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Psalm 76

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
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
76:8-10        
  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")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

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.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

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

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 76:1-3
 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.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 76:4-7
 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.

76:4

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).

 

NASB, NKJV,
JPSOA"the mountains of prey"
NRSV, REB,
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).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 76:8-10
 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.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 76:11-12
 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.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

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?