Psalm 44#sn Psalm 44. The speakers in this psalm (the worshiping community within the nation Israel) were disappointed with God. The psalm begins on a positive note, praising God for leading Israel to past military victories. Verses 1-8 appear to be a song of confidence and petition which the people recited prior to battle. But suddenly the mood changes as the nation laments a recent defeat. The stark contrast between the present and the past only heightens the nation’s confusion. Israel trusted in God for victory, but the Lord rejected them and allowed them to be humiliated in battle. If Israel had been unfaithful to God, their defeat would make sense, but the nation was loyal to the Lord. Comparing the Lord to a careless shepherd, the nation urges God to wake up and to extend his compassion to his suffering people.
For the music director; by the Korahites, a well-written song.#tn The meaning of the Hebrew term מַשְׂכִּיל (maskil) is uncertain. See the note on the phrase “well-written song” in the superscription of Ps 42.
1 O God, we have clearly heard;#tn Heb “with our ears we have heard.”
our ancestors#tn Heb “fathers” (also in v. 2; the same Hebrew word may be translated either “fathers” or “ancestors” depending on the context. have told us
what you did#tn Heb “the work you worked.” in their days,
in ancient times.#tn Heb “in the days of old.” This refers specifically to the days of Joshua, during Israel’s conquest of the land, as vv. 2-3 indicate.
2 You, by your power,#tn Heb “you, your hand.” defeated nations and settled our fathers on their land;#tn Heb “dispossessed nations and planted them.” The third masculine plural pronoun “them” refers to the fathers (v. 1). See Ps 80:8, 15.
you crushed#tn The verb form in the Hebrew text is a Hiphil preterite (without vav [ו] consecutive) from רָעַע (ra’a’, “be evil; be bad”). If retained it apparently means, “you injured; harmed.” Some prefer to derive the verb from רָעַע (“break”; cf. NEB “breaking up the peoples”), in which case the form must be revocalized as Qal (since this verb is unattested in the Hiphil). the people living there#tn Or “peoples.” and enabled our ancestors to occupy it.#tn Heb “and you sent them out.” The translation assumes that the third masculine plural pronoun “them” refers to the fathers (v. 1), as in the preceding parallel line. See Ps 80:11, where Israel, likened to a vine, “spreads out” its tendrils to the west and east. Another option is to take the “peoples” as the referent of the pronoun and translate, “and you sent them away,” though this does not provide as tight a parallel with the corresponding line.
3 For they did not conquer#tn Or “take possession of.” the land by their swords,
and they did not prevail by their strength,#tn Heb “and their arm did not save them.” The “arm” here symbolizes military strength.
but rather by your power,#tn Heb “your right hand.” The Lord’s “right hand” here symbolizes his power to protect and deliver (see Pss 17:7; 20:6; 21:8). strength#tn Heb “your arm.” and good favor,#tn Heb “light of your face.” The idiom “light of your face” probably refers to a smile (see Eccl 8:1), which in turn suggests favor and blessing (see Num 6:25; Pss 4:6; 31:16; 67:1; 80:3, 7, 19; 89:15; Dan 9:17).
for you were partial to#tn Or “favorable toward.” them.
4 You are my#sn The speaker changes here to an individual, perhaps the worship leader or the king. The oscillation between singular (vv. 4, 6) and plural (vv. 1-3, 5, 7-8) in vv. 1-8 may reflect an antiphonal ceremony. king, O God!
Decree#tc The LXX assumes a participle here (מְצַוֶּה [mÿtsavveh], “the one who commands/decrees”) which would stand in apposition to “my God.” It is possible that the MT, which has the imperative (צַוֵּה, tsavveh) form, has suffered haplography of the letter mem (ם). Note that the preceding word (אֱלֹהִים, ’elohim) ends in mem. Another option is that the MT is divided in the wrong place; perhaps one could move the final mem from אֱלֹהִים to the beginning of the next word and read מְצַוֶּה אֱלֹהָי (’elohay mÿtsavveh, “[You are my king,] my God, the one who decrees”).tn Or “command.” This may be the Israelites’ petition prior to the battle. See the introductory note to the psalm. Jacob’s#tn That is, Israel. See Pss 14:7; 22:23. deliverance!
