Keep Your Promise!

Psalm 74

An EasyEnglish Translation with Notes (about 1200 word vocabulary) on Psalm 74

Gordon Churchyard

Words in boxes are from the Bible.

A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.

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Jesus said, "One stone will not stay on another. They will all become broken". (Matthew 25:2)

Psalm 74

  (This is) a *maskil for *Asaph

v1   God, will you never think about us again?
  Why are you burning with *anger against the people that belong to you?

v2   Think (again) about:
    your people that you bought a long time ago
    the people that you chose and saved
    the Mountain called Zion where you lived

v3   Go and look at everything that the enemy broke.
  He destroyed your *temple!

v4   Your enemies have made an angry noise inside your meeting place.
  They have put their own *flags there as signs.

v5   They seemed *like wild men!
  They used axes to cut the *temple into pieces!

v6   They used hammers and axes to break the doors
  and other things made from wood.

v7   They burned your *temple to the ground!
  They said that the place where your name lived was *rubbish!

v8   They said in their hearts, "We will completely destroy them".
  So they burned every meeting place of God in the land.

v9   Nobody gives us signs (that are *miracles).
  There are no *prophets with us.
  Nobody knows how long this will continue.

v10   God, how long will the enemy laugh at you?
  Will the enemy always laugh at your name?

v11   Why do you hide your hand (from us), even your right hand?
  Take it out from your pocket! Destroy them!

v12   For you, God, have been my king from the beginning.
  You have done great things in the earth.

v13   It was you that *divided the sea, because you are so strong.
  You broke the heads of the *monsters in the waters.

v14   It was you that broke the heads of *Leviathan.
  You gave him as food for the animals in the *desert.

v15   It was you that made *springs and streams.
  It was you that made quick-moving rivers dry!

v16   You made both day and night.
  It was you that put the moon and the sun in their places.

v17   It was you that said where the (dry) land must be.
  It was you that made both summer and winter.

v18   *LORD, think about this:
    an enemy has laughed at you
    and *stupid people have *scorned your name

v19   Do not give the life of your *dove to wild animals.
  Do not always forget the lives of your poor people.

v20   Keep your promise!
  Because the earth is full of dark places where bad men hide.

v21   Do not let *oppressed people become ashamed.
  Let the poor people that need help say how great you are!

v22   Stand up, God! Tell everyone that you are right.
  Remember that fools are laughing at you all the time.

v23   Listen to the noise that your enemies make.
  The sound of people fighting against you goes on all the time!

The Story of Psalm 74

The *temple was the house of God. It was the place where people came to pray to God, and to *worship him. (*Worship means that you tell someone how great they are, and that you love them.) The *Israelites made several *temples. The most important one was in Jerusalem. Enemies destroyed it twice. The second time, it was the Romans, 70 years after Jesus came to the earth. Jesus had said that this would happen. Look at the top of this psalm for what Jesus said. But about 600 BC, Nebuchadnezzar also destroyed the *temple. He was King of Babylon. He took many of the *Israelites to Babylon. We call this "the *exile". BC means years Before Christ came to the earth.

Psalm 74 is about when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the *temple. The *psalmist asks God to think again! "Keep your promise" in verse 20 is "remember the *covenant" in *Hebrew. The *covenant was when God and the *Israelites agreed. God would *protect them if they obeyed him. The trouble was that they did not obey him. So God let Nebuchadnezzar destroy the *temple. He also took the *Israelites to Babylon. There they had to do what he told them to do. They were in *exile. Really, they were in a prison a long way from home.

Psalm 74 tells us what Nebuchadnezzar did to the *temple. The *Israelites were sorry because Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the *temple. They were not sorry that they had *disobeyed God. ("*Disobeyed" means "did not obey".) That is why God did not have to keep his promise. So he let Nebuchadnezzar and his army destroy the *temple.

What Psalm 74 means

The psalm is in three parts:

Verses 1 11: The *psalmist writes about Nebuchadnezzar destroying the *temple in Jerusalem. He asks why God is so angry that he lets it happen. He asks why God does not do something.

Verses 12 17: The *psalmist remembers that God is very strong. He made everything! (Some Bible students think this part is about the Exodus. This was the time when Israel went out from Egypt.)

Verses 18 23: So the *psalmist asks: if you are so strong, why do you let people destroy your *temple?


Verse 1: Because God let Nebuchadnezzar destroy the *temple, then God was very angry ("burning with *anger") with the *Israelites.

Verse 2: This is about God taking the *Israelites from Egypt. He bought them, chose them and saved them. He took them to Zion. Zion was the hill in Jerusalem where they built the *temple about 1000 BC.

Verses 3 - 8: The enemy destroyed the *temple (and the city of Jerusalem). They cut it up with axes, and they burned it. They "put their own *flags there as signs". Their *flags were bits of cloth with pictures on them. They showed everyone that they had won the fight ... they were "signs" of this.

