Ps 74:4; 2Ch 36:18, 19; Da 5:2).
no more any prophet—(Isa 3:2; Jer 40:1; 43:6).
how long—this is to last. Jeremiah's prophecy (Jer 25:11), if published, may not have been generally known or understood. To the bulk of the people, during the captivity, the occasional and local prophetical services of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel would not make an exception to the clause, "there is no more any prophet."
O God, how long shall the adversary reproach? shall the enemy blaspheme thy name for ever?
10. (Compare Ps 31:1).
how long … reproach?—us, as deserted of God.
blaspheme thy name—or, "perfections," as power, goodness, &c. (Ps 29:2).
Why withdrawest thou thy hand, even thy right hand? pluck it out of thy bosom.
11. Why cease to help us? (Compare Ps 3:7; 7:6; 60:5).
For God is my King of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth.
12. For—literally, "And," in an adversative sense.
Thou didst divide the sea by thy strength: thou brakest the heads of the dragons in the waters.
13-15. Examples of the "salvation wrought" are cited.
divide the sea—that is, Red Sea.
brakest … waters—Pharaoh and his host (compare Isa 51:9, 10; Eze 29:3, 4).
Thou brakest the heads of leviathan in pieces, and gavest him to be meat to the people inhabiting the wilderness.
14. heads of leviathan—The word is a collective, and so used for many.
the people … wilderness—that is, wild beasts, as conies (Pr 30:25, 26), are called a people. Others take the passages literally, that the sea monsters thrown out on dry land were food for the wandering Arabs.
Thou didst cleave the fountain and the flood: thou driedst up mighty rivers.
15. cleave the fountain—that is, the rocks of Horeb and Kadesh; for fountains.
driedst up—Jordan, and, perhaps, Arnon and Jabbok (Nu 21:14).
The day is thine, the night also is thine: thou hast prepared the light and the sun.
16, 17. The fixed orders of nature and bounds of earth are of God.
Thou hast set all the borders of the earth: thou hast made summer and winter.
Remember this, that the enemy hath reproached, O LORD, and that the foolish people have blasphemed thy name.
18. (Compare Ps 74:10; De 32:6). The contrast is striking—that such a God should be thus insulted!
O deliver not the soul of thy turtledove unto the multitude of the wicked: forget not the congregation of thy poor for ever.
19. multitude—literally, "beast," their flock or company of men (Ps 68:10).
turtledove—that is, the meek and lonely Church.
congregation—literally, "the company," as above—thus the Church is represented as the spoiled and defeated remnant of an army, exposed to violence.
Have respect unto the covenant: for the dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty.
20. And the prevalence of injustice in heathen lands is a reason for invoking God's regard to His promise (compare Nu 14:21; Ps 7:16; 18:48).
O let not the oppressed return ashamed: let the poor and needy praise thy name.
21. oppressed—broken (Ps 9:9).
return—from seeking God.
Arise, O God, plead thine own cause: remember how the foolish man reproacheth thee daily.
22, 23. (Compare Ps 3:7; 7:6). God hears the wicked to their own ruin (Ge 4:10; 18:20).
Forget not the voice of thine enemies: the tumult of those that rise up against thee increaseth continually.