CONTEXT, AND MEANING






                             Richard W. Engle



                   Submitted in partial fulfillment of requirements

                          for the degree of Doctor of Theology in

                                    Grace Theological Seminary

                                                   May 1987



              Digitized by Ted Hildebrandt, Gordon College, 2007


                        AND MEANING

Author:           Richard W. Engle

Degree:          Doctor of Theology

Date:               May, 1987

Advisers:        Dr. John. Davis (chairman)  Dr. John Whitcomb , Dr. George Zemek

            Building on the premise that "all scripture is

profitable" and noting that communal lament psalms in gen-

eral and Psalm 74 in particular have had little definitive

treatment by conservatives, this work seeks to identify the

role of Psalm 74 in the community which produced it. This

process is basic for discerning its subsequent usefulness.

The proposition of the study is: the present significance

of Psalm 74 is best articulated on the basis of careful

attention to the content, structure, and function as indi-

cated by its own text and context.

            Chapters one and two develop a comprehensive

acquaintance with the vocabulary, syntax, and structure of

the psalm. An initial accusatory "why?" sets the tone.

Freighted imperatives bracketing a "hymn" (vv. 12-17)

indirectly indict God for not intervening against "enemy"

devastation of the temple mount. The psalm closes remind-

ing God of prolonged inaction against His enemies. The

structure reveals that Psalm 74 has used common language and

motifs in an uncommon way, thereby producing a prayer that

reflects a severe disorientation towards God. Chapters

three and four, concerning context, show that Psalm 74

reflects a strikingly more dynamic relationship between God

and community than is the case in polytheistic Sumerian city

laments. Unique features also surfaced in comparing

selected biblical psalms with Psalm 74. While Asaph psalms

generally vindicate God's justice, Psalm 74 raises an

unrelieved question about it. Also, as a maskil psalm,

i.e., instructive (versus skillful) psalm, Psalm 74 suggests

several insights into the spiritual condition of an

individual or community under severe distress. In their

diminishing faith they neither acknowledge personal sin nor

applaud God's mercy.

            The study concludes by outlining the community's

views about God and itself as indicated by the psalm's lan-

guage, structure, and tone. It observes that since Psalm 74

ends with no clear anticipation of resolution of its con-

cerns, the interpreter must articulate the enduring values

of Psalm 74 by referring to similar, but resolved, tensions

in other biblical psalms. Finally, Psalm 74 is assessed

from New Testament perspectives (i.e., Heb 4:16; 1 Cor 10-

12-14; Matt 6:9-13).








Accepted by the Faculty of Grace Theological Seminary

in partial fulfillment of requirements for the degree


                             Doctor of Theology


                                   John J. Davis

                               John C. Whitcomb

                                 George J. Zemek

                     TABLE OF CONTENTS


ACCEPTANCE PAGE                                                                                              iv

TABLE OF CONTENTS                                                                                           v

LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS                                                                                     ix


INTRODUCTION                                                                                                      1


            The Problematic Nature of Psalm 74                                                          2

            The Purpose and Proposition of This Study                                               3

            The Need for This Study                                                                               4

            The Procedure for the Study                                                                        6

            Chapter one                                                                                                    6

            Chapter two                                                                                                    6

            Chapter three                                                                                                 6

            Chapter four                                                                                                   7

            Chapter five and conclusions                                                                       7




I. THE CONTENT OF PSALM 74                                                               8


            Introduction to the Chapter                                                             8

            Verse 1                                                                                                           10

            Verse 2                                                                                                           21

            Verse 3                                                                                                           33

            Verse 4                                                                                                           43

            Verse 5                                                                                                           47

            Verse 6                                                                                                           49

            Verse 7                                                                                                           51

            Verse 8                                                                                                           54

            Verse 9                                                                                                           60

            Verse 10                                                                                                         67

            Verse 11                                                                                                         72

            Verse 12                                                                                                         75

            Verse 13                                                                                                         80

            Verse 14                                                                                                         89

            Verse 15                                                                                                         95

            Verse 16                                                                                                         99

            Verse 17                                                                                                         101

            Verse 18                                                                                                         104    

            Verse 19                                                                                                         107

            Verse 20                                                                                                         115


            Verse 21                                                                                                         124

            Verse 22                                                                                                         136

            Verse 23                                                                                                         143

            A Summary of findings for Chapter One                                                    148

II. THE STRUCTURE OF PSALM 74                                                                     152

            A Definition of Structure                                                                             152

            Previous Proposed Definitions                                                                   155

                Gene Tucker                                                                                              155

                James Muilenburg                                                                                     157

                Claus Westermann                                                                                    158

                Graeme E. Sharrock                                                                                  158

                William A. Young                                                                                     159

            Meir Weiss                                                                                                    160

            A Working Definition                                                                                   161

       Past Attempts to Express the Structure of Psalm 74                          162

            Two or Three Divisions in the Psalm                                                          163

            Four Divisions in the Psalm                                                                         164

                        Meir Weiss                                                                                        164

                        William A. Young                                                                             166

            Five Divisions in the Psalm                                                             167

                        Folker Willesen                                                                                167

                        Claus Westermann                                                                            169

                        J. P. M. van. der Ploeg                                                                      170

                        Graeme E. Sharrock                                                             171

       An Analysis of the Structure of Psalm 74                                                       173

            A Translation of Psalm 74                                                                            173

            Verses 1-3: Introduction                                                                              175

                        Structure of verses 1-3                                                                     175

                        A Summary                                                                                        180

            Verses 4-11: The Present Crisis                                                                 181

                        Structure of verses 4-7                                                                     181

                        Structure of verses 8-9                                                                     187

                        Structure of verses 10-11                                                                189

                        A Summary                                                                                        191

            Verses 12-17: Past Victories                                                                      192

                        Structure of verses 12-17                                                                192

                        A summary                                                                                         197

            Verses 18-23: Urgent Pleas                                                                         199

                        Structure of verse 18                                                                        199

                        Structure of verses 19-21                                                                200

                        Structure of verses 22-23                                                                204

                        A Summary                                                                                        208

       A Summary Concerning the Structure of Psalm 74                            209

            A Summary of Past Proposals                                                                     209

                        Weiss and Young                                                                               209

                        Sharrock                                                                                             210

                        van der Ploeg                                                                                     210

            A Summary of the Present Proposal                                                           211

                        A working definition                                                                         211

                        A synthesis of findings                                                                     212


       Purpose and Procedure of Chapter III                                                 214

            The Meaning of Context                                                                               214

                        Historical context                                                                             214

                        Biblical context                                                                                 215

                        Other contexts                                                                                   216

            Selected Sumerian City Laments as a Context                                           216

        A Sumerian Congregational Lament                                                    217

            General Details of Composition                                                                 217

                        Classification of recensions                                                            217

            General Themes Common to Texts A and Ea                                             220

                        Themes in texts A and Ea                                                                  220

                        Relationships to Psalm 74                                                               221

            Comparisons of Texts G and Haa: Evidence of adatation             221

            Comparisons Between Psalm 74 and "Oh Angry Sea"                               223

       Sumerian City Laments up to the Fall of Ur III                                               224

            A Lament Concerning Lagas                                                                        224

                        Content                                                                                               224    

                        Style                                                                                                   225

                        Theology                                                                                            226

            From Urukagina of Lagas to Ibbi-Sin of Ur III                                           226

                        Lamentation over the Destruction of Sumer and Ur                      228

                        A Survey of the Poem                                                                       228

            Comparison of a "Lamentation over the Destruction of Sumer and

                        Ur" to Psalm 74                                                                                 231

                        Structure                                                                                            231

                        Theology                                                                                            233

      A Summary of Contributions of Chapter III to Studies in Psalm 74 236

            Contributions from "Oh Angry Sea"                                                            236

            Contributions from the "Lamentations over the Destruction of
                        Sumer and Ur"                                                                                    236


IV. THE CONTEXT OF PSALM 74: BIBLICAL PSALMS                                  238

         Introduction                                                                                                      238

         Communal Lament Psalms                                                                              239

            Introduction                                                                                                   239

                        Occasions which call for public laments                                        239

                        1 Chronicles 16:1-5 and lament psalms                                         240

                        Characteristics of communal lament psalms                                  243

            Psalm 44                                                                                                        243

                        Synthesis of content                                                                         243



            Similarities and differences between Psalm 74 and 44                             245

            Contributions to an understanding of Psalm 74                                         246

        Psalm 60                                                                                                            247

            Synthesis of content                                                                                     247

            Similarities and differences between Psalms 74: and 60             248

            Contributions to an understanding of Psalm 74                                         249

        Psalm 79                                                                                                            249

            Synthesis of content                                                                                     249

            Similarities and differences between Psalms 74 and 79                           252

            Contributions to an understanding of Psalm 74                                         253

        Psalm 80                                                                                                            254

            Synthesis of content                                                                                     254

            Similarities and differences between

            Psalms 74 and 80                                                                                          255

            Contributions to an understanding of Psalm 74                                         256

        Asaph Psalms                                                                                                     256

            Introduction                                                                                                   256

                        1 Chronicles 16:4 and Asaph Psalms                                              256

                        Superscriptions to Asaph Psalms                                                    258

            Psalm 50                                                                                                        259

                        Location and nature of Psalm 50                                                     259

                        Synthesis of content                                                                         260

                        Contributions to an understanding of Psalm 74                             260

            Psalms 73 and 75                                                                                          261

                        Synthesis of content                                                                         261

                        Contributions of Psalms 73 and 75 to an understanding

                                    of Psalm 74                                                                           262

            A Survey of Remaining Asaph Psalms                                                        264

                        Psalm 76                                                                                            264

                        Psalm 77                                                                                            266

                        Psalm 81                                                                                            267

                        Psalm 82                                                                                            268

                        Psalm 83                                                                                            268

                        A summary of contributions of Psalms 76, 77, and 81-83
                                    to an understanding of Psalm 74                                          269

       Maskil Psalms                                                                                                    270

            lykWm as a Psalm Title                                                                              270

                        Past proposals as to meaning                                                           270

                        The book of Proverbs and the meaning of lykWm                        273

                        Conclusion                                                                                         277

              Psalm 44                                                                                                      278

                        The context of Psalm 44                                                                  278




                        How Psalm 44 is a didactic poem                                                   279

         Psalm 78                                                                                                           279

                        The didactic character of Psalm 78                                                 279

                        The explicit lessons of Psalm 78                                                    280

            Psalm 88                                                                                                        280

                        Synthesis of content                                                                         280

                        Psalm 88 compared to Psalm 74                                                     280

                        How Psalm 88 is a didactic poem                                                   281

            Psalm 89                                                                                                        282

                        Synthesis of content                                                                         282

                        Comparison of Psalm 89 to Psalm 74                                            283

                        How Psalm 89 is a didactic poem                                                   283

             Psalm 137, Jeremiah 24, and Exilic Judah in

                        Relationship to Psalm 74                                                                 284

            Psalm 137                                                                                                      284

                        A Survey of the Psalm                                                                      284

                        Similarities and differences between Psalms 74 and 137             288

            Jeremiah 24                                                                                                   289

                        The placement of Jeremiah 24                                                         289

                        The good figs as the exiles                                                               290

                        The bad figs as resisting exile                                                          291

            Jeremiah 24: A possible meeting point for Psalms 137 and 74               292

                        Exilic Judah and Mixed Interests Among Its

                                    Population in Palestine                                                         293

                        Exilic factions during the seige of 588 B.C                                   293

                        Factions relating to Gedaliah's assassination                                 294

            Contributions of Studies in Psalm 137, Jeremiah 24, and

                        Exilic Judah to an Understanding of Psalm 74                               295

     A Note About Possible Liturgical Use of Psalm 74                                         296

  A Summary of Contributions of Communal Lament Psalms, Asaph

            Psalms, and Maskil Psalms to an Understanding of Psalm 74                  299

            Communal Lament Psalms                                                               299

                        Psalm 44                                                                                            299

                        Psalm 60                                                                                            299

                        Psalm 79                                                                                            299

                        Psalm 80                                                                                            300

                        Asaph Psalms                                                                                     300

                        Psalm 50                                                                                            300

                        Psalms 73 and 75                                                                              301

                        Psalms 76, 77, 82-83                                                                       301

                        Maskil Psalms                                                                                   302

                        Psalms 32, 78, 88-89                                                                       302

                        Psalm 74                                                                                            303




V. THE MEANING OF PSALM 74                                                                         304

     The Meaning of Psalm 74 Based upon Exegesis and

            Structure                                                                                                        304

            Verses 1, 10-11 and 20: An Axis for Psalm 74                                         304

                        What the community affirms about God                                         305

                        What the community affirms about itself                                       306

            Verses 2 and 12-17: A Recalling of the

                        Distant Past                                                                                        307

                        What the community affirms about God                                         307

                        What the community affirms about itself                                       309

            Verse 3: What the Psalmist Believes about God                                       310

            Verses 4-11: Implications and Assumptions about God by

                        the Community                                                                                  310

                        Verses 4-7                                                                                         310

                        Verses 8-9                                                                                         311

                        Verses 10-11                                                                                     311

            Verses 18-23: Implications by the Community about God and Itself      312

                        Concerning God                                                                                312

                        Concerning the community                                                 312

            The Meaning of Psalm 74 Based upon Surveys in Selected
                        Sumerian City Laments                                                                    313

            The Meaning of Psalm 74 Based upon Selected Studies in

                        Other Biblical Psalms                                                                       314

                        A comparison of Psalm 74 with communal lament psalms and

                                    Asaph psalms                                                                         314

                        A comparison of Psalm 74 with maskil psalms                             315

                        A general statement                                                                         316

                        An assessment of the prayer of Psalm 74 fromNew

                                    Testament perspectives                                                        316

                        Hebrews 4:16                                                                                    316

                        1 Corinthians 10:13                                                                         317

                        Matthew 6:9-13                                                                                 317

                        Summary and conclusions                                                                318

                        Concerning Content and Structure                                     318

                        Concerning Sumerian Laments                                                        319

                        Concerning Biblical Psalms                                                             319

                        Concerning Meaning                                                                         320


BIBLIOGRAPHY OF WORKS CITED                                                                   322



                               LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS


AB                   Anchor Bible

AM                  A. L. Oppenheim, Ancient Mesopotamia

ANE                W. W. Hallo and W. K. Simpson, The Ancient Near East

ANET              J. B. Pritchard (ed.), Ancient Near Eastern Texts

AUSS              Andrews University Seminary Studies

b.                     Babylonian Talmud

BDB                F. Brown, S. R. Driver, and C. A. Briggs, Hebrew

                        and English Lexicon of the Old Testament

BH                  Biblical Hebrew

BHS                Biblia hebraica stuttgartensia

BSac               Bibliotheca Sacra

BZAW             Beihefte zur ZAW

ca.                   approximately

CAD                The Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute

                        of the University of Chicago

CBQ                Catholic Biblical Quarterly

CHJI               W. D. Davies, L. Finkelstein (eds.), The Cambrdige

                        History of Judaism: Vol. I, Introduction, The

                        Persian Period.

CMHE            F. M. Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic

CPAI               A. R. Johnson, The Cultic Prophet in Ancient Israel

CPIP               A. R. Johnson, The Cultic Prophet and Israel's Psalmody

CPTOT           J. Barr, Comparative Philology and the Text of the

                        Old Testament




DNTT              C. Brown (ed.), Dictionary of New Testament Theology

DWEI              P. D. Miller, The Divine Warrior in Early Israel

ExpTim           Expository Times

GKC               Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar, ed. E. Kautzsch, tr.

                        A. E. Cowley

GNB                Good News Bible

HB                   Hebrew Bible

IBH                 T. 0. Lambdin, Introduction to Biblical Hebrew

ICC                 International Critical Commentary

ILC                  J. Pedersen, Israel: Its Life and Culture

Int                    Interpretation

JB                    Jerusalem Bible

JSOT               Journal for the Study of the Old Testament

JBL                 Journal of Biblical Literature

JSS                  Journal of Semitic Studies

JTS                  Journal of Theological Studies

KB                   L. Koehler and W. Baumbartner, Lexicon in

                        Veteris Testamenti libros

KJV                 King James Version

LSJ                  Liddell-Scott-Jones, Greek-English Lexicon

LXX                 Septuagint

m.                    Mishnah

MT                  Masoretic Text

NA                  Neo-Assyrian

NAB                New American Bible

NASB              New American Standard Bible

NB                  Neo-Babylonian


NCBC             R. E. Clement, M. Black (eds.), New Century Bible Commentary

NCOT             A. Even-Shoshan, A New Concordance of the Old Testament

NEB                New English Bible

NIV                  New International Version

NJPS               New Jewish Publication Society Bible

OB                  Old Babylonian

OTL                G. Wright, J. Bright, J. Barr, P. Ackroyd. (eds.), Old Testament

OTS                 Oud Testamentische Studien


PIW                 S. Mowinckel, Psalms in Israel's Worship

PLP                 C. Westermann, Praise & Lament in the Psalms

RHPR              Revue d'histoire et de philosophie religieuses

RSV                 Revised Standard Version

S                      Seleucid

s                      The Syriac Version

SBLASP          Society of Biblical Literature Abstracts and

                        Seminar Papers

SKL                 E. R. Matson, A Word-Study of SKL and Its

                        Application to the Maskilim

SUBH             W. L. Holladay, The Root SUBH in the Old Testament

TB                   Tyndale Bulletin

TDNT              G. Kittel and G. Friedrick (eds.), Theological

                        Dictionary of the New Testament

TDOT              G. Botterweck,, H. Ringgren (eds.), Theological

                        Dictionary of the Old Testament

TOT                 W. Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament

TWOT             R. L. Harris, G. L. Archer, Jr., B. K. Waltke

                        (eds.), Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament



UT                   C. H. Gordon, Ugaritic Textbook

VT                   Vetus Testamentum

VTSup Vetus Testamentum, Supplements

WUS               J. Aistleitner, Worterbuch der Ugaritischen Sprache

ZAW                Zeitschrift fur die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft

ZDPV              Zeitschrift des deutschen Palastina-Vereins


























            "Life is tough but God is good."1 These two clauses

dramatize the predicament of the redeemed sinner. The terms

of the contrast accord well with the repetitious movement

from lament to praise throughout the biblical psalter. The

Hebrew title of the book, Tehillim, indicates that the

primary intent of "the book as a whole is to render praise

to God."2 Exodus 15, one of Israel's earliest songs,

strikes this same movement.

