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Psalm 44

National Lament and Prayer for Help

To the leader. Of the Korahites. A Maskil.


We have heard with our ears, O God,

our ancestors have told us,

what deeds you performed in their days,

in the days of old:


you with your own hand drove out the nations,

but them you planted;

you afflicted the peoples,

but them you set free;


for not by their own sword did they win the land,

nor did their own arm give them victory;

but your right hand, and your arm,

and the light of your countenance,

for you delighted in them.



You are my King and my God;

you command victories for Jacob.


Through you we push down our foes;

through your name we tread down our assailants.


For not in my bow do I trust,

nor can my sword save me.


But you have saved us from our foes,

and have put to confusion those who hate us.


In God we have boasted continually,

and we will give thanks to your name forever. Selah



Yet you have rejected us and abased us,

and have not gone out with our armies.


You made us turn back from the foe,

and our enemies have gotten spoil.


You have made us like sheep for slaughter,

and have scattered us among the nations.


You have sold your people for a trifle,

demanding no high price for them.



You have made us the taunt of our neighbors,

the derision and scorn of those around us.


You have made us a byword among the nations,

a laughingstock among the peoples.


All day long my disgrace is before me,

and shame has covered my face


at the words of the taunters and revilers,

at the sight of the enemy and the avenger.



All this has come upon us,

yet we have not forgotten you,

or been false to your covenant.


Our heart has not turned back,

nor have our steps departed from your way,


yet you have broken us in the haunt of jackals,

and covered us with deep darkness.



If we had forgotten the name of our God,

or spread out our hands to a strange god,


would not God discover this?

For he knows the secrets of the heart.


Because of you we are being killed all day long,

and accounted as sheep for the slaughter.



Rouse yourself! Why do you sleep, O Lord?

Awake, do not cast us off forever!


Why do you hide your face?

Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?


For we sink down to the dust;

our bodies cling to the ground.


Rise up, come to our help.

Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love.

1. O God! we have heard with our ears. The people of God here recount the goodness which he had formerly manifested towards their fathers, that, by showing the great dissimilarity of their own condition, they may induce God to alleviate their miseries. They begin by declaring that they speak not of things unknown or doubtful, but that they related events, the truth of which was authenticated by unexceptionable witnesses. The expression, We have heard with our ears, is not to be considered as a redundant form of speech, but one of great weight. It is designed to point out that the grace of God towards their fathers was so renowned, that no doubt could be entertained respecting it. They add, that their knowledge of these things was handed down from age to age by those who witnessed them. It is not meant that their fathers, who had been brought up out of Egypt, had, a thousand and five hundred years after, declared to their posterity the benefits God had conferred upon them. The import of the language is, that not only the first deliverance, but that also the various other works which God had wrought from time to time in behalf of his people, had come down, as it were, from hand to hand, in an uninterrupted series, even to the latest age. As, therefore, those who, after the lapse of many ages, became witnesses and heralds of the grace which God had exercised towards this people, spake upon the report of the first generation, the faithful are warranted in saying, as they here do, that their fathers have declared to them that which they certainly knew, because the knowledge of it had not been lost by reason of its antiquity, but was continually preserved by the remembrance of it from the fathers to the children. The sum of the whole is, that God had manifested his goodness towards the children of Abraham, not only for ten or twenty years, but that ever since he had received them into his favor, he had never ceased to bestow upon them continued tokens of his grace.

