George Booker
Psalms Studies - Book 3

Psalm 75

1. Structure

1. Praise to God for His salvation

2,3. God is in control

4-6. The rebuke of “fools”

7,8. God is in control
9,10. Praise to God for His salvation

2. Title

The mention of Asaph does not necessarily mean that the psalm belongs to the time of David. It seems quite possible that the original Asaph bequeathed his name permanently to a particular part of the temple choir. And certainly the twelve Asaph psalms present no small difficulties in any efforts to apply them to the time of David. But, like the Korah psalms, they respond readily to any attempt to pin them on to the Hezekiah/Isaiah period (2 Kings 18:18,37; 2 Chron. 29:30).

The subscription Neginoth (Psalm 3, notes; also Psalms 5, 53, 54, 60, and 66) means Smitings, and may mean either stringed instruments (as in Isa. 38:20), or a reference to the smiting of (or by) an enemy, or to affliction in general.

3. Links with other passages

Psalm 75 has surprisingly close links with Hannah’s Song (1 Sam. 2) and Mary’s Song (Luke 1), in both of which the exaltation of the low and the bringing down of the mighty figure prominently (cp. Luke 18:14).

Psalm 75

Hannah’s Song
(1 Samuel 2:1-10)

Mary’s Song
(Luke 1:46-55)
Pillars of the earth
Pillars of the earth

Do not boast
Against boasting
The proud in the imagination of their hearts
Horns exalted, lifted up
Horn exalted
(Zacharias’ song) “A horn of salvation”
God is the Judge
By God actions are weighed

The Lord shall judge the ends of the earth

He putteth down one, and setteth up another
He bringeth low, and lifteth up
Low estate of His handmaiden

Put down mighty,exalt low
“I will rejoice (RSV) forever”
“My heart rejoiceth in the Lord”
“My spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour”

4. Historical reference

Three outstanding details fit especially well the time of Hezekiah:

That thy name is near thy wondrous works declare. The two ideas come together in an awe-inspiring prophecy of the destruction of Sennacherib’s army:

“Behold, the name of the Lord cometh from far, burning with his anger, and the burden thereof is heavy... his breath, as an overflowing stream... the mighty One of Israel... And the Lord shall cause his glorious voice to be heard, and shall shew the lighting down of his arm, with the indignation of his anger, and with the flame of a devouring fire, with scattering, and tempest, and hailstones” (Isa. 30:27-30).
The earth (eretz = Land) and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved. This comprehensive description was almost literally true at the time of the Assyrian invasion.
This may be translated: For neither from the east, nor from the west, nor yet from the south cometh lifting up. Hezekiah’s kingdom and capital and people seemed to be completely derelict, bereft of all help from any human source. To the east the Arabs were aligning themselves with the Assyrians (Isa. 21:13-17); to the west the Philistines were about to be overrun themselves. And as for the south: the added emphasis on that direction alludes to the high hopes which the “fools” (v. 4) put in a valueless Egyptian alliance (Isa. 30:1-5; 31:1-3). The omission of north is as natural as can be: it was the last place to look for any help whatsoever. From that direction were coming the seemingly irresistible Assyrians; and their main camp was mount Scopus, on the north side of Jerusalem.

Other details turn out to be just as relevant.

The repeated we give thanks is to be expected after the startling divine deliverance (Isa. 37:36).
The earth and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved. The verb suggests “melting away” in extreme fear, as occurred in the events of the Exodus (Exod. 15:14-16, s.w.) and the conquest of the Land (Josh. 2:9, s.w. again).

I bear up the pillars of it is probably an allusion to the Temple pil-lars, Jachin and Boaz. One of the main objectives of the Jehovah-hating Sennacherib was the destruction of the Temple.

Selah probably alludes to the offering of sacrifice in thanksgiving; see on v. 10.
He putteth down one, and setteth up another. The one put down (not destroyed!) was Sennacherib. The one lifted up was the sick Hezekiah. Alternatively, the former could be such a man as Shebna (Isa. 22), who was probably one of “the drunkards of Ephraim” (v. 8 here; cp. Isa. 28:1). Hab. 2:15,16 uses language very similar to this psalm.
All the horns of the wicked also will I cut off; but the horns of the righteous shall be exalted. This allusion (along with vv. 4, 5), at least in part, is to the horns of the pagan Assyrian altars and the horns of the altar of the Lord in Zion. This verse figuratively asserts the favorable outcome of the vindictive “holy war” of Ashur against Yahweh.

