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Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament

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Chapter 145
 
 
 
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PSALM 144

THANKSGIVING FOR ISRAEL'S HAPPY AND PROSPEROUS MORNING

This glorious hymn of thanksgiving came upon the realization of David and all Israel that "the morning" he had so earnestly prayed for in the preceding psalm (Psalms 143:8) had indeed dawned. A united, happy Israel were enjoying great prosperity and peace following the defeat and death of Absalom. Upon the horizon of Israel's future, there still appeared the external threat of foreign enemies; and the psalmist includes a prayer unto God for their defeat (Psalms 144:5-8).

There is no doubt whatever of the Davidic authorship as stated in the superscription. We have lost all patience with unreasonable denials of this and with arbitrary dating of the psalm in "post-exilic times."F1 The exuberant happiness and prosperity of this psalm absolutely forbid its assignment to times after the captivity. Never one time in those long post-exilic centuries did Israel enjoy the prosperity visible here.

We deplore the near-unanimous clamor of critics denying all of this last group of Davidic psalms to their true author. Such views might have been tenable in the first quarter of this century, prior to the torpedo that shot down the myth that Aramaisms are a sign of post-exilic date. However, after the discoveries of the Ras Shamra expedition have been well-known for half a century, here come the die-hard critics alleging late dates on the basis that, "The vocabulary contains Aramaic ... elements."F2

"Nothing but the disease that closes the eyes to fact and opens them to fancy could have led learned critics to ascribe this psalm to anyone except David."F3 What is that disease? In some instances, it might very well be the "darkening," "hardening" or "blinding" mentioned by Paul in Rom. 1.

AUTHORSHIP. Of course, we accept the Davidic authorship of Ps. 144, and shall here outline our reasons for doing so.

(1) The superscription so ascribes it; and the ancient superscriptions are at least as dependable as the speculative guesses of modern critics.

(2) Mitchell Dahood ascribed the language of this psalm, based upon technical observations, "To the tenth century B.C."F4 Those, of course, were the times of David.

(3) The psalm is freely admitted to be "A Royal Psalm."F5 That fact alone eliminates the post-exilic period as a possible date, because Israel never had anything that even resembled a king following their return from exile.

(4) As noted above, the prosperity of Israel as revealed in the psalm, came not in the post-exilic period but in the days of the monarchy.

(5) In Ps. 144:10, the psalmist refers to himself as "David"; and only one of Israel's kings ever bore that name. Furthermore, the name "David" does not mean "some member of the Davidic dynasty."

(6) In Ps. 144:9, the psalmist promised to sing a new song, accompanying himself on a harp with ten strings. What other king in the whole history of Israel was either a singer or a proficient player on the harp? The silence of the critics on this point is deafening! Only David could have made such a promise.

(7) The style, language, thought-patterns, etc. are David's and only his. The critical device for meeting this argument is their unsupported, unprovable and ridiculous postulation that "some imitator" carefully put together a "mosaic" of known Davidic sayings to produce this psalm. They realize, of course, that the psalm contains a great deal of new, original material found nowhere else. How do they get around that? Dummelow tells us how! Ps. 144:12-15," are supposed to be, "A quotation from a lost Psalm, possibly by David."F6 The remarkable thing here is that the critics have no trouble at all ascribing that `lost psalm' to David. Behold here the genius of criticism which boldly ascribes some psalm that was never seen, or never heard of, to David, but, contrary to all the evidence, insists that David is NOT the author here! We do not hesitate to say that that is ridiculous.

Every weapon in the arsenal of criticism is forced into action against this psalm. Briggs called it, "A composite,"F7 finding two separate compositions and a "fragment" (Psalms 144:1-15). However, Spurgeon's view on this is correct. He wrote, "The whole psalm is perfect as it stands. It exhibits such unity that it is literary vandalism as well as a spiritual crime to rend away one part from another."F8

Ps. 144:1-4

Blessed be Jehovah my rock,

Who teacheth my hands to war,

And my fingers to fight:

My lovingkindness, and my fortress;

My high tower, and my deliverer,

My shield, and he in whom I take refuge;

Who subdueth my people under me.

Jehovah, what is man, that thou takest knowledge of him?

Or the son of man, that thou makest account of him?

