Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
Maschil of Asaph
1 O God, why hast thou cast us off forever?
Why doth thine anger smoke against the sheep of thy pasture?
2 Remember thy congregation, which thou hast purchased of old;
The rod of thine inheritance, which thou hast redeemed;
This mount Zion, wherein thou hast dwelt.
3 Lift up thy feet unto the perpetual desolations;
Even all that the enemy hath done wickedly in the sanctuary.
4 Thine enemies roar in the midst of thy congregations; they set up their ensigns for signs.
5 A man was famous according as he had lifted up
Axes upon the thick trees.
6 But now they break down the carved work thereof at once
With axes and hammers.
7 They have cast fire into thy sanctuary,
They have defiled by casting down the dwelling-place of thy name to the ground.
8 They said in their hearts, Let us destroy them together:
They have burned up all the synagogues of God in the land.
9 We see not our signs:
There is no more any prophet:
Neither is there among us any that knoweth how long.
10 O God how long shall the adversary reproach?
Shall the enemy blaspheme thy name forever.
11 Why withdrawest thou thy hand, even thy right hand?
Pluck it out of thy bosom.
12 For God is my King of old,
Working salvation in the midst of the earth.
13 Thou didst divide the sea by thy strength:
Thou brakest the heads of the dragons in the waters.
14 Thou brakest the heads of leviathan in pieces,
And gavest him to be meat to the people inhabiting the wilderness.
15 Thou didst cleave the fountain and the flood:
Thou driedst up mighty rivers.
16 The day is thine, the night also is thine:
Thou hast prepared the light and the sun.
17 Thou hast set all the borders of the earth:
Thou hast made summer and winter.
18 Remember this, that the enemy hath reproached, O Lord,
And that the foolish people have blasphemed thy name.
19 O deliver not the soul of thy turtle dove unto the multitude of the wicked:
Forget not the congregation of thy poor forever.
20 Have respect unto the covenant:
For the dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty.
21 O let not the oppressed return ashamed:
Let the poor and needy praise thy name.
22 Arise, O God, plead thine own cause:
Remember how the foolish man reproacheth thee daily.
23 Forget not the voice of thine enemies:
The tumult of those that rise up against thee increaseth continually.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
SUPERSCRIPTION, CONTENTS, AND COMPOSITION.—On Maskil see Introduction, § 8, No. 3. This Psalm can be brought into connection with Asaph in one of two ways. It has been referred by some to one of the later members of this illustrious family of singers (Dathe, Rosenmueller, Hengstenberg); while Delitzsch, holding that it only bears the old Asaphitic stamp generally, would understand by the superscription: a poem after the manner of Asaph. For the attempt to gain credit for the opinion that it was composed by the famous cotemporary of David, on the ground that it contains a prophecy (Clauss, following the Rabbins and the ancient expositors), contradicts the words of the Text, and mistakes the historical situation manifest therein. The words of Psalm 74:3, 7, and 8, especially, allude to a destruction of the temple on Zion by fire already completed, preceded by a profanation (Psalm 74:4), and accompanied by a plain description of the conduct of the enemy (Psalm 74:5, 6). We cannot, therefore assume an event earlier than the destruction by the Chaldeans in the year 588 recounted in 2 Chron. 36:19; Jer. 52:13. To this the Psalm might be with great probability referred (De Wette, Köster, Maurer, Hengstenberg, Hupfeld). For the Church of the Second Temple did not experience injuries done to their sacred edifice, such as are here depicted, in the interruptions of building immediately after the return from the exile (Ewald). Neither did such a destruction appear in the outrages committed by the Persian general Bagoses (Ewald formerly), by which the temple was profaned (Josephus, Ant. 11:7). Nor yet was such devastation suffered at the hands of the Syrian oppressors under Antiochus Epiphanes in the year 167 (Targum, Rudinger, Venema, Olshausen, Hitzig, Delitzsch) who also profaned the temple, but only burnt down the gates (1 Macc. 4:38; 2 Macc. 1:8; 8:33). This result contributes so much the more to an historical solution, when it is taken into consideration that, the closely related 79th Psalm is most readily assigned to the Chaldean period, and also that the assumption of Maccabean Psalms is not only encumbered with grave difficulties of a general kind (compare besides Hassler, Comm. de Psalmis Maccabæis, 1827 and 1832, especially Ehrt, Abfassungszeit und Abschluss des Psalters 1869) but that also in the case before us there are distinct passages such as Psalm 74:3a, which are unfavorable to it, while others, such as Psalm 74:4, 8, 9, admit of an explanation (see below) by which even the supposition of a later insertion of a Maccabæan Psalm in the Canon (Delitzsch) appears to be unnecessary. The points of agreement with Lam. 2:2, 7, 9, may also be adduced in favor of a composition during the exile.
