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Psalm 73


The End of the Wicked Contrasted with that of the Righteous
MT Intro
A Psalm of Asaph
The Tragedy of the Wicked, and the Blessedness of Trust in God Meditation on the Justice of God The Justice of God The Triumph of Justice
73:1-9 73:1-3 73:1-3 73:1-3 73:1
  73:4-9 73:4-9 73:4-14 73:4-5
73:10-14 73:10-14 73:10-14   73:10-12
73:15-20 73:15-17 73:15-20 73:15-17  
  73:18-20   73:18-20  
73:21-24 73:21-24 73:21-26 73:21-26 73:21-22
73:25-28 73:25-26     73:25-26
  73:27-28 73:27-28 73:27-28 73:27-28

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Etc.


A. Asaph is one of the Levitical choir directors under David (cf. 1 Chr. 25:1-9).

B. This Psalm speaks to the apparent unfairness of the prosperity of the wicked and the suffering of the righteous. It treats the problem by projecting the justice of God into a future afterlife.

C. The Psalm develops and expands the traditional view ("the two ways") concerning life; compare Deuteronomy 27-28; 30:15-20; Psalm 1; Pro. 4:10-18; Matt. 7:13-14. Life is unfair but God will set it straight!

D. The book of Job and Psalm 37 deal with the same problem, but in this life; Psalm 73 deals with it in light of Matthew 25.


 1Surely God is good to Israel,
 To those who are pure in heart!
 2But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling,
 My steps had almost slipped.
 3For I was envious of the arrogant
 As I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
 4For there are no pains in their death,
 And their body is fat.
 5They are not in trouble as other men,
 Nor are they plagued like mankind.
 6Therefore pride is their necklace;
 The garment of violence covers them.
 7Their eye bulges from fatness;
 The imaginations of their heart run riot.
 8They mock and wickedly speak of oppression;
 They speak from on high.
 9They have set their mouth against the heavens,
 And their tongue parades through the earth.

73:1 "Surely God is good to Israel" "Good" (BDB 373 II, #9) means "kind to" (cf. Ps. 86:5; 145:9; Lam. 3:25). This is the conclusion of the Psalm and the basic assumption of the OT but not every person in Israel is of faith (cf. Romans 9-11). The same can be said of the church (cf. Matthew 7; 13). The unusual phrase of Ps. 73:15 may reflect a true, faithful Israel.

Notice the added connotations of God's "goodness."

1. He is good to all (cf. Ps. 145:9)

2. His goodness is primarily bestowed on those who call upon Him (cf. Ps. 86:5)

3. He is good, Himself (cf. Ezra 3:11; Ps. 100:5; 106:1; 107:1; 118:1,29; 136:1; Jer. 33:11; Nah. 1:7)

Israel's blessing is based on

1. God's eternal redemptive purpose in the seed of Abraham (see Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan)

2. the faith relationship and covenant obedience of His followers

3. short term physical blessings do not compare (cf. Rom. 8:18-25) with long term, personal relationship (cf. Rom. 8:26-30,31-39)! Be sure to take the long look! Immediate circumstances can be deceiving!

▣ "to Israel" The NRSV and REB, as well as the Catholic version NAB, change "to Israel," לישראל (BDB 975) to "for God's upright one," אללישר (BDB 449 plus BDB 42 II, #6).

▣ "pure in heart" This reflects one's attitudes and motives (cf. Ps. 24:4-5; 51:10; Matt. 5:8).


NJB"on the point of"

This reflects the Hebrew adverb BDB 589. It clearly states the seriousness of the psalmist's faith crisis! He was on the very verge of losing his confidence, trust, assurance, and peace with God. Faith crises are potentially

1. a devastating loss of hope

2. a source of strength and growth

We all know people who have experienced one or the other!

▣ "stumbling. . .slipped" This is a biblical metaphor of lifestyle. The straight, stable path was righteousness (cf. Ps. 40:2), but the crooked, slippery path was wickedness (cf. Ps. 73:18; Pro. 3:23). The two options in life are what is called "the two ways" (i.e., Psalm 1 and Deut. 30:15-20).

The term translated "slipped" is literally "poured out" (BDB 1049, KB 1629, Qal passive perfect). Only here does it have the connotation (demanded by the parallel poetic line, "stumbling") of slipping on a wet surface.

Psalm 73:3 clarifies the problem area (i.e., envy, jealousy).

73:3 "I was envious of the arrogant. . .the prosperity of the wicked" This world is unfair. If this world is all there is, God is unfair!

The "pure in heart" of Ps. 73:1 are being tested by the unfairness of life. The underlying assumption is that God allows that which should be judged! See SPECIAL TOPIC: GOD TESTS HIS PEOPLE.

73:4-9 These verses describe the lifestyle of the people mentioned in Ps. 73:3 (i.e., the arrogant and prosperous, wicked people of the covenant community).

1. no pain in their death

2. well fed, Ps. 73:4b, 7a

3. no outward trouble

4. show off the pride, Ps. 73:6a, 8b

5. act in violence without judgment

6. evil thinking and slandering

7. flaunt their evil deeds, even before God, Ps. 73:11

From OT theology (i.e., Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 27-30) prosperity was a blessing from God for faith and obedience (cf. Ps. 73:10), but these people made a mockery of those texts!

73:4 "there are no pains in their death" This means (1) they had an honorable funeral or (2) their death was quick and painless.

▣ "pains" This Hebrew word (BDB 359) is used only twice in the OT, in very different senses.

1. "fetters" or "bonds" - Isa. 58:6 (singular)

2. "pains" - Ps. 73:4 (plural)

The NET bible suggests:

"It is used metaphorically of pain and suffering that restricts one's enjoyment of life" (p. 941).

The Tyndale Commentary by Derek Kidner (p. 289, footnote #2) agrees with the RSV, which changes "in their death," למותם, into two words, תם למו, which results in "no pains for them, sound and sleek in their body." This is followed by NRSV and REB.

▣ "their body is fat" They did not seemingly experience disease or the normal problems of life (i.e., a healthy body; the Hebrew term [BDB 17 I]) is found only here.


NASB, NKJV"They are not in trouble as other men"
NJB"exempt from the cares which are the human lot"
JPSOA"They have no part in the travail of men"

The wicked seem to be spared the normal problems of life. This, at first, seems to be an act of God. This is the theological problem connected to "the two ways" (cf. Job; Psalm 73).

▣ "plagued" This term (BDB 619, KB 668, Pual imperfect) is often used of divine punishment (cf. Gen. 12:17; 2 Kgs. 15:5; 2 Chr. 26:20; Isa. 26:5; Job 1:11; 2:5). It seemed God's own words (i.e., Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 27-30; Psalm 1) about the wicked had failed. In Ps. 73:14 the same word is used for the mental anguish of the psalmist, caused by his own doubts.

73:6 Because of their life experiences (Ps. 73:4-5) the arrogant, wealthy, healthy, covenant violators live openly, even flauntingly, their godless lives (Ps. 73:6-9).


NASB"their eye bulges from fatness"
TEV"their hearts pour out evil"
NJB"from their fat oozes out malice"
LXX"Their injustice will go forth as though from fat"
Peshitta"Their iniquity comes through like grease"
JPSOA"Fat shuts out their eyes"

The idea of "iniquity" is the translation from the LXX, Syriac, Peshitta, and Vulgate. The UBS Text Project (p. 314) gives "their eyes" a "C" rating (i.e., considerable doubt).

"iniquity" is עובמו

"their eyes" is עיבמו

"Eyes" fits the context and parallelism of Ps. 73:7 best.

73:8 "mock" This apparently Aramaic term (BDB 558, KB 559) occurs only here in the OT.

 10Therefore his people return to this place,
 And waters of abundance are drunk by them.
 11They say, "How does God know?
 And is there knowledge with the Most High?"
 12Behold, these are the wicked;
 And always at ease, they have increased in wealth.
 13Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure
 And washed my hands in innocence;
 14For I have been stricken all day long
 And chastened every morning.

73:10 This verse is uncertain in the MT. The flow of the context implies

1. the wicked people have negatively affected other covenant people (The Catholic Tradition CCD thinks Ps. 73:10 was a quote from the wicked Israelites)

2. the wicked consume every good thing they can

3. the followers of the wicked believe everything they say (NIDOTTE, vol. 2, p. 1065)

Basically this is the psalmist's dilemma. He sees the arrogant, blasphemous, covenant person receiving all the covenant's benefits and abundance! This is why he asks the question of Ps. 73:13! The "if. . .then" of the Mosaic covenant (i.e., Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 27-30) seems to be of no effect. The world seems "upside down."

The AB, followed by the NET Bible, suggests an emendation to the first line. They change "he will bring back his people" (MT) to "they will be filled with food," which seems to be a better parallel to the next line.

73:11 "How does God know?" The wicked show open arrogance and blasphemy toward YHWH (cf. Ps. 73:9).

The Jewish Study Bible has an interesting quote (p. 1362).

"There was no atheism in ancient times, only the notion that God lacked knowledge and power" (cf. Ps. 10:4,11,13; 94:7).

This assertion of the lack of foreknowledge has reappeared in modern theology of "Open Theism." I personally think this theology has taken an OT literary technique (i.e., God asking questions, cf. Gen. 3:9) and used it as a grid to filter all Bible texts. It is a modified form of "Progressive Theism" from Alfred North Whitehead.

▣ "Most High" This is the Hebrew title Elyon (see SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY). It is used in Genesis 14 (i.e., Melchizedek's name for Deity) four times and twenty-one times in the Psalter, but only six times in all the rest of the OT.

73:13 "Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure" This reflects the psalmist's doubt about the goodness and fairness of God mixed with a "poor me" attitude. This almost reflects the "what's in it for me" attitude of Job 1:6-12.

This is theologically similar to Satan's accusations against Job that he only served God because of God's blessings and protection (i.e., faith for favors).

The "two ways" of the OT seem to have been reversed! This is where "faithful followers" must remember we live in a fallen world. This is not the world God intended it to be. The purpose of the OT was to show humanity their rebellion and sin (cf. Galatians 3)!

Godliness and faithfulness bring reproach and rejection in a fallen world (cf. Matt. 5:10-16), but there is a new day coming (cf. Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:22-38).

▣ "surely" This adverb (BDB 36), used of "doubt" in Ps. 73:13, becomes an affirmation in Ps. 73:18! The psalmist had not lived a righteous life in vain and the wicked will reap what they have sowed (cf. Job 34:11; Ps. 28:4; 62:12; Pro. 24:12; Eccl. 12:14; Jer. 17:10; 32:19, for a full list of NT texts cf. Gal. 6:7 online).

▣ "washed my hands in innocense" This translation is surely possible, based on

1. the MT intro to Psalm 73

2. this Levitical imagery

3. the sacrificial term "portion" in Ps. 73:26

The author may have been a Levite or priest. Hand washing was part of the rituals of the temple.

However, the idiom takes on the wider connotation of "godly living" (cf. Deut. 21:6; Ps. 26:6); also note the idiom in Gen. 20:5.

73:14 There is a parallel between "all day long" and "every morning," both of which are idioms for an extended period of time (i.e., a lifetime). The psalmist is claiming a life of faithfulness.

The passive voice of the phrase "I have been stricken" (BDB 224, K 243, Qal imperfect combined with BDB 619, KB 668, Qal passive participle) implies that not only has God allowed or overlooked the wicked's actions and motives, but has done to the faithful psalmist what should have been done to the arrogant, blasphemous, unfaithful covenant partners! This is the mystery of events in a fallen world. This is not the world God intended it to be. Things happen that are not from God. In the OT, to support monotheism, there is only one causality (cf. Eccl. 7:14; Isa. 45:7; Amos 3:6) but from further revelation we know that is not the case. God has allowed His beloved creation to reap the terrible consequences of Genesis 3. The good news is

1. He will fix it eventually (i.e., New Age)

2. He is with us in the midst of it (cf. Psalm 23)

 15If I had said, "I will speak thus,"
 Behold, I would have betrayed the generation of Your children.
 16When I pondered to understand this,
 It was troublesome in my sight
 17Until I came into the sanctuary of God;
 Then I perceived their end.
 18Surely You set them in slippery places;
 You cast them down to destruction.
 19How they are destroyed in a moment!
 They are utterly swept away by sudden terrors!
 20Like a dream when one awakes,
 O Lord, when aroused, You will despise their form.

73:15-20 This strophe is the theological heart of this Psalm. Notice the main points.

1. Faithful followers openly expressing their doubt and confusion can affect other believers.

2. A place and time of fellowship with God can bring peace to our confusion.

3. The wicked's prosperity is fleeting and their time of confrontation with God will surely come (cf. Ps. 73:27).

This is an affirmation that the "two ways" still have validity! We do reap what we sow!

73:16 "When I pondered to understand this" Our ability to understand the ways of God through fallen, worldly, time-bound human intellect is doomed to failure (cf. Pro. 3:5b; Isa. 55:8-13; Col. 2:8). Knowledge is good but trust is better!

73:17 "Until I came into the sanctuary" The word "sanctuary" (BDB 874) is plural, which would denote the entire temple compound or the plural of majesty. Worship helped the psalmist see clearly. Possibly he had neglected this during his struggle.

▣ "I perceived their end" Revelation came and his eyes were opened to the big picture—he took the long look, both in time and beyond time.

73:18-20 The result of rebellion is not only a fearful death but also a dreadful eternity (cf. Matt. 25:31-46; Luke 16:19-31; Rev. 20:11-15).

73:19 The term "terrors" (BDB 117) can refer to death (cf. Job 18:11,14). The AB in Psalms by Mitchell Dahood finds many Hebrew words and idioms that, because of Ugaritic usage may be imagery for the nether world.

73:20 "when aroused" The preposition and verb (בעור, BDB 734, KB 802, Hiphil infinitive construct) has been emended (LXX, Peshitta, Vulgate) to "city" (עיר, BDB 746 II). This would refer to

1. "the city of phantoms" (AB, i.e., Sheol)

2. a reference to Jerusalem (i.e., they are excluded from God's presence by sin and/or exile)

The concept of God awakening from sleep or rising from His throne to act is used in the OT as figurative language to denote the mystery of Deity's apparent inactivity or/and the unfairness of worldly events. God has revealed Himself but why are His promises and human conditions so different?

NRSV, LXX"phantoms"

This word (BDB 853) occurs only twice in the OT (cf. here and Ps. 39:6). NIDOTTE, vol. 3, p. 810, suggests it denotes an image or shadow. It possibly comes from an ANE root for "dark," "black" (another form would be "the valley of the shadow of death," cf. Ps. 23:4).

 21When my heart was embittered
 And I was pierced within,
 22Then I was senseless and ignorant;
 I was like a beast before You.
 23Nevertheless I am continually with You;
 You have taken hold of my right hand.
 24With Your counsel You will guide me,
 And afterward receive me to glory.

73:21 "within" This is literally "kidneys" (BDB 480). The Hebrews referred to the lower viscera as the seat of the emotions (cf. Job 19:27; Pro. 23:16) and mental activity (cf. Ps. 16:7).

73:22 Animals have no moral sense. It is humans who are created in the image and likeness of God (i.e., Gen. 1:26-27). Only they have a moral sense. The knowledge of the Tree of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden accentuated this moral dilemma (cf. Gen. 3:8-13). To call someone "brutish" means they have no moral compass or direction and simply live like animals (i.e., to meet their immediate needs or wants). The psalmist felt his doubts and jealousy had made him act like one who did not know God (i.e., Ps. 73:21-22). All humans go through these times of "less than appropriate" feelings. True believers emerge from these times stronger and surer of God's great mercy and presence! Inappropriate attitudes can be stepping stones to greater faith!

73:23-24 The blessings of God are:

1. His presence in our lives (cf. Ps. 73:28a)

2. His daily guidance (i.e., holds the psalmist's "right hand")

3. His acceptance now

4. His acceptance eternally (see note at Ps. 73:24)

When faith looks backward it clearly sees the hand of God. Past faithfulness and mercy give the faithful follower hope and confidence in the future presence and promises of God!

73:24 Interpreters must be careful not to assume NT revelation into ambiguous OT texts. There are OT texts that point toward a future hope of physical life with God. This text, however, may not be one of them.

1. the word "glory" (BDB 458) does not refer to heaven in any other place in the OT (see UBS Handbook, p. 642; IVP Background Commentary, p. 540)

2. the preposition "to" is not in the text (there is no preposition). The LXX supplies "with."

3. "glory" may refer to "honor" (cf. JPSOA, NRSV, Peshitta) that seemed to be with the wicked, but in reality, was with the psalmist

On the other hand

1. the verb "receive" (BDB 542, KB 534, Qal imperfect) is used of Enoch in Gen. 5:24, who was translated into God's presence, as was Elijah (cf. 2 Kgs. 2:3,10-11)

2. the adverb "afterward" (BDB 29) occurs in Ps. 73:24, which seems to denote a concluding event

3. "heaven" (BDB 1029, see two Special Topic: Heaven and SPECIAL TOPIC: HEAVEN and the Third Heaven) is mentioned in Ps. 73:25

4. the term "forever" is used in Ps. 73:26 in contrast to "those who are far from You will perish"

The hope of all faithful followers is that they will be with God forever (cf. Ps. 23:6; 27:4-6). It is not a "where" question but a "who" question! Humans were created for fellowship with God; nothing else will do!

