Wednesday, June 7th, 2023
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms Hengstenberg's Commentary
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Psalms 44". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ heg/ psalms-44.html.
Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Psalms 44". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://studylight.org/
- Henry's Complete
- Clarke Commentary
- Bridgeway Bible Commentary
- Coffman's Commentaries
- Barnes' Notes
- Bullinger's Companion Notes
- Calvin's Commentary
- College Press
- Smith's Commentary
- Dummelow on the Bible
- Constable's Expository Notes
- Darby's Synopsis
- Ellicott's Commentary
- Expositor's Dictionary
- Meyer's Commentary
- Gaebelein's Annotated
- Morgan's Exposition
- Gill's Exposition
- Everett's Study Notes
- Geneva Study Bible
- Haydock's Catholic Commentary
- Commentary Critical
- Commentary Critical Unabridged
- Gray's Concise Commentary
- Parker's The People's Bible
- Sutcliffe's Commentary
- Trapp's Commentary
- Kretzmann's Commentary
- Lange's Commentary
- Henry's Complete
- Henry's Concise
- Poole's Annotations
- Pett's Commentary
- Peake's Commentary
- Preacher's Homiletical
- Poor Man's Commentary
- Benson's Commentary
- Spurgeon's Verse Expositions
- The Biblical Illustrator
- Coke's Commentary
- The Expositor's Bible Commentary
- The Pulpit Commentaries
- Treasury of Scripture Knowledge
- Whedon's Commentary
- Henry's Complete
- Keil & Delitzsch
- Hengstenberg's Commentary
- Smith's Writings
- Restoration Commentary
- Scott on the Psalms
- Utley Commentary
THE Psalm contains the prayer of an oppressed church for help against foreign enemies. It begins with the praise of the earlier benefactions of God; by his help were the heathen driven out of the land, and the possession of that brought to their hand, Psalms 44:1-3. Upon the foundation of these earlier glorious manifestations of God, arises to the church a firm confidence in his aid during the present emergency, with which she triumphs beforehand over all merely imaginable dangers, Psalms 44:4-8. But while she comes forth with this believing confidence into the realities around her, she finds these realities in fearful contrast with this confidence: God has given up his people into the hands of mighty enemies, who have put his host to flight, laid waste the land, which the Lord had given to Israel for an inheritance, and carried away its inhabitants into exile, Psalms 44:9-16. This contrast between the reality on the one hand, and the matter-of-fact idea, on the other, attested as real, can so much the less be an abiding one, as the people had not occasioned the evil by their infidelity, had not made void God’s covenant and promise through their rebelliousness, but rather had suffered it for the sake of God, on account of their steadfastness toward him, Psalms 44:17-22. Now the prayer for the restored salvation has been completely prepared for, and with it the Psalmist concludes in Psalms 44:23-26. The train of thought comes very clearly out: Thou hast helped us, thou must help us, but thou hast not helped us, yet have we not by any guilt on our part cut ourselves off from thy help, do thou, therefore, help us.
We are furnished with a secure starting point for the historical exposition here in Psalms 60, which presents so many remarkable coincidences with this, both as to the general situation and in expression, comp. Psalms 44:9 and Psalms 44:10 with Psalms 60:1-3, Psalms 60:10, Psalms 44:5, ss. with Psalms 60:11, Psalms 44:20 with Psalms 60:11, that the one cannot be separated from the other. Now, in Psalms 60 the historical occasion is announced in the superscription: “Of David, when he beat Aram of the two floods, and Aram Zobab, and Joab returned and smote Edom in the valley of Salt, 12,000 men.” The relations, to which allusion is made in this superscription, were the following. While David carried on war in Arabia, and on the Euphrates with the Syrians, probably at a time when he had suffered a heavy loss in battle from them, (comp. Michaelis Hist. Belli Nesibeni, in the comment. p. 82, ss.) the Edomites, always intent upon turning the calamitous situations of Israel to account, for the satisfaction of their hatred, made an irruption into the land. The small forces left behind in the land were not able to resist them. The greatness of the danger, in which Israel was plunged, and the injuries it had sustained, appears, (though nothing is said of it in the books of Samuel beside communicating the last result of the battle,) from the incidental notice in 1 Kings 11:15, according to which Joab buried the Israelites, who had been slain by the Edomites, and who had lain till his arrival unburied; it appears also from the frightfulness of the revenge, which, according to 2 Kings 11:15-16, David inflicted upon Edom,—a war of extermination was carried on against all the males in Edom—and from Psalms 60:1-3. But before the Edomites could plunder the capital, which they had threatened, things took a prosperous turn. The Syrians were completely beaten by David, and he could now send his general Joab against the Edomites. Joab overtook them in the valley of Salt, on the south of the Dead Sea, whither they had in all probability retreated on hearing of the return of the Israelitish army, after they had penetrated much farther, slew them in a body, and took possession of their land, comp. 2 Samuel 8:13-14: “And David gat him a name, when he returned from smiting of the Syrians, (in that he slew) 18,000 men in the valley of Salt. And he put garrisons in Edom.”
