on Psalms 74 :8
Let us destroy them - Their object was totally to annihilate the political existence of the Jewish people.
They have burned up all the synagogues of God in the land - It is supposed that there were no synagogues in the land till after the Babylonish captivity. How then could the Chaldeans burn up any in Judea? The word מועדי moadey, which we translate synagogues, may be taken in a more general sense, and mean any places where religious assemblies were held: and that such places and assemblies did exist long before the Babylonish captivity, is pretty evident from different parts of Scripture. It appears that Elisha kept such at his house on the sabbaths and new moons. See 2 Kings 4:23. And perhaps to such St. James may refer, Acts 15:23, a species of synagogues, where the law was read of old, in every city of the land. And it appears that such religious meetings were held at the house of the Prophet Ezekiel, Ezekiel 33:31. And perhaps every prophet's house was such. This is the only place in the Old Testament where we have the word synagogue. Indeed, wherever there was a place in which God met with patriarch or prophet, and any memorial of it was preserved, there was a מועד moed, or place of religious meeting; and all such places the Chaldeans would destroy, pursuant to their design to extinguish the Jewish religion, and blot out all its memorials from the earth. And this was certainly the most likely means to effect their purpose. How soon would Christianity be destroyed in England if all the churches, chapels, and places of worship were destroyed, and only the poor of the people left in the land; who, from their circumstances, could not build a place for the worship of God! After such desolation, what a miracle was the restoration of the Jews!
on Psalms 74 :8
They said in their hearts - They purposed; they designed it.
Let us destroy them together - Let us destroy all these buildings, temples, towers, and walls at the same time; let us make an entire destruction of them all.
They have burned up all the synagogues of God in the land - The phrase "they have burned up" must refer to the places or edifices where assemblies for public worship were held, since it cannot be supposed that the idea is that they had burned up the assemblies of worshippers themselves. The word rendered "synagogues" is the same in the Hebrew that is used in Psalm 74:4, and is there rendered "congregations." It means "assemblies," persons collected together for public worship. See the notes at that verse. It is not used in the Bible to denote "places" for the meetings of such assemblies, nor is it elsewhere rendered "synagogues." It is translated by the word "seasons," Genesis 1:14; Exodus 13:10, "et al.; set time," Genesis 17:21; Exodus 9:5, "et al.; time appointed," Exodus 23:15; 2 Samuel 24:15, "et al.; congregation," Leviticus 1:1, Leviticus 1:3,Leviticus 1:5; Leviticus 3:2, Leviticus 3:8,Leviticus 3:13, "and very often; feasts," Leviticus 23:2, Leviticus 23:4,Leviticus 23:37, "et al.; - solemnity," Deuteronomy 31:10; Isaiah 33:20; - and so also, set feasts, solemn feasts, appointed feasts, etc.
But in no instance does it necessarily refer to an edifice, unless it is in the place before us. There is no reason, however, for doubting that, from the necessity of the case, in the course of events, there would be other places for assembling for the worship of God than the temple, and that in different cities, villages, towns, and neighborhoods, persons would be collected together for some form of social religious service. Buildings or tents would be necessary for the accommodation of such assemblages; and this, in time, might be developed into a system, until in this way the whole arrangement for "synagogues" might have grown up in the land. The exact origin of synagogues is not indeed known. Jahn ('Biblical Archaeology,' Section 344) supposes that they sprang up during the Babylonian captivity, and that they had their origin in the fact that the people, when deprived of their customary religious privileges, would collect around some prophet, or other pious man, who would teach them and their children the duties of religion, exhort them to good conduct, and read to them out of the sacred books.
Compare Ezekiel 14:1; Ezekiel 20:1; Daniel 6:11; Nehemiah 8:18. There seems, however, no good reason for doubting that synagogues may have existed before the time of the captivity, and may have sprung up in the manner suggested above from the necessities of the people, probably at first without any fixed rule or law on the subject, but as convenience suggested, and that they may at last, by custom and law, have grown into the regular form which they assumed as a part of the national worship. Compare Kitto's Encyc. Art. 'synagogue.' I see no improbability, therefore, in supposing that the word here may refer to such edifices at the time when this psalm was composed. These, if they existed, would naturally be destroyed by the Chaldeans, as well as the temple itself.
on Psalms 74 :8
74:8 Destroy them - All at once. So they intended, although afterwards they changed their council, and carried some away captive. Burnt up - All the public places wherein the Jews used to meet together to worship God every sabbath - day.