 25Whom have I in heaven but You?
 And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.
 26My flesh and my heart may fail,
 But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
 27For, behold, those who are far from You will perish;
 You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You.
 28But as for me, the nearness of God is my good;
 I have made the Lord God my refuge,
 That I may tell of all Your works.

73:25 "besides You, I desire nothing on earth" God Himself is our greatest need! We were created for fellowship with Him (cf. Gen. 1:26-27; 3:8).

It is possible that this phrase is an affirmation of covenant loyalty to the one true God. The psalmist is asserting that he never participated in idolatry ("act as a harlot," i.e., idolatry, Ps. 73:27).

73:26 "God is the strength" His changelessness is our hope (cf. Ps. 18:1-3; Mal. 3:6).

▣ "my portion forever" God Himself was the inheritance of the Levites (cf. Deut. 10:9; 12:12; 14:27,29; 18:1; Ps. 16:5; Lam. 3:24) and now He is the inheritance of all faithful followers (cf. Acts 15; Rom. 2:28-29; Galatians 3)!

73:27 "unfaithful" This is literally "to go awhoring from" (BDB 275, KB 275, Qal participle). This involves the concept of God as husband (cf. Hosea 1-3). To leave Him is spiritual adultery (cf. Exod. 34:15; Num. 15:39; Hos. 4:12; 9:1).

73:28 "the nearness" Note the contrast between "those who are far from You" (Ps. 73:27) and "the nearness of God" (Ps. 73:28).

▣ "I have made the Lord God my refuge" The name for Deity here is Adonai YHWH. See SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY.

For "refuge" (BDB 340) see note at Ps. 5:11.

▣ "That I may tell of all Your works" It is crucial that faithful followers communicate what God has done for them. This is the opposite of Ps. 73:15.

Some scholars classify this Psalm as a "Wisdom Psalm," but this phrase implies it is a "Thanksgiving Psalm." A testimony of thanksgiving and a sacrifice in the temple were the common elements of this genre of Psalms.


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Define the word "good" in Ps. 73:1.

2. What does it mean to be pure in heart? (Ps. 73:1)

3. Why did the psalmist almost lose his faith/trust/confidence in YHWH?

4. Who are "the wicked" described in Ps. 73:3-9?

5. How does Ps. 73:13 parallel Satan's accusations of Job 1-2?

6. How did the psalmist escape his doubt?

7. List the benefits of verses Ps. 73:23-24.

8. Does Ps. 73:25-26 speak of vindication in this life or the hereafter? Why, why not?

9. What does Ps. 73:28a mean?

Psalm 74


An Appeal Against the Devastation of the Land by the Enemy
MT Intro
A Psalm of Asaph
A Plea for Relief From Oppressors Prayer for Deliverance from National Enemies A Prayer for National Deliverance Lament on the Sack of the Temple
74:1-11 74:1-8 74:1-3 74:1-3 74:1-2
    74:4-8 74:4-8  
  74:9-17 74:9-11 74:9-11  
74:12-17   74:12-17 74:12-17 74:12-13
74:18-21 74:18-21 74:18-19 74:18-19 74:18-19
    74:20-23 74:20-21 74:20-21
74:22-23 74:22-23   74:22-23 74:22-23

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Etc.



A. This Psalm is an appeal to the Covenant God to remember (cf. Ps. 74:1,18,22) His people in a time when the Promised Land (cf. Gen. 12:1-3) has been invaded and occupied by pagans (cf. Ps. 74:4-8).

Note the contextual flow of the imperatives (i.e., prayer requests).

1. remember Your congregation, Ps. 74:2

2. turn (i.e., lift up your feet), Ps. 74:3

3. destroy them, Ps. 74:11

4. remember this, Ps. 74:18

5. consider the covenant, Ps. 74:20

6. arise, Ps. 74:22

7. plead Your own cause, Ps. 74:22

8. remember the reproaches of the foolish, Ps. 74:22

B. Notice the different phrases which describe the covenant people.

1. the sheep of Your pasture, Ps. 74:1

2. the tribe of Your inheritance, Ps. 74:2

3. Your turtledove, Ps. 74:19

4. the afflicted and needy, Ps. 74:19,21

C. Notice the different phrases used to designate the temple.

1. Mount Zion, Ps. 74:2

2. the perpetual ruins, Ps. 74:3

3. Your sanctuary, Ps. 74:3, 7

4. Your meeting place, Ps. 74:4

5. the dwelling place of Your name, Ps. 74:7

D. Notice the strophe (Ps 74:12-17, mostly perfects) which describes God as King of creation, using images from Genesis 1 (cf. Psalm 104) and Ugaritic poetry.

E. It is surprising that the covenant people do not know why YHWH has abandoned them (i.e., for their covenant faithlessness). They do not offer any hint of repentance but assert God's faithfulness to His promises (note how different in Psalm 79).



 1O God, why have You rejected us forever?
 Why does Your anger smoke against the sheep of Your pasture?
 2Remember Your congregation, which You have purchased of old,
 Which You have redeemed to be the tribe of Your inheritance;
 And this Mount Zion, where You have dwelt.
 3Turn Your footsteps toward the perpetual ruins;
 The enemy has damaged everything within the sanctuary.
 4Your adversaries have roared in the midst of Your meeting place;
 They have set up their own standards for signs.
 5It seems as if one had lifted up
 His axe in a forest of trees.
 6And now all its carved work
 They smash with hatchet and hammers.
 7They have burned Your sanctuary to the ground;
 They have defiled the dwelling place of Your name.
 8They said in their heart, "Let us completely subdue them."
 They have burned all the meeting places of God in the land.
 9We do not see our signs;
 There is no longer any prophet,
 Nor is there any among us who knows how long.
 10How long, O God, will the adversary revile,
 And the enemy spurn Your name forever?
 11Why do You withdraw Your hand, even Your right hand?
 From within Your bosom, destroy them!

74:1 The defeat and occupation of the Promised Land (cf. Gen. 1:1-3) was so shocking to the psalmist that he asked the question all the covenant people were thinking. They felt themselves "special" (cf. Exod. 19:5-6, but forgot that God's promises were conditional on their faithful obedience (cf. Exod. 19:5; Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 27-30). Abundant blessing and protection from God were God's part but His people also had a responsibility (i.e., obedience, cf. Deut. 10:12-13).

The psalmist presents his prayer by asking questions (NASB).

1. Psalm 74:1 - two questions

2. Psalm 74:10 - one question

3. Psalm 74:11 - one question


▣ "Your anger smoke" This is literally "your nostrils smolder." It is an anthropomorphic idiom (see SPECIAL TOPIC: GOD DESCRIBED AS HUMAN (ANTHROPOMORPHISM)) of God's judgment (see Special Topic: Fire).

74:2 "Remember" This is the first of three uses of the term (BDB 269, KB 269, Qal imperative, cf. Ps. 74:1,18,22). The psalmist is asking God to remember His covenant (cf. Ps. 74:20, "consider the covenant," BDB 613, KB 661, Hiphil imperative, cf. Ps. 106:45; Lev. 26:42).

OT leaders often prayed this prayer. They wanted God to remember His promises and forget their sins! In essence they were praying for the merciful character of God to overlook their covenant violations. This does illustrate the weakness of human performance as the way to approach Deity! It does, however, point toward the need of a "new covenant" (cf. Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:22-38), based on YHWH's mercy as the basis of acceptance and gratitude as the call to godly living.

▣ "You have purchased" This is OT imagery using a commercial term ("purchase," BDB 888, KB 1111, Qal perfect) to describe YHWH's covenant (cf. Exod. 15:13,16; Deut. 32:6). They were His by His choice and His actions, not their merit (cf. Deut. 9:4-6).

▣ "of old" This phrase points to an act of God in the past. In Ps. 74:12-17 it refers to creation; here it refers to the Exodus.

In this Psalm the acts of God in both creation and the Exodus are merged. It is difficult to be specific on which idiom, verb, or verse this refers.

The current state of the covenant people is tragic (cf. Ps. 74:3). The psalmist alludes to God's past acts of salvation/deliverance (i.e., either initial chaos or Egyptian bondage).

▣ "redeemed" The verb (BDB 145, KB 169, Qal perfect) is a central concept in (1) the Exodus (cf. Exod. 6:6; 15:13) and (2) the theological purpose of the sacrificial system of Israel. See SPECIAL TOPIC: RANSOM/REDEEM.

▣ "the tribe of Your inheritance" This phrase does not refer to one of the thirteen tribes from Jacob, but to all of them (cf. Jer. 10:16; 51:19). In Isa. 63:17 "tribe" is plural but also refers to the seed of Jacob/Israel and the initial promises to Abram (cf. Genesis 12; 15; 17).

▣ "Mount Zion" See notes at Ps. 2:6; 9:11; and 20:2. See Special Topic: Zion.

74:3 The Hiphil imperative ("lift up") is another prayer request asking God to return to the place of the temple where He has dwelt (cf. Ps. 74:2c, "has dwelt," BDB 1014, KB 1496, Qal perfect).

His sanctuary has been overrun, damaged, and occupied by pagan invaders (cf. Ps. 74:3-4).

▣ "the enemy" Notice the different ways the pagan invaders are characterized.

1. enemies - Ps. 74:3,10,18

2. adversaries - Ps. 74:4,10,23

3. a foolish people, Ps. 74:18,22

4. the wild beast, Ps. 74:19

There have been two suggestions about the historical setting that called forth this national lament.

1. the Neo-Babylonian invasion of 586 b.c., where the temple was burned (cf. Psalm 137)

2. the invasion of Edom in 485 b.c., where the temple was defiled and damaged


74:4-8 Note the obvious parallelism using, "they. . ." (NASB). These verses describe what the pagan invaders have done that should cause YHWH to act on Israel's behalf.

1. they have damaged the temple, Ps. 74:3a (cf. Lam. 2:6)

2. they have roared (i.e., symbol of victory, cf. Lam. 2:7) in the temple, Ps. 74:4a

3. the have set up their pagan signs (i.e., flags, carvings, altar), Ps. 74:4b

4. they destroyed the art work of YHWH's dwelling place, Ps. 74:5-6

5. they destroyed the temple with fire, Ps. 74:7a (i.e., 2 Kgs. 25:9; 2 Chr. 36:19)

6. they defiled the temple, Ps. 74:7b

7. they desired to completely destroy God's inheritance, Ps. 74:8a

8. they burned all the local YHWHistic shrines, Ps. 74:8b


74:4 "Your adversaries" If the burning of the temple mentioned in Ps. 74:7 is the same as 2 Kgs. 25:9, then the adversaries are the Babylonians (cf. Lamentations 2).

▣ "have roared in the midst of Your meeting place" This imagery describes the pagan occupation of the temple area. The verb "roared" (BDB 980, KB 1367, Qal perfect) denotes the vicious and victorious demise of God's special dwelling place. This verb is used of lions, which denotes the voracity and power of the pagan invaders (cf. Isa. 5:29; Jer. 2:15).

74:5-6 Dahood, in The Anchor Bible (vol. 17b, p. 202), says "Verses 5 and 6 are among the most obscure and difficult of the entire Psalter." In context it must describe something the pagan invaders did to the temple before they burned it. It denotes the anger of the invaders against YHWH's special worship place. They wanted to totally humiliate the God of Israel.

74:5 The LXX has the opening line as "as though into the entrance above" (i.e., the upper entrance of the temple). The Hebrew root, עלה (BDB 750-751) can mean

1. leaf, foliage

2. whole burnt offering

3. ascent, stairway

In this verse I assume it refers to an entrance to the temple or temple area.

74:6 "hatchet. . .hammers" These two terms (BDB 506 and BDB 476) occur only here in the OT. This Psalm has many rare and unique terms.

The imagery of "axes" and "hatchets" may reflect Jeremiah's description of the Babylonian army (cf. Jer. 46:22-23).

74:8 "Let us completely subdue them" There is uncertainty in the MT. The line may refer to

1. the complete annihilation of the covenant people

2. the destruction of the temple and the local worship sites


74:9-11 The covenant people could not comprehend YHWH's apparent absence and silence. He had chosen not to act and had even taken away His prophetic speakers. They implored Him to act, to defend His name and temple and people!

The problem has several aspects.

1. If the invader is Babylon then YHWH is fighting on their side.

2. Israel is the object of His wrath for their idolatry and faithlessness.

3. However, YHWH has an eternal redemptive plan which involves the seed of Abraham (see Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan).

4. He will both judge and deliver Israel!


74:9 "prophet" See a parallel in Lam. 2:9.


74:10 YHWH used pagans to judge His people but they will eventually be judged also because

1. they revile - BDB 357, KB 355, Piel imperfect, cf. Ps. 74:18 (another example: Zeph. 2:8,10)

2. they spurn His name - BDB 610, KB 658, Piel imperfect

The imperfect denotes an ongoing action and attitude.

▣ "How long" This is a recurrent question in the Psalms (cf. Ps. 6:3; 13:1; 44:23-24; 79:5; 80:4; 85:5; 89:46; 90:13; 94:3). This information had to come from a priest or prophet.

1. the temple was destroyed (no priests)

2. there were no prophets (Ps. 74:9)

This is a question all suffering faithful followers ask in a fallen, imperfect world. The world may be fallen, but God is still in control (cf. Ps. 74:12-17).

▣ "Your name" See Special Topic: "The Name" of YHWH.

74:11 YHWH's lack of support for Israel sends the wrong message to the world (cf. Ezek. 36:22-38). He must act to show the world who He is and His greater purpose (cf. Ps. 59:13-15).

▣ "Your right hand" See Special Topic: God Described as Human (anthropomorphism).

 12Yet God is my king from of old,
 Who works deeds of deliverance in the midst of the earth.
 13You divided the sea by Your strength;
 You broke the heads of the sea monsters in the waters.
 14You crushed the heads of Leviathan;
 You gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness.
 15You broke open springs and torrents;
 You dried up ever-flowing streams.
 16Yours is the day, Yours also is the night;
 You have prepared the light and the sun.
 17You have established all the boundaries of the earth;
 You have made summer and winter.

74:12-17 This strophe was the psalmist's way of focusing on God's wonderful, creative acts (i.e., Genesis 1 or the Exodus). He was the God of creation! He brought this world into being for a purpose. Israel was a crucial part of that purpose (i.e., Ps. 74:12, see Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan).

Notice the parallelism (i.e., "You. . .," BDB 61 used seven times with perfect tenses), which could refer to the initial creation of Genesis 1 or the defeat of Egypt and the Exodus.

1. divided (this Hebrew word is uncertain, it follows BDB 830 II, but KB 978 does not affirm this usage) the sea

2. broke the heads of the sea monsters (possibly singular and, therefore, parallel to Leviathan)

3. crushed the heads of Leviathan

4. provided food for the creatures/people of the wilderness (in context "creatures" seems best, cf. Isa. 13:21-22; 23:13; 34:14; Jer. 50:39, NRSV, TEV, NJB)

5. broke open springs of water

6. dried up ever-flowing streams

7. prepared light and night

8. established all boundaries of the earth (i.e., seas, seasons, night and day)

9. formed the seasons (i.e., agriculture)


74:12 "my King" I think the concept of YHWH as "King" has two possible references.

1. He was the true leader/sovereign of the covenant people (cf. Ps. 89:1-4, see note at Ps. 44:4)

2. He is given this title because of this action as creator in His defeat of watery chaos (i.e., Rahab/Leviathan [Canaanite chaos monsters], cf. Job 26:12; Ps. 89:5-10; 93:1-5; Isa. 51:9)

The OT presents two models of creation.

a. Genesis 1-2 (speaking into existence)

b. Psalm 89; 96 (defeat of chaos, using mythological images from Sumer, Babylon, and Canaan. This is not intended to give reality to these pagan ANE worldviews but to help relate YHWH's message to the people of those cultures, see NIDOTTE, vol 4, p. 548, #7)


74:14 "Leviathan" This term was common in Ugaritic mythology (cf. Isa. 27:1). See below my note from Isaiah 27:1:

▣ "Leviathan the fleeing serpent" Leviathan (BDB 531) seems to be a Ugaritic mythological sea animal (i.e., Job 41:19-21) mentioned in Job 3:8; Ps. 104:26; Amos 9:3. However, sometimes it is used as a symbol for an evil nation (cf. Ps. 74:13-14, possibly Egypt). It resembles a river snaking through their land. Sometimes this term is linked specifically to "Rahab," which is a way of referring to Egypt (cf. Ps. 87:4; 89:9-10; and Isa. 30:7). It seems to me that, in context, we are talking about a river symbolizing a national enemy, either Egypt or Assyria (cf. Ps. 74:12). The reason this term can be used symbolically so easily is that it was previously used in some of the mythological literature of Canaan (cf. Ps. 74:12-17; see G. Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, pp. 239-240).