2. Thou hast expelled the heathen with thy hand. This is an illustration of the preceding verse: for the inspired writer had not yet expressly referred to that work of God, the fame of which had been preserved by their fathers. He therefore now adds, that God with his own hand expelled the heathen, in order to plant in their room the children of Abraham: and that he wasted and destroyed them, that he might increase and multiply the seed of Abraham. He compares the ancient inhabitants of the land of Canaan to trees; for, from long continued possession of the country, they had, as it were, taken root in it. The sudden change, therefore, which had happened to them, was as if a man plucked up trees by the roots to plant others in their stead. But as it would not have been enough for God’s ancient people to have been planted at first in the country, another metaphor is here added, by which the faithful testify that the blessing of God had caused this chosen people to increase and multiply, even as a tree, extending it roots and its branches far and wide, gains still greater strength in the place where it has been planted. Besides, it is necessary to observe for what purpose it is that the faithful here magnify this manifestation of the grace of God. It often happens that our own hearts suggest to us grounds of despair, when we begin to conclude that God has rejected us, because he does not continue to bestow upon us the same benefits which in his goodness he vouchsafed to our fathers. But it were altogether inconsistent, that the faithful here disposing their hearts for prayer, should allow such an obstacle to prevent them from exercising the confidence which is proper in prayer. I freely admit, that the more we think of the benefits which God has bestowed upon others, the greater is the grief which we experience when he does not relieve us in our adversities. But faith directs us to another conclusion, namely, that we should assuredly believe that we shall also in due time experience some relief, since God continues unchangeably the same. There can be no reason to doubt, that the faithful now call to remembrance the things which God had formerly done for the welfare of his Church, with the view of inspiring their minds with stronger hope, as we have seen them acting in a similar manner in the beginning of the twenty-second psalm. They do not simply state the comparison, which would tend to draw a line of separation between those who have in former times been preserved by the power of God, and those who now labored and groaned under afflictions; but they rather set forth the covenant of God as the bond of holy alliance between them and their fathers, that they might conclude from this, that whatever amount of goodness the Church had at any time experienced in God pertained also to them. At first, indeed, they use the language of complaint, asking why it is that the course of God’s fatherly favor towards his people is, as it were, interrupted; but straightway they correct their mistake, and take courage from a new consideration — the consideration that God, who had adopted them as well as their fathers, is faithful and immutable. It is, however, no great wonder if the faithful, even in prayer, have in their hearts divers and conflicting affections. But the Holy Spirit, who dwells in them, by assuaging the violence of their sorrow, pacifies all their complaints and leads them patiently and cordially to obey. Moreover, when they here say that their fathers have declared to them the deliverances which God had accomplished in behalf of his Church, what the fathers did in this respect corresponds with the precept of the law, by which the fathers were commanded to teach their children. And all the faithful ought to reflect that the same charge is enjoined upon them by God even to this day. He communicates to them the doctrine of salvation, and commits it to their charge for this purpose — that they may transmit it to their posterity, and, as much as in them lies, endeavor to extend its authority, that his worship may be preserved from age to age.

3 For they got not possession of the land by their own sword. Here the sacred writer confirms by contrast what he has just said; for if they obtained not possession of the land by their own power and skill, it follows that they were planted in it by the hand of another. The multitude of men who went out of Egypt was very great; but not being trained to the art of war, and accustomed only to servile works, they would soon have been defeated by their enemies, who far excelled them in numbers and strength. In short, there were not wanting evident signs by which the people were made to know as well their own weakness as the power of God; so that it was their bounden duty to confess that the land was not conquered by their own sword, and also, that it was the hand of God which had preserved them. The Psalmist, not content with mentioning thy right hand, adds, thy arm, to amplify the matter, and give greater weight to his discourse, that we may know that they were preserved in a wonderful manner, and not by any ordinary means. The light of thy countenance is here taken, as in other places, for the manifestation of the divine favor. As, on the one hand, when God is afflicting us severely, he seems to frown upon us, and to overshadow his face with thick clouds; so, on the other, when the Israelites, sustained by his power, overthrew their enemies without any great difficulty, and pursued them in every direction far and near, it is said, that then they beheld the face of God serene and placid, just as if he had manifested himself in a visible manner near them. Here it is necessary to observe the mode of reasoning which the prophet employs, when he argues that it is by the free gift of God that the people obtained the land in heritage, seeing they had not acquired it by their own power. We then truly begin to yield to God what belongs to him, when we consider how worthless our own strength is. And certainly, the reason why men, as it were through disdain, conceal and forget the benefits which God has conferred on them, must be owing to a delusive imagination, which leads them to arrogate somewhat to themselves as properly their own. The best means, therefore, of cherishing in us habitually a spirit of gratitude towards God, is to expel from our minds this foolish opinion of our own ability. There is still in the concluding part of the verse another expression, which contains a more illustrious testimony to the grace of God, when the Psalmist resolves the whole into the good pleasure of God: Thou hadst a favor for them. The prophet does not suppose any worthiness in the person of Abraham, nor imagine any desert in his posterity, on account of which God dealt so bountifully with them, but ascribes the whole to the good pleasure of God. His words seem to be taken from the solemn declaration of Moses,