Through these circumstances was the Psalm before us first called forth. The sons of Korah sang in the midst of the suffering, probably while the king was absent at the Euphrates. David followed them after the beginning of help had already appeared. The Psalm before us is a κύ?ριε ἐ?λέ?ησοι (a “Lord have mercy upon us,”) which the nation at that time raised to God in the temple, and which, in later times, it used in similar circumstances. The Psalm has, as the superscription itself indicates, the character of a didactic Psalm. It instructs the church of God how to act in times of hostile invasion, how to assure itself of divine help. The Psalm contains nothing which may not be explained of that historical occasion. The words: “thou hast scattered us among the heathen,” in Psalms 44:11, by which so many have been misled, contains nothing against this. For though the other parts of the Psalm do not permit us to think of a great carrying away; yet a carrying away of a smaller sort occurred even in the most flourishing times of the state, nay, regularly in every hostile invasion, comp. 1 Kings 8:46, ss., where Solomon expressly notices the case of Israel being carried away into the enemies’ land, far and near. Joel 3:4, Amos 1:6-9; and here, where express mention is made of the killed, we might confidently reckon on others carried away, the more so, as from the passage of Amos, the burning desire of the Edomites for Israelitish slaves comes out,—the possession of whom was of importance as a matter-of-fact counter-proof to the decree, “the elder shall serve the younger,” which was so often thrown up against them by Israel.
The supposition of the Psalm’s composition in the times of David derives very important support from Psalms 44:17-22. The consciousness of fidelity toward the Lord thus uttered, was scarcely possible at any other period than that. Next the joyful hope of victory in Psalms 44:4-8 in particular, the expression: “in thee will we push down our adversaries, in thy name tread down our enemies,” as also this: “thou goest not forth with our armies,” in Psalms 44:9, and the prayer in Psalms 44:23-26, which rests upon the supposition, that the distress could be removed by a stroke—all point to the relations of David’s time, in which, behind the foreground of misery and distress, there always lay concealed a rich background of salvation, strength, and joyful hope.
If, notwithstanding all that has been remarked, the lamentation should appear too deep for the times of David, we would bring to remembrance the fact, that Israel’s loss in battle from the heathen was estimated by a different measure from what is common. The people were so fully persuaded of their divine election, and of the necessity of salvation arising out of that, that very small losses in themselves went much to their heart, and occasioned painful questions and supplications. How small, for example, was the loss before Ai; and yet, warlike as the people then were, “their hearts melted and became as water. And Joshua rent his clothes and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the Lord, until the eventide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust upon their heads.”
