(א) מִזְמוֹר לְאָסָף אֱלֹקִים בָּאוּ גוֹיִם בְּנַחֲלָתֶךָ טִמְּאוּ אֶת־הֵיכַל קָדְשֶׁךָ שָׂמוּ אֶת־יְרוּשָׁלִַם לְעִיִּים:
(1) A mizmor by Asaph. O G-d!. The [invading] nations have trespassed upon Your private domain. They have defiled Your holy Sanctuary. They have turned Yerushalayim into ruins.
NOTE: For a PDF of this mizmor, please click here. This will enable you to print out the entire text of the article. [Rev. 0]
Key Concepts of Mizmor 079 – Tragedy and Justice
The prophet Asaph had ended Mizmor 078 with the promise of a new life of Torah under the royal House of David. At long last there would be a permanent home for the Divine Presence in Yerushalayim. But now Asaph turns from the lessons of the past and peers ahead into the distant future. Through the power of prophecy he foresees a tragic time when Yerushalayim will be overwhelmed by an invading army and the First Bais HaMikdash (Temple) will be destroyed.
This anticipated tragedy was to be symptomatic of many calamities that the Jewish people would have to face over the centuries. It was Asaphs’ mission to prepare the people for these difficulty times ahead and he composed this mizmor as a model of the tefillos to Hashem in such circumstances.
Exploring the Mizmor
PART 1. A CRY OF ANGUISH. The mizmor begins by calling upon Hashem to witness the insult that the enemy has perpetrated by defiling the holiness of Hashem’s domain on earth. He then turns to the tragic vision of the unburied bodies of Hashem’s devoted servants and concludes his lament with the sense of shame felt by Yisrael at being scorned by the surrounding nations.
(א) מִזְמוֹר לְאָסָף אֱלֹקִים בָּאוּ גוֹיִם בְּנַחֲלָתֶךָ טִמְּאוּ אֶת־הֵיכַל קָדְשֶׁךָ שָׂמוּ אֶת־יְרוּשָׁלִַם לְעִיִּים: (ב) נָתְנוּ אֶת־נִבְלַת עֲבָדֶיךָ מַאֲכָל לְעוֹף הַשָּׁמָיִם בְּשַׂר חֲסִידֶיךָ לְחַיְתוֹ־אָרֶץ: (ג) שָׁפְכוּ דָמָם כַּמַּיִם סְבִיבוֹת יְרוּשָׁלִָם וְאֵין קוֹבֵר: (ד) הָיִינוּ חֶרְפָּה לִשְׁכֵנֵינוּ לַעַג וָקֶלֶס לִסְבִיבוֹתֵינוּ:
(1) A mizmor by Asaph. O G-d!. The [invading] nations have trespassed upon Your private domain. They have defiled Your holy Sanctuary. They have turned Yerushalayim into ruins. (2) [The invaders] have left the corpses of Your servants as food for the birds of the sky and the flesh of Your devout ones to the beasts of the land. (3) They have shed their [victims’] blood like water all around the holy city of Yerushalayim and there was no one to bury them. (4) We have become an object of ridicule to our neighbors, the mockery and scorn of those around us.
PART 2. A PLEA FOR MERCY. Having set the scene, Asaph now appeals to Hashem to relent from His anger at our sins. Surely, we have been punished enough! He asks Hashem to vent His rage at the enemy nations which are far more guilty than we because of their refusal to recognize Hashem.
(ה) עַד־מָה ה’ תֶּאֱנַף לָנֶצַח תִּבְעַר כְּמוֹ־אֵשׁ קִנְאָתֶךָ: (ו) שְׁפֹךְ חֲמָתְךָ אֶל־הַגּוֹיִם אֲשֶׁר לֹא־יְדָעוּךָ וְעַל מַמְלָכוֹת אֲשֶׁר בְּשִׁמְךָ לֹא קָרָאוּ: (ז) כִּי אָכַל אֶת־יַעֲקֹב וְאֶת־נָוֵהוּ הֵשַׁמּוּ:
(5) How long [will this Galus continue], Hashem? Will You be angry forever? [How long] will Your indignation burn like a raging fire? (6) [Instead of venting Your rage against Yisrael,] pour Your fury upon the nations that do not recognize You and upon the kingdoms that have not proclaimed Your Name. (7) For [the enemy] has devoured Yaakov and laid waste [the Bais Hamikdash].
PART 3. ASKING FORGIVENESS. Asaph now seeks to understand why our sins have been treated so severely. He considers the possibility that we are being held accountable not only for our own sins, but for those of previous generations. He acknowledges that we ourselves are unworthy but asks Hashem to grant us forgiveness for the sake of His Name. He is the One Who has always been our yeshuah.
