Psalm 74 – “Petition”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
The psalmist begs God to avenge the enemy.

II. Photo
The enemies have attacked: “It is like men wielding axes against a gnarled tree; with hatchet and pike they hacked away at its carved work!” (vv. 5-6)

III. Select Verses    
1b: Why, O God, do You forever reject us, do You fume in anger at the flock that You tend?
2-4: Remember the community You made Yours long ago, Your very own tribe that You redeemed, Mount Zion, where You dwell. Bestir Yourself because of the perpetual tumult, all the outrages of the enemy in the sanctuary. Your foes roar inside Your meeting-place; they take their signs for true signs.
9: No signs appear for us; there is no longer any prophet; no one among us knows for how long.
12-17:  O God, my king from of old, who brings deliverance throughout the land;  it was You who drove back the sea with Your might, who smashed the heads of the monsters in the waters; it was You who crushed the heads of Leviathan, who left him as food for the denizens of the desert; it was You who released springs and torrents, who made mighty rivers run dry; the day is Yours, the night also; it was You who set in place the orb of the sun; You fixed all the boundaries of the earth; summer and winter — You made them.
22: Rise, O God, champion Your cause; be mindful that You are blasphemed by base men all day long.

IV. Outline
1a. Superscription
1b. Complaint/accusation
2-3. Petition
4-11a. Complaint
11b. Petition
12-17. Hymnic praise
18-23. Petition

V. Comment
Psalm 74 belongs to the complaint/petition/imprecation genre. As Tate writes, the psalm exposes “the roaring enemies who have wreaked great damage to the divine dwelling place and to the people. The great distress which has resulted and the behavior of the enemies are described for God’s attention, and he is implored to intervene with power to rectify the situation. The fourth section (vv 12–17) is different, however; it is hymnic in nature, describing in a glorifying way the cosmic actions of God. These are, of course, put in the form of address to God. This section serves two major purposes in the psalm: (1) it looks back to the great acts of God and lays a foundation for the present appeal; (2) it contrasts in a striking way the cosmic strength and power of Yahweh with the seeming weakness which he has displayed toward his own major concerns: covenant, temple, and the poor and needy people of his “pasture.” He is a powerful cosmic king who is failing as a Divine Warrior in the view of the speaker in Ps 74— failing because of his unrelenting anger against his own people—while he tolerates outrageous behavior on the part of those who slander his name and destroy his temple (cf Young, 155–57). This section serves as a major motivation in the prayer (motivations are rather common in laments; see Gunkel-Begrich, Einleitung, 125, 129–32; S. Mowinckel, PIW, I, 204–6).” (246)

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Gerstenberger, Erhard S. “Psalms Part 1 with an Introduction to Cultic Poetry” Forms of Old Testament Literature (Michigan: Eerdmans, 1988).
Tate, Marvin. “Psalms 51-100” Word Biblical Commentary vol. 20 (Waco, Texas: Wordbooks, 1990).
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