The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Psalm 79

Psa 79:1

SUPERSCRIPTION: "A PSALM OF ASAPH". Re Hezekiah & Sennacherib (see v 13n).

REV 11: Many allusions to this psalm in Rev 11, or direct quotations from it. Why should Psa 79 be used so pointedly and often in Rev 11 and nowhere else? Just because the words happen to fit in some superficial manner? Of course not. All the rest of the psalms support the view that Rev 11 is intimating a Messianic LD fulfillment of Psa 79. No other ref is poss. Here, then, there is a picture of the desolation of the Holy Land at the time of Messiah's coming. The "two witnesses" repr the nation of Israel in the Land, and their deaths repr the (temporary) political extinction of the state of Israel. But the people of Israel are not totally annihilated (Jer 30:11), since the "sighing" of some comes before God (Psa 79:11). When the situation seems desperate, even hopeless, the God of Israel will, in response to their genuine repentance, redeem His people, as the angel of the Lord did in the time of Sennacherib. The "dry bones" (Eze 37:10) will stand up again (Rev 11:11)! And the outcome will be "praise to all generations... thanks for ever." All the details of the psalm need to be studied anew from this angle (WRev 148,149; JABP 101-104; LD 23-26; WExpAp 78).

THE NATIONS HAVE INVADED YOUR INHERITANCE: That is, they have come into the Land of Israel, God's Land.

THEY HAVE DEFILED YOUR HOLY TEMPLE: Ahaz, in his subservience to Assyria, seems to have allowed an Assyrian garrison to be quartered in one of the temple courts (2Ki 16:8,18; 2Ch 28:21; cp Isa 52:1; 63:18; 64:11; Mic 5:5; Psa 74:6,7n). When Hezekiah refused to accept this subjection, the foreign soldiery who had already defiled the temple with their presence, would certainly work as much further havoc there as poss before leaving; hence the need for cleansing in 2Ch 29:4,5. When the Gentiles are allowed by God to defile His holy temple, we may be sure it is because God's people Israel have defiled it first (cp vv 8,9)!

THEY HAVE REDUCED JERUSALEM TO RUBBLE: Of course this did not happen in the time of Sennacherib. Yet there cannot be ref to the Babylonian destruction, for this v also says: "Thy holy temple have they defiled." But Nebuchadnezzar's men burnt the temple to the ground. Two poss explanations are available: (a) Before the Assyrian garrison left Jerusalem, they not only defiled the temple but also did a good deal of other damage in the city. Or... (b) Mic 3:12 foretold "Jerusalem laid on heaps", and the psalmist thought the time was come for that fulfillment, and spoke of it as assured by using the perfect tense (a common feature in OT prophecy). That prophecy was not fulfilled in Hezekiah's time, but it might have been if Hezekiah had not turned aside the wrath of God (see Jer 26:18,19). With these alternatives, one phrase should not be allowed to negate an explanation which makes all the psalm consistent in its picture of the Sennacherib crisis. Note that all the Asaph psalms fit Hezekiah's reign very neatly. Should Psa 79 be a solitary exception because of one phrase?

Psa 79:2

The slaughter during the Assyrian invasion. This very detail is prominent in Assyrian bas-reliefs.

AS FOOD TO THE BIRDS OF THE AIR: To be deprived of burial was considered by the Jews to be one of the greatest disgraces: Deu 28:26; 1Sa 17:44-46; Psa 141:7; Ecc 6:3; Jer 7:33; 16:4; 19:7; 34:20; 36:30. "Falling in battle before the enemy may prove that God has a just cause against the party overcome; but cannot prove that the victor's cause is good" (Dickson).

SAINTS: Israel in Exo 19:6; Deu 7:6; Dan 8:24; 12:7.

Psa 79:3

Cp Rev 6:9.

ALL AROUND JERUSALEM: Why "all around" but not IN Jerusalem? This is a hint that Jerusalem itself was not captured; but the invaders besieging the city would slay (and impale, in typical Assyrian fashion) every man of Israel they could capture.

THERE IS NO ONE TO BURY THE DEAD: Because the only people who might wish to bury them were shut up inside the city.

Psa 79:4

Cp v 12. Consider the pictures of sustained mockery by the Assyrians round about the city: Isa 36:12-20; 37:10-13,24-29.

Psa 79:5

In spite of Hezekiah's influential efforts at reformation, there was still a good deal of apostasy in the nation. Isaiah has plenty of scathing rebukes of this. The invasion was seen as God's punishment of this unfaithfulness (cp vv 8,9).

