Matthew Henry Complete CommentaryPsalms 144
on the Whole Bible
The four preceding psalms seem to have been penned by David before his
accession to the crown, when he was persecuted by Saul; this seems to
have been penned afterwards, when he was still in trouble (for there is
no condition in this world privileged with an exemption from trouble),
the neighbouring nations molesting him and giving him disturbance,
especially the Philistines,
2 Samuel 5:17.
In this psalm,
I. He acknowledges, with triumph and thankfulness, the great goodness
of God to him in advancing him to the government ,
II. He prays to God to help him against the enemies who threatened him,
and again ver. 11.
III. He rejoices in the assurance of victory over them,
IV. He prays for the prosperity of his own kingdom, and pleases
himself with the hopes of it,
In singing this psalm we may give God the glory of our spiritual
privileges and advancements, and fetch in help from him against our
spiritual enemies; we may pray for the prosperity of our souls, of our
families, and of our land; and, in the opinion of some of the Jewish
writers, we may refer the psalm to the Messiah and his kingdom.
|Grateful Acknowledgments of Divine Goodness; Prayer for Success against Enemies.
A psalm of David.
1 Blessed be the LORD my strength,
which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight:
2 My goodness, and my fortress; my high tower, and my
deliverer; my shield, and he in whom I trust; who subdueth my
people under me.
3 LORD, what is man, that thou takest knowledge of him! or
the son of man, that thou makest account of him!
4 Man is like to vanity: his days are as a shadow that
5 Bow thy heavens, O LORD, and come down: touch the mountains,
and they shall smoke.
6 Cast forth lightning, and scatter them: shoot out thine
arrows, and destroy them.
7 Send thine hand from above; rid me, and deliver me out of
great waters, from the hand of strange children;
8 Whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is a
right hand of falsehood.
I. David acknowledges his dependence upon God and his obligations to
A prayer for further mercy is fitly begun with a thanksgiving for
former mercy; and when we are waiting upon God to bless us we should
stir up ourselves to bless him. He gives to God the glory of two
1. What he was to him: Blessed be the Lord my rock
my goodness, my fortress,
He has in the covenant engaged himself to be so, and encouraged us,
accordingly, to depend upon him; all the saints, who by faith have made
him theirs, have found him not only to answer but to out do their
expectations. David speaks of it here as the matter of his trust, and
that which made him easy, as the matter of his triumph, and that which
made him glad, and in which he gloried. See how he multiplies words to
express the satisfaction he had in God and his interest in him.
(1.) "He is my strength, on whom I stay, and from whom I have
power both for my work and for my warfare, my rock to build on, to take
shelter in." Even when we are weak we may be strong in the Lord and
in the power of his might.
(2.) "My goodness, not only good to me, but my chief good, in
whose favour I place my felicity, and who is the author of all the
goodness that is in me, and from whom comes every good and perfect
(3.) "My fortress, and my high tower, in whom I think
myself as safe as ever any prince thought himself in a castle or
strong-hold." David had formerly sheltered himself in strong-holds at
(1 Samuel 23:29),
which perhaps were natural fastnesses. He had lately made himself
master of the strong-hold of Zion, which was fortified by art, and he
dwelt in the fort
(2 Samuel 5:7,9),
but he depends not on these. "Lord," says he, "thou art my
fortress and my high tower." The divine attributes and
promises are fortifications to a believer, far exceeding those either
of nature or art.
(4.) My deliverer, and, as it is in the original, very
emphatically, my deliverer to me, "not only a deliverer I have
interest in, but who is always nigh unto me and makes all my
deliverances turn to my real benefit."
(5.) "My shield, to guard me against all the malignant darts
that my enemies let fly at me, not only my fortress at home, but
my shield abroad in the field of battle." Wherever a believer
goes he carries his protection along with him. Fear not, Abram, I am
2. What he had done for him. He was bred a shepherd, and seems not to
have been designed by his parents, or himself for any thing more. But,
(1.) God had made him a soldier. His hands had been used to the crook
and his fingers to the harp, but God taught his hands to war and his
fingers to fight, because he designed him for Israel's champion;
and what God calls men to he either finds them or makes them fit for.
