Psalm 79 – SING & LEARN – While sent to exile, Levites prayed for the return to Israel, so G-D’s honor will be restored

The introductory phrase states that this song was written by the Levite Asaph. But the first section of Song 79 — verses 1 to 4 — itself makes clear that it was not King David who composed it. First, and most obvious, it is a lament for the destruction of the Temple, built by David’s son, Solomon. And second, it lacks the beauty and delicacy of the imagery King David favoured; instead, these opening verses graphically describe the horrific events, not only shocking the listener, but also suggesting an immediancy of response as if the song had been composed immediately upon the massacre of the Israelites and the smashing of the Temple into rubble.
The second section — verses 5 to 12 — voices the singer’s response to the devastation. His call to God to avenge His people — verses 5, 6, (7), 10, 11, 12 — is interrupted — verses 8 and 9 — by his call for God’s help. His justification for his beseeching is that it is God who has been attacked. Verse 1 names “Your estate”, “Your holy Temple”, and verse 2, “Your servants” and “Your faithful”. The repeated use of the possesive pronoun “Your” emphasizes that the Israelites are God’s own. (Verse 12 declares this explicitly: “the disgrace which they [the marauders] have heaped on You”.)  In fact, since all of the universe is God’s, the imagery of both sections of the song names the four elements believed, til modern times, to be the basis of created being: air (“the fowl of the heavens”, v. 3); earth (“the wild beasts of the earth”, v. 2); water (the spilling of “blood like water”, v. 3); fire (“will Your zeal blaze like fire”, v. 5).
Thus, although the song easily divides into sections, in tone and in content, the sections nonetheless share common images, though in somewhat different a form: in the first section, the elements of air, earth, and water — all of which can function as symbols of creative, nourishing forces — are described solely as agents of destruction; both the heavens and the earth are the habitations of the savage (the heavens, of vultures; the earth, of wild beasts). That humankind can be no less savage is evident in verse 3, in the description of the marauders who “spilled forth blood like water”. Water too acts as destructively as air and water, as it becomes a simile for the spilt blood. However, the element fire, occuring in verse 5, the beginning of the song’s second section, retains both its destructive and creative qualities. As a simile for God’s zeal, it is as purifying as it is ravaging.
Other connecting images are the two words “disgrace” and “neighbours” that end both sections (v. 4 and v. 12). The words are in fact opposites, in that “neighbour” connotes helpfulness and hospitality. The most vivid and striking link between the two sections must, however, be the way that the actual happening — the giving, by the marauders, of the corpses to the vultures and wild beasts “for their consumption”, v. 2 — is transformed into a metaphor — “for they have consumed Jacob”, v. 7.  And so, the actual spilt blood, described in verse 3 and again in verse 10, is, in verse 6, used as a metaphor, as the singer pleads with God to “spill forth Your rage”. A similar translation of the actual into the abstract occurs with the singer’s use of the verb “to come”: verse 1 describes the nations who have “come” to defile God’s Temple and holy city; verse 11 prays that the groans of the Israelites might “come before You”.
Verse 13, ending the song, forms its third section. The space between verses 12 and 13 acts like a pause, a silence in which a dramatic change takes place in the singer. Seemingly purged of his rage and his desire for revenge, he instead reaches an inner peace, a resolution:  his comparison of God’s people to “the sheep of Your flock” sharply contrasts with the wild beasts of the opening verses. He affirms that future generations will glorify and praise God, a promise that carries with it the prophetic declaration, “the people Israel lives”.