            Psalm 74 is different. This Psalm lacks both an

explicit vow to praise and a direct expression of praise. 3

In a book so dominated by the praise theme, one should ask

how Psalm 74 fits its canonical context and how it functions

as a worship piece.

            Psalm 74 is a communal lament, of which there are at

least five others.4 This Psalm is one of the longest of its


            1Ronald B. Allen, Praise: A Matter of Life and

Breath (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Publishers, 1980), pp.


            2Paul D. Miller, "Enthroned on the Praises of

Israel," Int 39:1 (January 1985):8.

            3Verses 12-17 have strong elements of a hymn but

they may not be functioning in this psalm as an unsullied

expression of praise.

            4Pss 44, 60, 79, 80, 137.



type and will be employed in this thesis as a reference

point1 to which other biblical communal laments may be



                  The Problematic Nature of Psalm 74

            A cursory reading of Psalms 44, 74, and 79 indicates

several features common to all three psalms. However, a

more careful consideration of how these psalms arrange the

material common to each of them suggests a rather different

orientation for Psalm 74 in comparison with the other two

psalms. Further, there are some subtle differences of

vocabulary between Psalm 74 on the one hand and Psalms 44

and 79 on the other. Comparison of Psalms 60 and 80 with

Psalm 74 tend to confirm the distinctiveness of Psalm 74

among these communal lament psalms.

            The community in Psalm 74 seems to be struggling

between embracing God in an appropriate relationship and

accusing God of being less than faithful to His covenant.

The psalm, as such, comes down on the side of the latter and

the tension, characteristic of prayers of complaint, is not

resolved. This lack of resolution, and the absence of

attitudes on the part of the suppliant which can lead to


            1Psalm 74 has or implies all of the parts generally

considered to comprise the communal lament genre. Its

substantial message and the way it uses the parts is quite

different from the thrust of other biblical communal

laments. See Chapter II below.




resolution, make Psalm 74 uncharacteristic of other psalms

with which it shares obvious commonalities.

            In most psalms of complaint, the one who prays is at

least on the way to a posture of forthright praise of God.

The believing community in any dispensation can readily

relate to this kind of a psalm.1 Many have seen the "hymn"

section of Psalm 74 (i.e., vv. 12-17) as the psalm's  

redeeming feature. A study of the structure of the psalm

challenges this notion. If the hymn is not really praise to

God, then one wonders how to express the meaning and signi-

ficance of the Psalm both for its original hearers and for

the subsequent believing community, which affirms the value

of all the Scriptures. This dissertation seeks to articulate

legitimate significances of Psalm 74 for believers today.


              The Purpose and Proposition of This Study

            The purpose of this thesis is to determine the role

of Psalm 74 in the community which produced it. A determi-

nation of the role of Psalm 74 in its canonical context is

foundational for suggesting its usefulness in post-biblical


            The proposition of this study is: The present

significance of Psalm 74 is best articulated on the basis of


            1Walter Brueggemann, The Message of the Psalms

(Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1984), p. 78

(hereafter cited as Brueggemann, Psalms). Brueggemann

applies the description to Psalm 88.


careful attention to its content, structure, and function as

indicated by its own text and context. Defense of this

proposition will proceed as indicated below under "Procedure

for the Study."


                          The Need for This Study

            Three recent journals have devoted an entire issue

to Psalm studies.1 Of the several hundred references to

specific Psalms passages, these issues combine to cite only

a few texts from community lament psalms. One issue devotes

an article to the New Testament use of the psalms and cites

no passage from "pure" communal laments. Among the three

issues, there are about four citations of these psalms.

            Books on psalms studies (excluding commentaries),

Bible dictionaries, and encyclopedias produced in the post-

Gunkel era have a few paragraphs on communal laments. To

this writer's knowledge, there is no serious published work

on this category of psalms. Individual psalms in this group

have received some attention in journal articles, multi-

authored works, master's theses, and doctoral dissertations.

            In terms of individual psalms, attention has been

directed to Psalms 1, 23, 119, and several psalms commonly


            1 Paul J. Achtemeir ed. Int 39:1 (January 1985);

Russell H. Dilday, editor-in-chief, Southwestern Journal of

Theology 27:1 (Fall 11984); John T. Willis, "Great Truths in

the Psalms" The Seminary Review 31:1 (March 1985); the three

articles in this latter issue develop the title.



recognized as messianic. With regard to categories and

classifications of psalms, attention has been directed

towards individual laments, thanksgivings, and hymns.

            Psalm 74 has perhaps received more attention than

other psalms thought to be national laments. With the

exception of Young's dissertation,1 treatments occur in

articles and short notes in journals and in brief essays in

multi-authored works. Entrees in literature indices for

communal laments or individual psalms in that category are

sparse. One reason for scarcity of direct attention to

these passages may be that the New Testament appears to make

sparse use of the psalms of interest to this study.2

Psalm 74 and its companions tend to reflect a seemingly

inappropriate spirit towards God. Perhaps they are not

perceived as attractive.

            No commentator nor critic has questioned whether

these psalms belong in the canon of Scripture. Since the

New Testament values all of the Old Testament,3 this writer


            1William Arthur Young, "Psalm 74: A Methodological

and Exegetical Study" (Ph.D. dissertation, University of

Iowa, 1974; Ann Arbor, MI: Xerox University Microfilms,

75-13, 849) (hereafter cited as Young, "Psalm 74"). Dif-

ferences between the present work and Young's dissertation

will be evident.

            2Aland lists Ps 44:22 (Rom 8:36), Ps 74:2 (Acts

20:28); Ps 79:1 (Luke 21:24, Rev 11:2), 3 (Rev 16:6), 6 (1

Thess 4:5, 2 Thess 1:8), 10 (Rev 6:10; 19:2); Ps 137:8 (Rev

18:6) in Kurt Aland, et al. The Greek New Testament 2nd ed.

(Stuttgart: Wurtemberg Bible Society, 1966), pp. 907-09.

            3Matt 5:17-18, 2 Tim 3:16.


assumes it is the believer's responsibility to discern

appropriate values in all of the Scriptures. These values

should be based upon hermeneutically sound procedures for

understanding the target passage. This dissertation seeks

to help fill the lacuna with reference to Psalm 74 so that

the believer can profit from this text, and similar texts in

ways implied in 2 Timothy 3:16-17.


                      The Procedure for This Study

                                     Chapter one

            This study will first develop the content of Psalm

74 along grammatical and syntactical lines. This will

generate basic acquaintance with the language of the psalm.

The Hebrew text will be pointed throughout only where essen-

tial for clarity. Verse numbers are from BHS.


                                     Chapter two

            Chapter two will explore the structure and contours

of the psalm. Form-critical and rhetorical criticism

procedures will be evaluated for contributions which they

make to sensing the emphases and moods of the psalm since

the time of its composition. The approaches of Westermann

and Weiss will especially be noted.


                               Chapters three and four

            Chapters three and four will treat the context of

the psalm. Chapter three begins by noting the complexity of



the phenomenon "context." Due to this complexity, these

chapters must deal selectively with the matter. Chapter

three briefly surveys aspects of Sumerian city laments by

focusing upon some details in two laments. One of these was

translated by Raphael Kutscher, "a-ab-ba hu-luh-ha"; the

second lament, "Lamentation over the Destruction of Sumer

and Ur," was translated by Samuel Noah Kramer. These

compositions demonstrate the nature and long history of

formal religious response to national disaster in the Near


            Chapter four will focus on a selection of biblical

psalms from each of three classifications, i.e., communal

lament psalms and Asaph and Maskil psalms. The first is a

genre to which Psalm 74 belongs. The other two classes are

indicated by the title with Psalm 74. By focusing upon

these materials and comparing them to Psalm 74, the dynamic

"humanness" and uniqueness of the psalm becomes sharper than

if the comparisons were not made.


                           Chapter five and Conclusions

            Chapter five will discuss the meaning of the psalm

"then" and "now." It will attempt to synthesize findings

from the previous chapters and draw out implications. The

concluding pages will briefly review the entire dissertation

and summarize factors which contribute to a full apprecia-

tion of Psalm 74.





                                     CHAPTER I


                      THE CONTENT OF PSALM 74


                          Introduction to the Chapter


            The purpose of this chapter is to develop a detailed

familiarity with the vocabulary, grammar, and syntax of

Psalm 74. It is assumed that this is the foundation for any

discussion about the meaning of a psalm as a unit and for

suggestions about its significance in the biblical canon.

The approach will employ procedures of a grammatical-

historical hermeneutic.

            There are numerous translation challenges in the

psalm but the state of the text itself is stable. Text-

critical concerns arise more from unusual words or construc-

tions than from variant text traditions. Suggestions for

emendation cluster around verses 3a, 5-6, and 12. Briggs

suggests that these contain glosses, so he simply deletes

the relevant words.1 Others attempt emendation. This study

will address these matters as they arise.


            1Charles August and Emily Grace Briggs, A Critical

and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Psalms, 2 vols.,

ICC (Edinburgh: T and T Clark, 1907), 2:151 (hereafter

cited as Briggs, Psalms).



            Several passages use common terms in unusual ways

(e.g., v. 1, hml; vv. 4, 23, jyrrc; v. 12, yklm; v. 18,

hvhy).  The exegesis suggests implications of these terms

for understanding the psalm. Syntactical and lexical

studies contribute to an appreciation of the mood and con-

cerns of the inner world of this psalm.1 At the same time,

these studies encourage comparison of other biblical

materials with Psalm 74.

            This chapter also notices arrangement and inter-

relationships of words where these factors assist in clar-

ifying the meaning of a given verse. On this dimension as

well as others, there is of necessity, some repetition

between this chapter and succeeding chapters. Such overlap

occurs in order to enhance the clarity of the discussion at

the relevant point. Several footnote references in subse-

quent chapters will cite matters developed in this chapter.


            1Meir Weiss, The Bible From Within: The Method of

Total Interpretation (Jerusalem: The Magnes Press, 1984),

pp. 24-26, (hereafter cited as Weiss, The Bible). Here

Weiss summarizes what he means by the totality of a poem.

This chapter on content implements in some measure Weiss's

"imperative to pay close attention to the text, to every

word, to the word-order and syntax, to synonyms and

metaphors [and] to unusual syntactical phenomena." This is

necessary in order to gain a sense of that of which the

"whole" consists (for quoted material see ibid., p. 26).





                                          Verse 1

                     Hcnl tHnz Myhlx hml

                   :jtyfrm Nxcb jpx NWfy

Why, Oh God, are you perpetually angry?

Why does your anger smoke against

            the sheep of your pasturing?


            The urgency of the psalmist stands out as he begins

with an accusatory question, hml.1 When man addresses hml

to God, the question almost always concerns the apparent

contradiction between God's calling and His behavior in

relation to Israel.2 Of the forty-six times in which man so

addresses God, most of these contexts cast reproach upon God

for this experience of contradiction.3


            1See Young, "Psalm 74." Young implies that the

complaint or reproach notion is inherent in hml. In this,

he follows Alfred E. Jepsen, "Warum? Eine lexicalisch and

theologische Studie," in Das Ferne und Nahe Wort, ed. Fritz

Maass, BZAW, No. 105 (Bonne: Topelmann, 1967), pp. 106-13

(hereafter cited as Jepson, "Warum?"). Jepsen's semantic

distinction between hml and fvdm is too categorical. The

idea of accusation or complaint arises rather from the


            2Jepsen, "Warum?," pp. 106-08. Jepsen seeks to

distinguish hml for questions full of reprimand and reproach

(Tadel and Vorwurf, p. 106) , from fvdm for questions seeking

information with which he associates amazement or compassion

(Verwunderung, Teilnahme, pp. 107-08).

            3Ibid., p. 108. Seventeen of the forty-six times

where hml is so used are in the book of Psalms. Curiously,

fvdm does not occur in the Psalter. James Barr has

tabulated the uses of hml, fvdm, hm in the Hebrew Bible


            For Barr, "The most striking fact about 'Why?' in

biblical Hebrew is that it is overwhelmingly a term of

direct speech."1 This factor can be easily ignored even in

a careful analysis of Psalm literature. For the ten "Why?"

questions addressed to God in the psalms, "the psalmists

characteristically complain that God has neglected them, not

that He has been excessively generous. . . ."2 This is true

in a high degree for Psalm 74, but to a lesser degree in

some other "Why?" psalms. In Psalm 44 the psalmist affirms

his innocence (Ps 44:17ff) and then asks God "Awake! Do not

he angry perpetually. Why do you hide your face? . . ."3

Psalm 79 has a virtual confession of sin (Ps 79:8-9) then


(hereafter cited throughout this study as HB) in James Barr,

"Why? in Biblical Hebrew" JTS 36:1 (April 1985):1-33

(hereafter cited as Barr, "Why? in BH"). Barr cites the

figure 17 on page 9. The article includes a critique of

Jepsen's earlier essay "Warum?" Jepsen tried to maintain

the issue of motivation as the distinguishing feature

between fvdm and hml. The former seeks information and the

latter intends to reproach or accuse (See Jepsen, "Warum?,"

pp. 107-08). Barr shows that Jepsen's "prime example, Exod

2:18-20" where both interrogatives occur ("Why? in BH," p.

2), can be explained by other than a semantic principle of

selectivity. Other principles which may dictate word choice

include style (p. 10), dialect (p. 14), idiolect (i.e.,

individual speech habits, p. 16) and the type of sentence

(pp. 19ff). Several other factors include negativity, time

reference, person, and lexical collocations (pp. 24-27).

            1Barr, "Why? in BH," p. 31.

            2Ibid., p. 32f. The figure, 10, excludes indirect

uses of hml, e.g., Ps. 2:1, "Why do the nations rage?"

            3Ps 44:24f, “. . . jynp-hml   :Hcnl Hnzt-lx . . . “

The likeness to Ps 74:1 is notable.


the question "Why should the Gentiles say, 'Where is their

God'?"1 The psalmist acknowledges God's previous good hand

in Psalm 80:8ff then asks why He has recently exposed the

nation to invaders.2

            Six times in the HB the divine name in the vocative

immediately follows hml. Psalm 88:15 asks why God is angry

and hiding His face.3 The hml comes after a subdued but

explicit reference to God's dsH and hnvmx. Psalm 10:1 uses

hvhy hml in asking why Yahweh is at a distance. This

expression is actually in the middle of an acrostic psalm

(i.e., Pss 9-10 together) in which David affirms that Yahweh

is a just judge (Ps 9:8-19) and that the prosperity of the

wicked will not last (Ps 10:3-15). Three times hml plus

vocative divine name are in narrative units.4

            Psalm 74:1 is the only instance in the HB where the

interrogative and divine name initiate its literary unit.

It is the only lament in which an accusatory complaint marks

the opening and closing of the psalm.5


            1Ps 79:10.

            2Ps 80:13.

            3This is similar to Ps 44:24f. In terms of gattung,

Ps 88 is an individual lament and Ps 44 is largely communal


            4Exod 32:11; Num 14:3; Judg 21:3.

            5Ps 88 opens with a brief expression of confidence

and closes in a similar fashion to Ps 74.


                   Hcnl tHnz

            Often an object is supplied to tHnz because the verb

is considered to be transitive.1 Transitive verbs may be

used absolutely, but some have both a transitive and

intransitive meaning.2 Psalm 44:10 employs the past tense

narration with the same verb tHnz followed by strong v in

vnmylktv.  Hnz here may be intransitive. The sense may be,

"Yes you are angry and consequently you have humiliated

us."3 By comparison, Psalm 43:2 expresses the object,

indicating a transitive sense, "yntHnz hml, "Why have you

rejected me."4

            Hnz in Lamentations 2:7 has vHbzm as an object.

Psalm 44:24, :Hcnl Hnzt lx, reads easily as intransitive, "Do

not be angry perpetually." If the transitive notion was

intended, the object could have been expressed. The two

clauses which follow in verse 25 both have expressed


            Analogies between Psalm 74:1 and 44:24 are obvious.

Some have assumed that the first common plural object should


            1E.g., "us" as in NASB, KJV.

            2Reuven Yaron, "The Meaning of Zanah," VT 13

(1963):237. This discussion of Hnz has used ideas from

Yaron's article.

            3In addition to Pss 44:10 and 74:1 other possible

intransitive uses are Pss 44:24; 77:8; 89:39 and Lam 3:31.

BDB, p. 276 mentions but does not embrace Akkadian zenu as a

useful cognate.

            4The object is expressed in Ps 60:3, 12 (=108:12)

where the form is vntHnz.


be implied from the sense of Psalm 74:1b. In that there are

instances where an object of Hnz is expressed, it seems

reasonable to look for an intransitive idea in the absence

of an object.1  Hnz as intransitive should be construed as

an adjectival perfect

            The adverbial phrase Hcnl is ambiguous.3 Cognates

to Hcn occur in Syriac, "to shine, be illustrious, pre-

eminent, victorious," and in Arabic "be pure, reliable."4

Thomas suggests that some Old Testament passages, for the

noun Hcn have, rather an adverbial sense "utterly, com-

pletely," as a corollary to the noun concept "pre-eminent."5

He favors the superlative sense for Psalm 74:3, Hcn tvxwm,

"desolations of the utmost ruins."6 Ackroyd cites LXX,

ei@j telo<j in support of this notion.7


            1Ps 88:15 has ynmm jynp rytst ywpn Hnzt tml.  ywpn

could be either direct object or adverbial accusative, "with

me." The parallelism tends to argue for the former but the

data is not definitive.

            2Adjectival perfect denotes "the state of the

subject without explicit reference to a past act, . . ." as

noted in Bruce K. Waltke, "Hebrew Syntax Notes: A Revision

of Jouon's Grammaire De L'Hebrew Biblique," unpublished

notes, n.d., p. 18 (hereafter cited as Waltke, "Syntax").

            3Young, "Psalm 74," p. 62.                4BDB, p. 663.

            5D. W. Thomas, "The Use of Hcn as a Superlative in

Hebrew," JSS, I (Spring 1956), 107 (hereafter cited as

Thomas, "Hcn") .


            7Ackroyd, P. R. “Hcn—ei@j telo<j," ExpTim 80 (1968),

p. 126 ( ereafter cited as Ackroyd, "Hcn").



