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The book of Psalms is a collection of 150 different songs which don’t come anywhere close to being in chronological order. Instead, as we read through the book, we find ourselves leaping forward and back by centuries between various psalms. The collection begins with entries by David. But when we reach Psalm 90, we find that it was written by Moses who lived and died long before David was even born. But between David and Moses, we have Psalm 74—a psalm that was penned after the fall of Jerusalem, which occurred many centuries after David’s lifetime. So when you’re in the book of Psalms, you need to stay sharp and be on the lookout for clues as to when the specific psalm you are reading was written.
As we’re going to learn in this post, historical context plays a huge role in determining whether a psalm writer was honoring God with his sentiments, or being a mouthy little twerp. Today the Church teaches you that the entire book of Psalms is Divinely inspired. In doing this, she is encouraging you to embrace soul attitudes which God says He hates and celebrate those attitudes as God-honoring. But wait—aren’t we being a bit extreme? Do the psalms really go so far as to model attitudes which God hates? Yes, they certainly do, and that’s not something we should be fluffing off as no big deal.
In this post, we’re going to take a look at Psalm 74. This bomb definitely qualifies as one of the most insulting and irreverent piles of rebellious snark that we find in the whole collection. This psalm is outrageously insulting to Yahweh, but to understand why, you have to understand its historical context. So let’s get into it.
HISTORICAL CONTEXT OF PSALM 74
Not every psalm has an author’s name attached to it. Psalm 74 comes with the heading “a maskil of Asaph.” A maskil was a kind of meditative song. The reference to Asaph is confusing, because the original Asaph lived back in David’s time, yet this psalm is talking about events which happened centuries later. David’s Asaph was a Kohathite Levite who David appointed as head worship leader in Yahweh’s House—which in David’s day was still a tent Tabernacle. After David died, Solomon replaced the tent Tabernacle with a grand Temple, and Asaph continued to function as head worship leader. After Asaph passed on, the worship duties were carried on by Asaph’s descendants, and then they became shared by two other guilds of musicians which were founded by men named Heman and Ethan. You’ll find all of these names listed in the book of Psalms. But when you do, you have to interpret them as general terms. When a psalm is credited to Asaph, that can just mean it was composed by one of Asaph’s many descendants—not by the Asaph who lived in David’s time. It’s also quite likely that many descendants of that first Asaph were also named Asaph, for the Jews loved to recycle the same names over and over again. This is clearly the case with Psalm 74, since it is discussing historical events that didn’t occur until centuries after David’s time. Whoever the Psalm 74 Asaph is, he is alive after the Temple and Jerusalem have been burned to the ground by the Babylonian army, and he’s very upset by these events. Psalm 74 is one long protest to God in which Asaph bitterly complains against Yahweh for what Yahweh has done.
The destruction of Solomon’s Temple occurred around 586 BC during the lifetimes of the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel. In the Old Testament records, we find Yahweh predicting the fall of Jerusalem as early as Isaiah’s day, and Isaiah preached from about 750-700 BC. So why is it important to understand that Yahweh was warning the Jews about Jerusalem’s destruction centuries before it happened? Because in Psalm 74, Asaph is going to act like he has no idea why this shocking event has occurred. Is Asaph really as ignorant as he claims to be? Not at all.
To see through the absurd act Asaph is putting on in Psalm 74, you need to realize how well-informed all Jews were about why Yahweh chose to burn down Jerusalem and His own Temple. In Asaph’s day, prophecies from Yahweh weren’t like emails that bypass your inbox today and end up in your spam folder without you ever seeing them. All Jews understood why Yahweh was so livid with His chosen people, and all Jews had heard message after message of Yahweh giving long, detailed explanations of why He was so angry with them and what He was going to do to their homeland. So when Asaph pretends not to understand what’s going on in Psalm 74, he’s lying his face off. Is God fooled? Of course not.
Decades before the fall of Jerusalem occurred, Yahweh called Jeremiah to function as His fulltime prophet. Jeremiah was based in Jerusalem—right in the heart of the action. Because of where he was located, the immediate audiences of Jeremiah’s messages were all the folks who were going to be directly impacted by the fall of Jerusalem.