Psa 79:6

Why "kingdoms", plural? Because quite a number of nearby nations chose to become allies of Sennacherib rather than be devastated by his armies (cp Psa 47:3; 48:4; 76:12; Isa 5:26,30; 29:7; 30:28; Mic 4:11). Herodotus calls Sennacherib "the king of the Arabians".

Psa 79:7

The entire Holy Land was overrun.

HOMELAND: "Naveh" -- sheepfold, pasture. Cp v 13.

Psa 79:8

DO NOT HOLD AGAINST US THE SINS OF THE FATHERS: Punishment for the iniquities of former generations are sometimes poured out upon a later generation (Gen 15:16; Exo 32:34; Dan 8:23; Mat 23:32,35,36; 1Th 2:16; see BThes 62,63). The Jews have a saying, that every punishment which falls upon Israel has an extra ounce in it for the sin of the golden calf.

Psa 79:9

It is God's character (Exo 34:6,7) which is the foundation of faith in this crisis: thus He is called "O God our Savior". For His Name's sake God quickens the soul and delivers from trouble (Psa 143:11), pardons sins (here; Psa 25:11; 1Jo 2:12), and leads in the paths of righteousness (Psa 23:2). For man's sake God cursed the earth (Gen 8:21), but for the sake of His own holy Name He will ultimately bless it forever.

Psa 79:10

WHY SHOULD THE NATIONS SAY, "WHERE IS THEIR GOD?": One of the main themes in Rabshakeh's sustained campaign of scorn and disparagement of Jehovah, in his efforts to break the spirit of the people of Jerusalem (v 12; Isa 36:15,18; 37:10). By ct, there is no real evidence that Nebuchadnezzar (to whose time some assign this psalm) ever said anything like this.

BEFORE OUR EYES, MAKE KNOWN AMONG THE NATIONS...: This duly happened -- and with a vengeance (Isa 37:36)!

Psa 79:11

MAY THE GROANS OF THE PRISONERS COME BEFORE YOU: In the Taylor Prism inscription, Sennacherib boasts that he had taken over 200,000 captives in his Judean campaign. This v is very close to Psa 102:19,20 -- another Hezekiah psalm (cp also Psa 44:11,12 and 106:47).

Psa 79:12

"And render unto our neighbours into their bosoms" (AV), ie into the folds of their garments, called also the "lap" -- used as a receptacle for various articles, much as pockets are used today (Num 11:12; Rth 4:16; 2Sa 12:3; 2Ki 4:39; Neh 5:13; Job 31:33; Psa 89:50; 129:7; Pro 6:27; 17:23; 21:14; Isa 40:11; 49:22).

Psa 79:13

A like confidence was often expressed by Isaiah: eg Isa 17:12,13; 29:5,8. God promised Hezekiah a Jubilee year of extraordinary prosperity, and declared that Jubilee observance should be a sign (ie a celebration) of this marvelous deliverance, remembered in succeeding generations (Isa 37:30,31).

THE SHEEP OF YOUR PASTURE: In the Asaph psalms, Psa 74:1; 77:20; 78:72. Also, Psa 100:3.

SUBSCRIPTION: "FOR THE DIRECTOR OF MUSIC. TO THE TUNE OF 'THE LILIES OF THE COVENANT' ": "Shoshannim-Eduth" (AV). Shushan (Lily) links with the Passover (see also Psa 44, 68; JWT, Titles 30-48). Also, the lily occurs often in the structure and symbolism of the Temple (1Ki 7:22,26; 2Ch 4:5); it is refd to many times in the Song of Songs, along with other Temple symbolism (Song 2:1,2,16; 4:5; 5:13; 6:2,3; 7:2). It is not surprising, then, that the Temple figures prominently in this Psa 79 also (see v 1 esp) It is poss that Shushan-Eduth (ie the "Passover of the Testimony" -- or Covenant) was the "Little Passover", which was permitted a month later than normal for the benefit of those unclean, or those on a journey at the proper date (Num 9:6-11). This concession had been appealed to by Hezekiah on the occasion of his great (but belated) Passover (2Ch 30:15). It might have been necessary also on the later occasion when, in answer to his prayers, the Assyrian army was decimated outside Jerusalem. Siege conditions and the defilement of many through contact with the almost countless corpses would require -- after the time for purification -- such a "Little Passover" (see Isa 31:5 -- cp "passing over" there with Exo 12:13,23,27; also see Isa 26:20,21; 30:29).

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