            While utterly, completely, or to the end may fit

verse 3, all thirty instances of Hcnl are best taken as

indicating a condition which has prevailed forr some time and

now seems without termination. Whereas Mlvf can have either

a positive or negative connotation,1 Hcn is almost always

used with reference to a negative condition, e.g., "Yahweh

will not forget his poor ones Hcnl" (Ps 9:17).2

            "Forever"3 is an abstraction foreign to the thought

world of the Old Testament. The HB approaches the notion of

eternity by employing concrete imagery.4 Thus Hcnl in Psalm

74:1, 10, and 19 is best translated "interminably or per-

petually." The first colon of Psalm 74 may be translated,

"Why, oh God, are you perpetually angry?"


            1For a positive use of Mlvf see Ps 90:9; it is

parallel to Hcn and clearly negative in Isa 57:16.

            2Hcnl occurs fourteen times in the Psalms: 9:7, 19;

10:11; 44:24; 74:1, 10, 19; 77:9; 79:5; and 89:47. These

references are all from lament psalms or complaint sections

of mixed psalms. In addition, negative connotations are

obvious in Pss 49:10, 52:7, and 103:9. Only 68:17 uses  

in a positive setting. Similarly, all uses outside the

Psalms, e.g., five times in Job are in complaint or

judgment-speech settings.  Hcn in Isa 63:3, 6 is apparently

a homograph.

            3As in NASB.

            4A Theological Word Book of the Bible, s.v„ "Time,

Season," by John Marsh, p. 258-67, esp. pp. 265f. See,

e.g., hlvf tfbg, "everlasting hills," and Myrh MrFb

Mlvf-df Mlvfmv . . . vdly, “before the mountains were

brought forth . . . even from everlasting to everlasting"

(Gen 49:6 and Ps 90:2).


                                  jpx Nwfy

            All occurences of the verb Nwf are Qal.l At the

Sinai event, as part of a theophany, the mountain Nwf

(smoked).2 Psalm 104, a creation hymn, may recall Sinai

thus identifying both the covenant stipulations and the

created order with Yahweh.3 David uses the language of

Psalm 104:32 as he petitions Yahweh to touch the mountains

so that they will smoke; i.e., he desires a theophany or

divine intervention in his behalf.4 He equates theophany

with destruction of his enemies.

            Three remaining uses of the verb have Yahweh or His

Jx, anger,5 as the subject and His covenant people as

object. Yahweh's Jx will smoke against Israelites who wor-

ship foreign gods.6


            1Exod 19:18; 20:18; Deut 29:19; Isa 7:7; Pss 74:1,

80:5, 104:32, 144:5.

            2Exod 19:18, 20:18. These passages envelope the


            3Commentaries on Ps 104:32 note the theophany but do

not connect creation and Sinai. See, e.g., A. A. Anderson,

The Book of Psalms, 2 vols., NCBC (Grand Rapids: William B.

Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1981), 2:725 (hereafter cited as

Anderson, Psalms), and Mitchell Dahood, Psalms I (1-50),

Psalms II (51-100), and Psalms III (101-150), The Anchor

Bible (Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1965,

1968, 1970). This citation is from Psalms III, p. 47. The

decalogue in the context of theophany especially notices


            4Ps 144:5.                  5See discussion of Jx below.

            6Deut. 29:19.


            The Asaphic singer of Psalm 80:5 addresses Yahweh in

the vocative and asks, “tnwf ytm df against the prayers of

your people?" Similarly, the poet in Psalm 74:1 asks,

hml, why His anger/nostril  Nwfy (smokes) against the sheep

of His pasture. The references from Exodus 19 and 20,

Deuteronomy 29:19, and Psalms 104 and 144 establish a

conceptual background for the use of Nwf in Psalms 80 and

74.1 These psalms see Yahweh's anger against the community

as a judgment theophany. The community perceived the divine

anger in terms of the terrifying intensity of theophany.

            Jx is used 270 times in the Hebrew Bible of which 44

refer to human anger and 170 to divine wrath.2 The dual

normally refers to nostrils or nose (e.g., Gen 2:7). The

singular Jx means nose in two instances (Gen 24:47 and 2 Kgs

19:28). Each of these records the placing of a ring in a

human nose, but for opposite reasons. There is no clear

instance where singular rx should be taken as synechdoche,

i.e., nose, for "face."3 To sum up, over 60 percent of the


            1The eighth use of Nwf (Isa 7:14), is not relevant

to this discussion.

            2Saphir, P. Athyal, "The Mysterious Wrath of Yahweh"

(Ph.D. dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary, 1964),

p. 10 (used by permission of the author). TDOT, s.v.  “Jnx

by Elsie Johnson, 1:354.

            3The dual Mypx is synechdoche for face several

times. Finch suggests twenty-one times in Thomas E. Finch,

"A Study of the Word, 'ap and the Concept of Divine Wrath in

the Old Testament" (Th.M. thesis, Dallas Theological

Seminary, 1975), p. 47, n. 3.


occurrences of Jx refer to divine anger. In these instances

it should normally be translated "wrath" or "anger."1 There

is ambiguity in a few poetic passages.

            The verb Jnx occurs in lament Psalms 60 and 79 and

in a lament section in Psalm 85.2 Elsewhere it is found in

Solomon's anticipatory prayer and in a lament statement by

Ezra.3 Five times the verb expresses the Lord's anger

against individuals or the nation who violated His will in

specific incidents of conduct.4 Covenantal implications of

the verb and its noun are evident.

            Jx is usually paired with a root from the semantic

field of "heat," e.g. ,  hrH and hmH.5 This factor


            1 Jnx as a verb root from which Jx derives, occurs

fourteen times. God is always the subject. The object is

either the covenant community or a member thereof. Thus the

verb is always in a context of covenantal relationship

between Yahweh and the nation. (The one exception is Ps

2:12, but here the nations can turn Yahweh's Jx aside by

acknowledging His king.) By comparison to the verb, Jx is

used several times relative to Gentiles, e.g., Exod 4:14; Ps

2:5; Hab 3:12.

            2Some regard Ps 85 as a national lament.

            3Respectively, 1 Kgs 8:46 (=2 Chr 6:36) and Ezra


            4The objects are: Moses (Deut 1:37, 4:21); the

nation in the wilderness (Deut 9:8); Aaron (Deut 9:20);

Solomon, for acknowledging foreign gods (1 Kgs 11:9, cf.

Deut 29:19); the northern kingdom at the seige of Samaria

(2 Kgs 17:18).

            5TDOT, s.v. “Jx,” by Elsie Johnson, 1:353-54 and E.

S. Erlandsson, "The Wrath of YHWH," TB 23:111-16 (hereafter

cited as Erlandsson, "Wrath").


illuminates its use with Nwf. Moses warns that hvhy-Jx and

His zeal will smoke against the arrogant in Israel who wor-

ship foreign gods (Deut 29:19). Later David will describe a

storm theophany of God: There will arise smoke from His

vpxb (i.e., nostrils) and fire from His mouth will con-

sume."1 The parallelism strongly indicates nose rather than

anger for Jx.

            Referring to the holier-than-thou, Yahweh says,

"These are smoke in my nose and fire kindling all the day."2

The ambiguous relationship between nose and anger is evident

in the Hebrew Bible but unique to Hebrew among the Semitic


            Many agree that in so many words Jx focuses on

psychosomatic effects of anger. This assumes that anger is

an emotion.4  The idea of breathing or snorting lies in the

background. The derived meaning, anger, has largely

superceded the reference to the nose though the latter still



            1A free translation of Ps 18:9ab to show the

chiasmus: verb-subject-prepositional phrase::subject-

prepositional phrase-verb. For ambiguous use see Ezek

38:18, "my fury will come up in my anger," as in NASB. KJV

has "face."

            2Isa 65:5; here Jx could be nose/face or anger.

            3Johnson, “Jx,” 1:351.

            4Erlandsson, "Wrath," p. 112.


            The divine king (74:12) as shepherd of his people is

found in Psalms 95:7; 100:3; 74:1; and 79:13.1    In these

texts people are designated vtyfrm Nxc. Psalms 95 and 100

exhort the Nxc (community), that since it is dependent on

God, the people should worship Him. Psalms 74 and 79

complain that since the people are dependent upon God for

"pasturing,"2 He ought to help them in their distress. The

poet employs the figure in Psalm 44:12, 23. Here the

complaint is that Yahweh, in consequence of His anger, has

given the people as sheep to be slaughtered, i.e., to be

used as food, lkxm. This idea may be implicit in Psalm



            1See John Gray, The Biblical Doctrine of the Reign

of God (Edinburgh: T and T Clark, 1979), p. 266. Under the

general heading of "The Reign of God in Apocalyptic" Gray

discusses the convergence of three motifs, chaos, stormy

sea, and God as shepherd, in enthronement psalms and other

passages. Psalm 74 utilizes aspects of each of these

motifs. Concerning the last, Gray states on page 325, "The

Shepherd is well known in royal texts from the ancient Near

East as a figure for the king." Additional passages

include, e.g., Ezek 34:15, 23, 31 (cf. here John 21:15-17,

Pss 23:1; 80:1; and Isa. 53:7.) For a massive treatment of

"shepherd" as royal terminology, consult Donald L. Fowler,

"The Context of the Good Shepherd Discourses" (Th.D.

dissertation, Grace Theological Seminary, 1981).

            2By comparison with hfrm, tyfrm is a noun of action

pointing not to the place of feeding but to the shepherd in

the act of feeding. See BDB, p. 954. Franz Delitzsch,

Biblical Commentary on the Psalms, 3 vols. (Grand Rapids,

MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959), 2:329 (here-

after cited as Delitzsch, Psalms) calls tyfrm Nxc "a char-

acteristically acteristically Asaphic expression."

            3Ps 74:19 may imply this idea, cf. pp. 108-110



            The Psalm begins with an "accusatory interrogative,"

probing God with two questions. The first is a general

question concerning God's interminable anger. The second

question is more specific and has an implicit incongruity.

Why is God venting His theophanic-type wrath against the

sheep He is supposed to feed?


                                           Verse 2

                            Mdq tynq jtdf rkz

                               jtlHn Fbw tlxg

                             :vb tnkw hz Nvyc-rh

Remember your appointed assembly

            which you created long ago

When you redeemed the tribe which

            is your inheritance

Even Mount Zion, this place

            in which you dwelt.


                                     jtdf rkz

            The Qal imperative rkz with God as subject has an

identifiable matrix of use in the Bible. A convenient

starting point is the preterite rkzyv in Exodus 2:24. In

the general context of God's preparing Moses for the Exodus,

the enslaved Israelites cry to God for relief, "and God

heard their cry and God remembered His covenant with Abra-

ham, with Isaac, and with Jacob," rkz and tyrb both occur.

            The first imperative with God as subject is in

Exodus 32. The golden calf has incited Yahweh's anger in

verse 10, ypx-rHyv.  He wanted to destroy the nation but


Moses interceded, "Why Oh Yahweh does your anger burn

against your people" (Exod 32:11a). In verses l1b-13 Moses

uses three factors to motivate God not to destroy. (1) God

has brought them out of Egypt, by a mighty hand. (2) Why

should the Egyptians mock God and say that He brought the

nation to the mountains in order to destroy them? Verse 12

shares the following words with Psalm 74: hml, Mtlklv (hlk,

Ps 74:11), Jx.   (3) Remember, rkz, Abraham, Isaac, and

Jacob!1 Here Moses reminds God of His covenant obligation.

Exodus 2:24 and 32:10-13 combine to form a background for a

major perspective in Psalm 74. rkz, tyrb, Jx, hlk, and  hml

demonstrate lexical and conceptual ties between Psalm 74 and

Exodus material. The covenantal thrust of rkz in Psalm 74

is enhanced by its object, jtdf which presumes a community.2

tyrbl Mbh in verse 20 further embellishes the covenantal

atmosphere in the psalm.

            Following the Lord's instruction to Jeremiah to give

a devastating message of judgment, the prophet himself

responds to the message of doom with a communal lament,


            1Brevard S. Childs, Memory and Tradition in Israel

(London: SCM Press, 1962), p. 32 (hereafter cited as

Childs, Memory). Childs states that –l rkz "is a technical

term which bears a specific juridical meaning, . . ." but

only with God as subject. Moses recounts this Exod 32

prayer to a later generation (Deut 9:26-27).

            2Ibid., pp. 35-36. Childs mentions that hdf with

rkz is covenant terminology.


"Have you completely rejected Judah or have you loathed

Zion? . . . Do not despise for the sake of your name. . . .

Remember and do not annul your covenant with us (Jer 14:19a,

21a). In addition to synonyms, Jeremiah 14:19-21 and Psalm

74 share the words Cxn, Mw, rkz, and tyrb. Where God is the

subject, most other uses of imperative rkz are either com-

plaints or petitions in behalf of a threatened or suffering


            Several studies have explored the meaning of rkz in

the HB.2 Pedersen sought to show that thought and action

were viewed as one in the Hebrew psychology.3 Barr and

Childs, however, deny the identity and believe rather that

rkz has a semantic range that includes the intellectual

aspect of remembering and the willing-acting aspect.4 While

affirming the distinction, Child's still asserts "God


            1rkz is one of several imperatives commonly used in

the petition of complaints. See Herman Gunkel and Joachim

Begrich, Einleitung in die Psalmen (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck

and Ruprecht, 1933), p. 128 (hereafter cited as Gunkel,


            2For bibliography see TDOT, s.v.     “rkz,” by H.

Eising, 4:64.

            3Johanes Pedersen, Israel: Its Life and Culture, 2

vols. (London: Oxford University Press, 1962) 1:99-101,

106-107 (hereafter cited as Pedersen, ILC).

            4Childs, Memory, pp. 22-23; James Barr, The

Semantics of Biblical Language (London: Oxford University

Press, 1961), p. 34. Barr's comments relate to the problem

in general, not to rkz specifically.


remembering always implies His movements toward the object

of His memory."1

            The urgency of the imperative rkz is underlined by

Psalm 88:6 which notes that those whom God does not remember

are forsaken among the dead and are like the slain who lie

in the grave.2 As the psalmist implores God to remember, he

is, in fact, asking God to take appropriate action to

relieve the distress of the community.

            hdf is derived from dfy, "to appoint, designate."3

The noun refers to a "company assembled together by

appointment or acting concertedly."4 It is used of the

Israel of the Exodus 115 times, primarily in Exodus,

Leviticus, and Numbers.5  Psalms uses it nine times.6 Psalm

68:31 employs hdf figuratively for a herd of bulls

threatening God's people. This illustrates the idea of

banding for concerted action. Six of the Psalms references

use hdf to designate a band opposed to God's people or His

will. The three remaining uses designate Israel as God's


            1Childs, Memory, p. 34. Paradigmatic examples for

the close relationship between rkz and action, when God is

the subject, are God "remembered Noah" and subdued the

waters (Gen 8:1) and God "remembered Rachel" and caused her

to conceive (Gen 30:22).

            2Ibid., p. 33.

            3BDB, p. 416.                        4Ibid., p. 417.

            5hdf is also used several times in Joshua 9 and 27.

            6Pss 7:8; 22:17; 68:31; 74:2; 86:4; 106:17, 18;



congregation in the same way as the three interior books of

the Pentateuch and Joshua. The immediate context of Psalm

74:2 suggests that hdf intends to recall God's care during

the wilderness period. The suffix on jtdf represents God as

the possessor of the congregation.1


                                      Mdq tynq

            BDB lists two roots for hnq. The second is the one

from which hnq, "stalk or reed," is derived.2  hnq-I is the

concern of this study. The fundamental meaning appears to

be "get, acquire." This meaning services all but six of the

eighty-four uses of this root.3 Coppes agrees with KB in

supposing a third hnq root meaning "to create."4 The

former, however, says, "The relation of these two roots

(i.e., to acquire; to create or the two meanings of the one

root) has been much debated."5 Each of the six passages

which potentially carry the meaning "to create" can make

sense with some variation of the notion "to acquire."6


            1Genitive of possession correlates nicely with the

verb tynq. For this use of genitive see Ronald J. Williams,

Hebrew Syntax: An Outline, 2nd ed. (Toronto and Buffalo:

University of Toronto Press, 1976), p. 11, #37 (hereafter

cited as Williams, Syntax). The subjective genitive, i.e.,

"the congregation which God has appointed," is tempting.

            2BDB, p. 889.

            3TWOT, s.v. "hnq," by Leonard J. Coppes, 2:803-04.

            4Ibid., and KB, p. 843.                       5Coppes, “hnq,” p. 804.

            6Psalm 139:13--you possessed my kidneys; you

overshadowed me (reading Nks-I) in my mother's womb (if


            The plausibility of "create" for these six

instances, all in poetry, is strengthened by the use of qny

in poetic texts from Ugarit.4 While Psalm 74 includes

motifs from the themes of creation and the Exodus event

is not always clear which of these themes lies behind the

poet's choice of words as he develops his poem. Several

words, as with hnq, can be applied to either of these

events. The dual idea of originating ("I have produced a

man") and acquiring ("I have gotten a man") are latent in

the first use in Genesis 4:1. Psalm 139:13 strongly

supports the idea "to create" as an appropriate rendering of


Nns-II, then "created" as NASB, NIV, is better).

            Genesis 14:19, 22--"Blessed be El Elyon, possessor

of heaven and earth." This rendering emphasizes the thought

of control without specifying how God secured control of the

universe (NASB and KJV)„

            Deuteronomy 32:6--"Is he (i.e., Yahweh) not your

father, your possessor? He made you and established you."

The key words are bx, hnq, hWf, Nvk. The first two terms

could emphasize control, but in parallel with         and

they probably focus on origination. (For origination in hnq

cf. BDB, p. 888.)

            Psalm 78:54--"He brought them (His people) unto the

border of His holy place, this mountain which His right hand

acquired. Coppes prefers "created" here but acknowledges

that this is not clear, (cf. Coppes, “hnq,” p. 804). This

is the most ambivalent of the six passages which allegedly

support the idea "to create."

            Proverbs 8:22--"'Yahweh possessed me at the beginning

of His way, before His works of old" (as in NASB, KJV). The

note in NIV suggests, "Yahweh brought me forth at the

beginning of His way," implying not creation, but some idea

like "at the beginning, His works were clothed in wisdom."

