The Agora
Bible Commentary

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139 140 141 142 143 144 145 146 147 148 149 150

Psalm 73

Psa 73:1

PSALM 73: SUPERSCRIPTION: "A PSALM OF ASAPH". Apart from the isolated Psa 50, Psa 73 is the first Asaph psalm. Psalms 73-83 all have this title. It has been suggested that Psalms 42-50 (8 "Korah" and then one "Asaph") originally came immed after Psa 72. (Thus Psa 73 would be closely associated with Psa 49 -- with which it shares a common theme.) With this arrangement, there would then be 8 "Korah" (42-49), then 12 "Asaph" (50, 73-83), and then 4 more "Korah" (84,85,87, and 88).

ASAPH: A chief musician in the sanctuary in the days of David and Solomon (1Ch 16:4,5; 2Ch 5:12; Neh 12:46). But there was also a Korah prominent in connection with the temple in Hezekiah's reign (2Ch 31:14), and also a Joah, the recorder, son of Asaph, in the same reign (2Ki 18:18). Prob all 24 Korah/Asaph psalms belong to Hezekiah's reign.

PURE IN HEART: A good definition of the true Israel: cp Jer 12:1-3; Psa 24:3-6 (ct vv 4-7 here); Mat 5:8.

Psa 73:2

Hezekiah's terrible disease and the overpowering Assyrian invasion happened at the same time, and just about devastated him: Isa 38:5,6; 2Ki 20:5,6.

(NT) Surely Jesus in Gethsemane. Perhaps it is also Peter, when he attempted to walk on the sea (Mat 14:30,31). But his Saviour held his hand (cp v 23 here) to keep him from sinking.

Psa 73:3

I ENVIED: Envy is the natural bent of man (Jam 4:5), but it is a sure killer (Job 5:2). Envy is absolutely incompatible with true Scriptural love (1Co 13:4).

PROSPERITY: Lit "peace": see Psa 72:3; Isa 57:20; Deu 29:19.

Psa 73:4

THEY HAVE NO STRUGGLES: "There are no bands ('pangs': RV, RSV) in their death." [The translations vary considerably on this phrase. For "bands", the LXX has a word (ananeo) meaning "renewal" (lit, 'to make young -- or new -- again'): sw Eph 4:23 only. Does this mean: 'When they die, they have no hope of a resurrection'?] Hezekiah rightly saw himself as a sacrifice on behalf of his people (hence the "Messianic" language of Isa 53, applied firstly to him). In his sufferings on account of the sins of the nation, it was as though he were bound with cords to the horns of the altar (Psa 118:27).

Psa 73:5

THEY ARE NOT PLAGUED BY HUMAN ILLS: Allusion to Hezekiah's "plague" of leprosy (sw in Isa 38:21 as in Lev 13:18-23). Here the word is "pega", used over 50 times for leprosy, esp in Lev 13; 14.

Psa 73:6

PRIDE IS THEIR NECKLACE: "Pride compasseth them about as a chain" (AV). The Assyrians were world-class boasters (see the taunts of Sennacherib and Rabshakeh in Isa 36; 37), but they also had the destructive power to back up those boasts -- to a point! They are captive to their pride, like those led away into slavery by the Assyrians. The Heb phrase reads like: 'Pride is their Anak -- ie their strength.'

THEY CLOTHE THEMSELVES WITH VIOLENCE: They wear their violent characters openly and proudly, flaunting them before all men (cp phrase in Psa 109:18,19). But the meek, and godly, cover themselves in a very different manner (Eph 4:24; Col 3:10,12,14).

Psa 73:7

FROM THEIR CALLOUS HEARTS COMES INIQUITY: "Their eyes stand out with fatness" (AV). "Their eyes gleam through folds of fat" (NEB). The besiegers of Jerusalem were well-fed by comparison with those on short rations inside the city.

THE EVIL CONCEITS OF THEIR MINDS KNOW NO LIMITS: "They have more than heart could wish" (AV) is, lit, "more than can be pictured in stone" -- an allusion, perhaps, to the many vivid Assyrian bas-reliefs (as in the British Museum). The NEB has: "While vain fancies pass through their minds."

