Psalm 79

A Psalm of Asaph.

1 O God, the nations have come into Your inheritance;
Your holy temple they have defiled;
They have laid Jerusalem in heaps.

2 The dead bodies of Your servants
They have given as food for the birds of the heavens,
The flesh of Your saints to the beasts of the earth.

3 Their blood they have shed like water all around Jerusalem,
And there was no one to bury them.

4 We have become a reproach to our neighbors,
A scorn and derision to those who are around us.

How long, Lord?
Will You be angry forever?
Will Your jealousy burn like fire?

6 Pour out Your wrath on the nations that do not know You,
And on the kingdoms that do not call on Your name.

7 For they have devoured Jacob,
And laid waste his dwelling place.

Oh, do not remember former iniquities against us!
Let Your tender mercies come speedily to meet us,
For we have been brought very low.

9 Help us, O God of our salvation,
For the glory of Your name;
And deliver us, and provide atonement for our sins,
For Your name’s sake!

10 Why should the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
Let there be known among the nations in our sight
The avenging of the blood of Your servants which has been shed.

11 Let the groaning of the prisoner come before You;
According to the greatness of Your power
Preserve those who are appointed to die;

12 And return to our neighbors sevenfold into their bosom
Their reproach with which they have reproached You, O Lord.

13 So we, Your people and sheep of Your pasture,
Will give You thanks forever;
We will show forth Your praise to all generations.

This is a companion psalm to Psalm 74. It expresses the plight, prayers and promise of God’s people in a day of calamity, the Babylonian Exile. Its plea for divine redress and restoration is based on three grounds: first, the agony and distress of His saints (v.2); secondly, the compassionate nature of God (v.8); thirdly, the ignominy and dishonor which other nations will attach to God’s name if He leaves desolate those who are His servants and representatives (v.10). — Guthrie, page 501.


This [psalm] is a cry of distress. The conditions described are those of overwhelming national calamity. The country and the city of God are overrun and spoiled by ruthless enemies. The people have been slain and left without burial. out of the midst of these circumstances the psalmist prays to God for pardon, help, and deliverance. There is no present note of praise in the psalm, but there is an undertone of confidence in God. — Morgan, page 149.


Verses 1-7 — The theme of chastisement in the previous psalm is here continued and, with reference to the psalmist’s own generation, presented with a collective response—the first part of which is to affirm that their present affliction at the hands of the nations (signifying the Gentile nations around Israel) is in fact an expression of God’s chastisement. This is indicated by (1) the reference in v.1 to the nations having invaded the Land of Israel (this being God’s inheritance), which is something God promised to allow only as a measure of national chastisement (cf. Deuteronomy 28:7 versus 49-52); and (2) the reference in v.5 to the LORD being angry, which implies the recognition of God’s response to sin. Moreover, the word “jealousy” in this verse (as elsewhere) refers not to the petty emotions of an insecure heart, but rather to God’s zeal for the full devotion and worship of His people. — Wechsler, pages 196-197.


Verse 8 — The psalmist now leads his people in petitioning God’s compassion [or] love—i.e., as biblically defined, that determination (not just “feeling”) to pursue the best interests of another with whom one is in an intimate relationship. — Wechsler, page 197.


Verses 9-13 — The motivation for this petition is the glory of God’s name (i.e., of God Himself). By reproaching God’s people, Israel’s enemies are ultimately reproaching God Himself, and therefore by delivering His people God is vindicating (i.e., proving the infallibility) of His promises to preserve His people and to establish them in their land, and through them, ultimately, expand the glory of God beyond the borders of Israel. So too, God’s deliverance will serve as another occasion to give Him thanks and tell of His praise. — Wechsler, pages 197-198.

The psalm likely refers to the Babylonian captivity, as mentioned by some of my commentaries, but I think it very likely that it’s also a prophetic picture of the Tribulation.

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