5 By your power#tn Heb “by you.” we will drive back#tn Heb “gore” (like an ox). If this portion of the psalm contains the song of confidence/petition the Israelites recited prior to battle, then the imperfects here and in the next line may express their expectation of victory. Another option is that the imperfects function in an emphatic generalizing manner. In this case one might translate, “you [always] drive back…you [always] trample down.”sn The Hebrew verb translated “drive back” is literally “gore”; the imagery is that of a powerful wild ox that “gores” its enemies and tramples them underfoot. our enemies;
by your strength#tn Heb “in your name.” The Lord’s “name” refers here to his revealed character or personal presence. Specifically in this context his ability to deliver, protect, and energize for battle is in view (see Ps 54:1). we will trample down#sn The image of the powerful wild ox continues; see the note on the phrase “drive back” in the preceding line. our foes!#tn Heb “those who rise up [against] us.”
6 For I do not trust in my bow,
and I do not prevail by my sword.
7 For you deliver#tn Or “have delivered,” if past successes are in view. Another option is to take the perfect as rhetorical, emphasizing that victory is certain (note the use of the imperfect in vv. 5-6). us from our enemies;
you humiliate#tn Or “have humiliated,” if past successes are in view. Another option is to take the perfect as rhetorical, emphasizing that victory is certain (note the use of the imperfect in vv. 5-6). those who hate us.
8 In God I boast all day long,
and we will continually give thanks to your name. (Selah)
9 But#tn The particle אַף (’af, “but”) is used here as a strong adversative contrasting the following statement with what precedes. you rejected and embarrassed us!
You did not go into battle with our armies.#tn Heb “you did not go out with our armies.” The prefixed verbal form is a preterite (without vav [ו] consecutive).
10 You made us retreat#tn Heb “you caused us to turn backward.” from the enemy.
Those who hate us take whatever they want from us.#tn Heb “plunder for themselves.” The prepositional phrase לָמוֹ (lamo, “for themselves”) here has the nuance “at their will” or “as they please” (see Ps 80:6).
11 You handed us#tn The prefixed verbal form is a preterite (without vav [ו] consecutive). over like sheep to be eaten;
you scattered us among the nations.
12 You sold#tn The prefixed verbal form is a preterite (without vav [ו] consecutive). your people for a pittance;#tn Heb “for what is not wealth.”
you did not ask a high price for them.#tn Heb “you did not multiply their purchase prices.”
13 You made us#tn The prefixed verbal form is a preterite (without vav [ו] consecutive). an object of disdain to our neighbors;
those who live on our borders taunt and insult us.#tn Heb “an [object of] taunting and [of] mockery to those around us.”
14 You made us#tn The prefixed verbal form is a preterite (without vav [ו] consecutive). an object of ridicule#tn Heb “a proverb,” or “[the subject of] a mocking song.” among the nations;
foreigners treat us with contempt.#tn Heb “a shaking of the head among the peoples.” Shaking the head was a derisive gesture (see Jer 18:16; Lam 2:15).
15 All day long I feel humiliated#tn Heb “all the day my humiliation [is] in front of me.”
and am overwhelmed with shame,#tn Heb “and the shame of my face covers me.”
16 before the vindictive enemy
who ridicules and insults me.#tn Heb “from the voice of one who ridicules and insults, from the face of an enemy and an avenger.” See Ps 8:2.
17 All this has happened to us, even though we have not rejected you#tn Heb “we have not forgotten you.” To “forget” God refers here to worshiping false gods and thereby refusing to recognize his sovereignty (see v. 20, as well as Deut 8:19; Judg 3:7; 1 Sam 12:9; Isa 17:10; Jer 3:21; Ps 9:17).Thus the translation “we have not rejected you” has been used.
or violated your covenant with us.#tn Heb “and we did not deal falsely with your covenant.”
18 We have not been unfaithful,#tn Heb “our heart did not turn backward.” Cf. Ps 78:57.
nor have we disobeyed your commands.#tn Heb “and our steps did [not] turn aside from your path.” The negative particle is understood by ellipsis (see the preceding line). God’s “path” refers to his commands, i.e., the moral pathway he has prescribed for the psalmist. See Pss 17:5; 25:4.