On account of the occurrence of many rare words the sense in numerous passages remained obscure to the ancient translators, and the interpretation of some of them doubtful to the modern expositors. The progress of thought, however, is in the main clear. From the lamentation over the anger of God expressed in the form of questions, (Psalm 74:1) there arises (Psalm 74:2) the prayer for the deliverance of the Church which passes over (Psalm 74:3) into a picture (Psalm 74:4–8), of the more particularly described devastations of the sacred places, and after a reiterated lamentation (Psalm 74:9, 10) over God’s long-continued noninterference (Psalm 74:11), the Psalmist calls upon Him to punish his enemies. Then after an allusion to God’s continuing sovereignty, as attested by His mighty deeds in nature and history (Psalm 74:12–17), the opposition to that government with its ruinous consequences (Psalm 74:18–23), is used as a plea in urging God’s intervention for deliverance and for punishment.
Psalm 74:1,2. Cast us off.—The use of the Præterite as distinguished from the imperfect of the following stich, is not to be overlooked. The action is first presented and then the permanent relations. The smoking of the nostrils [אַפְּךָ translated: thine anger in E. V.—J. F. M.] is a figurative expression for the manifestation of anger, Ps. 18:9, like snorting, in Ps. 80:5, after Deut. 29:19. It is characteristic of the period of the Exile to term the Church of God, the sheep of His pasture (Ps. 79:13; 95:7; 100:3; Jer. 23:1). This appellation means more than that God is the Shepherd and the people His flock (Ps. 80:2). It contains an allusion to the fact that God had given the faithful Canaan as a pasture land to this His people (Hos. 13:6; Jer. 25:36) and that the possession of this land was the question at issue. Allusion is made besides, in various ways, to the establishment and maintaining of the favored relations in which the people had stood to God since they were purchased (Ex. 15:17) and redeemed (Ex. 15:13; Ps. 72:16; 78:35) long before in the days of Moses (Ps. 44:2). The prayer in Deut. 9:26, 29, that God would not reject His people, is also grounded upon this. The statement that God had redeemed His people from Egyptian bondage that they might be the “rod of His inheritance,” brings out the thought that everything which belongs or will belong to the people of God, His peculiar possession, must proceed from this stem or be ingrafted into it. Consequently the deliverance and preservation of the Church bear a part in the fulfilment of the destiny assigned her, and in the execution of God’s purpose in her establishment, and may be urged as a powerful plea in the prayer before us. This reference of the words which appears so suitable to the text, loses its force in some degree, if it is assumed that they imply merely that the unity of all the stems (Is. 63:17; Jer. 10:16; 51:19) constitutes the people of God’s inheritance (Kimchi, Geier, J. H. Michaelis, Olshausen, Hupfeld), or represents the whole people in its ethnic distinction from all other nations (Delitzsch) as God’s peculiar race (De Wette). These explanations are, however, more correct than that interpretation which, in the translation virga hereditatis (Vulgate), is not intended to express the idea of a sprouting main-stem but that of a measuring-rod, by which the shares of the possession or of the inheritance were meted out, and understands this metonymically for the inheritance itself (Luther, Calvin and others, Hengst.). For in Deut. 32:9, and Ezek. 40:3, entirely different words appear.
