Psalms 144

PSALM CXLIV

The psalmist praises God for his goodness, 1, 2.

Exclamations relative to the vanity of human life, 3, 4.

He prays against his enemies, 5-8;

and extols God's mercy for the temporal blessings enjoyed by

his people, 9-15.

NOTES ON PSALM CXLIV

The Hebrew, and all the Versions, attribute this Psalm to David.

The Vulgate, Septuagint, AEthiopic, and Arabic, term it, A Psalm

of David against Goliath. The Syriac says, "A Psalm of David when

he slew Asaph, the brother of Goliath." Calmet thinks, and with

much probability, that it was composed by David after the death of

Absalom, and the restoration of the kingdom to peace and

tranquillity. From a collation of this with Ps 18:1-50, of which

it appears to be an abridgment, preserving the same ideas, and the

same forms of expression, there can be no doubt of both having

proceeded from the same pen, and that David was the author. There

is scarcely an expression here of peculiar importance that is not

found in the prototype; and for explanation I must refer generally

to the above Psalm.

Verse 1. Teacheth my hands to war] To use sword, battle-axe, or

spear.

And my fingers to fight] To use the bow and arrows, and the

sling.

Verse 2. Who subdueth my people] Who has once more reduced the

nation to a state of loyal obedience. This may refer to the peace

after the rebellion of Absalom.

Verse 3. Lord, what is man]

See Clarke on Ps 8:4; "Ps 8:5".

What is Adam, that thou approvest of him? Can he do any thing

worthy of thy notice? Or the son of feeble perishing man, that

thou shouldest hold him in repute? What care, love, and attention,

dost thou lavish upon him!

Verse 4. Man is like to vanity] Adam lahebel damah,

literally, Adam is like to Abel, exposed to the same miseries,

accidents, and murderers; for in millions of cases the hands of

brothers are lifted up to shed the blood of brothers. What are

wars but fratricide in the great human family?

His days are as a shadow] The life of Abel was promissory of

much blessedness; but it afforded merely the shadow of happiness.

He was pure and holy, beloved of his parents, and beloved of God;

but, becoming the object of his brother's envy, his life became a

sacrifice to his piety.

Verse 5. Bow thy heavens] See Clarke on Ps 18:9.

Verse 6. Cast forth lightning]

See Clarke on Ps 18:13; "Ps 18:14".

Verse 7. Deliver me out of great waters]

See Clarke on Ps 18:16.

Verse 9. I will sing a new song] A song of peculiar excellence.

I will pour forth all my gratitude, and all my skill, on its

composition. See on Ps 33:2, 3.

Verse 10. He that giveth salvation unto kings] Monarchy, in the

principle, is from God: it is that form of government which, in

the course of the Divine providence, has principally prevailed;

and that which, on the whole, has been most beneficial to mankind.

God, therefore, has it under his peculiar protection. It is by him

that kings reign; and by his special providence they are

protected.

Verse 12. That our sons may be as plants] God had promised to

his people, being faithful, THREE descriptions of BLESSINGS,

De 28:4. 1. The

fruit of the body-sons and daughters. 2. The fruits of the

ground-grass and corn in sufficient plenty. 3. Fruit of the

cattle-"the increase of kine, and flocks of sheep." These are

the blessings to which the psalmist refers here, as those in which

he might at present exult and triumph: blessings actually enjoyed

by his people at large; proofs of his mild and paternal

government, and of the especial blessing of the Almighty. The

people who were in such a state, and revolted, had no excuse: they

were doubly guilty, as ungrateful both to God and man.

Verse 13. That our garners, &c.] Our garners are full. These are

not prayers put up by David for such blessings: but assertions,

that such blessings were actually in possession. All these

expressions should be understood in the present tense.

Ten thousands in our streets.] bechutsotheynu should

be translated in our pens or sheep-walks; for sheep bringing forth

in the streets of cities or towns is absurd.