Psa 73:8

"They speak wickedly concerning oppression" (AV). Slavery under the Assyrians was dressed up to sound like a veritable paradise, and the slave-masters like the most wonderful humanitarians: Isa. 36:16,17.

The repetition "speak... speak.... mouth.... tongue" (vv 8,9) alludes to the smooth "propagandist" (ie liar!) Rabshakeh (cp Psa 75:4,5 -- where "fools" = boasters).

(NT) Vv 8,9 are a good picture of the power-drunk leaders of Israel who were hostile to Jesus.

Psa 73:9

THEIR MOUTHS LAY CLAIM TO HEAVEN: Rabshakeh repeatedly directed his tirades against the Jews' faith in Jehovah. Cp, generally, the boasts of the builders of the tower of Babel (Gen 11:1-4), and, more specifically, that of the king of Babylon/Assyria in Isa 14:13,14.

THEIR TONGUES TAKE POSSESSION OF THE EARTH: An idiomatic way of describing Assyrian boasting of conquest, but it is also a round-about suggestion of similarity to the serpent of Gen 3:14: "You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust." To walk with one's tongue is surely to "eat dust"!

Psa 73:10

"Therefore his people return hither" (AV). Repeated Assyrian inroads into Palestine -- eg 2Ki 17:6,18 (against Samaria) and 2Ki 18:9,13 (against the cities of Judah). Alternatively, by adding "saying" at the beginning of the v, this may read: 'Let Him (Jehovah) bring back His people hither', with ref to the 200,000 captives which Sennacherib had taken in Judah (Taylor prism). And the Lord did bring them back (Isa 35:7-10; 49:9-23; etc)!

(NT) "Waters of a full cup" (AV): That which was appointed for Jesus -- the cup of suffering (Mat 26:39) -- came (and will come again) in full measure to those who condemned him.

Psa 73:11

More railing against the God of Israel.

Psa 73:13

SURELY IN VAIN HAVE I KEPT MY HEART PURE: Hezekiah's zealous personal and national reformation apparently brought only disaster and suffering, for himself and for his people.

(NT) Jesus shared our human nature, a nature that required cleansing -- but he disciplined and subdued that nature to the ultimate glory of his Father.

IN VAIN: Cp v 21. In Gethsemane it seemed as though his entire ministry was fruitless. The frustration, remorse, and despair that he must have felt -- even if only temporarily -- is revealed in Isa 49:4: "I have labored in vain." Such feelings were also reminiscent of Job's complaint (at least as restated by Elihu): Job 34:8,9.

IN VAIN HAVE I WASHED MY HANDS IN INNOCENCE: Re Jesus this was quite lit true. Cp Psa 26:6.

Psa 73:14

PLAGUED: By his disease.

CHASTENED: By defeat and Assyrian bullying.

Psa 73:15

That is, I would have been disloyal to my own people. Hezekiah knew that he was responsible for the whole nation.

Psa 73:16

In trying to understand the seemingly mysterious ways of God, Hezekiah was coming very near to losing his faith.

Psa 73:17

TILL I ENTERED THE SANCTUARY OF GOD: This Hezekiah did, carrying the letter of his humiliation to spread before the Lord (Isa 37:14). (NT) In the temple Jesus was repeatedly reminded that there would come the judgments of God on these evil men. Also, in the "sanctuary" of prayer there would be constantly renewed a sense of true perspective. Cp, generally, Psa 27:4; 42:2; 63:1,2; 84:1-4.

THEN I UNDERSTOOD THEIR FINAL DESTINY: This v is not true of many men of faith, but it was lit true of Hezekiah: see Isa 37:21,22,29. In the sanctuary one might see the brazen plates on the altar of burnt-offering, and recall their origin: for this was all that was left of the proud presumption and rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram (Num 16:39; cp vv 18,19,27 here). See also Psa 37:9,10,20,22,28, etc. More generally, to enter the "sanctuary" is to see the unseen things (2Co 4:17,18; Heb 11:1), and to properly differentiate between transient "reality" and absolute reality!