Psalm 74:3, 8. Perpetual desolations are such as seem as if they might well remain forever desolate and therefore point to a destruction, not lasting (De Wette) nor complete (Gesenius in Lexicon, Böttcher) but so extensive, that it could not have taken place in the Maccabean age. If we follow another etymological explanation, this rare word would describe endless wickedness (Ewald) or incessant invasion by enemies (Hitzig) or boundless presumption (Sept. Vulg.). According to Ps. 73:18, however, this is scarcely probable. As regards the sense it is unessential whether we read מֹועֵד written in the singular or plural form, and understand it to mean a festal season, or festal celebration, or festal gathering, or the place where such a gathering is made. For the shouting of the enemy creating confusion might be heard under all these circumstances, and the Temple also, which the context most readily suggests to us, (similarly Lam. 2:6.) had several divisions and courts and is sometimes denoted by the plural number (compare Ps. 68:36). The best authorities, moreover, decide for the singular. [Alexander: “The word strictly means a meeting by mutual agreement or appointment, and is specially applied to the meeting between God and His people in the sanctuary, which was therefore designated in the law as the tent of meeting. The full sense, therefore, of the words here used is ‘in the midst of Thy people assembled at the appointed time and place to meet Thee.’ The exclusive local meaning put by some upon the words is quite gratuitous. The plural form which some assume (thine assemblies) varies the meaning only by suggesting the idea of repeated convocations, ‘in the midst of Thy people wherever (or, as often as) they meet Thee thus,’ but without at all conveying the idea of numerous or even of different places.”—J. F. M.] But in Psalm 74:8b this word stands in a different relation. There it is undoubtedly in the plural form and in the closest connection with אֵל And since burning is spoken of the sacred edifices alone must be intended. What are we to understand by the twofold addition “all” and “in the land?” The old translators have ingeniously assumed that synagogues are meant, and since Vitringa has made it clear (De Synagoga Vetere 1:2, 12) that these did not exist until after the Exile, many expositors have discovered in Psalm 74:8, the surest proof that the Psalm was composed in the Maccabean period. But the synagogues are never denoted by the term here employed, and with this agrees the fact that the primary idea of that term is not that of an assembly of men, but according to Ex. 25:22; 29:42; 36:6, that of a meeting of God with His people, and it is applied only to the one sacred place which God established,—at first to the Tabernacle, and afterwards to the Temple. This circumstance excites just doubts of the correctness of that explanation which makes this passage relate the devastation of the synagogues in the land as the houses of God—even if we have grounds for maintaining, against the doubt expressed by Hupfeld, their existence in the age of the Maccabees, as argued especially from Josephus (Wars, 7:3, 3), and Acts 15:21. But the same fact decides against an allusion to the sacred places where God manifested Himself during the patriarchal age (J. D. Michaelis, Dathe, Clauss), or to the high places of the old Israelitish worship, which had possibly escaped the efforts at extermination undertaken by Josiah (Gesenius, De Wette, Maurer). And even if the plural can be allowed to refer to the several divisions of the Temple (The Rabbins) it is yet linguistically impossible that the other sacred places in the land could be united with it so as to make one collective term, as Hupfeld assumes. Just as inadmissible is the opinion of Böttcher, who supposes that the worshipping assemblies of the people are described, who perished, as it were, by the same flames which burnt down the Temple. The sentence can be most readily explained from the Israelitish conception, that in the destruction of the Temple the one sanctuary of the worshippers of the true God throughout the nation perished along with it (Hengstenberg). It is not to be denied, however, that this explanation is only an expedient to get rid of the embarrassment caused by the translation “all the places where God makes Himself known,” and effects a round-about interpretation of moëd in order to gain that end. All difficulty would be at an end, if we were permitted to regard the vexed sentence as a continuation of the words of the enemy. The Masoretic text, however, forbids this. The wording of the sentence opposes its interpretation in this sense (Muntinghe, Köster). But is the present text really the original one? We have reason to doubt it from the fact, that the Alex, version not merely does actually give the sentence as a continuation of the enemy’s words, but that the reading κατακαύσωμεν (let us burn down) appeared first as a correction of Jerome instead of the original καταπαύσωμεν (let us bring to silence or make to cease). In it also first appeared the translation ἑορτἁς. If, now, we assume that the LXX have read שבתו we could then make an improvement by annexing ו to the following word and reading שַׁבָּת וְכָל־. This would afford the most suitable sense: let us destroy them all at once, the Sabbath and all the sacred feasts in the land. In this way also the form נִינָם with the suffix of the third person plural would be fully explained and the closest connection restored. Compare Ehrt., p. 18 f., where reference is also made to Lam. 2:6 f. Is. 1:13 f. 2 Chron. 8:13.