Verse 14. Our oxen may be strong to labour] We have not only an

abundance of cattle; but they are of the most strong and vigorous

breed.

No breaking in] So well ordered is the police of the kingdom,

that there are no depredations, no robbers, house-breakers, or

marauding parties, in the land; no sudden incursions of

neighbouring tribes or banditti breaking into fields or houses,

carrying away property, and taking with them the people to sell

them into captivity: there is no such breaking in, and no such

going out, in the nation. My enemies are either become friends,

and are united with me in political interests; or are, through

fear, obliged to stand aloof.

Verse 15. Happy is that people] "O how happy are the people!"

Such were his people; and they had not only all this secular

happiness, but they had Jehovah for their God; and in him had a

ceaseless fountain of strength, protection, earthly blessings, and

eternal mercies! A people in such a case to rebel, must have the

curse of God and man.

ANALYSIS OF THE HUNDRED AND FORTY-FOURTH PSALM

This Psalm is divided into three parts:-

I. A thanksgiving, Ps 144:1-5.

II. A petition, Ps 144:5-11.

III. A discussion on happiness, and in what it consists,

Ps 144:12-15.

I. The prophet gives thanks, and praises God.

1. "Blessed be the Lord:" &c. Who has taught me in a general way

the art of war, in a particular way the use of the sling; giving

me skill, &c.

2. "He is my strength," &c. The strength I have is from him.

3. "My goodness," &c. Benignity or mercy.

4. "My fortress," &c. To him I fly as to a stronghold.

5. "And my Deliverer." Therefore will I trust in him.

From the consideration of so many benefits, the psalmist

exclaims, "Lord what is man," &c.

To which question he replies,-

1. "Man is like to vanity." If God be not his fulness and

strength.

2. "His days," &c. God is always the same; but man changes every

moment.

II. He prays for God's assistance: "Bow thy heavens," &c. "Cast

forth lightning," &c. If men will not acknowledge thy mercy, let

them see thy judgments. This first part of his petition against

his enemies being ended, he prays,-

1. "Rid me, and deliver me:" &c. From dangers of men.

2. "From the hand of strange children:" &c. Moabites,

Philistines, &c.

Upon whom he sets these two characters.

1. "Whose mouth speaketh vanity:" &c. Lies, insincere words.

2. "At their right hand:" &c. They use their power to oppress

and deceive.

Then the psalmist exclaims, as in a short hymn-

1. "I will sing a new song," &c. And this I will do because

"thou hast given victory," &c. "Thou hast delivered David," &c.,

from Saul, Absalom, &c.

2. And then he repeats, and concludes his petition as before:

"Rid me," &c.

III. His petition being ended, he discourses on the nature of

happiness, which is of two kinds, temporal and spiritual. The

addition of temporal blessings is pleasant, and promised to the

obedient: but godliness is the only safety in this, and especially

in the life to come: "For godliness," &c. God created temporal

goods not merely for the wicked; they are often the rewards of

piety. The psalmist therefore prays,-

1. "That our sons," &c. They are the pillars of a house; let

them be flourishing.

2. "That our daughters," &c. Stones that join the building,

beautiful as well as useful.

3. "That our garners may be full," &c. That we may have

abundance.

4. "That our sheep," &c. Our flocks' increase.

5. "That our oxen," &c. May be healthy and strong.

6. "That there be no breaking," &c. No plundering among us.

7. "That there be no complaining," &c. No want of bread, or any

cause of tumult. David prays that, during his reign, the people

may be happy, and enjoy the fruits of peace.

Then he concludes the Psalm with this acclamation:-

1. "Happy is that people," &c. Those he has described.

2. "Yea, happy," &c. That have the true God for their God; who

know God to be their Father, and that he takes care of them,

providing for their temporal necessities, and supplying all their

spiritual wants. Others understand these words, not as prayers, but

as a description of the state David and his people were then in.

See the notes.

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