Let the men of war give God the glory of all their military skill; the
same that teaches the meanest husbandman his art teaches the greatest
general his. It is a pity that any whose fingers God has taught to
fight should fight against him or his kingdom among men. Those have
special reason to acknowledge God with thankfulness who prove to be
qualified for services which they themselves never thought of.
(2.) God had made him a sovereign prince, had taught him to wield the
sceptre as well as the sword, to rule as well as fight, the harder and
nobler art of the two: He subdueth my people under me. The
providence of God is to be acknowledged in making people subject to
their prince, and so preserving the order and benefit of societies.
There was a special hand of God inclining the people of Israel to be
subject to David, pursuant to the promise God had made him; and it was
typical of that great act of divine grace, the bringing of souls into
subjection to the Lord Jesus and making them willing in the day of his
II. He admires God's condescension to man and to himself in particular
"Lord, what is man, what a poor little thing is he, that thou
takest knowledge of him, that thou makest account of him, that he
falls so much under thy cognizance and care, and that thou hast such a
tender regard to any of that mean and worthless race as thou hast had
to me!" Considering the many disgraces which the human nature lies
under, we have reason to admire the honours God has put upon mankind in
general (the saints especially, some in a particular manner, as David)
and upon the Messiah (to whom those words are applied,
who was highly exalted because he humbled himself to be found in
fashion as a man, and has authority to execute judgment because
he is the Son of man. A question to this purport David asked
and he illustrated the wonder by the consideration of the great dignity
God has placed man in
Thou hast crowned him with glory and honour. Here he illustrates
it by the consideration of the meanness and mortality of man,
notwithstanding the dignity put upon him
Man is like to vanity; so frail is he, so weak, so helpless,
compassed about with so many infirmities, and his continuance here so
very short and uncertain, that he is as like as may be to vanity
itself. Nay, he is vanity, he is so at his best estate. His days
have little substance in them, considering how many of the thoughts and
cares of an immortal soul are employed about a poor dying body; they
are as a shadow, dark and flitting, transitory and finishing
with the sun, and, when that sets, resolving itself into all shadow.
They are as a shadow that passeth away, and there is no loss of
it. David puts himself into the number of those that are thus mean and
III. He begs of God to strengthen him and give him success against the
enemies that invaded him,
He does not specify who they were that he was in fear of, but says,
Scatter them, destroy them. God knew whom he meant, though he
did not name them. But afterwards he describes them
"They are strange children, Philistines, aliens, bad neighbours
to Israel, heathens, whom we are bound to be strange to and not to make
any leagues with, and who therefore carry it strangely towards us."
Notwithstanding the advantages with which God had blessed David's arms
against them, they were still vexatious and treacherous, and men that
one could put no confidence in: "One cannot take their word, for their
mouth speaketh vanity; nay, if they give their hand upon it, or
offer their hand to help you, there is no trusting them; for their
right hand is a right hand of falsehood." Against such as these we
cannot defend ourselves, but we may depend on the God of truth and
justice, who hates falsehood, to defend us from them.
1. David prays that God would appear, that he would do something
extraordinary, for the conviction of those who preferred their
dunghill-deities before the God of Israel
"Bow thy heavens, O Lord! and make it evident that they are
indeed thine, and that thou art the Lord of them,
Let thy providence threaten my enemies, and look black upon them, as
the clouds do on the earth when they are thick, and hang very low, big
with a storm. Fight against those that fight against us, so that it
may visibly appear that thou art for us. Touch the mountains,
our strong and stately enemies, and let them smoke. Show
thyself by the ministry of thy angels, as thou didst upon Mount Sinai."