19 Yet you have battered us, leaving us a heap of ruins overrun by wild dogs;#tn Heb “yet you have battered us in a place of jackals.”
you have covered us with darkness.#tn The Hebrew term צַלְמָוֶת (tsalmavet) has traditionally been understood as a compound noun meaning “shadow of death” (צֵל + מָוֶת [mavet + tsel]; see BDB 853 s.v. צַלְמָוֶת; cf. NASB). Other scholars prefer to vocalize the form צַלְמוּת (tsalmut) and understand it as an abstract noun (from the root צלם) meaning “darkness” (cf. NIV, NRSV). An examination of the word’s usage favors the latter derivation. It is frequently associated with darkness/night and contrasted with light/morning (see Job 3:5; 10:21-22; 12:22; 24:17; 28:3; 34:22; Ps 107:10, 14; Isa 9:1; Jer 13:16; Amos 5:8). In some cases the darkness described is associated with the realm of death (Job 10:21-22; 38:17), but this is a metaphorical application of the word and does not reflect its inherent meaning. In Ps 44:19 darkness symbolizes defeat and humiliation.
20 If we had rejected our God,#tn Heb “If we had forgotten the name of our God.” To “forget the name” here refers to rejecting the Lord’s authority (see Jer 23:27) and abandoning him as an object of prayer and worship (see the next line).
and spread out our hands in prayer to another god,#tn Heb “and spread out your hands to another god.” Spreading out the hands was a prayer gesture (see Exod 9:29, 33; 1 Kgs 8:22, 38; 2 Chr 6:12-13, 29; Ezra 9:15; Job 11:13; Isa 1:15). In its most fundamental sense זר (“another; foreign; strange”) refers to something that is outside one’s circle, often making association with it inappropriate. A “strange” god is an alien deity, an “outside god” (see L. A. Snijders, TDOT 4:54-55).
21 would not God discover it,
for he knows#tn The active participle describes what is characteristically true. one’s thoughts?#tn Heb “would not God search out this, for he knows the hidden things of [the] heart?” The expression “search out” is used metonymically here, referring to discovery, the intended effect of a search. The “heart” (i.e., mind) is here viewed as the seat of one’s thoughts. The rhetorical question expects the answer, “Of course he would!” The point seems to be this: There is no way the Israelites who are the speakers in the psalm would reject God and turn to another god, for the omniscient God would easily discover such a sin.
22 Yet because of you#tn The statement “because of you” (1) may simply indicate that God is the cause of the Israelites’ defeat (see vv. 9-14, where the nation’s situation is attributed directly to God’s activity, and cf. NEB, NRSV), or (2) it may suggest they suffer because of their allegiance to God (see Ps 69:7 and Jer 15:15). In this case one should translate, “for your sake” (cf. NASB, NIV). The citation of this verse in Rom 8:36 follows the LXX (Ps 43:23 LXX), where the Greek term ἕνεκεν (Jeneken; LXX ἕνεκα) may likewise mean “because of” or “for the sake of” (BDAG 334 s.v. ἕνεκα 1). we are killed all day long;
we are treated like#tn Or “regarded as.” sheep at the slaughtering block.#tn Heb “like sheep of slaughtering,” that is, sheep destined for slaughter.
23 Rouse yourself! Why do you sleep, O Lord?
Wake up!#sn Wake up! See Ps 35:23. Do not reject us forever!
24 Why do you look the other way,#tn Heb “Why do you hide your face?” The idiom “hide the face” can mean “ignore” (see Pss 10:11; 13:1; 51:9) or carry the stronger idea of “reject” (see Pss 30:7; 88:14).
and ignore#tn Or “forget.” the way we are oppressed and mistreated?#tn Heb “our oppression and our affliction.”
25 For we lie in the dirt,
with our bellies pressed to the ground.#tn Heb “for our being/life sinks down to the dirt, our belly clings to the earth.” The suffixed form of נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh, “being, life”) is often equivalent to a pronoun in poetic texts.
26 Rise up and help us!
Rescue us#tn Or “redeem us.” See Pss 25:22; 26:11; 69:18; 119:134. because of your loyal love!