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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.

19 Although thou hast broken us in the place of dragons. In the Hebrew it is, For thou hast broken us, etc.; but the causal particle, כי, ki, according to the idiom of the Hebrew language, is often taken in the sense of although or when. 146146     “Il y a en Hebrieu, Car tu nous as, etc. Mais souvent selon la maniere de la langue Hebraique, Car, se prend pour Combien que, ou Quand.” — Fr. And certainly it must be so rendered in this place, for these three verses are connected, and the sentence is incomplete till the end of the words, For he knoweth the secrets of the heart. The faithful repeat more largely what we have already seen, namely, that although plunged into the greatest depth of miseries, yet they continued steadfast in their resolution, and in the right way. If we consider the distressing circumstances in which they were placed, it will not appear to us a hyperbolical mode of speech, when they say that they were broken even within the depths of the sea; for by the place of dragons I understand not the deserts and solitary places, but the deepest gulfs of the sea. Accordingly, the word תנים, tannim, which others translate dragons, 147147     “Lequel les autres traduisent dragons.” This is the sense in which the expression is understood by several eminent critics. Aquila explains it thus: “In a desert place where great serpents are found;” and Bishop Hare thus: “In desert places among wild beasts and serpents. The place of dragons, observes Bishop Mant, appears to mean the wilderness; in illustration of which, it may be noticed from Dr Shaw, that ‘vipers, especially in the wilderness of Sin, which might be called the inheritance of dragons, (see Malachi 1:3,) were very dangerous and troublesome; not only our camels, but the Arabs who attended them, running every moment the risk of being bitten.’” Viewed in this light, we must understand the language either as meaning that the Israelites had been driven from their dwellings and places of abode, and compelled to dwell in some gloomy wilderness infested by serpents; or that the fierce and cruel persecutors into whose hands God had delivered them are compared to serpents, and that the circumstances in which the chosen tribes were now placed resembled those of a people who had fallen into a wilderness, where they heard nothing but the hissing of serpents, and the howlings of beasts of prey. I would rather render whales, 148148     Williams reads, “In the place of sea-monsters, perhaps crocodiles;” and thinks the allusion is to a shipwreck. as it is also understood in many other places. This interpretation is obviously confirmed by the following clause, in which they complain that they had been covered with the shadow of death, which implies that they were swallowed up of death itself. Let us, however, remember, that in these words the Holy Ghost dictates to us a form of prayer; and that, therefore, we are enjoined to cultivate a spirit of invincible fortitude and courage, which may serve to sustain us under the weight of all the calamities we may be called to endure, so that we may be able to testify of a truth, that even when reduced to the extremity of despair, we have never ceased to trust in God; that no temptations, however unexpected, could expel his fear from our hearts; and, in fine, that we were never so overwhelmed by the burden of our afflictions, however great, as not to have our eyes always directed to him. But it is proper for us to notice still more particularly the style of speaking here employed by the faithful. In order to show that they still continued steadfastly in the pure service of God, they affirm that they have not lifted up their hearts or their hands to any but to the God of Israel alone. It would not have been enough for them to have cherished some confused notion of the Deity: it was necessary that they should receive in its purity the true religion. Even those who murmur against God may be constrained to acknowledge some Divinity; but they frame for themselves a god after their own pleasure. And this is an artifice of the devil, who, because he cannot at once eradicate from our hearts all sense of religion, endeavors to overthrow our faith, by suggesting to our minds these devices — that we must seek another God; or that the God whom we have hitherto served must be appeased after another manner; or else that the assurance of his favor must be sought elsewhere than in the Law and the Gospel. Since, then, it is a much more difficult matter for men, amidst the tossings and waves of adversity, to continue steadfast and tranquil in the true faith, we must carefully observe the protestation which the Holy Fathers here make, that even when reduced to the lowest extremity of distress by calamities of every kind, they nevertheless did not cease to trust in the true God.

This they express still more clearly in the following clause, in which they say, We have not stretched out our hands 149149     That is, in the attitude of worship. to a strange god. By these words they intimate, that, contented with God alone, they did not suffer their hopes to be divided on different objects, nor gazed around them in search of other means of assistance. Hence we learn, that those whose hearts are thus divided and distracted by various expectations are forgetful of the true God, to whom we fail to yield the honor which is due to him, if we do not repose with confidence in him alone. And certainly, in the true and rightful service of God, faith and supplication which proceeds from it hold the first place: for we are guilty of depriving him of the chief part of his glory, when we seek apart from him in the least degree our own welfare. Let us then bear in mind, that it is a true test of our piety, when, being plunged into the lowest depths of disasters, we lift up our eyes, our hopes, and our prayers, to God alone. And it only serves to demonstrate more convincingly and clearly the impiety of Popery, when, after having confessed their faith in the one true God with the mouth, its rotaries the next moment degrade his glory by ascribing it to created objects. They indeed excuse themselves by alleging, that in having recourse to Saint Christopher and other saints of their own making, they do not claim for them the rank of Deity, but only employ them as intercessors with God to obtain his favor. It is, however, well known to every one, that the form of the prayers which they address to the saints, 150150     “Que le formulaire des prieres qui ils font aux saincts.” — Fr. is in no respects different from those prayers which they present to God. Besides, although we should yield this point to them, it will still be a frivolous excuse to pretend that they are seeking advocates or intercessors for themselves. This is as much as to say, that Christ is not sufficient for them, or rather, that his office is wholly lost sight of among them. Moreover, we should carefully observe the scope of this passage. The faithful declare, that they did not stretch forth their hands to other gods, because it is an error too common among men to forsake God, and to seek for other means of relief when they find that their afflictions continue to oppress them. So long as we are gently and affectionately treated of God we resort to him, but as soon as any adversity befalls us we begin to doubt. And if we are pressed still further, or if there be no end to our afflictions, the very continuance of them tempts us to despair; and despair generates various kinds of false confidence. Hence arises a multitude of new gods framed after the fancy of men. Of the lifting up of the hands we have spoken elsewhere.

21 Shall not God search this out? We have here a solemn and emphatic protestation, in which the people of God dare to appeal to him as the judge of their integrity and uprightness. From this it appears, that they did not plead their cause openly before men, but communed with themselves as if they had been before the judgment-seat of God; and moreover, as a token of still greater confidence, they add, that nothing is hidden from God. Why is it that hypocrites often call God to witness, if it is not because they imagine that, by concealing their wickedness under some specious disguise, they have escaped the judgment of God? and thus they would represent the character of God to be different from what it is, as if by their deceptions they could dazzle his eyes. Whenever, therefore, we come before God, let us at the same time remember, that there is nothing to be gained by any vain pretense in his presence, inasmuch as he knows the heart.

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