2. That he would appear against his enemies, that he would fight from
heaven against them, as sometimes he had done, by lightnings, which are
his arrows (his fiery darts, against which the hardest steel is no
armour of proof, so penetrating is the force of lightning), that he
himself would shoot these arrows, who, we are sure, never misses his
mark, but hits where he aims.
3. That he would appear for him,
He begs for their destruction, in order to his own deliverance and the
repose of his people: "Send thy hand, thy power, from
above, for that way we look for help; rid me and deliver me out
of these great waters that are ready to overflow me." God's
time to help his people is when they are sinking and all other helps
|Thanksgiving and Petitions; National Happiness Desired.
9 I will sing a new song unto thee, O God: upon a psaltery
and an instrument of ten strings will I sing praises unto thee.
10 It is he that giveth salvation unto kings: who delivereth
David his servant from the hurtful sword.
11 Rid me, and deliver me from the hand of strange children,
whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is a right
hand of falsehood:
12 That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth;
that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after
the similitude of a palace:
13 That our garners may be full, affording all manner of
store: that our sheep may bring forth thousands and ten
thousands in our streets:
14 That our oxen may be strong to labour; that there be
no breaking in, nor going out; that there be no complaining in
15 Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea, happy
is that people, whose God is the LORD.
The method is the same in this latter part of the psalm as in the
former; David first gives glory to God and then begs mercy from
I. He praises God for the experiences he had had of his goodness to him
and the encouragements he had to expect further mercy from him,
In the midst of his complaints concerning the power and treachery of
his enemies, here is a holy exultation in his God: I will sing a new
song to thee, O God! a song of praise for new mercies, for those
compassions that are new every morning. Fresh favours call for fresh
returns of thanks; nay, we must praise God for the mercies we hope for
by his promise as well as those we have received by his providence,
2 Chronicles 20:20,21.
He will join music with his songs of praise, to express and excite his
holy joy in God; he will praise God upon a psaltery of ten
strings, in the best manner, thinking all little enough to set
forth the praises of God. He tells us what this new song shall be
It is he that giveth salvation unto kings. This intimates,
1. That great kings cannot save themselves without him. Kings have
their life-guards, and have armies at command, and all the means of
safety that can be devised; but, after all, it is God that gives them
their salvation, and secures them by those means, which he could do, if
there were occasion, without them,
Kings are the protectors of their people, but it is God that is their
protector. How much service do they owe him then with their power who
gives them all their salvations!
2. That good kings, who are his ministers for the good of their
subjects, shall be protected and saved by him. He has engaged to give
salvation to those kings that are his subjects and rule for him;
witness the great things he had done for David his servant, whom
he had many a time delivered from the hurtful sword, to which
Saul's malice, and his own zeal for the service of his country, had
often exposed him. This may refer to Christ the Son of David, and then
it is a new song indeed, a New-Testament song. God delivered him from
the hurtful sword, upheld him as his servant, and brought him off a
conqueror over all the powers of darkness,
To him he gave salvation, not for himself only, but for us, raising him
up to be a horn of salvation.
II. He prays for the continuance of God's favour.
1. That he might be delivered from the public enemies,
Here he repeats his prayer and plea,
His persecutors were still of the same character, false and perfidious,
and who would certainly over-reach an honest man and be too hard for
him: "Therefore, Lord, do thou deliver me from them, for they
are a strange sort of people."
2. That he might see the public peace and prosperity: "Lord, let us
have victory, that we may have quietness, which we shall never have
while our enemies have it in their power to do us mischief." David, as
a king, here expresses the earnest desire he had of the welfare of his
people, wherein he was a type of Christ, who provides effectually for
the good of his chosen. We have here,
(1.) The particular instances of that public prosperity which David
desired for his people.