There is a parallelism between

1.the fleeing serpent (BDB 638 I) or sea monster (NASB footnote)

2.the twisted sea monster

3.the dragon who lives in the sea

This same allusion is found in (1) Ugaritic poems and (2) Isa. 51:9, using "Rahab," who is also identified by the term "dragon" (BDB 1072).

The only apparent connection between this verse and the context is Isa. 27:11-12.

1. YHWH as creator, Ps. 74:11

2. flowing streams of the Euphrates and the brook of Egypt in Ps. 74:12

3. the end of time is like the beginning of time (i.e., Genesis 1-2; Revelation 21-22)

Apparently Isaiah is a compilation of his writings over many years and compiled on the basis of word plays or themes, not history.

 18Remember this, O Lord, that the enemy has reviled,
 And a foolish people has spurned Your name.
 19Do not deliver the soul of Your turtledove to the wild beast;
 Do not forget the life of Your afflicted forever.
 20Consider the covenant;
 For the dark places of the land are full of the habitations of violence.
 21Let not the oppressed return dishonored;
 Let the afflicted and needy praise Your name.

74:18-21 This strophe alludes to the initial prayer of Ps. 74:1-11. YHWH needs to act in deliverance

1. because the enemy has reviled and spurned His name (cf. Ps. 74:10)

2. because Israel is His special people (cf. Exod. 19:5-6)

3. because of His promises to Abraham (cf. Gen. 12:1-3)

4. because His actions will send the right message to the nations whom He desires that they know and acknowledge Him

There are four jussives and two imperatives.

1. imperatives

a. remember - BDB 269, KB 269, Qal imperative, cf. Ps. 74:1,18,22

b. consider - BDB 613, KB 661, Hiphil imperative

2. jussives

a. do not deliver - BDB 678, KB 733, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense, Ps. 74:19

b. do not forget - BDB 1013, KB 1489, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense, Ps. 74:19b

c. let not the oppressed return dishonored - BDB 996, KB 1427, Qal jussive , Ps. 74:21a

d. let the afflicted and needy praise Your name - BDB 237, KB 248, Piel imperfect used in a jussive sense, Ps. 74:21b


74:19 "turtledove" This word (BDB 1076 II) is used

1. of a sacrificial animal, cf. Gen. 15:9; Lev. 1:14; 5:7,11; 12:6,8; 14:23,30; 15:14,29; Num. 6:10

2. of a migratory bird, cf. Sol. 2:12; Jer. 8:7

3. as a symbol of the covenant people, cf. Ps. 74:19

There is another, more common, word for "dove" (BDB 401) also used in the above ways (i.e., Sol. 2:14; 5:2; 6:9). The term in Psalm 74 could denote

1. helplessness

2. YHWH sacrificed His people in judgment

3. a love word showing His love for Israel (Hos. 7:11; 11:11)

Both lines of Ps. 74:19 refer to the same thing, so #1 may be correct.

The NEB, following the LXX, suggests an emendation of "of your dove," תורך, to "which praise you," תודך. The UBS Text Project (p. 325) gives option #1 a "C" rating (considerable doubt).

74:20 This is a difficult verse to interpret. Does it refer to

1. the violence of the invaders

2. the place of exile of God's people

3. a veiled reference to Sheol, the nether realm (i.e., as in Sheol, so on the earth, even the Promised Land)

It seems best to me to view Ps. 74:20 and 21 together as the oppression being suffered by the covenant people. If the historical setting is Babylon, then exile; if Edom, then in the land of Canaan.

74:21 "the afflicted and needy" This does not refer specifically to the poor but to the suffering, covenant people (i.e., the faithful remnant, cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 3, p. 459).

 22Arise, O God, and plead Your own cause;
 Remember how the foolish man reproaches You all day long.
 23Do not forget the voice of Your adversaries,
 The uproar of those who rise against You which ascends continually.

74:22-23 This is a final prayer for YHWH to act.

1. arise - BDB 877, KB 1086, Qal imperative

2. plead Your own cause - BDB 936, KB 1224, Qal imperative (face-to-face judicial encounter with those who revile His name and people, cf. Ps. 74:3-11)

3. remember the reproaches of the foolish - BDB 269, KB 269, Qal imperative

YHWH, please act! Act so the world may know (cf. Ps. 55:13; 83:18; Ezek. 36:22-38).


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. This Psalm is about the invasion and occupation of the Promised Land. It asks God to remember (cf. Ps. 74: 2,18,22) His covenant promises but never mentions why God allowed Israel/Judah to be defeated. Why did He?

2. Who are the invaders?

3. Does the Hebrew Bible use mythological imagery from the ANE? What? Why?

4. Why are Ps. 74:5-6 and 74:20 so difficult to understand?

5. Who does "the afflicted" of Ps. 74:21 refer to?

Psalm 75


God Abases the Proud, but Exalts the Righteous
MT Intro
For the choir director; set to Al-tashheth. A Psalm of Asaph. A Song
Thanksgiving For God's Righteous Judgment National Thanksgiving for God's Mighty Acts God the Judge The Universal Judge
75:1-5 75:1 75:1 75:1 75:1
  75:2-3 75:2-5 75:2-5 75:2-3
  75:4-5     75:4-5
75:6-8 75:6-8 75:6-9 75:6-8 75:6-8
75:9-10 75:9   75:9-10 75:9-10
  75:10 75:10    

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.


A. It is difficult to know when the psalmist is speaking and when he is speaking for God.

1. Psalm 75:1 - obviously the psalmist

2. Psalm 75:2-3 - obviously God

3. Psalm 75:4-5 - could be either one

4. Psalm 75:6-8 - the psalmist

5. Psalm 75:9 - God (MT, "I")

B. God acts and then His acts must be recorded and explained (i.e., inspiration) to human authors to put this revelation into a form that can be passed on to future generations (i.e., oral, written, stories).

C. The Creator will require an account of every human creature's stewardship of the gift of life and revelation (cf. Ps. 19:1-6,7-11)! Justice will come one day!


 1We give thanks to You, O God, we give thanks,
 For Your name is near;
 Men declare Your wondrous works.
 2"When I select an appointed time,
 It is I who judge with equity.
 3The earth and all who dwell in it melt;
 It is I who have firmly set its pillars.  Selah.
 4I said to the boastful, ‘Do not boast,'
 And to the wicked, ‘Do not lift up the horn;
 5Do not lift up your horn on high,
 Do not speak with insolent pride.'"

75:1 "We give thanks" This verb (BDB 392, KB 389, Hiphil perfect) is repeated twice for emphasis (note Ps. 107:1,8,15,21,31). The term in the Hiphil is used often (65 times) in the Psalter. It is translated mostly as "praise," but in Ps. 32:5 it is translated "confess."

NRSV"For Your name is near"
Peshitta, LXX"we call upon your name"
JPSOA"Your presence is near"

The MT is followed by NASB. The UBS Text Project (p. 326) gives the second option a "C" rating (considerable doubt), but accepts it as the most likely original text.

The problem is, what does "and near Your name" mean?

1. we tell of Your presence with Your people in acts of deliverance

2. You (i.e., "Your name," which equals YHWH's personal presence) are near now and we can expect You to act (because of Israel's sin YYWH had not always delivered them)

3. we call on Your name and tell what You have done for the covenant people (two separate acts)

4. AB makes it a title for God, "O Near One," as it does

a. "the Exalted One" in Ps. 75:5a

b. "the Victor" in Ps. 75:6 (twice)

c. "the Eternal" in Ps. 74:9

d. "the Just One" in Ps. 74:10

AB claims there are twelve divine names in this Psalm.

▣ "Men declare Your wondrous works" As Israel taught her children about their ancestors and God's promises (cf. Deut. 4:9,10; 6:7,20-25; 11:19; 32:46), they were passing on the promises and their fulfillment in the next generation. These "wondrous acts" (BDB 810, KB 927, see Special Topic: Wonderful Things) were the powerful acts of deliverance, protection, and provision that Israel had experienced throughout her history.

This revelation of the character, promises, and faithful interventions of YHWH were a way to

1. keep Israel in faith

2. bring the nations to faith

The NIDOTTE, vol. 3, p. 284, lists the different words used to describe God's acts which reveal His character.

1. wonders, cf. Ps. 9:1; 26:7; 40:5; 75:1

2. work/acts, cf. Ps. 44:1; 73:28; 107:22; 118:17

3. glory, cf. Ps. 96:3

4. righteousness, cf. Ps. 71:15

5. loyal love, cf. Ps. 88:11

6. greatness, cf. Ps. 145:6

75:2-5 "When I select an appointed time" In these verses, God is the speaker. It is possible this relates to Ps. 74:22-23 (i.e., God pleading His case).

75:2 "I select an appointed time" This is a literary way of asserting God's sovereignty. He sets the time and place of all world events (i.e., Ps. 74:12-17; Deut. 32:8; Romans 9-11).

1. seasons - Gen. 1:14-18; Ps. 72:17; 74:16-17; 104:19; 136:7-8

2. worship days - Gen. 2:3; Exod. 20:8-11; Leviticus 23; Numbers 28-29

3. all things are appointed by God - Eccl. 3:1-11 (cf. Job 14:5; Ps. 31:15; Acts 17:31)

God's people do not understand His timetable. He delivers on His schedule, not His people's. Often judgment, even invasion, is His will! But one day He will set all things straight!

▣ "I who judge with equity" Two theological points are asserted.

1. God will judge the earth

2. He will do it fairly based on His revelation (cf. Ps. 9:8; 58:11; 67:4; 96:10,13; 98:9)

75:3 "The earth and all who dwell in it melt" The verbal (BDB 556, KB 555, Niphal participle, cf. Exod. 15:15; Jos. 2:9,24; 1 Sam. 14:16; Isa. 14:31; Jer. 49:23) denotes the fear of a population.

Not only people's hearts melt but the earth itself is affected by the presence of its Creator/Judge (cf. Ps. 46:6; Isa. 24:19-20; Amos 9:5; Micah 1:4; Nahum 1:5).

In the NT 2 Peter 3:10 predicts the dissolving of this planet (cf. Matt. 5:18; 24:35; Rev. 21:1).

There is a new heaven and a new earth coming. The new covenant of Jer. 31:31-34 will be fully implemented. The Bible describes this new age in terms of Garden of Eden imagery (compare Genesis 1-2 with Revelation 21-22).

▣ "It is I who have firmly set its pillars" This is a literary way of referring to the foundations of the earth (i.e., initial creation, cf. 1 Sam. 2:8; Job 38:4-6).

In Jonah 2:6 the "roots of the mountains" is also creation imagery. See my notes below from Jonah 2:6.

Jonah 2:6 "I descended to the roots of the mountains" The OT uses the physical direction "down" to describe Sheol (BDB 432, KB 434, Qal PERFECT, cf. Num. 16:30,33; Ps. 55:15; Isa. 5:14; 14:19). The term Sheol and "pit" (BDB 1001) are parallel (cf. Ps. 30:3). It is this metaphorical expression of Jonah's sense of approaching the underworld that makes his experience the object of Jesus' comment (cf. Matt. 12:40-41; Luke 11:30). Jonah believed he was going to die, but God had mercy on him! God's judgment was not His last word. There was purpose in the punishment.

The psalmist and the covenant people did not understand why they faced such difficulties when they knew their God was in control of all things! Even amidst chaos, invasion, and injustice God's sovereignty was stable and sure (cf. Revelation 4-5)! His timetable is geared to His larger redemptive purposes, not our immediate wants/desires/needs!

▣ "Selah" See note at Psalm 3:2 and Introduction VII.

75:4-5 The Creator speaks as the Moral Guide. YHWH's laws reflected His character. The ones who face His judgment were those who

1. boast - "do not boast," BDB 237, KB 248, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

2. wicked - "do not lift up your horn," BDB 926, KB 1202 (twice), Hiphil imperfects used in a jussive sense

3. prideful - "do not speak. . .," BDB 180, KB 210, Piel imperfect used in a jussive sense

It seems that "the wicked," (Ps. 7:4) of this Psalm are

1.  pagan nations who are attempting an invasion

2. arrogant Israelites (cf. Ps. 78:3,8-9,18-19)

75:4 "horn" This is an animal symbol of power and preeminence (see SPECIAL TOPIC: HORNS USED BY ISRAEL, cf. Ps. 75:10; 1 Sam. 2:1,10; Daniel 7-8).


NEB, LXX"Rock"

The MT has "neck" (BDB 848). The REB has "rock." The two words are very similar (i.e., "rock" has one more consonant). Possibly REB reflects the usage of Job 15:26. The UBS Text Project (p. 326) gives "neck" a "C" rating (considerable doubt). The JPSOA has "in vainglorious bluster."

 6For not from the east, nor from the west,
 Nor from the desert comes exaltation;
 7But God is the Judge;
 He puts down one and exalts another.
 8For a cup is in the hand of the Lord, and the wine foams;
 It is well mixed, and He pours out of this;
 Surely all the wicked of the earth must drain and drink down its dregs.

75:6-8 This strophe reflects the universal presence of YHWH, much like Psalm 139 does, but here the context focuses on His judgment of the wicked (cf. Ps. 75:4-5).

Often the wicked seem to have the upper hand but God will set things straight (cf. Ps. 146:7; 1 Sam. 2:7; Romans 9; James 4:10). This divine action will be a reversal of expectations.

75:6 This verse is using Palestinian/Canaanite imagery to assert universality.

1. east - west

2. sunrise - sunset

3. desert (south) - mountains (or "uplifting") which would denote the north

75:8 "a cup" This is usually an idiom for human destiny and it is usually negative (cf. Isa. 51:17,22; Jer. 25:15-16,27-28). See full note at Ps. 11:6.

▣ "It is well mixed" This refers to the ancient method of mixing different types of fermented fruits and grains to form more intoxicating drinks. See Special Topic: Alcohol and Alcohol Abuse.

 9But as for me, I will declare it forever;
 I will sing praises to the God of Jacob.
 10And all the horns of the wicked He will cut off,
 But the horns of the righteous will be lifted up.

75:9-10 This strophe is the closing words of the psalmist.

1. he will declare YHWH's wondrous deeds (cf. Ps. 75:1)

2. he will sing praises to the God of Jacob

3. he will affirm the reversal of YHWH's righteous judgment

This reflects a temple worship setting!

75:9 The MT has "I will declare" but the LXX and Peshitta have, "I will rejoice" (cf. NRSV). The difference is one consonant. The LXX is attempting to establish a synonymous parallelism between Ps. 75:9a and 9b.

75:10 "He will cut off" The MT has "I will." The UBS Text Project (p. 328) gives this an "A" rating.

This Psalm has several speakers. Possibly Ps. 75:9 is the psalmist and 75:10 is YHWH.

▣ "horns" Notice that this idiom can be used positively or negatively (see SPECIAL TOPIC: HORNS USED BY ISRAEL).

1. negatively - cf. Ps. 75:4-5,10a; Jer. 48:25; Lam. 2:17

2. positively -cf. Ps. 75:10b; 1 Sam. 2:1,10; Ps. 89:17,24; 92:10; 112:9


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. List the different speakers in this Psalm.

2. Does this Psalm magnify God as Creator or Judge?

3. Explain the imagery of

a. "pillars"

b. "horn"

c. "cup"

4. Does this Psalm look toward a temporal judgment or an end-time judgment?

Psalm 76


The Victorious Power of the God of Jacob
MT Intro
For the choir director; on stringed instruments. A Psalm of Asaph. A Song.
The Majesty of God in Judgment A Song of Zion Celebrating God's Ultimate Victory Over the Nations God the Victor Hymn to God the Awe-inspiring
76:1-3 76:1-3 76:1-3 76:1-3 76:1-3
76:4-7 76:4-6 76:4-6 76:4-6 76:4-6
  76:7-9 76:7-9 76:7-9 76:7-9
  76:10-12 76:10-12 76:10 76:10-12
76:11-12     76:11-12  

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Etc.



A. The OT mentions what seems to be conflicting revelation.

1. God's special care and attention to the family of Abraham (Ps. 76:1-7)

2. God's desire for all the nations to know Him (Ps. 76:8-12)

B. I think this very issue is the purpose of the new covenant which is revealed in the NT (i.e., the gospel of Jesus Christ). I have tried to express this theological tension in two Special Topics.

1. Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan

2. Special Topic: OT Predictions of the Future vs. NT Predictions



 1God is known in Judah;
 His name is great in Israel.
 2His tabernacle is in Salem;
 His dwelling place also is in Zion.
 3There He broke the flaming arrows,
 The shield and the sword and the weapons of war.  Selah.

76:1-3 This strophe reflects the "holy war" imagery (Ps. 76:3). The historical setting seems to be the period of the Divided Monarchy (i.e., 922 b.c.-586 b.c.) because it mentions both Judah and Israel (922-722 b.c.). Exactly which military campaign or invasion by a pagan neighbor or ANE power is uncertain.

76:1 "known" The Hebrew connotation has two aspects.

1. information about something or someone (cf. Gen. 4:1; Jer. 1:5)

2. personal relationship

See Special Topic: Know.

▣ "His name" Notice that "His name" is parallel to Elohim.