(ח) אַל־תִּזְכָּר־לָנוּ עֲוֹנֹת רִאשֹׁנִים מַהֵר יְקַדְּמוּנוּ רַחֲמֶיךָ כִּי דַלּוֹנוּ מְאֹד: (ט) עָזְרֵנוּ אֱלֹקֵי יִשְׁעֵנוּ עַל־דְּבַר כְּבוֹד־שְׁמֶךָ וְהַצִּילֵנוּ וְכַפֵּר עַל־חַטֹּאתֵינוּ לְמַעַן שְׁמֶךָ:
(8) Don’t hold against us the sins of those that came before. May Your mercies come swiftly before [we are found worthy of them], for we are impoverished [of good deeds]. (9) Help us, O G-d [for You have always been] our yeshuah. So rescue us and grant us atonement for our sins, for the sake of Your Name.
PART 4. A VISION OF JUSTICE. Asaph recalls how the enemy nations have been directly challenging Hashem. He visualizes the day when they will get their answer in the form of Hashem’s unlimited power. Hashem will surely respond to the cries of His suffering people and exact His vengeance.
(י) לָמָּה יֹאמְרוּ הַגּוֹיִם אַיֵּה אֱלֹקֵיהֶם יִוָּדַע [בגיים] בַּגּוֹיִם לְעֵינֵינוּ נִקְמַת דַּם־עֲבָדֶיךָ הַשָּׁפוּךְ: (יא) תָּבוֹא לְפָנֶיךָ אֶנְקַת אָסִיר כְּגֹדֶל זְרוֹעֲךָ הוֹתֵר בְּנֵי תְמוּתָה: (יב) וְהָשֵׁב לִשְׁכֵנֵינוּ שִׁבְעָתַיִם אֶל־חֵיקָם חֶרְפָּתָם אֲשֶׁר חֵרְפוּךָ אֲדֹ־נָי:
(10) Why should the nations say, “Where is their G-d?” Let the revenge for Your servants’ spilled blood be known among the nations before our very eyes. (11) Let the anguished cry of the shackled people reach You. In accord with the unlimited power of Your mighty arm, release the [suffering] people, [who are] near death. (12) As for our [wicked] neighboring nations, repay them sevenfold [directly] into their bosom, for the insult with which they have reviled You, Hashem.
PART 5. CONCLUSION. Asaph concludes the mizmor with an expression of our eternal devotion to the honor of Hashem that has been sullied by the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash.
(יג) וַאֲנַחְנוּ עַמְּךָ וְצֹאן מַרְעִיתֶךָ נוֹדֶה לְּךָ לְעוֹלָם לְדֹר וָדֹר נְסַפֵּר תְּהִלָּתֶךָ:
(13) As for us, Your people and the flock of Your pasture, we will render You grateful homage forever. We will relate Your praise for generation after generation.
Learning the Mizmor
PART 1. A CRY OF ANGUISH
(א) מִזְמוֹר לְאָסָף
A mizmor composed by Asaph — מִזְמוֹר לְאָסָף as a song of gratitude to Hashem and hope for the Geulah (Redemption) that He will surely bring.
אֱלקִים בָּאוּ גוֹיִם בְּנַחֲלָתֶךָ
טִמְּאוּ אֶת הֵיכַל קָדְשֶׁךָ
שָׂמוּ אֶת יְרוּשָׁלִַם לְעִיִּים:
O God of justice! We plead with You to end our agony! How can you continue to show restraint in the face of these insults? The invading nations have trespassed upon the sacred precincts of Your private domain — אֱלֹקים בָּאוּ גוֹיִם בְּנַחֲלָתֶךָ . They have defiled Your holy Sanctuary — טִמְּאוּ אֶת־הֵיכַל קָדְשֶׁךָ . They have turned the entire city of Yerushalayim into heaps of ruins — שָׂמוּ אֶת־יְרוּשָׁלִַם לְעִיִּים .
(ב) נָתְנוּ אֶת נִבְלַת עֲבָדֶיךָ מַאֲכָל לְעוֹף הַשָּׁמָיִם
בְּשַׂר חֲסִידֶיךָ לְחַיְתוֹ אָרֶץ:
In their disregard for the sanctity of the human body, the invaders have left the corpses of Your righteous servants — נָתְנוּ אֶת־נִבְלַת עֲבָדֶיךָ , out on the field of battle where they died. And so the dead became food for the birds of the sky — מַאֲכָל לְעוֹף הַשָּׁמָיִם . And in some cases the wicked enemy have even cut up the flesh of Your devout ones (people who go beyond what is right) — בְּשַׂר חֲסִידֶיךָ , and thrown it to the dogs and other beasts of the land — לְחַיְתוֹ־אָרֶץ . These servants and devout ones were righteous people who lived in a wicked generation and so they have made to suffer for the sins of the entire generation.
