Psalm 79


This psalm of Asaph and he appears to be lamenting over to the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar and his army in 586 B.C. 2 Kings 25 / 2 Chronicles 36:11-21 / Jeremiah 39:1-14 / Jeremiah 52.


‘A psalm of Asaph.’

Although the headings aren’t inspired by God, they are important because they give us some understanding about the Psalm and they help us to see why it was written. The headings usually tell us four things.

1. Who wrote them, probably wrote them or possibly wrote them.

2. Information about the historical background to the Psalm. Why it was written.

3. They tell us of the tune the Psalm was written to.

4. How it was used.

Most commentators agree that the Asaph mentioned here is another Asaph. This Asaph was probably a descendant of the earlier Asaph who worked during the reign of Josiah, 2 Chronicles 35:15.

‘O God, the nations have invaded your inheritance; they have defiled your holy temple, they have reduced Jerusalem to rubble. They have left the dead bodies of your servants as food for the birds of the sky, the flesh of your own people for the animals of the wild. They have poured out blood like water all around Jerusalem, and there is no one to bury the dead. We are objects of contempt to our neighbours, of scorn and derision to those around us.’ Psalm 79:1-4

Asaph begins by speaking about the destruction of Jerusalem. The Babylonian army had totally destroyed Judah and Jerusalem, 2 Chronicles 36:17-21 / Psalm 2:1 / Psalm 2:8 / Psalm 78:55.

The army defiled God’s temple, Jerusalem was in ruins, 2 Chronicles 36:19, and there were dead bodies all over the place. Their bodies were left as food for the birds and wild animals, because there was no one around to bury them and there was blood flowing everywhere, 2 Chronicles 36:17-18 / Psalm 74:5-7.

As a result of the fall, Israel’s surrounding neighbours treated them with contempt, Psalm 44:13, they were objects of their scorn and derision.

The picture Asaph paints here is deplorable, the Babylonian army took no time to bury dead bodies. They destroyed the city, tore down the walls of the city, and burned the temple, carrying away all the bronze, silver and gold of both the king’s house and temple.

It was a total devastation of both city and people, 2 Kings 25 / 2 Chronicles 36:11-21 / Jeremiah 39:1-14 / Jeremiah 52.

‘How long, LORD? Will you be angry forever? How long will your jealousy burn like fire? Pour out your wrath on the nations that do not acknowledge you, on the kingdoms that do not call on your name; for they have devoured Jacob and devastated his homeland. Do not hold against us the sins of past generations; may your mercy come quickly to meet us, for we are in desperate need. Help us, God our Saviour, for the glory of your name; deliver us and forgive our sins for your name’s sake. Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?” Before our eyes, make known among the nations that you avenge the outpoured blood of your servants. May the groans of the prisoners come before you; with your strong arm preserve those condemned to die. Pay back into the laps of our neighbours seven times the contempt they have hurled at you, Lord. Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will praise you forever; from generation to generation we will proclaim your praise.’ Psalm 79:5-13

After reflecting upon all the destruction, it’s no wonder that Asaph asks God as series of questions. It’s interesting to note he doesn’t ask God why they are suffering, but how long the suffering will go on, Psalm 74:1 / Psalm 74:10 / Psalm 77:7-9.

He asks God ‘will He be angry forever?’ The answer to that question would be ‘no’, God will eventually deliver them. He also asks God how long ‘will His jealously burn like fire?’ Psalm 78:58.

He’s asking if God’s fire will continually burn like fire, the answer to that question is ‘no’, God will deliver them, Isaiah 13 / Jeremiah 25:12 / Jeremiah 50-51.

Although Asaph didn’t know the answer to these questions, he asks God to bring about the judgment against the Babylonians, which He fulfilled by the raising up of the Medes and Persians. Babylon devoured Jacob and was in turn devoured, Daniel 5:31 / Daniel 2:39.

The Babylonian Empire was eventually overthrown by the Medo-Persian Empire in 538 B.C. The king of the Medo-Persian Empire then allowed the Jews to return and rebuild both the city and temple in Jerusalem, Ezra / Nehemiah.

