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Psalm 144:1-4

1. Blessed be Jehovah, my strength, who teaches my hands for battle, my fingers for war. 2. My goodness, and my munition, my citadel, and my deliverer, my shield, and in him I have hoped, who subdues my people under me. 3. O Jehovah! what is man that thou acknowledgest him? the son of man that thou thinkest of him? 4. Man is like to vanity: his deeds are as a shadow passing away.

 

1. Blessed be Jehovah, my strength 257257     “Ou, mon rocher.” — Fr. marg. “Or, my rock.” It is very evident that David, since he celebrates the favor of God in such high terms, had not only obtained the kingdom, but gained signal victories. When he calls God his strength, he acknowledges that any courage he had was given him from above, not only because he had been made from a country shepherd a mighty warrior, but because the constancy and perseverance he had shown was signally a gift from God. This term answers better than were we to translate it rock; for, by way of explanation, he adds immediately afterwards, that he had been formed under God’s teaching for war. The words certainly imply an acknowledgment, that though of a warlike spirit, he was not born for warlike enterprises but needed to undergo a change. What kind of a commencement, for example, did he show in the case of Goliah? That attempt would have been preposterous on any other supposition than his being upheld by secret divine support, so as to be independent of mere human help. (1 Samuel 17:40.)

2. My goodness, etc. This way of using the word in a passive sense, as in the Hebrew, sounds harsh in Latin; just as elsewhere (Psalm 18:50) he calls himself “God’s king,” not in the sense of his having dominion over God, but being made and appointed king by him. Having experienced God’s kindness in so many ways, he calls him “his goodness,” meaning that whatever good he possessed flowed from him. The accumulation of terms, one upon another, which follows, may appear unnecessary, yet it tends greatly to strengthen faith. We know how unstable men’s minds are, and especially how soon faith wavers, when they are assailed by some trial of more than usual severity. It is not enough, if God would sustain us under such weakness, to promise us his help in individual or single expressions; and, even however many aids he supplies us with, we are subject to very great vacillations, and a forgetfulness of his mercy creeps in upon us which almost overwhelms our minds. We are to remember that it is not merely in token of his gratitude that David heaps together so many terms in declaring the goodness of God, but to fortify God’s people against all attacks of the world, and of the evil one. He had a reason for reckoning it among the chiefest of God’s mercies, that he controlled the people under his government. For עמי, ami, my people, some read, עמים, amim, peoples; 258258     Those who conjecture that עמים, amim, is the correct reading, refer to the parallel passage in Psalm 18:47, where the word is in the plural. They also observe in support of their opinion, that this reading is actually found in a great number of MSS. examined by Kennieott and De Rossi; and they account for עמי, ami, having got into the text by supposing that it was written in the first instance as a contraction for עמים, amim. Rosenmuller supposes, but with less probability, that the original word was עם, and that the letter י, yod, is paragogic, that is, has been annexed to improve the sound; עם, am, being taken collectively. The Masorets have noticed that עם, which the translators of our English Bible took to be עם, with its possessive affix here, in 2 Samuel 22:44, and Lamentations 3:14, and consequently rendered by my people, is to be taken as the plural number of that noun. and it is surprising they should prefer such a forced rendering, as David means simply that the settled state of the kingdom was owing not to any counsel, valor, or authority of his own, but to God’s secret favor. The verb רדד, radad, is used appropriately, signifying to spread out. The idea some have, that by a people spread out is meant a people set down at ease in a prosperous and happy condition, is farfetched. I have as great objections to the idea of others, that he means a people laid prostrate, so as that they may be trodden under foot; for a violent domination like this would not have been desirable over the chosen people, and sacred inheritance of the Lord. When a people yields a cordial and willing obedience to the laws, all subordinating themselves to their own place peaceably, this signally proves the divine blessing. And in such a settlement as this, where there is no turbulence, nor confusion, the people are appropriately represented, according to what we have said above, as being spread out. David accordingly having ascribed the victories he had gained over foreign enemies to God, thanks him at the same time for the settled state of the kingdom. Raised indeed as he was from an obscure station, and exposed to hatred from calumnious charges, it was scarcely to have been believed that he would ever obtain a peaceable reign. The people had suddenly and beyond expectation submitted to him, and so surprising a change was eminently God’s work.

3. O Jehovah! what is man, etc. He amplifies the goodness shown by God by instituting a comparison. Having declared how singularly he had been dealt with, he turns his eyes inward, and asks, “Who am I, that God should show me such condescension? “He speaks of man in general; only the circumstance is noticeable that he commends the mercy of God, by considering his lowly and abject condition. In other places he mentions grounds of humiliation of a more personal or private nature, — here he confines himself to what has reference to our common nature; and though even in discussing the nature of man there are other reasons he might have specified why he is unworthy of the regard and love of God, he briefly adverts to his being like the smoke, and as a shadow. 259259     “Et mesmes combion qu’en espluchant la nature des hommes il eust peu toucher d’autres choses, pour lesquelles ils sont indignes. — neantmoins,” etc. — Fr. We are left to infer that the riches of the divine goodness are extended to objects altogether unworthy in themselves. We are warned, when apt at any time to forget ourselves, and think we are something when we are nothing, that the simple fact of the shortness of our life should put down all arrogance and pride. The Scriptures, in speaking of the frailty of man, comprehend whatever is necessarily connected with it. And, indeed, if our life vanish in a moment, what is there stable about us? We taught this truth also — that we cannot properly estimate the divine goodness, unless we take into consideration what we are as to our condition, as we can only ascribe to God what is due unto him, by acknowledging that his goodness is bestowed upon undeserving creatures. The reader may seek for further information upon this point in the eighth Psalm, where nearly the same truth is insisted upon.


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