Psalm 76

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.

The words “with stringed instruments” could indicate that only strings (and no wind and percussion instruments) were to accompany the singing. The Septuagint, however, does not include this point but has the words en hymnois (“among hymns”).

Psalm 76, which is specifically called a “song,” is attributed to Asaph. This likely means that the composer was a descendant of the family of the prominent Levite musician during David’s reign.

According to the superscription in the Septuagint, Psalm 76(5) pertains to the Assyrians. This would have been during Hezekiah’s reign when YHWH’s angel struck down 185,000 of the Assyrian host.

The acts of deliverance proved to be the basis for God’s being known in Judah and his name being great in Israel. In view of the reputation linked to the name, God himself would be recognized as great.

The ark of the covenant, the symbol of the divine presence, was in the temple at Jerusalem or Zion, the ancient Salem. Therefore, the psalmist referred to Salem as God’s booth and Zion as his dwelling place. In the Septuagint, “Salem” is rendered “peace” (according to its meaning), and the verse reads, “And his place has come to be in peace, and his dwelling place in Zion.”

There, in the vicinity of Zion, God broke the flaming arrows of the bow (“the power of the bows,” LXX), the shield (“weaponry,” LXX), the sword, and war. In the case of the Assyrians, the loss of 185,000 of their warriors made their weapons useless.

As if surrounded by light, God reveals himself to be majestic through his acts of deliverance. According to the Masoretic Text, he is more majestic “than the mountains of prey.” This could mean mountainous areas where game animals were abundant, or the expression could refer to aggressive kingdoms that preyed on other nations. The Septuagint reads, “You shine wondrously from the eternal mountains.”

The “strong of heart” or the courageous warriors, instead of being able to seize booty, were themselves plundered. According to the Septuagint, those “senseless of heart” or those lacking in understanding “were troubled.” The reference to those sleeping appears to refer to the slain warriors. “All the men of war” (“wealth,” according to another meaning of the Hebrew word) could not “find” their hands to fight. This either refers to their helpless state prior to falling asleep in death or the helpless state to which they were brought down in death. The Septuagint represents those sleeping as being all the men of “wealth” who would find nothing in their hands.

God’s “rebuke” denotes his action against the enemy forces. As a result of the rebuke of the “God of Jacob” or Israel, horse and rider fell asleep in death.

God inspires fear or awe. The implied answer to the psalmist’s question about who would be able to stand before God is that no one could do so in the time of his anger.

From heaven or his place of dwelling, God expressed his judgment. The “earth” or the people inhabiting the land were then struck with fear and rendered silent.

This is the only way they could respond to God’s rising as from a seated position to execute judgment, saving or rescuing the meek, humble, or oppressed of the land from those determined to bring about their ruin.

Man’s wrath brings praise to God. This is because he uses the opportunity to reveal his matchless power against those whose rage is directed against his people. The Most High girds himself with the “residue of wrath.” This may mean that he makes use of the remaining portion of man’s wrath to glorify himself, as if girding himself with it. The Septuagint conveys an entirely different meaning, “For the thought of man will acknowledge [or, thank] you, and [the] residue of thought will observe a festival to you.” This rendering suggests that, based on divine action, people would be moved to thank God and to celebrate.

The Israelites are directed to make vows and to pay or fulfill their vows to YHWH their God. In times of grave danger, people would often make vows or solemn promises to present certain offerings upon experiencing deliverance. Those “all around him [God]” could refer to people other than the Israelites. They could be neighboring nations who would be all around God’s representative place of dwelling and, in this sense, all around the Most High. Their “gifts” may denote either tribute or gift offerings (sacrifices). It appears that the bringing of “gifts” would be prompted by a recognition that YHWH is to be feared. All who would come to know about his power, as revealed in his activity, would rightly come to be in fear.

The “spirit of rulers” may denote the “life force of rulers.” God’s cutting off or taking away their spirit could, therefore, signify depriving them of life. As far as the kings of the earth are concerned, God is the one who fills them with fear.


“Selah” appears at the end of verse 3(4) and 9(10). There is uncertainty about the meaning of this expression. The Septuagint rendering is diápsalma, thought to mean “pause” or “musical interlude.”

Regarding the divine name (YHWH), see Psalm 1.

In the concluding verse, the term “spirit” (Hebrew, rúach; Greek, pneúma) may mean “disposition,” and translators have chosen various meanings for what God does to the “spirit of rulers.” including “he humbles proud princes” (GNT, Second Edition), “checks the pride of princes” (NAB), den Fürsten den Mut nimmt (takes away the courage of princes) (Luther, 1975 revised edition)