The psalmist praises God for his goodness, 1,2. Exclamations relative to the vanity of human life, 3,4. He prays against his enemies, 5-8; and extols God's mercy for the temporal blessings enjoyed by his people, 9-15.
NOTES ON PSALM CXLIV
The Hebrew, and all the Versions, attribute this Psalm to David. The Vulgate, Septuagint, AEthiopic, and Arabic, term it, A Psalm of David against Goliath. The Syriac says, "A Psalm of David when he slew Asaph, the brother of Goliath." Calmet thinks, and with much probability, that it was composed by David after the death of Absalom, and the restoration of the kingdom to peace and tranquillity. From a collation of this with Psalms 18:1-50, of which it appears to be an abridgment, preserving the same ideas, and the same forms of expression, there can be no doubt of both having proceeded from the same pen, and that David was the author. There is scarcely an expression here of peculiar importance that is not found in the prototype; and for explanation I must refer generally to the above Psalm.
Teacheth my hands to war
To use sword, battle-axe, or spear.
And my fingers to fight
To use the bow and arrows, and the sling.
Who subdueth my people
Who has once more reduced the nation to a state of loyal obedience. This may refer to the peace after the rebellion of Absalom.
Lord, what is man
See Clarke on Psalms 8:4.; "Ps 8:5". What is Adam, that thou approvest of him? Can he do any thing worthy of thy notice? Or the son of feeble perishing man, that thou shouldest hold him in repute? What care, love, and attention, dost thou lavish upon him!
Man is like to vanity
Adam lahebel damah, literally, Adam is like to Abel, exposed to the same miseries, accidents, and murderers; for in millions of cases the hands of brothers are lifted up to shed the blood of brothers. What are wars but fratricide in the great human family?
His days are as a shadow
The life of Abel was promissory of much blessedness; but it afforded merely the shadow of happiness. He was pure and holy, beloved of his parents, and beloved of God; but, becoming the object of his brother's envy, his life became a sacrifice to his piety.
Bow thy heavens
See Clarke on Psalms 18:9.
Cast forth lightning
See Clarke on Psalms 18:13.; "Ps 18:14".
Deliver me out of great waters
See Clarke on Psalms 18:16.
I will sing a new song
A song of peculiar excellence. I will pour forth all my gratitude, and all my skill, on its composition. See on Psalms 33:2,3.
He that giveth salvation unto kings
Monarchy, in the principle, is from God: it is that form of government which, in the course of the Divine providence, has principally prevailed; and that which, on the whole, has been most beneficial to mankind. God, therefore, has it under his peculiar protection. It is by him that kings reign; and by his special providence they are protected.
That our sons may be as plants
God had promised to his people, being faithful, THREE descriptions of BLESSINGS, Deuteronomy 28:4. 1. The fruit of the body-sons and daughters. 2. The fruits of the ground-grass and corn in sufficient plenty. 3. Fruit of the cattle-"the increase of kine, and flocks of sheep." These are the blessings to which the psalmist refers here, as those in which he might at present exult and triumph: blessings actually enjoyed by his people at large; proofs of his mild and paternal government, and of the especial blessing of the Almighty. The people who were in such a state, and revolted, had no excuse: they were doubly guilty, as ungrateful both to God and man.
That our garners,
Our garners are full. These are not prayers put up by David for such blessings: but assertions, that such blessings were actually in possession. All these expressions should be understood in the present tense.
Ten thousands in our streets.
bechutsotheynu should be translated in our pens or sheep-walks; for sheep bringing forth in the streets of cities or towns is absurd.
Our oxen may be strong to labour
We have not only an abundance of cattle; but they are of the most strong and vigorous breed.
No breaking in
So well ordered is the police of the kingdom, that there are no depredations, no robbers, house-breakers, or marauding parties, in the land; no sudden incursions of neighbouring tribes or banditti breaking into fields or houses, carrying away property, and taking with them the people to sell them into captivity: there is no such breaking in, and no such going out, in the nation. My enemies are either become friends, and are united with me in political interests; or are, through fear, obliged to stand aloof.
Happy is that people
"O how happy are the people!" Such were his people; and they had not only all this secular happiness, but they had Jehovah for their God; and in him had a ceaseless fountain of strength, protection, earthly blessings, and eternal mercies! A people in such a case to rebel, must have the curse of God and man.
ANALYSIS OF THE HUNDRED AND FORTY-FOURTH PSALM
This Psalm is divided into three parts:-
I. A thanksgiving, Psalms 144:1-5.
II. A petition, Psalms 144:5-11.
III. A discussion on happiness, and in what it consists, Psalms 144:12-15.
I. The prophet gives thanks, and praises God.
1. "Blessed be the Lord:" the art of war, in a particular way the use of the sling; giving me skill,
2. "He is my strength,"
3. "My goodness,"
4. "My fortress,"
5. "And my Deliverer." Therefore will I trust in him.
From the consideration of so many benefits, the psalmist exclaims, "Lord what is man,"
To which question he replies,-
1. "Man is like to vanity." If God be not his fulness and strength.
2. "His days," but man changes every moment.
II. He prays for God's assistance: "Bow thy heavens," forth lightning," them see thy judgments. This first part of his petition against his enemies being ended, he prays,-
1. "Rid me, and deliver me:"
2. "From the hand of strange children:" Philistines,
Upon whom he sets these two characters.
1. "Whose mouth speaketh vanity:"
2. "At their right hand:" and deceive.
Then the psalmist exclaims, as in a short hymn-
1. "I will sing a new song," "thou hast given victory," from Saul, Absalom,
2. And then he repeats, and concludes his petition as before: "Rid me,"
III. His petition being ended, he discourses on the nature of happiness, which is of two kinds, temporal and spiritual. The addition of temporal blessings is pleasant, and promised to the obedient: but godliness is the only safety in this, and especially in the life to come: "For godliness," goods not merely for the wicked; they are often the rewards of piety. The psalmist therefore prays,-
1. "That our sons," let them be flourishing.
2. "That our daughters," beautiful as well as useful.
3. "That our garners may be full," abundance.
4. "That our sheep,"
5. "That our oxen,"
6. "That there be no breaking,"
7. "That there be no complaining," cause of tumult. David prays that, during his reign, the people may be happy, and enjoy the fruits of peace.
Then he concludes the Psalm with this acclamation:-
1. "Happy is that people,"
2. "Yea, happy," who know God to be their Father, and that he takes care of them, providing for their temporal necessities, and supplying all their spiritual wants. Others understand these words, not as prayers, but as a description of the state David and his people were then in. See the notes.