Psalm 74 – Leviathan, Creation, and the Destruction of the Temple

The destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem.
The destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you haven’t read Psalm 74.1-23 go ahead and give it a read. I’ll wait.


(note, this is a quick post to get an idea down on paper)

In Psalm 74, labeled in the NAB “Prayer at the Destruction of the Temple,” we read in two parts. Part 1, v1-11, the destruction of Solomon’s Temple is in view. This should not be up for discussion since the psalm lays out a perfect lament for the fall of the House of the Lord/David.

In part II, v12-23, the Psalmist recounts God’s creative acts, including fighting the monster Leviathan. (Note, this account of creation is vastly different than either Genesis 1 or Genesis 2-3. By the end of the psalm, the author has turned back to asking God to defend Israel.

The Temple and God’s Creation is in view.

I have long maintained that this is the view in Isaiah as well. (I would say other scholars, but since I don’t have the time to list them, I’ll just claim this and hope others don’t mind). Likewise, I think this is the view in Mark 13 (as discussed in my book on the Gospel) and in Revelation.

Anyone else see God’s creative acts tied directly to the Temple?


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Joel L. Watts
Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

7 thoughts on “Psalm 74 – Leviathan, Creation, and the Destruction of the Temple

  1. Walton’s book The Lost World of Genesis 1 does propose that link heavily. For me, it is the ONLY reason why we have a Gen1.

    1. Agreed and agreed.

      The placement of Genesis 1 is not so much historical as it is a theological statement (which we know). I think it starts the story (over) from a theological standpoint. Here begins God’s temple and thus Creation and thus the covenant.

  2. Don’t know about the temple. But what struck me is “14 You crushed the heads of Leviathan*
    and let the desert animals eat him.”
    I remember an old nature program, NOVA maybe, that showed fossilized whale skeletons in the Sahara, from when the area was a shallow sea, maybe 20,000 years ago (maybe got the date wrong). But this may be the origin of that particular qoute.

  3. You might also want to look at the Gospel of John. Logos is associated with creation, and with Jesus whose body is “a temple.”

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