Now Jerusalem was a large city, and a key center of trade in Israel. Where there is trade, there is a lot of human traffic. So foreigners flowed in and out of Jerusalem, and while they were doing their business in the city, there was that loud fruitcake Jeremiah, shouting his warnings of impending doom. Jeremiah was a very memorable guy—especially when he’d run around doing crazy things, like waving a pair of rotting underwear in people’s faces and saying that Israel was like that nasty underwear to God (see Metaphors from Yahweh: Rebellious Underwear). Jeremiah also walked around with his neck and arms stuck in a wooden yoke—the kind that farmers would put on their oxen to control the animals while they were plowing their fields (see Know Your Bible Lesson 30: The Yoke of Babylon). Jeremiah came across like a real nutcase, and Yahweh intentionally had Jeremiah act in strange ways in order to grab people’s attention. Did it work? Oh yes. Soon all of the nations surrounding Israel were talking about the strange prophecies that were being told in that land—prophecies about how Israel’s own national God was bent on destroying her.
Now Yahweh was so thorough about circulating His messages that He even had Jeremiah write letters which were sent to foreign nations and read there. One time Jeremiah wrote a long prophecy to the king of the Babylonian Empire—the same empire that was going to destroy Jerusalem. In that letter, the prophet announced that the Babylonians would be the ones to destroy all that was left of Israel.
“Israel is a scattered flock that lions have chased away. The first to devour them was the king of Assyria; the last to crush their bones was Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon.” (Jer. 50:17)
By the time the Babylonians actually took Jerusalem down, they were so aware that Yahweh had prophesied their victory that they had great respect for Jeremiah and didn’t want to harm him. So while they killed and imprisoned many other Jews, they let Jeremiah go free and choose to either stay in what was left of Judah or move to Babylon and enjoy the favor of the Babylonian king. It’s more than a little ironic to hear a non-Jewish invading commander who is burning down Jerusalem summarize Yahweh’s prophecies to the Jews. And yet this is exactly what the commander of the Babylonian army did when he came across Jeremiah in the middle of sacking Jerusalem. As this army commander summarizes things Yahweh has said over the last several decades, it just proves how well-informed the whole biblical world was of why Yahweh had decided to so ruthlessly turn against His own chosen nation.
When the commander of the guard found Jeremiah, he said to him, “Yahweh your God decreed this disaster for this place. And now Yahweh has brought it about; He has done just as He said He would. All this happened because you people sinned against Yahweh and did not obey Him.” (Jer. 40:2-3)
And yet what we’re going to find in Psalm 74 is a Jewish man acting like he doesn’t understand what Yahweh’s problem is or why Yahweh is trashing Jerusalem. Well, no, we’re just not buying it. If a Babylonian commander who lived hundreds of miles away from Jerusalem could be so well-informed on what irreverent pills the Jews were being to their own God, snarky little Asaph certainly understood as well.
Now as widespread as Jeremiah’s messages were, Yahweh went still further. The Babylonians didn’t trash Jerusalem right off—instead, they launched three major strikes over a series of years. In 598 BC, the second strike occurred, and Yahweh arranged for a young Jewish man named Ezekiel to be hauled away to Babylon along with 10,000 other Jewish captives. Once Yahweh had settled Ezekiel in the capital city of the Babylonian Empire, He called Ezekiel to function as His fulltime prophet. So now we have Jeremiah still shouting at everyone in Jerusalem, and then we’ve got Ezekiel preaching message after message to the Jews who had been forcibly relocated to Babylon. Like Jeremiah, Ezekiel also acted in some extremely bizarre ways in order to grab people’s attention and help them understand what Yahweh was about to do. Ezekiel even acted out the whole fall of Jerusalem while lying on his side in the dirt: he built a little army, and played toy soldiers while he acted out the coming Babylonian siege against his homeland (see Prophets in Action: Ezekiel & the Siege of Jerusalem). So did Yahweh leave even the remotest possibility for Jews to remain uninformed about why He was about to destroy Israel? No, He didn’t. But then we have twerpy little Asaph, whining and griping in Psalm 74 and acting like he has no idea what Yahweh’s problem is. What a lying sack.
