Bible Commentaries
Psalms 44

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary


To the chief Musician for the sons of Korah, Maschil.

The internal evidence refers the occasion of this psalm to the reign of Hezekiah, and is the counterpart of Psalms 46:0. No other hypothesis is tenable. It was written in a time of great and prolonged trouble. Multitudes of the northern and eastern tribes had been carried into captivity, Psalms 44:11-13. The kingdom of Israel, though crushed and bleeding, and its extinction threatened, was yet in existence, with a hope of success in the pending struggle if they returned to God, Psalms 44:4-8. The kingdom of Judah, which had also suffered greatly, was at this time faithful, and the judgments were not to them a punishment for present defection from the law of Moses, Psalms 44:17-21. The distress is not treated by the author as local, but general to the whole Hebrew family, (Psalms 44:11; Psalms 44:22;) and the enemy was insolent and blasphemous, Psalms 44:16. Now if the reader will compare the effects of the Israelitish-Syrian war, (2 Chronicles 28:1-15,) in the reign of Ahaz, preceding that of Hezekiah the invasion and re-subjugation of the kingdom of Israel in the beginning of the reign of Hoshea, (2 Kings 17:3) the pious but abortive attempt of Hezekiah to rouse and reclaim it (2 Chronicles 30:1-12) the final invasion of Shalmaneser and the overthrow of the kingdom of Israel, (2 Kings 17:4, seq.,) and the invasion of the kingdom of Judah by Sennacherib, eight years later, (2 Kings 18:13-37, and chapter 19, and Isaiah 36, 38,) he will find all the conditions fully and literally met for the above probable date of the psalm.

The argument of the psalm naturally falls into five divisions. In the midst of the perils and devastations of war the poet reverts to God’s ancient care and protection of his people, and how he fought their battles and gave them the land, Psalms 44:1-3. By this he is inspired still to confess God as the deliverer of Israel, and to hope for success, Psalms 44:4-8. But the land is wasted, the people are in distress and reproach, and many are already sent into exile, Psalms 44:9-16. Yet have they not forgotten God, nor dealt falsely in his covenant, Psalms 44:17-22. The psalmist, therefore, calls loudly upon God to awake for their help, Psalms 44:23-26. Thus we have a reminiscence, a profession of trust, a complaint, an avowal of fidelity, and an earnest and plaintive prayer.

TITLE: See note on title of Psalms 43:0

Verse 1

1. Our fathers have told us This is not a reference to oral tradition, but an allusion to Exodus 10:2; Exodus 12:26; Exodus 13:8; Exodus 13:14; Deuteronomy 6:20-23; where God commands the fathers to teach the meaning of the written law, and the history of their settlement in Canaan, to their children. They had been taught in childhood, by the command of God, that the Hebrew title to the land was of divine authority. This is here appealed to as the basis of the plea and prayer against dispossession, which the heathen now threatened.

Verse 2

2. With thy hand By the direct interposition of thy power.

Plantedst them That is, the Hebrew people. The figure is borrowed from Exodus 15:17, and is often used: Psalms 80:8; Isaiah 5:1-7. It denotes a fixed abode, as opposed to a wandering or nomadic life.

Afflict the people The nations of Canaan. The word signifies to do evil to. By their corrupt and cruel practices they had forfeited their right to the land. God gave them warning to depart, and many did, as Procopius informs us, spreading themselves over Northern Africa.

Cast them out This may apply to the Canaanitish nations. But the verb often means, in a good sense, to enlarge, to send forth, to make free, and thus may better apply to Israel, who enlarged, or sent forth, his root and branch. This accords withthe figure of planting just used, and with Psalms 80:11, “She sent out her boughs unto the sea, and her branches unto the river.” It also better preserves the antithetic parallelism. Thus Conant:

“Thou, with thy hand, didst dispossess the heathen,

And them thou plantedst;

Didst crush peoples,

And them thou didst extend.”

Or Bishop Mant:

“Thy hand the people forth didst cast,

And Jacob plant instead,

Thy hand the stranger tribes didst waste,

And make thine Israel spread.”

Verse 3

3. Because thou hadst a favour unto them The ultimate reason of this favour to Israel was not personal merit, but because they were chosen nationally for certain great purposes of divine wisdom in the historic unfolding of the plan of redemption.

Verse 4

4. Thou art my King Literally, Thou art he, my King. This same God is still confessed to be Israel’s King. The retrospect emboldens faith.

