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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Psalms 44

 

 

Verse 1

We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what work thou didst in their days, in the times of old.

Psalms 44:1-26.-The Church's prayer for help against pagan foes. She reminds Him of His past benefits, in driving the pagan out before His people (Psalms 44:1-3); her confidence that God her King, and her boast, will again enable her to triumph (Psalms 44:4-8); sad contrast of her present low state (Psalms 44:9-16); there is no reason that this contrast should last, because the people have not forgotten God's covenant (Psalms 44:17-22); she therefore prays God to awake to her help (Psalms 44:23-26). Psalms 60:1-12 is close akin to this psalm; as Psalms 63:1-11 is to Psalms 42:1-11; Psalms 40:1-17, title, shows that David was now striving with 'Aram of the two floods (Naharaim) and Aram-zobah, when Joab returned and smote of Edom in the valley of salt 12,000 men.' Whilst David was warring with Arabia, and on the Euphrates with the Syrians, and had suffered a heavy loss in battle, Edom invaded Israel's land, stripped of its defenders. Compare 2 Samuel 8:13; 1 Chronicles 18:12; 1 Kings 11:15-16. Israel's slain lay unburied until Joab returned from smiting Edom, along with Abishai. The scattering of Israel among the pagan (Psalms 44:11) was but partial, enough to gratify Edom's desire to falsify the prophecy, "The older shall serve the younger" (1 Kings 8:46; Amos 1:6; Amos 1:9; Joel 3:19). The time of the Babylonian captivity is disproved by Psalms 44:17-22; because only under David could Israel plead faithfulness to God's covenant. They had no "armies" in the Babylonian which they speak of in Psalms 44:9. The Holy Spirit, however, indites language (as Psalms 44:22) suited to the Church when oppressed by the world in all later ages.

We have heard with our ears, O God ... what work thou didst in their days - in sad contrast to the work of Israel's desolation which we now see with our eyes (cf. Psalms 48:8). God's past "work" of driving out the pagan from Canaan before His people makes His present non-interposition, while the pagan drive out Israelites, to appear an anomaly. This forms the ground of prayer that He will again do as in the days of old. Compare the similar plea of Gideon (Judges 6:13; 2 Chronicles 20:7; Habakkuk 3:2).

Our fathers have told us - (Exodus 10:2.)

In the times of old - in contrast to our times of national depression.


Verse 2

How thou didst drive out the heathen with thy hand, and plantedst them; how thou didst afflict the people, and cast them out.

(How) thou didst drive out the heathen with thy hand -- literally, 'Thou ... (that is, to say) thy hand,' in contrast to "their own sword" and "their own arm" (Psalms 44:3).

And plantedst them - the elect people. Compare the same image, Exodus 15:17; Psalms 80:8.

How thou didst afflict the people, and cast them out - rather, 'and spread them (the Israelites) abroad.' The Hebrew [ shaalach (Hebrew #7971)] is generally used of branches shooting forth and spreading out (Jeremiah 17:8; Psalms 80:11; Ezekiel 17:6-7). Thus, in the four clauses, the first and the third correspond in parallelism, and refer to the pagan; the second and the fourth correspond, and refer to the elect people.


Verse 3

For they got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them: but thy right hand, and thine arm, and the light of thy countenance, because thou hadst a favour unto them.

For they got not the land in possession by their own sword - (Joshua 24:12.) And the light of thy countenance - like the bright sun dispelling the darkness (Psalms 43:3; Numbers 6:25-26, the Mosaic blessing).

Because thou hadst a favour unto them - the fountain of Israel's and the Church's glorious privileges, God's gratuitous and sovereign favour (Ephesians 1:4-7).

The second stophe. Psalms 44:4-8.-The Church's trust in her King and God that she shall, through God, triumph over her enemies.


Verse 4

Thou art my King, O God: command deliverances for Jacob.

Thou art my King, O God - literally, 'Thou art He (that is) my King.' Thou art the One that pre-eminently hast kingly authority and irresistible might, and so art able to save us (Psalms 74:12).

Command deliverances - salvations. A command from thee is enough instantly to ensure manifold salvation, according to the several exigencies (Psalms 147:15; Psalms 107:20; Matthew 8:8-9).


Verse 5

Through thee will we push down our enemies: through thy name will we tread them under that rise up against us.

Through thee will we push down our enemies. Faith speaks, triumphing over sense. In spite of the calamities surrounding the Church (Psalms 44:9-16), she still hopes joyfully and confidently in her Lord (Habakkuk 3:17-18; 2 Corinthians 4:8-9; 2 Corinthians 4:16). The image in "push down" is from those animals whose strength is in their horns (Deuteronomy 33:17; 1 Kings 22:11).

