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Psalm 144

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Prayer for Rescue and Prosperity
MT Intro
A Psalm of David.
A Song To the Lord Who Preserves and Prospers His People A King Prays for Deliverance A King Thanks God for Victory Hymn for War and Victory
144:1-4 144:1-2 144:1-2 144:1-2 144:1-2
  144:3-4 144:3-4 144:3-4 144:3-4
144:5-8 144:5-8 144:5-8 144:5-8 144:5-6
        144:7-8
144:9-11 144:9-10 144:9-11 144:9-11 144:9-10b
        144:10c-11
  144:11-15      
144:12-15   144:12-14 144:12-14 144:12
        144:13
        144:14
    144:15 144:15 144:15

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Etc.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 144:1-4
 1Blessed be the Lord, my rock,
 Who trains my hands for war,
 And my fingers for battle;
 2My lovingkindness and my fortress,
 My stronghold and my deliverer,
 My shield and He in whom I take refuge,
 Who subdues my people under me.
 3O Lord, what is man, that You take knowledge of him?
 Or the son of man, that You think of him?
 4Man is like a mere breath;
 His days are like a passing shadow.

144:1-4 This strophe uses numerous military allusions. This is obviously a royal Psalm. YHWH acts on behalf of His people to assure their survival because He has a universal redemptive plan involving national Israel (the descendants of Abraham). See Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan.

Psalm 144:3-4 is surprising in that the focus moves from Israel to all humans.

1. they are the object of YHWH's special care (cf. Ps. 8:4) because they are made in His image and likeness (cf. Gen. 1:26-27)

2. however, because of Genesis 3 they are frail and finite (cf. Ps. 90:5; 103:15; 104:14; Isa. 40:6-8; 1 Pet. 1:24)

 

144:1 "Blessed" See Special Topic: Blessing (OT).

▣ "my rock" This (BDB 849) is a recurrent title for Israel's God. See notes online at Deut. 32:4 and Ps. 18:1-3. Everything changes but God does not. He is the anchor that does not fail, the fortress that cannot fall. Note the powerful, emotional string of descriptive nouns in Ps. 18:2!

▣ "trains my hands for war" There is obviously a literary relationship between Psalm 18 and Psalm 144. Note the parallels.

1. Ps. 144:1 - Ps. 18:2,34,46

2. Ps. 144:2 - Ps. 18:2,47

3. Ps. 144:3 - Ps. 18:4

4. Ps. 144:5 - Ps. 18:9

5. Ps. 144:6 - Ps. 18:14

6. Ps. 144:7 - Ps. 18:16-17,44

7. Ps. 144:10 - Ps. 18:50

8. Ps. 144:11 - Ps. 18:44

 

144:2 My lovingkindness" YHWH is faithful in His covenant commitments. See SPECIAL TOPIC: LOVINGKINDNESS (HESED).

Notice the number of personal pronouns in the NASB of Ps. 144:1-2 (six). The psalmist knows and trusts YHWH.

NASB, NKJV,
LXX"Who subdues my people under me"
NRSV, TEV,
Targums,
Peshitta,
Vulgate"who subdues the peoples under me"
NJB"He makes the peoples submit to me"

The difference is only a final mem. The UBS Text Project (p. 436) gives "my people" a "B" rating (some doubt). This line of poetry either

1. asserts the king's authority over the covenant people (i.e., he is YHWH's under shepherd)

2. asserts Israel's victory by YHWH's power over the pagan nations

The UBS Text Project (p. 437) gives "under me" an "A" rating (very high probability). If this is the correct text, then option #1 above is the correct phrase.

144:3 Notice the synonymous parallelism.

1. "man" - Adam (BDB 9)

2. "son of man" - "ben enosh" (BDB 60)

In the parallel in Psalm 8 the Hebrew words for "man" are reversed, but the intent is the same. These terms are speaking of a human person. See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE SON OF MAN (from Dan. 7:13).

▣ "take knowledge" This is the Hebrew verb "know" (BDB 393, KB 390, Qal imperfect with waw). See Special Topic: Know.