Man is like to vanity:

His days are as a shadow that passeth away."


 
Verses 1-4
Blessed be Jehovah my rock, Who teacheth my hands to war, [And] my fingers to fight: My lovingkindness, and my fortress, My high tower, and my deliverer; My shield, and he in whom I take refuge; Who subdueth my people under me. Jehovah, what is man, that thou takest knowledge of him? Or the son of man, that thou makest account of him? Man is like to vanity: His days are as a shadow that passeth away.
(Psalms 144:1-2).. All of these metaphors for God are used frequently in the Davidic psalms, as we have often noted.

Who teacheth. to war ... to fight
(Psalms 144:1). This acknowledges on David's part that God had instructed and helped him in the long struggles that had brought him to the throne and preserved him through the rebellion of Absalom.

Who subdueth my people under me
(Psalms 144:2). This speaks of a period of tranquillity in the kingdom. The rebellion had been ruthlessly put down; its leaders were dead; its armies had been defeated with the slaughter of tens of thousands of them; and the people were then content to settle down and enjoy the prosperity of David's kingship.

The whole paragraph here (Psalms 144:1-4) was paraphrased by Delitzsch: "Praise be to Jahve who teaches me to fight and conquer (Psalms 144:1-2), me, the feeble mortal who am strong only `in Him' (Psalms 144:3-4)."F9

Baigent also has a beautiful word on this paragraph:

"Such martial skills and exploits as he (David) achieved are gratefully traced back to God, their only source. `Every virtue' he possesses, and `every victory won' are God's alone. He is a kindred spirit of Paul, who wrote, `By the grace of God, I am what I am.' (1 Corinthians 15:16).F10

"Ps. 144:2 here has marked resemblances to Ps. 18:2, but there are peculiar and original touches which indicate the author, and not the copyist."F11

Bow thy heavens, O Jehovah, and come down:

Touch the mountains, and they shall smoke.

Cast forth lightning, and scatter them;

Send out thine arrows and discomfit them.

Stretch forth thy hand from above;

Rescue me, and deliver me out of great waters,

Out of the hand of aliens;

Whose mouth speaketh deceit,

And whose right hand is a a right hand of falsehood."

Delitzsch's concise paraphrase of these four verses is, "May Jahve then be pleased to grant a victory this time also over the boastful lying enemies."F12


 
Verses 5-8
Bow thy heavens, O Jehovah, and come down: Touch the mountains, and they shall smoke. Cast forth lightning, and scatter them; Send out thine arrows, and discomfit them. Stretch forth thy hand from above; Rescue me, and deliver me out of great waters, Out of the hand of aliens; Whose mouth speaketh deceit, And whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood.
(Psalms 144:5-6). The prayer is that God would come to his relief as if in smoke and tempest -- in the fury of a storm.F13

Out of great waters. out of the hand of aliens
(Psalms 144:7). The serious threat against Israel, Is here described first as `great waters' and then, more literally, as pressure from foreign powers who think nothing of breaking solemn treaties.F14 Addis agreed that Verse 7 here can only mean foreigners.F15

I will sing a new song unto thee, O God:

Upon a psaltery of ten strings will I sing praise unto thee."

David was known as the "sweet singer of Israel," there being not a single word about such an ability belonging to any other of the kings of Israel. Baigent stated that in this verse, "He (David) makes a vow to sing in the temple a solo song of praise, newly composed for the occasion, after God has come to his assistance."F16 "Playing on his instruments was one of David's favorite ways of showing his great joy."F17

Thou art he that giveth salvation unto kings;

Who rescueth David his servant from the hurtful sword."


 
Verse 10
Thou art he that giveth salvation unto kings; Who rescueth David his servant from the hurtful sword.
(Psalms 144:10). This cannot mean anyone else except the king David who succeeded Saul. The idea is repulsive that any other of the so-called Davidic-line of kings would have been called God's servant. Furthermore, it was nothing unusual for David to refer to himself in his writings. He refers to himself as `David' in Ps. 18:50, and in 2 Sam. 7:27; and he refers to himself as `the king' in Ps. 51:6 and Ps. 53:11.F18

Rescue me, and deliver me out of the hand of aliens,

Whose mouth speaketh deceit, and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood."

