Psalm 74:13
You did divide the sea by your strength: you brake the heads of the dragons in the waters.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(13) Thou.—Verse after verse this emphatic pronoun recurs, as if challenging the Divine Being to contradict.

Divide.—Literally, break up.

Dragons.—Hebrew, tannînîm, not to be confounded with tannîm (Psalm 44:19, where see Note). It is the plural of tannín, which always indicates some aquatic monster. In Genesis 1:21 it is translated whale, so here by Symmachus. The LXX. (comp. Vulgate) have rendered this word and leviathan (in the next verse) by δράκων, and, indeed, the parallelism indicates monsters of a similar, if not the same, kind. About leviathan the minute and faithful description of the crocodile in Job 41 does not leave a doubt, and therefore we conclude that the tannin, here as in Ezekiel 29:3; Ezekiel 32:2 (margin), Isaiah 27:1; Isaiah 51:9 (where it is also, as here, joined with leviathan), an emblem of Egypt, was some great saurian, perhaps the alligator. The derivation from a root implying extend, favours this explanation. (Tristram, Nat. Hist. of the Bible, pp. 260, 261.) Besides its abundance, another fact leading to the crocodile becoming an emblem of Egypt, was the adoration paid to it. (See Herod., ii. 69.)

In the waters.—Literally, on the waters.

Psalm 74:13-14. Thou didst divide the sea, &c. — “The first part of this verse alludes to that marvellous act of omnipotence which divided the Red sea for Israel to pass over; the second part to the return of its waves upon the heads of the Egyptians, who, like so many sea-monsters, opening their mouths to devour the people of God, were overwhelmed, and perished in the mighty waters.” — Horne. Thou brakest the heads of the dragons — The crocodiles, meaning Pharaoh’s mighty men, who were like these beasts in strength and cruelty. Thou brakest the heads — That is, the head of Pharaoh himself. He says heads, because of the several princes who were and acted under his influence. Dr. Waterland renders the first word, which we translate dragons, crocodiles, and the latter, the crocodile, meaning Pharaoh. And gavest him, &c., to the people inhabiting the wilderness — Hebrew, לעם לציים, legnam letziim, populo desertorum, locorum, (Buxtorf,) to the people of desert places. The Seventy render it, λαοις

τοις Αιθιοψι, to the Ethiopian people. Poole, Horne, and some other commentators, suppose that ravenous birds and beasts of the desert, and not men, are here intended; and that the sense of the clause is, that the bodies of Pharaoh and his captains were thrown on shore by the sea, and so became food for the wild beasts of the neighbouring deserts. We find the same word ציים, used for wild beasts haunting the deserts, Isaiah 13:21; Isaiah 34:14.74:12-17 The church silences her own complaints. What God had done for his people, as their King of old, encouraged them to depend on him. It was the Lord's doing, none besides could do it. This providence was food to faith and hope, to support and encourage in difficulties. The God of Israel is the God of nature. He that is faithful to his covenant about the day and the night, will never cast off those whom he has chosen. We have as much reason to expect affliction, as to expect night and winter. But we have no more reason to despair of the return of comfort, than to despair of day and summer. And in the world above we shall have no more changes.Thou didst divide the sea by thy strength - Margin, as in Hebrew, "break." That is, he had by his power "broken up" the strength of the sea so that it offered no resistance to their passing through it. The allusion is evidently to the passage through the Red Sea, Exodus 14:21.

Thou brakest the heads of the dragons - Margin, "whales." On the meaning of the word used here - תנין tannı̂yn - see the notes at Isaiah 13:22; notes at Job 30:29. It refers here, undoubtedly, to crocodiles or sea monsters. The language here is used to denote the absolute power of God as manifested over the sea when the people of Israel passed through it. It was as if by slaying all the mighty monsters of the deep that would have resisted their passage, he had made their transit entirely safe.

In the waters - That reside in the waters of the sea.

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).

The dragons; or, the crocodiles. He means Pharaoh and all his mighty men, who were like these beasts in strength and cruelty.

