Psalm 79:1
A Psalm of Asaph. O God, the heathen are come into thine inheritance; thy holy temple have they defiled; they have laid Jerusalem on heaps.
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(1) Inheritance.—Probably intended to embrace both land and people. (Exodus 15:17; Psalm 74:2, &c.)

Heapsi.e., ruins. (Comp. Micah 3:12; Jeremiah 26:18; and in singular, Micah 1:6.)

Psalm 79:1. O God, the heathen are come — As invaders and conquerors; into thine inheritance — Into Canaan and Judea, which thou didst choose for thine inheritance. Thy holy temple have they defiled — By entering into it, and touching and carrying away its holy vessels, and shedding blood in it, and burning of it; they have laid Jerusalem on heaps — Made of the ruins of those goodly houses which they have burned and thrown down. Thus, in this verse, the psalmist enumerates three deplorable calamities which were come upon God’s people: “the alienation of God’s inheritance, the profanation of his sanctuary, and the desolation of the beloved city.”

79:1-5 God is complained to: whither should children go but to a Father able and willing to help them? See what a change sin made in the holy city, when the heathen were suffered to pour in upon them. God's own people defiled it by their sins, therefore he suffered their enemies to defile it by their insolence. They desired that God would be reconciled. Those who desire God's favour as better than life, cannot but dread his wrath as worse than death. In every affliction we should first beseech the Lord to cleanse away the guilt of our sins; then he will visit us with his tender mercies.O God, the heathen are come into thine inheritance - The nations; a foreign people. See Psalm 2:1, note; Psalm 2:8; note; Psalm 78:55, note. The term is one that would be applicable to the Chaldeans, or Babylonians, and the probable allusion here is to their invasion of the holy land under Nebuchadnezzar. 2 Chronicles 36:17-21.

Thy holy temple have they defiled - They have polluted it. By entering it; by removing the sacred furniture; by cutting down the carved work; by making it desolate. See 2 Chronicles 36:17-18. Compare the notes at Psalm 74:5-7.

They have laid Jerusalem on heaps - See 2 Chronicles 36:19 : "And they burnt the house of God, and brake down the wall of Jerusalem, and burnt all the palaces thereof with fire, and destroyed all the goodly vessels thereof."


Ps 79:1-13. This Psalm, like the seventy-fourth, probably depicts the desolations of the Chaldeans (Jer 52:12-24). It comprises the usual complaint, prayer, and promised thanks for relief.

1. (Compare Ps 74:2-7).

1 O God, the heathen are come into thine inheritance; thy holy temple have they defiled; they have laid Jerusalem on heaps.

2 The dead bodies of thy servants have they given to be meat unto the fowls of the heaven, the flesh of thy saints unto the beasts of the earth.

3 Their blood have they shed like water round about Jerusalem; and there was none to bury them.

4 We are become a reproach to our neighbours, a scorn and derision to them that are round about us.

Psalm 79:1

"O God, the heathen are come into thine inheritance." It is the cry of amazement at sacrilegious intrusion; as if the poet were struck with horror. The stranger pollutes thine hallowed courts with his tread. All Canaan is thy land, but thy foes have ravaged it. "Thy holy temple have they defiled." Into the inmost sanctuary they have profanely forced their Way, and there behaved themselves arrogantly. Thus, the holy land, the holy house, and the holy city, were all polluted by the uncircumcised. It is an awful thing when wicked men are found in the church and numbered with her ministry. Then are the tares sown with the wheat, and the poisoned gourds cast into the pot. "They have laid Jerusalem on heaps." After devouring and defiling, they have come to destroying, and have done their work with a cruel completeness. Jerusalem, the beloved city, the joy of the nation, the abode of her God, was totally wrecked. Alas! alas, for Israel! It is sad to see the foe in our own house, but worse to meet him in the house of God: they strike hardest who smite at our religion. The Psalmist piles up the agony; he was a suppliant, and he knew how to bring out the strong points of his case. We ought to order our case before the Lord with as much care as if our success depended on our pleading. Men in earthly courts use all their powers to obtain their ends, and so also should we state our case with earnestness, and bring forth our strong arguments.