A series of expositors from Calvin to Hitzig, have referred this Psalm to the times of the Maccabees. The only thing that gives the least countenance to this hypothesis is derived from the words in Psalms 44:22: “for thy sake are we killed continually,” it being “Antiochus Epiphanes, who first hated and persecuted the Israelites on account of their religion.” It would certainly, however, be wonderful if this were the case. The fact is incomprehensible in the same proportion that it must be regarded as an isolated one. According to the right view, the heathenish enmity to Israel as a people only culminated in Antiochus, which beginning at the time of their elevation to that dignity, continued to operate through their whole history. The election in question, that entire isolation of them, which might naturally be regarded by the heathen mind as an odium generis humani, was all along an incitement to the bitterest hatred among the people, with whom Israel came into contact. Comp. Christol. Part III. p. 198, ss. Where could we find such rooted enmity, continuing with such violence through centuries, between two of these nations? Edom, for example, could less easier bear with Israel’s prerogative, as the two had a common origin: and how different was his position toward Moab, from what it was toward Israel? Amalek, so early as the sojourn in the wilderness, attacked Israel on the ground of its pretension to be the people of God, so that the war, then waged, was essentially a religious war, comp. Exodus 17:16, “Amalek lays hold of the throne of the Lord, therefore is there war to the Lord against Amalek through all generations.” According to Psalms 68:16, the high hills, emblems of worldly kingdoms, envy the mountain which the Lord had chosen for his dwelling. The predictions of the prophets against the heathen nations proceed throughout on the supposition, that the ground of their hatred toward Israel was a religious one. It is only on this supposition that we can explain how the guilt, which they drew upon themselves by their enmity to Israel, came to be regarded as so peculiarly heavy.
The special grounds speak so decidedly against the reference to the times of the Maccabees, that we do not need to apply the general grounds against the existence of any Maccabee Psalms, which are supplied by the history of the canon. This alone is of itself sufficient, that the people here appeal in the presence of God to their covenant-faithfulness, and on the ground of this, lay claim to divine aid, Psalms 44:17-22. In all the three sources of the history of Epiphanes’s oppression, this is uniformly designated as a consequence of the abominations committed by the covenant people themselves, as a righteous retribution, see the proof in Christol. P. II. p. 501, ss. The supposition that the Chasideans speak here, does not help the difficulty. For here it is the whole people who speak, Jacob in Psalms 44:4, and of an internal contrast, no trace is to be found. Then, it decides against this supposition, what we have brought forward to prove, that the distress of which the Psalmist complains, has as yet only reached the surface, in particular, the words: “thou goest not forth with our armies.” Finally, it is contradicted by the style and mode of representation, which is throughout of a pure, noble, and classical character.
The hypothesis of Koester, who refers the Psalm “to the mournful times of the return from the Babylonish captivity,” and of Ewald, who ascribes it to the fourth century, towards the end of the Persian supremacy, deserve no further notice, as they are alike disproved by the words: “thou goest not forth with our armies.”
Several decide for the times shortly before the exile, either under Jehoiakim or under Jehoiachin. But let men only read what Michaelis has written in his Praef. in Jerem. of those times, and see whether they can be brought to accord with Psalms 44:17-22: “impiety and senseless idolatry had so taken possession of the minds of the people, that, notwithstanding what Josiah had done, they soon returned again with the greatest levity to their old behaviour, Jeremiah 3:4, Jeremiah 5:10, and proceeded not in the course of righteousness, but with a hypocritical return to God, they continued alienated from him in fixed aversion, Jeremiah 8:5-6, satisfied with the outward worship of God, and the ceremonies, Jeremiah 6:20, and foolishly confiding therein, Jeremiah 7:4, as if these could cover their manifold misdeeds, and especially their idolatry.”
