Psalm 74:4
Your enemies roar in the middle of your congregations; they set up their ensigns for signs.
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(4) Thine enemies . . .—As the text stands, render, Thine enemies have roared in the midst of thine assembly, but many MSS. have the plural as in Psalm 74:8, where see Note for the meaning of the word.

For “roared,” see Psalm 22:1, Note, and comp. Lamentations 2:7, where a similar scene is described. Instead of the voices of priest and choir, there have been heard the brutal cries of the heathen as they shouted at their work of destruction like lions roaring over their prey; or if, as some think, the reference in the next clause is to military ensigns, we have a picture of a wild soldiery exulting round the emblem of their triumph.

They set up their ensigns for signs.—The Hebrew for ensigns and signs is the same. Possibly the poet meant to have written some word meaning idols, but avoids it from dislike of mentioning the abominable things, and instead of places their idols as signs, writes, places their signs as signs.

Psalm 74:4. Thine enemies roar — Make loud outcries; either out of rage and fury against the conquered and captivated Israelites, now in their power; or rather, in the way of triumph for their success and victory. In the midst of thy congregations — In the places where thy people used to assemble together for thy worship; whereby they designed to insult, not only over us, but over thee also, as if their idols had been too strong for thee. They set up their ensigns for signs — As trophies, in token of their victory over us and over thee. “No sound,” says Dr. Horne, “can be more shocking than the confused clamours of a heathen army sacking the temple; no sight so afflicting as that of the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place. Turbulent passions are the enemies which raise an uproar of confusion in the heart; wealth, power, and pleasure are the idols which profane that sanctuary.”74:1-11 This psalm appears to describe the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by the Chaldeans. The deplorable case of the people of God, at the time, is spread before the Lord, and left with him. They plead the great things God had done for them. If the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt was encouragement to hope that he would not cast them off, much more reason have we to believe, that God will not cast off any whom Christ has redeemed with his own blood. Infidels and persecutors may silence faithful ministers, and shut up places of worship, and say they will destroy the people of God and their religion together. For a long time they may prosper in these attempts, and God's oppressed servants may see no prospect of deliverance; but there is a remnant of believers, the seed of a future harvest, and the despised church has survived those who once triumphed over her. When the power of enemies is most threatening, it is comfortable to flee to the power of God by earnest prayer.Thine enemies roar - This refers to the shout and tumult of war. They raised up the war-cry even in the very place where the congregations had been assembled; where God had been worshipped. The word rendered "roar" properly has reference to wild beasts; and the meaning is, that their war-cry resembled the howling of beasts of prey.

In the midst of thy congregations - literally, "in the midst of thine assembly." This is a different word from that which is rendered "congregation" in Psalm 74:2. This word - מועד mô‛êd - means a meeting together by mutual appointment, and is often applied to the meeting of God with his people at the tabernacle, which was therefore called "the tent of the congregation," or, more properly, "the tent of meeting," as the place where God met with his people, Exodus 29:10, Exodus 29:44; Exodus 33:7; Leviticus 3:8, Leviticus 3:13; Leviticus 10:7, Leviticus 10:9; "et saepe." The meaning here is, that they roared like wild beasts in the very place which God had appointed as the place where he would meet with his people.

They set up their ensigns for signs - That is, they set up "their" banners or standards, as "the" standards of the place; as that which indicated sovereignty over the place. They proclaimed thus that it was a conquered place, and they set up their own standards as denoting their title to it, or as declaring that they ruled there. It was no longer a place sacred to God; it was publicly seen to belong to a foreign power.

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.

Roar, i.e. make loud outcries; either from their rage and fury against the conquered and captivated Israelites now in their power; or rather, in way of triumph for their success and victory.

In the midst of thy congregations; in the places where thy people used to assemble together for thy worship; whereby they designed to insult not only over us, but over thee also, as if their gods had been too strong for thee.

Signs; or, trophies, or monuments of their victories obtained over God, and over his people, as conquerors used to do in like cases. Thine enemies roar in the midst of thy congregations,.... Particular churches, gathered out of the world in Gospel order, and which meet together at particular times and places; in the midst of these, and against them their enemies, and who are the Lord's enemies, roar like lions, as Satan, and bloody persecutors, and particularly antichrist, whose mouth is the mouth of a lion, which is opened in blasphemy against God and his people, Revelation 13:2,

they set up their ensigns for signs; or "signs", "signs", false ones for true ones; meaning either military signs, as the Roman eagle, set as signs and trophies of victory; or idolatrous statues and images, such an one as Antiochus brought into the temple; or false miracles and antichristian marks, in the room of true miracles, and the true mark of Christ's followers; see 2 Thessalonians 2:9. The Jewish writers generally interpret it of the divinations and superstitions rites used by the king of Babylon, when he was coming up against Jerusalem, Ezekiel 21:21.

Thine enemies roar in the midst of thy congregations; they {c} set up their ensigns for signs.

(c) They have destroyed your true religion, and spread their banners in sign of defiance.

