PSALM ONE HUNDRED FORTY-FOUR
Outline
  1. Praise for Prowess and Protection (vv.1,2)
  2. Prayerful Meditation upon the Ephemeral and Insignificant (vv.3,4)
  3. Plea for Extraordinary Deliverance from Insidious Foes (vv.5-8)
  4. Promise to Commemorate Victory (vv.9-12)
  5. Prayer for National Blessing (vv.13-15)
TITLE A Psalm of David (dwId'l. [prep.w/pr.n.]).

INTRODUCTION:

  1. There is a warriorís energy in this psalm worthy of David at the height of his powers, the David of Ps.18.
  2. As to the songís background, the regional enemies and agitators are exerting pressure against the newly-formed kingdom (see points 7ff).
  3. The idyllic scene of the closing stanza (vv.13-15) is still a vision, prayed for with all the greater intensity for its contrast to the present threats.
  4. The psalm is a mosaic.
  5. Most of its material, short of the final verses, is present in other psalms of David, most substantially Ps.18.
  6. This psalm reflects Davidís life and faith and poetry.
  7. My guess is that this psalm was written to commemorate the time in Davidís career when he had unified the tribes of Israel into a unified kingdom (whether written then or at the end of his career).
  8. This is substantiated by the statement in v.2d: "Who subdues my people under me".
  9. A civil war ensued after the death of Saul between Saulís heirs and the house of David (2Sam.2:12-4:12; cf. 3:1,6).
  10. That civil war resulted in the unification of all Israel under David (2Sam.5:1ff).
  11. David was thirty years old at this point and continued to rule Israel for forty years (2Sam.5:4).
  12. He ruled from Hebron for seven and a half years and from Jerusalem for thirty-two and a half years (2Sam.5:5).
  13. His crowning touch was the conquest of Jerusalem, which he made his capital (2Sam.5:7-10).
  14. Further support for the historical setting of this psalm is the psalmís main point of concern: namely, foreign enemies.
  15. These nations were a pressure to his soul, which would not have been the case after 2Sam.8-12.
  16. This songís impetus arises out of the time frame after the civil war between the house of Saul and the house of David.
  17. It could be entitled: "A Kingís Song".
In Praise of Prowess and Protection (vv.1,2)

VERSE 1 Blessed be the LORD, my rock (%WrB' [Qal.pass.pt.m.s., barak, bless] hw"hy> [pr.n.] yrIWc [n.m.s.w/1.c.s.sf., tsur, rock]),

Who trains my hands for war (dMel;m.h; [Piel.pt.m.s., lamadh, teach; train] yd;y" [n.f.dual.w/1.c.s.sf., yadh, hand] br'q.l; [prep.w/n.m.s., qerabh, battle]),

And my fingers for battle (yt;A[B.c.a, [n.f.p.w/1.c.s.sf., etseba, finger] `hm'x'l.Mil; [prep.w/n.f.s., milechamah, war]);

VERSE 2 My lovingkindness and my fortress (yDIs.x; [n.m.s.w/1.c.s.sf., chesed] ytid'Wcm.W [conj.w/n.f.s.w/1.c.s.sf., metsudhah, fortress]),

My stronghold and my deliverer (yBiG:f.mi [n.m.s.w/1.c.s.sf., misegabh, secure height, refuge; from the vb. sagabh, to be high; "stronghold"] yjil.p;m.W [conj.w/Piel.pt.m.s.w/1.c.s.sf., palat, to escape; to deliver; "deliverer"]);

My shield and He in whom I take refuge (yli [prep.w/1.c.s.sf., "to me", not translated] yNIgIm' [n.m.s.w/1.c.s.sf., magen, shield] AbW [conj.w/3.m.s.sf., "He in whom"] ytiysix' [Qal.pf.1.c.s., chasadh, seek refuge]);

Who subdues my people under me (ddeArh' [Qal.pt.m.s., radhadh, beat down, subdue] yMi[; [n.m.s.w/1.c.s.sf., am, people; "my people"] `yT'x.t; [prep.w/1.c.s.sf., "under me"]).