What Tholuck brings forward as proof, that the Psalm may with propriety be referred to the times of Jehoiachin, is not sufficient proof. It is indeed related of him, he says, in 2 Chronicles 36:9, that he did what was displeasing to the Lord; but it is clear from Jeremiah 22:10, ss., that the youthful king, mourned for by many, only suffered on account of the unalterable destiny of God and the sins of the people. Already with Jehoiakim did idolatry cease to be practised. It is declared, in 2 Kings 24:3-4, that, on account of the sins of the idolatrous Manasseh, the people should be given up to their enemies. How much more could a godly man among the people, under the “blameless Jechoniah” say, that such oppression was come upon them not for their apostacy. But, on the other hand, it is to be remarked, that the “blameless Jechoniah” is not only condemned in the Chronicles, but not less decidedly also in the book of Kings, 2 Kings 24:9: “and he did evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father had done.” In Jeremiah 13:18, misery is announced to him as a deserved punishment; in Jeremiah 23:1 he is reproved under the shepherds, “who destroy and scatter the Lord’s sheep;” in Ezekiel 19:5, ss., he appears as a dreadful young lion, comp. J. D. Michaelis Bib: Hebr. in loco. In Jeremiah 22 there is nothing in praise of Jehoiachin. The passage, 2 Kings 24, which speaks of the rejection of Judah under Jehoiakim on account of the sins of Manasseh, affirms nothing either of Judah, or of Jehoiakim being guiltless. Manasseh and Jehoiakim form no contrast: Jehoiakim the revolting tyrant, the decided enemy of the truth, the persecutor of the servants of God, Jeremiah 22:18-19, Jeremiah 26:20, ss. Jeremiah 36:13-17, Jeremiah 36:23, ss., walked in the ways of Manasseh, his existence was a continuation of that of Manasseh, and hence were Manasseh’s sins punished in him. Besides, what would be gained, if there were obtained a blameless Jehoiachin? Here not the king merely, but the whole people protests its fidelity to the Lord, and that indeed, of a kind reaching to the inclinations of the mind; comp. the words: our heart is not turned back. Could Jehoiachin have accomplished during his three months reign a total regeneration of the people? Other reasons against the reference of the Psalm to the times shortly before the exile, naturally suggest themselves from what has been already remarked.
After the superscription, to the chief musician, of the sons of Korah, an instruction, follows the first strophe, Psalms 44:1-3, in which the church reminds the Lord, of what he had done for her in former times.
Ver. 1. God, with our ears we have heard, our fathers have told us the deed, which thou didst in their days, the days of old. What the Lord had done to his people in the past, that forms a pledge for the salvation to be imparted by him through all times, causes the want of salvation to appear as an anomaly, and lays an excellent foundation for the prayer for relief. Comp. the remarkably corresponding passage, Judges 6:13, “And Gideon said to him, Oh my Lord, if the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us? And where are all thy wonders, which our fathers told us of, saying: Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt? And now the Lord hath forsaken us, and given us into the hand of Midian,” 2 Chronicles 20:7, Habakkuk 3:2, where the church of the Lord, which had done so gloriously in the past, prays, that he would revive his work in the midst of the years. The expression, “we have heard with our ears,” forms the contrast to what they at present see with their eyes; comp. Psalms 48:7, “as we have heard, so have we seen.” On: our fathers have told us, comp. Exodus 10:2. The deed (not deeds are here spoken of, but one great deed) is not the work of deliverance from the land of Egypt, but, as the following context shows, the driving out of the Canaanites. It is precisely in regard to this, that the present condition of the Israelites forms the greatest contrast. The: in their days, the days of old, stands opposed to: in our days, the days of the present time.
Ver. 2. Thou hast with thy hand driven out the heathen, and planted them, hast destroyed peoples, and spread them abroad. The emphatic thou, and the addition: with thy hand, prop. as to thy hand, comp. on Psalms 3:4, in opposition to their sword and their arm in Psalms 44:3, both serve the same purpose, viz., to ascribe that great work to a divine cause. Only in so far as it was of such a nature was it a pledge of salvation for the future, and constituted a sure foundation for the prayer of the Church for deliverance from their distress. The image of the planting already occurs in Exodus 15:17, “Thou wilt bring them and plant them on the mountain of thine inheritance,” and is enlarged upon in Psalms 80:8, “Thou broughtest a vine out of Egypt, thou didst cast out the heathen and plant it.” The image is continued in the expression: thou hast spread them abroad, prop. hast sent them forth, the twigs of that tree, or the shoots of that vine; comp. the paral. pass. alluding to this ver. Psalms 80:11, “it sent out its boughs to the sea, and its branches to the river,” Ezekiel 17:6-7. In the general sig. of extending, spreading forth, שלח cannot be taken. It is always used only of branches, twigs, or roots, Jeremiah 17:8.
