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74. Psalm 74

O God, why hast thou cast us off for ever? why doth thine anger smoke against the sheep of thy pasture?

2Remember thy congregation, which thou hast purchased of old; the rod of thine inheritance, which thou hast redeemed; this mount Zion, wherein thou hast dwelt.

3Lift up thy feet unto the perpetual desolations; even all that the enemy hath done wickedly in the sanctuary.

4Thine enemies roar in the midst of thy congregations; they set up their ensigns for signs.

5 A man was famous according as he had lifted up axes upon the thick trees.

6But now they break down the carved work thereof at once with axes and hammers.

7They have cast fire into thy sanctuary, they have defiled by casting down the dwelling place of thy name to the ground.

8They said in their hearts, Let us destroy them together: they have burned up all the synagogues of God in the land.

9We see not our signs: there is no more any prophet: neither is there among us any that knoweth how long.

10O God, how long shall the adversary reproach? shall the enemy blaspheme thy name for ever?

11Why withdrawest thou thy hand, even thy right hand? pluck it out of thy bosom.

12For God is my King of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth.

13Thou didst divide the sea by thy strength: thou brakest the heads of the dragons in the waters.

14Thou brakest the heads of leviathan in pieces, and gavest him to be meat to the people inhabiting the wilderness.

15Thou didst cleave the fountain and the flood: thou driedst up mighty rivers.

16The day is thine, the night also is thine: thou hast prepared the light and the sun.

17Thou hast set all the borders of the earth: thou hast made summer and winter.

18Remember this, that the enemy hath reproached, O Lord, and that the foolish people have blasphemed thy name.

19O deliver not the soul of thy turtledove unto the multitude of the wicked: forget not the congregation of thy poor for ever.

20Have respect unto the covenant: for the dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty.

21O let not the oppressed return ashamed: let the poor and needy praise thy name.

22Arise, O God, plead thine own cause: remember how the foolish man reproacheth thee daily.

23Forget not the voice of thine enemies: the tumult of those that rise up against thee increaseth continually.