144:4 This verse highlights the finitude of mankind (cf. Job 8:9; 14:2; Ps. 39:5-6; 102:11; 109:23; Eccl. 6:12; 8:12) and although not specifically stated, the eternality of YHWH is highlighted.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 144:5-8
 5Bow Your heavens, O Lord, and come down;
 Touch the mountains, that they may smoke.
 6Flash forth lightning and scatter them;
 Send out Your arrows and confuse them.
 7Stretch forth Your hand from on high;
 Rescue me and deliver me out of great waters,
 Out of the hand of aliens
 8Whose mouths speak deceit,
 And whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood.

144:5-8 This strophe is a series of prayer requests. It is surprising in light of Ps. 144:1-4. The psalmist asserts YHWH's power and presence in the first strophe but pleads for His deliverance in this one.

Note the imperatives and imperfects used in an imperatival sense.

1. bow, Ps. 144:5 (lit. "bend") - BDB 639, KB 692, Hiphil imperative

2. come down, Ps. 144:5 - BDB 432, KB 434, Qal imperfect but used as imperatival prayer request

3. touch, Ps. 144:5 - BDB 619, KB 668, Qal imperative, cf. Ps. 104:32

4. flash forth, Ps. 144:6 - BDB 140, KB 162, Qal imperative

5. scatter (i.e., arrows on alien invaders), Ps. 144:6 - BDB 806, KB 918, Hiphil imperfect used as imperatival prayer request

6. send out, Ps. 144:6 - BDB 1018, KB 1511, Qal imperative

7. confuse, Ps. 144:6 - BDB 243, KB 251, Qal imperfect used as imperatival prayer request

8. stretch forth, Ps. 144:7 - same as #6

9. rescue (lit. "open," cf. Ps. 144:11), Ps. 144:7 - BDB 822, KB 953, Qal imperative

10. deliver me, Ps. 144:7 - BDB 664, KB 717, Hiphil imperative

 

144:5-7 These verses use "Holy War" imagery to request YHWH' presence and power in battle. He will either

1. train and empower the Israeli soldiers (Ps. 144:1)

2. fight on Israel's behalf as in the conquest of Canaan under Joshua (Ps. 144:6)

 

144:6

NASB"confuse them"
NKJV"destroy them"
NRSV, NJB"rout them"
TEV"send them running"
LXX"throw them into disarray"

There are two possible Hebrew roots.

1. המם, BDB 243, KB 251, "rout," cf. 2 Sam. 22:15; Ps. 18:14

2. הום, KB 242, confuse," this one has "Holy War" connotation, cf. Jos. 10:10; Jdgs. 4:15; 1 Sam. 7:10; 2 Chr. 15:6

 

144:7 Notice "great waters" is parallel to "the hand of aliens." The imagery is from

1. chaos of creation, cf. Job 41:1-11; Ps. 74:12-17; Isa. 51:9-10; see Special Topic: Waters

2. invasion, cf. Ps. 18:16-17; Isa. 17:12-14; 28:2; Jer. 51:34

3. death, cf. Ps. 18:4-6

 

144:8 The aliens (BDB 648) are characterized as those who lie. One's words reveal one's heart. This seems to refer to international treaties or possibly court testimony under oath (cf. Gen. 14:22; Deut. 32:40; Ps. 106:26; Isa. 44:20). YHWH is true to His word (cf. Ps. 144:2a), but pagans and some Israelites are not! See Special Topic: Human Speech.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 144:9-11
 9I will sing a new song to You, O God;
 Upon a harp of ten strings I will sing praises to You,
 10Who gives salvation to kings,
 Who rescues David His servant from the evil sword.
 11Rescue me and deliver me out of the hand of aliens,
 Whose mouth speaks deceit
 And whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood.

144:9-11 This strophe has three emphases.

1. what the psalmist promises to do

a. I will sing a new song to God, Ps. 144:9a - BDB 1010, KB 1479, Qal cohortative

b. I will sing praises to God, Ps. 144:9b - BDB 274, KB 273, Piel cohortative

2. YHWH ‘s past acts of deliverance

a. He delivered Israel's Kings, Ps. 144:10a

b. He delivered David, Ps. 144:10b (probably kings of David's line)

3. the psalmist's prayer is based on YHWH's previous acts

a. rescue me, Ps. 144:11a - BDB 822, KB 963, Qal imperative

b. deliver me, Ps. 144:11a - BDB 664, KB 717, Hiphil imperative

Notice the parallel between Ps. 144:7-8 and 144:11.