[1.] A hopeful progeny
"That our sons and our daughters may be in all respects
such as we could wish." He means not those only of his own family, but
those of his subjects, that are the seed of the next generation. It
adds much to the comfort and happiness of parents in this world to see
their children promising and likely to do well. First, It is
pleasant to see our sons as plants grown up in their youth, as
the planting of the Lord
to see them as plants, not as weeds, not as thorns,--to see them as
plants growing great, not withered and blasted,--to see them of a
healthful constitution, a quick capacity, a towardly disposition, and
especially of a pious inclination, likely to bring forth fruit unto God
in their day,--to see them in their youth, their growing time,
increasing in every thing that is good, growing wiser and better, till
they grow strong in spirit. Secondly, It is no less desirable to
see our daughters as corner-stones, or corner-pillars,
polished after the similitude of a palace, or temple. By
daughters families are united and connected, to their mutual strength,
as the parts of a building are by the corner-stones; and when they are
graceful and beautiful both in body and mind they are then polished
after the similitude of a nice and curious structure. When we see our
daughters well-established and stayed with wisdom and discretion, as
corner-stones are fastened in the building,--when we see them by faith
united to Christ, as the chief corner-stone, adorned with the graces of
God's Spirit, which are the polishing of that which is naturally rough,
and become women professing godliness,--when we see them
purified and consecrated to God as living temples, we think ourselves
happy in them.
[2.] Great plenty. Numerous families increase the care, perhaps more
than the comfort, where there is not sufficient for their maintenance;
and therefore he prays for a growing estate with a growing family.
First, That their store-houses might be well-replenished with
the fruits and products of the earth: That our garners may be
full, like those of the good householder, who brings out of them
things new and old (those things that are best new he has in that
state, those that are best when they are kept he has in that
state),--that we may have in them all manner of stores, for
ourselves and our friends,--that, living plentifully, we may live not
luxuriously, for then we abuse our plenty, but cheerfully and
usefully,--that, having abundance, we may be thankful to God, generous
to our friends, and charitable to the poor; otherwise, what profit is
it to have our garners full?
Secondly, That their flocks might greatly increase: That our
sheep may bring forth thousands, and ten thousands, in our folds.
Much of the wealth of their country consisted in their flocks
and this is the case with ours too, else wool would not be, as it is, a
staple commodity. The increase of our cattle is a blessing in which God
is to be acknowledged. Thirdly, That their beasts designed for
service might be fit for it: That our oxen may be strong to
labour in the plough, that they may be fat and fleshy (so
some), in good working case. We were none of us made to be idle, and
therefore we should pray for bodily health, not that we may be easy and
take our pleasures, but that we may be strong to labour, that we
may do the work of our place and day, else we are worse than the
beasts; for when they are strong it is for labour.
[3.] An uninterrupted peace. First, That there be no war, no
breaking in of invaders, no going out of deserters. "Let not
our enemies break in upon us; let us not have occasion to march out
against them." War brings with it abundance of mischiefs, whether it be
offensive or defensive. Secondly, That there be no oppression
nor faction--no complaining in our streets, that the people may
have no cause to complain either of their government or of one another,
nor may be so peevish as to complain without cause. It is desirable
thus to dwell in quiet habitations.
(2.) His reflection upon this description of the prosperity of the
nation, which he so much desired
Happy are the people that are in such a case (but it is seldom
so, and never long so), yea, happy are the people whose God is the
Lord. The relation of a people to God as theirs is here spoken of
[1.] As that which is the fountain whence all those blessings flow.
Happy are the Israelites if they faithfully adhere to the Lord as their
God, for they may expect to be in such a case. National piety
commonly brings national prosperity; for nations as such, in their
national capacity, are capable of rewards and punishments only in this
[2.] As that which is abundantly preferable to all these enjoyments.
The psalmist began to say, as most do, Happy are the people that are
in such a case; those are blessed that prosper in the world. But he
immediately corrects himself: Yea, rather, happy are the people
whose God is the Lord, who have his favour, and love, and grace,
according to the tenour of the covenant, though they have not abundance
of this world's goods. As all this, and much more, cannot make us
happy, unless the Lord be our God, so, if he be, the want of this, the
loss of this, nay, the reverse of this, cannot make us miserable.