So how did the Jews react to Yahweh’s barrage of warnings that His patience with their incessant rebellion was at an end? They reacted with all kinds of attitude. They mocked and assaulted God’s prophets. They paid false prophets to counter everything Yahweh was saying, and they went right on worshiping the gods they’d abandoned Yahweh for. And so Yahweh gave them up, because Yahweh is not a doormat.
“I will forsake My House, abandon My inheritance; I will give the one I love into the hands of her enemies. My inheritance has become to Me like a lion in the forest. She roars at Me; therefore I hate her.” (Jer. 12:7-8)
“I will scatter you like chaff driven by the desert wind. This is your lot, the portion I have decreed for you,” declares Yahweh, “because you have forgotten Me and trusted in false gods. I will pull up your skirts over your face so that your shame may be seen—your adulteries and lustful neighings, your shameless prostitution! I have seen your detestable acts on the hills and in the fields. Woe to you, Jerusalem!” (Jer. 13:24-27)
“Who will have pity on you, Jerusalem? Who will mourn for you? Who will stop to ask how you are? You have rejected Me,” declares Yahweh. “You keep on backsliding. So I will reach out and destroy you; I am tired of holding back. I will winnow them with a winnowing fork at the city gates of the land. I will bring bereavement and destruction on My people, for they have not changed their ways.” (Jer. 15:5-7)
God’s patience has limits. If we push Him too far, He pummels us in anger. In all of these excerpts from Jeremiah, Yahweh is saying that He is punishing the Jews because of their spiritual rebellion. No one is getting beat on because they are failing to be morally perfect. Sinless perfection has never been something God requires of humans. But an internal hatred of God, and an adamant refusal to submit to Him—these are the soul attitudes which land us in Hell. In these passages, Yahweh says the Jews hate Him. He says they have forgotten and rejected Him. He says they have refused to repent. The destruction of Jerusalem was Yahweh’s direct response to soul attitudes. And after we listen to Yahweh explain time and time again just how foul those soul attitudes were, we wonder why He waited as long as He did.
So now that we understand all of this background, and now that we’ve looked at a sample of how clearly Yahweh explained His reasons for destroying what was left of Israel, let’s get into Psalm 74.
Asaph is writing after Jerusalem has been destroyed. The wording of this psalm suggests that Asaph personally lived through this shocking event and is likely writing this psalm a very short time afterwards. He’s playing the part of the horrified, stupefied Jew who can’t even fathom why Israel’s own God would so suddenly turn against her. Unlike Christians today, who so foolishly try to pretend that God can’t have anything to do with evil, Asaph understands that Yahweh was intimately involved in Israel’s downfall. So in this psalm he rotates between blaming Yahweh for the whole thing, and accusing Yahweh of doing wrong by failing to stop this inexcusable tragedy.
O God, why have You rejected us forever? Why does Your anger burn against the sheep of Your pasture? (Ps. 74:1)
Once you understand the historical context and the great lengths Yahweh has gone to in order to leave no question in anyone’s mind about why He was destroying Israel, you should be able to see why it’s more than a little obnoxious for Asaph to dare to ask Yahweh why He has trashed Jerusalem, His Temple, and the surrounding kingdom of Judah. If Asaph is going to begin a question with why, then he should be asking why he and his fellow Jews have been such rebellious idiots all of this time. He should be asking why they have always insisted on worshiping gods who aren’t even real. He should be asking why they’re so determined to provoke the very God who holds their molecules together. But Asaph is such a mouthy twit, that he won’t bother to ask why questions which might actually help him learn something useful out of this mess. Instead, he asks asinine questions like “Why are You mad, Yahweh?” Really?? This is like you telling your friend fifty times in a row that you’re going to go to Hawaii for your vacation only to have him ask, “So where are you going on your vacation?” Your friend wouldn’t ask such a question unless he was trying to make you feel totally ignored. This is what bratty Asaph is doing with Yahweh in Psalm 74. Asaph doesn’t have cotton for brains. He knows perfectly well why Yahweh’s anger is burning against the idolatrous sheep of His pasture. But Asaph is refusing to acknowledge anything Yahweh says that Asaph doesn’t like. Instead, he has the gall to ask Yahweh why He’s mad.
Now notice how Asaph accuses Yahweh of rejecting the Jews forever.