[Upon this emendation of the text proposed by the author, I would remark. 1. That the words which we obtain by adopting it are scarcely suitable in the mouths of the invaders. The Chaldeans were not urged at all by religious motives in their attacks, nor was there any evidence of religious animosity in their triumph. They would agree much better with the spirit of the Syrian invaders, but Dr. Moll is opposed to the view which would make these the subject of the verse. 2. The word שבתו seems an unlikely one for the LXX to have assumed. It varies very greatly from the word which has come down to us. The radicals, besides, cannot give a causative sense. The Kal is never transitive; the Piel does not exist. I would suggest that the LXX had in view the form הדמו. This necessitates the change of only one radical and gives the causative sense. The meaning naturally suggested by the words of the verse, seems after all, to be the best. All the others, that of Hengstenberg not excepted, are forced and unnatural. From other considerations, also, we would be inclined to hold the early existence of places of public meeting for God’s worship “throughout the land.” It would be the experience of God’s people then, as it is now, that religion must utterly decay without such privileges and exercises.—J. F. M.]
Psalm 74:4–11. Signs for signs.—E. V.: Ensigns for signs]. If we were to assign the composition of the Psalm to the Maccabean period, we would have to refer these words to the profanations of the Temple, (1 Macc. 1:45 f.). But the expression itself decides against this. It is not to be generalized so far as into “insolent deeds and practices” (Hengst.); but it is also incorrect to make it describe special religious monuments, as idol-images (Luther) which were put in the place of the Israelitish Cherubim, Psalm 74:9 (Ewald). Still less proper is the supposition of military ensigns (Jerome, Calvin and others), and altogether unsuitable is that of the oracles (Kimchi, J. H. Michaelis) which Nebuchadnezzar employed (Ezek. 21:26). The signs are, in general, tokens of supremacy, at the same time political and religious (Geier, J. H. Michaelis, Venema, Hupfeld), which might even consist of regulations and ceremonies, for the word before us is in Ex. 31:13 employed expressly of the Sabbath and of circumcision. This word also in Psalm 74:9, suits the Chaldean period. We must, however, assume that the author was one of those who remained behind in the desolated, prophetless land, and that he could not hear the prophetic strains of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and could therefore gain no answer from revelation to the anxious question: Until when? or, how long? Only upon this hypothesis can the expression in Psalm 74:9 b, which otherwise must be connected with 1 Macc. 4:6; 9:27; 14:41, be connected with the Chaldean period. For the complaint that there is no prophet, is to be distinguished from the complaint that God gives the prophets, no revelation. But the destruction by fire mentioned in Psalm 74:7, alludes decisively to this period, which we can neither restrict to the shattered carvings (Hesse, De Psalmis Maccabæis 1837) nor interpret as a hyperbolical expression (De Jong, Disquisitio de Pss. Macc. 1857), nor confine to the buildings and porticoes which surrounded the Temple itself (Rudinger, Olshausen and others). The Sanctuary itself was made level with the ground and thereby desecrated. God’s restraining Himself from interference in the course of human affairs (Lam.2:8) is represented in Psalm 74:11 as the drawing back of the hand into the bosom (Ex. 4:7). Hence the pregnant expression of the following stich. [I subjoin the correct translation of this verse, as given by Dr. Alexander. It is the same as that of Moll, except that the ellipses are supplied: Why wilt Thou withdraw Thy hand and Thy right hand? From the midst of Thy bosom (draw it) and consume (them). The sense of Psalm 74:5 also, and its relation to Psalm 74:6, have been completely misunderstood by our translators. The following rendering seems to be the most correct. It is substantially that given by most of the recent commentators. Our version follows Calvin. “He” (the subject of Psalm 74:3) “exhibits himself as one who raises axes on high in the thicket of the woods, and now,” etc. Moll prefers to take the first verb impersonally: “An exhibition is made,” etc. Perowne’s translation is rather free: “He seems as.” etc.—J.F.M.]