ANALYSIS: VERSES 1,2

  1. David abruptly begins the song by paying tribute to his God-given abilities as a warrior.
  2. The whole of the first stanza is mirrored in Davidís great "swan song", Ps.18.
  3. He calls Yahweh "my rock", a favorite metaphor for security and dependability (cp. Ps.18:2,46; also Pss.19:14; 28:1; 31:3; 42:9; 61:2,6,7; 71:3; 89:26; 92:15,22).
  4. He found that he could always come to this "rock" in time of need.
  5. Hence, the hymn "Rock of Ages".
  6. The rock out of which God supplied the Israelites water in the wilderness is a type of Christ, who never changes (1Cor.10:4; cp. Heb.13:8).
  7. This "rock" is "blessed" to him, for He made him what he is.
  8. David praises his "rock" for providing him with exceptional skills in one of the principal endeavors of his illustrious career: valor and skill on the field of battle.
  9. His thought (v.1b) jumps to a phrase in Ps.18:34, to which he adds as a companion line, "and my fingers for battle".
  10. God supplied him with the genetics needed to excel in his professional career, a fact not lost on him, as we saw in Ps.139:13-16, as well as Ps.18:32-34.
  11. But here he blesses Yahweh with the training he needed to hone his natural athleticism.
  12. When he confronted the giant Goliath, he refused weapons he was unfamiliar with.
  13. At some point shortly thereafter he was blessed with training so he could handle with great effect a sword and a bow.
  14. As with all things, he demonstrated that he was a quick learner.
  15. He did not suffer from pride and vanity like so many who are so endowed.
  16. He was also blessed with an anointing of God the HS that enabled him even above and beyond his peers.
  17. No one ever got the upper hand in a confrontation with this man.
  18. He never lost sight of the Source of his skills and success.
  19. God always got the credit, and so He was free to bless him exceedingly in hand-to-hand combat.
  20. David was quick and powerful and smart.
  21. In v.2 he heaps praise on Yahweh who made his phenomenal rise to power over national Israel possible.
  22. In v.2a he uses a fresh and striking term for Yahweh: "My lovingkindness".
  23. This bold term also occurs where it is to be taken of Godís loyalty to His plan and people.
  24. The two terms "my rock" and "my lovingkindness" convey the idea of "my help which never fails".
  25. The familiar designations follow: "My fortress", "my stronghold", "my deliverer", and "my shield".
  26. These things were not theological abstractions to David, since he regularly took refuge in the invisible essence of the One who was to his dangerous life "fortress"/"stronghold"/ "deliverer"/"shield".
  27. He had many an occasion to faith-rest divine deliverance.
  28. Whether he was on the offensive or defensive, Yahweh proved to be the definitive difference in every encounter with the enemy.
  29. He praises Yahweh for making him ruler over his people.
  30. Verse 2d corresponds to Ps.18:47 but with a different object.
  31. Psalm 18:39b does include this phase of his rise to power.
  32. There he celebrates the subjugation of foreign nations, here of his own people.
  33. Israel had to be subjugated, just as with the nations in the region.
  34. A civil war followed the death of Saul at Gilboa.
  35. This was a remarkable achievement and was not a political fact of life since the days of Moses and Joshua.
  36. Following the death of Joshua the coalition of the twelve tribes was dissolved, and not until the day of David was greater Israel politically unified under one leader.
  37. God set up the circumstances that resulted in Israelís submission to the house of David, whether willingly or by compulsion.
Meditation upon the Ephemeral and Insignificant (vv.3,4)

VERSE 3 O LORD, what is man, that You take knowledge of him (hw"hy> [pr.n.] ~d'a'-hm' [interrog.pro. + n.m.s., adham, man] Wh[ed'Tew: [conj.w/Qal.impf.2.m.s.w/3.m.s.sf., yada, know; "take knowledge of him"])?