144:10 "from the evil sword" This is an unusual characterization. Several translations put the phrase in the next line of poetry (i.e., NRSV, TEV, NJB). Other translations have

1. REB - "the cruel sword"

2. JPSOA - "the deadly sword"

3. KJV, Peshitta - "the hurtful sword"

4. AB - "the sword of the Evil One"

5. NAB - "the menacing sword"

In context it seems to relate to the "aliens" (Ps. 144:7c, 11a). The Aramaic Targums (translation with comments) interpreted it as "from the evil sword of Goliath" (UBS Handbook, p. 1159).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 144:12-15
 12Let our sons in their youth be as grown-up plants,
 And our daughters as corner pillars fashioned as for a palace;
 13Let our garners be full, furnishing every kind of produce,
 And our flocks bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our fields;
 14Let our cattle bear
 Without mishap and without loss,
 Let there be no outcry in our streets!
 15How blessed are the people who are so situated;
 How blessed are the people whose God is the Lord!

144:12-14 This strophe is characterized by seven participles (1) used as jussives (2) statements of fact.

1. young sons as grown up plants, Ps. 144:12a - BDB 152, KB 178, Pual

2. young daughters as fashioned (lit. "hewn") pillars, Ps. 144:12b - BDB 310, KB 306, Pual

3. garners producing, Ps. 144:13a - BDB 807, KB 920, Hiphil

4. flocks bringing forth thousands, Ps. 144:13b - BDB 48 II, KB 59, Hiphil (found only here)

5. flocks bringing forth ten thousands, Ps. 144:13b - BDB 912, KB 1174, Pual

6. cattle bear (lit. be heavy with young), Ps. 144:14a - BDB 687, KB 741, Pual

7. going out (i.e., "bearing" ) with no problems, Ps. 144:14b - BDB 422, KB 425, Qal

8. there is an implied participle in Ps. 144:14c - NASB has "let," which matches Ps. 144:12-14b, "let there be no outcry in our streets"

These are all blessings of covenant obedience (cf. Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 27-30). Notice the covenant blessing of Ps. 144:15. NASB translates both Ps. 144:1 and 15 as "blessed," but they are different Hebrew words.

1. Ps. 144:1 - BDB 138

2. Ps. 144:15 - BDB 80

The term "happy" or "blessed" (BDB 80, cf. Ps. 1:1) is recurrent and describes why they are blessed (cf. Ps. 32:1-2; 34:8; 40:4; 84:5,12; 94:12; 127:5; Pro. 3:13; 8:34; 28:14). It is also used of corporate blessings (cf. Ps. 33:12; 89:15; 144:15).

144:12 The term "plants" (BDB 642) occurs only here but it is very close to the normal root for "plant."

1. plant (here) - נטיע

2. plant - נטע, used often

 

▣ "corner pillars" This is also a rare term, found only here and in Zech. 9:15.

144:13 "garner" This term (BDB 265, KB 565) is also found only here in the OT (cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 2, p. 909). Most translations have "barns."

144:14 There are two ways to view this verse.

1. It goes with Ps. 144:13b and relates to healthy, fruitful livestock (NIDOTTE, vol. 2, p. 498).

2. It goes with Ps. 144:14b,c and relates to a prayer for no breach in the city wall, which would allow an invader entrance.

The UBS Handbook (p. 1161) asserts there is no way from the text or context to know which option is best.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk n the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. How is this Psalm related to Psalm 18?

2. How do Ps. 144:3 and 4 relate to Ps. 144:1 and 2?

3. How does Ps. 144:5-7 relate to "Holy War"?

4. To what or whom does "great waters" in Ps. 144:7 refer?

5. Why does the MT introduction not fit Ps. 144:10?

6. Are Ps. 144:12-14 prayers or statements?