Psalm 74:12–14. In the midst of the earth.—This is equivalent to saying, on the theatre of the world (Ex. 8:18; Ps. 77:15), not in a corner (Isa. 45:19) at the ends of the earth (Ps. 65:8). To restrict it to the thought: in the land (Geier, J. H. Michaelis, De Wette, Hengst.), is inadmissible, since allusion is made first to the passage through the Red Sea, next to the displays of God’s power in Egypt, and then to the wonders wrought in the march through the wilderness (Ex. 17:6; Numb. 20:8; Josh. 3:13 f.). The sea-monsters, whose carcasses become a prey to the wild beasts of the desert, are emblems of Egypt (Isa. 51:9; Ezek. 29:3). Instead of the wild beasts of the desert (Ps. 72:9), which are repeatedly used to represent a nation (Joel 1:6; Zeph. 2:14; Prov. 30:25), many expositors assume, against the usage of the word, that human inhabitants of deserts are referred to; either Ethiopians (LXX., Aben Ezra, Ewald) or Ichthyophagites (Bochart, Clericus, Muntinghe), or the Israelites in the wilderness (Kimchi, Calvin, Geier, and others).
Psalm 74:15–17. The ever-flowing streams [E. V.: mighty rivers]—that is, those streams which do not dry up in summer, do not denote numerous brooks which empty into the Jordan (Kimchi), but. describe graphically the fulness of that river, and at the same time generalize the idea, since the Jordan is intended, though not mentioned. The light-giving [E. V., light], Psalm 74:16, may either denote the general, employed in connection with the special, which is here the sun, as in Ps. 148:9, trees and cedars (Hupfeld), or mean the moon as the light of the night (Hitzig, Delitzsch). [The former is to be preferred. As analogous examples Hupfeld cites the expressions, Judah and Jerusalem, Ephraim and Samaria, “Eλληνές τε καὶ A̓θηναῖοι. Alexander: Light and sun are related as the genus and the species, like hand and right hand in Psalm 74:11, signs and prophet in Psalm 74:9.—J. F. M.]. The establishment of the bounds of the earth [E. V., Thou hast set all the borders of the earth, Psalm 74:17] brings into view the ordinances of nature, if we may understand the limits imposed upon the sea (Gen. 1:9) which it must not pass (Job 38:8 f.; Jer. 5:22; Prov. 8:29) to be meant; or the natural limits which serve for the boundaries of nations (Deut. 32:8; Acts 17:26).