Ver. 3. For not by their sword got they the land, and their arm helped them not, but thy right hand, and thy arm, and the light of thy countenance, for thou wast favourable to them. The first clause with כי grounds the declaration: thou alone hast planted them, sent them forth, of the preceding verse, while it excludes the other possible cause of the fortunate result. The second clause with כי grounds this exclusion, by setting forth the real cause. The third clause with כי carries back the operation of this cause to its source, to God’s free and undeserved love,—comp. the enlargement in Deuteronomy 9 and Deuteronomy 10. On the first clause comp. Joshua 24:12, “not by thy sword nor by thy bow.” The light of God’s countenance is the favour with which his countenance beams, like a clear sun, and which illuminated the darkness of his people, comp. Psalms 43:3.
Now follows the second strophe, Psalms 44:4-8: what thou hast done in the past, that do also in the present; for this we, pray, for this we hope in faith.
Ver. 4. Thou art he that is my king, O God, command the salvation of Jacob. Ai certainly as the God of Israel is king—this his past deeds plainly testify—so certainly must these deeds again revive, he must again for the present dispense salvation to his people. Against the supposition of Gesenius and Ewald, (§ 548,) that הוא takes the place of the copula, even with a difference of person, comp. the remarks of Straus on Zeph. p. 72, ss. Here, as in 2 Samuel 7:28, the relative is to be supplied, which, in a similar connection, is expressly written in 1 Chronicles 21:17, thou he my king; for, thou art he that is my king, thou art so certainly, and thou alone. Command is a confident expression for, thou wilt command. Michaelis: “Because he had named God his king, he makes use of a word which points to kingly authority and irresistible power.”
Ver. 5. In thee will we push down our enemies, in thy name tread down our adversaries. Some expositors refer this and the following verse to the past, supposing the people in them to be still praising the earlier deeds of God. This view has been occasioned by their not knowing how to reconcile the joyful hope here expressed, with the lamentation contained in Psalms 44:9, not perceiving that here faith speaks, which leans upon the divine election historically evinced, while in Psalms 44:9, the visible state of things standing in plain contrast to this faith, draws upon it the attention of the church, and causes her to pray to the Lord, that he would remove this contrast. Against our understanding it of the past, we have the imperative in Psalms 44:4, the constant use of the first person, while the forefathers are always spoken of in the third, the use of the fut., while the Psalmist had always spoken of the past in the praet., the relation of Psalms 44:6 and Psalms 44:7 to Psalms 44:3, etc.
That we must not take the fut. optatively, that they express not petitions, but confidence, appears from Psalms 44:8.
The first member refers to Deuteronomy 33:17, where it is said by Moses in the blessing on Joseph, “his horns are buffalo-horns, with them will he push peoples,” comp. 1 Kings 22:11, where the false prophet Zedekiah embodies the image of this passage in a symbolical action. The name of God denotes God in so far as he shews himself to be such in a completeness of deeds, comp. Psalms 20:1; Psalms 23:3. On קם comp. on Psalms 18:39.
Ver. 6. For I do not trust to my bow, and my sword will not help me. Ver. 7. But thou helpest us from our enemies, and dost put to shame those who hate us. Just as in reference to the past, the salvation was ascribed wholly to God, so here in reference to the future.
Ver. 8. God we extol continually, and thy name we praise for ever. Selah. By the ב God is marked as the object, in whom the extolling terminates, comp. Ewald, § 521. On the second clause, Psalms 71:6, “in thee is my praise perpetual.” The exposition: Of God we boast ourselves, is to be rejected. הלל never signifies to boast one’s self, comp. on Psalms 10:3.
The third strophe begins now, Psalms 44:9-16, the representation of the contrast, which the reality carries to the confidence of the people, as stated in the preceding verses, or rather appears to carry.
Ver. 9. And now thou dost cast us off, and puttest us to shame, and goest not forth with our armies. The אף is here, as in Job 14:3, Psalms 58:2, in meaning as much as, however, though it preserves its original and common signification also, (Ew. § 622.) It points to an addition of a very rare and incomprehensible kind, which the experience of the present has brought to that of the past, the reality to the historically conceived idea. Those who take אף as indicating a climax, must resort to arbitrary supplies.
