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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.

5. He who lifted up the axe upon the thick trees was renowned. The prophet again aggravates still more the barbarous and brutal cruelty of the enemies of his countrymen, from the circumstance, that they savagely demolished an edifice which had been built at such vast expense, which was embellished with such beauty and magnificence, and finished with so great labor and art. There is some obscurity in the words; but the sense in which they are almost universally understood is, that when the temple was about to be built, those who cut and prepared the wood required for it were in great reputation and renown. Some take the verb מביא, mebi, in an active sense, and explain the words as meaning that the persons spoken of were illustrious and well known, as if they had offered sacrifices to God. The thickness of the trees is set in opposition to the polished beams, to show the more clearly with what exquisite art the rough and unwrought timber was brought into a form of the greatest beauty and magnificence. Or the prophet means, what I am inclined to think is the more correct interpretation, that in the thick forests, where there was vast abundance of wood, great care was taken in the selection of the trees, that none might be cut down but such as were of the very best quality. May it not perhaps be understood in this sense, That in these thick forests the trees to which the axe was to be applied were well known and marked, as being already of great height, and exposed to the view of beholders? Whatever may be as to this, the prophet, there is no doubt, in this verse commends the excellence of the material which was selected with such care, and was so exquisite, that it attracted the gaze and excited the admiration of all who saw it; even as in the following verse, by the carved or graven work is meant the beauty of the building, which was finished with unequalled art, But now it is declared, that the Chaldeans, with utter recklessness, made havoc with their axes upon this splendid edifice, as if it had been their object to tread under foot the glory of God by destroying so magnificent a structure. 223223     In the English Common Prayer-Book the 5th and 6th verses are translated thus: — “He that hewed timber afore out of the thick trees was known to bring it to an excellent work. But now they break down all the carved work thereof with axes and hammers.” Dr Nicholls’ paraphrase of this is as follows: “It is well known from the sacred records of our nation to what admirable beauty the skillful hand of the artificers brought the rough cedar trees, which were cut down by the hatchets of Hiram’s woodmen in the thick Tyrian forests. But now they tear down all the curious carvings, that cost so much time and exquisite labor, with axes and hammers, and other rude instruments of iron.” “This is a clear and consistent sense of the passages” says Mant, “and affords a striking and well imagined contrast.”


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