O God, why have You rejected us forever? (Ps. 74:1)
Here’s another totally unwarranted complaint. Asaph knows quite well that Yahweh has not abandoned the Jews forever—even though they’ve given Him every reason to. Instead, before Jerusalem actually went down, Yahweh gave all of these little brats a general outline of His plans for them—plans which included bringing them back out of captivity and letting them return to their precious homeland. When Christians today quote that famous verse, “For I know the plans I have for you—plans to prosper you, and not to harm you…,” they’re actually ripping a line out of one of the speeches Yahweh gave to the Jews which confirmed that His discipline of them would be temporary. But wait—why are modern day Christians ripping a line out of a speech Yahweh gave to rebellious twits thousands of years ago and trying to claim it as a promise for themselves? Because like Asaph, we Christians are also a bunch of rebellious twits who like to play selective listening games whenever God is talking. God is so not talking to Christians in Jeremiah 29—in fact, He’s not talking to Christians anywhere in the Old Testament. But far be it from us to actually listen to God and understand what He’s saying. No, we’d much rather just break His speeches up and make a song out of any line that sounds cheery, even if those lines are totally irrelevant to us.
So setting our own idiocy aside, let’s see what Yahweh was actually saying in Jeremiah 29.
This is what Yahweh says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill My good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares Yahweh, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares Yahweh, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares Yahweh, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” (Jer. 29:10-14)
Now once you understand that the folks who Yahweh originally gave this speech to were a bunch of snarky rebels who inwardly despised Him, you have to marvel at the incredible grace He is displaying here. Yahweh says He has plans to give these unrepentant brats hope. But why? Why should God Almighty give these twerps anything good after the way they’ve been treating Him? This is how incredibly generous Yahweh is. Instead of wiping Israel off the map and turning every defiant Jew into a pile of smoking ashes, He actually speaks of His future plans to restore these people before He even trashes them—you know, so they’ll have something nice to look forward to. What an amazing God. But then there’s bratty Asaph, who gripes: “O God, why have You rejected us forever?” Wow, what a zero.
Remember the nation You purchased long ago, the people of Your inheritance, whom You redeemed— Mount Zion, where You dwelt. (Ps. 74:2)
The city of Jerusalem sprawled across the tops of four hills, one of which was named Mount Zion. Because the Temple was located on Mount Zion, and Yahweh was perceived as dwelling in the Temple, you find many references to Yahweh dwelling on Mt. Zion in the Old Testament.
Well, now that the Temple has been burned to the ground, Asaph moves his language to the past tense—Mt. Zion is where Yahweh dwelt—but He’s clearly not dwelling there anymore. Asaph then tells Yahweh to “remember” Israel. Ah yes, talking to God like He’s some halfwit who keeps forgetting who His chosen people are—there’s more God-honoring talk.
As much as Asaph would like to tell himself that this whole downfall of Israel can be chalked up to God having some kind of memory lapse, that’s really not what’s going on. God has not walked away from Israel, nor does He need Asaph to help jog His memory about anything. It was Yahweh Himself who tore Jerusalem down—this is another point He hammers over and over again in the books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Listen to how Yahweh claims responsibility for trashing the Jews in these passages:
“Why should I forgive you? Your children have forsaken Me and sworn by gods that are not gods. I supplied all their needs, yet they committed adultery and thronged to the houses of prostitutes. They are well-fed, lusty stallions, each neighing for another man’s wife. Should I not punish them for this?” declares Yahweh. “Should I not avenge Myself on such a nation as this? Go through her vineyards and ravage them, but do not destroy them completely. Strip off her branches, for these people do not belong to Yahweh. The people of Israel and the people of Judah have been utterly unfaithful to Me,” declares Yahweh. (Jer. 5:7-11)
“This is what the Sovereign Yahweh says: This is Jerusalem, which I have set in the center of the nations, with countries all around her. Yet in her wickedness she has rebelled against My laws and decrees more than the nations and countries around her. She has rejected My laws and has not followed My decrees.
Therefore this is what the Sovereign Yahweh says: You have been more unruly than the nations around you and have not followed My decrees or kept My laws. You have not even conformed to the standards of the nations around you.