For "name" see Special Topic at Ps. 1:6. For Elohim see SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY.

76:2 "Salem. . .Zion" See Special Topic:

SPECIAL TOPIC: Moriah, Salem, Jebus, Jerusalem, Zion

76:3 There are several military items listed to illustrate YHWH's military victory.

1. arrows (BDB 905)

2. shield (BDB 171)

3. sword (BDB 352)

4. weapons of war (BDB 536)

The destruction of the enemies' weapons (cf. Ps. 46:9; Isa. 9:5; Ezek. 39:9-10) became a way of showing that

1. the enemy is completely defeated

2. Israel trusted in YHWH and did not need the weapons


▣ "Selah" See notes at Psalm 3:2 and Introduction, VII.

 4You are resplendent,
 More majestic than the mountains of prey.
 5The stouthearted were plundered,
 They sank into sleep;
 And none of the warriors could use his hands.
 6At Your rebuke, O God of Jacob,
 Both rider and horse were cast into a dead sleep.
 7You, even You, are to be feared;
 And who may stand in Your presence when once You are angry?

76:4-7 This strophe continues the military imagery.


NASB"resplendent. . .majestic"
NKJV"glorious and excellent"
NRSV, TEV"glorious. . .majestic"
NJB"radiant. . .renowned"
JPSOA"resplendent. . .glorious"

These two terms describe YHWH.

1. The first (BDB 21) may be another term related to "thunder bolt" (cf. Ps. 78:48) of Ps. 76:3, emphasizing a luminous aspect (i.e., light) to YHWH's presence, like the Shekinah Cloud of the Exodus.

2. The second (BDB 15) may refer to YHWH's superiority among all gods (idols), which is alluded to in Ps. 76:7 (cf. 1 Chr. 16:25; Ps. 89:7; 96:4).


JPSOA"the mountains of prey"
LXX"the everlasting mountains"
NJB"the mountain of booty"
NET"you descend from the hills where you killed your prey"

Obviously this is a difficult phrase to interpret. The UBS Text Project (p. 330) gives the NRSV option a "C" rating (considerable doubt). This imagery may be the focus of Hab. 3:6. UBS suggests the NRSV or NJB options. The NET Bible sees it as a metaphor of a "lion."

76:5 "the stouthearted" This term (BDB 7 construct BDB 524) implies a stubborn, anti-God attitude (cf. Isa. 46:12). This characterizes the invaders who will be

1. killed (i.e., sleep, as a metaphor for death)

2. plundered (BDB 1021, KB 1531, Hithpoel perfect)

because they were so afraid they could not fight (i.e., use their hands).

NASB, NKJV"plundered"
NRSV"stripped of their spoil"
TEV"stripped of all they had"
NJB"taken from them" (used as verb for Ps. 76:4b)
LXX"were troubled"
REB, JPSOA"despoiled"
Peshitta"were dismayed"

This rare form (Hithpolel) is defined by KB (1531) as "to be robbed." BDB (1021) defines it as "spoiled." The invaders wanted to despoil God's city/temple, but were despoiled themselves.

76:6 "At Your rebuke" YHWH's powerful voice wins victories (cf. Ps. 80:16), as it creates (cf. Genesis 1; Job 26:5-11; Ps. 18:7-15; 104:5-9). His voice is an idiom of His will in the world. He speaks, it is done!

It is possible the rebuke (BDB 172) may refer to (1) a lion's roar from Ps. 76:4b. The JPSOA sees Ps. 76:2 as referring to a lion's den (uses Job 38:39-40 as a reference) or (2) a battle cry.

▣ "O God of Jacob" This is a title that focuses on YHWH's promises and covenant with the Patriarchs.

▣ "Both rider and horse were cast in a dead sleep" This is terminology from the splitting of the Red Sea for Israel's escape, but its closure on the elite Egyptian military unit (cf. Exod. 14:28,30; 15:1,21). This same imagery is found in Jeremiah's description of the defeat of Babylon (cf. Jer. 51:21).

It is possible that Ps. 76:6 is restating 76:5. If so, "sleep" is the warriors' inability to perform their skills (i.e., limp hands), not a reference to death, which is often described as "sleep" (cf. Deut. 31:16; 2 Sam. 7:12; 1 Kgs. 1:21; Job 7:21).

The OT often speaks of God's causing people to not understand by using "sleep," "seeing," "hearing" (i.e., Deut. 29:4; Ps. 69:23; Isa. 6:9-10; 29:10; Micah 3:6).

76:7 "to be feared" This may refer to

1. the enemies of the covenant God and His people

2. the idols of the nations (cf. Ps. 89:7; 96:4; 1 Chr. 16:25)


▣ "who may stand in Your presence" This is court scene imagery, usually associated with the end-time (cf. Ezra 9:15; Ps. 130:3; Nah. 1:6; Mal. 3:2; Rev. 6:17). God's people will be able to stand before Him on that day (i.e., Luke 21:36; Jude vv. 24-25).

 8You caused judgment to be heard from heaven;
 The earth feared and was still
 9When God arose to judgment,
 To save all the humble of the earth.  Selah.
 10For the wrath of man shall praise You;
 With a remnant of wrath You will gird Yourself.

76:8-10 It is possible that Ps. 76:7 should go with this strophe (cf. NKJV, NRSV, TEV, NJB).

In this context "all the humble of the earth" refers to those who fear/revere YHWH (cf. Ps. 40:13-17). Note the universal element and the contrast between

1. God saves the humble

2. but all acknowledge Him (cf. Ps. 72:11; 76:12; Phil. 2:6-11)


76:10 "remnant" This word is used in several different senses.


SPECIAL TOPIC: The Remnant (BDB 984), Three Senses

This striking imagery alludes to YHWH as warrior (cf. Isa. 59:17). This same imagery is used by Paul in Eph. 6:10-17, which denotes "spiritual warfare." YHWH is the victor! YHWH is the champion of those who trust Him!

The UBS Handbook (p. 669) mentions that the NAB and NEB (also REB) change the vowels in this verse to geographical locations in the north (city) and south (nation) of Palestine to make it parallel to Ps. 76:11b.

1. man (אדם) becomes Edom (אדם)

2. wrath (המת) becomes Hamath (המת)

The problem is that the word "wrath" is used twice in Ps. 76:10. Unless it is a purposeful word play, this change of vowels is speculation and is not supported by any ancient versions.

 11Make vows to the Lord your God and fulfill them;
 Let all who are around Him bring gifts to Him who is to be feared.
 12He will cut off the spirit of princes;
 He is feared by the kings of the earth.

76:11-12 As Ps. 76:7 could go with 76:8 and 9, so too, Ps. 76:10 could go with 76:11-12 (cf. NKJV, NRSV, TEV, NJB). Paragraphing does not have a textual marker. It is not an inspired aspect of the Hebrew text. Paragraphing must be ascertained from the context (i.e., every paragraph has one central truth or subject).

76:11a This describes "the humble" of Ps. 76:9. Two imperatives are used to describe their actions.

1. make vows - BDB 623, KB 674, Qal imperative

2. fulfill them - BDB 1022, KB 1532, Piel imperative (cf. Leviticus 27; Numbers 30; Deut. 23:21-23)


76:11b The second line of Ps. 76:11 has a Hiphil imperfect used in a jussive sense ("let all who are around Him bring gifts to Him. . ."). This is a third descriptive phrase referring to either

1. thank offering for the termination of a vow

2. appropriate sacrifice (cf. Leviticus 1-7)

If Ps. 76:11a refers to faithful followers in the covenant people, then 76:11b refers to worldwide followers who will worship YHWH (cf. Ps. 45:12; 68:29,31; 72:10; Isa. 18:7; Zeph. 3:10).

76:11 "bring gifts to Him" In Gen. 49:10, the famous prophecy of Jacob/Israel denotes Judah as the tribe from which Messiah will come. There the name Shiloh, שׁילה (BDB 1017) parallels "ruler," however it is possible to divide the consonants into שׁי לה, "tribute to him" (BDB 1010) by adding new vowels (cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 4, p. 1223). If this is correct then the concept of YHWH accepting "tribute" from the nations is confirmed (cf. Ps. 68:29; 76:11; Isa. 18:7). This tribute was an ANE way of showing sovereignty. One day the nations will come to YHWH (see Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan).

76:12 As YHWH's deliverance/salvation is universal (cf. Ps. 76:9), so too, His judgment (Ps. 76:12).

The term "spirit" (ruach, BDB 924) means human person.

The verb "cut off" (BDB 130, KB 148, Qal imperfect) is a Hebrew root that has several meanings.

1. cut off - meaning to take away

2. cut off - meaning to gather, such as a grape harvest

3. cut off - by fortifying an enclosed place (i.e., fortress)

Because of Ps. 76:11 one wonders if option #2 may denote an end-time gathering of believing nations (i.e., "princes," BDB 617, cf. Ezek. 28:2) who fear (lit. who is terrible, BDB 431, KB 432, Niphal participle) God by denoting His awesome power in protecting Jerusalem and His covenant people.


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Does Ps. 76:1 reflect the period of the divided Monarchy?

2. Why is Ps. 76:4 so hard to translate?

3. Is Ps. 76:9 another universal allusion or a reference to the Jews in exile?

4. How do Ps. 76:11-12 relate to the preceding verses?

Psalm 77


Comfort In Trouble From Recalling God's Mighty Deeds
MT Intro
For the choir director; according to Jeduthun.
A Psalm of Asaph.
The Consoling Memory of God's Redemptive Works Prayer For Deliverance From Personal Trouble Comfort in Times of Distress Meditations on Israel's Past
77:1-6 77:1-3 77:1-3 77:1-3 77:1
  77:4-6 77:4-10 77:4-10 77:4-6
77:7-10 77:7-9     77:7-9
  77:10-15     77:10-12
77:11-15   77:11-15 77:11-15  
77:16-20 77:16-20 77:16-20 77:16-20 77:16-17

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A. This Psalm is characterized by cohortatives (8). The psalmist is remembering what he did and what YHWH has done in the past.

B. Psalm 77:11-15, 16-20 focus on YHWH's acts of

1. deliverance

2. creation

C. YHWH is the

1. creator

2. warrior

3. sustainer

4. shepherd

D. This Psalm specifically mentions

1. Jacob, Ps. 77:15

2. Joseph, Ps. 77:15

3. Moses, Ps. 77:20

4. Aaron, Ps. 77:20

YHWH's past acts of deliverance and provision seem long ago and far away. Note the series of questions in Ps. 77:7-9.

E. Psalm 77:16-20 are similar in theology and imagery to YHWH as Creator in Ps. 74:13-17. The water imagery could refer to Genesis 1 (i.e., creation) or Exodus 14-15 (i.e., the exodus).



 1My voice rises to God, and I will cry aloud;
 My voice rises to God, and He will hear me.
 2In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord;
 In the night my hand was stretched out without weariness;
 My soul refused to be comforted.
 3When I remember God, then I am disturbed;
 When I sigh, then my spirit grows faint.  Selah.
 4You have held my eyelids open;
 I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
 5I have considered the days of old,
 The years of long ago.
 6I will remember my song in the night;
 I will meditate with my heart,
 And my spirit ponders:

77:1 "My voice rises to God" This phrase with no verb is repeated twice for emphasis. The psalmist has prayed often and intensely but with no peace/result! He trusts YHWH but longs for Him to act as He has in the past on behalf of the covenant people.

▣ "I will cry aloud" This verb (BDB 858, KB 1042, Qal cohortative) is used often in the exodus and wilderness wandering period (cf. Exod. 14:10,15; 17:4; Num. 12:13; 20:16; Deut. 26:7). It is possible that the description of Ps. 77:16-19 refers to this same period. There was no silent prayer in the ancient world. Reading and prayer were spoken aloud!

▣ "He will hear me" This is both affirmation and request! The rest of this strophe (Ps. 77:1-6) expresses the psalmist's distress at the apparent silence of YHWH.

77:2 "In the day of my trouble" This is a recurrent phrase in the Psalms (cf. Ps. 50:15; 86:7; slightly different phrasing but the same concept in Ps. 91:15; 107:6,15).

The use of "day" denotes a period of time, not a specific 24 hour period. See Special Topic: Day (yom).

▣ "In the night my hand was stretched out" Notice that "in the day" of line 1 is parallel to "in the night" of line 2. This was a way of expressing constant (i.e., "without weariness"), around-the-clock prayer (i.e., "hand stretched out").

Jewish prayer posture was usually

1. standing

2. hands raised

3. eyes open, lifted to heaven

The verb (BDB 620, KB 669, Niphal perfect) is literally "poured out." NIDOTTE, vol. 3, p. 27, thinks that two aspects of prayer are combined in this verse (cf. Lam. 2:19).

1. pouring one's heart out to God in prayer

2. lifting/stretching one's hands out to God in prayer


▣ "My soul refused to be comforted" YHWH seemed not to hear and act so the psalmist continued to pray! This is theologically parallel to Habakkuk (i.e., Hab. 2:1).

77:3 This is a series of three Qal cohortatives. The psalmist could not find peace in prayer. It seemed YHWH's actions in the past (cf. Ps. 77:5) on the covenant people's behalf had changed (cf. Ps. 77:10b).

▣ "Selah" See note at Ps. 3:2. Notice it appears at the end of Ps. 77:3, 9, 15. The NJB and NKJV see its use as closing separate strophes.

77:4a This line of poetry is confusing. The psalmist wants to quit praying but YHWH causes (BDB 28, KB 31, Qal perfect) him to keep on. It is possible to interpret this as God allowing him to remain awake so that he can continue to pray. It seems that Ps. 77:4-6 serves as an introduction to the six questions of 77:7-9 with the possible shocking conclusion of Ps. 77:10!

This first strophe describes the psalmist's acts in detail (as does Ps. 77:11-12). This is a record of the psalmist's theological struggle for more information about God and His will and way for the covenant people. The psalmist sees the obvious disconnect between the past and the present. He cannot understand why!

77:6 "I will remember. . .I will meditate. . .ponder" These are three verbs which describe the psalmist's mental actions (cf. Ps. 143:5) from despair (Ps. 77:1-5) and doubt (Ps. 77:7-10). It is not until Ps. 77:11-15,16-20 that he regains his sense of trust in YHWH's character and actions on Israel's behalf.

Notice three verbs (two the same) reappear in Ps. 77:11-12. Faith takes time and thought! The trustworthiness of revelation and personal experience merge into settled conviction.

▣ "song in the night" Because of Ps. 42:8 this phrase may be an allusion to YHWH's gracious actions which turn into night-time praises (both conscious and unconscious). The psalmist knew days and nights of praise and peace but his current experience was very different.

The UBS Text Project gives three possibilities to the term NASB translates "song" (BDB 618).

1. music - נגינתי (MT, NASB)

2. murmur/meditate - והגיתי (LXX, Peshitta, NJB)

3. sorrow - נוגנתי (NEB)


▣ "my spirit ponders" The verb is literally "searches" (BDB 344, KB 341, Piel imperfect with waw). It is masculine and "spirit" (BDB 924) is feminine. Therefore, it could refer to

1. the psalmist himself

2. God searching him (cf. Ps. 139:1,23)


 7Will the Lord reject forever?
 And will He never be favorable again?
 8Has His lovingkindness ceased forever?
 Has His promise come to an end forever?
 9Has God forgotten to be gracious,
 Or has He in anger withdrawn His compassion?  Selah.
 10Then I said, "It is my grief,
 That the right hand of the Most High has changed."

77:7-10 This strophe is connected to the psalmist's disturbing prayer of Ps. 77:1-6. He cannot understand. He asks a series of stark, scary questions that seem to question YHWH's covenant promises and unchanging character! These are the most frightening questions in the OT! He apparently does not perceive that the problem might be the sin, idolatry, and covenant faithlessness of the covenant people.

The most distressing aspect to these questions is his false conclusion (i.e., Ps. 77:10)! YHWH has not changed (BDB 1039, KB 1597) but His people have!

Derek Kidner, Tyndale OT Commentaries (pp. 308-309) takes the view that Ps. 77:10 is a positive turning point verse, introducing Ps. 77:11-20. "Selah" appears at the end of Ps. 77:9, which may imply that Ps. 77:10-15 comprise a strophe (cf. NKJV, JPSOA). The tone of the Psalm surely changes at 77:11-20.

77:7-8 Psalm 77:7 and 8 have four words or phrases that describe the psalmist's feeling that YHWH has permanently abandoned Israel.

1. forever, Ps. 77:7 - BDB 761 

2. forever, Ps. 77:8 - BDB 664 

3. ceased forever (lit. "are at an end"), Ps. 77:8 - BDB 170, KB 197, Qal perfect

4. come to an end, Ps. 77:8 - BDB 189 construct BDB 189

For #1 see Special Topic: Forever ('olam). This repetition shows the fear and doubt of the psalmist.

77:8 "lovingkindness" See Special Topic: Lovingkindness (hesed).

77:10 "the Most High" This Hebrew title, "Elyon" (BDB 71, see SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY) is from the word "high" or "upper." It was used of God in Gen. 14:18-22; Num. 24:16; Deut. 32:8 by non-Israelites.