Or the son of man, that You think of him (vAna/-!B, [n.m.s.cstr., ben, son, + n.m.s., enosh] `WhbeV.x;T.w: [conj.w/Piel.impf.2.m.s.w/3.m.s.sf., chashabh, think; consider])?

VERSE 4 Man is like a mere breath (~d'a' [n.m.s., adham, man] lb,h,l; [def.art.w/prep. w/n.m.s., hebhel, vapor, breath; vanity; Abelís name means vanity]);

His days are like a passing shadow (wym'y" [n.m.p.w/3.m.s.sf., yom, day] hm'D' [Qal.pf.3.m.s., damah, be like] lceK. [n.m.s., tsel, shadow] `rbeA[ [Qal.pt.m.s., abhar, pass over]).

ANALYSIS: VERSES 3,4

  1. The greatest occupant of the Davidic throne humbly expresses his amazement at the grace received (cp. Ps.8:4-9).
  2. How can it be that he, a mere mortal, be so favored?
  3. Like his fellow man, he of himself is so ephemeral (that which is short-lived) and insignificant.
  4. He is what he is only by the mercies of God (cf. 1Cor.15:10).
  5. We are taught not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought (Rom.12:3).
  6. In this vein David prays in these two verses.
  7. Now man, so full of himself, is seen to scale, first in a free rendering of Ps.18:4, then in phrases which recall Pss.39:5 ("a breath"), 102:11, and 109:23 ("a shadow").
  8. Normally those who are of much higher station in life have little regard for those beneath them, but not so with God, as God does not judge as man does.
  9. This is what is behind the synonymous parallelism of the rhetorical questions of v.3.
  10. God in His perfect essence towers over the collective race of mortals.
  11. Not only is man insignificant when measured by the character of God, man is by nature ephemeral.
  12. God, who exists from everlasting to everlasting, stands in stark contrast to man with his puny lifespan.
  13. To God, man is comparable to the time allotted to a "single breath" or to a "passing shadow".
  14. In another psalm David prayed that God would help him to realize how transient his days are so that he would focus on BD versus vanity (Ps.39:4-6).
  15. Man typically lives out his life like beasts who are conditioned only with respect to their biological drives
  16. The N.T. enjoins us to "make the most of the time, for the days are evil" (Eph.5:16).
Plea for Extraordinary Deliverance (vv.5-8)

VERSE 5 Bow Your heavens, O LORD, and come down (^ym,v'-jh; [Hiphil.imper., natah, bend, stretch out; "Bow", + n.m.p.w/2.m.s.sf., shamayim, heaven] hw"hy> [pr.n.] dretew> [conj.w/Qal.impf.2.m.s., yaradh, descend]);

Touch the mountains, that they may smoke ([G: [Qal.imper., nagha, touch] ~yrIh'B, [def.art.w/prep.w/n.m.p., har, mountain] `Wnv'[/y<w> [conj.w/Qal.impf.3.m.p., ashan, smoke; fig. for anger]).

VERSE 6 Flash forth lightning and scatter them (qArB. [Qal.imper., baraq, flash lightning] qr'B' [n.m.s., baraq, lightning] ~ceypit.W [conj.w/Hiphil.impf.2.m.s.w/3.m.p.sf., puts, scatter]);

Send out Your arrows and confuse them (xl;v. [Qal.imper., shalach, send out] ^yC,xi [n.m.p.w/2.m.s.sf., chets, arrow] `~Mehut.W [conj.w/Qal.impf.2.m.s.w/3.m.p.sf., hamam, make a noise/commotion; vex, confuse]).