            4UT, 51:3:26, 30; 4:32.


the root.l Genesis 14:19, 22 pairs nicely with Genesis 1 to

suggest the legitimacy of "to create."

            Mdq may have either a temporal ("aforetime; ancient

time") or spatial ("in front, east") reference.2 The tem-

poral idea may, in turn, refer to God (Ps 55:20), the time

of creation (Prov 8:22, 23), the time of the patriarchs (Mic

7:20), the conquest (Ps 44:2-4), before current stresses

(Lam 1:7, 5:21), or some time in the indefinite past (Isa

45:21; Lam 2:17).3 The use in Psalm 74:2 refers to the time

when the nation was formed, i.e., the Exodus. The clause

Mdq tynq is an asyndetic relative clause.4


                               jtlHn Fbw lxg

            lxg differs from hdp in that the former emphasizes

either the privilege or duty of redemption.5 The primary


            1Harriet Brundage Lovitt, "A Critical and Exegetical

Study of Psalm 139" (Ph.D. dissertation, Columbia Univer-

sity, 1964; Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms, Incorpo-

rated, 64-11, 304), pp. 138-41. In addition, one may note

that lxg and hnq may be part of a broken pair in Exod 15.

(vv. 12-13) pairs with hnq (vv. 16-17). Both occur in

clauses and together they envelope an account of the dread

of the Gentiles as Israel will march to Transjordan. The

use of hnq here also is ambiguous.

            2BDB, 869.

            3John Philip LePeau, "Psalm 68: An Exegetical and

Theological Study," (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Iowa,

1981, Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms International,

8128429), pp. 223-224, n. 481 (hereafter cited as LePeau,

"Psalm 68").

            4GKC, p. 488, #155n.

            5TWOT, s.v.    by R. Laird Harris, 1:144. hdp,

by comparison, stresses "the transfer of ownership from one


feature is the kinsman relationship.1 The four situations

which the root addresses are: 1) freeing encumbered land

(Lev 25:25ff) or a relative who had sold himself for his

debts (Lev 25:48); 2) redeeming property or non-sacrificial

animals which had been dedicated to the Lord (Lev 27:llff);

3) serving as the avenger of blood, i.e., legally taking the

life of the murderer of his relative; (4) functioning fig-

uratively in the Psalms and prophets as a designation of God

as Israel's lxg.2

            The responsibilities of the lxg, as such, and the law

of levirate marriage are two distinct issues. These have

been brought together in Ruth 4.3 God as lxg does not

involve the levirate custom. The root with God as subject

focuses on: 1) His special relationship to Israel which He

initiated; 2) the fact that He had already bought His people

out of Egyptian bondage. The implied question to God of

this third clause is, "will you not act to preserve your

inheritance for which you have already paid a price?"


to another through payment of a price or an equivalent

substitute." For this statement see, TWOT, s.v. “hdp by

William B. Coker, 2:216.,

            1Harris, “lxg,” p. 144.

            2Ibid., see also TDOT, s.v. “lxg,” by Helmer

Ringgren, 2:350-55.

            3Eryl W. Davies, "Ruth IV 5 and the Duties of

Go’el,” VT 33:2 (1983) :233-34. lxg stresses relationship/

responsibility. hdp stresses the act/means of redeeming.


            Fbw denoted a rod for beating grain (Isa 28:7). It

was also an instrument for counting sheep (Lev 27:32) or

disciplining a slave (Exod 21:20) or a son (Prov 23:13-14).

The development of Fbw to denote a sceptre or mark of

authority is understandable (Gen 49:1). The meaning "tribe"

is derived from the word's association with rulership. The

idea "tribe" is its most frequent use.1 Wolf describes the

three instances of jtlHn Fbw as "questionable passages" as

to interpretation of Fbw.2 He hesitantly suggests "Psalm

74:2 probably refers to Judah only."3

            In a polemic against idol-makers Jeremiah contrasts

these with Yahweh's people. The passage (Jer 10:12-16) is

framed by creation themes and terminology.4 A storm theo-

phany (v. 13) is juxtaposed to the description of the

idol-maker (14-15). Verse 16 has four cola. The first and

third are in synonymous parallelism:

                                            . . . bqfy qlH hlxk xl

                                                     jtlHn Fbw lxrwyv


            1TWOT, s.v. "Fbw," by Bruce K. Waltke, 2:897. See

also C. Umhau Wolf, "Terminology of Israel's Tribal Organi-

zation," JBL 65(1946):45-49 (hereafter cited as Wolf,


            2Wolf, "Terminology," p. 46 n. 5. The passages are

Jer 10:16; 51:19; Ps 74:2.


            4The creation of earth and heaven is described by

using the roots, hFn, Nvk, hWf (v. 12). Verse 16 alludes

either to the creation of all things or specifically to

bqfy, with the participle rcvy.


qlH and Fbw are both predicate nominatives in the construct.

Their respective genitives may be construed as appositional:

            not like these (i.e., idol-makers) is the portion

            that is Jacob. . . . and Israel is the tribe which

            constitutes His inheritance.

In this complex structure Hlq and jtlHn are broadly synony-

mous.1 Here Fbw is synonymous with the whole nation.

Jeremiah 10:12-16 is in a context anticipating the coming

seige and destruction of Judah at the hands of Babylon,

though the latter is unnamed in this passage. Jeremiah

51:15-19 repeats Jeremiah 10:12-16 but in a context

announcing the future destruction of Babylon.

            Psalm 74:1b and 2a seem to look back to the "crea-

tion" of the nation, i.e., the Exodus. Fbw, therefore,

should be read as a reference to the nation prior to the

conquest and settlement in tribal allotments.

            jtlHn is the noun hlHn plus a 2ms suffix whose

antecedent is Myhlx from verse one. God has hlHn forty

times in the HB.2 Thirty-three times hlHn refers to God's


            1One must be very careful in what he understands by

"synonymous." Generally, this study assumes that all

biblical words are used discreetly. No two terms are inter-

changeable. This is generally the position of Rosenbaum in

Stanley Ned Rosenbaum, "The Concept 'Antagonist' to Hebrew

Psalmography: A Semantic Field Study" (Ph.D. dissertation,

Brandeis University, 1974; Ann Arbor, MI: Xerox University

Microfilms, 74-28.010); see, e.g., pp. 9, 83, 106 (hereafter

cited as Rosenbaum, "Antagonist").

            2LePeau, "Psalm 68," p. 105.





            Young reads hlHn as a genitive of location, "the

tribe of your patrimony."2 This has general support from

the six passages cited above and from some uses of nhl in

Ugaritic literature.3 It is preferable here to use the more

common referrant and read a genitive of apposition, "the

tribe which is your inheritance." Coupled with lxg the

third clause emphasizes the value of the nation to God and

His responsibility to preserve it.


                            vb tnkw Nvyc-rh

            Nvyc-rh is syntactically parallel with jtdf and

tlHn Fbw.   tnkw is the predicate of a relative clause for

which there is no formal relative particle. hz a near

demonstrative, informs the reader that the psalmist is an

eyewitness to the catastrophe to which he alludes. Mount

Zion is singled out as the place where God has dwelt.

            Qal of Nkw occurs 111 times, twenty-eight of which

have God as subject.4 Twelve instances of Piel and three of


            1Ibid. Four of these, 1 Sam 26:19; 2 San 14:16;

21:3; and Jer 50:11, could as well have the land as the

referrant. In addition, the word refers to God's mountain

(Exod 15:17), the city of Abel and Beth-Maacah (2 Sam

20:19), the site of the Ezekiel (Ezek 45:1) and Solomonic

(Ps 79:1) temples and the entire land of Israel (Jer 2:7;


            2Young, "Psalm 74," pp. 67-68.

            3UT, 'nt III.27, IV:64.

            4TWOT, s.v. "Nkw," by Victor P. Hamilton, 2:925.


Hiphil also have God as subject. There are four uses of Qal

in Psalms, plus one each of Piel and Hiphil with God as

subject. Psalm 135:21, part of a hymn, lauds Yahweh who

dwells in Zion. Psalm 68:17 and 19, in a mixed psalm, use

the verb in a description of the mountain God has desired.

            The fourth use, Psalm 74:2, is a bitter reminder to

God that He had, in fact, dwelt or "tented" in Mount Zion.l

The presence indicated by Nkw is always considered "out of

the ordinary and therefore provisional," characterized by a

certain "precariousness."2 Hamilton believes that bwy is

reserved to describe man's dwelling among men. It is seldom

used for God's dwelling on earth though it is frequently

used to describe God's abode in heaven.3  When bwy and Nkw  

are used of God, bwy indicates transcendence and distance,

while Nkw indicates immanence and nearness.4  Nkw is


            1J. Albert Soggin, Old Testament and Oriental

Studies (Rome: Biblical Institute Press, 1975), p. 144.

Soggin suggests "literally: 'put up the tent, camp': this

term appears in some . . . (biblical) texts and in the

papyri of Elephantine as a technical term for the expression

of the divine presence in the sanctuary. . . ."


            3Johnson, "Nkw," 2:925. 1 Kgs 8:27, "will God

indeed bwy on the earth?"

            4Frank Moore Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic

(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1973), pp.

245-46, 299, 323-24 (hereafter cited as Cross, CMHE). Nkw  

and bwy are in parallel fifteen times but only three have

God as subject, i.e., 1 Kgs 8:12-13 = 2 Chr 6:1-2; Psalm

68:17. For further data on usage of Nkw and bwy see LePeau,

"Psalm 68," pp. 153-54. For Ugaritic skn see UT, #19.2414.


frequent in the tabernacle pericopes of Exodus and the

temple passages in Ezekiel. In sum, tynq, tlxg, jtlHn, tnkw

all stress the intimate relationship between Israel and God.

To this fact the psalmist calls God's attention.


                                           Verse 3

                                                Hcn tvxwml jymfp hmyrh

                           :wdqb byvx frh-lk

Raise your steps toward the utter


The enemy has damaged everything

            in the sanctuary.


                                 jymfp hmyrh

            The emphatic imperative hmyrh specifies precisely

the way in which God is to remember. The juxtaposing of the

two words is a hapax legomenon.l Margolis, followed by

Kissane, emends to Mvdh, "footstool," as a metaphor for

temple.2  LXX has e@paron ta>j xei?raj sou e]pi> ta>j u[perhfan-

i<aj au]tw?n ei]j te<loj. . .  (Ps 73:3a). The translator read

jydy because feet or steps was too difficult.3 Briggs

retains the text: for verse 3a but regards it as a gloss for

the last clause of verse 2. He translates the half-verse,


            1Briggs, Psalms, 2:1.52.

            2Max Margolis, "Miscellen," ZAW 31 (1911):315 and

Edward Kissane, The Book of Psalms, 2 vols. (Dublin:

Browne and Nolan, 1954), 2:12 (hereafter cited as Kissane,


            3dy and Mvr occur together in Exod 17:11, Num 20:11,

and elsewhere.


"which your footsteps exalted to everlasting dignity."1  It

is best to retain the imperative and regard hmyrh as a call

for a new theophany.2

            This expression descriptively identifies the place

to which God should come. If the root is xWn, the meaning

is "deceptions" but if xvw, the meaning is "devastations."3

The superlative sense of Hcn is useful here.4 Verse 3b

supports the idea of total devastation.


                         wdqb byvx frh-lk

            The prominent position of lk underscores the totally

devastating nature of the activity of byvx. It is appar-

ently the direct object.5  ffr in Hiphil with b means "to do

injury or hurt," thus "to damage."6

            The parent noun fr is frequently juxtaposed to bvF

(cf. Gen 2:9, 17) and has a dual meaning of: 1) wrong in

relation to God's intention and 2) "detrimental in terms of


            1Briggs, Psalms, 2:152, 157.

            2Young, "Psalm 74," p. 70. This also is essentially

Weiser's view in Artur Weiser, The Psalms, trans. Herbert

Hartwell (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1962), p.

518 (hereafter cited as Weiser, Psalms).

            3BDB, pp. 674 and 996, respectively. LXX reads xWn,

u[perhfaniaj, "haughtiness"; Briggs reads nwn but gives a

very different sense; see above, p. 25, n. 4.

            4Thomas, “Hcn,” p. 107 and NAB. KJV, NASB and RSV

retain the temporal idea.

            5Delitzsch, Psalms, 2:329.

            6TWOT, s.v. “ffr-I ,” by G. Herbert Livingston,



its effects on man."1 It is significant for the tone of the

psalm that bvF does not occur. The dual meaning of the noun

carries through the verb. In Psalm 74:3, however, emphasis

is on the first sense, though the second is indirectly

applicable from the viewpoint of the psalmist.

            This verb may be a deliberate understatement for

extreme destruction and evil. Its close connection with  lk,

the preceding tvxwm, and the more complete description of

ruin in verses 4-7, all support the idea of an understate-

ment. The notion of total destruction seems to go beyond

the Maccabaean profanation and so argues against that late

date. There is a contradiction between this violent action

and its locus, wdqb.  What was sacred and set apart has been

violated. Verse 3 functions as a transition and in other



                            tyvx, rc and rrc

            It is appropriate, in connection with verse 3, to

give attention to the concept of "the enemy." There are six

relevant words strategically placed in this poem. Verses 3b

and 4a use byvx and Myrrc with two words separating them.3

rc and byvx occur with one word between them in verse 10.



            2See comments under discussion of structure, p. 178.

            3I have cited the absolute plurals in this para-

graph, where the text has suffixed plurals.



byvx and lbn-Mf are separated by two words in verse 18.

Verse 22 uses lbn.  Verse 23 separates Myrrc and byvx with

one word. The immediate discussion introduces the topic and

then focuses on byvx and Myrrc.  Other terms will be con-

sidered as they occur in the psalm.


History of Research

            A history of research into the identity of the enemy

in the book of Psalms may conveniently begin with Hermann

Gunkel.l He represents a transition in that history. While

he set psalm study as a whole in a new direction, he largely

conformed to pre-form-critical studies in his conclusions

about the enemy. The psalms in the Psalter were composed by

pious individuals or groups relatively late, though they

were patterned after psalms used in the first temple.2

Insofar as a historical setting could be proposed for a

given psalm, such a setting suggested a probable identity

for the enemy.

            Sigmund Mowinckel, Gunkel's student, agreed that the

psalms were originally cultic compositions. He asserted,

however, that they were written specifically for use in the


            1This review draws much from John Keating Wiles,

"The 'Enemy,' in Israelite Wisdom Literature." (Ph. D.

dissertation, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary,

1982; Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms International,

8227850), pp. 8-18 (hereafter cited as Wiles, "Enemy").

            2 Gunkel, Einleitung, pp. 209-11


pre-exilic temple.1 He propounded that the Nvx-ylfvp

(workers of iniquity) were sorcerers and demons whose curses

had brought illness to the suppliant.2 This religious iden-

tity of the enemy was in line with the cultic tradition

which Mowinkel believed the Psalms to reflect--an annual New

Year Festival.

            Commentators since Mowinkel have agreed that the

biblical psalms did originate in the Israelite cult.3 They

varied on the identity of the cult tradition. On the issue

of the enemy, Schmidt saw them as accusers of the psalmist

in a judicial sense.4 For Schmidt this helps account for

the protestations of innocence. To this point enemies in

the communal laments were generally regarded as political or

military enemies from outside the state.

            Harris Birkeland categorically insisted that "the

enemies of the individual were in principle identical with

those of the nation, viz, the gentiles."5 Birkeland started


            1Thus the title for the work by Sigmund Mowinkel,

The Psalms in Israel's Worship, 2 vols., trans. I). Ap-Thomas

(Nashville: Abingdon Press), l:xxiii, 29.


            3Weiser, The Psalms, pp. 35-52. Weiser espoused an

annual Covenant Renewal Festival

            4Hans Schmidt, Die Psalmen, (Tubingen: J.C.B. Mohr

[Paul Siebeck], 1934), p. 42 (hereafter cited as Schmidt,


            5Harris Birkeland, The Evildoers in the Book of

Psalms, (Oslo: Dybwad, 1955) p. 29 (hereafter cited as

Birkeland, Evildoers); Wiles, "Enemy," p. 11.


with the concrete terms Myrz, Mymf, and Myvg in five indi-

vidual laments.1 Further all royal psalms which mention the

enemy are national enemies.2 He claims the "I" in national

laments, which seems anomolous, where the enemy is a foreign

power, supports his thesis. Birkeland concludes that since

more than twenty individual psalms are concerned with a

national enemy, the remaining ambiguous references are

likely to follow this path. The "myth and ritual" school,

with its cultic drama of the dying and rising king, equates

the "I" of the psalms with the king.3

            One must grant that descriptions of national enemies

and of unidentified enemies are much the same. However, the

language is sufficiently elastic to apply to more than one

kind of enemy.4

            Wiles makes three statements based upon past

interpretation regarding the enemy in the psalms.5 These

considerations are useful in discussing the enemy in Psalm

74. (1) Sometimes the enemies are stereo-typical and


            1Birkeland, Evildoers p. 14.

            2See Pss 18, 20, 21, 28, 61, 89, 144, and 1 Sam


            3Wiles, "Enemy," pp. 13-14.

            4With Birkeland, Evildoers, p. 10. for a "myth and

ritual" position see Ivan Engnell, Studies in Divine King-

ship in the Ancient Near East (Oxford: Basil Blackwell,

1967), p. 170.

            5Wiles, "Enemy," pp. 17-18.


deliberately ambiguous in order to suggest various kinds of

hostility. (2) Sometimes the enemies are gentiles. (3)

Sometimes an Israelite did have personal enemies from within

the nation in a manner suggested by certain psalm titles.1



            The wholistic world-view reflected in the Old

Testament precludes ease in differentiating between terms in

a given semantic field.2 Absolutely precise shades of

meaning of some terms are elusive. Much Psalmic vocabulary

is specialized. Contrasts between words for "antagonist"

and words from other semantic fields (e.g., lydc, Myvg) make

this clear. Such specialization is "in part a function of

the Hebrew language itself."3

            byx is a common Semitic root.4 The Ugaritic 'yb is

            1The relevant psalms are 3, 7, 18, 34, 52, 54, 56,

57, and 59; cf. Wiles, "Enemy," pp. 5-6. Though these

psalms are individual laments, it is an easy step from

personal to party antagonisms.

