George Booker
Psalms Studies - Book 3

Psalm 76

1. Structure

God is manifested on behalf of His people

His judgment on the invader

God is feared (in Israel)

God is honored (by the Gentiles)

2. Title

This psalm is unique in being assigned to Asaph in its title and to Jeduthun in its subscription. Originally Asaph (see Psalm 73, notes) and Jeduthun (or Ethan: see Psalms 38; 61; 89; 1 Chron. 6:44; 2 Chron. 25:1-3; 35:15) were leaders of two of the three sections of the temple music (1 Chron. 25:1). Probably these titles were perpetuated to cover the same aspects of temple service through later generations. And perhaps, at the great thanksgiving for the Assyrian deliverance, these two choirs were joined together.

3. Links between Psalms 75 and 76

Psalm 75

Psalm 76
“Thy Name”
The God of Jacob
2, 7
God arises in judgment
All the meek of the earth
Give thanks
Princes, kings are cut off

These correspondences strongly suggest that the two psalms have the same basic theme. It is very easy to see that this psalm, like the previous one, is about the destruction of Sennacherib’s army. The LXX heads this psalm “A Song for the Assyrian”.

4. Historical setting

Every phrase in the psalm (and vv. 3-9 especially) fits the Assyrian debacle.

In Judah is God known: his name is great in Israel. Through Hezekiah’s reforming zeal, and particularly in the great solemn passover which the king proclaimed, the northern and southern kingdoms were brought much closer together (2 Chron. 30). It was in Judah, at Jerusalem, where God was “made known”, but only now after centuries of apostasy was He finally acknowledged as great in Israel (the northern kingdom) also. Compare Psa. 48:1,3 — where “her palaces” means her great temple.
In Salem. Why this unusual form of the name for Jerusalem? Because in Gen. 14:18 (and Heb. 7:1,2) it is associated with the slaughter of invading kings and the bringing of Gentile tribute to Yahweh. God’s choice of Jerusalem, or Zion, as His special dwelling place, has been previously stated in Psa. 2:6; 46:4; 68:15-18; 2 Sam. 6:17; and numerous other passages.

His tabernacle (Hebrew suk) is somewhat unexpected, considering the massive solidity of the temple. This may be an allusion to Isa. 1:8 (“cottage”: s.w.), or to Isa. 4:6, stressing the fragility of Jerusalem, humanly speaking, in the face of the great invading force.

  Alternatively, the word can be read (as in RV mg.) to describe the covert or lair of a lion (Jer. 25:38, s.w.), the Lion of Judah — Jerusalem was “Ariel”, the Lion of God (Isa. 29:1).
There — i.e., in Salem (which is a variation of Shalom and means “peace”) of all places! — brake he the arrows of the bow, the shield, and the sword, and the battle. There was a total destruction of armaments. “Battle” is put, by metonymy, for battle-equipment. Compare the emphasis on weapons in Isa. 14:25; 43:17; and Psa. 46:8-10 — all these have exactly the same reference.
Thou art more glorious and excellent than (“You are resplendent with light, more majestic than...”: NIV) the mountains of prey. This unusual phrase becomes intelligible when read with reference to the mountains which ringed Jerusalem and on which Assyrian armies were encamped. Mount Scopus was still known, 800 years later, as “The Camp of the Assyrians”. (Instead of the Hebrew, as here, the LXX — followed by the RSV — has “everlasting mountains”.)
The stouthearted are spoiled, they have slept their sleep: and none of the men of might have found their hands (“the strongest cannot lift a hand”: NEB; cp. Isa. 37:33). At thy rebuke, O God of Jacob, both the chariot and horse are cast into a dead sleep (cp. Babylon in Jer. 51:39,57). Impressive pictures of hillsides strewn with corpses — a problem to be dealt with only by “burnings of lime”: “As thorns cut up shall they be burned in the fire” (Isa. 33:12).
Who may stand in thy sight when once thou art angry? When Sennacherib and his envoy Rabshakeh blasphemed the name of Jehovah, they sealed their fate.
To save all the meek of the earth (or Land). Had it not been for the prayers of Hezekiah and his faithful remnant, there would have been no such dramatic divine intervention. That judgment took place at Passover time (Isa. 26:20,21; 30:29-31; 31:5,8,9; 33:19,20). The holy feast would bring to Jerusalem those who still maintained the spirit of reformation expressed in Hezekiah’s great Passover. And so the faithful of all Israel had come to Jerusalem, the only place in all the Land which had not been ravaged by the Assyrian hordes (Isa. 1:8).
The wrath of God shall praise thee. This is a poetic compression of the idea that Assyrian wrath directed against God’s Name and His holy city had brought a judgment which, as one of its results, caused both Jews and Gentiles (vv. 11,12) to honor the God of Israel.

The remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain. A strange phrase. The idea is that:

(a) the destruction of the Assyrians should be seen as only the remnant, that is, a mere fragment, of God’s display of might — this much He might do by lifting but His little finger! ... or

(b) the few survivors of God’s wrath are now restrained or quiet — having no more wrath of their own to vent... or

(c) the survivors of God’s wrath (the Israelites who were saved alive) will be “girded” or bound (RSV, NIV mg., following the Hebrew) unto Him.
Let all that be round about him bring presents:

“Thus the Lord saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib the king of Assyria, and from the hand of all other, and guided them on every side. And many brought gifts unto the Lord to Jerusalem, and presents to Hezekiah king of Judah: so that he [i.e., Yahweh] was magnified in the sight of all nations from thenceforth” (2 Chron. 32:22,23; cp. Isa. 18:7; 49:23; 55:5; 62:2).

To “bring presents” is, of course, to pay tribute (see Psa. 68:29; 72:10) — not necessarily as voluntary as might first appear.
He is terrible to the kings of the earth. The Assyrian army was reinforced by contingents from surrounding nations who sought the friendship of the feared overlord by giving cooperation in the campaign (cp. Psa. 47:3; 48:4; 79:6; Isa. 5:26,30; 29:7; 30:28; Mic. 4:11). Of course these kings and their legions suffered, deservedly, right along with the Assyrians.

5. Messianic fulfillment

“Salem” (v. 2), the city of peace, will be the place where Jesus, the true “king of righteousness” (Heb. 7:2; Rom. 5:1,21), makes known the Name of God to all of Israel. He will do this in the total destruction of all Gentile armies that fight against God’s holy city {(1) Psa. 83; Joel 3; Obad., and Zech. 14 — as well as (2) Ezek. 38 and 39}. The meek (v. 9 here) will be blessed in him, to inherit the earth (Matt. 5:5).

Tabernacle may suggest the Feast of Tabernacles (s.w.: succoth), which will figure so prominently when the nations come in turn to worship the Lord of hosts at Jerusalem (Zech. 14:16; cp. Lev. 23:34; Deut. 16:13,16).
Who may stand in thy sight when once thou art angry? This is quoted in the Apocalypse:

“For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” (Rev. 6:17; cp. also vv. 12-16).

Surely this “sixth seal” deals with Christ, not Constantine!
Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee. God has always directed man’s wrath to His own ultimate glory — a chief example of this being the crucifixion of His Son:

“Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it” (Acts 2:23,24; cp. Isa. 53:10).

In like manner, the hatred of Joseph’s brethren for him worked out at last to the glory of God and their own salvation (Gen. 50:20). And Pharaoh’s opposition to God’s deliverance of Israel finally resulted in God’s Name and power being declared throughout the earth (Exod. 9:16; Rom. 9:17). And finally, in the Last Days, Gog’s enmity for Israel and her God will have the same result (Ezek. 38:22,23; 39:7).
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