How much the words: thou goest not forth with our armies, (comp. the contrast in 2 Samuel 5:24, where the Urim and Thummim say to David: “the Lord goes out before thee, to smite the host of the Philistines,”) carry us back to the noon-day of Israelitish glory, discountenancing the supposition of our Psalm having had a later origin, is evident from the fact alone of Koester and others substituting: thou wentest, as also in the following verse. Ver. 10. Thou turnest us back before the enemy, and our haters spoil for themselves. The למו , indicates, as was already remarked by Calvin, that the enemies had plundered according to their heart’s desire, and without any effective restraint. Comp. besides 1 Samuel 14:48; 1 Samuel 23:1.
Ver. 11. Thou makest us like sheep for slaughter, and among the heathen thou dost scatter us. The giving is not rarely q. d. to put into a condition. But we can also expound thou givest us away, comp. Micah 5:2.
Ver. 12. Thou sellest thy people for nothing, and receivest nothing for it. The sense is: Thou hast given thy people into the power of their enemies without trouble, without causing the victory even to be dearly bought, as one who parts with a good for any price, which he despises and hates, desiring merely to get rid of it; so that there is an abbreviated comparison. Parallel is Jeremiah 15:13, “thy substance and thy treasures will I give to the spoil without price.” Isaiah 52:3 does not belong to this class. The first member literally: thou sellest thy people for not riches, i.e. for a trifling sum. The phrase is to be explained by the silent contrast between the reality and the idea. The oft-repeated affirmation, that such collocations are properly of an ascending character, is groundless. The second member literally: and thou dost not increase (the riches) by their price. רבה , according to the common usage of the Pi., and according to the only passage where it occurs besides, Judges 9:29, can only mean increase. Consequently, the supplying of הון from the first member must be justified as necessary.
Ver. 13. Thou makest us a reproach to our neighbours, a scorn and a derision to those round about us.
Ver. 14. Thou makest us for a similitude among, the heathen, and that the peoples shake the head over us. משל stands here, as in the original passage, Deuteronomy 28:37, in the common signification similitude—comp. my Balaam, p. 77, ss. The misery of Israel is so great, that people would figuratively call a miserable man a Jew, just as liars were called Cretans, wretched slaves, Sardians. So far are the people from being now “the blessed of the Lord,” in whom, according to the promise, all the heathen are to be blessed. מנוד object of the shaking of the head, comp. Psalms 22:7.
Ver. 15. Continually is my confusion before me, and the shame of my countenance covers me.
Ver. 16. On account of the voice of the slanderer and blasphemer, on account of the enemy and avenger. The reproach is continually before the church, so that she must incessantly see it with pain, and can by no means get it out of the way, Psalms 38:17. The shaming is ascribed to the countenance, because it always betrays itself, especially there. Comp. Psalms 69:7; Jeremiah 25.
Psalms 44:16 points to the cause of the reproach and shame.
The fourth strophe, Psalms 44:17-22, shows that on the part of the people no cause existed, why the contrast between the reality and the idea should be a lasting one.
Ver. 17. All this has come upon us, and yet have we not for gotten thee, nor dealt falsely with thy covenant. שקר not to lie, but to deceive, with ב of the object, on which the deceit has been practised, or to which it refers, comp: Psalms 89:33.
Ver. 18. Our heart has not turned back, nor our steps declined from thy way.
Ver. 19. That thou hast bruised us in the place of jackals, and covered us with death-darkness. Upon the כי in the sig. of quod, that, q. d. that thou wert thereby led to bruise us, comp. Ew. § 454. The jackals appear often as inhabitants of waste and desert places, comp. Jeremiah 9:11, “I will make Jerusalem heaps, a dwelling of jackals, and the cities of Judah a wilderness without inhabitant.” Isaiah 13:22; Psalms 34:13; Ps 43:20. Here, as the parallel, “with death-darkness,” shows, we are to think of a spiritual desert, a miserable condition, and of a desolation produced by enemies, there is no mention. Whosoever finds himself in the place of jackals, is even thereby bruised by God, and we must not regard the bruising as a kind of second thing, a suffering additional to the other.