4. Render, Thine adversaries roared in the midst of thy meeting place. Mô’çd may mean either the place or the time at which God meets His people, as of old He met them at “the tent of meeting” (Exodus 29:42-44). Here probably the Temple is meant. Its courts were filled with heathen foes instead of reverent worshippers: they rang with wild shouts of triumph instead of the praises of Israel. Cp. Lamentations 2:6-7.

they set up their ensigns for signs] Lit., their signs as signs. Probably their military ensigns or standards (Numbers 2:2) are meant. The erection of these in the Temple itself was a visible sign of its desecration, and of the completeness of the triumph of the heathen. Many commentators however suppose that religious emblems and ceremonies are meant, and those who regard this Psalm as Maccabaean suppose that the idolatrous altars erected and rites celebrated by command of Antiochus are referred to. See 1Ma 1:45-49; 1Ma 1:54; 1Ma 1:59; 1Ma 3:48.

4–9. A graphic picture of the desecration of the Temple by the heathen enemies of Israel.Verse 4. - Thine enemies roar in the midst of thy congregations; or, have roared; i.e. have created disturbances, or raised tumults. The temple did not pass into the enemy's hands without fighting and bloodshed; the battlecry of the assailants and their shouts of triumph when victorious resounded through it (comp. Lamentations 2:7) They set up their ensigns for signs. Probably for tokens of victory and dominion. Scarcely as objects of worship, since their intention was to destroy the temple and leave Jerusalem desolate. But he does not thus deeply degrade himself: after God has once taken him by the right hand and rescued him from the danger of falling (Psalm 73:2), he clings all the more firmly to Him, and will not suffer his perpetual fellowship with Him to be again broken through by such seizures which estrange him from God. confidently does he yield up himself to the divine guidance, though he may not see through the mystery of the plan (עצה) of this guidance. He knows that afterwards (אחר with Mugrash: adverb as in Psalm 68:26), i.e., after this dark way of faith, God will כבוד receive him, i.e., take him to Himself, and take him from all suffering (לקח as in Psalm 49:16, and of Enoch, Genesis 5:24). The comparison of Zechariah 2:12 [8] is misleading; there אחר is rightly accented as a preposition: after glory hath He sent me forth (vid., Kצhler), and here as an adverb; for although the adverbial sense of אחר would more readily lead one to look for the arrangement of the words ואחר תקחני כבוד, still "to receive after glory" (cf. the reverse Isaiah 58:8) is an awkward thought. כבוד, which as an adjective "glorious" (Hofmann) is alien to the language, is either accusative of the goal (Hupfeld), or, which yields a form of expression that is more like the style of the Old Testament, accusative of the manner (Luther, "with honour"). In אחר the poet comprehends in one summary view what he looks for at the goal of the present divine guidance. The future is dark to him, but lighted up by the one hope that the end of his earthly existence will be a glorious solution of the riddle. Here, as elsewhere, it is faith which breaks through not only the darkness of this present life, but also the night of Hades. At that time there was as yet no divine utterance concerning any heavenly triumph of the church, militant in the present world, but to faith the Jahve-Name had already a transparent depth which penetrated beyond Hades into an eternal life. The heaven of blessedness and glory also is nothing without God; but he who can in love call God his, possesses heaven upon earth, and he who cannot in love call God his, would possess not heaven, but hell, in the midst of heaven. In this sense the poet says in Psalm 73:25 : whom have I in heaven? i.e., who there without Thee would be the object of my desire, the stilling of my longing? without Thee heaven with all its glory is a vast waste and void, which makes me indifferent to everything, and with Thee, i.e., possessing Thee, I have no delight in the earth, because to call Thee mine infinitely surpasses every possession and every desire of earth. If we take בּארץ still more exactly as parallel to בּשּׁמים, without making it dependent upon חפצתּי: and possessing Thee I have no desire upon the earth, then the sense remains essentially the same; but if we allow בארץ to be governed by חפצתי in accordance with the general usage of the language, we arrive at this meaning by the most natural way. Heaven and earth, together with angels and men, afford him no satisfaction - his only friend, his sole desire and love, is God. The love for God which David expresses in Psalm 16:2 in the brief utterance, "Thou art my Lord, Thou art my highest good," is here expanded with incomparable mystical profoundness and beauty. Luther's version shows his master-hand. The church follows it in its "Herzlich lieb hab' ich dich" when it sings -

"The whole wide world delights me not,

For heaven and earth, Lord, care Inot,

If I may but have Thee;"

and following it, goes on in perfect harmony with the text of our Psalm -

"Yea, though my heart be like to break,

Thou art my trust that nought can shake;"

(Note: Miss Winkworth's translation.)

or with Paul Gerhard, [in his Passion-hymn "Ein Lmmlein geht und trgt die Schuld der Welt und ihrer Kinder,"

"Light of my heart, that shalt Thou be;

And when my heart in pieces breaks,

Thou shalt my heart remain."

For the hypothetical perfect כּלה expresses something in spite of which he upon whom it may come calls God his God: licet defecerit. Though his outward and inward man perish, nevertheless God remains ever the rock of his heart as the firm ground upon which he, with his ego, remains standing when everything else totters; He remains his portion, i.e., the possession that cannot be taken from him, if he loses all, even his spirit-life pertaining to the body, - and God remains to him this portion לעולם, he survives with the life which he has in God the death of the old life. The poet supposes an extreme case, - one, that is, it is true, impossible, but yet conceivable, - that his outward and inward being should sink away; even then with the merus actus of his ego he will continue to cling to God. In the midst of the natural life of perishableness and of sin, a new, individual life which is resigned to God has begun within him, and in this he has the pledge that he cannot perish, so truly as God, with whom it is closely united, cannot perish. It is just this that is also the nerve of the proof of the resurrection of the dead which Jesus advances in opposition to the Sadducees (Matthew 22:32).

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