Through thy name - God's manifestation, in acts of power and grace, in behalf of His people (Psalms 20:1; Psalms 23:3).


Verse 6-7

For I will not trust in my bow, neither shall my sword save me.

For I will not trust in my bow, neither shall my sword save me. But thou hast saved us from our For I will not trust in my bow, neither shall my sword save me. But thou hast saved us from our enemies, and hast put them to shame that hated us - rather, 'Thou savest (and wilt save) us from our enemies, and puttest (and will put) them to shame that hate us.' As Psalms 44:3, in similar words, "they got not the land in possession by their own sword," etc., described the past salvation of Israel as wholly due to God, so this verse ascribes her present and future confidence of salvation wholly to Him.


Verse 8

In God we boast all the day long, and praise thy name for ever. Selah.

In God we boast - He is the object in whom our praises terminate. The Hebrew [ haalal (Hebrew #1984)] generally means to praise or celebrate in praises.

And praise thy name for ever - literally, 'and confess thy name,' etc.

Third strophe. The sad contrast which Israel's present affliction presents to God's past deliverances of His Church, and to her consequent trust in Him.


Verse 9

But thou hast cast off, and put us to shame; and goest not forth with our armies.

But - literally, 'Also' [ 'ap (Hebrew #637)]: there is some such ellipsis as this-We are "all the day long" (Psalms 44:8) expecting deliverance; but not only hast thou not delivered us, but 'ALSO thou hast cast us off.'

And goest not forth with our armies. Contrast 2 Samuel 5:24, where the Lord gives a response to David on the latter consulting the divine oracle, "The Lord shall go out before thee, to smite the host of the Philistines."


Verse 10

Thou makest us to turn back from the enemy: and they which hate us spoil for themselves.

And they which hate us spoil for themselves - i:e., to their heart's content, with unrestrained wantonness and selfishness (1 Samuel 14:48; 1 Samuel 23:1).


Verse 11

Thou hast given us like sheep appointed for meat; and hast scattered us among the heathen.

Thou hast given us like sheep appointed for meat - to be devoured as a prey.


Verse 12

Thou sellest thy people for nought, and dost not increase thy wealth by their price.

Thou sellest thy people for nought - Thou holdest thy people as of so little worth, that thou art ready to part with them, not to gain anything by doing so, but merely for the sake of getting rid of them, as of a worthless slave, at any sacrifice. God, in giving up His people to the foe, did not receive in lieu of His people the allegiance of the pagan.

And dost not increase thy wealth by their price - thou makest no gain by alienating them from thee. Compare Jeremiah 15:13. On the contrary, in redeeming or delivering His nation from Babylon, God saith (Isaiah 43:3), "I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee:" I sacrificed mighty pagan nations in order to save the Jews. God is said to sell His people because their affliction by the pagan is not due to chance, but to the all-ordering will of God.


Verse 13-14

Thou makest us a reproach to our neighbours, a scorn and a derision to them that are round about us.

Thou makest us a reproach ... a byword among the heathen - as Moses foretold (Deuteronomy 28:37), "Thou shalt become a proverb and a byword among all nations, where the Lord shall lead thee." The nation once "the blessed of the Lord," and "in whom all nations of the earth were to be blessed," is become a "byword," mashal-literally, a similitude; so that 'a Jew' is another name for one miserable and contemptible.

A shaking of the head - in scorn (Psalms 22:7).


Verse 15-16

My confusion is continually before me, and the shame of my face hath covered me,

My confusion is continually before me ... For the voice of him that reproacheth and blasphemeth - (Jeremiah 3:25; Psalms 69:7.) The ravages of the Edomite in the Holy Land, continually before the eyes of Israel at the time which the psalm commemorates, covered the face of the people of God with shame and "confusion." Not merely was there violence, but 'blasphemy' in the wanton attack. The feeling of the pagan, and especially of Edom, on account of the old grudge, was that of religious, as well as civil, hatred of Israel.

Thus Amalek attacked Israel after the exodus from Egypt, because of Israel's claim to be the people of God; the war was a religious war (Exodus 17:16, margin): 'Because the hand of Amalek is against the throne of the Lord, therefore the Lord hath war with Amalek from generation to generation.' Compare Psalms 68:16, where the high hills of pagandom are represented as envying the Lord's hill, Zion. This explains why the guilt of the pagan foe is regarded by the Lord's prophets as so deadly, and why so terrible a penalty was laid upon them. In the ulterior sense, all the foes who reproach and blaspheme God in the person of His people are meant.

