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Psalms 44:17-21

Context

44:17 All this has happened to us, even though we have not rejected you 1 

or violated your covenant with us. 2 

44:18 We have not been unfaithful, 3 

nor have we disobeyed your commands. 4 

44:19 Yet you have battered us, leaving us a heap of ruins overrun by wild dogs; 5 

you have covered us with darkness. 6 

44:20 If we had rejected our God, 7 

and spread out our hands in prayer to another god, 8 

44:21 would not God discover it,

for he knows 9  one’s thoughts? 10 

1 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.

2 tn Heb “and we did not deal falsely with your covenant.”

3 tn Heb “our heart did not turn backward.” Cf. Ps 78:57.

4 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.

5 tn Heb “yet you have battered us in a place of jackals.”

6 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.

7 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).

8 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).

9 tn The active participle describes what is characteristically true.

10 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.



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