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PSALM CXLIV.

1 Blessed be Jehovah my rock, who trains my hands for battle,

My fingers for war;

2 My loving-kindness and my fortress, my high tower and my deliverer,

My shield and He in whom I take refuge,

Who subdues my people under me.

3 Jehovah, what is man, that Thou takest knowledge of him?

The son of frail man, that Thou takest account of him?

4 Man—he is like to a breath,

His days are like a shadow passing away.

5 Jehovah, bow Thy heavens and come down,

Touch the mountains that they smoke.

6 Lighten lightning and scatter them,

Shoot Thy arrows and confound them.

7 Stretch Thy hands from on high,

Pluck me [out] and deliver me from many waters,

From the hands of the sons of the alien,

8 Whose mouth speaks falsehood,

And whose right hand is a right hand of lies.

9 O God, a new song will I sing to Thee,

On a ten-stringed harp will I harp to Thee,

10 Who giveth salvation to kings,

Who snatches David His servant from the evil sword.

11 Pluck me [out] and deliver me from the hand of the sons of the alien,

Whose mouth speaks falsehood,

And whose right hand is a right hand of lies.

12 So that (? or Because) our sons [may be] as plants,

Grown tall in their youth;

Our daughters like corner-pillars,

Carved after the fashion of a palace;

13 Our granaries full, giving forth kind after kind [of supply];

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Our flocks producing thousands,

Producing tens of thousands in our fields;

14 Our kine heavy with young;

No breach and no sally,

And no [battle-] cry in our open spaces.

15 Happy the people that is in such a case!

Happy the people whose God is Jehovah!

The force of compilation could no further go than in this psalm, which is, in the first eleven verses, simply a réchauffé of known psalms, and in vv. 12-15 is most probably an extract from an unknown one of later date. The junctions are not effected with much skill, and the last is tacked on very awkwardly (ver. 12). It is completely unlike the former part, inasmuch as there the speaker is a warlike king praying for victory, while in the latter the nation sings of the tranquil blessings of peaceful expansion. The language of the later portion is full of late forms and obscurities. But the compiler's course of thought is traceable. He begins by praising Jehovah, who has taught him warlike skill; then adoringly thinks of his own weakness, made strong by God's condescending regard; next prays for complete victory, and vows fresh praises for new mercies; and closes with a picture of the prosperity which follows conquest, and is secured to Israel because Jehovah is its God.

Vv. 1, 2, are echoes of Psalm xviii. 2, 34, 46, with slight variations. The remarkable epithet "My loving-kindness" offends some critics, who emend so as to read "My stronghold"; but it has a parallel in Jonah ii. 9, and is forcible as an emotional abbreviation of the fuller "God of my loving-kindness" (Psalm lix. 10). The original passage reads "people," which is the only appropriate word in this connection, and should probably be read in ver. 2c.

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Psalm viii. supplies the original of vv. 3, 4, with a reminiscence of Psalm xxxix. 5, and of Psalm cii. 11, from which comes the pathetic image of the fleeting shadow. The link between this and the former extract seems to be the recognition of God's condescension in strengthening so weak and transient a creature for conflict and conquest.

The following prayer for further Divine help in further struggles is largely borrowed from the magnificent picture of a theophany in Psalm xviii. 9, 14-16. The energetic "Lighten lightning" is peculiar to this psalm, as is the use of the word for "Pluck out." The description of the enemies as "sons of the alien" is like Psalm xviii. 44, 45. As in many other psalms, the treachery of the foe is signalised. They break their oaths. The right hand which they had lifted in swearing is a lying hand. The vow of new praise recalls Psalms xxxiii. 2, 3, and xcvi. 1, xcviii. 1. Ver. 10 is a reproduction of Psalm xviii. 50. The mention of David's deliverance from the "evil sword" has apparently been the reason for the LXX. referring the psalm to the victory over Goliath—an impossible view. The new song is not here sung; but the psalm drops from the level of praise to renew the petition for deliverance, in the manner of a refrain caught up in ver. 11 from ver. 7. This might make a well-rounded close, and may have originally been the end of the psalm.