The waters, to wit, of the sea, where they were drowned. Thou didst divide the sea by thy strength,.... This and the following instances from hence to Psalm 74:18 are proofs of God's working salvation in the midst of the earth; some of them seem peculiar to the people of Israel, and others are benefits common to mankind in general; which the church makes use of to encourage her faith and hope, in expectation of salvation, and deliverance out of her present distressed and melancholy circumstances. This seems to refer to the Lord's dividing of the Red sea into parts by a strong east wind, while Moses lifted up his rod and stretched out his hand as he was ordered, as a token of the divine power, and so the children of Israel passed through it as on dry land, Exodus 14:21, and he that did this can make way for his redeemed ones to return to Zion with everlasting joy, Isaiah 51:10. Some render the words, "thou hast broken the sea by thy strength" (g); subdued and conquered it, and so hast the dominion over it, rulest the raging of it, settest bounds to it, and hast ordered its proud waves to go so far and no farther; and thus the Arabic version, "thou hast made it to stand"; and the Septuagint and Vulgate Latin versions, "thou hast confirmed it": but our version is best, which refers it to the work of God at the Red sea, and with which the Targum agrees; and Aben Ezra observes, that some refer it to the dividing of the Red sea:

thou breakest the heads of the dragons in the waters: or great whales, as the word is rendered in Genesis 1:21, by which are meant Pharaoh and his generals, his captains and chief men, who were destroyed in the waters of the Red sea; comparable to dragons for their strength, for their cruelty to the children of Israel, and for their wrath and malice against them; and so, for the same reason, another Pharaoh, king of Egypt, in later times, is called the great dragon, that lies in the midst of his rivers, Ezekiel 29:3 and the king of Babylon or of Egypt, Isaiah 27:1. So the Targum paraphrases it:

"thou hast broken the heads of dragons, and hast suffocated the Egyptians in the sea.''

Rome Pagan is compared to a great red dragon with seven heads and ten horns, which have been broken and destroyed, Revelation 12:3, and Rome Papal has the power, seat, and great authority of the dragon; and though the Romish antichrist has two horns like a lamb, he speaks as a dragon, who also has seven heads and ten horns, and which ere long will be broke in pieces, see Revelation 13:1, in the faith of which the church might be strengthened, by considering what God had done to the heads of the dragon in the Red sea; to which may be added that Satan is called a dragon, Psalm 91:13, whose head was bruised, and his principalities and powers spoiled, by Christ at his death, and will be utterly destroyed at his second coming.

(g) "contrivisti", Pagninus, Montanus; "disrupisti", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Gejerus, Michaelis; "rupisti", Cocceius.

Thou didst divide the sea by thy strength: thou brakest the heads of the {i} dragons in the waters.

(i) That is, Pharaoh's army.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
13. Thou] Psalm 74:13-15; Psalm 74:17 all begin with an emphatic Thou; Psalm 74:16 with Thine. It is Thou and none other, Who didst and doest all these things. The Asaphite Psalms are full of references to the Exodus.

by thy strength] Cp. Psalm 77:14; Exodus 15:13. The dragons or sea monsters, and leviathan, either the crocodile or some vague mythological monster, are symbolical of Egypt. Cp. Isaiah 27:1; Isaiah 51:9; Ezekiel 29:3.

in the waters] Lit. upon the waters, the symbolical monsters being imagined as floating upon the surface of the water. The reference of course is to the destruction of Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea.Verse 13. - Thou didst divide the sea by thy strength. A clear reference to Exodus 14:21 (comp. Psalm 77:16; Psalm 78:13; Psalm 106:9). Thou brakest the heads of the dragons in the waters. The dragon (tannim) is frequently used as a symbol of Egyptian power (see Isaiah 51:9; Ezekiel 29:3; Ezekiel 32:2). The allusion here is to the destruction of Pharaoh's host in the waters of the Red Sea (Exodus 14:27-30; Exodus 15:4). The poet now more minutely describes how the enemy has gone on. Since קדשׁ in Psalm 74:3 is the Temple, מועדיך in Psalm 74:4 ought likewise to mean the Temple with reference to the several courts; but the plural would here (cf. Psalm 74:8) be misleading, and is, too, only a various reading. Baer has rightly decided in favour of מועדך;

(Note: The reading מעודיך is received, e.g., by Elias Hutter and Nissel; the Targum translates it, Kimchi follows it in his interpretation, and Abraham of Zante follows it in his paraphrase; it is tolerably widely known, but, according to the lxx and Syriac versions and MSS, it is to be rejected.)

