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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Psalms 144

 

 

Verse 1-2

Psalms 144:1-2. Blessed be the Lord my strength — On whom I rely, and from whom I have power to withstand and subdue my enemies, and to perform the duties of my place and station; who teacheth my hands to war, &c. — Who gives me that skill in military affairs, and that dexterity in the management of my weapons, which is much above my education and former course of life; my goodness — Or, my mercy, or the God of my mercy, as God is called, Psalms 59:10; Psalms 59:17. He who is exceedingly good or merciful to me, as goodness itself; who subdueth the people under me — Who disposes my people’s hearts to receive and obey me as their king. “What David here acknowledges, with regard to his victories, and that skill or might by which they were obtained, should be likewise acknowledged by all earthly kings and generals in the day of battle and conquest.”


Verse 3-4

Psalms 144:3-4. Lord, what is man — He magnifies and illustrates God’s goodness to him, by the consideration of his own meanness. Though I am a king over my people, yet, alas, I am but a man, a base, sinful; and mortal creature; if compared with thee, less than nothing and vanity; that thou takest knowledge of him — That thou so much as takest notice, or makest any account of him, especially that thou hast any care over, or kindness for him; or the son of man, &c. — The same thing repeated in other words: see on Psalms 8:4; Job 7:17-18. Man — In his nature and continuance in the world; is like to vanity — Or, to a vapour, or a breath, as Isaiah 57:13, which is gone in an instant. His days are as a shadow that passeth away — That declineth, as Psalms 102:11; Psalms 109:23, (where see the notes,) or “that glides over the earth, vanishes, and is seen no more. Such was human nature; but the Son of God hath taken it upon himself, rendered it immortal, and exalted it to heaven; whither all will follow him hereafter who follow him now in the paths of righteousness and holiness. It is justly observed here by Dr. Horne, (as had been suggested by Dr. Hammond,) that, “if David, upon the remembrance of what God had done for him, could break forth into this reflection, much more may we do so, for whom the Redeemer hath been manifested in the form of a servant, and in that form hath humbled himself to the death of the cross, to gain the victory over principalities and powers, to put all things under our feet, and to make us partakers of his everlasting kingdom. Lord, what, indeed, is man, or what is the son of such a miserable creature, that thou shouldst take this knowledge, and make this account of him!”


Verses 5-8

Psalms 144:5-8. Bow thy heavens and come down — To help me before it be too late, remembering what a frail and perishing creature I am. “David having celebrated his victories over some of his enemies, and extolled the mercy and goodness of God, to whom he ascribed the achievement of them, now proceeds to request a further manifestation of the omnipotent arm in his favour against other hostile forces, which still threatened his country upon his accession to the throne.” Touch the mountains and they shall smoke — As Sinai did at thy glorious appearance, Exodus 19:18. This is a figurative and poetical description of God’s coming to take vengeance on his enemies, which is continued in the next verse. The images used are taken from the promulgation of the law on Sinai. Cast forth lightning and scatter them — Namely, the enemies of David and Judah, such as the Philistines, Moabites, Ammonites, and Syrians: see 2 Samuel 5:8. Shoot out thine arrows — Thy thunderbolts, or lightnings, as before; and destroy them — Totally: for these weapons of thine are irresistible. Send thy hand — Thy power; from above — For from thence we look for help; deliver me out of great waters — Which are ready to overflow me, namely, the multitude of enemies, which assault me on all sides; from the hand of strange children — Either of the heathen nations, or of the rebellious Israelites. Whose mouth speaketh vanity — Empty boasts, or vain threatenings which come to nothing; or false and deceitful promises and professions of friendship, which they cannot, or do not, make good; and their right hand, a right hand of falsehood — “For, with that hand, as with a pledge, they confirmed the treaties of peace, and leagues of friendship made with Israel, all which they had perfidiously broken. Lifting up the hand was the usual ceremony at the taking of an oath, Genesis 14:22. So that this clause seems to be a repetition of the sense contained in the former: agreeably to which the Chaldee interprets the former part of the verse to mean a false oath; and the Arabic renders the latter part thus; and their oath is an oath of iniquity.” — Dodd.