Therefore this is what the Sovereign Yahweh says: I Myself am against you, Jerusalem, and I will inflict punishment on you in the sight of the nations. Because of all your detestable idols, I will do to you what I have never done before and will never do again. Therefore in your midst parents will eat their children, and children will eat their parents. I will inflict punishment on you and will scatter all your survivors to the winds. Therefore as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Yahweh, because you have defiled My sanctuary with all your vile images and detestable practices, I Myself will shave you; I will not look on you with pity or spare you. A third of your people will die of the plague or perish by famine inside you; a third will fall by the sword outside your walls; and a third I will scatter to the winds and pursue with drawn sword.” (Eze. 5:5-12)
“I will make you a ruin and a reproach among the nations around you, in the sight of all who pass by. You will be a reproach and a taunt, a warning and an object of horror to the nations around you when I inflict punishment on you in anger and in wrath and with stinging rebuke. I Yahweh have spoken. When I shoot at you with My deadly and destructive arrows of famine, I will shoot to destroy you. I will bring more and more famine upon you and cut off your supply of food. I will send famine and wild beasts against you, and they will leave you childless. Plague and bloodshed will sweep through you, and I will bring the sword against you. I, Yahweh, have spoken.” (Eze. 5:14-17)
So according to Yahweh, who is doing all of the punishing, killing, and torturing in these passages? Yahweh is. Does Yahweh have a problem associating Himself with evil? Not hardly. In these passages, Yahweh says that He will be the One causing family members to eat each other, He will be the One spreading hideous diseases, causing starvation, and sending in wild beasts to feast on human flesh. So the next time you hear some Christian trying to say that God has nothing to do with evil, you need to recognize their foolish talk for what it is. When Christians today yank one-liners out of context and then pretend those lines are promises they can stand on while they totally reject everything else that Yahweh teaches in those same passages, how do you think Yahweh is responding?
God’s wrath is just as real today as it was back when Jerusalem was going up in flames. As an individual soul, you’re playing a dangerous game when you intentionally ignore all the parts of the Bible that make you uncomfortable. Then as you sit around griping at God for all of the horrors that are happening in the world and pleading for Him to get off His duff and do something, who are you acting like? Snarky Asaph. Keep acting like Asaph, and you’re going to end up in Hell. God isn’t a doormat, and He isn’t some incompetent bumbler who keeps letting demons pull one over on Him. If you want to avoid irking God, you need to take a hard look at your prayer language and cut out all of that incessant complaining and commanding that Christians are so famous for (see Treating God Like God: Simple Steps to Improving the Way that We Pray). God has good reasons for what He does. If we started listening to God instead of constantly criticizing Him, perhaps we’d finally learn what it means to be loyal to Him.
So now that we’ve heard Yahweh’s side of the story, we can see what a twerp Asaph’s being to tell Yahweh to remember the Jews. But now Asaph is going to keep on whining and bossing God around while he describes recent events. This absurd blow-by-blow of the recent attack on Jerusalem makes it sound like Yahweh has just returned from vacationing in another universe and thus has no idea how His own Temple has been reduced to rubble. In this next passage from Psalm 74, notice how Asaph refuses to acknowledge that the fall of Jerusalem was exactly what Yahweh wanted to happen.
Turn Your steps toward these everlasting ruins, all this destruction the enemy has brought on the sanctuary. Your foes roared in the place where You met with us; they set up their standards as signs. They behaved like men wielding axes to cut through a thicket of trees. They smashed all the carved paneling with their axes and hatchets. They burned Your sanctuary to the ground; they defiled the dwelling place of Your Name. They said in their hearts, “We will crush them completely!” They burned every place where God was worshiped in the land. (Ps. 74:3-8)
Asaph makes it sound like Judah was peppered with shrines to Yahweh. What a crock. When we check out what Yahweh has said about the religious climate in Judah, we quickly discover what a boldfaced liar Asaph is.
“‘The people of Judah have done evil in My eyes, declares Yahweh. They have set up their detestable idols in the house that bears My Name and have defiled it. They have built the high places of Topheth in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to burn their sons and daughters in the fire—something I did not command, nor did it enter My mind.” (Jer. 7:30-31)
According to Yahweh, His Temple was stuffed with idols, and it was false gods the Jews were worshiping in that place, not Yahweh.