Ver. 20. If we have forgotten the name of our God, and stretched out our hands to a strange God! According to the common supposition, this verse must contain the promise, the next the conclusion; if we, etc. would not God require it? But אם is more correctly taken here as an oath-particle, with a failing of the curse-formula, comp. Ew. § 625: Joshua 22:22: “The Lord God of gods, he knoweth, and Israel he shall know, if we have acted in rebellion, and if in unfaithfulness against the Lord, let him not save us this day.” So also throughout Job 31, to which this verse forms the germ, אם is used in the express protestation of innocence.
Ver. 21. Would not God require this? For he knows the secrets of the heart. The oath is only of importance, as recognising in a vivid manner the divine omniscience, and implies, that sin falsely abjured is nevertheless open before God, and the object of his vengeance. This conviction the church here expresses. The this denotes the apostacy, from which we have protested our freedom.
Ver. 22. For thy sake we are killed continually, we are counted as sheep for slaughter. The כי announces a reason for the chief matter of Psalms 44:17-21, the assertion that the church had not fallen away from God. The best proof of that is, that they are persecuted for the very sake of God. עליךְ? prop. upon thee, then, on thy account, the effect rests upon the cause, comp. Psalms 69:7, Psalms 69:9.
The verse is in Romans 8:36 referred to the church of the New Testament as a continuation of that of the Old.
Many expositors have failed to understand aright the subject of Psalms 44:17-22. The church appears here at first sight to be not properly mindful of the admonition, that “no one should think more highly of himself than he ought to think.” Most of the older expositors suffered themselves to be drawn by this into the idea, that the church does not speak of her conduct before the present sufferings, but seeks to make the Lord inclined to help her by the protestation, that she had withstood the great temptations to fall away from him, which her sufferings themselves presented, and had continued faithful to him,—against which Psalms 44:19 is alone decisive. It is in itself improbable, that the church would come before the Lord with prayer for help, without distinguishing to some extent what the law taught regarding the condition of such prayer, whether it consisted in a protestation of adherence to the covenant, or in imploring supplication for the pardon of sins, through which it deserved chastisement. Tholuck accuses the Psalmist of a superficial view of sin, (comp. on the other hand, the impressive reference to the heart, Psalms 44:18-21), whereby he was led to charge God with breach of fidelity, instead of seeking the blame in the church. The following remarks, it is hoped, will remove the difficulty. 1. When the church here maintains, that she had not broken God’s covenant, this manifestly refers only to fidelity in the main, as to the chief matter, and manifold smaller infidelities and weaknesses are not thereby excluded. These smaller deviations justify the chastisements of God, faithfulness in the main excludes a total rejection. 2. When the church regards the suffering, that had come upon her, as an anomaly, she does so only in so far as this appears to carry the aspect of continuance,—comp. the words: cast us not off for ever, in Psalms 44:23. The whole of the last strophe shews, that the temptation will be at an end, the moment God has in point of fact removed this appearance. But this would not have been the case, if the suffering had formed in itself a stone of stumbling for the church. 3. It is not to be overlooked, that we have here before us a didactic Psalm. What is declared in the form of history, forms at the same time indirectly an impressive admonition. 4. We must not expect, that every Psalm shall fully exhibit all particular points of interest, and so, render all misapprehension impossible. They rather, on the contrary, require somewhat to be supplied.
There follows now, in the fifth strophe, the prayer that God would turn again the misery of his people. Ver. 23. Awake, why wilt thou sleep, O Lord? wake up, cast not of for ever. Comp. Psalms 121:4. Matthew 8:25. Ver. 24. Why wilt thou hide thy countenance? forget our misery and oppression? Ver. 25. For our soul is bowed down in the dust, our body cleaves to the earth. We are as to body and soul smitten and thrown down, glued as it were to the ground, so that we cannot raise ourselves up. Ver. 26. Arise for our help, and redeem us for thy mercies’ sake. עזרתה is nomin. as help, comp. Psalms 63:7; Psalms 94:17. On the ה see on Psalms 3:2.