God, Defender of Zion
1 For the director.[b] With stringed instruments. A psalm of Asaph. A song.
2 [c]God is renowned in Judah;
his name is great in Israel.
3 His tent has been established in Salem,
his dwelling place in Zion.
4 There he shattered the flashing arrows,
shields and swords and weapons of war. Selah
5 [d]You are awesome and resplendent,
more majestic than the everlasting mountains.
6 The bold warriors lie plundered
and sleeping their last sleep.[e]
And not one of the men of war
can lift up his hands.
7 At your rebuke, O God of Jacob,
both chariots and horses lie prostrate.
8 You indeed are awesome;
who can stand in your presence when your anger is aroused?
9 You thundered your verdicts from the heavens;
the earth in its terror was silent
10 when you arose, O God, to judge,
to rescue all the afflicted of the land.[f] Selah
11 Human wrath only serves to praise you;[g]
those who survive your anger will cling to you.
12 [h]Make vows to the Lord, your God, and keep them;
let all the lands nearby
bring gifts to the Awesome One,
13 who breaks the spirit of rulers
and inspires fear in the kings of the earth.
- Psalm 76:1 In 701 B.C., the mighty army of Sennacherib had camped beneath the walls of Jerusalem. One night the attacker suddenly lifted the siege. What mysterious terror did the Lord employ to put to rout the forces of that haughty ruler? It is the victory of God at Jerusalem; and in the holy city, God reveals himself through his triumphs (see 2 Ki 19:35). The memory of this event remained engraved in the minds of the people (see 2 Mac 8:19; Sir 48:21) and became the symbol for the salvation awaited by the poor, the remnant of God.
Like Ps 46, this hymn to the glory of Zion is doubtless inspired by that event; it restores the courage and hope of the exiles returning from Babylon after 538 B.C. The fearsome God prostrates the powerful of the world and saves the lowly. This confidence of the poor will continuously rise from the heart of humankind in protest against haughty dominators as an announcement of the judgment of God.
It is by the glorious Christ that God the Father dwells in and protects his new people, the Church. With this psalm, we can rightly celebrate our Savior, who is terrible for his enemies: the devil, sin, and death.
- Psalm 76:1 For the director: these words are thought to be a musical or liturgical notation. Asaph: see notes on Pss 73–89.
- Psalm 76:2 The Lord has chosen Salem (ancient name for Jerusalem; see Gen 14:18; Heb 7:1-3) as his royal city so that both the southern kingdom (Judah) and the northern kingdom (Israel) may gain reassurance that God is in their midst (see Ps 46).
- Psalm 76:5 Praise of God’s mighty deed against the Assyrians and his judgment of evildoers.
- Psalm 76:6 Last sleep: allusion to the night of which 2 Ki 19:35 speaks (see Ps 13:5; Jer 51:39, 57; Nah 3:18).
- Psalm 76:10 Rescue all the afflicted of the land: the psalmist widens his perspectives to include not only the inhabitants of Zion, but also all the lowly who will be saved by God’s defeat of the rulers and war leaders.
- Psalm 76:11 Praise you: everyone must give honor to the Most High—even those who rebel against the Lord and his kingdom must proclaim his honor and glory. When wrath leads men to do evil, it also leads to God’s praise when he defeats them. The same theme is found in an alternative translation: “your wrath against men brings you praise”; in his wrath, he brings down the wicked and obtains praise from those he has thus rescued. Furthermore, God’s wrath against evil is never exhausted. This should gain him the praise and fear of all peoples.
- Psalm 76:12 All people must respond wisely to the Lord. His covenant people must keep their vows to him. The Gentiles must offer homage to this Awesome One who rules over everyone, including kings.