By reason of the enemy and avenger. Satan is the great "enemy and avenger" (Psalms 8:2, note), who acts through the countless opponents of the Church in all ages, from Amalek and Edom to Antiochus Epiphanes, and thence to the last Antichrist.

The fourth strophe.-The Church pleads her faithfulness to God's covenant as the ground for expecting deliverance from the present anomalies.


Verse 17

All this is come upon us; yet have we not forgotten thee, neither have we dealt falsely in thy covenant.

All this is come upon us; yet have we not forgotten thee, neither have we dealt falsely in thy covenant - though our calamities tempted us so to do. As in Malachi 3:14, some said, "It is vain to serve God; and what profit is it, that we have kept His ordinances, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts?" The Hebrew for "covenant" [ b


Verse 18

Our heart is not turned back, neither have our steps declined from thy way;

Our heart is not turned back neither have our steps declined from thy way Apostasy begins at the Our heart is not turned back, neither have our steps declined from thy way. Apostasy begins at the heart, then passes to the steps. Compare on this verse, Psalms 119:157. The Church's profession of faithfulness to God's covenant is true only in the main. She is conscious of smaller infringements of it, which justify temporary chastisements. But what she urges is, that the permanent continuance of the pagan's triumph would be inconsistent with God's faithfulness to His believing people. Compare Psalms 44:23, "cast us not off forever," and Psalms 44:26, "Arise ... for thy mercies' sake," not for our merits.


Verse 19

Though thou hast sore broken us in the place of dragons, and covered us with the shadow of death.

Though thou hast sore broken us in the place of dragons - i:e., jackals, which frequent the wilderness (Isaiah 13:22; Isaiah 34:13; Isaiah 43:20). The jackals represent the persecutors who ravage the people of God, regarded as sheep (Psalms 44:22). The mournful cry of the jackal in the desert is well known. The desert, or "place of dragons," symbolizes Israel's sunken state.

And covered us with the shadow of death - i:e., with the thickest and gloomiest darkness. Hengstenberg translates [ kiy (Hebrew #3588)] instead of "though" that, connected with Psalms 44:18, 'Our heart is not turned back, that thou wast thereby led to break as sorely;' their faithfulness to God being thus represented, not merely as existing in the time of, and notwithstanding their sufferings, but BEFORE them.


Verse 20-21

If we have forgotten the name of our God, or stretched out our hands to a strange god;

If we have forgotten the name of our God ... shall not God search this out? They confirm the truth of their assertion (Psalms 44:17-18), that they have not forgotten God, by declaring themselves conscious that God will search out every such apostasy falsely abjured.


Verse 22

Yea, for thy sake are we killed all the day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter.

Yea, for thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter. So far are we from having 'forgotten thee and the covenant of our God' (Psalms 44:17; Psalms 44:20), that we are continually persecuted just because we are so faithful to thee. Paul's quotation of this verse (Romans 8:36) proves that the ulterior application reaches beyond the immediate occasion, and that the Spirit designed it for those in all ages who are exposed by their faithfulness to persecution (2 Timothy 3:12).


Verse 23

Awake, why sleepest thou, O Lord? arise, cast us not off for ever.

Fifth strophe. Psalms 44:23-26.-Prayer that God would arise for His people's help.

Awake, why sleepest thou, O Lord? The answer is given, Psalms 121:4. Compare also Matthew 8:25. The "for ever" here is emphatic. In Psalms 44:9 the Church had said, "thou hast cast off;" here she cries, though our shortcomings have brought on us temporary casting away, let it not be "for ever." The Church's prayer herein rests on God's promise in 1 Samuel 12:22. Compare Jeremiah 31:37; Romans 11:1.


Verse 24

Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and forgettest our affliction and our oppression?

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 25

For our soul is bowed down to the dust: our belly cleaveth unto the earth.

For our soul is bowed down to the dust; our belly cleaveth unto the earth - (Psalms 119:25.) Here their plea is their miseries; in the next verse God's "mercies."


Verse 26

Arise for our help, and redeem us for thy mercies' sake. Arise for our help - (Psalms 63:7.)

Redeem us for thy mercies' sake - not for our merits. This shows the profession of faithfulness (Psalms 44:17) is only in the main, not absolute.

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Psalms 44:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/psalms-44.html. 1871-8.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, November 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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