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New American Bible

2002 11 11
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Chapter 74


1 2 A maskil of Asaph. I Why, God, have you cast us off forever? Why does your anger burn against the sheep of your pasture?


Remember your flock that you gathered of old, the tribe you redeemed as your very own. Remember Mount Zion where you dwell.


Turn your steps toward the utter ruins, toward the sanctuary devastated by the enemy.


Your foes roared triumphantly in your shrine; they set up their own tokens of victory.


They hacked away like foresters gathering boughs, swinging their axes in a thicket of trees.


They smashed all your engraved work, pounded it with hammer and pick.


They set your sanctuary on fire; the abode of your name they razed and profaned.


They said in their hearts, "Destroy them all! Burn all the shrines of God in the land!"


3 Now we see no signs, we have no prophets, no one who knows how long.


How long, O God, shall the enemy jeer? Shall the foe revile your name forever?


Why draw back your right hand, why keep it idle beneath your cloak?


4 Yet you, God, are my king from of old, winning victories throughout the earth.


You stirred up the sea in your might; you smashed the heads of the dragons on the waters.


You crushed the heads of Leviathan, tossed him for food to the sharks.


You opened up springs and torrents, brought dry land out of the primeval waters.


Yours the day and yours the night; you set the moon and sun in place.


You fixed all the limits of the earth; summer and winter you made.


Remember how the enemy has jeered, O LORD, how a foolish people has reviled your name.


Do not surrender to beasts those who praise you; do not forget forever the life of your afflicted.


Look to your covenant, for the land is filled with gloom; the pastures, with violence.


Let not the oppressed turn back in shame; may the poor and needy praise your name.


Arise, God, defend your cause; remember the constant jeers of the fools.


Do not ignore the clamor of your foes, the unceasing uproar of your enemies.



1 [Psalm 74] A communal lament sung when the enemy invaded the temple; it would be especially appropriate at the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 B.C. Israel's God is urged to look upon the ruined sanctuary and remember the congregation who worshiped there ( Psalm 74:1-11). People and sanctuary are bound together; an attack on Zion is an attack on Israel. In the second half of the poem, the com-munity brings before God the story of their origins - their creation ( Psalm 74:12-17) - in order to move God to reenact that deed of creation now. Will God allow a lesser power to destroy the divine project ( Psalm 74:18-23)?

2 [1] Forever: the word implies that the disaster is already of long duration. Cf Psalm 74:9 and note.

3 [9] Now we see no signs: ancients often asked prophets to say for how long a divine punishment was to last. Cf 2 Sam 24:13. Here no prophet has arisen to indicate the duration.

4 [12-17] Comparable Canaanite literature describes the storm-god's victory over all-encompassing Sea and its allies (dragons and Leviathan) and the subsequent peaceful arrangement of the universe, sometimes through the placement of paired cosmic elements (day and night, sun and moon). Cf Psalm 89:12-13. The psalm apparently equates the enemies attacking the temple with the destructive cosmic forces already tamed by God. Why then are those forces now raging untamed against your own people?

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