            2"Wholistic" here means that the Old Testament is

not concerned to define and analyze its own vocabulary and

concepts in terms of precise categories. Its expression is

descriptive and relational.

            3Rosenbaum, "Antagonist," p. 107. Rosenbaum asserts

that the language of the psalms is particularly specialized.

He bases this on two assumptions. "There are no synonyms in

a natural language.     Secondly, liturgical poetry is compact

and uses words in a more strict manner than some other kinds

of literature. Both assumptions are found on p. 106.

            4Ugaritic--'yb, Akkadian--ayyabu; Canaanite--ibi (in

EA 129; 96; 252:28); see TDOT, s.v. “byx,” by Helmer

Ringgren, 1:212.


used in terms dealing with war, and as designations of

Baal's enemies.1 Akkadian ayyabu occurs in both historical

and religious texts.2 The king "boasts of having destroyed

the enemies of the land in obedience to the command of the

god." Often such enemies are unnamed. Similarly, the enemy

in biblical laments "could be national foes, personal adver-

saries, sorcerers, or demons; but their work is often

described in such general terms that it is difficult or even

s impossible to determine their identity. . . ."3 Though the

identity of the enemy in Psalm 74 at first seems to be for-

eign invaders, the issues are more complex than this.

            The verb byx occurs only in Exodus 23:22 where it is

parallel with rrc.4 The nouns, jybyvx and jyrrc are cognate

accusatives of the respective verbs in this text.5 The

enemy may be personal (as in Ahab's view of Elijah, 1 Kgs

21:20), or a nation which opposes God's people. The enemy

is usually named in historical texts but is undesignated in

parenetic passages, Solomon's dedicatory speech (1 Kgs 8:33,

34) and in Lamentations and Psalms.


            1War, UT, 1012:10, 17, 29; mythological, UT, 'nt

3:34 and 4:48-49. (Each of these has ‘ib parallel to srt as

in Ps 74:3-4.

            2Ringgren, “byx,” p. 212.                 3Ibid., p. 213.

            4In general, byx means "to be an adversary."

            5 byvx and jyrrc are in successive clauses in Ps

74:3, 4; it is bc and byvx in v. 10.


            Exodus 23:22 is instructive for Psalm 74. Yahweh-

Elohim is the subject of byaxA and thus God can be an byvx.

In an earlier time, when Israel rebelled, Yahweh became

byvxl ("their enemy"). "He fought against them" (Isa

63:10). The unprecedented idea that God would act as an

aggressor from outside the community, against His own

people, expresses itself in this passage (also Lam 2:4-5).

This concept may be haunting the psalmist in Psalm. 74.1



            Ten psalms use Myrrc.2 Rosenbaum says of these that

only Psalm 74 has a "clearly historical setting.3 rrc has

the Canaanites as subject (Num 33:55) while the noun Myrrc  

refers to Midianites and Kittim (Num 25:17). Even Isaiah

11:13 uses rc in terms of international relations. These

clearly identify rc as foreign.4

            jyrrc appears only three times (Pss 74:4, 23; 8:3)

with God as the antecedent to the suffix. Forms of the verb

JrH, "to reproach," are found with rc words in 31:12, 6.9

19f, and 74:10. The verb Cxn, "to revile," is never found


            1The unusual emphasis on "Your" (God's) enemy (Ps

74:4, 23, whereas Pss 44, 60, 79, 80, and 137 never expli-

citly refer to the enemy as God's) may imply that the

psalmist thinks that God has mistargeted the community as

His enemy.

            2Pss 6:8; 7:5, 7; 8:3; 10:5; 23:5; 31:12; 42:11;

69:20; 74:4, 23; 143:12.

            3Rosenbaum, "Antagonist," p. 83.

            4Amos 5:12 and Lev 18:18 are rare exceptions.


with Myrrc as subject but does occur once with byx as in

74:10.  JrH occurs with byvx six times in the Psalms.1

            The choice of words in Psalm 74 is more than

stylistic.  byvx sometimes refers to domestic enemies and

here this is likely. Internal political antagonists were

common during the monarchic era.2 If the object of an

antagonist's JrH is an individual, the verb means "to

reproach." If the object is God, then the verb means to

blaspheme. If the antagonist is a foreigner, then blasphemy

is inappropriate regardless of the object.3 Cxn is normally

used for negative relationships between God and


            jyrrc are foreigners who in Psalm 74 are character-

ized by vgxw, roaring, and lvq, shouting. If Myrrvc of Psalm

8:3b are characterized by shouting, then these are seen in

sharp contrast to the utterances of babes and sucklings in

3b. God is able to use the weak who are submissive to him

to confound the consummate opposition of roaring foreign


            1Pss 44:17; 55:13; 69:18-19; 74:18; 89:52-53; 102:9.

            22 Kgs 18:17-25 implies pro-Egyptian and pro-

Assyrian elements in Judah. The division of the Solomonic

kingdom (1 Kgs 12) demonstrates the reality of internal

political factions.

            3Dahood, Psalms II, p. 203. In 1 Sam 17:26

means "insult."

            4For Cxn with Israel as subject and God as object,

see Num 14:11, 16:30; Isa 1:4, 5:13; Jer 23:17; 2 Sam 12:14;

for the reverse see Deut 32:19; Jer 14:21; Lam 2:1.6. Cf.

Rosenbaum, "Antagonist," p. 87, n. 30.


enemies in league with Israelite malefactors.1 In sum,

jyrrc tends to denote verbal rather than physical opposition

in all its psalms uses. This comports with the idea that rc

does not primarily designate one engaged in physical combat

or warfare.


                                             Verse 4

                                                jdfvm brqb jyrrc vgxw

                            :tvtx Mttvx vmw

Those harassing you have roared

            during your appointed feast

They have set up their standards

            as the signs.


               jyrrc vgxw

            The verb gxw occurs twenty times, always in Qal

stem. Twice it is used concretely of a lion roaring.2 Once

the roar of a lion and thunder are fused.3 All remaining

instances, except one, use the lion's roar figuratively.4

In eight of these the Lord roars, usually from His heavenly

or earthly abode, and eight times an enemy, usually Gentile,

roars against his anticipated prey.

            gxw in Psalm 74:4 is ironic; God's enemy is roaring

in gloating triumph on the site of God's temple. The enemy

as Myrrc focuses on his oppressive measures of military

            1Ibid., p. 87.

            2Judg 14:5; Ps 104:21.                     3Job 37:4.

            4In Ps 38:9 it is the roar of guilt for sin.


occupation. In that jyrrc is a participial substantive, the

suffix is nicely construed as objective genitive.1 "Those

harrassing you have roared during your appointed feast."


                                    jdfvm brqb

            Lamentations 2:1-11 describes the devastation that

befell Jerusalem in 587/586.  yndx, the sovereign Lord,

withdraws restraint from Judah's byvx.2 He Himself bends

His bow like an byvx and stations Himself against Jerusalem

like a rc. He destroys her palaces and fortresses (vv.

3-5). Lamentations 2:6ab is particularly significant.

                                                 vdfvm tHw vkw Ngk smHyv

                                                tbwv dfvm Nvycb hvhy Hkw

                                                                                    (Lam 2:6ab)

"He laid waste His covert like a garden; He ruined His

assembly."3  vkw is His booth or tent.4 David affirms that

the Lord will hide him in hks where the word is parallel

with vlhx (Ps 27:5). hks is a place of divine presence.


            1BDB 865. For objective genitive see, GKC, p. 416,

#128h and p. 438, #135m.

            2yndx is the subject of verbs denoting aggressive

and violent actions against Jerusalem, its fortresses,

institutions, and power structure. Some of the verbs are:

byfy (v. 1); flb, "utter destruction," (Piel stem v. 2);

fdg and vnymy . . . bywh (v. 3); byvxk . . . hyh (v. 5); tHw

(vv. 5-6); smHyv (v. 6);  Hnz (v. 7; cf. Ps 74:1) .

            3Delbert R. Hillers, Lamentations AB (Garden City,

NY: Doubleday and Company, 1972), p. 32.

            4This is the only place in the Old Testament with

tHw; elsewhere it is hks.


            On the strength of the parallelism in Lamentations

2:6a, dfvm is a place of appointed meeting. The root is

dfy, "to appoint." Its Arabic cognate means "to promise,

threaten, predict" while the Akkadian adu means "perh. . . .

decide."1 The noun dfvm ranges between appointed time and

appointed place.2

            dfvm as appointed time, or festival, occurs in

Lamentations 2:6b. Here, dfvm forms a hendiadys with tbwv.

The second noun functions as an attributive adjective to the

first.3 With emphasis on the adjective, the v itself may be

emphatic.4 "And Yahweh has caused even the Sabbath feast to

be forgotten in Zion." This use of tbw confirms the meaning

feast for dfvm in Lamentations 2:6b.

            Psalm 74:4 and 8 may conform to Lamentations 2:6 in

the use of dfvm.  ydfvm (v. 8) as the object of vprw is

clearly a place. jdfvm (v. 4) is less clear. The psalmist

may have been an eyewitness to these events.5 If so,

perhaps he heard the shouts of the occupying enemy while the

worshippers were assembled. Thus, dfvm here may mean


            1BDB, p. 416, but cf. CAD, 1:1:13ff.                      2BDB, p. 417.

            3E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech Used in the

Bible (London: Messrs. Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1898; reprint

ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company, 1968), pp.

657, 491, 506.

            4GKC, p. 484, #154, n. 1.

            5The poet of Lam 2 surely was an eyewitness.


feast. One might argue, however, that place is intended on

the strength of "place" :being implied in the second colon.


              tvtx Mttvx vmw

            The root for ttvx is tvx "to mark, describe with a

mark."1 The noun in this basic sense occurs with reference

to Cain.2 The plural denotes the military standards or

banners of the twelve tribes as they prepared to leave

Sinai.3 This may be the sense of the suffixed plural in

Psalm 74:4.4 The jyrrf, oppressors, set up their military

standards on the temple site.

            A second possibility is to read the Mttvx as

religious symbols on analogy with the plating on an earlier

altar, which was an tvx to the sons of Israel that they not

repeat the sin of the sons of Korah. Aaron's rod was placed

in the ark as an tvx against the same rebellion.5 This

sense accords well with the probable usage in Psalm 74.9


            1BDB, p. 16.               2Gen 4:15.                  3Num 2:10.

            4J. J. Stewart Perowne, The Book of Psalms, 2 vols.

(London: George Bell and Sons, 1879), 1:26 (hereafter cited

as Perowne, Psalms); also A. Cohen, The Psalms (London: The

Soncino Press, 1968), p. 237. Dahood, Psalms II, p. 201,

also takes this view, but he proposes a curious emendation.

He moves the suffix n to initial position on the following

word and translates "they set up their emblems by the

hundreds." This relieves the problem of accounting for a

final accusative tvtx but is speculative, unrealistic, and


            5Num 16:38, 17:110; as with Delitzsch Psalms, vol. 2,

p. 330.


where the reference is likely to religious symbols. Given

the profound inter-relationship between offical religion in

the ancient Near East and warfare, pagan religious symbols

is plausible. The cultic orientation of Psalm 74 enhances

this interpretation.1 The second tvtx is best construed as

an adverbial accusative of comparison.2 The double occur-

ence is striking, perhaps to contrast the pagan religious

signs with the disappearance of the signs of God's holy

presence in verse 9.3


                                                  Verse 5

                                                   hlfml xybmk fdvy

                                                           :tvmdrq Cf-jbsb

One was known as one who raises

            axes in a thicket of trees.

            "The sense of verse 5 . . . and its relation to

verse 6 have been completely misunderstood by our transla-

tors."4 On the basis of available data only approximate


            1Derek Kidner, Psalms 73-150, (London: Inter-

Varsity Press, 1976) p. 266, opts for military standards.

            2In line with remarks in GKC, p. 375, #118r, n. 2„

            3For tvx as symbol and "attestations of divine

presence," see BDB, p. 16, and Kidner, Psalms, p. 266.

            4This is from J. F. McCurdy's note in C. B. Moll,

The Psalms, trans. with additions by C. A. Briggs, Lange's

Commentary on the Holy Scriptures (Grand Rapids: Zondervan

Publishing House, n, d. ), p. 421 (hereafter cited as Moll,

Psalms). Buttenwieser calls vv. 5-6 "hopelessly corrupt" in

Moses Buttenweiser, The Psalms. Chronologically Treated


meanings can be assigned to these terms, but the general

thrust seems clear.1 A soldier was known (Niphal imperfect)

according to his ability to raise axes in a thicket of

trees, i.e., the more vigorously he engaged in temple

destruction, the better his reputation. Verse 5 presents a

simile of a soldier's action. Verse 6 describes results of

that action on temple property.

            Driver labels this verb "obviously corrupt" and

suggests emending it to vfdy or vfdy.2  Either emendation

depends upon a hypothetical Hebrew root hfd equivalent to

the attested Arabic root da'a III which means "to pull

down."3 Driver also suggests re-dividing hlfml and

transposing tvmdrl so that it immediately follows the


            Earlier, Hyatt sought to retain the MT by proposing

that root fdy "is sometimes cognate with Arabic wd' in the

sense of 'to be quiet,' 'at rest,' 'submissive'." 4 He

translates the verse "Smitten at the upper entrance is the


with a New Translation (New York: Ktav Publishing House,

Inc., 1969), p. 613 (hereafter cited as Buttenweiser,


            1Perowne, Psalms, 2:27.

            2G. R. Driver, "Hebrew Notes," JBL 68 (1949):57-58.


            4J. Philip Hyatt, "A Note on 'Yiwwada' in Ps 74:5,."

AJSL 58(1941):99.


wooden trellis-work with axes."1 In terms of leaving the

text intact and making sense of the material, this solution

is commendable.

            Rahlf's edition of LXX attaches vfdvy to verse 4

yielding for verses 4b-5a "signs (pointing) to the upper

entrance they knew not."2 This rendering fails to recognize

the chiastic structure of verses 5 and 6. Another expedient

is to emend to vfdgy from "fdg, to cut, hew." Kissane

translates "They are cut down as if one had brought up axes

in a thicket of trees.”3

                                                Verse 6

                                                            dHy hyHvtp tfv

                                                :Nvmlhy tplykv lywkb

And now its carvings with felling

            tools and axes they have totally


            MT reads htfv for tf. LXX has e]ce<kofan, perhaps

from vttk, "to beat," "crush," "hammer."4 Some versions

have apparently read vttf, "to bend," "make crooked,"

"pervert."5 MyHtp means engravings "on (wood overlaid with)


            1Ibid.                           2Also JB.

            3Kissane, Psalms, 2:10, 13; see also Schmidt,

Psalmen, p. 141, GNB, :RSV, and NIV; cf. BDB, p. 154.

            4BDB, p. 510.

            5NEB appears to translate vtvf "they ripped," while

JB uses "hacking."


metal" as in the temple (1 Kgs 6:21, 22, and 29).1 Perhaps

the reference is to "valuable metal objects (and) . . .

decorative plating."2  vdHy is an adverbial accusative,

"altogether" or all.3

            The first of two instruments is probably derived

from lwk, “to fall,” hence a "felling tool" of some :kind.

The tvplyn were axes of some sort.4 The imperfect Nvmlhy

emphasizes the action in progress and with initial htfv it

may reflect an eyewitness account.

            In spite of the difficult words, MT makes sense as

it stands. A straightforward translation is best. Verse 1

presents a threatened flock. The enemy roared like a lion

in verse 4. The soldiers smash the temple carvings, as

woodsmen felling trees. The imagery of forests, flocks, and

lions appear together also in Zechariah 11:2-4.


                                          Verse 7

                                                                     jwdqm wxb vHlw

                                                            :jmw-Nkwm vllH Crxl


            1BDB, p. 836. The noun also refers to stone

engravings, see Exod 28:11, 21, and 36 and Zech 3:9.

            2Anderson, Psalms, 2:540.

            3BDB, p. 403.

            4Both words are hapax legomenon. lywk is rare in

Aramaic, but it is used in the Targum to Jer 48:22 (BDB, p.

506), tvplyk is a loan word from Akkadian, kalapu (BDB, p.

476; CAD, 8:66).




They have ignited your sanctuary

            with fire

They have totally profaned the dwelling

            place of your name

            Hlw in Piel often has a negative connotation.1 It

is paired with wxb three times in addition to Psalm 74:7

(Jdg 1:8, 20:48; 2 Kgs 8:11).2  jyrrc (v. 4), as the subject

of  vHlw, suggests that setting fire to the sacred precincts

was not an act of the invading armies but rather an act of

oppression by those who occupied Jerusalem after her defeat.

            The significance of wdqm is best seen in relation-

ship to the second colon of the verse. The root wdq

basically means separated or dedicated. This latter idea is

concretely illustrated by its use to designate prostitutes

in the pagan cults (Gen 38:21-22, a female prostitute; Deut

23:18, a male prostitute).

            Yahweh's presence (Exod 3:5) set apart, or dedi-

cated, a place. Moses must remove his sandals because the

ground is wdq, “holy”.

            Another perspective on wdq appears when it is dis-

tinguished from lH, a noun derived from llH, the main verb

of 74:7b. When David requested bread for his men from the

priest at Nob, the priest answered, lH MHl Nyx "there is no


            1But for positive use see Exod 4:23, 5:2; Gen 8:7f;

Jer 17:8; Pss 80:12, 44:20.

            2Also –b wx vHlw, Hos 8:14; Amos 1:4, 7, 10, 12;

2:2, 5; Ezek 39:6.



common bread," wdq MHl Mxyk,  "but only holy (dedicated)

bread."1 Whether the bread was lH or wdq did not depend on

a quality inherent in the bread.

