Psalms 44

PSALM XLIV

The psalmist recounts the mercies of God; shows to his people

how God in ancient times gave them the victory over all their

enemies, 1-8;

points out their present miserable state, 9-16;

asserts that thy have not apostatized, and appeals to God for

the truth of his assertion, 17-22;

and calls upon the Lord for deliverance from their enemies,

23-26.

NOTES ON PSALM XLIV

The title here is the same as that in Ps 42:1; which see. The

Syriac says it was "A Psalm of the sons of Korah, which the

people and Moses sung at Horeb." Such titles are fancies to which

no credit should be attached. Like the preceding, it appears to

belong to the time of the captivity.

Verse 1. We have heard with our ears] The psalmist begins with

recounting the marvellous interpositions of God in behalf of the

Jewish people, that he might the better strengthen his confidence,

and form a ground on which to build his expectation of additional

help.

Verse 2. Thou didst drove out the heathen] The Canaanites were

as a bad tree planted in a good soil, and bringing forth bad fruit

with great luxuriance. God plucked up this bad tree from the

roots, and in its place planted the Hebrews as a good tree, a good

vine, and caused them to take root, and fill the land.

Verse 3. For they got not the land] Neither by their valour, nor

cunning, nor for their merit; yet, they were obliged to fight. But

how did they conquer? By the right hand of the Lord, and by his

arm; by his strength alone, and the light of his countenance-his

favour most manifestly shown unto them.

Verse 4. Thou art my king] What thou wert to them, be to us.

We believe in thee as they did; we have sinned and are in

captivity, but we repent and turn unto thee; command, therefore,

deliverances to Jacob, for we are the descendants of him in whose

behalf thou hast wrought such wonders.

Verse 5. Through thee will we push down] Through thy WORD,

bemeimra, "Thy substantial Word."-Chaldee. If thou be

with us, who can be successfully against us? Literally "We will

toss them in the air with our horn;" a metaphor taken from an ox

or bull tossing the dogs into the air which attack him.

Through thy name] Jehovah; the infinite, the omnipotent, the

eternal Being; whose power none is able to resist.

Verse 6. I will not trust in my bow] As he is speaking of what

God had already done for his forefathers, these words should be

read in the past tense: "We have not trusted," &c.

Verse 8. In God we boast] We have told the heathen how great and

powerful our God is. If thou do not deliver us by thy mighty

power, they will not believe our report, but consider that we are

held in bondage by the superior strength of their gods.

Verse 9. But thou hast cast off] Our enemies have dominion over

us.

And goest not forth with our armies.] Were we to attempt to

muster our several tribes, and form a host, like our fathers when

they came out of Egypt, thou wouldst not accompany us as thou

didst them: the horses and chariots of the Babylonians would soon

overtake and destroy us.

Verse 10. Thou makest us to turn back] This thou didst: and our

enemies, profiting by the occasion, finding our strength was

departed from us, made us an easy prey, captivated our persons,

and spoiled us of our property.

Verse 11. And hast scattered us among the heathen.] This most

evidently alludes to the captivity. From the successful wars of

the kings of Assyria and Chaldea against the kings of Israel and

Judah, and the dispersion of the tribes under Tiglath-pileser,

Shalmaneser, and Nebuchadnezzar, Jews have been found in every

province of the east; there they settled, and there their

successors may be found to the present day.

Verse 12. Thou sellest thy people for nought] An allusion to the

mode of disposing of slaves by their proprietors or sovereigns.

Instead of seeking profit, thou hast made us a present to our

enemies.

Verse 14. Thou makest us a byword] We are evidently abandoned by

thee, and are become so very miserable in consequence, that we are

a proverb among the people: "See the Hebrews! see their misery and

wretchedness! see how low the wrath of God has brought down an

offending people!" And the worst curse that can be imprecated

against a wicked nation is: "Mayest thou become as wretched as the

Jews;" or as the old Psalter: "Thou has seet us reprove til our

neghburs: scornyng and hethyng til tha that er in our umgang. That

es, gref, tourment that es of our neghburs, and that hethyng es

noght sone gave or passand, that we suffer of tha, that er al

aboute us. When men sais so byfal ye, als byfel him."

Verse 17. Yet have we not forgotten thee] These are bold words;

but they must be understood in a qualified sense. We have not

apostatized from thee, we have not fallen into idolatry. And

this was strictly true: the charge of idolatry could never be

brought against the Jewish nation from the time of the captivity,

with sufficient evidence to support it.