This Psalm uses several different names for Deity.

1. Elohim, Ps. 77:1 (twice), 3, 13,16

2. Adonai, Ps. 77:2, 7 (lit. "my Lord")

3. Most High, Ps. 77:10

4. Yah, Ps. 77:11 (abbreviation for YHWH)

5. El, Ps. 77:9, 13, 14 (general name for deity in the ANE)


NASB, NRSV"It is my grief"
NKJV"It is my anguish"
NJB"This is what wounds me"
JPSOA"It is my fault"
Peshitta"This is my infirmity"

There is disagreement among modern scholars as to the Hebrew root.

1. חלה, BDB 317 I - "to sicken" (NASB, NRSV, TEV, NET, REB, Peshitta)

2. חלה, BDB 318 II - "to entreat the favor of" (NIV)

3. חלל, BDB 319 - "to pierce" (NJB, UBS Text Project's suggestion, "my being wounded," p. 333)


 11I shall remember the deeds of the Lord;
 Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.
 12I will meditate on all Your work
 And muse on Your deeds.
 13Your way, O God, is holy;
 What god is great like our God?
 14You are the God who works wonders;
 You have made known Your strength among the peoples.
 15You have by Your power redeemed Your people,
 The sons of Jacob and Joseph.  Selah.

77:11-15 The psalmist again tries to focus on YHWH's past acts (cf. Ps. 77:11-12, 14-15). He refocuses on His unchanging, unique character (cf. Ps. 77:13, see SPECIAL TOPIC: MONOTHEISM).

Note the purposeful parallel of the verbs in Ps. 77:11-12 to those of Ps. 77:6.

77:11 "wonders" It denotes YHWH's acts of creation and deliverance. See Special Topic: Wonderful Things. The same word (BDB 810) is used in Ps. 77:14 and the same root in Ps. 78:4,11,32; 107:8,15,21,24,31; 119:18,27.

77:13 "Your way" The term "way" (BDB 202) speaks of

1. His revelation, cf. Ps. 119:14; Jer. 18:15, see SPECIAL TOPIC: TERMS FOR GOD'S REVELATION

2. His characteristic actions (i.e., Ps. 119:3)


▣ "holy" This could refer to

1. God's character

2. God's temple



77:14-15 Notice the parallelism between Ps. 77:14b and 15a. However, there is a distinction between

1. Your strength among the peoples (i.e., non-Israelites, see Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan)

2. Your arm redeemed Your people (i.e., Israelites)


77:15 "redeemed" See Special Topic: Ransom/Redeem.

 16The waters saw You, O God;
 The waters saw You, they were in anguish;
 The deeps also trembled.
 17The clouds poured out water;
 The skies gave forth a sound;
 Your arrows flashed here and there.
 18The sound of Your thunder was in the whirlwind;
 The lightnings lit up the world;
 The earth trembled and shook.
 19Your way was in the sea
 And Your paths in the mighty waters,
 And Your footprints may not be known.
 20You led Your people like a flock
 By the hand of Moses and Aaron.

77:16-20 The psalmist looks backwards to Genesis (cf. Ps. 77:15) and to the Exodus (cf. Ps. 77:20). The God of creation has become the warrior of Israel!

The Psalm does not state the psalmist's final conclusion. Hopefully, his remembrance and meditation on YHWH's person and acts caused him to reject his conclusion/question of Ps. 77:10.

77:16 "the waters"


77:20a This phrase is characteristic of Asaph's Psalms (cf. Ps. 74:1; 78:52,70-76; 79:13; 80:2). What a beautiful title (i.e., Shepherd) for the Creator/Redeemer God! He is with us and for us (cf. Psalm 23).


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Is this Psalm an individual lament or a national lament?

2. Why are Ps. 77:7-10 so theologically significant??

3. Is Ps. 77:10 a positive message or a negative message?

4. Does this Psalm use imagery from creation or the exodus?

Psalm 78


God's Guidance of His People in Spite of Their Unfaithfulness
MT Intro
Maskil of Asaph.
God's Kindness to Rebellious Israel The Story of God's Great Deeds and His People's Faithlessness God and His People The Lessons of Israelite History
78:1-4 78:1-4 78:1-4 78:1-4 78:1-2
78:5-8 78:5-8 78:5-8 78:5-8 78:5c-6b
78:9-16 78:9-11 78:9-16 78:9-16 78:9-10
78:17-20 78:17-20 78:17-20 78:17-20 78:17-18
78:21-33 78:21-25 78:21-31 78:21-31 78:21-22
  78:26-31     78:26-28
  78:32-33 78:32-55 78:32-37 78:32-33
78:34-39 78:34-39     78:34-35
      78:38-39 78:38-39
78:40-53 78:40-55   78:40-51 78:40-42
      78:52-55 78:52-53
78:54-64       78:54-55
  78:56-64 78:56-66 78:56-64 78:56-60
78:65-72 78:65-66   78:65-69 78:65-66
  78:67-72 78:67-72   78:67-69
      78:70-72 78:70-72

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Etc.



A. This Psalm affirms the need to pass on the faith to the next generation (Ps. 78:1-4, 5-8).

1. God's acts

2. God's revelations

B. This Psalm documents the faithful acts of God and the faithless acts of Israel.

1. the exodus

2. the wilderness wandering

3. the conquest

C. Possibly the best way to see the parallels and allusions is a chart of verses related to other OT texts.


Ps. 78: 12b - Num. 13:22 Ps. 78: 42 - Jdgs. 8:24
Ps. 78: 13 - Exod. 14:16,21 Ps. 78: 43 - Exod. 4:21; 7:3
Ps. 78: 14 - Exod. 13:21 Ps. 78: 45 - Exod. 8:6,24
Ps. 78: 15 - Exod. 17:6; Deut. 8:15 Ps. 78: 46 - Exod. 10:14
Ps. 78: 16 - Num. 20:8,10,11 Ps. 78: 47 - Exod. 9:23
Ps. 78: 18 - Num. 11:4 Ps. 78: 48 - Exod. 9:19
Ps. 78: 19 - Exod. 16:3; Num. 11:4; 20:3; 21:5 Ps. 78: 49 - Exod. 15:7
Ps. 78: 20 - Num. 11:18 Ps. 78: 50 - Exod. 12:29,30
Ps. 78: 21 - Num. 11:1 Ps. 78: 52 - Exod. 15:22
Ps. 78: 22 - Deut. 1:32; 9:23 Ps. 78: 53 - Exod. 14:19,20,27,28
Ps. 78: 24 - Exod. 16:4 Ps. 78: 54 - Exod. 15:17
Ps. 78: 25 - Exod. 16:3 Ps. 78: 58 - Exod. 20:4; Lev. 26:1,30; Deut. 4:25; 32:16,21
Ps. 78: 26 - Num. 11:31 Ps. 78: 59 - Lev. 26:30; Deut. 1:34; 9:19; 32:19
Ps. 78: 27 - Exod. 16:13 Ps. 78: 60 - 1 Sam. 4:11
Ps. 78: 29 - Num. 11:19,20 Ps. 78: 61 - 1 Sam. 4:17
Ps. 78: 31 - Num. 11:33,34 Ps. 78: 62 - 1 Sam. 4:10
Ps. 78: 32 - Num. 14:11,16-17 Ps. 78: 63 - Num. 11:1; 21:28
Ps. 78: 33 - Num. 14:29,35 Ps. 78: 64 - 1 Sam. 4:17; 22:18
Ps. 78: 34 - Num. 21:7 Ps. 78: 66 - 1 Sam. 5:6
Ps. 78: 35 - Exod. 15:13; Deut. 9:26; 32:4 Ps. 78: 69 - 1 Kings 6
Ps. 78: 36 - Exod. 24:7,8; 32:7,8 Ps. 78: 70 - 1 Sam. 16:12
Ps. 78: 38 - Exod.34:6; Num. 14:20 Ps. 78: 71 - 1 Sam. 10:1; 2 Sam. 5:2; 7:8
Ps. 78: 41 - Exod. 14:22 Ps. 78: 72 - 1 Kgs. 9:4

D. The best parallel of this overview of Israel's faithlessness and YHWH's faithfulness is Nehemiah 9 (also note Acts 7).

1. call of Abraham - Ps. 78:6-8

2. exodus - Ps. 78:9-14

3. wilderness wanderings - Ps. 78:15-21

4. conquest - Ps. 78: 22-25

5. judges - Ps. 78: 26-31

Also note Psalms 105-106 are also about God's faithfulness and Israel's unfaithfulness!


 1Listen, O my people, to my instruction;
 Incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
 2I will open my mouth in a parable;
 I will utter dark sayings of old,
 3Which we have heard and known,
 And our fathers have told us.
 4We will not conceal them from their children,
 But tell to the generation to come the praises of the Lord,
 And His strength and His wondrous works that He has done.

78:1-4 The psalmist implores the covenant people to hear and respond appropriately to God's revelation (cf. Ps. 78: 4c). He also implores them to pass on the truths to their children and grandchildren and so on to each new generation (cf. Deut. 4:9-10; 6:7,20-25; 11:19; 32:46).

78:1 There are two imperatives.

1. listen (lit. "hear") - BDB 24, KB 27, Hiphil imperative

2. incline your ears (lit. "turn") - BDB 639, KB 692, Hiphil imperative


▣ "instruction" This is literally "teaching" (BDB 435). This is parallel to "the words of my mouth." There are several different Hebrew words used in this Psalm for YHWH's revelation.

1. instruction/teaching, Ps. 78:1 - BDB 435

2. testimony, Ps. 78:5 - BDB 730

3. law, Ps. 78:5,10 - BDB 435

4. commandment, Ps. 78:51 - BDB 846

5. testimonies, Ps. 78:56 - BDB 729 I


This Psalm is written to the covenant people (usually the Psalms are addressed to God). It seems this historical survey was used (read) in an annual feast or ceremony at the temple to encourage God's people to learn from the past and live appropriately as God's people.

78:2 "parable. . .dark sayings"

1. parable - BDB 605

2. dark saying - BDB 295

The verb and noun forms of both these words are found in Ezek. 17:2. I have included my notes from there below.

Ezek. 17:2 This verse has two parallel imperatives.

1."propound a riddle," BDB 295, KB 295, Qal imperative, cf. Jdgs. 14:12-19

2."speak a parable," BDB 605 II, KB 647, Qal imperative, cf. 12:23; 16:44; 17:2; 18:2; 20:49; 24:3

The term "riddle" (BDB 295, note the relation of the verb, BDB 295, and noun, BDB 295) means a statement that needs to have some information hinted at or supplied to be understood (cf. Pro. 1:6).

The term "parable" (BDB 605 II, note the relation of the verb, BDB 605 II, and noun, BDB 605 II) implies a brief poetic structure, possibly a proverb which uses comparison as a way to illustrate truth.

Ezekiel has been using highly figurative language to convince the exiles of the just and sure judgment of Jerusalem.

YHWH is not trying to hide truth but assert that the key to understanding comes from His speakers/prophets. The past acts of God need to be interpreted fresh for every generation.

Jesus quotes this verse in Matt. 13:35. He uses it to explain why the crowds did not understand His teachings. He, too, reinterpreted Israel's past. He asserted that the ultimate focus of Israel's history was Himself! However, this amazing truth was not immediately self evident but had to be revealed! He was the true, ultimate revealer (cf. Matt. 5:17-19,21-48)! As Israel refused to see YHWH's will and purpose in her history, so too, Jesus' generation lived out the prophecies of Isa. 6:9-10; 29:13. They were like the Israelites of Ps. 78:8!

78:4 Each generation must teach their children about God. This is a recurrent emphasis in Deuteronomy. I have included my notes from Deut. 4:9 and 6:7.

4:9 "teach their children" This is a recurrent theme in Deuteronomy (cf. Deut. 4:10; 6:7, 20-25; 11:19; 31:13; 32:46; and note Exod. 10:2; 12:26; 13:8,14). If believers do not teach their children about God, they are failures as parents (biblically speaking)! Faith runs through families (cf. Deut. 5:10; 7:9)!

6:7 "you shall teach them diligently to your sons" The verb (BDB 1041, KB 1606, Piel perfect) means "to sharpen" and in Piel this is the only usage. The term in Ugaritic means "to repeat." That seems to be the basic emphasis of this verse. The rabbis use this verse to assert that the Shema should be "repeated" morning and evening. We are to talk about God's will for our lives during the entire scope of daily activities. It is the responsibility of parents to pass on lifestyle faith (cf. Deut. 4:9; 6:20-25; 11:19; 32:46, see full note at 4:9). It is interesting that the flow of these different times for teaching falls into the same literary pattern as Ps. 139:2-6 and Pro. 6:20-22. This emphasis on parental responsibility is repeated in Pro. 22:6. Our modern day church school cannot take the place of parental training but it surely can supplement it!

▣ "His strength and His wondrous works" This Psalm has several different terms to describe YHWH's acts of revelation and deliverance.

1. Ps. 78:4

a. the glorious deeds (lit. "praises") - BDB 239, #4, cf. Ps. 9:14; 35:28; 79:13; 102:21; 106:2,47; Isa. 43:21; 60:6; 63:7

b. His strength - BDB 739, cf. Ps. 145:6

c. His wondrous works - BDB 810, KB 927, Niphal participle, cf. Micah 7:15, see Special Topic: Wonderful Things

2. Ps. 78:7 - the works of God - BDB 760, cf. Ps. 77:11,12; Micah 2:7

3. Ps. 78:11

a. His deeds - BDB 760, same as #2, and verse 32

b. His miracles - BDB 810, same as #1, c

4. Ps. 78:12 - His wonders - BDB 810, same as #1, c

5. Ps. 78:32 - His wonderful works - BDB 810, same as #1, c and Ps. 78:11

6. Ps. 78:42 - His power (lit. "hand") - BDB 388, cf. SPECIAL TOPIC: HAND

7. Ps. 78:43

a. His signs - BDB 16, #4, cf. Exod. 10:2; Ps. 65:8

b. His marvels - BDB 68, #1, cf. Deut. 4:34; 6:22; 7:19; 26:8; 29:2; 34:11; Neh. 9:10; Ps. 105:27; 135:9; Jer. 32:20-21

8. Ps. 78:54 - His right hand had gained - BDB 411, see SPECIAL TOPIC: HAND


 5For He established a testimony in Jacob
 And appointed a law in Israel,
 Which He commanded our fathers
 That they should teach them to their children,
 6That the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born,
 That they may arise and tell them to their children,
 7That they should put their confidence in God
 And not forget the works of God,
 But keep His commandments,
 8And not be like their fathers,
 A stubborn and rebellious generation,
 A generation that did not prepare its heart
 And whose spirit was not faithful to God.

78:5-8 This strophe emphasizes the need for each generation of faithful followers to pass on their faith and understanding of God's will to their families (see notes at Ps. 78:4).

Faithful followers are characterized as

1. putting their confidence (lit. "hope," BDB 492) in God

2. not forgetting His works, cf. Deut. 4:9,23; 31:6:12; 8:11,14,19 (twice); 9:7; 25:19

3. keeping His commandments, cf. Deut. 4:2,6,10; 5:1,10,29,32; 6:2,3,17,25; 7:9,11,12; 27:1; Jos. 22:5

Psalm 78:7 is the positive theme of the entire Psalm and 78:8 is a powerful warning of what not to do!

78:8 Even with all YHWH had done for the descendants of Abraham, they still were faithless (i.e., 2 Chr. 30:7; Ezek. 20:13,18). Psalm 78:8 contrasts the faithless with the faithful.

1. stubborn - BDB 710, KB 770, Qal participle, cf. Deut. 9:6,13; 10:16; 31:27

2. rebellious - BDB 598, KB 632, Qal participle, cf. Deut. 9:34; 31:27

3. did not prepare their hearts - BDB 465, KB 464, Hiphil perfect, cf. Ps. 78:37

4. whose spirit was not faithful to God - BDB 52, KB 63, Niphal perfect


 9The sons of Ephraim were archers equipped with bows,
 Yet they turned back in the day of battle.
 10They did not keep the covenant of God
 And refused to walk in His law;
 11They forgot His deeds
 And His miracles that He had shown them.
 12He wrought wonders before their fathers
 In the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan.
 13He divided the sea and caused them to pass through,
 And He made the waters stand up like a heap.
 14Then He led them with the cloud by day
 And all the night with a light of fire.
 15He split the rocks in the wilderness
 And gave them abundant drink like the ocean depths.
 16He brought forth streams also from the rock
 And caused waters to run down like rivers.

78:9-16 This strophe alludes to the exodus. Some of the allusions are unclear (i.e., Ps. 78:9), but many are (Contextual Insights, C) very clear.

Ephraim may be a way of referring to the Northern Tribes. Joseph and Joshua were both from the tribe of Ephraim, which numerically was the largest tribe. Ephraim and Manasseh were both sons of Joseph by an Egyptian mother. Jacob blessed Ephraim above the firstborn Manasseh (cf. Gen. 48:14-20).

78:10 Note the verbs "keep" (BDB 1036, KB 1581, Qal perfect, negated) and "walk" (BDB 229, KB 246) are parallel and describe covenant life. Obedience to the Mosaic covenant was crucial (cf. Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 27-30).