            This same idea is evident in Genesis 2:3 which  

reports that Myhlx sanctified, wdqyv, the seventh day. That

day was the same as the other six in terms of Genesis 1:14,

but it was made uncommon, or set apart for special use by

God. Yahweh accuses Israel, through Ezekiel, saying, txv

dxm vllH vtbw, "They have greatly profaned (i.e., made

common, like any other day) my sabbaths."2  wdq and llH  

appear together in a theological setting in Leviticus 22:

31-33. Yahweh's self-identification, hvhy ynx, occurs at

the end of each verse. The prohibition in verse 32 is,

ywdq ymw tx vllHt xlv, "You shall not profane (make common)

the name of my holiness (distinctness, separateness)."3


            11 Sam 21:5. The priest indicates that the men can

eat the bread if they are wdq, i.e., have not recently had

sexual relations. David affirms, wdq Myrfnh ylkvhyv; even

though their journey has been lH, common. Though there are

religious connotations in the passage, a basically non-

theological, concrete contrast between wdq and lH is

evident.  lH denotes what is common, plain, ordinary,

whereas wdq denotes what is set apart to special use,

uncommon, non-ordinary. The background for the priest's

requirement may be seen in Lev 15:18 and 21:1-9, especially

v. 6.

            2Ezek 20:13 (also vv. 16, 21, 24). Jeremiah accuses

the upper classes of his day ymw-tx vllHtv vbwt--"You turned

and profaned (made common) my name" (Jer 34:16).

            3wdq appears three times in v. 32: ywdq, ytwdqnv,

and Mkwdqm.



            Psalm 74:7 may be an instance of calculated irony.

The enemy has profaned or treated as common, vllH, Yahweh's

wdqm, a place of Yahweh's separateness from what is common.l

The praying community is distressed that Yahweh permits the

enemy to treat His earthly abode in a way that is anti-

thetical to its intended significance.

            wdqm refers to both the tabernacle and the temple.

The word occurs seventy-four times. The wdqm appears to be

the location of the ark of the covenant.2  wdqm identifies a

variety of objects including the desert tabernacle (Exod

25:8), Israelite sanctuaries (at Shechem, Josh 24:26,

Bethel, Amos 7:13), pagan sanctuaries (Tyre, Ezek 28:18),

the second temple (Neh 10:40), and Ezekiel's temple (Ezek

43-48, et al). Twice it refers to Yahweh as the sanctuary

of His people (Isa 8:14, Ezek 11:16). Psalm 96:6 is the one

instance which may refer to Yahweh's heavenly abode.3

                  LePeau translates Psalm 68:36:

            Fearful is God from His sanctuary

                        for God of Israel is He.

            Giver of strength and mightiness

                        to the people blessed of God.4


            1Ps 74:7b. The object of vllH is Nkwm. The latter

is parallel to wdqm in the first colon.

            21 Chr 22:19 and 28:10.

            3This survey is from LePeau, "Psalm 68," p. 230.

            4Ibid., p. 229.



Widely regarded as a poem from the united monarchy, Psalm 68

has elements of a victory hymn. This concluding verse sees

God in His fearful strength, moving out of His earthly

abode. This is a stark contrast to the enemy setting fire

to God's wdqm.

                                            Verse 8

                                                                     dHy Mnyn Mblb vrmx

                           :Crxb lx-ydfvm-lk vprw

They have said in their heart,

            "Let us oppress them completely."

They have burned all the meeting

            places of God in the land.

                                          dHy Mnyn

            GKC calls Psalm 74:8 a "very corrupt passage."1 He

takes Mnyn as a substantive rather than imperfect Qal with

suffix.2 BDB interprets the form as a verb with the meaning

"to suppress," but acknowledges that elsewhere the meaning

is to oppress.3 Lisowsky lists eighteen appearances of the

root including Jeremiah 24:38, 46:16, 50:16, and Zephaniah


            1GKC, p. 218, #76f.

            2Ibid.; LXX also interprets   as a noun, sug-

ge<neia au]tw<n in the sense of a kinship group (LSJ, p.

1659): "They said, 'in their heart the whole brood of them

are (set) upon this. . . .’” (see The Septuagint Bible,

trans. Charles Thompson, ed. Charles Arthur Muses, 2nd ed.

[Indian Hills, CO: The Falcon Wing's Press, 1960], p. 931).

            3BDB, p. 413.



3:1, but not including Psalm 74:8.1 Even-Shoshan lists

fifteen appearances including Psalm 74:8, which he indicates

as the only Qal entry. He does not include the passages

listed above. BDB lists these passages with Psalm 123:4 as

having a Qal partiticiple used absolutely.2 All agree on

the remaining fourteen uses of hny, all of which are in

Hiphil. The object with Hiphil is often rg, ynf, Nvybx, wid-

ows, or orphans, i.e., people who are powerless to protect


            dHy is an adverbial accusative, similar to the

accusative of number.3 BDB suggests that it is used in

poetry as a synonym for Mlk, but that dHy is more forcible,

combining the ideas "all at once as well as altogether."4


                      Crxb lx-ydfvm-lk vprw

            LXX and Syriac read a cohortative, tybwn or tbwn,

"Let us cause to cease from the land." The LXX translates


            1The concordances cited in this and the following

sentences are Gerhard Liskowsky, Konkordanz Zum Hebraischen

Alten Testament, Zweite Auflage (Stuttgart: Deutsche

Bibelgesellschaft, 1981) and Abraham Even-Shoshan, A New

Concordance of the Old Testament (Jerusalem: "Kiryat-Sefer"

Ltd., 1983).

            2BDB, p. 413.

            3A. B. Davidson, Hebrew Syntax, 3rd ed. (Edinburgh:

T and T Clark, 1912), .p. 99 #69, r. 3 (hereafter cited as

Davidson, Syntax).

            4BDB, p. 403; italics in original.


as "from," a widely attested use in Ugaritic literature.1

It also interprets the difficult ydfvm as feasts. Perhaps

this latter word influenced the use of  tbwn.  LXX trans-

lators could not account for a plurality of meeting places.2

     lx-ydfvm is the most vexing element in Psalm 74:8.

Aquila interpreted this as synagogues, prompting the idea

that the psalm was Maccabean since the synagogue cannot be

confidently dated earlier.3 Some alternately presume the

date of the psalm to be exilic and thus rule out "syna-

gogues" as a viable interpretation.

            Since verse 7 states that the temple (i.e., wdqm)

was burned, this comports well with 2 Kings 25:9 and 587

B.C. when the temple was indeed burned. Only the porch and

gates were said to be burned in the Maccabaean era (1 Macc


            1Gordon, UT, pp. 92-93. For a good discussion of

this matter see Weston W. Fields, "Ugaritic Prepositions and

Hebrew Exegesis: An Expansion of Ugaritic Textbook Chapter

10" (unpublished term paper for the course Advanced Ugaritic

Grammar, Grace Theological Seminary, Dec. 18, 1975), pp.


            2A. Gelston "A Note on Psalm LXXIV 8," VT 24:I

(1984):83 (hereafter cited as Gelston, "Ps 74:8").

            3Ibid., p. 82. Others who follow Aquila are De-

litzsch (Psalms, 2:331), and KJV, NASB, and NIV are more

general with "meeting places of God." For a summary of

current views see Aubrey R. Johnson, The Cultic Prophet and

Israel's Psalmody (Cardiff: University of Wales Press,

1979), pp. 132-33, n. 7 (hereafter cited as Johnson, CPIP).



4:38; 2 Macc 1:8, 8:33). Thus, according to Gelston, "the

modern consensus of an exilic date for the psalm is accept-


            Assuming a Judaean provenance, how should one

understand lx-ydfvm? The most common meaning "appointed

time" will not fit since the noun is an object of vprw.2

"Appointed gathering" or "assembly," useful in verse 4, is

similarly not a suitable object.

            On the basis of parallelism between vdfvm and vkw in

Lamentations 2:6 where both refer to the temple, dfvm may

clearly bear a local sense.3 This sense is the only idea

suitable as an object of  vprw. Johnson's own suggestion to

repoint to lx-ydfvm, "those who held office from God," is

both improbable as an object of vprw and lacks versional


            If "meeting places" is correct, how does one account

for the plural. Galling suggests a reference to non-

Yahwistic sanctuaries, taking Crx in the broader sense

of "world."5 He adduces 2 Kings 18:33-37 as a parallel.


            1Gelston, "Ps 74:8," p. 83.                2BDB, pp. 417-18.

            3Gelston, "Ps 74:8," p. 83.

            4Johnson, CPIP, pp. 132-33. See criticism by

Gelston, "Ps 74:8," p. 8'87, n. 5.

            5K. Galling, "Erwagungen zur Antiken Synagoge," ZDPV

72 (1956):165, cited by Gelston, "Ps 74:8," p. 84 and p. 87,

n. 6.



This is improbable on three counts.1 The context clearly

focuses on Yahwism. Secondly, the psalmist would not regret

destruction of non-Yahwistic sanctuaries in a lament.

Finally, it is unlikely that the Babylonians would embark on

shrine destruction throughout its territories.

            Retaining the usual meaning of Crx, i.e., Judah,

these may be local sanctuaries. Supposedly, Josiah had

purged the country of rival religious meeting places. How-

ever, Josiah's successors restored the "high places," so

that they may have been in use at the time of the Babylonian

campaign. Since the psalmist has intense concern for the

temple, as indicated by his use of jmw-Nkwm in verse 7, it

is not likely that he would mourn the loss of potentially

rival worship sites.

            S. Krauss proposed that the plural refers to the

temple complex with its many buildings. He seeks support

in the fact that several manuscripts read plurals in verse

4,  jydfvm and verse 7, jywdqm. Rashi takes a local histori-

cal sense of the plural and refers to the sanctuary at


            1See the summary in Gelston, "Ps 74:8," p. 84.

            2Ibid. This follows Gelston's general argument but

rejects his erroneous assumption that Deuteronomy and the

former prophets do not date earlier than the late 7th c.


            3Cited by Gelston, "Ps 74:8," p. 84, with incomplete

data as S. Krauss, Synagogale Altertumer (Vienna, 1922), pp.




Shiloh and the first and second temples. Though Krauss

appeals to Rashi it is clear Rashi is not saying the same

thing as Krauss. Krauss also takes Crxb as a stereotyped

expression which for him would otherwise be redundant. This

is a gratuitous attempt.

            Gelston's final and for him "most natural" option is

to take the plural as a reference to other Yahwistic worship

sites. While sacrifice was proper only at Jerusalem, these

satellite worship sites could accommodate communal praise

and prayer along with reading and exposition of Scripture.1

Weingreen argues that these ingredients of later synagogue

practice were rooted in pre-exilic times.2

            There was a place of prayer at Mizpah in Maccabean

times (1 Macc 3:46). It is also possible that some former

"high places" were adapted for non-sacrificial aspects of

Yahweh worship after the Josiah reforms.3 Only the location

but none of the cultic aspects of these former high places

would have been appropriated. There is insufficient

evidence to designate lx-ydfvm as synagogues but these may

be precursors to this institution which flourished in inter-

testamental Judaism.


            1Geiston, "Ps 74:8," p. 85.

            2J. Weingreen, From Bible to Mishnah (New York:  

Holmes and Meier Publishers, Inc., 1976), pp. 120-30.

            3Gelston, "Ps 74:8," p. 86.



                                           Verse 9

                                                        vnyxr xl vnyttvx

                                                               xybn dvf-Nyx

                                                :hm-df fdy vntx-xlv

Our signs we do not see.

There is no longer a prophet

And there is no one with us who

            knows how long.



            vnyttvx contrasts with Mttvx of verse 4. There it

could be either military or religious signs of the enemy.

Here the immediate context demands religious signs. Verse 4

initiated a description of oppressive measures by an occu-

pation army against religious practices of the conquered.

vnyttvx begins a response which particularizes the com-

munity's sense of God-forsakenness.

            Young argues that with hxr these ttvx are concrete

acted signs such as circumcision or the Sabbath but more

likely miracles of God's power.1 Kraus, on the contrary,

asserts "tvtvx sind hier die Offenbarungszeichen, durch

die Jahu sein Einschreiten ankundigt. . . .”2 As revelatory

signs these would be to confirm a divine message. When


            1Young, "Psalm 74," p. 86. In this Young follows

Schmidt, Psalmen, p. 142 and Dahood, Psalms II, p. 202.

            2Hans-Joachim Kraus, Psalmen, 2 vols., 5 Aufl.

(Neukrichen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag des

Erziehungsvereins, 1978), 2.680.



Gideon requested from Yahweh an tvx that Yahweh indeed had

commissioned him, Yahweh responded by miraculously consuming

Gideon's sacrifice (Jdg 6:17 with vv. 14-21). Later Samuel

informs Saul that he will meet at three locations three

contingents of men. At each location Saul will participate

in a comparatively common encounter. As these events trans-

pire, they become tvtxh, confirming God's commission upon

Saul to be king (1 Sam 10:7, 9 with vv. 1-6).

            God gave confirmatory ttvx to Gideon and Saul. The

sign to Gideon was a miraculous event but for Saul the signs

were a series of "common" events.1  tvx is not necessarily

miraculous or spectacular. Jonathan would construe the

verbal response of the Philistine garrison as an tvx, or

confirmation that he should proceed with his attack (1 Sam


            This latter instance shows that tvx is also revela-

tory. Jonathan perceived that God's mind was conveyed

through the Philistine words.2 At the end of a lament David

requests a revelatory tvx that his prayer has been heard.

He wants to know that he is about to be delivered from his


            1The miraculous feature in the Saul commissioning

account is Samuel's prediction of the events. Other

"natural" events serving as signs are found at 1 Sam 2:34

and Jer 44:29-30.

            2See J. J. M. Roberts, "Of Signs, Prophets, and Time

Limits: A Note on Psalm 74:9." CBQ 39 (1977): 475-76

(hereafter cited as "Psalm 74:9").


adversity.1 This kind of concern lies behind Psalm 74:9.

            The Exodus plague narrative uses tvx several times.2

One of the purposes of the plagues as ttvx was to impart

knowledge of the true God.3 Similarly, Yahweh pronounces

judgment upon people of Judah who fled to Egypt. He gave

the tvx of the coming death of Pharoah Hophra that they

might know the certainty of His words of judgment.4

            The Saul and Gideon events show that tvtx may

confirm divine action and, therefore, divine presence. At

Michmash (1 Sam 14:10) and in David's lament (Ps 86:17)

ttvx may reveal the divine will and intent. The Exodus

plagues and the predicted death of Pharoah Hophra intended

to convey knowledge about God.5 Each of these factors may

be present in Psalm 74:9.


            1Ibid., p. 476. Roberts compares a passage from

Ludlul, "'[In] waking hours he sent the message and showed

the favourable sign (ittus damqatu) to my peoples.'" (Cited

from W. G. Lambert, Babylonian Wisdom Literature [Oxford:

Clarendon Press, 1960] pp. 50-51:46-47.)

            2Exod 4-13 passim.                          3E.g., Exod 7:3, 5.

            4Jer 44:29-30.

            5Helfmeyer has outlined seven functions of tvtx,

i.e., to affirm knowledge (Jer 44:29-30); to impart

knowledge (Gen 4:15; Exod 12:13); to motivate faith (Exod

4:1-9); as memorials (Exod 13:19; Josh 4:6); as covenant

signs (Gen 9:17; 17:11; Exod 31:13, 17); as confirmation (1

Sam 2:34; 2 Kgs 20:8); signs (Isa 8:18; Ezek 4:1-3). For

the list see TDOT, s.v. "tvx," by F. J. Helfmeyer, 1:171-88.


                                   vnyxr xl

            vnyxr as a verb of perception may be translated as

simple past, "we did not see," present perfect, "we have not

seen," or as a general present, "we do not see."1 The last

is preferable here,2 especially in that the two nominal

clauses that follow are best cast into the present tense.

The present idea fits well with the apparent eyewitness

account of temple profanation (vv. 4-7).


                               xybn dvf Nyx

            Johnson notes that prophetic function was

characterized by the use of ttvx.3 This observation helps

to explain the proximity of clauses and ideas relating to

ttvx and xybn in Psalm 74:9. There is no prophet to bring

from God an assuring word that God will act favorably in

behalf of the praying community.4 Johnson sees the

psalmist's denial of a prophetic presence as implying that


            1See Thomas 0. Lambdin, Introduction to Biblical

Hebrew (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1971), p. 38, #4

(hereafter cited as Lambdin, IBH).

            2For the clause GNB has "All our sacred symbols are

gone;" NEB, "We do not see what lies before us;" NAB, "deeds

on our behalf we do not see." KJV, NASB, and NIV are

similar to NAB.

            3Aubrey R. Johnson, The Cultic Prophet in Ancient

Israel (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1979), pp.

52-54 (hereafter cited as CPAI).

            4This is the perception of the community. God's

servants do not always have a correct perception; see, e.g.,

Abraham's expedient in relationship to Hagar (Gen 16) and

Elijah's complaint (1 Kgs 19:13-18).


he is not a prophet but seeks to fill a prophetic function,

namely, intercession for a needy suppliant.l

            The clause has been understood variously. Young

says it is possible that "there is no longer one who has as

intimate a relationship with God as did men like Abraham."2

Others say that the prophets do not discharge their office.3

            Roberts proposes a plausible conceptual context for

the clause. Zechariah reports the same consternation on the

part of the angel of Yahweh. The angel asks how long

Yahweh's indignation will last beyond the predicted seventy

years (Zech 1:12). Again, Hananiah's prediction of a two-

year year limit on the Babylonian oppression of Judah. failed to

materialize (Jer 28:3). Ezekiel attests the fact that the

faith of many in Jerusalem was devastated when optimistic

predictions of false prophets did not materialize. "Yahweh

does not see us. Yahweh has forsaken the land"

(Ezek 8:12, 9:9).4


            1Johnson, Psalmody, pp. 131-32. For the prophet as

intercessor see Gen 20:7; 1 Sam 7:4-6; Jer 21:1-10,

27:16-18, 37:3-10, 42:1-22; Amos 7:2-3, 5-6 (but here see

Robert R. Wilson, Prophecy and Society in Ancient Israel

(Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1980), pp. 267, 283-84.

            2Young, "Psalm 74," pp. 86-87. The only other use

of won in Pss apparently refers to Abraham, Ps 105:15.

            3Kraus, Psalmen, 2:680; see also Ezek 7:26 and Lam


            4Roberts, "Psalm 74:9," pp. 479-80.


            The spread of the proverb ". . . every vision comes

to naught," irritated Yahweh so that He announced the end of

"false vision" and "flattering divination" (Ezek 12:22-24).