Psalm 79:2

"The dead bodies of thy servants have they given to be meat unto the fowls of the heaven, the flesh of thy saints unto the beasts of the earth." The enemy cared not to bury the dead, and there was not a sufficient number of Israel left alive to perform the funeral rites; therefore, the precious relics of the departed were left to be devoured of vultures and torn by wolves. Beasts on which man could not feed fed on him. The flesh of creation's Lord became meat for carrion crows and hungry dogs. Dire are the calamities of war, yet have they happened to God's saints and servants. This might well move the heart of the poet, and he did well to appeal to the heart of God by reciting the grievous evil. Such might have been the lamentation of an early Christian as he thought of the amphitheatre and all its deeds of blood. Note in the two verses how the plea is made to turn upon God's property in the temple and the people: - we read "thine inheritance," "thy temple, thy servants," and "thy saints." Surely the Lord will defend his own, and will not suffer rampant adversaries to despoil them.

Psalm 79:3

"Their blood have they shed like water round about Jerusalem." The invaders slew men as if their blood was of no more value than so much water; they poured it forth as lavishly as when the floods deluge the plains. The city of holy peace became a field of blood. "And there was none to bury them." The few who survived were afraid to engage in the task. This was a serious trial and grievous horror to the Jews, who evinced much care concerning their burials. Has it come to this, that there are none to bury the dead of thy family, O Lord? Can none be found to grant a shovelful of earth with which to cover up the poor bodies of thy murdered saints? What woe is here! How glad should we be that we live in so quiet an age, when the blast of the trumpet is no more heard in our streets.

Psalm 79:4

"We are become a reproach to our neighbours." Those who have escaped the common foe make a mockery of us; they fling our disasters into our face, and ask us, "Where is your God?" Pity should be shown to the afflicted, but in too many cases it is not so, for a hard logic argues that those who suffer more than ordinary calamities must have been extraordinary sinners. Neighbours especially are often the reverse of neighbourly; the nearer they dwell the less they sympathise. It is most pitiable it should be so. "A scorn and derision to them that are round about us." To find mirth in others' miseries, and to exult over the ills of others, is worthy only of the devil and of those whose father he is. Thus the case is stated before the Lord, and it is a very deplorable one. Asaph was an excellent advocate, for he gave a telling description of calamities which were under his own eyes, and in which he sympathised, but we have a mightier Intercessor above, who never ceases to urge our suit before the eternal throne. THE ARGUMENT

This Psalm was doubtless composed upon the sad occasion of the destruction of Judea and Jerusalem, either by Antiochus, or rather by the Chaldeans; as may be gathered from /APC 1Ma 7:16,17, where, in the relation of the persecution of Antiochus, the second and third verses of this Psalm are cited.

The psalmist, complaining of the desolation and ruin of Jerusalem, Psalm 79:1-4, expostulateth with God about his long anger and jealousy, Psalm 79:5-7; entreateth for the forgiveness of their sins, and speedy help and mercy, Psalm 79:8-12, to the everlasting praise of his name, Psalm 79:13.

Are come, as invaders and conquerors. Into thine inheritance; into Canaan and Judea, which thou didst choose for thine inheritance. Defied, by entering into it, and touching and carrying away its holy vessels, and shedding blood in it, and burning of it. Heaps, made of the ruins of those goodly houses which they burned, or threw down.

O God, the Heathen are come into thine inheritance,.... The land of Canaan, divided among the children of Israel by lot and line for an inheritance, out of which the Heathen were cast, to make room for them; but now would come into it again; see Psalm 89:35, and this is called the Lord's inheritance, because he gave it as such to the people of Israel, and dwelt in it himself; and the rather this is observed as something marvellous, that he should suffer Heathens to possess his own inheritance; or the city of Jerusalem, which was the place the Lord chose to put his name in; or the temple, where he had his residence, called the mountain of his inheritance, Exodus 15:17, and into which it was always accounted a profanation for Heathens to enter; see Acts 21:28, into each of these places the Heathen came; the Chaldeans under Nebuchadnezzar; the Syrians under Antiochus, as in the Apocrypha:

"Insomuch that the inhabitants of Jerusalem fled because of them: whereupon the city was made an habitation of strangers, and became strange to those that were born in her; and her own children left her.'' (1 Maccabees 1:38)

"Now Jerusalem lay void as a wilderness, there was none of her children that went in or out: the sanctuary also was trodden down, and aliens kept the strong hold; the heathen had their habitation in that place; and joy was taken from Jacob, and the pipe with the harp ceased.'' (1 Maccabees 3:45)

the Romans under Pompey, Vespasian, and Titus; and the Papists have since entered among the people of God, who are his heritage or inheritance, and have lorded it over them, and made havoc of them, and who are called Heathens and Gentiles, Psalm 10:16,

thy holy temple have they defiled: this was done in the times of Antiochus, by entering into it, taking away the holy vessels out of it, shedding innocent blood in it, and setting up the abomination of desolation on the altar, and sacrificing to it, as in the Apocrypha:

"Every bridegroom took up lamentation, and she that sat in the marriage chamber was in heaviness,'' (1 Maccabees 1:27)

"Thus they shed innocent blood on every side of the sanctuary, and defiled it:'' (1 Maccabees 1:37)

"And pollute the sanctuary and holy people:'' (1 Maccabees 1:46)

"And whosoever was found with any the book of the testament, or if any committed to the law, the king's commandment was, that they should put him to death.'' (1 Maccabees 1:57)

"For thy sanctuary is trodden down and profaned, and thy priests are in heaviness, and brought low.'' (1 Maccabees 3:51)

"And they called upon the Lord, that he would look upon the people that was trodden down of all; and also pity the temple profaned of ungodly men;'' (2 Maccabees 8:2)

and by burning it in the times of Nebuchadnezzar and Titus; see Psalm 74:7, and the church, which is the holy temple of God, has been defiled by antichrist sitting in it, and showing himself there as if he was God, by his dreadful blasphemies, idolatrous worship, and false doctrines, 2 Thessalonians 2:4,

they have laid Jerusalem on heaps; the walls and buildings being pulled down, and made a heap of stones and rubbish: in the times of Antiochus and of the Maccabees, it was set on fire, and the houses and the walls pulled down on every side, and was greatly defaced, and threatened to be laid level with the ground, as in the Apocrypha:

"And when he had taken the spoils of the city, he set it on fire, and pulled down the houses and walls thereof on every side.'' (1 Maccabees 1:31)


<> O God, {a} the heathen are come into thine inheritance; thy holy temple have they defiled; they have laid Jerusalem on heaps.

(a) The people cry to God against the barbarous tyranny of the Babylonians who spoiled God's inheritance, polluted his temple, destroyed his religion, and murdered his people.

1. Cp. Jeremiah 51:51; Lamentations 1:10; and for the desecration of the Temple cp. Psalm 74:7; Ezekiel 7:21-22.

the heathen] Lit. as in Psalm 79:6; Psalm 79:10, the nations: but where, as here, the nations are in antagonism to God and His people, the rendering heathen may be retained. thine inheritance] Here of the holy land (cp. Exodus 15:17): more commonly of the people (Psalm 74:2; Psalm 78:62; Psalm 78:71).

on heaps] I.e. in ruins: perhaps an allusion to the prophecy of Micah (Micah 3:12; cp. Jeremiah 26:18). For the archaic use of ‘on,’ Wright (Bible Word-Book, p. 436) quotes Shakespeare, Henry V, v. 2. 39;

And all her husbandry doth lie on heaps.

1–4. The Psalmist tells his grief to God: His land is overrun by heathen, His temple is desecrated, His city is in ruins, His people are slaughtered, the survivors are the scorn of their neighbours.

Verse 1. - O God, the heathen are come into thine inheritance (comp. Psalm 74:2; Psalm 78:62). Israel - alike the people and the land - is "God's inheritance." Thy holy temple have they defiled. The Babylonians defiled the temple by breaking into it, seizing its treasures and ornaments (Jeremiah 52:17-23), and finally setting fire to it (Jeremiah 52:13). They have laid Jerusalem on heaps. This was certainly not done either by Shishak or by Antiochus Epiphanes; but was done, as prophesied (Jeremiah 9:11; Jeremiah 26:18; Micah 3:12), by the Babylonians. Psalm 79:1The Psalm begins with a plaintive description, and in fact one that makes complaint to God. Its opening sounds like Lamentations 1:10. The defiling does not exclude the reducing to ashes, it is rather spontaneously suggested in Psalm 74:7 in company with wilful incendiarism. The complaint in Psalm 79:1 reminds one of the prophecy of Micah, Micah 3:12, which in its time excited so much vexation (Jeremiah 26:18); and Psalm 79:2, Deuteronomy 28:26. עבדיך confers upon those who were massacred the honour of martyrdom. The lxx renders לעיים by εἰς ὀπωροφυλάκιον, a flourish taken from Isaiah 1:8. Concerning the quotation from memory in 1 Macc. 7:16f., vid., the introduction to Psalm 74. The translator of the originally Hebrew First Book of the Maccabees even in other instances betrays an acquaintance with the Greek Psalter (cf. 1 Macc. 1:37, καὶ ἐξέχεαν αἷμα ἀθῷον κύκλῳ τοῦ ἁγιάσματος). "As water," i.e., (cf. Deuteronomy 15:23) without setting any value upon it and without any scruple about it. Psalm 44:14 is repeated in Psalm 79:4. At the time of the Chaldaean catastrophe this applied more particularly to the Edomites.
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