78:11 The current generation of the Israelites forgot all that YHWH had done for them during the exodus (cf. Deut. 8:11-20). So in the verses that follow many of YHWH's mighty acts of deliverance are enumerated.

78:12 "Zoan" This term (BDB 858) is from an Egyptian root for "stronghold." This stronghold/fort was located in the Delta region of Egypt, also known as Goshen (eastern Nile Delta), where the Israelites settled in Joseph's day. The city was known by different names in different periods.

1. Zoan (cf. Num. 13:22)

2. Tannis

3. Avaris

4. Rameses (named after Rameses II, cf. Exod. 1:11; 12:37; Num. 33:3)


 17Yet they still continued to sin against Him,
 To rebel against the Most High in the desert.
 18And in their heart they put God to the test
 By asking food according to their desire.
 19Then they spoke against God;
 They said, "Can God prepare a table in the wilderness?
 20Behold, He struck the rock so that waters gushed out,
 And streams were overflowing;
 Can He give bread also?
 Will He provide meat for His people?"

78:17-20 This strophe continues to describe the acts of the ungrateful, disobedient Israelites of the exodus and wilderness wandering period.

78:18 "they put God to the test" The verb (BDB 650, KB 702, Piel imperfect with waw) is used several times of Israel testing God (cf. Exod. 17:2; Num. 14:22; Deut. 6:16; Ps. 78:18,41,56; 95:9; 106:14).

 21Therefore the Lord heard and was full of wrath;
 And a fire was kindled against Jacob
 And anger also mounted against Israel,
 22Because they did not believe in God
 And did not trust in His salvation.
 23Yet He commanded the clouds above
 And opened the doors of heaven;
 24He rained down manna upon them to eat
 And gave them food from heaven.
 25Man did eat the bread of angels;
 He sent them food in abundance.
 26He caused the east wind to blow in the heavens
 And by His power He directed the south wind.
 27When He rained meat upon them like the dust,
 Even winged fowl like the sand of the seas,
 28Then He let them fall in the midst of their camp,
 Round about their dwellings.
 29So they ate and were well filled,
 And their desire He gave to them.
 30Before they had satisfied their desire,
 While their food was in their mouths,
 31The anger of God rose against them
 And killed some of their stoutest ones,
 And subdued the choice men of Israel.
 32In spite of all this they still sinned
 And did not believe in His wonderful works.
 33So He brought their days to an end in futility
 And their years in sudden terror.

78:21-33 Israel's continued disobedience causes YHWH to judge them. One example used is YHWH's supernatural provisions of meat (quail). He told them how to receive His blessing but again they disobeyed (cf. Numbers 11). Their actions showed their attitude toward YHWH.

1. they did not believe, Ps. 78:22

2. they did not trust, Ps. 78:22

3. in spite of all this they still sinned, Ps. 78:32


78:22 "believe. . .trust" See Special Topic: Believe, Trust, Faith and Faithfulness in the OT.

78:23 "opened the doors of heaven" The "heavens" (see SPECIAL TOPIC: HEAVEN and SPECIAL TOPIC: HEAVEN and the Third Heaven) were thought of as a dome covered with skin, like a drum. This dome separated the waters above from falling to earth. They were imagined to have windows that could be opened or shut, depending on God's will and mankind's actions (cf. Gen. 7:11; Mal. 3:10). God could provide

1. rain (Genesis)

2. food (Psalm)

3. blessings (Malachi)


78:24-25 "food from heaven. . .the bread of angels" This is referring to manna (cf. Exodus 16). YHWH was gracious (cf. Ps. 78:38), but they were rebellious.

Manna (BDB 577 I) was a white substance that appeared as dew. The name may come from Exod. 16:4, "What is it?" It was a miraculous provision of food during the wilderness wandering period. It could be gathered for only one day at a time (God's daily provision) or it went bad (cf. Exod. 16:16-21), except for the day before the Sabbath when enough for two days was gathered and did not turn bad (cf. Exod. 16:22-29). It was cooked like flour. It stopped when the Israelites crossed the Jordan (cf. Jos. 5:12).

78:27 "dust. . .sand" These are two of three terms (dust, sand, stars) used to describe something numerous. They are regularly connected to the numerous descendants of the Patriarchs (i.e., God's promise to Abraham, cf. Gen. 12:2).

1. dust - Gen. 13:16; 28:14; Num. 23:10

2. sand - Gen. 22:17; 32:12; 2 Sam. 17:11; 1 Kgs. 4:20

3. stars - Gen. 15:5; 22:17; 26:4; Exod. 32:13; Deut. 1:10; 10:22; 28:62


78:29-31 God provided quail but the people again did not trust God's provision and tried to gather a large quantity of birds for future consumption. This displeased God and His judgment fell on them (cf. Num. 11:31-35).

Again and again in the OT, God told His people what to do but they refused and did it their way. Every time this resulted in judgment! The issue was "trust"! And it still is!


NASB, NKJV"end in futility"
NASB margin"vanity, a mere breath"
NRSV"vanish like a breath"
NJB"vanish in midst"

This term (BDB 210 I) is a key term in Ecclesiastes. See my note below from Ecclesiastes 1.

Eccl. 1:2 "vanity of vanities" This is a Hebrew superlative (cf. 1:2 and 12:8). The word means "vapor," "breath," or "mist" (BDB 210 I, cf. James 4:14). Its emphasis is either (1) nothingness or (2) the transitoriness of human life. The context supports the latter (cf. H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Ecclesiastes, p. 41).

This is a key term and recurrent phrase in this book (cf. Eccl. 1:2,14; 2:1,11,15,17,19,21, 23,26; 3:19; 4:4,7,8,16; 5:7,10; 6:2,4,9,11,12; 7:6,15; 8:10,14; 9:9; 11:8,10; 12:8). The term is used sparingly in other wisdom books: Job, 5 times; Psalms, 9 times; and Proverbs, 3 times.

For different theories about how it views the strong statements in this book, see Introduction, Authorship, H. I prefer option #1. This theological presupposition will be the grid through which I interpret the book.

▣ "all is vanity" Notice the root, "vanity" (BDB 210 I), is used five times in this one verse! The Handbook on Ecclesiastes by UBS, says the term should be understood as




4.impossible to understand

Therefore, it communicates the reality that life is full of unanswerable questions (p. 4). The person knowledgeable in wisdom will know this, but will continue to trust God and keep His commandments.

This refers to the uncertain and unpredictable activities of life. These are a result of fallen humanity trying to live life in their own strength, independent from God. This is the condition left by the Fall (cf. Genesis 3)!

The Hebrew term "all" (BDB 481), often translated "everything," is a common word, but is used often in Ecclesiastes (i.e., 9 times in chapter 1; 17 times in chapter 2; 13 times in chapter 3, etc.). Qoheleth uses this inclusive language to express his theological emphasis on

1. God's control and sovereignty

2. human ineffectiveness and transitoriness


 34When He killed them, then they sought Him,
 And returned and searched diligently for God;
 35And they remembered that God was their rock, 
 And the Most High God their Redeemer.
 36But they deceived Him with their mouth
 And lied to Him with their tongue.
 37For their heart was not steadfast toward Him,
 Nor were they faithful in His covenant.
 38But He, being compassionate, forgave their iniquity and did not destroy them;
 And often He restrained His anger
 And did not arouse all His wrath.
 39Thus He remembered that they were but flesh,
 A wind that passes and does not return.

78:34-39 This strophe describes the false repentance of the surviving Israelites and YHWH's reaction to it.

1. the seeming repentance, Ps. 78:34-35

a. they sought Him

b. they returned to Him

c. they searched diligently for Him

d. they remembered God was their rock/redeemer

2. their true thoughts/actions (Ps. 78:36-37)

a. they deceived Him by lying (Ps. 78:36 a and b, cf. Isa. 29:13)

b. their hearts were not steadfast toward Him

c. they were not faithful to His covenant

3. YHWH's reactions (Ps. 78:38-39)

a. He is compassionate (cf. Exod. 34:6; Neh. 9:17; Ps. 103:8, see SPECIAL TOPIC: CHARACTERISTICS OF ISRAEL'S GOD)

b. He forgave (lit. "covered over," BDB 497, KB 493, Piel imperfect)

c. He did not destroy them

d. He restrained (lit. "turned away") His anger

e. He did not arouse all His wrath

f. He remembered that they were but flesh (cf. Ps. 103:14) which is here today and gone tomorrow

Psalm 78:38-39 does not mean that they were not judged (cf. Ps. 78:34a), but that YHWH did not completely destroy them.

Psalm 78:38-39 is used in many rabbinical writings. It is a summary of the character of God (cf. Exod. 34:6; Neh. 9:17; Ps. 103:8-14).

78:35 Notice the different names and titles for Deity.

1. Elohim (BDB 43, KB 52)

2. their rock (cf. Ps. 18:2; 19:14)

3. El (BDB 42, KB 48)

4. Elyon (BDB 751, KB 832)

5. their redeemer (cf. Ps. 19:14)


 40How often they rebelled against Him in the wilderness
 And grieved Him in the desert!
 41Again and again they tempted God,
 And pained the Holy One of Israel.
 42They did not remember His power,
 The day when He redeemed them from the adversary,
 43When He performed His signs in Egypt
 And His marvels in the field of Zoan,
 44And turned their rivers to blood,
 And their streams, they could not drink.
 45He sent among them swarms of flies which devoured them,
 And frogs which destroyed them.
 46He gave also their crops to the grasshopper
 And the product of their labor to the locust.
 47He destroyed their vines with hailstones
 And their sycamore trees with frost.
 48He gave over their cattle also to the hailstones
 And their herds to bolts of lightning.
 49He sent upon them His burning anger,
 Fury and indignation and trouble,
 A band of destroying angels.
 50He leveled a path for His anger;
 He did not spare their soul from death,
 But gave over their life to the plague,
 51And smote all the firstborn in Egypt,
 The first issue of their virility in the tents of Ham.
 52But He led forth His own people like sheep
 And guided them in the wilderness like a flock;
 53He led them safely, so that they did not fear; 
 But the sea engulfed their enemies.

78:40-53 There seems to be a confusion in this strophe between YHWH's judgment on the Israelites (cf. Ps. 78:40-42) and His judgment on Egypt during the exodus. The plagues alluded to in Ps. 78:43-51 were directed at the recalcitrant Egyptian leadership.

Instead of YHWH judging faithless Israel (i.e., wilderness wandering period, cf. Ps. 78:40-43), He was a shepherd to them (cf. Ps. 78:52-53).

Notice how Israel's faithlessness is characterized.

1. they rebelled against Him, Ps. 78:40

2. they grieved Him, Ps. 78:40

3. they tempted Him, Ps. 78:41

4. they pained Him, Ps. 78:41

5. they did not remember His power/signs/marvels, Ps. 78:42


78:44-51 These verses describe the plagues on Egypt.

1. water/river to blood - Exod. 7:17-19

2. flies - Exod. 8:16-18

3. frogs - Exod. 8:2-6

4. grasshopper/locusts - Exod. 8:21; 10:4-6

5. hailstones - Exod. 9:18

6. plague/sickness - Exod. 9:8-10

7. death of firstborn - Exodus 11

The order and number are not exact but obviously the ten plagues of Exodus 7-11 are what is being referred to, unless they became idioms of YHWH's judgment.

78:49 This verse uses a litany of terms to describe God's wrath (Ps. 78:38).

1. burning anger - BDB 354 construct BDB 60 I

2. fury - BDB 720

3. indignation - BDB 276

4. trouble - BDB 865

5. a band of destroying angels

Number 5 is an idiom which personifies God's elements of wrath. In the Exodus account of the death of the firstborn in the unmarked homes, it is God who Himself causes the event (cf. Exod. 11:4; 12:12). This later became Judaism's understanding of "the Death Angel" (i.e., Samael or Azrael), but the Bible does not specifically mention him, although 2 Sam. 24:16; 2 Kgs. 19:35; 1 Chr. 21:15; Isa. 37:36, do imply one. The rabbis also assert that Ps. 89:48 refers to him (i.e., Targum, "seeing the angel of death"). The theological point is that God, not Satan or an angel, controls death!

78:50 This is an idiom for the preparation for an action. The next two lines show that in this case it was YHWH's judgment.

78:52 God as shepherd is a recurrent theme in the Psalms of Asaph. See note at Ps. 77:20.

78:53 This verse has two historical allusions.

1. "led them" refers to the Shekinah cloud of glory that guided the Israelites (cf. Exod. 13:21; 14:19,24; 33:9,10)

2. "the sea engulfed their enemies" refers to the splitting of the Red Sea and then its returning water drowning Egypt's elite soldiers and chariots (cf. Exodus 14-15)


 54So He brought them to His holy land,
 To this hill country which His right hand had gained.
 55He also drove out the nations before them
 And apportioned them for an inheritance by measurement,
 And made the tribes of Israel dwell in their tents.
 56Yet they tempted and rebelled against the Most High God
 And did not keep His testimonies,
 57But turned back and acted treacherously like their fathers;
 They turned aside like a treacherous bow.
 58For they provoked Him with their high places
 And aroused His jealousy with their graven images.
 59When God heard, He was filled with wrath
 And greatly abhorred Israel;
 60So that He abandoned the dwelling place at Shiloh,
 The tent which He had pitched among men,
 61And gave up His strength to captivity
 And His glory into the hand of the adversary.
 62He also delivered His people to the sword,
 And was filled with wrath at His inheritance.
 63Fire devoured His young men,
 And His virgins had no wedding songs.
 64His priests fell by the sword,
 And His widows could not weep.

78:54-64 This strophe recounts the conquest and settlement of the Promised Land (cf. Gen. 15:12-21). The Canaanite tribes (see SPECIAL TOPIC: PRE-ISRAELITE INHABITANTS OF PALESTINE) were defeated and removed by God because of their sin. Tragically the same thing happens to the Israelite tribes.

78:55b The book of Joshua, chapters 12-19, describes the divine allotment of the land to Jacob's children.

78:56-58 These lines of poetry describe Israel's sin and rebellion, which is all the more terrible because of all that God had done for them (cf. Luke 12:48).

1. they tempted God, Ps. 78:56a

2. they rebelled against God, Ps. 78:56a

3. they did not keep His covenant, Ps. 78:56b

4. they turned their backs to Him, Ps. 78:57a

5. they acted treacherously as their fathers did, Ps. 78:57a

6. they turned aside like a treacherous bow, Ps. 78:57b

7. they provoked Him with Canaanite idolatry, Ps. 78:58a

8. they aroused His jealousy with graven images, Ps. 78:58b


78:59-64 These verses describe what God did to Israel in light of their actions (Ps. 78:56-58).

1. He was filled with wrath

2. He greatly abhorred Israel

3. He abandoned the dwelling place at Shiloh (cf. 1 Sam. 4:11)

4. He allowed Israel to be defeated

5. He delivered Israel to the sword

6. He was filled with wrath at His inheritance

a. fire devoured the young men

b. the virgins had no wedding

c. the priests were killed

d. the widows wept

Human choices have consequences, both temporal and eternal!

78:62 "His inheritance" This is a parallel to "His people" (cf. Ps. 106:40). The origin of this imagery is Deut. 9:29. It, like so many other images, is family oriented.

78:63 "fire" See SPECIAL TOPIC: FIRE.

 65Then the Lord awoke as if from sleep,
 Like a warrior overcome by wine.
 66He drove His adversaries backward;
 He put on them an everlasting reproach.
 67He also rejected the tent of Joseph,
 And did not choose the tribe of Ephraim,
 68But chose the tribe of Judah,
 Mount Zion which He loved.
 69And He built His sanctuary like the heights,
 Like the earth which He has founded forever.
 70He also chose David His servant
 And took him from the sheepfolds;
 71From the care of the ewes with suckling lambs He brought him
 To shepherd Jacob His people,
 And Israel His inheritance.
 72So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart,
 And guided them with his skillful hands.

78:65-72 This concluding strophe describes how God turned from wrath to continue His redemptive purposes (see Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan).

1. God is described as a person who comes to his senses (see SPECIAL TOPIC: GOD DESCRIBED AS HUMAN (ANTHROPOMORPHISM))

2. He defeats the adversaries of His people

3. He gives them an everlasting reproach

4. He reorients the order of the tribes as to places of leadership

a. rejects Joseph and Ephraim

b. chooses the tribe of Judah (cf. Gen. 49:8-12; Deut. 33:7)

5. He chooses to locate the temple in Judah on Mt. Moriah (called Zion)

6. He chooses David as His special leader (and his descendants, cf. 2 Samuel 7)

a. described as a shepherd

b. has a heart of integrity

c. has skillful hands

With the allusion to God's rejection of the Northern Tribes and choice of Judah, it seems this Psalm's final form was written after the fall of Israel/Ephraim/Samaria in 722 b.c. to Assyria.

This strophe is a good example of how God asserts His sovereignty. The cultural expectation is altered to show God's control.

