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Song of Solomon
Psalms 44 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)
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> We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us,
work thou didst in their days, in the times of old.
We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what work thou didst in their days, in the times
The Law required all Israelites to teach their children the past history of the nation, and especially the mercies which had been vouchsafed to it (see
Exodus 12:26, 27
Exodus 13:8, 10
thou didst drive out the heathen with thy hand, and plantedst them;
thou didst afflict the people, and cast them out.
How thou didst drive out the heathen with thy hand
"by thy power." The conquest of Canaan is the historical fact referred to.
, "Thou wilt bring them in, and
them in the mountain of thine inheritance;" and see also
, "Thou hast brought
out of Egypt; thou hast cast out the heathen, and
How thou didst afflict the
the Canaanitish nations.
And cast them out
. So the LXX, the Vulgate, and even the Revised Version. But most moderns, understanding "them" of Israel, render,
but didst spread them out
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, neither did their own arm save them
Joshua 24:11, 12
but thy right hand, and thine
arm, and the light of thy countenance, because thou hadst a favour unto them
Deuteronomy 4:37, 38
Joshua 24:11, 18
Thou art my King, O God: command deliverances for Jacob.
Thou art my King, O God
thou art he that is my King
I acknowledge no other king but thee, no other absolute lord and master.
Command deliverances for Jacob
. Being King, thou hast a right to command. We pray thee at this present time to command our deliverance.
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
Do as we ask - command our deliverance - and then we shall assuredly "push down,"
overthrow and prostrate, our enemies. Thy help will be found as effectual in the future as in the past.
Through thy Name will we tread them under that rise up against us.
Having pushed our foes to the ground (comp.
), we shall then be able to "tread them under." The imagery is drawn from the practice of buffaloes and wild bulls.
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
(comp. ver. 3). My trust,
, shall not be in myself, but in thee. The sword and the bow were the ordinary weapons of Israel.
But thou hast saved us from our enemies, and hast put them to shame that hated us.
But thou hast
saved us from our enemies; or,
dost save us.
It is the voice of confident hope that speaks, not that of gratitude. And hast put them to shame that hated us
and puttest them to shame that hate us.
The writer is sure that God will do in the future as he has done in the past, and will raise Israel up again from the low estate into which they have been brought by disaster.
In God we boast all the day long, and praise thy name for ever. Selah.
In God we boast all the day long, and praise thy
Name for ever.
We boast of God as
God, who saves us, and puts to shame our enemies (see ver. 7).
But thou hast cast off, and put us to shame; and goest not forth with our armies.
- These verses form the second stanza, and are a loud and bitter complaint. God has recently dealt with Israel exceptionally - has seemed to "cast them off," has "put them to shame," allowed them to be defeated and despoiled, slain and carried into captivity, made a scorn and a derision, a reproach and a byword. He no longer "goes forth with their armies," to secure them victory over their foes, but holds aloof, and covers them with confusion. The description implies, not a single defeat, but a somewhat prolonged period of depression, during which several "armies" have been beaten, several battles lost, multitudes slain, and great numbers carried away captive (ver. 11). Still, a general captivity, like the Babylonian, is certainly not spoken cf. The nation is as yet unconquered. It needs but a return of God's favour to turn the vanquished into the victors, and to replace shame by boasting.
But thou hast
and put us to shame
(see also ver. 16). It is the
of defeat, rather than the physical pains or material losses, that grieve the writer
. And goest not forth with our armies
. Israel has still "armies" at her disposal. It is therefore certainly not the early Maccabean period, nor the time of the expiring monarchy. Her armies have free play, are sent forth, only God does not "go forth" with them (comp.
Thou makest us to turn back from the enemy: and they which hate us spoil for themselves.
Thou makest us to turn
back from the enemy.
Thou bringest it to pass that we turn our backs in shameful flight from the enemy, either making a feeble resistance or none at all. And they which
us spoil for themselves. Spoil us of our arms and ornaments, which they seize and appropriate.
Thou hast given us like sheep
for meat; and hast scattered us among the heathen.
Thou hast given us like sheep appointed
"As sheep for the shambles" (Kay) - a free translation, which well expresses the meaning.
And hast scattered us among
Either "caused us to disperse ourselves among our heathen neighbours," or "to be sold for slaves among them by our captors." No general dispersion of the nation is intended.
Thou sellest thy people for nought, and dost not increase
by their price.
Thou sellest thy people for nought
). The whole people is regarded, not as sold for slaves, but as delivered over to the will of their enemies; and all "for nought," God gaining nothing in exchange
. Thou dost not increase thy wealth by their price
. A repetition for the sake of emphasis, but adding no new idea.
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 to our neighbours
). They would be reproached, not so much as cowards, or as weak and powerless themselves, but rather as having a weak and powerless God (comp.
2 Kings 18:33-35
2 Kings 19:12
). A scorn and a derision to them that are round about us
. (For instances of the "scorn and derision" whereto the Israelites were exposed at the hands of the heathen, see
2 Kings 18:23, 24
2 Kings 19:23, 24
Nehemiah 4:2, 3
Thou makest us a byword among the heathen, a shaking of the head among the people.