Asaph knew that Israel couldn’t deny their sinfulness and he knew that repentance and forgiveness were necessary on the part of the remnant. He knew that repentance was necessary before all that he requested concerning the judgment of the enemies of Israel could be realized, Exodus 20:5 / Exodus 34:7 / Leviticus 20:5 / Leviticus 26:39-40 / Numbers 14:18 / Numbers 14:33 / Romans 5:12.

He pleads that God’s mercy will come quickly, that is, he wants God to intervene as soon as possible, because they are in desperate need. It appears that the only thing which will bring Israel to humbly bow down to God is the destruction of their city, their temple and their people.

He asks God their Saviour to help them for the glory of God’s Name, in other words, he asks that God’s Name be honoured through delivering them from the hand of the Babylonians, Daniel 9:19 / Matthew 6:9 / Matthew 6:13 / John 12:28.

He also asks God to forgive them their sins for God’s Name sake, Exodus 30:15 / Exodus 32:30 / Leviticus 4:20 / Leviticus 5:26 / Leviticus 16:6 / Leviticus 16:11 / Leviticus 16:24 / Ezekiel 45:20 / Daniel 9:24.

At the time of this prayer, the temple destroyed and so, there is nowhere to offer their sacrifices, and so, Asaph asks God to forgive them even though they can’t sacrifice any animals, Genesis 22:8-14.

The nations around ask the question, ‘where is their God?’ and then he goes on to ask God to silence the nations and demonstrate His presence by acting as the avenger of blood on behalf of His people, Numbers 35:16-21.

Israel were prisoners in Babylon and he asks God to hear their groans and intervene on their behalf before they are sentenced to die. Just as they groaned to God whilst prisoners in Egypt, God heard their groans when they asked Him to intervene, Exodus 2:24 / Exodus 6:5.

Israel’s neighbours had shown contempt towards God and so, Asaph asks God to pay them back seven-fold. In other words, he wants God to deal with the Babylonians seven times worse than they treated Israel, Genesis 4:15 / Genesis 4:24 / Proverbs 6:31 / Isaiah 30:26 / Matthew 18:21-22 / Luke 17:4.

Asaph, after asking God to deliver His people from the hands of the Babylonians ends by demonstrating great faith in God. He completely trusts that God is their shepherd and they are His sheep. He knows when God intervene to help His people, they will praise Him from one generation to the next.


In this psalm Asaph wrote about the horrors which took place when the Babylonians destroyed the city, the temple and took many of God’s people into captivity. God used the Babylonians to teach Israel a great lesson because they disobeyed the Lord and served other gods.

After delivering them from Egypt God was very clear with them, if they obeyed Him, then they would be blessed, however, if they disobeyed Him, then God would curse them, part of which included a nation which God would bring to rule over them, Deuteronomy 28:36.

It didn’t take long for Israel to begin to disobey God, and it didn’t take long for Israel to get into a cycle of sin, Judges 21:25 and Israel very quickly got involved in idolatry, 2 Kings 21:3-7.

Because they disobeyed God and begun to worship idols, God raised up the Babylonians to take them into captivity for seventy years, Jeremiah 29:10. This happened in three waves.

1. In 605 BC, the Babylonians first gained power in Judah, 2 Kings 24:1. Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem, captured it, and took some of God’s people captive to Babylon, Daniel 1:1-7.

2. After Judah rebelled against the Babylonians in 597 BC, Jerusalem was conquered a second time by the army of Nebuchadnezzar. This time over 10,000 skilled men were taken as captives to Babylon, 2 Kings 24:10-17.

3. In the year 586 BC, after another Judean rebellion was crushed by Nebuchadnezzar. This time he set fire to the city and destroyed the temple. The remaining Judeans were taken into exile to Babylon, 2 Kings 25:1-21.

The good news is that the Jews learned their lesson whilst in Babylonian captivity for seventy years, they never again committed idolatry after they were delivered.

Go To Psalm 80


"In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."

Proverbs 3:6