It is hard to imagine that this lament psalm could have been written about anything other than the fall of Jerusalem. In fact, Burton Coffman’s assessment (Coffman, James Burton. “Commentary on Psalms 74”, “Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament”) was that it must have been one of three occasions. The first possibility is of course the 587 BC destruction of the Temple and the city by Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 24). The second seems much less likely – the 351 BC suppression of a Jewish uprising by Persian King Artaxerxes. Although the third possibility seems a bit more credible – the profaning of the Temple by Antiochus Epiphanes in 167 B.C – the first seems to fit much better (verse 7 notwithstanding).
Though the superscription assigns this psalm to Asaph, in actuality it would be the “sons” (descendants) of Asaph that were responsible; and the likelihood that it is a prophetic psalm seems quite high. The psalmist appears to obviously see the destruction to come, yet pleads for hope that it may not all come to pass. He asks God to remember the covenant and Mount Zion; and to “redeem the tribe” of His heritage.
This moving psalm is very appropriate for any community lament, as the psalmist combines fervor for God’s justice and vengeance against those who scoff, with praise for His power, might, and sovereignty:
Yet God my King is from of old,
working salvation in the midst of the earth…
Yours is the day, yours also the night;
you have established the heavenly lights and the sun.
You have fixed all the boundaries of the earth;
you have made summer and winter.
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
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