Thou makest us a byword among the heathen
A shaking of the head among the people;
among the peoples
continually before me, and the shame of my face hath covered me,
My confusion is continually
before me, and the shame of my face hath covered me
(see the comment on ver. 9).
For the voice of him that reproacheth and blasphemeth; by reason of the enemy and avenger.
For the voice of him that re-proacheth and blasphemeth
. The reproaches of the heathen were most commonly "blasphemies," since they consisted very mainly of contemptuous expressions against the God of Israel (see the comment on ver. 13; and comp.
Isaiah 37:3, 23
reason of the enemy and avenger.
The persons by whom the blasphemous reproaches were uttered - Israel's enemies bent on avenging former losses and defeats.
All this is come upon us; yet have we not forgotten thee, neither have we dealt falsely in thy covenant.
- In this third stanza the psalmist strongly emphasizes his complaint by maintaining that the calamities from which they are suffering have not come upon the people through any fault of their own, or been in any way provoked or deserved He is, perhaps, over-confident; but we cannot doubt that he is sincere in the belief, which he expresses, that the people, both before and during their calamities, have been obedient and faithful to God, wholly free from idolatry, and exemplary in their conduct and life. There are not many periods of Israelite history at which such a description could have been given without manifest untruth, and the time of David is certainly more suitable for it than almost any other.
All this is come upon us; yet have we not forgotten thee, neither have we dealt falsely in thy covenant
. Israel had neither put aside the thought of religion, and given herself up to wordliness, nor yet, while still professedly religious, transgressed habitually God's commandments. She maintained "thorough sincerity in religion, and consistent integrity of life." Yet "all this" - all that has been described in vers. 9-16 - had come upon her.
Our heart is not turned back, neither have our steps declined from thy way;
Our heart is
not turned back;
turned away from God, as it was when they passed through the wilderness (
). Neither have our steps declined from thy way
. Neither in respect of inward feeling nor of outward act have we strayed from the right path.
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;
in the place of jackals
in wild and desolate regions, where jackals abound (comp.
). The expression is probably used metaphorically.
And covered us with
the shadow of death.
, into imminent peril of destruction (see vers. 10, 11).
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, or stretched out
our hands to a strange god
. If Israel had either forgotten the true God (see above, ver. 17) or fallen away to the worship of false or strange gods - then her ill success against her foreign enemies would have been fully accounted for, since it would only have been in accordance with the threatenings of the Law (
); but as she had done neither of these things, her defeats and depressed condition seemed to the psalmist wholly unaccountable. We trace here the same current belief, which comes out so strongly in the Book of Job - the belief that calamities were, almost of necessity, punishments for sin; and that when they occurred, and there had been no known precedent misconduct, the case was abnormal and extraordinary.
Shall not God search this out? for he knoweth the secrets of the heart.
Shall not God search this out!
visit for it - punish it. Such a result was to be expected. But when there had been no precedent idolatry, no neglect of the worship of Jehovah, what then?
he knoweth the secrets of the heart.
Secret idolatry would, of course, explain the state of things; but the writer evidently knows of no secret idolatry.
Yea, for thy sake are we killed all the day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter.
Yea, for thy sake are we killed all the day long
, as the phrase is often translated. Not only are the Israelites not suffering on account of any previous desertion of God, or other misconduct, but they are suffering for their fidelity to God. The heathen hate them, and make war upon them, as worshippers of one exclusive God, Jehovah, and contemners of their many gods, whom they hold to be "no-gods." They are martyrs, like the Christians of the early Church (see
are counted as sheep for the slaughter
(comp. ver. 11).
Awake, why sleepest thou, O Lord? arise, cast
not off for ever.
- The appeal to God is now made, after the case has been fully represented. God has always hitherto maintained the cause of his people, and given them victory over their enemies, unless they had fallen away from him (vers. 1-8). Now he has acted otherwise - he has allowed their enemies to triumph (vers. 9-16). And they have given him no reason for his desertion of them (vers. 17-22). Surely, if they call upon him, and plead their cause before him, he will relent, and come to their aid. The appeal, therefore, is made briefly, but in the most moving terms.
Awake, why sleepest thou, O Lord?
The psalmist does not really believe that Jehovah "sleeps." The heathen might so imagine of their gods (
1 Kings 18:27
), but not an Israelite. An Israelite would be sure that "he that keepeth Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps" (
). The writer consciously uses an anthropomorphism, really intending only to call on God to rouse himself from his inaction, and lay it aside, and come to Israel's aid.
Cast us not off for ever
(comp. ver. 9). Under the existing peril, for God to cast off his people will be to cast them off
They had no strength of their own that could save them.
Wherefore hidest thou thy face,
forgettest our affliction and our oppression?
Wherefore hidest thou thy
And forgettest our
affliction and our oppression?
For our soul is bowed down to the dust: our belly cleaveth unto the earth.
For our soul is bowed down to the dust
brought very low, humbled, as it were, to the earth, so weakened that it has no strength in it. Our belly cleaveth unto the earth. The body participates in the soul's depression, and lies prostrate on the ground.
Arise for our help, and redeem us for thy mercies' sake.
Arise for our help
arise as a help unto us
arise, and come to our aid. Help against the enemy is the one object of the entire prayer.
And redeem us
us - "deliver us" (comp.
). For thy mercies' sake (comp.
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