His word of imminent judgment will be performed without

delay (Ezek 12:25). These factors demonstrate that in bib-

lical times a true prophet could be at hand but the people

may be so distraught from prolonged anguish that it seems to

them there is no prophet, "whose words could be counted on

to come to pass."1

            The last clause, "there is no one who knows how

long" may reflect a list of prophets, who like Hananiah, had

made optimistic predictions regarding collapse of Babylon

and return of furniture and treasure to the temple. Indeed,

in Psalm 74, especially verses 4-8, enemy presence has a

high profile. Psalm 74:9 depicts the community's perception

that Israelite oracular practice has failed.


                          hm-df fdy vntx-xlv

            tvx as an indicator that an event will take place in

a specified period of time is found in Isaiah 7:16. The

Immanuel sign consists in part in indicating that within


            1This is essentially the view of Roberts on Psalm

74:9. He does date the Psalm to the exilic period, after

587 B.C. (see Roberts, "Psalm 74:9," p. 475), and suggests

that the psalmist may have discounted Jeremiah as a traitor

and Ezekiel as a madman. Thus, Ps 74:9 reflects a "histori-

cally conditioned failure of confidence" (p. 480). While

this date may not be certain, Roberts' idea has merit, given

the mood of the psalm and the malaise which it reflects.


the usual amount of time it would take this child's discre-

tionary powers to develop, the lands of Israel and Syria

will be deserted. Several predictions in the Bible have

built-in time limits for their fulfillment. Unlike Isaiah

7:16 and 37:30 these do not include the use of tvx.1

            All of these instances of prediction of divine judg-

ment specify either its arrival or its duration. Roberts

sites several illustrations from cuneiform texts which

indicate "predetermined limits to the periods of divine

wrath."2 Thus, biblical and extra-biblical material attest

a practice of specifying time limits on divine judgment upon

the community.

            It is not accidental that the first and last cola

mention tvx and hm-df respectively.3 The Psalmist is


            lIsa 37:30 indicates a three-year process as tvxh

the sign that Yahweh will judge the Assyrian king.

Announcements of judgment without tvx include: desolation

of Moab in three years (Isa 11:14); fall of Kedar within one

year (Isa 21:6); breaking of the Babylonian yoke within two

years (Jer 28:3); Judaean exile and desolation of Tyre will

each last seventy years (Jer 25:11-12 and Isa 23:15, 17);

for brief discussion see Roberts, "Psalm 74:9," pp. 477-78.

            2Ibid., p. 478 (incl. notes 18-23); e.g., Roberts

quotes an omen text, ". . . the Umman-manda will arise and

rule the land. The gods will depart from their daises, and

Bel will go to Elam. It is said that after thirty years

vengeance will he exercised and the gods will return to

their place." Roberts cites from George Smith, Cuneiform

Inscriptions III, 61 mo. 2:21'-22'.

            3hm-df should be retained as integral with vnyttvx  

and forming a repetition with ytm-df in v. 10. Buttenweiser

(Psalms, p. 616) and Young ("Psalm 74," p. 87) omit as



concerned to know "how long" the period of divine wrath then

at work would last. There were neither ttvx, nor a xybn to

announce or explain an tvx.

                                               Verse 10

                                                            rc JrHy Myhlx ytm-df

                           :Hcnl jmw byvx Cxny

            How long, Oh God, will the adversary taunt

            Will the enemy defy your name perpetually.


                                 Jrh and Cxn

            The psalmist reaches a climactic point of despair

with the final colon of verse 9. There is no appointed

voice to inform the community of the duration of its

anguish. He focuses his attention more particularly upon

God Himself, allowing the devastated temple to recede

He takes up the question of "how long" the adversary will

revile God's name.

            JrH-I occurs as a verb thirty times, twenty-four of

which are Piel. Goliath defied Israel's armies (1 Sam

17:10, 26). The Rabshekah reproached the Lord (2 Kgs 10:22,

23). Idolatrous Israelites blasphemed the Lord on the

mountains (Isa 65:5).1

            JrH is perhaps an Aramaic root meaning to be sharp,

keen, acute, hence the Hebrew verb may mean "to say sharp


            1Renderings of Cxn are from KJV.


things against, to taunt."1 It may also connote "to cast

blame."2 The verb is placed opposite dbk, to honor (Prov

14:31). He who oppresses the poor does JrH to his Maker,

whereas kindness to the poor, dbk, honors God. Thus, one

taunts God or says sharp things against Him by improper

treatment of the poor. Zebulun as a tribe, valiant in war,

was said to JrH their life even to death (Judg 5:18).3

            To sum up, in general JrH means to scorn or dis-

honor, often by verbal taunts. The rc in v. 10 is the

foreign occupation force attempting to keep defeated Jeru-

salem under control. Verbal taunts of verse 10 by rc expands

the notion of vgxw, roars (v. 4) by God's jyrrc.

            Cxn is similar to JrH in that the latter spews forth

contemptible speech, whereas the former is more likely to be

active, e.g., treat with contempt or to treat scornfully.

Cxn denotes an action or attitude whereby a former recipient

of a favorable disposition or service is consciously viewed

or treated with disdain.4 Nathan informs David that, Cxn

hvhy ybyvx tx tcxn, "You have utterly caused the enemies of


            1BDB, p. 537.

            2TWOT, s.v. "JrH," by Thomas E. McComiskey,

1:325-26; e.g., if the pupil does well the teacher will not

be blamed (Job 27:11).

            3See C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Joshua, Judges,

Ruth, trans. James Martin, Biblical Commentary on the Old

Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing

Company, reprint ed., 1960), p. 319.

            4TWOT, s.v. "Cxn," by Leonard J. Copper, 2:543.


Yahweh to scorn" (or blaspheme--2 Sam 12:14).1 The implica-

tion is that not only has David despised Yahweh or con-

sciously treated Him with disdain,2 but he has driven others

to do the same. Rather than affirming Yahweh, David denies

Him. The ideas of affirmation and denial are juxtaposed by

the use of vnymxy-xl . . . Cxny in a Yahweh complaint to

Moses when the congregation sought to stone Joshua and


            Cxn generally denotes a negative relationship be-

tween God and Israel.4 It never has rc as subject. Psalm

74:10 and 2 Samuel 12:14 are the only places that have

as subject.5 Since byvx designates hostile people, whether

within or outside the nation, here it may include hostile


            1The Piel often has causative force. See GKC, p.

141, #52g. On 2 Sam 12:14 see Hans Wilhelm Hertzberg, 1 and

2 Samuel, trans. J. S. Bowden, OTL (Philadelphia: The

Westminster Press, 1964), p. 315.

            2Coppes, “Cxn,” 2:543.

            3"And Yahweh said to Moses, how long (hnx-df) will

this people yncxny (scorn me) and how long yb vnymxy xl

(will they not believe me)" (Num 14:11). While Cxn and Nmx

are not antonyms, when placed in antithetical relationship,

the words are located in generally opposite semantic fields.

            4Hertzberg notes that God or divine things are the

object of Cxn 13 times (1 and 2 Samuel, p. 315). The

following have God as subject. Deut 32:16, Jer 14:21, Lam

2:6, Ps 10:3.

            5Ibid.; though 2 Sam 12:14 has hvhy ybyvx as the

syntactical object the causative force of the Piel makes the

object a virtual subject. Rosenbaum, "Antagonist," p. 85

excludes 2 Sam 12:14.


Israelites.1 The idea of some Israelites joining with the

foreign occupation to vex the godly has precedent in the

monarchic era.2 The idea is further strengthened by Psalm

74:18.  lbn in the Bible generally refers to an Israelite.

lbx-Mf (v. 18) and byvx (v. 10) each function as subject of


            Lexical studies in 74:10 suggest that JrH concerns

defiant, taunting, or reproachful speech by Israelite or

foreigner. Cxn denotes an action opposite to affirming God

and may promote conscious disdain of God. A non-Israelite

is never unambiguously construed as a grammatical subject of

Cxn. Since byvx includes both Israelites and foreigners, it

is quite likely that the byvx in 74:10 is an Israelite. The

psalmist's complaint is "How long, oh God, will the

foreigner speak reproachfully? Will the hostile Israelite

perpetually disavow your name?"


                                    rc and byvx

            rc and rrc in Psalms are of sufficient frequency to

be considered Psalms words by Tsevat.3 Generally, these


            1Rosenbaum, "Antagonist," pp. 76-79.

            2E.g., the community considers itself to have God as

Father in spite of the fact that the nation, under the

eponyms Abraham and Israel, does not regard the lamenters

(Isa 63:15b-16). See Paul D. Hanson, The Dawn of Apocalyp-

tic (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1975), pp. 92-93.

            3Matitiahu Tsevat, A Study of the Language of the

Biblical Psalms (Philadelphia: Society of Biblical

Literature, 1955), p. 19; for his definition of a psalm

word, see pp. 4 and 7.


terms refer to foreign foes throughout the HB.  rc and byvx

both occur in ten psalms.1  rrc with byvx is found in eight

psalms.2 None of the words commonly used as objects of

hostility in Psalms (i.e., qydc, bl-yrwy, Nvkn Hvr bl, and

dysH) occurs in Psalm 74.3  Myvg, though found in other

national laments, does not occur in Psalm 74.4 While there

are numerous parallels between rc and byvx there are none

between rc and Myvg in psalms.5 More than half the psalms

which include rc are concerned with foreign domination of

Israel or deliverance therefrom.6

            Rosenbaum suggests that the rc "plans or instigates

hostile action without necessarily taking part in physical

combat."7 The byvx actually engages in hostile action or

has declared his intent to do so. Numbers 10:9 helps to

sort out these terms:


            1Pss 3:8; 13:3, 5; 27:2, 6, 12; 44:6, 8, 11, 17;

74:3, 10, 18; 78:42, 53, 61, 66; 81:15; 89:11, 23, 24, 43,

52; 106:10, 11, 42; 119:98, 137, 139.  rc and fwr occur in

five psalms: 3:8; 97:10; 106:18; 112:10; 119 (passim).

            2Pss 6:8, 11; 7:5-7; 8:3; 31:9, 12, 16; 42:10, 11;

69:5, 19, 20; 74:3, 4, 10, 18, 23; 143:3, 9, 12.     and

occur in 7:10; 10:2, 3, 4,13, 15; 31:18.

            3Rosenbaum, "Antagonist," pp. 117-19.

            4Pss 44:3, 12, 15; 79:1, 6, 10; 80:9

            5cf. Num 24:8; Mic 5:8. See Rosenbaum,

"Antagonist," p. 79, n. 7.

            6Ibid., p. 80; Pss 44, 60, 74, 81, 89, 105, 106,

107, 136.

            7Ibid., p. 81.



            When you are at war in your own land against an

            agressor (rc) who attacks (rrch) you, you shall

            sound short blasts on the trumpets, that you may be

            remembered before the Lord your God and be delivered

            from your enemies (Mytyxm).1

The rc plans warfare (Ezra 4:1); his defeat is predicted

(Deut 32:27ff, Isa 59:10, Mic 5:8); or he oppresses the de-

feated foe (Isa 63:18, 64:1; Ezek 39:23f). In no clear case

in Scripture is the rc cast as actually engaged in combat.2

            The relationship between rc and byvx may be

summarized.   byvx, as the more general term, may be either

a foreign or an internal antagonist who uses physical force

or has stated his intent to use the same. The rc is often a

foreign power who plans military activity or in the occupa-

tion period exercises oppressive control.


                                        Verse 11

                                                                           jdy bywt hml

                                                            :hlk jqvH brqm jnymyv

Why do you withdraw your hand

            even your right hand?

From your bosom, destroy!

                               jnymyv jdy bywt hml

            The "how long?" of verse 10 becomes a renewed "why?"

in verse 11.3 The "why" of verse 1 concerned the



            2Rosenbaum, "Antagonist," p. 82.

            3For discussion of hml, see above on v. 1.



inexplicable anger of God against the chosen nation. The

renewed "why" concerns divine inaction against a taunting


            The dynamic of verse 11 turns on its anthropo-

morphisms,  jdy, jnymyv, jqvH. These terms underline the

psalmist's remonstrance of God.  jdy is one of numerous

references in the Old Testament to the hand of God.1 Such

uses often "point to particular acts of Yahweh."2 The

Lord's hand was active in the work of creation (Isa 45:12;

48:13), the piercing of the dragon (Job 26:13; Isa 51:9),

and in holy war (Exod 14:3; Exod 15:6). On occasion Israel

extolled Yahweh for acts of deliverance by His hand (Pss

89:10-11, 13; 98:1).3 The divine dy is a symbol of God's

power to effectively intervene.

            bywt here means to withdraw or to draw back. The

Hiphil bywm describes Perez as drawing back his hand (Gen

38:29).4 This concrete usage supports the same idea in two

figurative uses including Psalm 74:11. Jeremiah notes that


            1See Walther Zimmerlie, A Commentary on the Book of

Ezekiel 1, trans. Ronald E. Clements, ed. Frank Moore Cross,

et al, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1979), pp. 117-18.


            3TDNT, s.v. “xei<r," by Eduard Lohse, 9:426-27.

            4 vdy bywm (Gen 38:29) is the antithesis to vdy-Ntyv

(v. 28).


Adonai vnymy bywh, has withdrawn His right hand from before

the enemy.1

            The latter passage supports the notion of explana-

tory v with jnymyv.2  Yahweh's right hand punishes His

enemies (Ps 20:8) and redeemed Israel from Egypt (Exod 15:6,


            The right hand also symbolizes that which is honor-

able (Ps 110:1). Dahood suggests that hnymyv dy, is a word

pair based on Ugaritic cognates meaning left hand and right

hand.3 However, the general context is concerned about

God's honor. Moreover, the hand is symbolic here and the

left hand portrays negative symbolism, e.g., "the fool's

heart is at his left" (Qoh 10:2b).4

                               hlk jqvH brqm

            The Qere is preferred for jqvH. The basic meaning

is bosom, but the term also refers to the "folds of a

garment" at the waist.5 This colon may be construed as


            1Ps 74:11 and Lam 2:3 concern analagous if not

identical situations, i.e., divine anger allows the enemy to

devastate Israel.

            2See GKC, p. 484, #154a, n. 1(b).

            3Dahood, Psalms II, p. 203 and Psalms I, p. 163.

Young, "Psalm 74," p. 92 follows Dahood.

            4Also, lxmw signifies the lesser blessing (Gen

48:13-14), weakness (Judg 3:15, 21). See TDNT, s.v.

"ko<lpoj," by Walter Grundmann, 1:38.

            5TDNT, s.v. "ko<lpoj," by Rudolf Meyer, 3:824-25 and

TDOT, s.v. “qyH,” by G. Andre, 4:356-57.


elliptical and, in fact, containing two clauses. One could

supply a word antithetical to bywt in the first colon.l

Elsewhere, God said to Moses, jqyH lx jdybywh then it is

reported jqyHm hxcvyv (Exod 4:7).2 Similarly, in Psalm

74:11 one might supply an imperative and its object, e.g.,

jnymy xcvh.  The sense of the colon, stated with less vigor

than the actual text is "from the fold of your garment

thrust forth your right hand and destroy the enemy."3

            hlk has been problematic. The Piel infinitive

construct occurs in the sense of God's destroying or making

an end of the covenant people in His anger against them (Lev

26:44).4 The same sense is useful here, but the form should

be understood as imperative.


                                           Verse 12

                                                                        Mdqm yklm Myhlxv

                                                              :Crxh brqb tvfvwy lfp

Now, Oh God, my king, from ancient time!

Worker of victories in the midst of the earth!


            1For the idea of an ellipsis which depends upon the

contrary of a preceding word, see Bullinger, Figures of

Speech, pp. 58-59.

            2Exod 4:7 has a different setting from Ps 74 but the

incidence of bwh, dy, and qyH encourages comparison.

            3Italics indicate the proposed sense of the

ellipsis. This procedure preserves both pointing and

punctuation of MT.

            4On Lev 26:44 see NASB, "destroy" and NEB, "make an



            The Old Testament narratives emphasize the miracle

of Yahweh in holy war and downgrade the involvement of human

warriors. The paradigm for holy war is the exodus event

extolled in Exodus 15.1 Yahweh is a man of war. By His

right hand He defeated His enemy (Exod 15:6, 12). Moses

anticipates the conquest (v. 17) at which time Yahweh will

secure for Israel jtlHn rh (i.e., "the mount of your

[Yahweh's] inheritance"). These victories establish, for

Israel, Yahweh's credentials to be their king.2


                              yklm Myhlxv

            The lcs suffix is striking in a "we" psalm. Syriac

reads first common plural. Bardtke proposes htxv to conform

to the first word in verses 13, 14, and 15. The htx is not

necessary here since the verse represents a transition from

bold complaint and accusatory request to what appears to be

a hymn of praise. There is no textual support for inserting

the pronoun.3 LePeau suggests that the suffix on yklm, when

it refers to God is formalized as with yklm but he still


            1Millard C. Lind, Yahweh is a Warrior (Scottsdale,

PA: Herald Press, 1980), pp. 23, 49-50 (hereafter cited as


            2Ibid., pp. 53, 69-70. Lind draws attention to the

centrality of human kingship in victory hymns from Egypt and

Assyria (p. 53). Yahweh is the featured leader and victor

in Israel's early warfare (pp. 53, 69-70; see Exod 15, Judg


            3Other passages where Myhlx or lx is juxtaposed to

htx include Isa 44:11; Pss 22:11, 63:2, 118:28, and 140:7.


retains the suffix in translation of Psalm 68:25.1  yklm

appears seven times, five of which refer to God.2

            Psalm 44 fluctuates between the community and an

individual as the subject of the psalm. The community

recalls what God did for Israel at the time of the conquest

(44:2-3). They recall that it was God's Nymy and the light

of His presence (44:4). They expect God anew to fight for

and give them victory over their present adversaries. This

expression of confidence concludes with a promise to praise

the name of God (44:6-9). Verse 5 begins with a virtual

direct address, Myhlx yklm xvh-htx. The words for God and

king are in reverse order compared to Psalm 74:12.3

            Psalm 44:5b is a petition, "command tyfyw  

(victories) for Jacob."4 The copula xvh is expressed,

unlike 74:12. Further 44:5 is imbedded in a rehearsal of

God's victorious deeds of the past and an expression of

confidence that God will similarly work in the present.


            1LePeau, "Psalm 68," p. 178.

            2Ibid.; Pss 5:3, 84:4, 44:5, 68:25, 74:12.