מועד, as in Lamentations 2:6., is the instituted (Numbers 17:1-13 :19 [4]) place of God's intercourse with His congregation (cf. Arab. mı̂‛âd, a rendezvous). What Jeremiah says in Lamentations 2:7 (cf. שׁאג, Jeremiah 2:15) is here more briefly expressed. By אותתם (Psalm 74:4) we must not understand military insignia; the scene of the Temple and the supplanting of the Israelitish national insignia to be found there, by the substitution of other insignia, requires that the word should have the religious reference in which it is used of circumcision and of the Sabbath (Exodus 31:13); such heathen אתות, which were thrust upon the Temple and the congregation of Jahve as henceforth the lawful ones, were those which are set forth in 1 Macc. 1:45-49, and more particularly the so-called abomination of desolation mentioned in v. 54 of the same chapter. With יוּדע (Psalm 74:5) the terrible scene which was at that time taking place before their eyes (Psalm 79:10) is introduced. כּמביא is the subject; it became visible, tangible, noticeable, i.e., it looked, and one experienced it, as if a man caused the axe to enter into the thicket of the wood, i.e., struck into or at it right and left. The plural קדּמּות forces itself into the simile because it is the many heathen warriors who are, as in Jeremiah 46:22., likened to these hewers of wood. Norzi calls the Kametz of בסבך־עץ Kametz chatuph; the combining form would then be a contraction of סבך (Ewald, Olshausen), for the long ā of סבך does not admit of any contraction. According to another view it is to be read bi-sbāch-etz, as in Esther 4:8 kethāb-hadāth with counter-tone Metheg beside the long vowel, as e.g., עץ־הגּן, Genesis 2:16). The poet follows the work of destruction up to the destroying stroke, which is introduced by the ועת (perhaps ועת, Ker ועתּה), which arrests one's attention. In Psalm 74:5 the usual, unbroken quiet is depicted, as is the heavy Cyclopean labour in the Virgilian illi inter sese, etc.; in jahalomûn, Psalm 74:6 (now and then pointed jahlomûn), we hear the stroke of the uplifted axes, which break in pieces the costly carved work of the Temple. The suffix of פּתּוּחיה (the carved works thereof) refers, according to the sense, to מועדך. The lxx, favouring the Maccabaean interpretation, renders: ἐξέκοψαν τάς θύρας αὐτῆς (פּתחיה). This shattering of the panelling is followed in Psalm 74:7 by the burning, first of all, as we may suppose, of this panelling itself so far as it consists of wood. The guaranteed reading here is מקדשׁך, not מקדשׁיך. שׁלּח בּאשׁ signifies to set on fire, immittere igni, differing from שׁלּח אשׁ בּ, to set fire to, immittere ignem. On לארץ חלּלוּ, cf. Lamentations 2:2; Jeremiah 19:13. Hitzig, following the lxx, Targum, and Jerome, derives the exclamation of the enemies נינם from נין: their whole generation (viz., we will root out)! But נין is posterity, descendants; why therefore only the young and not the aged? And why is it an expression of the object and not rather of the action, the object of which would be self-evident? נינם is fut. Kal of ינה, here equals Hiph. הונה, to force, oppress, tyrannize over, and like אנס, to compel by violence, in later Hebrew. נינם (from יינה, like ייפה) is changed in pause into נינם; cf. the future forms in Numbers 21:30; Exodus 34:19, and also in Psalm 118:10-12. Now, after mention has been made of the burning of the Temple framework, מועדי־אל cannot denote the place of the divine manifestation after its divisions (Hengstenberg), still less the festive assemblies (Bttcher), which the enemy could only have burnt up by setting fire to the Temple over their heads, and כל does not at all suit this. The expression apparently has reference to synagogues (and this ought not to be disputed), as Aquila and Symmachus render the word. For there is no room for thinking of the separate services conducted by the prophets in the northern kingdom (2 Kings 4:23), because this kingdom no longer existed at the time this Psalm was written; nor of the בּמות, the burning down of which no pious Israelite would have bewailed; nor of the sacred places memorable from the early history of Israel, which are nowhere called מועדים, and after the founding of the central sanctuary appear only as the seats of false religious rites. The expression points (like בּית ועד, Sota ix. 15) to places of assembly for religious purposes, to houses for prayer and teaching, that is to say, to synagogues - a weighty instance in favour of the Maccabaean origin of the Psalm.

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