The Hebrew expression natsách (preceded by the preposition “to”) is commonly thought to signify “to the musical director” or “leader.” In the Septuagint, the rendering is “to the end.” An ancient Latin translation of the Hebrew Psalter reads victori (“to the victor”), probably because of linking the Hebrew expression to a root meaning “to defeat.” This suggests that considerable uncertainty exists about the significance of natsách.
Psalm 75, specifically called a “song,” may have been sung to a melody known as “Do Not Destroy.” As there is uncertainty about this, a number of translations have chosen to transliterate the Hebrew expression — “al tashheth” (Tanakh) and “Al-tashheth” (Margolis).
This psalm is attributed to Asaph. Its contents are of a general nature, and the composer could have been the prominent Levite musician during David’s reign. (1 Chronicles 6:31, 39 [6:16, 24]; 25:1, 6) In the case of other psalms attributed to Asaph, however, the contents clearly point to a time much later than David. Therefore, a descendant of the family of Asaph may have been the composer.
The psalmist’s people had, as the context suggests, confidently looked to be delivered from a threatening situation. This gave rise to the expressions of thanks and an acknowledgment that God’s “name is near.” God himself, the bearer of the name, had not distanced himself but was near, ready to act. The Septuagint represents the psalmist as saying, “We call upon your name.” Such calling would signify appealing to God for his aid. Upon having experienced divine intervention, the psalmist’s people would tell others about God’s wondrous deeds.
Starting with verse 2(3), the psalmist appears to represent God as speaking. In his appointed time, he would judge equitably.
When the earth or land and its inhabitants “melt” or come to be in an unstable state, God steadies its “pillars.” This may be understood to mean that the end of any upheaval is being attributed to God. Possibly a figurative application is warranted. Moral corruption creates instability, and the removal of corruption puts human society on a firm basis as if steadied by pillars. (See the Notes section concerning selah.)
Before the execution of divine justice, arrogant boasters (“lawless ones,” LXX) who acted as if they had no need for God are admonished to stop boasting. Wicked or lawless persons (“sinners,” LXX) are told to stop lifting up their “horn” or exalting themselves on the basis of their power.
Those speaking with an “arrogant neck” would be persons who stubbornly defied God’s ways. According to the Septuagint, they “speak unrighteousness against God.” Such ones were directed to stop highly exalting their “horn” or might.
True exaltation does not come from some quarter of the land — from the east, the west, or the wilderness (the arid region in the south of the land). It comes from God. He renders judgment, abasing and elevating according to the ultimate standard of justice. (See the Notes section regarding verse 6.)
All the wicked of the land would be forced to drink from the cup in YHWH’s hand. That cup is depicted as containing wine that is foaming or in ferment. The reference to a “full mixture” suggests the addition of herbs and spices to intensify the potency. The drink is an expression of God’s anger, and the wicked (“sinners,” LXX) will be forced to “drink” every drop of it, even the dregs.
The psalmist’s mention of declaring or telling does not have an object. Based on the context, God’s activity is what he determined to make known for all time to come. He would also sing praises to the “God of Jacob,” or the God of his people Israel.
Again representing God as the speaker, the psalmist declared, “And I will cut off [“break,” LXX) all the horns of the wicked (“sinners,” LXX), and the horns of the upright will be exalted.” While the power of the wicked would be crushed, the upright would have the ascendancy, with their power being exalted.
There is uncertainty about the significance of the Hebrew expression selah found at the end of verse 3(4). The Septuagint rendering is diápsalma, thought to mean “pause” or “musical interlude.”
In verse 6(7), no mention is made of the north. This may not have any particular significance. There is a possibility, however, that the omission does convey a meaning. In Psalm 48:2(3), YHWH’s residence, in a representative sense, is assigned a northern location, and so from there exaltation would come. On the other hand, invading armies often entered the land from the north and it was regarded as a region of darkness. Therefore, from the standpoint of a geographical location, the north would not have been thought of as a place from which exaltation could possibly come.