VERSE 7 Stretch forth Your hand from on high (xl;v. [Qal.imper., shalach, send, stretch out] ^yd,y" [n.f.dual.w/2.m.s.sf., yadh, hand] ~ArM'mi [prep.w/n.m.s., marom, height; "from on high"]);

Rescue me and deliver me out of great waters (ynIceP. [Qal.imper., patsah, to part, separate; to snatch away] ynIleyCih;w> [conj.w/Hiphil.imper.w/1.c.s.sf., natsal, snatch away, rescue, deliver] ~yBir; [adj.m.p., rabh, much, great] ~yIM;mi [prep.w/n.m.p., mayim, water]),

Out of the hand of aliens (dY:mi [prep.w/n.m.s., yadh, hand; power] ynEB. [n.m.p.cst., ben, son] `rk'nE [n.m.s., nekhar, alien, foreign])

VERSE 8 Whose mouths speak deceit (rv,a] [rel.pro.] ~h,yPi [n.m.s.w/3.m.p.sf., peh, mouth] aw>v'-rB,DI [Piel.pf.3.m.s., dabhar, speak, + n.m.s., shawe, emptiness; "deceit"]),

And whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood (~n"ymiywI [conj.w/n.f.sw/3.m.p.sf., yamin, right hand] !ymiy> [n.f.s.cstr., yamin] `rq,v' [n.m.s., sheqer, deception, lie, falsehood]).

ANALYSIS: VERSES 5-8

  1. The awesome deeds of deliverance which Ps.18:7ff celebrate are here made the object of prayer.
  2. The enemies are "aliens" (v.7c) who threaten to overpower the Davidic monarchy.
  3. They are, literally, "sons of a foreign country", i.e., barbarians, as in Ps.18:45ff.
  4. Apparently, in some of the foreign wars God intervened against Davidís enemies in a spectacular fashion.
  5. God fought against his foes via nature.
  6. In v.5a he asks that Yahweh "bow" or "bend" the "heavens and come down" in a special intervention of Omnipotence against the enemy that is stronger than David.
  7. "Touch the mountains" is a reference to the kingdoms that are on the march against Israel.
  8. He prays for fire out of heaven, and in v.6 he prays for lightning bolts to bombard the armies of the invaders so that they would be scattered and confused.
  9. "Arrows" (vs.6b) are the "lightning" of v.6a.
  10. The divine artillery of a supernatural lightning storm is what David calls down upon the enemy.
  11. The desired result is stated in v.7.
  12. The power of the divine "hand from on high" is what it took to deliver David "out of great waters".
  13. This same language is found in Ps.18:16.
  14. In connection with Davidís plea for extraordinary divine intervention, David reminds God that treachery rests with the other side in the form of a breach of treaty and false claims (v.8).
  15. The national leaders were guilty of "deceit" and had extended the hand of friendship, which turned out to be the "right hand of falsehood" (like Arafat shaking the hand of the prime minister of Israel at the White House in the presence of the President of the U.S.).
  16. David asks that the divine hand of power will reach down from heaven in reprisal and rescue.
Vow to Commemorate the Victory (vv.9-11)

VERSE 9 I will sing a new song to You, O God (hr'yvia' [Qal.impf.1.c.s., shir, sing] vd'x' [adj.m.s., chadhash, new] ryvi [n.m.s., shir, song] %L' [prep.w/2.m.s.sf.; "to You"] ~yhil{a/ [n.m.p.]);

Upon a harp of ten strings I will sing praises to You (lb,nEB. [prep.w/n.m.s.cstr., nebhel, harp] rAf[' [n.m.s., asor, ten] `%L'-hr'M.z:a] [Piel.impf.1.c.s., zamar, sing praise, + prep.w/2.m.s.sf.]),

VERSE 10 Who gives salvation to kings (!teANh; [Qal.pt.m.s., nathan, give] , h['WvT. [n.f.s., teshu-ah, salvation, deliverance] ~ykil'M.l; [prep.w/n.m.p., melek, king]);

Who rescues David His servant from the evil sword (hc,APh; [Qal.pt.m.s., patsah, to part, separate; "rescues"] dwID'-ta, [dir.obj. + pr.n.] ADb.[; [n.m.s.w/3.m.s.sf., ebhedh, servant] br,x,me [prep.w/n.f.s., cherebh, sword] `h['r' [adj.f.s., ra-ah, evil]).

