Introduction to Psalm 74

Maschil of Asaph. Some think that Asaph, the penman of this psalm, was not the same that lived in the times of David, but some other of the same name, a descendant of his {k}, that lived after the Babylonish captivity, since the psalm treats of things that were done at the time the Jews were carried captive into Babylon, or after; but this hinders not that it might be the same man; for why might he not, under a spirit of prophecy, speak of the sufferings of the church in later ages, as well as David and others testify before hand of the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow? The psalm is called "Maschil", because it gives knowledge of, and causes to understand what afflictions should befall the church and people of God in later times. The Targum is,

"a good understanding by the hands of Asaph.''

Some think the occasion of the psalm was the Babylonish captivity, as before observed, when indeed the city and temple were burnt; but then there were prophets, as Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and after them Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi; which is here denied, Psalms 74:9, others think it refers to the times of Antiochus Epiphanes; but though prophecy indeed had then ceased, and the temple was profaned, yet not burnt. The Jews apply it to their present captivity, and to the profanation of the temple, by Titus {l}, and to the destruction both of the city and temple by him; so Theodoret: the title of it in the Syriac version is,

"when David saw the angel slaying the people, and he wept and said, on me and my seed, and not on these innocent sheep; and again a prediction of the siege of the city of the Jews, forty years after the ascension, by Vespasian the old man, and Titus his son, who killed multitudes of the Jews, and destroyed Jerusalem; and hence the Jews have been wandering to this day.''

But then it is not easy to account for it why a psalm of lamentation should be composed for the destruction of that people, which so righteously came upon them for their sins, and particularly for their contempt and rejection of the Messiah. It therefore seems better, with Calvin and Cocceius, to suppose that this psalm refers to the various afflictions, which at different times should come upon the church and people of God; and perhaps the superstition, wickedness, and cruelty of the Romish antichrist, may be hinted at.