To the Chief Musician. A Contemplation of the sons of Korah.
1 We have heard with our ears, O God,
Our fathers have told us,
The deeds You did in their days,
In days of old:
2 You drove out the nations with Your hand,
But them You planted;
You afflicted the peoples, and cast them out.
3 For they did not gain possession of the land by their own sword,
Nor did their own arm save them;
But it was Your right hand, Your arm, and the light of Your countenance,
Because You favored them.
4 You are my King, O God;
Command victories for Jacob.
5 Through You we will push down our enemies;
Through Your name we will trample those who rise up against us.
6 For I will not trust in my bow,
Nor shall my sword save me.
7 But You have saved us from our enemies,
And have put to shame those who hated us.
8 In God we boast all day long,
And praise Your name forever. Selah
9 But You have cast us off and put us to shame,
And You do not go out with our armies.
10 You make us turn back from the enemy,
And those who hate us have taken spoil for themselves.
11 You have given us up like sheep intended for food,
And have scattered us among the nations.
12 You sell Your people for next to nothing,
And are not enriched by selling them.
13 You make us a reproach to our neighbors,
A scorn and a derision to those all around us.
14 You make us a byword among the nations,
A shaking of the head among the peoples.
15 My dishonor is continually before me,
And the shame of my face has covered me,
16 Because of the voice of him who reproaches and reviles,
Because of the enemy and the avenger.
17 All this has come upon us;
But we have not forgotten You,
Nor have we dealt falsely with Your covenant.
18 Our heart has not turned back,
Nor have our steps departed from Your way;
19 But You have severely broken us in the place of jackals,
And covered us with the shadow of death.
20 If we had forgotten the name of our God,
Or stretched out our hands to a foreign god,
21 Would not God search this out?
For He knows the secrets of the heart.
22 Yet for Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
23 Awake! Why do You sleep, O Lord?
Arise! Do not cast us off forever.
24 Why do You hide Your face,
And forget our affliction and our oppression?
25 For our soul is bowed down to the dust;
Our body clings to the ground.
26 Arise for our help,
And redeem us for Your mercies’ sake.
For the intro, see the previous post on Psalms 42 and 43.
our fathers have told us (v.1) — about the deliverance from Egypt, God’s care for the people in the wilderness and His “planting” them in Canaan. Exodus 12:26-27; Psalm 78:3
them You planted (v.2) — referring to the people of Israel
You afflicted the peoples (v.2) — referring to the Gentile inhabitants of the land
did not gain possession (v.3) — Deuteronomy 8:11-17; Joshua 24:12
You favored them (v.3) — The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the Lord loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt (Deuteronomy 7:7-8).
The interrelated notions of Israel’s relationship with and dependence on God is vividly emphasized in verse 3 by the piling up of biblically-theologically charged expressions — in the first half of the verse focusing on Israel’s inability “by their own sword … and their own arm” (i.e., by their military strength alone) to take possession of the land (recalling the phraseology of Joshua in Joshua 24:12), and in the second half of the verse focusing, by contrast, on God’s right hand and His arm (synonyms denoting His majestic and redemptive power; cf. Psalm 77:15; Exodus 15:6, 16; Isaiah 53:1), the light of His presence (signifying privileged position [i.e., relationship] as the recipient of God’s “enlightening” salvation and love), and His favor (i.e., God’s unconditional, love-motivated and merciful blessing) — Wechsler, page 125.
in God we boast (v.8) — Psalm 34:2; Jeremiah 9:24; Romans 2:17
You have cast us off (v.9) — This is intended not as a statement of actual fact (which would contradict a host of other biblical passages), but rather as a description of the psalmist’s feelings at that time, in the midst of Israel’s distressing situation. Wechsler, page 125-126.
cast us off (v.9) — Psalm 43:2; 60:1; 74:1; 89:38; 108:11
The scoffing and scorn and laughing in verses 13 and 14 is due to the supposed failure of Israel’s God to care for His people.
we have not forgotten You (v.17) — Unlike the circumstances in many psalms, the suffering here does not appear to be the result of sin. Wechsler suggests the context may be just before the nation was taken into captivity by Sennacherib. He also discusses whether the circumstances are due to chastisement for disobedience or testing for refinement.
jackals (v.19) — The Hebrew word can be translated jackal, whale, sea-monster or dragon.
Verse 22 is quoted in Romans 8:36. The same theme appears in Psalm 44:11.
why do You sleep (v.23) — Further affirmation that the psalmist’s reference in verse 9 to God “rejecting” His people is intended as a figure of speech, and not literally ,is evident in his use of the same phrase here in verse 23 in parallel to the clearly figurative expression “Why dost Thou sleep, O Lord?” — for, in point of fact, the Lord, who keeps Israel, “neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psalm 121:4; cf. also Isaiah 27:3). Whether the distress experienced by the psalmist and his people is intended as chastisement or refinement — or a mixture of both — their relationship with God is an existent reality, grounded not in the obedience (or lack thereof) of Israel, but in the Lord’s faithful love, or lovingkindness. Hence it is fundamentally for the sake of (i.e., to maintain the integrity of) the Lord’s lovingkindness, and not his or his people’s own comfort or reputation, that the psalmist makes his appeal. — Wechsler, page 127.
our soul is bowed down (v.25) — Psalm 119:25
As with so many of these psalms, some commentaries see the application in the sufferings of Israel during the Tribulation. I’m not certain if that is the primary intended application, but I an absolutely certain that the believing remnant during that time will use these psalms in that context.
We do not know the date when this psalm was written, but we know from the contents and from the setting in which it is located that it is a prophecy of the final experience of the faithful remnant of Israel before King Messiah will appear to deliver them and restore them as His earthly people to the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Like Job of old, the faithful remnant cry, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” Though they are looking ahead for approaching victory through the Messiah, their present state or circumstances are sill among their own ungodly nation, Israel, who reject God and the Messiah. God is no longer with the nation, as He was in the wilderness, and some of the time when they were in the land of promise. They are a reproach, a scorn and rejected. The remnant bewail themselves and their situation, but acknowledge they are of Israel, similar to that of Daniel when he was in Babylon (Daniel 9).
The deepest cry of the remnant arises from their deepest emotions for the Messiah to come to their rescue. The answer to their cry is found in the 45th Psalm. — Phillips, pages 113, 116, 119.