Verses 9 - 11: Here the signs are different. In verse 4 they were *flags that people could look at. In verse 9 they are things that only God can do, we call them *miracles. But there are no *miracles! There are no *prophets! (Jeremiah Ezekiel and Daniel lived at this time, but maybe the *psalmist did not know them.) The enemy was laughing at God and his people. Why does God hide his right hand, verse 11? This means, why does God not do something? His right hand is his strong hand. The *psalmist asks God to destroy the enemy.

Verse 12: "From the beginning" may mean "when God made *heaven and earth". Then the great things that he has done include:

   Verse 13: *dividing the sea. This means making the sea separate from the waters above the earth, like rain and mist (water in the air).

   Verses 13 and 14: the *monsters and *Leviathan. *Leviathan is the name of an old sea-*monster. Very old stories (that we call legends) tell about God destroying *Leviathan when he made the sea.

Verse 15: This may be about the Exodus (when Israel came out from Egypt). A *spring is water coming from the ground. God then gave his people water in this way. Also, he made both the Red Sea and the River Jordan dry when the *Israelites went from Egypt to Israel. But maybe it is also about when God made the world. He made *springs and streams. He made rivers dry.

Verse 16: The *Hebrew says "the day and the night belong to you". If verses 12-17 are about God making *heaven and earth, then he also made day and night. "The moon" may mean "all the stars".

Verse 17: God decided where the dry land should be. He also made the seasons, like summer and winter.

If you read verses 13-17 in a careful way, you will find "it was you" 7 times. This translates one *Hebrew word, "atta". It comes in an important place each time. Bible students think that it means this: "It was you, God, that made everything. It was not the false gods that some people *worship".

Verses 18 - 23: finish the psalm with *prayer. (A *prayer is what you say when you ask or thank God for something.) Remember what the psalm has said:

   the enemy has destroyed the *temple and God has done nothing (verses 1-11);

   God is so great that he made everything (verses 12-17).

So the psalm finishes with:

   so, God, do something! (verses 18-23).

The problem with this psalm is this. The *psalmist did not know why God let Nebuchadnezzar destroy the *temple. He did not know what the *prophets had said, verse 9. Jeremiah said that it was because the *Israelites *disobeyed God. But the *psalmist did not know that there were any *prophets! Jeremiah even said that God would do something in 70 years time. Again, the *psalmist did not know this (verse 9). To us this is all very strange. We can explain it two ways:

   the *psalmist was so busy working for God that he did not know what was happening

   the psalm is about another *temple, when there were no *prophets (the *Jews had 7 or more *temples)

Bible students do not know. Maybe there is a third way to explain it that we have not found.

Something to do

1.  Study verses 12-17, then read Genesis chapter 1 (if you have a Bible).

2.  Pray for poor and *oppressed people. Ask God to give them help. These people could be:

   refugees (people running away from their enemies or from bad weather)

   *oppressed (people that have rulers that make them work hard but do not pay them much)

   at war (God will always help people from both sides if they pray to him)

Word List

Adonai ~ *Lord or master; (or better, my *Lord or my master) in *Hebrew.

anger ~ what you feel when you are angry.

Asaph ~ look in the Introduction.

covenant ~ two people have agreed what each should do (here, God and his people). Look after Psalm 25 in Book 1 of the Psalms of David for more about the covenant.

desert ~ a dry place with much sand.

disobey ~ not obey.

divide ~ make into more than one part.

dove ~ a bird (that may mean Israel).

exile ~ away from your own country.

flag ~ material with signs on it. Each country has its own flag.

heaven ~ the home of God.

Hebrew ~ the language that the *Jews spoke when they wrote the Psalms of David.

Israelite ~ a *Jewish person (see Jew).

Jehovah ~ how some languages say *Yahweh, one of the names of God in *Hebrew.

Jew ~ someone who was born from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their children.

Jewish ~ a word that describes a *Jew or anything to do with a *Jew.

Leviathan ~ a sea-*monster.

like ~ another word for "as".

Lord ~ a name for God; it means he has authority, or "master"; *Adonai in *Hebrew. Look also at *LORD below.

LORD ~ a special name for God that his people use. It is the *covenant name of God. In *Hebrew it is *Yahweh or *Jehovah. Look after Psalm 25 in Book 1 of the Psalms of David for more about the names of God.

maskil ~ a psalm that teaches you something.

miracles ~ great things that only God can do.

monster ~ a very large animal.

oppressed ~ people that the enemy have hurt.

prayer ~ words that you say when you pray.

prophet ~ someone that says what God thinks and will do.

protect ~ stop people hurting and destroying (someone or something).

psalmist ~ the person that wrote a psalm (or psalms).

rubbish ~ what people throw away.

scorn ~ laugh in a bad way at someone.

springs ~ another word for "wells" (of water) in Psalm 87.

stupid ~ opposite of clever.

temple ~ a place where people meet to *worship God.

worship ~ tell someone that they are very great and that you love them.

Yahweh ~ the *covenant name for God. Most Bibles translate it *LORD with 4 capital letters. It means something *like "I am" or "always alive".


2001-2002, Wycliffe Associates (UK)

This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level A (1200 words).

January 2002

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