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Psalm 74

Plea for Help in Time of National Humiliation

A Maskil of Asaph.


O God, why do you cast us off forever?

Why does your anger smoke against the sheep of your pasture?


Remember your congregation, which you acquired long ago,

which you redeemed to be the tribe of your heritage.

Remember Mount Zion, where you came to dwell.


Direct your steps to the perpetual ruins;

the enemy has destroyed everything in the sanctuary.



Your foes have roared within your holy place;

they set up their emblems there.


At the upper entrance they hacked

the wooden trellis with axes.


And then, with hatchets and hammers,

they smashed all its carved work.


They set your sanctuary on fire;

they desecrated the dwelling place of your name,

bringing it to the ground.


They said to themselves, “We will utterly subdue them”;

they burned all the meeting places of God in the land.



We do not see our emblems;

there is no longer any prophet,

and there is no one among us who knows how long.


How long, O God, is the foe to scoff?

Is the enemy to revile your name forever?


Why do you hold back your hand;

why do you keep your hand in your bosom?



Yet God my King is from of old,

working salvation in the earth.


You divided the sea by your might;

you broke the heads of the dragons in the waters.


You crushed the heads of Leviathan;

you gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness.


You cut openings for springs and torrents;

you dried up ever-flowing streams.


Yours is the day, yours also the night;

you established the luminaries and the sun.


You have fixed all the bounds of the earth;

you made summer and winter.



Remember this, O L ord, how the enemy scoffs,

and an impious people reviles your name.


Do not deliver the soul of your dove to the wild animals;

do not forget the life of your poor forever.



Have regard for your covenant,

for the dark places of the land are full of the haunts of violence.


Do not let the downtrodden be put to shame;

let the poor and needy praise your name.


Rise up, O God, plead your cause;

remember how the impious scoff at you all day long.


Do not forget the clamor of your foes,

the uproar of your adversaries that goes up continually.

3. Lift up thy strokes. Here the people of God, on the other hand, beseech him to inflict a deadly wound upon their enemies, corresponding to the cruelty with which they had raged against his sanctuary. They would intimate, that a moderate degree of punishment was not sufficient for such impious and sacrilegious fury; and that, therefore, those who had shown themselves such violent enemies of the temple and of the worshippers of God should be completely destroyed, their impiety being altogether desperate. As the Holy Spirit has dictated this form of prayer, we may infer from it, in the first place, the infinite love which God bears towards us, when he is pleased to punish so severely the wrongs inflicted upon us; and, in the second place, the high estimation in which he holds the worship yielded to his Divine majesty, when he pursues with such rigour those who have violated it. With respect to the words, some translate פעמים, pheamim, which we have rendered strokes, by feet or steps, 215215     “That פעמים means feet or steps is evident from Psalms 17:5 57:6; and 58:10 Lift up thy feet, advance not slowly or by stealth, but with large and stately steps, full in the view of all; come to thy sanctuary, so long suffered to lie waste; examine what has been done there, and let thy grace and aid, hitherto so much withheld, be extended to us.” — Gejer To lift up the feet is a Hebraism for “to put one’s self in motion;” “to set out on a journey,” as may be learned from Genesis 29:1, where of Jacob it is said, “He lifted up his feet, and went into the east country.” Lifting up the feet is used for going, in the same way as opening the mouth is for speaking. and understand the Church as praying that the Lord would lift up his feet, and run swiftly to strike her enemies. Others translate it hammers, 216216     “There is another notion of פעם, for a mallet or hammer, Isaiah 41:7 and Kimchi would have that to be the meaning here,הורם פעם, ‘lift up thy mallet,’ in opposition to the ‘axes and hammers,’ verse 6; and thus also Abu Walid, ‘lift up thy dashing instruments.’ And the LXX., who read, ἔπαρον τάς χεῖρας, ‘lift up thy hands,’ come near this.” — Hammond which suits very well. I have, however, no hesitation in following the opinion of those who consider the reference to be to the act of striking, and that the strokes themselves are denoted. The last clause of the verse is explained by some as meaning that the enemy had corrupted all things in the sanctuary. 217217     This is the sense put upon the words by some Jewish interpreters. Thus Abu Walid reads, “Lift up thy dashing instruments, because of the utter destructions which the enemy hath made, and because of all the evil that he hath done in or on the sanctuary.” Aben Ezra has, “because of the perpetual desolations,” that is, because of thy inheritance which is laid waste. Piscator takes the same view: “Betake thyself to Jerusalem, that thou mayest see these perpetual desolations which the Babylonians have wrought.” In like manner, Gejer, who observes that this sense is preferable to that which considers the words as a prayer, that God would lift up his feet for the perpetual ruin of the enemy, because the Psalmist has been hitherto occupied with a mere description of misery, and has used nothing of the language of imprecation. But the Chaldee has, “Lift up thy goings or footsteps, to make desolate the nations for ever;” that is, Come and spread desolation among those enemies who have invaded and so cruelly reduced thy sanctuary to ruins. But as this construction is not to be found elsewhere, I would not depart from the received and approved reading.

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