מַשְׂכִּיל לְאָסָף לָמָה אֱלֹהִים זָנַחְתָּ לָנֶצַח יֶעְשַׁן אַפְּךָ בְּצֹאן מַרְעִיתֶךָ׃ 74:1
Psal. 74:1 A poem of Asaph’s:
Why, O God, do You cast off to the end?
Must Your “anger” fume at the flock of Your pasture?
זְכֹר עֲדָתְךָ קָנִיתָ קֶּדֶם גָּאַלְתָּ שֵׁבֶט נַחֲלָתֶךָ הַר־צִיֹּון זֶה שָׁכַנְתָּ בֹּו׃ 74:2
Psal. 74:2 Remember Your congregation You have possessed from of old
-- You redeemed the clan of Your inheritance
-- Mount Zion, on which You dwelled!
הָרִימָה פְעָמֶיךָ לְמַשֻּׁאוֹת נֶצַח כָּל־הֵרַע אוֹיֵב בַּקֹּדֶשׁ׃ 74:3
Psal. 74:3 Lift Your steps to the ruins of all the constant evil of the enemy in the sanctuary.
שָׁאֲגוּ צֹרְרֶיךָ בְּקֶרֶב מוֹעֲדֶךָ שָׂמוּ אוֹתֹתָם אֹתוֹת׃ 74:4
Psal. 74:4 Those causing You distress roar in the midst of Your appointed place,
they set their own warning banners.
יִוָּדַע כְּמֵבִיא לְמָעְלָה בִּסֲבָךְ־עֵץ קַרְדֻּמּוֹת׃ 74:5
Psal. 74:5 It could be perceived as if someone were bringing axes upwards in a thicket of wood,
וְעֵת פִּתּוּחֶיהָ יָּחַד בְּכַשִּׁיל וְכֵילַפֹּת יַהֲלֹמוּן׃ 74:6
Psal. 74:6 and a time they could smash its carved work all together with hatchet and hammers.
The first word of this verse was flagged as an error by the sages; they assumed the word should have had a heh suffix, making its translation the adverb now. The start of the verse is universally translated as “And now ....” But for me, there is no error, as I believe the noun time was intended, which makes the spelling correct. I see this verse and the previous one as the first and second lines of a single verse, which makes its poetry more acceptable. So I have omitted the usual error indication (of parentheses and brackets).
שִׁלְחוּ בָאֵשׁ מִקְדָּשֶׁךָ לָאָרֶץ חִלְּלוּ מִשְׁכַּן־שְׁמֶךָ׃ 74:7
Psal. 74:7 They have set Your sanctuary on fire,
they have desecrated Your dwelling place to the ground.
This verse and the next one place the time of this psalm as being that of the destruction of either the first or second Temple. So that means that this Asaph is not the contemporary of David’s, but lived long afterwards. We see here and in the next verse that this period must be of the destruction of the first Temple, so this Asaph must have lived about 400 years after David. Possibly all the psalms attributed to Asaph (this one and eleven others) were composed at that later date. [Return to Psal. 50:1]
אָמְרוּ בְלִבָּם נִינָם יָחַד שָׂרְפוּ כָל־מוֹעֲדֵי־אֵל בָּאָרֶץ׃ 74:8
Psal. 74:8 They said in their heart, “We will vex them altogether.”
They have burned up all the meeting places of God in the land.
From this verse and the preceding one, we may surmise that this psalm is referring to the destruction of the first Temple, as there appears to be no historical evidence that the second Temple was destroyed by fire.
אוֹתֹתֵינוּ לֹא רָאִינוּ אֵין־עוֹד נָבִיא וְלֹא־אִתָּנוּ יֹדֵעַ עַד־מָה׃ 74:9
Psal. 74:9 We do not see our signs;
there is no prophet anymore,
or anyone with us knowing how long.
עַד־מָתַי אֱלֹהִים יְחָרֶף צָר יְנָאֵץ אוֹיֵב שִׁמְךָ לָנֶצַח׃ 74:10
Psal. 74:10 How long, O God, will the adversary be defiant?
Shall the enemy despise Your name forever?
לָמָּה תָשִׁיב יָדְךָ וִימִינֶךָ מִקֶּרֶב (חֹוקְךָ) [חֵיקְךָ] כַלֵּה׃ 74:11
Psal. 74:11 Why would You draw back Your “hand?”
So Your right “hand” out of the midst of Your bosom,
bringing to an end.