VERSE 11 Rescue me, and deliver me out of the hand of aliens (ynIceP. [Qal.imper.w/1.c.s.sf., patsah, to part; snatch away] ynIleyCih;w> [conj.w/Hiphil.imper.w/1.c.s.sf., natsal, snatch away, deliver, rescue] dY:mi [prep.w/n.m.s., yadh, hand, power] rk'nE-ynEB. [n.m.p.cstr., ben, son, + n.m.s., nekhar, alien]),

Whose mouth speaks deceit (rv,a] [rel.pro.] ~h,yPi [n.m.s.w/3.m.p.sf., peh, mouth] aw>v'-rB,DI [Piel.pf.3.m.s., dabhar, speak, + n.m.s., shawe, emptiness; "deceit"]),

And whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood (~n"ymiywI [conj.w/n.f.s.w/3.m.p.sf., yamin, right hand] !ymiy> [n.f.s., yamin] `rq,v' [n.m.s., shaqer, lie]).

ANALYSIS: VERSES 9-11

  1. David promises to compose a "new song" to commemorate the victory from the aggression of foreign neighbors.
  2. In v.9 the most striking features are the "new song" and the "ten-stringed harp".
  3. In v.10 he mentions what God can do and has done.
  4. God has granted, and does grant, "deliverance to kings" who call upon him in righteousness.
  5. David is not an isolated case.
  6. Furthermore, God has repeatedly rescued David "from the evil sword" to date.
  7. The two facts brought to our attention in v.10 support the case for God to act on Davidís behalf in the present crisis.
  8. Verse 11 is essentially a repeat of vv.7,8.
  9. Again, he prays for deliverance from the power of foreigners who have extended the hand of friendship in "deceit".
  10. How could the God to whom all kings owe their victory possibly suffer David to succumb to "the evil sword?".
  11. "The evil sword" is the sword engaged in the service of an evil cause.
Prayer for National Blessing (vv.12-15)

VERSE 12 Let our sons in their youth be as grown-up plants (rv,a] [rel.pro.] WnynEB' [n.m.p.cstr.w/1.c.p.sf., ben, son] ~h,yreW[n>Bi [prep.w/n.m.p.w/3.m.p.sf., naur, youth; only found here] ~yliD'gUm. [Pual.pt.m.p., gadhal, become great; be brought up; "grown up"].. ~y[ijin>Ki [prep.w/n.m.p., netiya, plant]),

And our daughters as corner pillars fashioned as for a palace (WnyteAnB. [n.f.p.w/1.c.p.sf., bath, daughter] tYOwIz"k. [prep.w/n.f.p.cstr., zawith, corner] tAbJ'xum. [Pual.pt.f.p., chatabh, to cut; carve; "fashioned"] tynIb.T; [n.f.s.cstr., tabhenith, pattern, form, figure] `lk'yhe [n.m.s., hekhel, palace, temple; the idea is probably taken from the corner decoration carved and painted in large rooms in the houses of persons of position; corners of high-ceilinged rooms were ornamented with carved work, and these corner pieces were striped with color; this may be freely rendered: "our daughters are as corners adorned in varied colors after the architecture of palaces"]);

VERSE 13 Let our garners be full, furnishing every kind of produce (WnywEz"m. [n.m.p.w/1.c.p.sf., mezaweh, granary; hapax] ~yailem. [Hiphil.pt.m.p., male, be full] tApylia]m; [Hiphil.pt.m.p., puq, reel, totter; "furnishing", or "bursting/brimming"] !Z:mi [prep.w/n.m.s., zan, kind, sort; only here and in 2Chr.16:14] !z:-la, [prep. + n.m.s., zan, kind]),