13. Thou hast divided the sea by thy power. The prophet now collects together certain kinds of deliverances highly worthy of remembrance; all of them, however, belonging to the first deliverance by which God emancipated his people from the tyranny of Egypt. We will find him afterwards descending to the general commendation of the goodness of God which is diffused through the whole world. Thus from the special grace which God vouchsafes to his Church, he passes on to speak of the good-will which he displays towards all mankind. In the first place, he says, Thou hast divided, or cleaved, the sea. Some think that the following clause is subjoined as an effect of what is stated in the first clause, — God, by drying up the sea, having caused the whales and other great fishes to die. I am, however, of opinion, that it is to be taken metaphorically for Pharaoh and his army; this mode of expression being very common among the prophets, especially when they speak of the Egyptians, whose country was washed by a sea abounding with fish, and divided by the Nile. Pharaoh is, therefore, not improperly termed Leviathan, 235235     Calvin supposes that the whale is the animal here referred to, and this was the opinion for a long time universally held. But from a comparison of the description given by Job of the Leviathan (Job 41) with what is known of the natural history of the crocodile, there can be little doubt that the crocodile is the Leviathan of Scripture. This is now very generally agreed upon. “Almost all the oldest commentators,” says Dr Good, “I may say unconditionally all of them concurred in regarding the whale as the animal” intended by the Leviathan. “Beza and Diodati were among the first to interpret it ‘the crocodile.’ And Bochart has since supported this last rendering with a train of argument, which has nearly overwhelmed all opposition, and has brought almost every commentator over to his opinion.” — Dr Goods New Translation of Job “With respect to the Leviathan,” says Fry, “all are now pretty well agreed that it can apply only to the crocodile, and probably it was nothing but a defective knowledge of the language of the book of Job, or of the natural history of this stupendous animal, which led former commentators to imagine the description applicable to any other.” — Frys New Translation and Exposition of the Book of Job This Egyptian animal, the crocodile of the Nile, as we have formerly observed, (p. 38, note,) was anciently employed as a symbol of the Egyptian power, or of their king. Parkhurst remarks that in Scheuchzer’s Physica Sacra may be seen a medal with Julius Caesar’s head on one side, and on the reverse a crocodile with this inscription, — Ægypte Capta, Egypt Taken. This strengthens the conclusion that the crocodile is the animal intended by the name Leviathan. Both the etymology of the name Leviathan, and to what language it belongs, according to Simonis, are unknown. But according to Gesenius it signifies “properly the twisted animal.” It is affirmed by the Arabic lexicographers quoted by Bochart, (Phaleg Lib. 1, cap. 15,) that Pharaoh in the Egyptian language signified a crocodile; and if so, there may be some such allusion to his name in this passage, and in Ezekiel 29:3, and 32:2, where the king of Egypt is represented by the same animal, as was made to the name of Draco, when Herodicus (in a sarcasm recorded by Aristotle, Rhet Lib. 2, cap. 23) said that his laws, — which were very severe, — were the laws οὐκ ἀνθρώπου ἀλλὰ δράκοντος, non hominis sed draconis. — Merricks AnnotationsThe heads of Leviathan” may denote the princes of Egypt, or the leaders of the Egyptian armies. on account of the advantages of the sea possessed by his country, and because, in reigning over that land with great splendor, he might be compared to a whale moving up and down at its ease in the midst of the waters of the mighty ocean. 236236     “Regnoit en grand triomphe, comme la balene se pourmene a sou aise au milieu de ce grande amas d’eaux.” — Fr. As God put forth his power at that time for the deliverance of the people, to assure the Church that he would always be her protector and the guardian of her welfare, the encouragement afforded by this example ought not to be limited exclusively to one age. It is, therefore, with good reason applied to the descendants of that ancient race, that they might improve it as a means of confirming and establishing their faith. The prophet does not here recount all the miracles which God had wrought at the departure of the people from the land of Egypt; but in adverting to some of them, he comprehends by the figure synecdoche, all that Moses has narrated concerning them at greater length. When he says that leviathan was given for food to the Israelites, and that even in the wilderness, 237237     Calvin reads, “thy people in the wilderness.” But thy has nothing to represent it in the original, which literally is, “to a people, to those of the wilderness.” Those who adopt this rendering are not agreed as to what is to be understood by the expression. Some think it means the birds and beasts of prey, who devoured the dead bodies of Pharaoh and the Egyptian army, when cast upon the coast of the Red Sea by the tides. See Exodus 14:30. If such is the meaning, these birds and beasts of prey are called “the people of wilderness,” as being its principal inhabitants. That עם, am, people, is sometimes to be thus interpreted in Scripture is evident from Proverbs 30:25, 26, where both the ants and the conies are styled a people But as the desert on the coast of which the Egyptians were thrown up was inhabited by tribes of people who lived on fishes — even on those of the largest kind, which they found cast upon the shore by the tides — and were from thence called Ιχθυοφάγοι, or fish-eaters; some interpreters suppose that these are “the people of the wilderness” here mentioned; and that as Pharaoh and his host are represented under the figure of the Leviathan and other monsters of the deep, so these people, in allusion to their common way of living, are figuratively said to have preyed on their dead bodies, by which is understood their enriching themselves with their spoils. there is a beautiful allusion to the destruction of Pharaoh and his host. It is as if he had said, that then a bountiful provision of victuals was laid up for the nourishment of the people; for when their enemies were destroyed, the quiet and security which the people in consequence enjoyed served, so to speak, as food to prolong their life. By the wilderness, is not meant the countries lying on the sea coast, though they are dry and barren, but the deserts at a great distance from the sea. The same subject is prosecuted in the following verse, where it is declared, that the fountain was cleaved or divided, that is, it was so when God caused a stream of water to gush from the rock to supply the wants of the people. 238238     “Quand Dieu feit que de la roche saillit un cours d’eau pour la necessite du peuple.” — Fr. Finally, it is added, that mighty rivers 239239     It is rivers in the plural, from which it would appear that the Jordan was not the only river which was dried up, to give an easy passage to the Israelites. The Chaldee specifies the Arnon, the Jabbok, and the Jordan, as the rivers here referred to. With respect to the Jordan, see Joshua 3:16. As to the miraculous drying up either of the Arnon or the Jabbok, we have no distinct account in Scripture. But in Numbers 21, after it is mentioned, verse 13, that the Israelites “pitched on the other side of Arnon,” it follows, verses 14, 15, “Wherefore, it is said in the book of the wars of the Lord, What he did in the Red Sea, and in the brooks of Arnon, and at the stream of the brooks that goeth down to the dwelling of Ar, and lieth upon the border of Moab.” From this it would appear that God wrought at “the brooks of Arnon, and at the stream of the brooks that goeth down to the dwelling of Ar,” miracles similar to that which was wrought at the Red Sea, when it was divided to open up a passage for the chosen tribes. were dried up, an event which happened when God caused the waters of the Jordan to turn back to make a way for his people to pass over. Some would have the Hebrew word איתן, ethan, which signifies mighty, to be a proper name, as if the correct translation were rivers of Ethan; but this interpretation is altogether without foundation.


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