Psalm 74:19. To the band [Germ.: dem Haufen, E. V.: To the multitude of the wicked].—We employ this rendering on account of its perspicuity, and because it expresses most simply the force of the word, which first, describes the gathering together of the enemy and then the gathering together of the oppressed people of God, and indeed in both connections in allusion to the liveliness of their movements. [Heb. חַיָּה We have no single English word which conveys all these ideas.—TR.] The expression was possibly suggested by the appellation turtle or dove, applied to the Church (Ps. 68:14), and is employed as in Ps. 68:11. [This is another of the many passages in this Psalm about which there has been much dispute. But much discussion would be saved if the attempts at solution were to be kept within the limits imposed by the following conditions, which seem to be necessary. First, the word חָיָּה is used in both members of the verse in the manner mentioned above. We must credit the author of the Psalm with such good taste as would him to use the same word in different senses in such a relation. This would lead us to discard such translations as that of Perowne, who in the first member renders “beast” and in the second, “life.” Hengstenberg’s attempt in his rendering of הַיָּת נֶפֶשׁ “greed-life,” only makes the first member obscure. Alexander translates both “herd,” and is certainly correct, as he retains the idea of animal and makes it collective. But the rendering “band” is more directly applicable to human beings (comp. 2 Sam. 23:11, 13), though it is less literal. The English Version fails only in the want of a felicitous term. Secondly, We must translate חית in the first member as a construct. This has been disregarded or disputed1 by many, but only by unwarrantable violation of the laws of the language. The most natural way is to connect it with נפשׁ. This Hupfeld opposes, but his objection, that nephesh never occurs as a circumlocution for greedy, is of no force; if we can only gain for it the meaning: greed, the common construction with the construct is quite admissible. This meaning is frequent. His other objection, that it would be against the accents, is of more weight, as l’hayyath has the disjunctive Tiphha Initial. But the necessities of the case force us to conclude that the accents are wrong. Hupfeld himself proposes a much more violent change, namely, to transpose the words and translate: Give not to rage the life, etc. Though the translation of Hengstenberg is grammatically right, his explanation of the first member of the verse is obscure. So far as I know Alexander is the only expositor who has given a rendering both correct and perspicuous. Our translators saw the necessity of rendering hayyath as a construct, and therefore supplied the words in italics. Dr. Moll has disregarded this. He translates: Give not to the band the life of Thy turtle-dove. I would offer the following rendering of the verse:
Give not to the blood-thirsty band the life of Thy turtle-dove,
The band of Thy meek sufferers forget not.—J. F. M.]
Psalm 74:20–23. The Covenant might, as in Dan. 11:28, 30; comp. Psalm 74:22, 32, mean the covenant-people (Hitzig), but it is probably to be taken here in its usual application. That the darknesses, Psalm 74:20b, mean the hiding-places, 1 Macc. 1:53, to which the persecuted confessors fled and in which they were discovered and slain (1 Macc. 2:26 f.; 2 Macc. 6:11) is not necessarily contained in the expression. This is the more probable, since the following words appear to allude to Gen. 6:11, 13, which may be understood as describing the dark places of suffering which are to be found on earth, Ps. 23:4; comp. 88:8; 143:3; Lam. 3:6 (J. H. Michaelis, Hengst.). A lurking-place of robbers (Calvin, De Wette, et al.) is scarcely to be thought of. Neither is there any occasion to change the punctuation in order to gain the idea of an asylum (Ewald). [Ewald proposes to read מחשׂכי, thus forming a derivative, which is nowhere found, of חשׂך in its rare sense of preserving. He supposes that these asylums correspond to the מועדי of Psalm 74:8b. This alteration is marked by the characteristic ingenuity of Ewald and his characteristic disregard of authority. The explanation given by Moll is the one generally received.—J. F. M.].—The appended words in Psalm 74:22b: the whole day, describe the uninterrupted continuance of the reproaches. [The Eng. Vers. has: reproaches thee daily, which conveys the same idea of continuance. Comp. Prov. 21:26.—J. F. M.]