Verse 19. Thou hast sore broken us in the place of dragons] Thou

hast delivered us into the hands of a fierce, cruel, and murderous

people. We, as a people, are in a similar state to one who has

strayed into a wilderness, where there are no human inhabitants;

who hears nothing round about him but the hissing of serpents, the

howling of beasts of prey, and the terrible roaring of the lion;

and who expects every moment to be devoured.

Verse 20. If we have forgotten the name of our God] That name,

Jehovah, by which the true God was particularly

distinguished, and which implied the exclusion of all other

objects of adoration.

Or stretched out our hands] Made supplication; offered prayer or

adoration to any strange god-a god that we had not known, nor had

been acknowledged by our fathers. It has already been remarked,

that from the time of the Babylonish captivity the Jews never

relapsed into idolatry.

It was customary among the ancients, while praying, to stretch

out their hands towards the heavens, or the image they were

worshipping, as if they expected to receive the favour they were

asking.

Verse 21. Shall not God search this out?] We confidently appeal

to the true God, the searcher of hearts, for the truth of this

statement.

Verse 22. For thy sake are we killed all the day long] Because

of our attachment to thee and to thy religion, we are exposed to

continual death; and some of us fail a daily sacrifice to the

persecuting spirit of our enemies, and we all carry our lives

continually in our hands. In the same state were the primitive

Christians; and St. Paul applies these words to their case,

Ro 8:36.

Verse 23. Awake, why sleepest thou, O Lord?] That is, Why dost

thou appear as one asleep, who is regardless of the safety of his

friends. This is a freedom of speech which can only be allowed to

inspired men; and in their mouths it is always to be figuratively

understood.

Verse 24. Wherefore hidest thou thy face] Show us the cause why

thou withdrawest from us the testimony of thy approbation.

Verse 25. Our soul is bowed down] Our life is drawing near to

the grave. If thou delay to help us, we shall become extinct.

Verse 26. Arise for our help] Show forth thy power in delivering

us from the hands of our enemies.

Redeem us] Ransom us from our thraldom.

For thy mercies' sake.] lemaan chasdecha, On account

of thy mercy. That we may have that proper view of thy mercy which

we should have, and that we may magnify it as we ought to do,

redeem us. The Vulgate has, Redime nos, propter nomen tuum,

"Redeem us on account of thy name;" which the old Psalter thus

paraphrases: "Help us in ryghtwysness, and by us (buy,) that es,

delyver us, that we be withouten drede; and al this for thi name

Jehsu; noght for oure merite."

ANALYSIS OF THE FORTY-FOURTH PSALM

In this Psalm are livelily expressed the sufferings, the

complaints, the assurances, the petitions which are offered to God

by good men, who suffer, together with others, in the common

afflictions that God brings on his people.

The parts are two:-

I. A petition, Ps 44:24-26.

II. The arguments by which the petition is quickened,

Ps 44:1-24.

First, He begins with the arguments, of which the first is drawn

from God's goodness, of which he gives in particular, his benefits

and miracles done for their fathers; as if he had said, "This thou

didst for them; why art thou so estranged from us?"

I. "We have heard with our ears, O God, and our fathers have

told us what works thou didst in their days, and in the times of

old." The particulars of which are,-

1. "How thou didst drive out the heathen," namely, the

Canaanites.

2. "How thou plantedst them."

3. "How thou didst afflict the people, and cast them out,"

Ps 44:2.

II. This we acknowledge to be thy word; expressed thus:-

1. "How thou didst drive out the heathen;" negatively, by

remotion of what some might imagine: "They got not the land in

possession by their own sword, neither was it their own arm that

helped them," Ps 44:3. "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but

unto thy name be the praise."

2. "How thou plantedst them;" positively: "For it was thy right

hand and thy arm, and the light of thy countenance." A mere

gratuito: "because thou hadst a favour unto them;" no other

reason can be assigned but that, Ps 44:3.

3. Upon this consideration, by an apostrophe, he turns his

speech to God, and sings a song of triumph, of which the strains

are,-

1. An open confession: "Thou art my king, O God."

2. A petition: "Send help unto Jacob," Ps 44:4.

3. A confident persuasion of future victory; but still with

God's help and assistance, Ps 44:5-7. 1. "Through thee will we

push down our enemies." 2. "Through thee will we tread them under

that rise up against us." All through thee; in thy name, by thy

power.

4. An abrenunciation of his own power or arm: "For I will not

trust in my bow, neither shall my sword save me."

5. A reiteration, or a second ascription of the whole victory to

God: "But thou hast saved us from our enemies; thou hast put them

to shame that hated us," Ps 44:7.

6. A grateful return of thanks; which is indeed the tribute God

expects, and which we are to pay upon our deliverance. "In God we

boast all the day long, and praise thy name for ever."