The appended fragment (vv. 12-15) is attached to the preceding in a most embarrassing fashion. The first word of ver. 12 is the sign of the relative. The LXX. accordingly translates "Whose sons are," etc., and understands the whole as a description of the prosperity of the enemies, which view necessarily involves the alteration of "our" into "their" in the following421 clauses. Others supply an antecedent to the relative by inserting save us or the like expression at the beginning of the verse. Others, again—e.g., Ewald, followed by Perowne—connect the relative with ver. 15: "We whose sons are," etc.... "Happy is the people," etc. Delitzsch takes the relative to signify here "because," and compares Judg. ix. 17; Jer. xvi. 13. The prosperity subsequently described would then be alleged as the occasion of the enemies' envy. Others would slightly emend the text so as to read, "I pronounce happy," or "Happy are we." The latter, which makes all smooth, and corresponds with ver. 15, is Graetz's proposal. The rendering of the A.V., "that" or "in order that," has much in its favour. The word which is the sign of the relative is a component of the full expression usually so rendered, and stands alone as equivalent to it in Deut. iv. 40, Gen. xi. 7. It is true, as Delitzsch objects to this rendering, that the following verbs are usually finite, while here they are participles; but that is not a fatal objection. The whole that follows would then be dependent on the petition of ver. 11, and would describe the purpose of the desired deliverance. "This is, in fact, the poet's meaning. He prays for deliverance from enemies, in order that the happy condition pictured in ver. 12 sqq. may come to pass" (Baethgen). On the whole, that rendering presents least difficulty, but in any case the seam is clumsy.

The substance of the description includes three things—a vigorous, growing population, agricultural prosperity, and freedom from invasion. The language is obscure, especially in ver. 14, but the general drift is plain. The characteristic Jewish blessing of numerous offspring is first touched on in two figures, of which the422 former is forcible and obvious, and the latter obscure. The comparison of the virgin daughters of Israel to "corners" is best understood by taking the word to mean "corner-pillars," not necessarily caryatides, as is usually supposed—an architectural decoration unknown in the East. The points of comparison would then be slender uprightness and firm grace. Delitzsch prefers to take the word as meaning cornices, such as, to the present day, are found in the angles of Eastern rooms, and are elaborately carved in mazy patterns and brightly coloured. He would also render "variegated" instead of "carved." But such a comparison puts too much stress on gay dresses, and too little on qualities corresponding to those of the "well-grown" youths in the former clause.

The description of a flourishing rural community is full of difficult words. "Granaries" is found only here, and "kind" is a late word. "Fields" is the same word as is usually rendered "streets"; it literally means "places outside," and here obviously must refer to the open pastures without the city, in contrast to the "open spaces" within it, mentioned in the next verse. In that verse almost every word is doubtful. That rendered "kine" is masculine in form, but is generally taken as being applicable to both sexes, and here used for the milky mothers of the herd. The word translated above "heavy with young" means laden, and if the accompanying noun is masculine, must mean laden with the harvest sheaves; but the parallel of the increasing flocks suggests the other rendering. The remainder of ver. 14 would in form make a complete verse, and it is possible that something has fallen out between the first clause and the two latter. These paint tranquil city life when enemies are far away.423 "No breach"—i.e., in the defences, by which besiegers could enter; "No going forth"—i.e., sally of the besieged, as seems most probable, though going forth as captured or surrendering has been suggested; "No cry"—i.e., of assailants who have forced an entrance, and of defenders who make their last stand in the open places of the city.

The last verse sums up all the preceding picture of growth, prosperity, and tranquillity, and traces it to the guardian care and blessing of Jehovah. The psalmist may seem to have been setting too much store by outward prosperity. His last word not only points to the one Source of it, but sets high above the material consequences of God's favour, joyous as these are, that favour itself, as the climax of human blessedness.

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