STUDIES IN CONTENT, STRUCTURE,
CONTEXT, AND MEANING
Richard W. Engle
Submitted in partial fulfillment of requirements
for the degree of Doctor of Theology in
Grace Theological Seminary
Digitized by Ted Hildebrandt,
Title: PSALM 74: STUDIES IN CONTENT, STRUCTURE, CONTEXT
Author: Richard W. Engle
Degree: Doctor of Theology
Date: May, 1987
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
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
van der Ploeg 210
A Summary of the Present Proposal 211
A working definition 211
A synthesis of findings 212
III. THE CONTEXT OF PSALM 74: SUMERIAN CITY LAMENTS 214
Purpose and Procedure of Chapter III 214
The Meaning of Context 214
Historical context 214
Biblical context 215
Other contexts 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
From Urukagina of Lagas to Ibbi-Sin
Lamentation over the
A Survey of the Poem 228
Comparison of a "Lamentation
over the Destruction of
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
IV. THE CONTEXT OF PSALM 74: BIBLICAL PSALMS 238
Communal Lament Psalms 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
L. Oppenheim, Ancient
ANE W. W. Hallo and W. K. Simpson, The Ancient Near East
ANET J. B. Pritchard (ed.), Ancient Near Eastern Texts
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
CAD The Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute
CBQ Catholic Biblical Quarterly
CHJI W. D. Davies, L. Finkelstein (eds.), The Cambrdige
History of Judaism: Vol. I, Introduction, The
CMHE F. M. Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic
R. Johnson, The Cultic Prophet in Ancient
R. Johnson, The Cultic Prophet and
CPTOT J. Barr, Comparative Philology and the Text of the
DNTT C. Brown (ed.), Dictionary of New Testament Theology
D. Miller, The Divine Warrior in Early
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
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
MT Masoretic Text
NAB New American Bible
NASB New American Standard Bible
NCBC R. E. Clement, M. Black (eds.), New Century Bible Commentary
NCOT A. Even-Shoshan, A New Concordance of the Old Testament
NIV New International Version
NJPS New Jewish Publication Society Bible
Wright, J. Bright, J. Barr, P. Ackroyd. (eds.), Old Testament
OTS Oud Testamentische Studien
Mowinckel, Psalms in
PLP C. Westermann, Praise & Lament in the Psalms
RHPR Revue d'histoire et de philosophie religieuses
RSV Revised Standard Version
s The Syriac Version
SBLASP Society of Biblical Literature Abstracts and
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
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
Exodus 15, one of
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
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
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
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
tial for clarity. Verse numbers are from BHS.
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
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.
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-
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).
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
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.
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
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
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
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. Hcnei@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
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).
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 (
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
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.
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.
29:19); the northern kingdom at the seige of
(2 Kgs 17:18).
5TDOT, s.v. Jx, by Elsie Johnson, 1:353-54 and E.
cited as Erlandsson, "Wrath").
illuminates its use with Nwf. Moses warns that hvhy-Jx and
His zeal will smoke against the
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
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
3 vols. (
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?
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
in which you dwelt.
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
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
(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
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
Einleitung in die Psalmen (
and Ruprecht, 1933), p. 128 (hereafter cited as Gunkel,
2For bibliography see TDOT, s.v. rkz, by H.
vols. (London: Oxford University Press, 1962) 1:99-101,
106-107 (hereafter cited as Pedersen, ILC).
4Childs, Memory, pp. 22-23; James Barr, The
of Biblical Language (
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
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
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
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
2nd ed. (
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-
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
the Gentiles as
use of hnq here also is ambiguous.
3John Philip LePeau, "Psalm 68: An Exegetical and
Study," (Ph.D. dissertation,
8128429), pp. 223-224, n. 481 (hereafter cited as LePeau,
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
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
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
3Eryl W. Davies, "Ruth IV 5 and the Duties of
Goel, 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
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
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
though the latter is unnamed in this passage. Jeremiah
51:15-19 repeats Jeremiah 10:12-16 but in a context
announcing the future
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
Psalmography: A Semantic Field Study" (Ph.D. dissertation,
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
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
79:1) temples and the entire
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
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
The presence indicated by Nkw is always considered "out of
the ordinary and therefore provisional," characterized by a
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
of the divine presence in the sanctuary. . . ."