“The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; (for ye were the fewest of all people;) but because the Lord loved you,” (Deuteronomy 7:7, 8.)

Special mention is here made of the land of Canaan; but the prophet has stated the general principle why it was that God vouchsafed to reckon that people for his flock and peculiar heritage. And certainly, the source and origin of the Church is the free love of God; and whatever benefits he bestows upon his Church, they all proceed from the same source. The reason, therefore, why we are gathered into the Church, and are nourished and defended by the hand of God, is only to be sought in God. Nor does the Psalmist here treat of the general benevolence of God, which extends to the whole human race; but he discourses of the difference which exists between the elect and the rest of the world; and the cause of this difference is here referred to the mere good pleasure of God.

4. Thou, even thou, art my King, O God! In this verse the faithful express still more plainly what I have already alluded to a little before, namely, that the goodness of God was not only apparent in the deliverance of his people, but also flowed upon them in continued succession from age to age; and therefore it is said, Thou, even thou, art my King In my judgment, the demonstrative pronoun הוא, hu, imports as much as if the prophet had put together a long series of the benefits of God after the first deliverance; so that it might appear, that God, who had once been the deliverer of his people, did not show himself otherwise towards their posterity: unless, perhaps, it might be considered as emphatic, and employed for the purpose of asserting the thing stated the more strongly, namely, that the faithful praise God alone as the guardian of their welfare to the exclusion of all others, and the renunciation of aid from any other quarter. Hence they also present the prayer, that God would ordain and send forth new deliverances to his people; for, as he has in his power innumerable means of preservation and deliverance, he is said to appoint and send forth deliverances as his messengers wherever it seems good to him.

5. Through thee we have pushed, or smitten, with the horn our adversaries. 135135     The allusion is to the pushing, striking, or butting of oxen and other animals with their horns, and means to vanquish or subdue, (Deuteronomy 33:17; 1 Kings 22:11; Daniel 8:4.) “Literally,” says Dr Adam Clarke, “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.” The prophet here declares in what respect God had manifested himself to be the King of this people. He did so by investing them with such strength and power, that all their enemies stood in fear of them. The similitude, taken from bulls, which he here uses, tends to show, that they had been endued with more than human strength, by which they were enabled to assail, overturn, and trample under foot, every thing which opposed them. In God, and in the name of God, are of the same import, only the latter expression denotes, that the people had been victorious, because they fought under the authority and direction of God. It ought to be observed, that what they had spoken before concerning their fathers, they now apply to themselves, because they still formed a part of the same body of the Church.

And they do this expressly to inspire themselves with confidence and courage, for had they separated themselves from their fathers, this distinction would, in a certain sense, have interrupted the course of God’s grace, so that it would have ceased to flow down upon them. But now, since they confess that whatever God had conferred upon their fathers he had bestowed upon them, they may boldly desire him to continue his work. At the same time, it ought to be observed again in this place, that, as I have stated a little before, the reason why they ascribe their victories wholly to God is, that they were unable to arrive at such a consummation by their own sword or their own bow. When we are led to consider how great is our own weakness, and how worthless we are without God, this contrast much more clearly illustrates the grace of God. They again declare, (verse 7,) that they were saved by the power of God, and that he also had chased away and put to shame their enemies.

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