Psa 73:18


Psa 73:19

Vv 19,20: A wonderful description of the devastation of the Assyrian camp. Cp Isa 29:7,8: "And the multitude of all the nations that fight against Ariel [ie Jerusalem, see v 1], even all that fight against her and her munitions, and that distress her, shall be as a dream of a night vision... so shall the multitude of all the nations be, that fight against mount Zion."

Psa 73:20

YOU WILL DESPISE THEM AS FANTASIES: As Sennacherib and Rabshakeh despised the God of Israel, so He in turn despised their foolish trust in their "gods", which were but images of vanity, or nothingness (see Isa 40-44 for repeated sarcastic expansions upon this theme).

FANTASIES: Heb "tselem" (sw Gen 1:26,27; 5:3; 9:6) = image (singular). God not only despised the "gods" of such men; He also despised the very "image" of such men themselves, for their "image" -- now so terribly distorted by sin -- was no longer His "image" (Gen 1:26)!

Psa 73:21

Vv 21,22: Reminiscences, referring back to the earlier despair that Hezekiah had felt (vv 13-16).

GRIEVED: RV: in a ferment. The Heb word is the same as for leaven.

"Holding bitterness and resentment is like a cancer which eats inside and consumes. When we are offended by someone it is important to find that piece of us which has been injured -- the source of our own vulnerability -- and turn it over to God for growth in that area. All conflicts bring enlightenment and growth when we learn and grow from them. If we remain stuck in the issue, then we remain as beasts. God and His counsel is the answer. He has the strength and confidence in us. If we are stuck on someone else and consumed with their every behavior and reaction, then we are giving too much power to that person... and not enough power to God. We are the only ones who allow people this power over us. Most likely, they didn't even ask or want to be in such a position in your life. God will always be reliable for us to learn and grow. He will assist us when we give our issues to Him and give up trying to control and manipulate others" (CPv).

Psa 73:23

YOU HOLD ME BY MY RIGHT HAND: The Heb makes a play on "Ahaz". Yahweh was Hezekiah's true Father. Cp Isa 45:1, which makes a play on the name "Hezekiah" (this passage is not about king "Cyrus" at all, but about Hezekiah -- see WIsa 393-412).

Psa 73:24


AND AFTERWARD YOU WILL TAKE ME INTO GLORY: Ref to a vision of the Shekinah Glory, which Hezekiah must have seen when he went into the sanctuary (v 17).

(NT) Christ's ascension.

Psa 73:25

EARTH HAS NOTHING I DESIRE BESIDES YOU: A wonderful expression of Hezekiah's renewed faith and righteousness. "Have an intimate relationship with God. You will not then need anyone else. Other relationships and companionships -- based on, and in harmony with, that primary one -- are desirable and helpful and enjoyable, but not essential. This one relationship is vital and indispensable. All others are secondary, and, if necessary, dispensable" (GVG).

God promises to be our portion, the supplier of all of our needs. Though we may not wear the best of clothing, or eat the finest of foods, or live in the greatest of all neighborhoods, God supplies us with our needs. Our portion is what God has deemed best for us. The psalmist concedes that there is nothing upon this earth that can satisfy his desires more than the presence of God in his life.

"There is nothing desirable save God; let us, then, desire only him. All other things must pass away; let our hearts abide in him, who alone abides for ever" (CHS).

Psa 73:26

MY FLESH AND MY HEART MAY FAIL: His disease ravaged his flesh, but his spirit rested in Yahweh. Then finally his heart (mind) and his flesh were restored.

GOD IS THE STRENGTH OF MY HEART: (NT) In Gethsemane Jesus was strengthened by an angel (Luk 22:43), almost certainly Gabriel, whose name means "the strong one of God".

GOD IS... MY PORTION FOREVER: Of course, 15 years is not "forever"! But this great man believed in the resurrection! For the idea of portion, or "inheritance", see Psa 16:5,6.

Previous Index Next