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Psalms 44:1-8

Context
Psalm 44 1 

For the music director; by the Korahites, a well-written song. 2 

44:1 O God, we have clearly heard; 3 

our ancestors 4  have told us

what you did 5  in their days,

in ancient times. 6 

44:2 You, by your power, 7  defeated nations and settled our fathers on their land; 8 

you crushed 9  the people living there 10  and enabled our ancestors to occupy it. 11 

44:3 For they did not conquer 12  the land by their swords,

and they did not prevail by their strength, 13 

but rather by your power, 14  strength 15  and good favor, 16 

for you were partial to 17  them.

44:4 You are my 18  king, O God!

Decree 19  Jacob’s 20  deliverance!

44:5 By your power 21  we will drive back 22  our enemies;

by your strength 23  we will trample down 24  our foes! 25 

44:6 For I do not trust in my bow,

and I do not prevail by my sword.

44:7 For you deliver 26  us from our enemies;

you humiliate 27  those who hate us.

44:8 In God I boast all day long,

and we will continually give thanks to your name. (Selah)

1 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.

2 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.

3 tn Heb “with our ears we have heard.”

4 tn Heb “fathers” (also in v. 2; the same Hebrew word may be translated either “fathers” or “ancestors” depending on the context.

5 tn Heb “the work you worked.”

6 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.

7 tn Heb “you, your hand.”

8 tn Heb “dispossessed nations and planted them.” The third masculine plural pronoun “them” refers to the fathers (v. 1). See Ps 80:8, 15.

9 tn The verb form in the Hebrew text is a Hiphil preterite (without vav [ו] consecutive) from רָעַע (raa’, “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).

10 tn Or “peoples.”

11 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.

12 tn Or “take possession of.”

13 tn Heb “and their arm did not save them.” The “arm” here symbolizes military strength.

14 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).

15 tn Heb “your arm.”

16 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).

17 tn Or “favorable toward.”

18 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.

19 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.

20 tn That is, Israel. See Pss 14:7; 22:23.

21 tn Heb “by you.”

22 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.

23 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).

24 sn The image of the powerful wild ox continues; see the note on the phrase “drive back” in the preceding line.

25 tn Heb “those who rise up [against] us.”

26 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).

27 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).



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