Secondly, The second argument by which he wings his petition is

drawn from the condition which, for the present, God's people were

in, before he had done wonders for their deliverance; but now he

had delivered them to the will of their enemies. This would move a

man to think that his good will was changed toward them: "But thou

hast cast us off, and put us to shame, and goest not forth with

our armies."

Of which the consequences are many and grievous, although we

acknowledge that all is from thee, and comes from thy hand and

permission.

1. The first is: "Thou makest us to turn back from the enemy,"

Ps 44:10.

2. The second, We become a prey: "They which hate us spoil for

themselves," Ps 44:10.

3. The third, We are devoured: "Thou hast given us as sheep

appointed for meat;" killed cruelly, and when they please,

Ps 44:11.

4. The fourth, We are driven from our country, and made to dwell

where they will plant us: "Thou hast scattered us among the

heathen; " (inter gentes,) and that is a great discomfort, to live

among people without God in the world.

5. The fifth, We are become slaves, sold and bought as beasts;

and that for any price, upon any exchange: "Thou sellest thy

people for nought, and dost not increase thy wealth by their

price," Ps 44:12; puts them off as worthless things.

6. The sixth, We are made a scorn, a mock; and to whom? To our

enemies: but that might be borne; but even to our friends and

neighbours: "Thou makest us a reproach to our neighbours, a scorn

and derision to them that are round about us."

And this he amplifies:-

1. From the circumstance that they are a proverb of reproach:

"Thou makest us a byword among the heathen."

2. That in scorn any one that would, used a scornful gesture

toward them: "We are become a shaking of the head among the

people."

3. That this insulting is continual: "My confusion is daily

before me."

4. It is superlative; shame so great that he had not what to say

to it: "The shame of my face hath covered me."

5. It is public; their words and gestures are not concealed;

they speak out what they please: "Ashamed I am for the voice of

him that reproacheth and blasphemeth; for the enemy and avenger."

Thirdly, And yet he useth a third argument, that the petition

may be the more grateful, and more easily granted; drawn from the

constancy and perseverance of God's people in the profession of

the truth, notwithstanding this heavy loss, persecution, and

affliction: "All this is come upon us;"-thus we are oppressed,

devoured, banished, sold, derided; yet we continue to be thy

servants still, we retain our faith, hope, service.

1. We have not forgotten thee, not forgotten thou art our God.

We acknowledge no idols.

2. We have not dealt falsely in thy covenant. We have not

juggled in thy service, dealing with any side for our advantage,

renouncing our integrity.

3. Our heart is not turned back. Our heart is upright, not

turned back to the idols our fathers worshipped.

4. Our steps are not gone out of thy way. Slip we may, but not

revolt; no, not though great calamities are come upon us. 1.

Broken. 2. Broken in the place of dragons, i.e., enemies fierce

as dragons. 3. Though covered with the shadow of death. Now, that

all this is true we call our God to witness, who knoweth the very

secrets of the heart, and is able to revenge it: "We have not

forgotten the name of our God, or stretched out our hands," &c.

"Shall not God search it out? for he knows the very secret of the

heart."

Fourthly. But the last argument is more pressing than the other

three. It is not for any thing we have done to those that oppress

us that we are thus persecuted by them; it is for thee, it is

because we profess thy name, and rise up in defence of thy truth:

"Yea, for thy sake are we killed all the day long; for thy sake

are we counted as sheep for the slaughter." The sum then is: Since

thou hast been a good God to our fathers; since we suffered great

things under bitter tyrants; since, notwithstanding all our

sufferings, we are constant to thy truth; since these our

sufferings are for thee, for thy sake, thy truth; therefore awake,

arise, help us, for upon these grounds he commences his petition.

II. This is the second part of the Psalm, which begins at

Ps 44:23, and continues to the end, in which petition there are

these degrees:-

1. That God, who to flesh and blood, in the calamities of his

Church, seems to sleep, would awake and put an end to their

trouble: "Awake why sleepest thou, O Lord," Ps 44:23.

2. That he would arise and judge their cause, and not seem to

neglect them as abjects: "Arise cast us not off for ever,"

Ps 44:23.

3. That he would show them some favour, and not seem to forget

their miseries: "Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and forgettest

our affliction and oppression?"

4. Lastly, That he would be their helper, and actually deliver

them: "Arise for our help, and redeem us for thy mercies' sake."

And that this petition might be the sooner and more readily

granted, he briefly repeats the second argument: "For our soul is

bowed down to the dust, our belly cleaveth to the earth,"

Ps 44:25. Brought we are as low as low may be, even to the

dust, to death, to the grave.

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