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. When men are weighed down by long-continued and severe sufferings, the thought is apt to occur to them that these may never come to an end. And when they perceive in them the traces of God’s wrath, the thought of its endless duration is wont to fill them with anguish. An inquiry into the cause of God’s dealings towards them, which seem fraught with such destruction, then naturally begins. But the character of this inquiry is determined by this: does it, as it were, accuse God and include reproaches against His government of the world? Or does it only lament that God restrains Himself from action? If the latter, does it arise more from human short-sightedness, impatience, faint-heartedness, and want of faith, than from a desire for release from God’s wrath, from a longing for manifestations of His compassion, in a word, from a yearning after holiness? Finally, do the questioning and lamenting end in uncertainty, doubt and despair? or does there arise from out of them a prayer full of faith in God’s mercy, and inspired by the hope of being heard?
2. There befall sometimes God’s Church on earth also, afflictions so severe that they seem to imperil its very existence. Then it is of vast moment to recall the relation between God and His people which He has Himself established, and to keep in mind their Divine election, their miraculous founding, and their preservation until the present moment, along with the part which they must ever play in the history of mankind. A prayer which gives all of these their due place, is both an evidence of faith and a means of strengthening it.
3. The enemies of God and of His Church may indeed destroy her outward sanctuaries, abolish her sacred seasons, forbid the assembling of the faithful, prevent and interrupt the service of God; but they cannot annul the covenant which God has ordained, nor prevent the outward restoration of the Church, when the day of her trial is over. So long, however, as danger, distress and persecution last, the tried ones must not give up their faith, but must, while the enemy continually revile their God, continually resort to Him in prayerful confession. Yet to them also may be afforded the consolation which is to be derived from the displays of God’s love and omnipotence, as discovered in His doings both in history and in nature. On the connection between the order of nature and the covenant of grace, compare Jer. 23:21–25; Isa. 54:10.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
The Church’s seasons of distress as times of trial and awakening.—Injuries inflicted upon the Church from without are not so baleful as distractions within.—The persecuted yet victorious Church.—There is great consolation in the reflection that the faithful covenant-keeping God is at the same time the Almighty Lord of the world and the righteous Judge of all.—Nothing is yet lost while the Lord is our Shepherd and we are still the sheep of His pasture.—God’s grace the salvation of believers; sins unrepented of the destruction of men.—God remains still the Lord of the world, even when sacrilegious men are not willing that He should remain Lord in His own house—Many do not learn to value what they possess in God’s house and word until they are deprived of both.—The darker it is on earth, the more let us long that God would make it bright.—God may be angry even against His own people, but He does not cast them off forever.—There is ever before us an evil day of need, when it is not permitted us to hear God’s word; but it makes a vast difference whether we cannot hear or whether we will not hear.—Respect unto the covenant which God established with us [see Psalm 74:20 in the original], to what it entitles us, and what it binds us to do.—The true cause of our misfortunes is the wrath of God against our sins; the ground of our confidence is the acts and tokens of mercy of the Covenant God.—God’s doings in nature and in history as warnings and as a ground of consolation.
CALVIN: We know how difficult it is to rise above all doubts so as to continue free and joyful in prayer. Therefore the faithful recall to their recollection the memorials of the compassion and power of God, by which He has shown them in all ages that He is the King of His chosen people.
STARKE: In seasons of persecution we are not to have so much regard to our enemies as to God, for without His permission they cannot injure a hair of our heads. 2 Sam. 16:10. The strongest pillars of consolation to support us in all tribulation, temptation, and despondency, are the blessings of God already bestowed, and the gracious assurance that at all times and in all places He will be present with His own (Is. 43:1, 2).—Though all human help is often removed from the children of God, there yet remains to them this support, that they can always appeal to God for a just decision, which will assuredly not be a favorable one to their enemies. (Ex. 22:23).—The enemies of the Church are also the enemies of God, who will know how to give His cause a glorious triumph at last (Is. 28:29; Acts 9:4, 5).—Those who pray in faith, bring their troubles before God, not as though He knew them not, but in reliance upon His truth and with the certain expectation, that He will fulfil His promises, (Ps. 69:20).—If God did not spare His own temple and people when they stirred Him up to anger, we also need expect no better treatment, unless we repent sincerely of our sins, and amend our ways.—God employs both hands at once, when He would help those who trust in Him; the right to uphold the pious, the left to punish the ungodly.—In the sorest trials it is found to be a delightful source of consolation to contemplate God as our King.—We can surely cast ourselves upon the gracious covenant which God has made with us; for on His part it is an eternal one.—The present is not the first time that the pious have been loaded with the despite, abuse, and contempt of this world; thus has it been from the beginning until now. Why does it then seem strange to thee, dear soul, that thou must also endure the same? Matt. 5:12.