5. Messianic fulfillment

“I will declare for ever” (v. 9) stamps this psalm as having much greater force than merely its Hezekiah reference.

Unto thee, O God, do we give thanks, unto thee do we give thanks: for that thy name is near thy wondrous works declare. Here is heartfelt thanksgiving at the bringing in of Messiah’s Kingdom. In a broader sense (with regard to his first coming as well as his second), Jesus brought near the saving Name of God — and this Name was declared through the wondrous works which His Son performed (John 1:14; 17:6,26; and many others).
When I shall receive the congregation, I will judge uprightly (i.e., with equity). Here Messiah speaks on God’s behalf. This is the gathering to him of all saints, faithful and unfaithful (1 Thes. 4:16,17; Matt. 24:30,31). And it is the judging (or more properly, ruling over) of God’s Kingdom which follows thereupon (Acts 17:31).

Here, congregation is moed; the word always (about 150 times) refers to a holy feast of the Lord (Psa. 102:13; Isa. 31:5; Hab. 2:3; and see H.A. Whittaker, Passover, pp. 34-37). Thus the RSV has: “At the set time which I appoint”.
The inhabitants of the earth “melting away” (see Par. 4) is perhaps alluded to by Peter in his Last Days prophecy:

“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (2 Pet. 3:10).

I bear up the pillars of it:

“Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out” (Rev. 3:12; cp. Gal. 2:9).

The apostles, and all the saints, are the “pillars” that are situated in the divine house of “Wisdom” (Prov. 9:1).
The fools to whom this rebuke is spoken are the “kings of the earth” who stubbornly refuse to recognize the Lord’s Christ when he reigns as King of the Jews (Psa. 2; Ezek. 38). And because they are especially located in the north, this cardinal point of the compass is not mentioned in v. 6.
With this verse compare the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matt. 25:31-46. He putteth down one, and setteth up another speaks of the judgment of individuals, not nations.
In the hand of the Lord there is a cup. The prophets use this figure of a “cup” of judgment being filled up by God to the very brim: Psa. 11:6; Isa. 51:17,22,23; Jer. 25:15-29; Obad. 16: Rev. 14:8,10; 16:19; 18:6.

The wine is red, or “foaming” (RSV).

It is full of mixture, or “mixed with spices” (NIV). The spices which were used presumably increased its intoxicating effect (Prov. 9:2,5; 23:29-30; Song 8:2; Isa. 5:22; 65:11).

RSV: And all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs (cp. NEB also).
The horns of the righteous may possibly refer to the Cherubim of Glory now associated once again with God’s people. In addition to the altar symbolism, the horn as a figure of strength and vigor (Psa. 89:17,24; 112:9; 2 Sam. 22:3; 1 Sam. 2:1,10; Luke 1:69; etc.) may be intended to evoke the ox-imagery of the Cherubim.

6. Other details

Various authorities, such as the NIV, read these verses as though spoken by God: You say, ‘I choose the appointed time; it is I who judge uprightly. When the earth and all its people quake, it is I who hold its pillars firm.’
The second negative is omitted in the text (see italics), but it is implied. This is a characteristic Hebraism.

A stiff neck is the sign — as in a beast at the plow — of obstinacy and rebellion (Exod. 32:9; 33:3,5; 34:9; 2 Chron. 30:8; 36:13; Prov. 29:1; Jer. 7:26; Acts 7:51). Isaiah speaks of the neck of the obstinate sinner as resembling an iron sinew (48:4).
God... setteth up. RV: “lifteth up”; it is the s.w. as in vv. 5,6,10 — translated four different ways in AV!
The God of Jacob points to Psa. 46:7,11 and 76:6; both are Hezekiah psalms. Though Jacob is dead, God has given to him wonderful promises, having to do with eternity (Gen. 28:3,4,13,14). Therefore God is still his God — thus proving his future resurrection from the dead (Exod. 3:15; Luke 20:37).
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