1. Judah not Ephraim

2. Zion not Shiloh

3. David not other sons of Jesse

This is similar theologically to the Patriarchs all marrying barren women. Their children were supernatural-natural gifts from God. He is in control of time, space, history, election, and salvation!

Psalm 79


A Lament Over the Destruction of Jerusalem, and Prayer for Help
MT Intro
A Psalm of Asaph
A Dirge and A Prayer for Israel, Destroyed by Enemies Prayer for Deliverance from National Enemies A Prayer for the Nation's Deliverance National Lament
79:1-7 79:1-7 79:1-4 79:1-7 79:1-2
79:8-13 79:8-10 79:8-10 79:8-10 79:8-9
  79:11-12 79:11-13 79:11-13  

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



 1O God, the nations have invaded Your inheritance;
 They have defiled Your holy temple;
 They have laid Jerusalem in ruins.
 2They have given the dead bodies of Your servants for food to the birds of the heavens,
 The flesh of Your godly ones to the beasts of the earth.
 3They have poured out their blood like water round about Jerusalem;
 And there was no one to bury them.
 4We have become a reproach to our neighbors,
 A scoffing and derision to those around us.
 5How long, O Lord? Will You be angry forever?
 Will Your jealousy burn like fire?
 6Pour out Your wrath upon the nations which do not know You,
 And upon the kingdoms which do not call upon Your name.
 7For they have devoured Jacob
 And laid waste his habitation.

79:1-3 These verses delineate what the Gentile invaders have done to the covenant people (perfects).

1. invaded Your inheritance (lit. "came in") - BDB 97, KB 112, Qal perfect

2. defiled Your holy temple - BDB 379, KB 375, Piel perfect

3. laid Jerusalem in ruins (lit. "put," "place," "set") - BDB 962, KB 1321, Qal perfect

4. given the dead bodies. . .for food to the birds - BDB 678, KB 733, Qal perfects, cf. Jer. 7:33; 16:4; 19:7; 34:20

5. poured out their blood - BDB 1049, KB 1629, Qal perfect, cf. Ps. 79:6, 10

6. there was no one to bury them - BDB 868, KB1064, Qal participle

The Jews could not understand how their God could allow the invasion of the land and defilement of the temple (i.e., Habakkuk). It seemed to question His:

1. power

2. promises

3. purpose for Israel

Psalm 79:8-13 gives the answer (cf. Dan. 9:1-14).

79:1 "O God" This is the first of several vocatives.

1. O God (Elohim), Ps. 79:1

2. O Lord (YHWH), Ps. 79:5

3. O God (Elyon), Ps. 79:9

4. O Lord (Adonai), Ps. 79:12

The AB adds two more (p. 249).

5. O God, Ps. 79:6

6. O Scribe, Ps. 79:8


▣ "Your inheritance" Notice the number of times the psalmist accentuates that the objects of attack belong to YHWH.

1. Your inheritance, Ps. 79:1

2. Your temple, Ps. 79:1

3. Your servants, Ps. 79:2, 10

4. for the glory of Your name, Ps. 79:9

5. for Your name's sake, Ps. 79:9

6. Your people, Ps. 79:13

7. sheep of Your pasture, Ps. 79:13


▣ "in ruins" This is a rare term (BDB 730) which is used twice in Micah.

1. for the destruction of Samaria, Mic. 1:6

2. for the destruction of Jerusalem, Mic. 3:12 (quoted in Jer. 26:18)

This Psalm seems to reflect the fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar in 586 b.c. (see 2 Kings 25; 2 Chronicles 36 and Lamentations).

79:2 To be improperly buried was a horror to ANE people. To be eaten by animals was a fearful prospect (cf. Jer. 7:33; 8:2; 34:20; Ezek. 29:5; 32:4-6; 33:27; 39:4-5,17-20). Psalm 79:2 is a fulfillment of the curse for disobedience in Deut. 28:26!


79:3 The first line of this verse alludes to the ritual procedure where the blood of sacrifices was poured out at the base of the altar of sacrifice after a small amount was smeared on the horns of the altar (i.e., Lev. 4:7). Jerusalem was destroyed as a ritual sacrifice and the bodies of the dead as a banquet for the wild animals.

79:4 The covenant people have become

1. a reproach (lit. "a taunt," BDB 357) to their Gentile neighbors, cf. Ps. 44:13; 69:9,19; 80:6; 89:41

2. a scoffing (lit. "mocked," BDB 541), cf. Ps. 44:13; Ezek. 23:32; 36:4

3. a derision, cf. Ps. 44:13; Jer. 20:8 (noun , BDB 887, used only three times and the verb form four more in the OT)

This was exactly opposite to YHWH's purpose for Israel, which was to help the nations know Him and come to Him (cf. Ezek. 36:22-23).

79:5 These three questions,

1. How long? (cf. Ps. 13:1; 74:10; 80:4; 89:46; 90:13; 94:3)

2. Will You be angry forever? (cf. Ps. 44:23 74:1; 77:7; 85:5; 89:46)

3. Will Your jealousy burn like fire? (cf. Ps. 89:46)

are the focus of Israel's confusion and prayer. Has YHWH's special relationship with the descendants of Abraham changed (cf. Ps. 89:1-4)?

YHWH has an unchanging purpose for Israel (cf. Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 27-30, see Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan), but they must remember that the promises of protection, provision, and presence are conditional (see SPECIAL TOPIC: COVENANT). Each generation must embrace and live out the covenant. Remember the Psalms are part of the OT's "two ways" (cf. Deut. 30:15-20; Psalm 1).

79:6-7 This is a prayer ("pour out," BDB 1049, KB 1629, Qal imperative) for YHWH to act in judgment and deliverance (cf. Ps. 79:9) for His covenant people (cf. Jer. 10:25). Notice how the nations (BDB 156) are characterized.

1. which do not know You (see Special Topic: Know)

2. which do not call upon Your name (see Special Topic: Shadow as a Metaphor for Protection and Care)

It must be remembered that the nations

1. do not have true revelation

2. are controlled by the demonically inspired pagan idols

Israel was to be "the" channel of YHWH's revelations about Himself. It is not surprising that the nations act in inappropriate ways (cf. Ps. 79:7). What is surprising is that Israel, with all the spiritual benefits (cf. Rom. 9:4-5), acts the way she does (cf. Luke 12:48)!

79:7 "For they have" The MT has "for he has," but the ancient versions have "they" (LXX, Syriac, Vulgate). The change involves only a revocalization.

NASB, NRSV"habitation"
NASB margin"pasture"
NKJV"dwelling places"
NJB, JPSOA"home"

This root (BDB 627) has several meanings.

1. abode of a shepherd (i.e., Jer. 33:12) or person (i.e., Job 18:15)

2. habitation of a nation (i.e., Jer. 31:23 - Judah; 49:20 - Edom; 50:45 - Babylon)

3. a city (cf. Isa. 33:20)

4. remote military outposts (NIDOTTE, vol. 3, p. 55, i.e., Ps. 79:7; Isa. 27:10; Jer. 10:25; 25:30)

5. habitation (i.e., the earth, cf. Jer. 25:30)

6. place of rest (BDB 628, cf. Isa. 32:18 parallels)

Psalm 79:7 follows the usage of #2.

 8Do not remember the iniquities of our forefathers against us;
 Let Your compassion come quickly to meet us,
 For we are brought very low.
 9Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of Your name;
 And deliver us and forgive our sins for Your name's sake.
 10Why should the nations say, "Where is their God?"
 Let there be known among the nations in our sight,
 Vengeance for the blood of Your servants which has been shed.
 11Let the groaning of the prisoner come before You;
 According to the greatness of Your power preserve those who are doomed to die.
 12And return to our neighbors sevenfold into their bosom
 The reproach with which they have reproached You, O Lord.
 13So we Your people and the sheep of Your pasture
 Will give thanks to You forever;
 To all generations we will tell of Your praise.

79:8-9 Two significant issues emerge in these verses.

1. Israel's prayer for God to remember His covenant

2. Israel's prayer for God to not remember their continual covenant rebellion and disobedience

They base their prayers on the fact that the nations will misunderstand YHWH (cf. Ps. 79:10).

These two verses have four imperatives of entreaty and two imperfects used as jussives.

1. do not remember - BDB 269, KB 269, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

2. come quickly - BDB 554, KB 553, Piel imperative

3. to meet us - BDB 869, KB 1068, Piel imperfect used in a jussive sense

4. help us - BDB 740, KB 810, Qal imperative

5. deliver us - BDB 664, KB 717, Hiphil imperative

6. forgive our sin - BDB 497, KB 493, Piel imperative


79:8 Line 1 is an allusion to the theological issue of the transference of sin (and/or blessing/forgiveness) to future generations. In the Ten Commandments

1. the results of sin are visited to the third and fourth generations (cf. Exod. 20:5; Deut. 5:9)

2. lovingkindness to many generations of those who love YHWH and keep His commandments (cf. Exod. 34:7; Deut. 5:10; 7:9)

Both the effects of sin and mercy move through time but each is based on human choices!

79:9 "O God of our salvation" This phrase is a repeated title for Israel's God (cf. Ps. 18:46; 24:5; 25:5; 27:9; 65:5; 85:4).

The BDB lists several ways the term "salvation" (BDB 447) is used in the OT.

1. feminine

a. welfare, prosperity

b. deliverance

c. salvation from external evils (i.e., Ps. 78:22; 80:2)

d. victory (i.e., Ps. 20:5; 21:1,5; 44:4)

2. masculine

a. safety, welfare, prosperity (i.e., Ps. 12:5)

b. salvation (usage here)

c. victory (i.e., Ps. 20:6)


79:10-13 Notice the two kinds of people (i.e., Israelite - Gentile). The Gentiles are ignorant of YHWH and they act in inappropriate ways. Israel pleads for judgment in order that His people may

1. "give thanks" - BDB 392, KB 389, Hiphil imperfect

2. "tell of Your praise" - BDB 707, KB 765, Piel imperfect

It is shocking to see the pain of the psalmist over the fall of Jerusalem, the desecration of the temple, and the exile of the Davidic seed. However, by faith, he can still envision a future time of praise!

79:10 "Where is their God?" The nations ask a powerful question (cf. Ps. 42:3,10; 115:2). In Psalm 42 it is asked by other Israelites but in Psalm 115 and here, by Gentiles. Are they seeking information or ridiculing Israel's God? The second option is obvious from the context but the first option is the ultimate purpose of God (see Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan).

79:11 "those who are doomed to die" This is a rare phrase (cf. Ps. 102:20). It could refer to

1. those exiled survivors of the invasion

2. those awaiting execution

3. those kept from the temple (JPSOA footnote, cf. Ps. 79:13)


79:12 "sevenfold" The number seven usually denotes "perfection" (see SPECIAL TOPIC: SYMBOLIC NUMBERS IN SCRIPTURE) but here it denotes a complete (cf. Deut. 28:25; Ps. 12:6; Pro. 6:31) judgment (cf. Gen. 4:15,24).

▣ "into their bosom" The term "bosom" (BDB 300) is used in many senses in the Bible. Here it denotes the inner part of a person (cf. Ps. 35:13; Jer. 32:18). The psalmist is praying for a complete judgment on the Gentile invaders (i.e., Isa. 65:6,7).

▣ "The reproach with which they have reproached You" The noun and verb "reproach" or "taunt" (BDB 357, cf. Ps. 74:10,18 and a similar root in Ps. 74:22; Lam. 3:30,61; 5:1) is used often in Scripture. The psalmist sees an attack on Jerusalem as an attack on YHWH.

79:13 "the sheep of Your pasture" It is interesting that in the Psalms of Asaph this theme concludes Psalms 77, 78, and 79 (also note how Psalm 80 begins). It reflects the powerful, personal truth/imagery of Psalm 23!


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Why is 586 b.c. the best guess at the historical setting of this Psalm?

2. Why was God angry at His people? In this Psalm who are His people?

3. Does sin move through generations?

4. How is Ps. 79:10 related to God's eternal redemptive purpose? (see Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan).

5. How is Ps. 79:12b related to the prayer for forgiveness and deliverance?

Psalm 80


God Implored to Rescue His People From Their Calamities
MT Intro
For the choir director; set to El Shoshannim; Eduth. A Psalm of Asaph
Prayer for Israel's Restoration Prayer for Deliverance From National Enemies A Prayer for The Nation's Restoration Prayer for the Restoration of Israel
80:1-3 80:1-2 80:1-2 80:1-2 80:1-2
  80:3 80:3 80:3 80:3
80:4-7 80:4-6 80:4-6 80:4-6 80:4-6
  80:7 80:7 80:7 80:7
80:8-13 80:8-11 80:8-13 80:8-15 80:8-9
  80:12-13     80:12-13
80:14-19 80:14-18 80:14-18   80:14-16
  80:19 80:19 80:19 80:19

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Etc.



A. Notice the different names/titles of Israel's Deity.

1. Shepherd of Israel, Ps. 80:1 (see note at Ps. 23:1)

2. O God (Elohim), Ps. 80:3

3. Lord (YHWH), Ps. 80:4,19

4. God of hosts, Ps. 80:4,7,14,19


B. There is a chorus phrase that concludes several strophes: Ps. 80:1-3, 4-7, 14-19. It has two imperatives and one cohortative. It is a prayer for mercy, forgiveness, and restoration.

C. There may be a "Messianic" reference related to

1. "shoot" (BDB 488), which may have theological connections to "Branch" (BDB 666, cf. Isa. 4:2; 11:1; 53:2; Jer. 23:5) and for "sprout" (BDB 855, cf. Jer. 33:15; Zech. 3:8; 6:12)

2. "the man of Your right hand"

3. "the son of man whom You made strong for Yourself"

4. and even possibly "Shepherd of Israel," which would bring connotations of a Davidic seed

The other option is that all the imagery relates to national Israel or Judah.

D. Because of the placement of this Psalm (i.e., in the Psalms of Asaph) and Ps. 80:12-13 pointing toward an invasion of Judah, the date is possibly 586 b.c.



 1Oh, give ear, Shepherd of Israel,
 You who lead Joseph like a flock;
 You who are enthroned above the cherubim, shine forth!
 2Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh, stir up Your power
 And come to save us!
 3O God, restore us
 And cause Your face to shine upon us, and we will be saved.

80:1-3 This strophe is made up of a series of imperatives of request.

1. give ear, Ps. 80:1 - BDB 24, KB 27, Hiphil imperative

2. shine forth, Ps. 80:1 - BDB 422, KB 424, Hiphil imperative

3. stir up, Ps. 80:2 - BDB 734, KB 802, Polel imperative

4. come to save, Ps. 80:2 - BDB 229, KB 246, Qal imperative

5. restore us, Ps. 80:3 - BDB 996, KB 1427, Hiphil imperative

6. cause to shine, Ps. 80:3 - BDB 21, KB 24, Hiphil imperative (this may reflect the Aaronic blessing of Num. 6:25, also note Ps. 31:16)

7. we will be saved, Ps. 80:3 - BDB 446, 448, Niphal cohortative


80:1 "Shepherd of Israel" This phrase denotes God's presence and tender care (cf. Gen. 49:24; Ps. 23:1-3) and also links to David, who was called by God from tending the sheep. This makes the Messianic allusion in Ps. 80:15-17 more probable (see Contextual Insights, C).

Notice how God is characterized.

1. Who led Joseph like a flock (Joseph is also mentioned in Ps. 77:15; 78:67)

2. Who is enthroned above the cherubim. This is an allusion to Exod. 25:22. YHWH symbolically dwelt above the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant between the two cherubim (cf. 1 Sam. 4:4; 2 Sam. 6:2; Ps. 99:1). This was where heaven and earth met in the place of mercy and revelation!

For "cherubim" see Special Topic: Cherubim.

▣ "shine forth" This emphasis on God's involvement in the earthly, daily affairs of Israel is described as a light coming from above the ark. Notice the refrain in this Psalm (cf. Ps. 80:3,7,19) has another imperative verb (BDB 21, KB 24) denoting light. Light in the ANE was a symbol of revelation, health, goodness. In the OT it often relates to the brightness of a theophany (physical appearance of God). Note Ps. 50:2; 94:1, as well as the Shekinah cloud of glory during the exodus and wilderness wandering period (i.e., Exod. 13:21-22; 33:9).

God is light - Ps. 27:1; Isa. 60:20; Mic. 7:8; James 1:17; 1 John 1:5

Jesus is light - Isa. 9:2; John 1:4; 8:12; 12:35,46

believers are light - Matt. 5:14-16; John 8:12b


80:2 There is some question why only these tribes are mentioned. From Num. 2:18-24 we know they camped together on the west side of the tabernacle as they traveled through the wilderness.

Ephraim and Manasseh were the children of Joseph. Joseph and Benjamin were the sons of Jacob's favorite wife, Rachel.

Joseph's children were fully adopted by Jacob (i.e., thirteen tribes) and became the largest tribe when the united monarchy (i.e., Saul, David, Solomon) split in 922 b.c. They became the leaders of the northern coalition known as Israel, Samaria, or Ephraim. The first leader/king was an Ephraimitic labor leader, Jeroboam I.