OSIANDER: No tyrant is so mighty that God cannot bring him so low as that he will become a spoil and object of contempt even to those that are poor and despised.—SELNECKER: He who possesses the true religion and remains firmly by it, enjoys the favor of God and may rejoice even if he has to lay down his life for it.—RENSCHEL: Since God cannot allow His own glory to pass away, neither can He forsake His Church; the whole cause is His.—FRISCH: As great and precious as are God’s mercy and the treasure of His word, so great and dreadful will be the punishments He will inflict, if men abuse His mercy and pay so little regard to His word.—RIEGER: Here we are taught how, when the Church is in distress of any kind, believers should pour out their hearts before God and maintain their trust in his covenant.—ARNDT: That is the season of the most severe chastisement and distress of soul, when there is no word of God or prophet in the land, as the enjoyment of His pure word is its greatest consolation, Jer. 15. This is not felt until God and the priceless treasures have departed.—THOLUCK: The Psalmist prays that even in the deepest ignominy of his people, the eternal claims of that Omnipotence, which rules in history and prescribes to nature her laws, may be made known.—RICHTER (Hausbibel): Alas how unbelief is laying in ruins the edifices of our pious ancestors reared in faith! Yes, even the temple of the word of God itself! It is permitted us to remind God, how He has helped His people in former times, and plead before Him the innocence of His little band, their weakness and helplessness; and the honor of His own name and of the covenant of grace.—GUENTHER: Misfortune comes from God as chastisement, it is becoming then to inquire after the wherefore [See Psalm 74:1.].—The children of God are the accusers, the wicked are the accused, God is the Judge.—DIEDRICH: God must often remove from us all external sources of comfort, in order that our spiritual sense may be quickened, to discern the power of His mercy even in death. When the visible is swept away from before us, His kingdom of grace will not long be out of reach, for only then shall it be really renewed, and that by these very means.—TAUBE: The sum of the consolation and support of God’s people is His gracious election and His gracious power. How much is comprised in these few words, My King of old! All these at once—the testimony to His almighty majesty, the testimony to His unchangeable faithfulness towards His people, the testimony to the believer’s certain experience of them all.—With God’s glory and in His cause are bound up the prosperity and salvation of His own.
[HENRY: The concerns of religion should be nearer our hearts and affect us more than any worldly concern whatsoever.—The desolation of God’s house should grieve us more than the desolation of our own houses, for the matter is not great what comes of us and our families in this world, provided God’s name may be sanctified, His kingdom may come and His will be done.
SCOTT: The true Church is as pleasant and amiable to the Lord as a turtle-dove, though poor and despicable in the world’s estimation.
BARNES: The thought here is of a people dear to God, now timid and alarmed. It is the prayer of a people beloved by God that He will not deliver them into the hand of their enemies.—J. F. M.]
[Ewald considers חית to be a play on the word, so as to make it correspond to the same form in the second member. See his Gr., § 173 d. Böttcher (Gr., § 832 a) regards it as though for a form חָיָתִי, “a genitive termination,” of which he finds many examples. It is written defectively, and then, on account of the pause, the Hhirik is dropped. But see Green, Gr. § 196 b.—J. F. M.]
Maschil of Asaph. O God, why hast thou cast us off for ever? why doth thine anger smoke against the sheep of thy pasture?