English Basic Explanation - Chapter 73
Psalm 73, which was composed by the Levite poet Asaf, addresses the age-old question of theodicy – the success of the wicked and the suffering of the righteous. Asaf confesses to having almost been misled by the power and prosperity enjoyed by the wicked, and that he even envied their lives of ill-begotten wealth, peace and serenity (verses 2-3). He observes that the wicked and corrupt men always seem to escape the hardships and trials endured by others, and enjoy the means and peace of mind to indulge to their hearts' content (verses 4-7). Their success has led many among the masses to follow their example of crime and treachery, as people naturally began to wonder whether or not God in fact takes note of wrongdoing and punishes the wicked (10-14). Asaf goes so far as to say that were he to give a comprehensive account of the success and prosperity of the wicked, he would likely drive his entire generation of otherwise believing Jews to heresy (verse 15).
Asaf's outlook thankfully changed when he "entered the Temples of God" (verse 17). Rashi explains that Asaf prophetically beheld the miraculous demise of the Assyrian army when it besieged Jerusalem (see introduction to chapter 68). That event serves as a dramatic example of a successful reign of tyranny and cruelty that meets a sudden, catastrophic end, and it thus clarified for Asaf why God allows the wicked to prosper: He allows evildoers to follow their chosen path which leads them further and further away from any possibility of repentance, thus guaranteeing their ultimate demise.
The Radak explains differently, claiming that "Temples of God" refers to the afterlife. Asaf reveals that he erred in focusing his attention exclusively upon this world; indeed, our experiences in this world demonstrate that corruption often brings success while piety can bring poverty and hardship. But once Asaf broadened his perspective and began to take into account the eternal life of the soul, he immediately resolved the dilemma of theodicy: God grants the wicked in this world whatever reward they deserve, so that they receive their punishment in full after death, in the afterlife.
Asaf thus concludes in this chapter's final verse, "Va'ani Kirvat Elokim Li Tov" – closeness to God is what is good and beneficial for a person. Though we often see wicked and depraved men succeed and prosper at the expense of the righteous and upright, we must nevertheless retain our belief in the inestimable value of observing God's laws, and that the reward that awaits those who devote themselves to God far exceeds the success enjoyed by the wicked in this world.