Aside from the actual error in spelling in the parentheses, there is another problem with this verse. Its almost universal translations take liberties with the Hebrew, totally changing the meaning of this verse and the next few. All are variations on the following: “Why do You withdraw Your hand, even Your right hand? From within Your bosom, destroy them!” First the other translations treat the second word, an imperfect verb, as perfect. They get the phrase do You withdraw when it should be would You draw back (or withdraw). Thus the other translations make the question one of frustration. My translation makes the question the first part of a logical duel. The psalmist asks why, then in the second part, he answers his own question: So the Lord can destroy His enemy. In the next verses, he reinforces his answer, praising and glorifying the name and infinite power of the Lord.
וֵאלֹהִים מַלְכִּי מִקֶּדֶם פֹּעֵל יְשׁוּעוֹת בְּקֶרֶב הָאָרֶץ׃ 74:12
Psal. 74:12 Now God has been my King from of old,
preparing salvation in the midst of the earth.
אַתָּה פוֹרַרְתָּ בְעָזְּךָ יָם שִׁבַּרְתָּ רָאשֵׁי תַנִּינִים עַל־הַמָּיִם׃ 74:13
Psal. 74:13 You have broken the sea apart by Your strength,
shattered the heads of sea monsters upon the water.
אַתָּה רִצַּצְתָּ רָאשֵׁי לִוְיָתָן תִּתְּנֶנּוּ מַאֲכָל לְעָם לְצִיִּים׃ 74:14
Psal. 74:14 You have crushed the heads of Leviathan,
You could make it food for the desert's people.
אַתָּה בָקַעְתָּ מַעְיָן וָנָחַל אַתָּה הוֹבַשְׁתָּ נַהֲרוֹת אֵיתָן׃ 74:15
Psal. 74:15 You separated source and stream,
You have permanently dried up rivers.
לְךָ יוֹם אַף־לְךָ לָיְלָה אַתָּה הֲכִינוֹתָ מָאוֹר וָשָׁמֶשׁ׃ 74:16
Psal. 74:16 Day is Yours,
night is also Yours,
You established luminary and sun.
אַתָּה הִצַּבְתָּ כָּל־גְּבוּלֹות אָרֶץ קַיִץ וָחֹרֶף אַתָּה יְצַרְתָּם׃ 74:17
Psal. 74:17 You set up all the boundaries of the earth,
summer and winter, You formed them.
זְכָר־זֹאת אוֹיֵב חֵרֵף יְהוָה וְעַם נָבָל נִאֲצוּ שְׁמֶךָ׃ 74:18
Psal. 74:18 Remember this: An enemy defies the Lord,
and a foolish people despises Your name.
אַל־תִּתֵּן לְחַיַּת נֶפֶשׁ תּוֹרֶךָ חַיַּת עֲנִיֶּיךָ אַל־תִּשְׁכַּח לָנֶצַח׃ 74:19
Psal. 74:19 Do not deliver the soul of Your dove to wild animals,
do not forget forever the life of Your poor.
הַבֵּט לַבְּרִית כִּי מָלְאוּ מַחֲשַׁכֵּי־אֶרֶץ נְאוֹת חָמָס׃ 74:20
Psal. 74:20 Look to the covenant,
for the dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of injustice.
אַל־יָשֹׁב דַּךְ נִכְלָם עָנִי וְאֶבְיוֹן יְהַלְלוּ שְׁמֶךָ׃ 74:21
Psal. 74:21 Let not the oppressed turn back confused,
let the poor and the needy praise Your name.
קוּמָה אֱלֹהִים רִיבָה רִיבֶךָ זְכֹר חֶרְפָּתְךָ מִנִּי־נָבָל כָּל־הַיּוֹם׃ 74:22
Psal. 74:22 Arise, O God, plead Your cause,
remember Your reproach is from a fool all the time.
אַל־תִּשְׁכַּח קוֹל צֹרְרֶיךָ שְׁאוֹן קָמֶיךָ עֹלֶה תָמִיד׃ 74:23
Psal. 74:23 Do not ignore the noise of Your adversaries,
the uproar of those testing You is going up continually.
I have to say, this is a remarkable psalm. From a cursory reading of it, the second part of the psalm seems to be disconnected from the first part. In the first part, the psalmist expresses his ignorance as to why things are the way they are, seemingly without the intervention of the Lord. Then abruptly in the middle of v. 74:11, he becomes wise and explains why things seem so until the end of the psalm. In this extraordinary fashion the psalmist explains what he believes is going on: God shows His power by withholding it until His intervention reveals His astonishing ability to make things right. In other words, he attributes God’s seeming lack of intervention to His patience, and His waiting until His time is right. So the psalmist draws us in with his feigned ignorance and then springs his wisdom on us without warning. A very clever tactic, I must say.
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