Psalms 79 Commentary

Psalms 79-80 Cries from a conquered people

Like a previous psalm of Asaph, Psalm 79 is from the time of Jerusalem’s destruction and the taking of the people into captivity. (For an outline of events see introductory notes to Psalm 74.) The historical setting for Psalm 80 is not clear. Both psalms, 79 and 80, are cries to God for salvation after Israel has suffered defeat and desolation.

The scene around Jerusalem is one of horror. The temple has been destroyed, the city is in ruins, and the army is a mass of decaying corpses providing food for wild birds and animals. Shame is added to sorrow through the insults heaped on Israel by its neighbours (79:1-4).

True, the destruction of Jerusalem has been a judgment sent by God on the nation because of its sin, but, ask the people, is not that enough? Will not God now reverse his judgment and punish those who eat up his people (5-7)? They pray that God will forgive their sins and restore them to their land. In this way he will silence those nations who mock him as being powerless to save (8-10). God’s captive people cry out to him to rescue them and punish those who insult him (11-13).


Again the people cry to God for some decisive action that will save them from their present plight (80:1-3). They are weighed down with grief. God has apparently forgotten them and their enemies cruelly mock them (4-7).

When they think of the nation’s past glory they wonder why they must suffer such shame. Israel was like a vine transplanted from Egypt into Canaan, where it grew and spread. It covered the mountains, burst its boundaries, and reached to the Lebanon Ranges and the Euphrates River (8-11). Why then does God allow the wild beasts of the forest to plunder and destroy his vineyard? Why does he allow enemy nations to crush Israel (12-13)?

The people pray that God will rescue the suffering nation, that he will save the damaged vine and restore it to healthy growth (14-16). They pray that he will give back to Israel the strength it once had as his specially chosen nation (17-19).

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