Verse 9-10

Psalms 144:9-10. I will sing a new song unto thee — When thou hast granted this my request, Psalms 144:7-8, which I know assuredly thou wilt do. He giveth salvation to kings — Who are not preserved by their own power or prudence, but by God’s special providence, which, for the public good of the world, watcheth over them.


Verses 11-14

Psalms 144:11-14. Rid me, and deliver me, &c. — “Prayer is again made for a continuance of God’s favour, and a complete victory over every enemy; the happy consequences of which, in the establishment of Israel and the prosperity of Jerusalem, are described.” That our sons, &c. — This mercy I ask not only for my own sake, but for the sake of thy people, that thine and our enemies being subdued, and peace established in the land, thy people may enjoy those blessings which thou hast promised them. That our sons — Who are the strength, safety, and hopes of our nation; may be as plants — Flourishing and thriving, and growing in strength and stature, as plants do in their youth; that our daughters — Upon whom the hope of posterity depends; may be as corner-stones, &c. — Strong and beautiful, and adorned with all the ornaments belonging to their sex. That our garners may be full — That our storehouses may be well replenished with the fruits and products of the earth. That our sheep may bring forth thousands, &c., in our streets — So that they may fill our streets, being brought in great numbers to our towns and cities to furnish meat for the inhabitants. Or, in our folds, or stables, as the Chaldee, Dr. Waterland, and others, render חוצותינו, or, as the LXX. translate the word, εν τοις εξοδοις αυτων, in their outlets, out-goings, or walks; that is, in the fields where they abide. That our oxen may be strong to labour — The oxen are not described by number, as the sheep, but very properly by their firmness and usefulness for tillage; Hebrew, מסבלים, portare facti, formed to bear, namely, the yoke. Some, indeed, interpret the expression, laden, burdened, with flesh and fat. But the former seems the more probable sense of the word. That there be no breaking in — Namely, of enemies, invading our land, or assaulting our cities, and making breaches in our walls; nor going out — Namely, of our people, either out of the towns and cities to fight with an invading enemy, or out of the land into captivity. No complaining — Hebrew, צוחה, no outcry, or howling, or lamentation on account of any sad tidings, or public calamities, or grievances; in our streets — ברחבתינו, a very different word from that rendered streets in the preceding verse. This properly means the broad, spacious ways of cities and towns, but the former word out-places, as out-buildings, folds, or fields. Kimchi observes of these verses, that all those three blessings, namely, of the womb, of the earth, and of cattle, which are mentioned in Deuteronomy 28:4, are specified here.


Verse 15

Psalms 144:15. Happy is that people that is in such a case — The fathers, with many others, have supposed these wishes for sons, daughters, corn, sheep, oxen, &c., to be uttered by the strange children, the aliens and idolaters, mentioned Psalms 144:11, but there is no reason for such a supposition. The good things of this world were promised to Israel of old, on condition of their obedience, and were bestowed on them while they observed God’s laws. And national piety and virtue are generally followed by national prosperity; for nations, as such, in their national capacity, are only capable of rewards and punishments in this life. And secular prosperity may fall, and sometimes does fall, to the lot of the righteous, “who are distinguished from the wicked by the use which they make of temporal blessings, when given, and by their meek resignation of them, when taken away. Whatever be the will of God concerning our having or wanting these outward comforts, we know that we have, as the faithful servants of God have had in every age before us, greater and more precious promises, a better and an enduring substance, pleasures that fade not, and riches that fly not away, reserved for us in a heavenly country, and a city that hath foundations.” — Horne. Hence the psalmist corrects the former clause of the verse by adding, Happy is that people whose God is the Lord — As if he had said, It is desirable to have temporal prosperity, but the true and chief happiness of God’s people doth not consist therein, nor in any thing common to them with the people of the world, but in this peculiar privilege, that the living, true, and blessed God is their God by covenant and special relation, and that they enjoy his favour, love, and grace, according to the tenor of the covenant, though they may not have abundance of this world’s goods, but may be in a state of great poverty, reproach, and affliction.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 144:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/psalms-144.html. 1857.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, August 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19
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