This verse reflects David's thought in Ps. 144:10, where he spoke of himself as "God's servant," as in 2 Sam. 7:26, indicating that David here recalled the great victories which God gave him, as recorded in that passage of 2 Samuel. As Kidner noted, "Once more, David is treating the `former mercies of God' as a measure of what God can do,"F19 and as an assurance that God can and will do what David is now asking him to do.

DAVID'S PRAYER FOR ALL ISRAEL

When our sons shall be as plants grown up in their youth,

And our daughters as corner-stones hewn after the fashion of a palace;

When our garners are full, affording all manner of store,

And our sheep bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our fields;

When our oxen are well laden;

When there is no breaking in, and no going forth,

And no outcry in our streets:

Happy is the people that is in such a case;

Yea, happy is the people whose God is Jehovah."

There is undoubtedly in this paragraph a brilliant word-picture of overwhelming domestic tranquillity and prosperity.

(1) Ps. 144:12 gives a picture of prosperous and happy families. There is some doubt among scholars as to the exact meaning of the metaphors here; but the idea is clear enough. Strong, vigorous sons, and beautiful efficient daughters adorn the primary unit of any successful society, namely, the family.

(2) Ps. 144:13 stresses the full storehouses and the fantastic growth of their flocks of sheep.

(3) Ps. 144:14 speaks of "well laden" oxen, hauling in the bumper crops.


 
Verses 12-15
When our sons shall be as plants grown up in their youth, And our daughters as corner-stones hewn after the fashion of a palace; [When] our garners are full, affording all manner of store, [And] our sheep bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our fields; [When] our oxen are well laden; [When there is] no breaking in, and no going forth, And no outcry in our streets: Happy is the people that is in such a case; [Yea], happy is the people whose God is Jehovah.
(Ps. 144:14b). Only domestic tranquility may be thus described. The marginal reading for going forth is sallying, a term associated with warfare, indicating that the meaning here is no going forth to war.

Happy is the people that is in such a case
(Psalms 144:15). Note the present tense here. This indicates that the marvelous blessings requested in David's prayer are already being enjoyed in Israel. The prayer is a prayer for the continuation of what is already being enjoyed by God's people.

Rawlinson pointed out that, "The best recent critics see in this passage a description of Israel's actual condition in the writer's day. In line with this, Dr. Kay, and Professor Cheyne render the verbs in the passage as present, `the sons are,' `the daughters are,' etc."F20

Instead of these last four verses being "a fragment,"F21 or "A copyist's quotation of some lost Davidic psalm,"F22 these verses fit the whole psalm as a glove fits the hand. What could be more natural and reasonable than the fact that David, having seen the end of wars and strife and the astounding blessing of God in the prosperity of his people, should have prayed earnestly to God for the continuation of the happy conditions, giving God all the glory for it?


Footnotes for Psalms 144
1: The Interpreter's Bible, Vol. IV, p. 735.
2: Ibid.
3: Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Vol. II, p. 310.
4: Mitchell Dahood in The Anchor Bible, Vol. III, p. 328.
5: Leslie C. Allen, Vol. II, p. 290.
6: J. R. Dummelow's Commentary, p. 577.
7: International Critical Commentary, Vol. II, p. 519.
8: Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Vol. II, p. 310.
9: F. Delitzsch, Vol. V-C, p. 379.
10: The New Layman's Bible Commentary p. 698.
11: The Pulpit Commentary, op. cit., p. 362.
12: F. Delitzsch, op. cit., p. 379.
13: Barnes' Notes on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, a 1987 reprint of the 1878 edition), Vol. III, p. 516.
14: The New Layman's Bible Commentary, p. 698.
15: W. E. Addis, p. 396.
16: The New Layman's Bible Commentary, p. 698.
17: George DeHoff's Commentary, Vol. III, p. 243.
18: Barnes' Notes on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, a 1987 reprint of the 1878 edition), op. cit., p. 317.
19: Derek Kidner, Vol. II, p. 479.
20: The Pulpit Commentary, op. cit., p. 362.
21: International Critical Commentary, op. cit., p. 519.
22: J. R. Dummelow's Commentary, p. 377.

Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Psalm 144". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/bcc/view.cgi?book=ps&chapter=144>. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.  

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