Benjamin became part of the southern coalition of Judah along with most of the Levites. Simeon had earlier been incorporated into Judah, therefore, it may be a way of referring to all the covenant people.

80:3 This refrain (cf. Ps. 80:7,19) shows that this Psalm was written during a time of national difficulty. If Psalms 77-80 by Asaph come from the same historical period, then this is possibly related to the invasion of Judah by Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar. He invaded several times (i.e., 605, 597, 586, 582 b.c.), but it is possible to see this Psalm as relating to the fall of Israel in 722 b.c., when Samaria fell after a three year siege by Assyria. The Jewish Study Bible (p. 1372) suggests that it was originally written for the fall of Samaria but was reworked to refer to the fall of Jerusalem because of the proximity and phrasing connections to Psalm 79, which is obviously 586 b.c.

Because Ps. 80:14 uses the same imperative (BDB 996, KB 1427), some scholars see it as an additional refrain, thereby having each strophe close the same. However, Ps. 80:14 is not the same, even the same verb is a Qal not Hiphil.

 4O Lord God of hosts,
 How long will You be angry with the prayer of Your people?
 5You have fed them with the bread of tears,
 And You have made them to drink tears in large measure.
 6You make us an object of contention to our neighbors,
 And our enemies laugh among themselves.
 7O God of hosts, restore us
 And cause Your face to shine upon us, and we will be saved.

80:4-7 This strophe is a plea for God to intervene on behalf of His people.

1. how long will You be angry - the question of God's action or inaction is recurrent (cf. Ps. 74:10; 90:13; 94:3; Pro. 1:22)

2. You have fed them with the bread of tears (powerful imagery, cf. Ps. 42:3; 102:9)

3. You have made them to drink tears in large measure (lit. "third part," BDB 1026 I, only here and Isa. 40:12)

4. You make us an object of contention to our neighbors (cf. Ps. 44:13; 79:4; Ezek. 5:14; 22:4; Dan. 9:16)

5. You have made it so our enemies laugh among themselves (at us). The TEV and NJB follow the LXX, "our enemies mock us."

These consequences of Israel/Judah's covenant disobedience and idolatry are exactly the opposite of what God wanted them to do in relation to their Gentile neighbors of the ANE. They were meant to be a light (cf. Ezek. 36:22-23) but became a joke (cf. Ps. 79:10; 115:2).

 8You removed a vine from Egypt;
 You drove out the nations and planted it.
 9You cleared the ground before it,
 And it took deep root and filled the land.
 10The mountains were covered with its shadow,
 And the cedars of God with its boughs.
 11It was sending out its branches to the sea
 And its shoots to the River.
 12Why have You broken down its hedges,
 So that all who pass that way pick its fruit?
 13A boar from the forest eats it away
 And whatever moves in the field feeds on it.

80:8-13 This strophe uses the vineyard as a metaphor for the covenant people.

1. YHWH brought them out of Egypt (as He promised in Gen. 15:12-21)

2. YHWH defeated the Canaanite tribes (i.e., Joshua's conquest)

3. YHWH planted them in the good soil of the Promised Land

Even with all these divine blessings they were unfaithful (cf. Nehemiah 9; Psalm 78). So the curses of Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 27-30 came into effect.

1. His protection (i.e., the wall of the vineyard) was removed

2. He allowed invaders to take Canaan (Ps. 80:12-13). As the Israelites drove out the sinful Canaanites (i.e., Gen. 15:12-21) so now the sinful covenant people are removed.


80:8 "vine" This could refer to all of the covenant people (cf. Isaiah 5; Hosea 10:1) or be a specific reference to the northern kingdom (cf. Gen. 49:22).

80:11 "sea. . .the River" This refers to the Mediterranean to the west and the head waters of the Euphrates River to the northeast (cf. Exod. 23:31).

 14O God of hosts, turn again now, we beseech You;
 Look down from heaven and see, and take care of this vine,
 15Even the shoot which Your right hand has planted,
 And on the son whom You have strengthened for Yourself.
 16It is burned with fire, it is cut down;
 They perish at the rebuke of Your countenance.
 17Let Your hand be upon the man of Your right hand,
 Upon the son of man whom You made strong for Yourself.
 18Then we shall not turn back from You;
 Revive us, and we will call upon Your name.
 19O Lord God of hosts, restore us;
 Cause Your face to shine upon us, and we will be saved.

80:14-19 This strophe is a concluding prayer (3 Qal imperatives of request in Ps. 80:14) for YHWH to have mercy on the descendants of Abraham.

The real question of interpretation is how they view this divine action to occur.

1. restore a strong nation (i.e., the shoot [BDB 488, only here in the OT] or vine of Ps. 80:8,14)

2. send a special Davidic seed (Ps. 80:15,17)

a. the son whom You have strengthened or secured (BDB 54)

b. Your hand be upon the man of Your right hand, the son of man whom You have made strong (BDB 54, parallel to Ps. 80:15) for Yourself (cf. Ps. 110:1)

It is obvious this imagery could refer to

1. national Israel/Judah

2. a Davidic king/Messiah (cf. 2 Samuel 7 and Aramaic Targums)


80:16 Notice that Israel/Judah's difficulties are a direct result of God's actions, not the power of the invader. God used pagan nations to judge His people (cf. Habakkuk). This was shocking to Jewish people. He had fought on their side (cf. Ps. 76:6) but now He was on the side of the invaders (i.e., a reversal of "holy war" imagery).

80:17 "Your hand" See Special Topic: Hand.

▣ "the son of man" This phrase is recurrent in Ezekiel. See my commentary notes below from Ezekiel 2:1.

Ezek. 2:1 "Son of man" This is literally "ben-Adam" (BDB 119 construct, BDB 9). This is used often in Ezekiel as a way of referring to Ezekiel as a human being (93 times, cf. Ps. 8:4). In Ezekiel it is the way God addresses Ezekiel. This same phrase is found in Job and Psalms. In Dan. 7:13 this term takes on divine characteristics as one likened to "a son of man" coming before the Ancient of Days (i.e., deity) riding on the clouds of heaven. Daniel 7:13 is the background for Jesus' use of this term for himself, which combines humanity and deity (i.e., 1 John 4:1-3). The phrase had no nationalistic or militaristic rabbinical overtones.

80:18 This verse lists several promises spoken by the psalmist but on behalf of the covenant people.

1. then (i.e., after God turns again to them, cf. Ps. 80:14) we shall not turn back (i.e., backslide, BDB 690, KB 744, Qal imperfect) from You

2. give us life/revive us (BDB 310, KB 309, Piel imperfect)

3. if God acts on their behalf they will call upon (BDB 894, KB 1128, Qal imperfect) His name in the temple

Notice this use of imperfects, which denotes an ongoing action.

80:19 See note at Ps. 80:3.


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Does this Psalm refer to an invasion? If so, which historical period fits best?

2. Is this Psalm written about Israel or Judah?

3. List and explain the different terms and allusions to "light."

4. Why does the refrain of Ps. 80:3,7,19 add to God's name each time?

5. Why are nations often referred to in plant metaphors?

6. Are there "Messianic" hints in this Psalm or do they all refer to the nation as a whole?

Psalm 81


God's Goodness and Israel's Waywardness
MT Intro
For the choir director; on the Gittith. A Psalm of Asaph
An Appeal For Israel's Repentance Liturgy For A Festival A Song For A Festival For the Feast of Shelters
81:1-5 81:1-2 81:1-5b 81:1-5b 81:1
    81:5c-10 81:5c-10 81:5c-7a
81:6-10 81:6-7      
81:11-16 81:11-12 81:11-16 81:11-16 81:11-12
  81:13-16     81:13-14

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A. There is much debate over whether this refers to the Feast of Booths or Passover.

B. The Targum adds Tishri to Ps. 81:3, which is the month of the Feast of Booths.

C. This Psalm obviously refers to the exodus and wilderness experience, so both the Passover and Feast of Booths fit. I think it is the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles, which commemorates the wilderness wanderings. JPSOA thinks it refers to the "New Year" liturgy. The difficulty is that Ps. 81:4 seems to refer to two different dates (i.e., first of the month and middle of the month).



 1Sing for joy to God our strength;
 Shout joyfully to the God of Jacob.
 2Raise a song, strike the timbrel,
 The sweet sounding lyre with the harp.
 3Blow the trumpet at the new moon,
 At the full moon, on our feast day.
 4For it is a statute for Israel,
 An ordinance of the God of Jacob.
 5He established it for a testimony in Joseph
 When he went throughout the land of Egypt.
 I heard a language that I did not know:

81:1-5 This strophe is an admonition of the psalmist to the covenant people to rejoice at YHWH's powerful deliverance of Israel from Egyptian bondage.

1. sing for joy - BDB 943, KB 1247, Hiphil imperative, cf. Ps. 32:11

2. shout joyfully - BDB 929, KB 1206, Hiphil imperative

3. raise a song - BDB 669, KB 724, Qal imperative

4. strike the timbrel - BDB 678, KB 733, Qal imperative

5. blow the trumpet - BDB 1075, KB 1785, Qal imperative

Notice the word play between #1 and 2; #3 and 4.

81:1 "to God our strength" "Strength" (BDB 738) is often linked with "refuge" (see Special Topic: Refuge) to describe God (cf. Ps. 14:6; 46:1; 62:6-7). Faithful followers' hope, peace, and joy are in Him, not in

1. personal merit

2. circumstances

3. physical resources


81:3 "the timbrel" This musical instrument (BDB 1074) was a small handheld, circular frame with stretched animal skin. It was used in association with women dancing in the exodus victory in Exod. 15:20 (also note Jdgs. 11:34; 1 Sam. 18:6).

81:3 This verse is an admonition to worship God at the appropriate time and place.

1. the new moon - Israel's way to mark a new month (BDB 294, i.e., totally dark, cf. Num. 10:10; 28:11-15)

2. full moon (BDB 409, i.e., totally bright, its use found only here and Pro. 7:20; it denoted the middle of the month)

3. feast day (lists of several annual feast days, cf. Exodus 23 and Leviticus 23)

Surprisingly Sabbaths are not mentioned (cf. 1 Chr. 23:31; 2 Chr. 2:4; Hos. 2:11).


▣ "blow the trumpet" This instrument (BDB 1051) is mentioned in Exod. 19:16,19, when Israel prepared herself for YHWH's giving of His laws. Again this is an allusion to the exodus experience. See SPECIAL TOPIC: HORNS USED BY ISRAEL.


81:4-5 "statute. . .ordinance. . .testimony" These terms are ways to designate YHWH's revelations to Israel.

1. statutes - BDB 349

2. ordinance - BDB 1048

3. testimony - BDB 730

In context these seem to refer to the revelations about feast days (cf. Exodus 23; Leviticus 23). See SPECIAL TOPIC: TERMS FOR GOD'S REVELATION.

These laws seem to be the crux of what Ps. 81:5c means.

1. Joseph's testimony of his faith in YHWH as he traveled through Egypt

2. Moses' testimony as he shared YHWH's predictions of plagues

3. the language of the Egyptians, which the Hebrews did not originally understand

4. YHWH's laws that Israel rejected (cf. Ps. 81:8,11,13)

5. the fearful voice of God on Mt. Sinai (i.e., relates Ps. 81:5c to Ps. 81:6) spoken in Hebrew, which by this time most Israelites did not understand because they spoke Egyptian. If so, Ps. 81:5c is more first person masculine singular verbs, which would denote YHWH.


81:5 "a language that I did not know" This is a literary idiom for Israel's time in Egypt (cf. Ps. 114:1). It is also used of the invasion and occupation of Canaan by

1. Assyria - Deut. 28:49

2. Babylon - Jer. 5:15

Many modern translations see Ps. 81:5c as going with 81:6, not 81:5b. If so, it applies to YHWH speaking on Mt. Sinai (i.e., in Hebrew or in thunder). Israel was afraid of the powerful physical manifestation of YHWH on Mt. Sinai (cf. Exodus 19-20).

The remaining verses record YHWH speaking (i.e., Ps. 81:6-16).

  6"I relieved his shoulder of the burden,
 His hands were freed from the basket.
 7You called in trouble and I rescued you;
 I answered you in the hiding place of thunder;
 I proved you at the waters of Meribah.  Selah.
 8Hear, O My people, and I will admonish you;
 O Israel, if you would listen to Me!
 9Let there be no strange god among you;
 Nor shall you worship any foreign god.
 10I, the Lord, am your God,
 Who brought you up from the land of Egypt;
 Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.

81:6-10 This strophe is a summary of all the gracious acts of YHWH in the exodus and wilderness wandering period. Notice all the first person masculine singular verbs! YHWH is directly addressing His people.

1. I relieved (lit. "removed"), Ps. 81:6 - BDB 693, KB 747, Hiphil perfect

2. I rescued (lit. "delivered"), Ps. 81:7 - BDB 322, KB 321, Piel imperfect with waw

3. I answered, Ps. 81:7 - BDB 772, KB 851, Qal imperfect

4. I proved, Ps. 81:7 - BDB 103, KB 119, Qal imperfect

5. I will admonish, Ps. 81:8 - BDB 729, KB 795, Hiphil cohortative

6. I, the Lord, am your God, Ps. 81:10 - covenant language

7. I will fill it, Ps. 81:10 - BDB 569, KB 583, Piel imperfect used in a cohortative sense

Also notice

8. I gave them over to, Ps. 81:12 - BDB 1018, KB 1511, Piel imperfect with waw (cf. Rom. 1:24,26,28)

9. I would quickly subdue, Ps. 81:14

10. I would feed you, Ps. 81:16 - BDB 37, KB 46, Hiphil imperfect with waw

11. I would satisfy you, Ps. 81:16 - BDB 959, KB 1302, Hiphil imperfect

YHWH speaks from Ps. 81:6 through 16 by means of a priest or prophet.

81:6 This verse refers to the forced labor of the Hebrew slaves (i.e., Exod. 1:8-14).

81:7 "You called in trouble and I rescued you" This is an allusion to YHWH's dialog with Moses in Exod. 3:7-10.

▣ "I answered you in the hiding place of thunder" This seems to allude to Israel's Mt. Sinai experience (cf. Exod. 19:19; 20:18).

▣ "I proved you at the waters of Meribah" This refers to the Israelites' experience recorded in Exod. 17:6-7 and Num. 20:13. The AB (pp. 265-266) sees this line as "though I was provoked by you" (cf. Exod. 17:7; Num. 14:22; 20:24; 27:14; Deut. 33:8; Ps. 93:8-9). Each of these texts states that Israel tested God, not God tested Israel.

Deuteronomy 33:8 seems to support the MT of Ps. 81:7c as God testing the Israelites.

▣ "Selah" See notes at Psalm 3:2.

81:8 "Hear" This is a Qal imperative! It begins a series of references to Israel's lack of responding appropriately to YHWH's revelation (cf. Neh. 9:34).

1. if you would listen - Ps. 81:8

2. My people did not listen - Ps. 81:11

3. Israel did not obey Me - Ps. 81:11

4. Oh that My people would listen to Me - Ps. 81:13

Derek Kidner, in the Tyndale Commentary series (p. 326), thinks "Hear, O My people" is an allusion to the Shema prayer of Deut. 6:4-6. It may well be!

81:9 Israel was commanded not to make or go after foreign gods (cf. Exod. 20:3,23). The Israelites were attracted to the fertility gods of Canaan. Israel's uniqueness in the ANE was her monotheism, which allowed for no rivals!

The Jewish Study Bible (p. 1374) asserts that Ps. 81:9-10 are an allusion to Exod. 20:1-2; Deut. 5:6, but in reverse order.

81:10 This refers to YHWH's provision of food and water during the wilderness wandering period.

 11"But My people did not listen to My voice,
 And Israel did not obey Me.
 12So I gave them over to the stubbornness of their heart,
 To walk in their own devices.
 13Oh that My people would listen to Me,
 That Israel would walk in My ways!
 14I would quickly subdue their enemies
 And turn My hand against their adversaries.
 15Those who hate the Lord would pretend obedience to Him,
 And their time of punishment would be forever.
 16But I would feed you with the finest of the wheat,
 And with honey from the rock I would satisfy you."

81:11-16 This strophe contrasts what Israel did with what YHWH wanted to do for them.

1. Israel's history of rebellion (cf. Ps. 78:17,40)

a. did not listen

b. did not obey

c. had stubborn hearts

d. walked in their own devices

2. YHWH's reaction

a. judgment

(1) gave them over to (cf. Ps. 78:29; Isa. 6:9-10; Rom. 1:24,26,28) the stubbornness of their hearts, Ps. 81:12

(2) gave them over to walk in their own devices, Ps. 81:12

(3) those who pretend obedience would suffer eternal loss, Ps. 81:15

b. His desire

(1) that they would listen to Him, Ps. 81:13

(2) that they would walk in His ways, Ps. 81:13

c. His blessings

(1) subdue their enemies, Ps. 81:14

(2) turn His hand against their adversaries, Ps. 81:14

(3) feed them

(a) the finest of the wheat (cf. Deut. 32:14)

(b) honey from the rock (i.e., the best food of the land, cf. Deut. 32:13)

(4) satisfy them