According to Yahweh, there was a valley outside of Jerusalem where Jews were burning live children to idol gods every day. Funny how Asaph fails to mention this in his whinefest.
“Do you not see what they are doing in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? The children gather wood, the fathers light the fire, and the women knead the dough and make cakes to offer to the Queen of Heaven. They pour out drink offerings to other gods to arouse My anger.” (Jer. 7:17-19)
According to Yahweh, in the towns throughout Judah and in Jerusalem itself, whole families were working hard to present sacrifices to Asherah—the female goddess who the Jews sometimes referred to as the Queen of Heaven.
According to Yahweh, there were many gods who the Jews were presenting offerings to—and He says they were doing it intentionally to provoke His anger. But Asaph makes it sound like the land was peppered with sites where Yahweh was being honored.
“And they will know that I am Yahweh, when their people lie slain among their idols around their altars, on every high hill and on all the mountaintops, under every spreading tree and every leafy oak—places where they offered fragrant incense to all their idols.” (Eze. 6:13)
There’s no question that Judah was peppered with worship sites—but according to Yahweh, none of those sites were for Him. Not even His Temple was being used for Him anymore. And yet given all of this, Asaph continues his snarky little song by whining:
We are given no signs from God; no prophets are left, and none of us knows how long this will be. (Ps. 74:9)
We’ve already shown how Yahweh specifically said the Jews would remain in captivity for 70 years. Yet Asaph says “none of us knows how long this will be.” And even though the fall of Jerusalem, the fall of the Temple, the starvation, disease, deaths, and captivity were all signs that Yahweh’s many predictions were coming true, just as He said they would, Asaph whines, “We are given no signs from God.” As for prophets: they’re still around. Jeremiah and Ezekiel both continued to prophesy after the fall of Jerusalem. Daniel is also alive and well and flourishing in Babylon. Are you seeing what a fat liar Asaph is? The man is just throwing out one complaint after another while he completely blows off centuries of words from Yahweh.
How long will the enemy mock You, God? Will the foe revile Your Name forever? Why do You hold back Your hand, Your right hand? Take it from the folds of Your garment and destroy them! (Ps. 74:10-11)
This line about Yahweh taking His hand from the folds of His garment is the ancient way of saying, “God, get Your hands out of Your pockets and do something!” Nice. And yet is it really Yahweh’s honor that Asaph cares about defending? Not hardly. It’s his own wounded pride that Asaph is thinking about. You see, the ancient Jews were a bunch of arrogant bigots who loved acting like they were superior to everyone else. So unsurprisingly, their neighbors didn’t like them very much. When Jerusalem fell, other nations responded with a whole lot of celebrating and mocking.
Now it wasn’t like Israel’s neighbors were a bunch of well-mannered cupcakes. On the contrary, each nation took turns at barbarically bullying others whenever they had the chance. There was a lot of tension in the biblical world—a lot of warring and threatening and taunting. And because every nation was viewed as having national gods who defended that nation, when a nation was conquered, its gods looked weak. Right now Yahweh is looking pretty weak to other nations. It looks like Yahweh has just gotten spanked by the Babylonian gods. Jews like Asaph are getting mocked wherever they go—first for being conquered, and then for having a sissy God. In Psalm 74, Asaph is trying to get Yahweh to defend His own reputation by attacking the nations who are currently scoffing at Israel’s downfall. And yet Asaph’s act of caring about Yahweh’s reputation rings pretty hollow once we realize how much Asaph himself is ignoring everything Yahweh has said about this whole situation. Not once has Asaph mentioned how his own people have been mocking God for years. If he cared so much about Yahweh’s feelings, he would be expressing devotion to God at this time. But Asaph only pretends to care about Yahweh’s feelings when he thinks it will personally benefit him to do so. Asaph has no problem with Yahweh being mocked by the Jews 24/7—it’s only when Asaph becomes a target of mockery himself that he suddenly finds it so problematic.
