Psalm 144:5-8

5. O Jehovah! bow thy heavens,1 and descend: 2 touch the mountains, and they shall smoke. 6. Thunder forth thunderings, and scatter them; 3 shoot out thine arrows, and destroy them. 7. Send thy hand from above, rid me and deliver me out of great waters, from the hand of the sons of the stranger. 8. For their mouth hath spoken falsehood; and their right hand is a right hand of deceit.


5. O Jehovah! bow thy heavens. After extolling, as was due, the great goodness of God, he requests him to furnish such help for the preservation of the kingdom as was necessary in the present exigency. As formerly we saw that he had gloried in God with a heroical courage, so here he makes use of the same lofty terms in his prayers, That he would bow the heavens -- that he would make the mountains to smoke -- disturb the air with thunderings -- and shoot forth arrows; forms of speech by which, doubtless, he would put away from him all the obstacles which stand between us and a believing apprehension of the omnipotence of God, and from which we find it so difficult to emerge. He employs almost the same phraseology in the eighteenth Psalm, but it is in praising God for help already extended, and to signify that he had been preserved from above in a wonderful and unusual manner. For although such signs as he mentions might not always occur when God interposed in his behalf, he had good ground to celebrate what had happened to him of an unexpected kind, by reference to extraordinary phenomena. In the passage before us his purpose is different. Threatened by destruction of various kinds, which might overwhelm his mind with despair, he would realize the wonderful power of God, before which all obstacles of a worldly kind must necessarily give way. We may be certain at least that he indulged in this figurative phraseology for a good reason, that he might not confine deliverance to human remedies; for nothing could be more preposterous at such a time than to measure divine power by ordinary rules.

7. Send thy hand, etc. In one word we are now made to see what was meant by the figures formerly used -- that in the absence of all earthly help, God would put forth his hand from above, the greatness of the exigency making extraordinary help necessary. Accordingly he compares his enemies to great and deep waters. He calls them strangers, not in respect of generic origin, but character and disposition. It were a mistake to refer the term to the uncircumcision, for David rather animadverts upon degenerate Jews who gloried in the flesh; and shortly afterwards he hints that he had to do with internal foes rather than a foreign enemy, who would openly assault him with violence and arms. By the right hand of falsehood some understand rash attempts, which David hoped would be frustrated. Others limit the phrase to the solemn ceremony of taking an oath, as if he said they were perjured;4 while others explain it as meaning that they not only lied with the tongue, but executed wicked devices with the hand.5 But as it was customary in making promises to join hands, as Solomon says, (Proverbs 11:21; Proverbs 16:5,) I have no doubt David's reference here is to false, treacherous, and perfidious persons. The two things go naturally together in the verse -- the lying tongue and the deceitful hand, meaning upon the matter that nothing was to be looked for from any of their promises, since it was only to deceive that they flattered with their mouth and gave the hand.

1 "Bow thy heavens. This expression is derived from the appearance of the clouds during a tempest: they hang low, so as to obscure the hills and mountains, and seem to mingle heaven and earth together. Such an appearance is figuratively used to depict the coming of God, to execute vengeance upon the enemies of his people. See Psalm 18:10, and other instances." -- Walford.

2 The verbs in this and the two following verses are in the imperative mood, whereas in the corresponding passages in the eighteenth Psalm they are in the past tense. This difference is best accounted for by supposing, with Calvin, that these verses are the language of prayer, uttered by David in a time of threatened danger from the enemies of his kingdom and people; whilst those of the eighteenth Psalm were spoken after some signal deliverance or deliverances had been vouchsafed.

3 "Scatter them. The antecedent of 'them' is 'peoples' in verse second." -- Walford.

4 "In taking an oath the right hand was lifted up. The enemies of David profaned their oaths by violating the covenants into which they entered, and breaking their solemn engagements." -- Walford.

5 "The meaning is, the hands with which they confirm their treaties of peace and leagues of friendship are immediately lifted up against the lives and liberties of their allies." -- Warner.


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