This stanza of Psalm 119 begins each line with the 16th letter of the Hebrew Aleph-Bet, “ayin.” The psalmist repeats three times the reference to himself as God’s servant. In 121, he declares his faithfulness to God as that servant, asking Him for deliverance from those which oppress him. In verse 126, he urges the Lord to act now because his laws have been broken. Whether this refers to a specific occasion or simply the general state of God’s people at the time, we are not told, but it hardly matters. It is a prayer to God for His justice.
It is the general consensus of most commentators that Psalm 76 centers around God’s destruction of Sennacherib‘s army during the time of Hezekiah. This would make “Asaph” in the superscription actually be those Levite descendants which were so named. The complete destruction and defeat described in verses 3-8 fits this line of thought.
Salem in verse 2 is the name of the kingdom city of Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18), and it is used synonymously with Jerusalem, especially in reference to Adonizedek (see Joshua 10:1-3). The references to the wrath of man praising God in verse 10, and the following verses about the victory of God’s people over the kings of man, echo well the insolence of Sennacherib being his downfall. His anger with God’s people brought him to pit an assault on God’s people with an army led by blasphemous representatives (2 Kings 18:17-36). Sennacherib’s defiance and mockery of the Lord were followed by Isaiah’s prophecy of his downfall and the subsequent crushing of his army by the angel of the Lord (2 Kings 19:14-36, Isaiah 37:36).
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some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
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