But God is my King from long ago; He brings salvation on the earth. It was You who split open the sea by Your power; You broke the heads of the monster in the waters. It was You who crushed the head of Leviathan and gave it as food to the creatures of the desert. It was You who opened up springs and streams; You dried up the ever-flowing rivers. The day is Yours, and Yours also the night; You established the sun and moon. It was You who set all the boundaries of the earth; You made both summer and winter. Remember how the enemy has mocked You, Yahweh, how foolish people have reviled Your Name. Do not hand over the life of Your dove to wild beasts; do not forget the lives of Your afflicted people forever. (Ps. 74:12-19)
First Asaph lays the praise on thick—praise which rings totally false from a man who opened this psalm by asking, “Why does Your anger burn against the sheep of Your pasture?” And notice how Asaph only condemns himself by demonstrating how aware he is of Yahweh’s supremacy and power. Leviathan was a greatly feared, dragon-like creature who terrified sailors at sea (see What kind of animal was Leviathan?). Humans viewed Leviathan as an invincible creature who seemed impossible to kill, so when Asaph describes Yahweh giving Leviathan meat to desert dwelling creatures, he’s emphasizing how incredibly powerful Yahweh is. Yet as Asaph waxes on about Yahweh’s supremacy over created things, he persists in personally rebelling against Yahweh by refusing to acknowledge the great rebellion of the Jews. He describes Israel as a land where Yahweh was worshiped in many places, even though he knows that was not true. Then he has the gall to refer to Israel as Yahweh’s innocent “dove” who he urges Yahweh not to hand over to wild beasts. A dove?? Such a metaphor hardly lines up with the metaphors Yahweh uses for Israel in Jeremiah and Ezekiel.
“My inheritance has acted toward Me like a lion in the forest. She has roared against Me. Therefore, I hate her.” (Jer. 12:8)
But then we have more of Asaph:
Have regard for Your Covenant, because haunts of violence fill the dark places of the land. (Ps. 74:20)
By mentioning the Covenant, Asaph really shows what a spiritual moron he is. According to Yahweh’s Covenant with Israel, He would obliterate her if she rebelled against Him. Given the fact that the Jews in Asaph’s time are still in a state of unrepentant defiance, it’s more than a little stupid for Asaph to urge Yahweh to stick to His Covenant. The only reason there is still an Israel today is because Yahweh decided not to be a Stickler about the original tenants of His Covenant, and instead choose to be a billion times more merciful than the Jews deserved.
Do not let the oppressed retreat in disgrace; may the poor and needy praise Your Name. Rise up, O God, and defend Your cause; remember how fools mock You all day long. Do not ignore the clamor of Your adversaries, the uproar of Your enemies, which rises continually. (Ps. 74:21-23)
Here’s more idiotic language. Asaph urges Yahweh to “Rise up, O God, and defend Your cause.” This is precisely what Yahweh has done by leveling Jerusalem and banishing the Jews. Of course what Asaph is refusing to acknowledge is that his own countrymen are “the fools” who mock God all day long. The Jews were the adversaries of God who continually clamored against Him with their incessant rebellion. So Yahweh did rise up, and Yahweh did defend His own cause—which was to glorify Himself by demonstrating to the whole biblical world and us today that He is a God who has boundaries.
We’ve now come to the end of this tiresome psalm which was written by a man who was so utterly entrenched in rebellion that he felt free to rewrite history and redefine truth to suit his own selfish interests. In Asaph’s delusional mind, he and his fellow Jews were a bunch of innocent victims of persecution, and Yahweh was a Slacker who was taking too long to come to the aid of His “dove.” Unless Asaph made some major changes after writing this psalm—which is hard to picture—the man is currently roasting in Hell. You really don’t want to be like Asaph. And now that you understand what’s wrong with Psalm 74, don’t be calling this God-bashing rot Divinely inspired.
Psalm 137: Dashing Infants & Disparaging Yahweh
Psalm 90: Moses Gripes at Yahweh
Spiritual Maturity in the Bible: Where is it?
Parables of Yahweh: The Valley of Dry Bones
Jeremiah 2-3: Yahweh Justifies His Wrath
Understanding Moses: Identifying Soul Attitudes in Deuteronomy 8
Soul Attitudes That Please God: What They Are & How We Develop Them
Offensive Worship Songs: LORD, LET YOUR GLORY FALL by Matt Redman
Songs that God Hates: Before the Throne of God Above
Songs that Insult Yahweh: CHAMPION by Jesus Culture