            3The psalmist addresses hvhy as yhlxv yklm in a

Korah psalm that lauds the temple as God's dwelling (Ps 84:

4). This connection between temple and kingship reminds of

Isaiah 6. The psalmist acknowledges God's kingship in Psalm

68:25 on the basis of recently achieved victories over Is-

rael's enemies, somewhat reverse to the setting of Psalm 74.

            4For tvfvwy in Psalm 44:5, the following have

"victories": GNB, JB, NAB, NASB, NEB, RSV. KJV has "deliv-

erances." For tvfvwy in 74:12-- "salvation (s) GNB, RSV,

NAB, KJV, NIV; "deliverance" NASB, "victorious" (or simi-

lar): NEV; Young, "Psalm 74," p. 93, "achiever of



Then follows the complaint that, at the moment, God has

rejected them. Verse 5 seems to be a genuine confession of

faith in the form of an affirmation of God's kingship.

            Psalm 74:12 follows sharp complaint and an accu-

satory request (vv. 1-11a and 11b respectively). It is not

clear that 74:12a is an indicative statement affirming God's

kingship. The syntax allows for a vocative and this would

not require one to supply a copula. "Now, Oh God, my king

from long ago. . . ." The psalmist then rehearses divine

victories from ancient time (vv. 13-17) before taking up his

petition again.1

            The psalmist is clear that God did achieve victories

in the past but, aside from verse 12, he does not express

confidence that God will act in accord with his petition in

the future. In this respect, Psalm 74:12 differs from Psalm

44:5. This ambivalence regarding an expression of confi-

dence, lack of a clear promise to praise, and the absence of

confession of sin in the psalm, combine to raise questions

as to where the psalmist is perceptually and spiritually.

            We must affirm the fundamental sincerity of the

psalmist's faith, but that faith has a strange posture here.

Though the psalmist is explicitly concerned about the


            1The connection between Exodus and conquest

victories and God's kingship reaches back to Israel's

earliest poetry, e.g., Exod 15:18, Num 23:21, Deut 33:5.

See Cross, CMHE, p. 99, and Patrick D. Miller, Jr., The

Divine Warrior in Early Israel (Cambridge, MA: Harvard

University Press, 1973) p. 174 (hereafter cited as DWEI).


reproach, JdH, which God's enemies cast upon Him, he may be

mocking God by affirming God's credentials of kingship (vv.

12a-17) in order to shame Him for not working victory in the


                                   tvfvwy lfp

            The psalmist ascribes to God in 12b one of the

functions of kingship, i.e., to engage in warfare. LePeau

finds "victory" a useful sense for hfvwy in Psalm 68:20

because the immediate context praises God for breaking the

head of His enemies, among other recollections of God's

triumphant acts.2 In Psalm 74:13 God will smash, rbw, the

heads of Tanninim. Accordingly, tvfvwy is nicely translated

"victories" in 74:12.

            lfp occurs only in poetry and in Qal only fifty-six

times.3 Seventeen of these have God as subject. The verb

controls such objects as God's abode (Exod 15:17), the

conquest (Ps 44:2-4), Israel's punishment (Dent: 33:27, Hab

1:5), and indirectly, My, Mynynt and Ntyvl in Psalm


            1The psalmist's faith is evident in the fact that he

prays. However, there are similarities betwen his orienta-

tion to God and Jonah's.

            2The word for "break," Ps 68:20, is CHmy. For hfvwy

see LePeau, "Psalm 68," p. 156. Other passages where

"victory" is acceptable are 1 Sam 14:45; Exod 14:13; Hab

3:8; Pss 20:6, 21:6 (here NASB has "victory" in the margin).

Each of these passages has hfvwy in a context of military

activity. See also Young, "Psalm 74," p. 96.

            3TWOT, s.v. "lfp," by Victory P. Hamilton, 2:730.


74:13-14.1 In general, with God as subject, lfp refers to

actions which have Israel specifically in focus.2 Hamilton

observes that the noun refers to God's work sixteen times

and always to His work in history and not in creation.3

This may he a clue to the interpretation of verses 13-17.


                                      Verse 13

                                                               My jzfb trrvp htx

                                                :Mymh-lf Mynynt ywxr trbw

You stopped the sea with your strength

You smashed heads of Tanninim upon the waters.

                                      trrvp htx

            rrp occurs fifty-three times in the Old Testament,

forty-six times in Hiphil, but never in Qal. The Hiphil has

tyrb as its object twenty-one times. Elsewhere the object

includes such things as tvHx (brotherhood), dsH (loyal

love), and Fpwm (judgment).3 There appears to be a moral

facet to the root in the Hiphil.4 The meaning is "to break,

frustrate." The only two uses of Po'el (including

Hithpo'el) are Isaiah 24:19 and Psalm 74:13. While BDB and


            1LePeau, "Psalm 68," p. 156.

            2Ibid.                                       3Hamilton, “lfp,” p. 730.

            4References respectively are Lev 26:44; Zech 11:14;

Ps 89:34, and Job 40:5.

            5TWOT, s.v. "rrp," by Victor P. Hamilton, 2:738.


KB both suggest a separate root, rrp-II, "to split, divide,"

probably a single root should be presumed.1

            Perhaps the psalmist intends to impart a moral di-

mension to whatever events he refers. The moral dimension

between God and the created order, specifically My, is

evident in Psalm 89:10, where Yahweh is said to lwvm, rule.

Both Psalms 89:10 and 74:13 feature the emphatic independent

pronoun htx in initial position. The use of po'el in Psalm

74 intensifies the Hiphil, i.e., God broke up the sea or

completely frustrated (in the sense of stopped) the sea.


                                          My jzfb

            The means of the action was God's zf, strength.

The noun occurs ninety-three times, including forty-four in

the psalter. Fifty-nine times zf describes God, often in

hymnic portions.2 The significance of zf in Psalm 74:13 is

informed by the fact that except for this "hymnic inter-

lude," God's zf is emphatically not evident in the psalm.3


            1BDB, p. 830; KB, p. 782.

            2Exod 15:13; Pss 21:5, 77:15. Tsevat lists this as

psalms language (Language, pp. 15, 18, 48).

            3In this study, "hymn" in its various forms, when

referring to Ps 74:13-17 is often placed in quotation marks.

This is to remind the reader that this study regards the

psalmist's use of these verses as more a means of chiding

God, somewhat bitterly, than a means of praising God or

expressing confidence in Him. See later discussion.


            The Bible is clear that God controls the seas.1 Day

assumes that there is a "divine conflict with the dragon and

the sea" in the Bible.2 He then seeks to show both the fact

and reasons that the Bible expressed a causal connection

between the conflict and God's work of creation.3 God does

make the sea tempestuous (Jer 31:35) and compares enemy

nations like Assyria to the raging sea (Isa 17:12-14).

There is no clear evidence that God ever viewed the actual

waters as His enemy.4 Though conquest and control both

require strength, the two are different enterprises.

            God created Crxh enveloped in water then commanded

the dividing and gathering of waters. Thus, dry land

appeared, also called Crx, and God named the gathered waters

Mymy (Gen 1:1-2, 6-10). Day claims that inasmuch as "there

is no longer a trace of personality within the waters a

process of demythologization has taken place."5 Typical of

those who hold to a chaoskampf, Day regards Genesis 1 as a


            1See Prov 8:29; Job 38:8-11; Jer 5:22b (also Jer 31:

35 where God stirs up the sea so that its waves roar).

            2John Day, God's Conflict with the Dragon and the

Sea (London: Cambridge University Press, 1985), pp. 1, 4

(hereafter cited as Day, Conflict).

            3Ibid., p. 1.

            4For man to view waters as foreboding (as in Pss 69

and 88:18) is not equivalent to God viewing waters as a


            5Day, Conflict, p. 49 (italics mine).


sixth-century product of the priestly school.1 This

position presumes the basic Wellhausian re-construction of

Israelite religion. Accordingly, it uses passages which

allow (but do not require) mythological material in the Old

Testament to control the interpretation of unambiguous

material such as the statements about water in Genesis 1.

            Day regards Psalm 104 as a striking parallel, but as

prior to Genesis 1. He cites the mythological character of

the psalm as a reason for its priority. Psalm 104:7 is an

"allusion to the divine conflict with the sea."2 Verse 26

notes God's creation of Ntyvl, whereas Genesis 1:21 uses the

impersonal Mynynt.3 Secondly, since vtyH (Gen 1:24) is else-

where always in poetic material, including Psalm 124:11-12,

Genesis 1 must be dependent on the poems. The reverse could

as well be true, though Day does not see this. Thirdly, the

bird motif in Genesis 1:2 (JrH, Deut 32:11) and Psalm 104:3

(wings) each time in connection with Hvr (wind) argues for

priority of Psalm 104.4 This appears to be prompted by

Day's attempt to find mythological elements in Genesis 1.

            My has been taken by many as a personal name, i.e.,

the Ugaritic god, Yamm.5 This view is supported in part by


            1Ibid., p. 53.

            2Ibid., p. 52.                            3Ibid., pp. 4-5.

            4Ibid., pp. 51-53.

            5E.g., Young, "Psalm 74," pp. 97-98 and Dahood,

Psalms II, pp. 205-06.


Mynynt and Ntyvl in verse 14. These are doubtless figures

of speech explained and verified by other biblical usage.

My designates a large body of water more than 300 times.

Seas named in the Bible include the Great Sea, also desig-

nated as both the hinder or western sea and the Sea of the

Philistines.1 The Bible identifies the Dead Sea as the salt

sea and the east sea.2 The Red Sea Jvs My, the sea of

reeds, and the sea of Egypt. Further, My refers to the Nile

and Euphrates rivers.3 These uses combine to show that My  

is a general term for a large body of water.

            The notion that My is the name of a deity presumes a

particular use by the Bible of mythological terms and

concepts. Young proposes that the writer (of Ps 74) "may

not be drawing a distinction" between the Red Sea event and

Yamm's hostile action against the cosmic King.4 This latter

scenario further presumes a precreation chaos out of which


            1See respectively Num. 34:6; Deut 11:24; and Exod

23:31. For this survey TWOT, s. v., “My,” by Paul R.

Gilchrist, 1:381-82.

            2See respectively Num 34:3 and Ezek 47:10,.

            3For references to the Red Sea, Nile, and Euphrates

Rivers, see Exod 10:19; Isa 11:15; Nah 3:8; and Jer 51:36.

            4Young, "Psalm 74," p. 98. Those with Young, who

subscribe to this general construction recognize in Baal and

Yahweh the Ugaritic and biblical versions (respectively) of

the cosmic king. While this position acknowledges that the

Bible tries to show that Yahweh is the only cosmic king and

that Yahweh has none of the petty finiteness of the gods of

the myths, it is not often clear whether those who subscribe

to the position agree with the Bible on the absolute unique-

ness of Yahweh.


God, through conflict, brought forth the ordered universe

which Genesis 1:3:ff introduces.


            rbw occurs 149 times in the Old Testament. Of

thirty-six uses of Piel, eight are in the psalter.l  Eight-

een times in prose material this stem is used with reference

to smashing idols or cultic articles.2 Eight of the remain-

ing uses outside of the Psalms have to do with acts of judg-

ment by God or destruction of enemy weaponry or defenses by

God or man. Of the eight psalmic uses, five concern God's

smashing or neutralizing weaponry, defenses, or assets of

the enemies of God's people.3 Clearly, rbw Piel predomi-

nantly has God as subject, as in Psalm 74:13 and controls

objects which are offensive to God or menace God's people.

                              Mynynt ywxr

            Mynynt ywnr as an object of rbw is ambiguous if

extracted from its context in this psalm in particular and

the biblical context in general.4 Data concerning


            lTWOT, s.v. "rbw-I," by Victor P. Hamilton, 2:901.

            2E.g., images (2 Kgs 11:18, 23:14); cultic articles

(Exod 31:3; Deut .12:3; 2 Kgs 25:13).

            3Pss 3:8 (teeth); 46:10 (bow); 48:8 (ships); 76:4

(arrows); 107:11. (gates); Pss 29:5 and 105:33 (trees; the

latter in relationship to the 7th plague against Egypt).

            4Elsewhere rbw-I always has a concrete literal

object.  Mynynt ywxr is the only instance of a metaphorical



in the HB indicates that the term refers to an enemy of


            Nynt occurs eight times in the singular and six in

the plural. Aaron's staff became a Nynt, serpent, when cast

in front of Pharaoh. The magicians' staffs similarly became

Mnynt (Exod 7:9, 10, 12).2 The prophet seeks to arouse

Yahweh's strength hvhy fvrz, which in former days had "hewn

in pieces" bhr and pierced Nynt (Isa 51:9).3 He further

calls for a new exodus to bring Yahweh's Mylvxg "redeemed

ones," from Babylon (51:10c), as He had once brought His

people from Egypt through a path which He dried in the sea.4

Isaiah 51:9-10 puts bhr and Nynt in parallel and virtually

identifies them with Egypt. Nebuchadnezzar is compared to a

Nynt who devours, crushes, and swallows his prey (Jer 51:

35).  Nynth is in apposition to Pharaoh, King of Egypt


            1My in verse 13 need not be seen as an enemy of God

but rather as My in Exod 15--part of the creation which God

manipulates to accomplish His purposes.

            2A biting serpent several feet long is the sense

also in Ps 91:13 and Deut 32:33.

            3Nynt tllHm bhr tbcHmh xyh-tx xvlh (Isa 51:9c). For

bcH see BDB, p. 345.

            4hbr Mvhtym My tbrHmh xyh-tx xvlh (Isa 51:10a).

brH-I, "to be dry," intransitive in Qal, becomes transitive

in Hiphil (BDB, p. 351). Yahweh dries up rivers including

the Euphrates (Nah 1:4; Jer 51:36) and a sea (Isa 50:2).

The king of Assyria boasted that he had dried up the rivers

of Egypt (Isa 37:25 = 2 Kgs 19:24).


(Ezek 29:3).1 As Nynt, Pharaoh is described as a fearsome

aquatic with scales and tough jaws. Yahweh will abandon him

to the open field where beasts and birds will feed on him.2

            Isaiah 27:1a, b, c has often been compared to UT 67:

1-3.3 The Isaiah verse may be charted in summary fashion:

                       Isaiah 27:1                                           UT 67

a.         Yah will dqp (punish)                      1. You will mhs (smite)

          Ntyvl (leviathan), wHn                            ltn. btn. brh (Lotan the

            Hrb (the fleeing serpent)                     fleeing serpent)4

b.         even Ntyvl the twisted                      2. You made an end of the

          serpent (twisted= Nvtlqf)                     btn. qltm (wiggling


c.         and he will grh (slay)                       3. the tyrant with seven

            Nynth (the monster) which                    heads.5

            is in Myh (the sea) .


            1Nynt, in Isa 51:9-10, referring to Egypt (or Phar-

aoh) of the Exodus, becomes in Ezek 29:3-5 Egypt in the late

7th and early 6th centuries B.C. Ezek 32:2 compares Pharoah

to Mynynth (plural), in a context similar to Ezek 29.

            2See Ezek 29:3-5; the terms Nynt, hyH, hlkx are

comparable to terms in Psalm 74.

            3These lines are repeated in UT 67:27-30.

            4Ugaritic btn parallels Hebrew wHn.

            5In Ugaritic sb't r'sm; with this compare the

plurals in Ps 74:13, Mynynt ywxr. Udd notes that the num-

eral is not explicit in Ps 74 whereas it is in the Ugaritic

material in Stanley V. Udd, "An Evaluation of the Mythologi-

cal Hermeneutic in Light of the Old Testament Usage of the

Leviathan Motif," (Th.D. Dissertation, Grace Theological

Seminary, 1980), pp. 202-03 (hereafter cited as "Leviathan



Isaiah 27:1 is eschatological, metaphoric, and non-specific

while Psalm 74:13-14 is historic.1 Similarities to Psalm 74

include the tendency to identify Ntyvl with Nynt, their

adversarial relation to Yahweh, great strength and skill

required of their captor and their watery habitat.

            Job protests to God as to whether he is My, or Nynth

that God must put a guard around him (Job 7:12). Thus Job

compares My and Nynt as large and dangerous when they pass

proper bounds. The plural Mynynt are among God's great sea

creatures included with the dxm bvF, very good, in the

completed creation (Gen 1:21, 31).2

            To sum up the significance of Mynynt the concrete

term refers initially to large, strong creatures with a

watery habitat. By the time of Job, they were like the sea,

dangerous if not controlled. The larger species of Mynyt  

were scaly, strong and given to stirring up waters. In

their ferocity and strength to devour they became a symbol

for great kings and empires who punished Israel or whom

Israel should avoid.


            lIbid., pp. 210-12 and Day, Conflict, pp. 141-45;

also Erik Haglund, Historical Motifs in the Psalms (Upsala:

GWK Gleerup, 1984), pp. 7-9; 56-58.

            2The Mynynt are juxtaposed as direct objects to the

verb xrb (Gen 1:21). Perhaps Moses was aware of the

mythological connotations regarding great creatures in the

religious literatures of his day. The juxtaposition of xrb

and Nynt may have been deliberate for polemical reasons.

Further, Ps 148:7 calls on Mynynt to praise Yahweh.


            The plural ywxr in 74:13 has been likened to the

seven-headed monster who was an arch enemy to the hero gods

of the pagan myths. The plural Mynynt has been read as a

plural of majesty so as to give the term in 74:13 a singular

idea. wxr often means chief or leader (e.g., Exod 18:25).

At any rate, in that Pharoah is compared elsewhere to both

Nynt and Mynynt and the survey shows a heavy tendency to

compare Egypt to Nynt it is useful to venture that ywxr

Mynynt represents true plurals and refers to chiefs of

divisions of Egypt's pursuing armies at the time of the

Exodus. Perhaps there is some irony that the Mynynt were

smashed in their own habitat (i.e., on their own terms) upon

the waters.

                                          Verse 14

                                                               Ntyvl ywxr tccr htx

                                                            :Myycl Mfl lkxm vnntt

You crushed the heads of Leviathan.

You gave him as food to desert animals.


            Ccr is used nineteen times, including eleven in the

simple stems. In these stems the verbal action is against

an inherently vulnerable object, e.g., society's needy, a

bruised reed, a weakened nation.1 Two uses in causative


            1Amos 4:1; Isa 42:3; Ezek 29:7.