3Johnson, "Nkw," 2:925. 1 Kgs 8:27, "will God
indeed bwy on the earth?"
(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
To this fact the psalmist calls God's attention.
Hcn tvxwml jymfp hmyrh
:wdqb byvx frh-lk
Raise your steps toward the utter
The enemy has damaged everything
in the sanctuary.
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
Kissane, The Book of Psalms, 2 vols.
Browne and Nolan, 1954), 2:12 (hereafter cited as Kissane,
3dy and Mvr occur together in Exod 17:11, Num 20:11,
"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,
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
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
3Weiser, The Psalms, pp. 35-52. Weiser espoused an
annual Covenant Renewal Festival
4Hans Schmidt, Die Psalmen, (
[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
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
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
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
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-
kingdom (1 Kgs 12) demonstrates the reality of internal
3Dahood, Psalms II, p. 203. In 1 Sam 17:26
4For Cxn with
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
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.
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."
Lamentations 2:1-11 describes the devastation that
withdraws restraint from
His bow like an byvx and stations Himself against
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
"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
violent actions against
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
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
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
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
Perowne, Psalms); also A. Cohen, The Psalms (
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,
where the reference is likely to religious symbols. Given
the profound inter-relationship between offical religion in
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
hlfml xybmk fdvy
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, (
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
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 (
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,."
wooden trellis-work with axes."1 In terms of leaving the
text intact and making sense of the material, this solution
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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,
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,
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.
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.
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.
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 (
Bibelgesellschaft, 1981) and Abraham Even-Shoshan, A New
Concordance of the Old
2BDB, p. 413.
3A. B. Davidson, Hebrew Syntax, 3rd ed. (
T and T Clark, 1912), .p. 99 #69, r. 3 (hereafter cited as
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.
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
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
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,
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.,
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
as S. Krauss, Synagogale Altertumer (
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
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-
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.
vnyxr xl vnyttvx
: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
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
W. G. Lambert, Babylonian Wisdom
Clarendon Press, 1960] pp. 50-51:46-47.)
2Exod 4-13 passim. 3E.g., Exod 7:3, 5.
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 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
on our behalf we do not see." KJV, NASB, and NIV are
similar to NAB.
3Aubrey R. Johnson, The Cultic Prophet in Ancient
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
materialize (Jer 28:3). Ezekiel attests the fact that the
faith of many in
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
R. Wilson, Prophecy and Society in
(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
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
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
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
year (Isa 21:6); breaking of the Babylonian yoke within two
(Jer 28:3); Judaean exile and desolation of
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
will go to
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.
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
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-
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
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,
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
(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 (
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
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,
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.
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
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
Adonai vnymy bywh, has withdrawn His right hand from before
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
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
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.
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,
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
[Yahweh's] inheritance"). These victories establish, for
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 (
PA: Herald Press, 1980), pp. 23, 49-50 (hereafter cited as
2Ibid., pp. 53, 69-70. Lind draws attention to the
of human kingship in victory hymns from
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
(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
GNB, JB, NAB,
erances." For tvfvwy in 74:12-- "salvation (s) GNB, RSV,
NAB, KJV, NIV; "deliverance" NASB, "victorious" (or simi-
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
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
and God's kingship reaches back to
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
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
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),
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
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.
My jzfb trrvp htx
:Mymh-lf Mynynt ywxr trbw
You stopped the sea with your strength
You smashed heads of Tanninim upon the waters.
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.
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
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
nated as both the hinder or western sea and the Sea of the
Bible identifies the
sea and the east sea.2 The Red Sea Jvs My, the sea of
reeds, and the
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
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.
2See respectively Num 34:3 and Ezek 47:10,.
3For references to the
Red Sea, Nile, and
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 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
in relationship to the 7th plague against
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
Isaiah 51:9-10 puts bhr and Nynt in parallel and virtually
identifies them with
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 king of Assyria boasted that he had dried up the rivers
(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,
of the Exodus, becomes in Ezek 29:3-5
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
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
Mynynt represents true plurals and refers to chiefs of
Exodus. Perhaps there is some irony that the Mynynt were
smashed in their own habitat (i.e., on their own terms) upon
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:Myycl Mfl lkxm vnntt
You crushed the heads of Leviathan.
You gave him as food to desert animals.