(ג) שָׁפְכוּ דָמָם כַּמַּיִם סְבִיבוֹת
יְרוּשָׁלִָם וְאֵין קוֹבֵר:
They have shed their victims’ blood like water all around the holy city of Yerushalayim — שָׁפְכוּ דָמָם כַּמַּיִם סְבִיבוֹת יְרוּשָׁלִָם , a city which had always been maintained in a state of sanctity and purity. There was no one to bury the victims — וְאֵין קוֹבֵר because the remaining Jews were afraid to leave their heading places.
(ד) הָיִינוּ חֶרְפָּה לִשְׁכֵנֵינוּ
לַעַג וָקֶלֶס לִסְבִיבוֹתֵינוּ:
After scattering us among the nations, we have become an object of ridicule to our neighbors — הָיִינוּ חֶרְפָּה לִשְׁכֵנֵינוּ . We have fallen to such a low level that they don’t want us in their vicinity, even in separate ghettos. We have become the mockery and scorn of those around us — לַעַג וָקֶלֶס לִסְבִיבוֹתֵינוּ . Furthermore, it is not only we who are disrespected, but the laws and the mitzvos that we observe.
PART 2. A PLEA FOR MERCY
(ה) עַד מָה ה‘ תֶּאֱנַף לָנֶצַח
תִּבְעַר כְּמוֹ אֵשׁ קִנְאָתֶךָ:
How long will this seemingly endless Galus continue, Hashem — עַד־מָה ה’ ? Will You be angry forever — תֶּאֱנַף לָנֶצַח ? How long will Your indignation burn like a raging fire — תִּבְעַר כְּמוֹ־אֵשׁ קִנְאָתֶךָ that continues to flame until there is nothing left? Surely it has burned out by now.
(ו) שְׁפֹךְ חֲמָתְךָ אֶל הַגּוֹיִם אֲשֶׁר לֹא יְדָעוּךָ
וְעַל מַמְלָכוֹת אֲשֶׁר בְּשִׁמְךָ לֹא קָרָאוּ:
Instead of venting Your rage against Yisrael, pour Your fury upon our opressors, the nations that do not recognize You — שְׁפֹךְ חֲמָתְךָ אֶל־הַגּוֹיִם אֲשֶׁר לֹא־יְדָעוּךָ . As for Yisrael, we have admitted to our sins and at least we make a sincere effort to serve You. Let your anger take its effect upon the kingdoms that have not proclaimed Your Name — וְעַל מַמְלָכוֹת אֲשֶׁר בְּשִׁמְךָ לֹא קָרָאוּ . They have not acknowledged that they are only tools in Your hand. Instead, they have taken pride in the victory that You granted them.
(ז) כִּי אָכַל אֶת יַעֲקֹב
וְאֶת נָוֵהוּ הֵשַׁמּוּ:
For the enemy has devoured Yaakov — כִּי אָכַל אֶת־יַעֲקֹב , taking full credit for their victory, whereas it was Your doing, punishing Your people for their sins. The enemy even laid waste to the Bais HaMikdash, Your place of dwelling — וְאֶת־נָוֵהוּ הֵשַׁמּוּ thinking that in this way they had diminished Your Name in the world. Surely, they are deserving of becoming the brunt of Your anger in place of Yisrael.
PART 3. ASKING FORGIVENESS
(ח) אַל תִּזְכָּר לָנוּ עֲוֹנֹת רִאשֹׁנִים
מַהֵר יְקַדְּמוּנוּ רַחֲמֶיךָ כִּי דַלּוֹנוּ מְאֹד:
Don’t hold against us the sins of those that came before us — אַל־תִּזְכָּר־לָנוּ עֲוֹנֹת רִאשֹׁנִים . May Your mercies come swiftly even before — מַהֵר יְקַדְּמוּנוּ רַחֲמֶיךָ – we are found worthy of them, for we are impoverished of good deeds — כִּי דַלּוֹנוּ מְאֹד .
(ט) עָזְרֵנוּ אֱלֹקֵי יִשְׁעֵנוּ עַל דְּבַר כְּבוֹד שְׁמֶךָ
Help us, O G-d for You have always been our yeshuah — עָזְרֵנוּ אֱלֹקֵי יִשְׁעֵנוּ and have always saved us. In our present miserable state, people might think You are no longer able to be our yeshuah, so come now to our aid for the sake of the glory of Your Name — עַל־דְּבַר כְּבוֹד־שְׁמֶךָ , which will be restored through our yeshuah.