And our flocks bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our fields (WnnEwaco [n.f.p.w/1.c.p.sf., tson, flock] tApylia]m [Hiphil.pt.f.p., alaph, produce a thousand fold; "bring forth"] tAbB'rum. [Pual.pt.f.p., rabhabh, be many; ten thousands; "ten thousands and ten thousands"; these two participles in combination suggest incredible fecundity] `WnyteAcWxB. [prep.w/n.m.p.w/1.c.p.sf., chuts, outside; "fields"]);

VERSE 14 Let our cattle bear (WnypeWLa; [n.m.p.w/1.c.p.sf., aluph, tame; friend, intimate, prince; "cattle"; this word is unusual to say the least; the nuance is "tame" or "docile"] ~yliB'sum. [Pual.pt.m.p., sabhal, bear; laden; "bear"; not found elsewhere]),

Without mishap and without loss (#r,P,-!yae [adv., "without", + n.m.s., perets, breach; miscarriage] !yaew> [conj.w/adv., without] taceAy [Qal.pt.f.s., yatsa, go out, depart; "loss"]),

Let there be no outcry in our streets (!yaew> [conj.w/neg.adv., "no"] hx'w"c. [n.f.s, tsewachah, outcry; 4X: Isa.24:11; Jer.14:2; 46:12] `Wnyteboxor>Bi [prep.w/n.m.p.w/1.c.p.sf., rechobh, plaza])!

VERSE 15 How blessed are the people who are so situated (yrev.a; [interj.] ~['h' [def.art.w/n.m.s., am, peole] hk'K'v, [prep.w/adv., kakhah, thus; "so situated"] AL [prep.w/3.m.s.sf., "who"]);

How blessed are the people whose God is the LORD (yrev.a; [interj.] ~['h' [def.art.w/n.m.s., am, people] `wyh'l{a/ [n.m.p.w/3.m.s.sf., Elohim, God] hw"hy]v, [prep.w/pr.n., "LORD"; only here with this prefix])!

ANALYSIS: VERSES 12-15

  1. This tranquil scene is all the more attractive for the turmoil and treachery it replaces, just as the prayer which embodies it is all the more heartfelt.
  2. In the Hebrew of vv.12-14 there is a language that is altogether peculiar, without any assignable parallel.
  3. The prayer starts with the family and the rising generation.
  4. The sons are pictured as sturdy, well-established saplings (v.12a; cp. Ps.128:3).
  5. The daughters are the very picture of statuesque elegance and strength, "like sculptured pillars at the corners of a palace" (v.12b).
  6. There has been nothing slipshod in their upbringing.
  7. A culture is known by the character and appearance of its youth.
  8. David prays that a new generation will arise, made up of sturdy boys and fine girls who will work together to build a better nation.
  9. A nation that looks to God to bless them with all the good things of a dynamic economy.
  10. After touching upon an important feature of a dynamic and godly culture the psalm looks to the material wealth of the kingdom (vv.13,14).
  11. He prays that their storage bins will be filled with a cornucopia of agricultural products (v.13a).
  12. He prays that their "flocks bring forth" untold numbers "in our fields" (v.13b).
  13. Sheep and goats were an important part of Israelís farm economy.
  14. As for "cattle", he prays that they do not miscarry and are healthy (v.14a).
  15. These things were conditional blessings based upon fidelity to the Mosaic Covenant (Deut.28:4,8,11).
  16. The third line of v.14 suggests freedom from domestic mishaps, such as crime, plague, etc., another token of covenant blessing (Deut.28:3).
  17. This scene was especially manifest during the early reign of Solomon.
  18. But its ultimate realization will be when Messiah rules over Israel in the Millennium.
  19. The prayer ends with a beatitude upon "the people who are so situated" (v.15a).
  20. The only explanation for this kind of prosperity is that of being a "people whose God is the LORD" (v.15b).
END: PSALM ONE HUNDRED FORTY-FOUR
JACK M. BALLINGER
JUNE, 1998
© Copyright 1998, Maranatha Church, Inc.