Deliverances Salvations; the plural used for fulness, completeness.

Verse 5

5. Through thee will we push down If our theocratic King be the same now as of old, deliverance shall come to Jacob now as then.

Push down… tread them under An allusion to the mode of attack of the buffalo, whose strength is in his horns and neck.

Verse 8

8. In God we boast Or, rather, dropping the preposition as a pleonasm, God we have praised all the day.

Praise… for ever Give thanks forever. The past and future are here embraced. The praise already given for former mercies shall be the pledge of future and endless thanksgiving.

Verses 9-16

9-16. The strain suddenly turns to lamentation and complaint, and the poet spreads the national distress before God. Psalms 44:9-12 clearly portray a state of war, of general defeat, and of the captivity and slavery of multitudes. See introduction, and reference there made.

Thou hast cast off All their distress results from this one cause.

Goest not forth with our armies In vain did they muster their hosts when God was not with them.

They… spoil for themselves That is, at will, to their heart’s content, with none to hinder.

Like sheep appointed for meat Hebrew, sheep of food, or, as Psalms 44:22, sheep for slaughter, sheep counted out for slaughter. The figure is expressive of great numbers and helplessness. Sheep make, when attacked, a feeble and vain resistance.

Scattered us among the heathen Anciently captivity and dispersion followed in the train of defeat.

Thou sellest thy people for naught The allusion is to the selling of captives as slaves. The market is overstocked, and the price is as nothing. See Deuteronomy 28:68 and Joel 3:3. The Hebrew reads, for no wealth. This was the last downward step in their degradation. The multitude of captives and the hatred of the nations towards the Hebrews, made them unvaluable as slaves. The northern and eastern tribes had gone into captivity, and the kingdom of Judah itself was invaded. [The final fall of the nation by the Romans, A.D. 70, was still more dreadful.]

Dost not increase A delicate figure of speech (the litotes) for thou decreasest. The idea, though not literally a parallel, is well expressed Proverbs 22:16. God is confessed as the author of the national judgments, and it is reverently pleaded that they appeared in excess of profitable chastisement. Psalms 44:13-14, show the extent of the humiliation of the people, by the terms reproach, scorn, derision, byword, shaking of the head, and how these had taken effect is confessed Psalms 44:15.

Enemy and avenger The words may mean any opponent or adversary of revengeful temper, (Psalms 8:2,) and may fitly apply to Sennacherib, who also “reproached and blasphemed.” Isaiah 37:17; Isaiah 37:23

Verse 17

17. All this is come All mentioned in Psalms 44:9-16.

Yet have we not forgotten thee Psalms 44:17-22 contain the assertion of the kingdom of Judah’s fidelity to God, emphatically during Hezekiah’s reign, which was more closely modelled after David’s example, and more uniformly pious, than that of any other king of Judah, except the brief reign of Josiah.

Verse 19

19. Place of dragons If תנים ( tannim, dragons) is the name for jackals, as is commonly supposed, their “place” must signify the locality or regions where they inhabit, frequent, or congregate nightly, (for they go in large companies.) Thus while the surviving captives were sold into slavery till they brought no price, (Psalms 44:12,) their dead in battle were left to be devoured on battle fields, where jackals congregated. See on Psalms 63:10, and Judges 15:4

Verse 20

20. If we have forgotten Compare Job 31:0

Verse 21

21. Shall not God search this The psalmist appeals to the omniscience of God for the confirmation of his words.

Verse 22

22. For thy sake Because of thee we are killed. The issue was a religious one, and the cause was Jehovah’s. The war had come upon Hezekiah because he had renounced allegiance to the king of Assyria, which Ahaz, his father, had impiously tendered for political ends, having first declined the offered help of the Lord. See 2 Kings 16:7; Isaiah 7:0; Isaiah 8:0; 2 Kings 18:7. In this Hezekiah had acted in the integrity of a theocratic king, but it drew down upon him the wrath of Sennacherib.

Counted as sheep for the slaughter That is, counted out of, and set apart from, the flock for slaughter. See on Psalms 44:11

Verse 23

23. Awake An anthropomorphism. God appears to sleep when he withholds answer to prayer, and help from the distressed. The same impassioned language is used in Psalms 44:24. Psalms 44:23-26; Psalms 44:23-26 are an earnest cry for help.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 44". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.