Psalm 74:6
But now they break down the carved work thereof at once with axes and hammers.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
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.But now they break down the carved work thereof ... - literally, "But now the carvings of it together, at once, with sledge and hammers they beat down." The carved work refers evidently to the ornaments of the temple. The word used here - פתוח pittûach - is rendered engraving, carved work, or carving; Exodus 28:11, Exodus 28:21, Exodus 28:36; Exodus 39:6, Exodus 39:14, Exodus 39:30; Zechariah 3:9; 2 Chronicles 2:14. It is the very word which in 1 Kings 6:29 is applied to the ornaments around the walls of the temple - the "carved figures of cherubim, and palm trees, and open flowers," and there can be no doubt that the allusion here is to those ornaments. These were rudely cut down, or knocked off, with axes and hammers, as a man lays low the trees of the wood. The phrase "at once" means that they drove forward the work with all despatch. They spared none of them. They treated them all alike as an axeman does the trees of a forest when his object is to clear the land. 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).

See Poole "Psalm 74:5".

Axes and hammers: it hath been ingeniously observed that these two words are not Hebrew, but Chaldee or Syriac words, to point out the time when this was done, even when the Chaldeans brought in their language together with their arms among the Israelites. But now they break down the carved work thereof at once with axes and hammers. Formerly it was an honour to be employed in cutting down a tree for the building of the temple; but now so little regard was paid to it, that all its fine carved work, which Solomon made, 1 Kings 6:18, was demolished at once in a rude and furious manner with axes and hammers; which was done either by the Chaldeans in Nebuchadnezzar's time, or by the Syrians in the times of Antiochus, or by the Romans in the times of Vespasian; the first seems intended; see Jeremiah 46:22. But now they break down the carved work thereof at once with axes and hammers.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Verse 6. - But now they break down the carved work thereof at once with axes and hammers. The "carved work" (pittuchim) of the temple consisted of the cherubim and palm trees and open flowers which formed the decoration of the temple walls (see 1 Kings 6:29, where the same word, pittuchim, is used). This superficial carved work may have been broken down for the sake of the gold with which it was overlaid (1 Kings 6:22, 32, 35). The poet here once more gives expression to the great opposites into which good fortune and misfortune are seemingly, but only seemingly, divided in a manner so contradictory to the divine justice. The central point of the confirmation that is introduced with כּי lies in Psalm 73:28. "Thy far removing ones" was to be expressed with רחק, which is distinct from רחוק. זנה has מן instead of מתּחת or מאחרי after it. Those who remove themselves far from the primary fountain of life fall a prey to ruin; those who faithlessly abandon God, and choose the world with its idols rather than His love, fall a prey to destruction. Not so the poet; the nearness of God, i.e., a state of union with God, is good to him, i.e., (cf. Psalm 119:71.) he regards as his good fortune. קרבה is nom. act. after the form יקהה, Arab. waqhat, obedience, and נצּרה, a watch, Psalm 141:3, and of essentially the same signification with ḳurba (קרבה), the Arabic designation of the unio mystica; cf. James 4:8, ἐγγίσατε τῷ Θεῷ καὶ ἐγγιεῖ ὑμῖν. Just as קרבת אלהים stands in antithesis to רחקיך, so לי טּוב stands in antithesis to יאבדו and הצמתה. To the former their alienation from God brings destruction; he finds in fellowship with God that which is good to him for the present time and for the future. Putting his confidence (מחסּי, not מחסי) in Him, he will declare, and will one day be able to declare, all His מלאכות, i.e., the manifestations or achievements of His righteous, gracious, and wise government. The language of assertion is quickly changed into that of address. The Psalm closes with an upward look of grateful adoration to God beforehand, who leads His own people, ofttimes wondrously indeed, but always happily, viz., through suffering to glory.
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