וְהַצִּילֵנוּ וְכַפֵּר עַל חַטֹּאתֵינוּ לְמַעַן שְׁמֶךָ:
So rescue us — וְהַצִּילֵנוּ through Your mercies and grant us atonement for our sins — וְכַפֵּר עַל־חַטֹּאתֵינוּ , which are holding back the yeshuah. Do this for the sake of Your Name — לְמַעַן שְׁמֶךָ – because Your Name will then be universally known for being all-good and forgiving.
PART 4. A VISION OF JUSTICE
(י) לָמָּה יֹאמְרוּ הַגּוֹיִם אַיֵּה אֱלֹקֵיהֶם
יִוָּדַע בַּגּוֹיִם לְעֵינֵינוּ
נִקְמַת דַּם עֲבָדֶיךָ הַשָּׁפוּךְ:
Why should the nations say about us, “Where is their G-d?” — לָמָּה יֹאמְרוּ הַגּוֹיִם אַיֵּה אֱלֹקֵיהֶם . On the contrary, let the revenge for Your servants’ spilled blood be known among the nations in our own experience, before our very eyes — יִוָּדַע בַּגּוֹיִם לְעֵינֵינוּ נִקְמַת דַּם־עֲבָדֶיךָ הַשָּׁפוּךְ . Let them realize and acknowledge that their present troubles are the direct consequence of the Jewish blood they spilled.
(יא) תָּבוֹא לְפָנֶיךָ אֶנְקַת אָסִיר
כְּגֹדֶל זְרוֹעֲךָ הוֹתֵר בְּנֵי תְמוּתָה:
Let the anguished cry of the shackled Jewish nation in the dungeons of Exile reach You — תָּבוֹא לְפָנֶיךָ אֶנְקַת אָסִיר . In accord with the unlimited power of Your mighty arm — כְּגֹדֶל זְרוֹעֲךָ , which is not not restricted by any circumstance, release the suffering people, who are near death — הוֹתֵר בְּנֵי תְמוּתָה .
(יב) וְהָשֵׁב לִשְׁכֵנֵינוּ שִׁבְעָתַיִם אֶל חֵיקָם
חֶרְפָּתָם אֲשֶׁר חֵרְפוּךָ אֲדֹ־נָי:
Hashem, repay our wicked neighboring nations sevenfold — וְהָשֵׁב לִשְׁכֵנֵינוּ שִׁבְעָתַיִם – for the disrespect they have shown You by saying, “Where is their G-d?” Let their retribution not be diverted, but applied directly into their bosom — אֶל־חֵיקָם , for the insult with which they have reviled You, Hashem — חֶרְפָּתָם אֲשֶׁר חֵרְפוּךָ אֲדֹ־נָי .
PART 5. CONCLUSION
(יג) וַאֲנַחְנוּ עַמְּךָ וְצֹאן מַרְעִיתֶךָ
נוֹדֶה לְּךָ לְעוֹלָם
לְדֹר וָדֹר נְסַפֵּר תְּהִלָּתֶךָ:
As for us — וַאֲנַחְנוּ , whether in Exile or freed from Exile, we are Your people and the flock of Your pasture – עַמְּךָ וְצֹאן מַרְעִיתֶךָ , who will always be dependent on You, as the sheep are dependent on the shepherd. And so we will continue to render You grateful homage forever — נוֹדֶה לְּךָ לְעוֹלָם . We will relate Your praise for generation after generation — לְדֹר וָדֹר נְסַפֵּר תְּהִלָּתֶךָ , as we continue to tell of Your wonders to our descendants.
The primary sources used in the interpretation of the verses in this mizmor are listed below.
א – המאירי, רש”י, רד”ק, בן־רמוך, מלבי”ם
ב – רד”ק, מצודות, בן־רמוך, אבן יחייא, מלבי”ם
ג – רד”ק, בן רמוך
ד- רד”ק, מלבי”ם, המאירי
ה – רש”י, רד”ק, מצודות, מלבי”ם, בן־רמוך, רשר”ה
ו – רד”ק
ז – מצודות, ספורנו, אלשיך, רשר”ה, נר לרגלי
ח – אבן עזרא, רד”ק, מלבי”ם, בן רמוך, ספורנו, אבן יחייא, רשר”ה, נר לרגלי
ט – רד”ק, מלבי”ם
י – מלבי”ם, אבן יחייא, רשר”ה
יא – אבן עזרא, מצודות, המאירי, אבן יחייא, רשר”ה, נר לרגלי
יב – רד”ק, מצודות
יג – רד”ק, מצודות, בן־רמוך, נר לרגלי