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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?

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