For my weekly quiet time this week, I will blog about Psalm 74.
74:8 says (in the KJV): "They said in their hearts, Let us destroy them
together: they have burned up all the synagogues of God in the land. "
The Hebrew word translated as "synagogues" is moadei, which is the plural construct form of the word moed. Moed in the Hebrew Bible can refer to a religious assembly, a feast, a congregation, or a designated time.
Septuagint translates the verse as "They said in their heart, their kin
together, 'Come and let us burn all the feasts of God from the land.'"
The Septuagint understands moadei in this verse to
mean "festivals". It presumes that Psalm 74:8 relates to what appears
to be the topic of Psalm 74 as a whole: Israel's sadness at the
destruction of the Temple, her perplexity as she wonders when God will
help her, and her attempts to reassure herself as she reminds herself of
God's displays of power in the past. For the LXX, the
festivals were held in the Temple, which is destroyed in Psalm 74, and
so Psalm 74:8 most likely relates to the destruction of the Temple.
Interpreters who relied on the Septuagint, such as Augustine and
Theodore of Mopsuestia, had this understanding.
is another view: that Psalm 74:8 is acknowledging the existence of
places outside of the Temple in the land of Israel where Israelites
gathered together to worship. For one, Psalm 74:8 says that the moadei were "burned", and it makes more sense to say that a place of assembly was burned rather than a festival. Second, the MT has "in the land", which implies that these moadei are throughout the Holy Land, not only at the Temple.
then the problem of the date of Psalm 74 arises. When were there
places of worship outside of the Temple in the land of Israel? In II
Kings 4:23, we read that Northern Israelites in the time of Elisha could
go to a prophet on a Sabbath or a new moon. But would these places of
worship exist in 587 B.C.E., at the time when the Temple was destroyed?
Josiah had gotten rid of other sanctuaries besides the Temple,
and a predominant theological school of the Bible, the Deuteronomists,
opposed those sanctuaries. Psalm 74 may be related to the
Deuteronomistic school in some manner, for Psalm 74:7 refers to the
Temple as the dwelling-place for God's name, and the Deuteronomists were
emphatic that the sanctuary was to be a dwelling-place of God's name,
not God himself (Deuteronomy 12, 14, 16). Would Psalm 74 support sanctuaries other than the Temple?
Others have noted that there were places of prayer in Israel's exilic and post-exilic times.
Zechariah 7:3-5 and 8:19 refer to fasts, which the Jews practiced even
when there was not a Temple. And I Maccabees 3:46 mentions a former
place of prayer at Mizpah. Consequently, some have related
Psalm 74 to Antiochus IV's attack on the Temple right before the time of
the Maccabean revolt. The idea is that Antiochus not only attacked the
Temple, but other places of worship throughout the land of Israel as
well. But my problem with that view is that Psalm 74 appears to
describe a destruction of the Temple, not merely a pollution of it. The destruction of the Temple occurred in 587 B.C.E., so I think that Psalm 74 is about that particular event.
conclusion is that there were places of worship outside of the Temple
in 587 B.C.E., and that these places were deemed valid by the
Deuteronomists. As I talk about in my post here, we see in Deuteronomy 16:7-8 that a solemn assembly could be held outside of the Temple on the last Day of Unleavened Bread.
Deuteronomy most likely did not support sacrifices occurring outside of
the Temple, but perhaps these places of assembly only had prayer, not
Pastor James Kambugu of Uganda
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