“Have regard for your covenant!
The dark places of the land
Are full of the haunts of violence.
Let not the downtrodden be put to shame!
Let the poor and the needy praise your name!
Plead your cause!
Remember how the impious scoff at you all day long!
Do not forget the clamor of your foes!
Do not forget the uproar of our adversaries
That goes up continually!”
This psalm concludes with a call to God to rise up and help them. The psalmist reminded God about his covenant. There was violence in the land. The downtrodden, the poor, and the needy should not be put to shame. He wanted God to remember how the non-pious people scoffed at his name. Their adversaries were continually clamoring against God.
How the enemy scoffs!
An impious people revile your name.
Do not deliver the soul of your dove
To the wild beasts!
Do not forget
The life of your poor forever!”
This was a cry to Yahweh. He had to remember his dove. The enemy was scoffing at them. These impious people were reviling the name of God. They did not want to be sent to the wild beasts. Asaph, the psalmist, wanted Yahweh to remember and not forget the poor people of his chosen ones.
My King is from of old.
He is working salvation in the earth.
You divided the sea by your might.
You broke the heads of the dragons in the waters.
You crushed the heads of Leviathan.
You gave him as food
For the creatures of the wilderness.
You cut openings for springs and torrents.
You dried up ever-flowing streams.
Yours is the day.
Yours also is the night.
You have established the luminaries.
You have established the sun.
You have fixed all the bounds of the earth.
You have made summer and winter.”
This is a prayer to God about his creative power. God had been an old fashioned king for a long time. He brought salvation to the earth. He divided the seas to produce the earth. He had to defeat the sea monsters, particularly the mythical Leviathan, the great beast that was so important in Job, chapter 41. However, God was able to defeat Leviathan and feed his body to the wild animals. God definitely controlled the water ways, big and small. He was in charge of day and night as well as all the heavenly lights, including the sun. He set up the boundaries of the earth. He had control of the seasons of the year with its various climate changes of summer and winter. God was the powerful creator of heaven and earth as well as the water and the land.
“We do not see our emblems.
There is no longer any prophet.
There is none among us
Who knows how long.
Is the foe to scoff?
Is the enemy to revile your name forever?
Why do you hold back your hand?
Why do you keep your hand in your bosom?”
This is one of the few times when the Israelites seem to be without any leaders. Obviously the king was gone. Their emblems were not on display. There does not seem to be any prophets. No one seemed to know how long this was going to last. How long would the foes scoff at them? How long would they revile the name of God? Why did God keep his hand at this chest instead of striking down these foes? These were very serious questions.
“Your foes have roared
Within your holy place.
They set up their emblems there.
At the upper entrance
They hacked the wooden trellis with axes.
Then they smashed all its carved work
With hatchets and hammers.
They set your sanctuary on fire.
They desecrated the dwelling place of your name.
They said to themselves.
‘We will utterly subdue them.’
All the meeting places of God
In the land.”
Asaph then presented a detailed description of the destruction that took place. The enemies of God roared in God’s holy place. They set up their own emblems within the Temple. At the entrance to the Temple they hacked down the wooden trellis with axes. They smashed all the carved works with hatchets and hammers. Then they set the sanctuary on fire. They manually smashed and hacked away until they set it ablaze. They said to themselves that they had subdued the Israelites because they had burned their Temple and all the other meeting places of God. This might be later since originally there was only one Temple.
A Maskil of Asaph
Why do you cast us off forever?
Why does your anger smoke
Against the sheep of your pasture?
Remember your congregation!
You acquired it long ago.
You redeemed it.
It was to be the tribe of your heritage.
Remember Mount Zion!
There you came to dwell.
Direct your steps to the perpetual ruins!
The enemy has destroyed everything
In the sanctuary.”
Like the preceding psalm, Psalm 74 is a Maskil or psalm of Asaph, the Temple singer, part of the series that begins book 3 of the psalms. This appears to be a national lamentation, post-exilic, after the destruction of the Temple. This starts out as a cry for help. Asaph wants to know why God has cast them off forever. Why was God angry at his own sheep? God should remember his congregation that he acquired long ago. He had redeemed this tribe at Mount Zion to be his heritage as he dwelt there. Somehow the idea that God lived in the Temple was a common theme. However, here was the problem. The Temple was in ruins, destroyed by the enemy. Everything in the sanctuary had been destroyed. What is the exact reference? Was this the Babylonian captivity?