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Psalms 44

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)

44:9 But 28  you rejected and embarrassed us!

You did not go into battle with our armies. 29 

44:10 You made us retreat 30  from the enemy.

Those who hate us take whatever they want from us. 31 

44:11 You handed us 32  over like sheep to be eaten;

you scattered us among the nations.

44:12 You sold 33  your people for a pittance; 34 

you did not ask a high price for them. 35 

44:13 You made us 36  an object of disdain to our neighbors;

those who live on our borders taunt and insult us. 37 

44:14 You made us 38  an object of ridicule 39  among the nations;

foreigners treat us with contempt. 40 

44:15 All day long I feel humiliated 41 

and am overwhelmed with shame, 42 

44:16 before the vindictive enemy

who ridicules and insults me. 43 

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

or violated your covenant with us. 45 

44:18 We have not been unfaithful, 46 

nor have we disobeyed your commands. 47 

44:19 Yet you have battered us, leaving us a heap of ruins overrun by wild dogs; 48 

you have covered us with darkness. 49 

44:20 If we had rejected our God, 50 

and spread out our hands in prayer to another god, 51 

44:21 would not God discover it,

for he knows 52  one’s thoughts? 53 

44:22 Yet because of you 54  we are killed all day long;

we are treated like 55  sheep at the slaughtering block. 56 

44:23 Rouse yourself! Why do you sleep, O Lord?

Wake up! 57  Do not reject us forever!

44:24 Why do you look the other way, 58 

and ignore 59  the way we are oppressed and mistreated? 60 

44:25 For we lie in the dirt,

with our bellies pressed to the ground. 61 

44:26 Rise up and help us!

Rescue us 62  because of your loyal love!

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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).

28 tn The particle אַף (’af, “but”) is used here as a strong adversative contrasting the following statement with what precedes.

29 tn Heb “you did not go out with our armies.” The prefixed verbal form is a preterite (without vav [ו] consecutive).

30 tn Heb “you caused us to turn backward.”

31 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).

32 tn The prefixed verbal form is a preterite (without vav [ו] consecutive).

33 tn The prefixed verbal form is a preterite (without vav [ו] consecutive).

34 tn Heb “for what is not wealth.”

35 tn Heb “you did not multiply their purchase prices.”

36 tn The prefixed verbal form is a preterite (without vav [ו] consecutive).

37 tn Heb “an [object of] taunting and [of] mockery to those around us.”

38 tn The prefixed verbal form is a preterite (without vav [ו] consecutive).

39 tn Heb “a proverb,” or “[the subject of] a mocking song.”

40 tn Heb “a shaking of the head among the peoples.” Shaking the head was a derisive gesture (see Jer 18:16; Lam 2:15).

41 tn Heb “all the day my humiliation [is] in front of me.”

42 tn Heb “and the shame of my face covers me.”

43 tn Heb “from the voice of one who ridicules and insults, from the face of an enemy and an avenger.” See Ps 8:2.

44 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.

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

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

47 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.

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

49 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.

50 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).

51 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).

52 tn The active participle describes what is characteristically true.

53 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.

54 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).

55 tn Or “regarded as.”

56 tn Heb “like sheep of slaughtering,” that is, sheep destined for slaughter.

57 sn Wake up! See Ps 35:23.

58 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).

59 tn Or “forget.”

60 tn Heb “our oppression and our affliction.”

61 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.

62 tn Or “redeem us.” See Pss 25:22; 26:11; 69:18; 119:134.

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