Psalm 144:1
Blessed be the LORD my strength which teaches my hands to war, and my fingers to fight:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(1) Strength.—Rather, rock. Comp. Psalm 18:2; Psalm 18:46. LXX. and Vulg., “my God.”

Which teacheth.—See Psalm 18:34. More literally,

“Who traineth my hands for war,

My fingers for fight.”

Psalm 144:1-2. Blessed be the Lord my strength — On whom I rely, and from whom I have power to withstand and subdue my enemies, and to perform the duties of my place and station; who teacheth my hands to war, &c. — Who gives me that skill in military affairs, and that dexterity in the management of my weapons, which is much above my education and former course of life; my goodness — Or, my mercy, or the God of my mercy, as God is called, Psalm 59:10; Psalm 59:17. He who is exceedingly good or merciful to me, as goodness itself; who subdueth the people under me — Who disposes my people’s hearts to receive and obey me as their king. “What David here acknowledges, with regard to his victories, and that skill or might by which they were obtained, should be likewise acknowledged by all earthly kings and generals in the day of battle and conquest.”144:1-8 When men become eminent for things as to which they have had few advantages, they should be more deeply sensible that God has been their Teacher. Happy those to whom the Lord gives that noblest victory, conquest and dominion over their own spirits. A prayer for further mercy is fitly begun with a thanksgiving for former mercy. There was a special power of God, inclining the people of Israel to be subject to David; it was typical of the bringing souls into subjection to the Lord Jesus. Man's days have little substance, considering how many thoughts and cares of a never-dying soul are employed about a poor dying body. Man's life is as a shadow that passes away. In their highest earthly exaltation, believers will recollect how mean, sinful, and vile they are in themselves; thus they will be preserved from self-importance and presumption. God's time to help his people is, when they are sinking, and all other helps fail.Blessed be the Lord my strength - Margin, as in Hebrew, "my rock." See the notes at Psalm 18:46, where the same expression occurs in the Hebrew.

Which teacheth my hands to war - Hebrew, "To the war." See the notes at Psalm 18:34. The Hebrew is not precisely alike, but the sense is the same.

And my fingers to fight - Hebrew, my fingers to the fight. That is, he teaches my fingers so that I can skillfully use them in battle. Probably the immediate reference here is to the use of the bow - placing the arrow, and drawing the string.

PSALM 144

Ps 144:1-15. David's praise of God as his all-sufficient help is enhanced by a recognition of the intrinsic worthlessness of man. Confidently imploring God's interposition against his enemies, he breaks forth into praise and joyful anticipations of the prosperity of his kingdom, when freed from vain and wicked men.

1 Blessed be the Lord my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to right;

2 My goodness, and my fortress; my high tower, and my deliverer; my shield, and he in whom I trust; who subdueth my people under me.

Psalm 144:1

"Blessed be the Lord my strength." He cannot delay the utterance of his gratitude, he bursts at once into a loud note of praise. His best word is given to his best friend - "Blessed be Jehovah." When the heart is in a right state it must praise God, it cannot be restrained; its utterances leap forth as waters forcing their way from a living spring. With all his strength David blesses the God of his strength. We ought not to receive so great a boon as strength to resist evil, to defend truth, and to conquer error, without knowing who gave it to us, and rendering to him the glory of it. Not only does Jehovah give strength to his saints, but he is their strength. The strength is made theirs because God is theirs. God is full of power, and he becomes the power of those who trust him. In him our great strength lieth, and to him be blessings more than we are able to utter. It may be read, "Mg Rock," but this hardly so well consorts with the following words, "Which teacheth my hands to war and my fingers to fight." The word rock is the Hebrew way of expressing strength, the grand old language is full of such suggestive symbols. The Psalmist in the second part of the verse sets forth the Lord as teacher in the arts of war. If we have strength we are not much the better unless we have skill also. Untrained force is often an injury to the man who possesses it, and it even becomes a danger to those who are round about him; and therefore the Psalmist blesses the Lord as much for teaching as for strength. Let us also bless Jehovah if he has in anything made us efficient. The tuition mentioned was very practical, it was not so much of the brain as of the hands and fingers; for these were the members most needful for conflict. Men with little scholastic education should be grateful for deftness and skill in their handicrafts. To a fighting man the education of the hands is of far more value than mere book-learning could ever be; he who has to use a sling or a bow needs suitable training, quite as much as a scientific man or a classical professor. Men are too apt to fancy that an artisan's efficiency is to be ascribed to himself; but this is a popular fallacy. A clergyman may be supposed to be taught of God, but people do not allow this to be true of weavers or workers in brass; yet these callings are specially mentioned in the Bible as having been taught to holy women and earnest men when the tabernacle was set up at the first. All wisdom and skill are from the Lord, and for them he deserves to be gratefully extolled. This teaching extends to the smallest members of our frame: the Lord teaches fingers as well as hands; indeed, it sometimes happens that if the finger is not well trained the whole hand is incapable.

David was called to be a man of war, and he was eminently successful in his battles; be does not trace this to his good generalship or valour, but to his being taught and strengthened for the war and the fight. If the Lord deigns to have a hand in such unspiritual work as fighting, surely he will help us to proclaim the gospel and win souls; and then we will bless his name with even greater intensity of heart. We will be pupils, and he shall be our Master, and if we ever accomplish anything we will give our instructor hearty blessing.

This verse is full of personality; it is mercy shown to David himself which is the subject of grateful song. It has also a presentness about it; for Jehovah is now his strength, and is still teaching him; we ought to make a point of presenting praise while yet the blessing is on the wing. The verse is also pre-eminently practical, and full of the actual life of every day; for David's days were spent in camps and conflicts. Some of us who are grievously tormented with rheumatism might cry, "Blessed be the Lord, my Comforter, who teacheth my knees to bear in patience, and my feet to endure in resignation"; others who are on the look out to help young converts might say, "Blessed be God who teaches my eyes to see wounded souls, and my lips to cheer them"; but David has his own peculiar help from God, and praises him accordingly. This tends to make the harmony of heaven perfect when all the singers take their parts; if we all followed the same score, the music would not be so full and rich.

Psalm 144:2

Now our royal poet multiplies metaphors to extol his God. "My goodness, and my fortress." The word for goodness signifies mercy. Whoever we may be, and wherever we may be, we need mercy such as can only be found in the infinite God. It is all of mercy that he is any of the other good things to us, so that this is a highly comprehensive title. O how truly has the Lord been mercy to many of us in a thousand ways! He is goodness itself, and he has been unbounded goodness to us. We have no goodness of our own, but the Lord has become goodness to us. So is he himself also our fortress and safe abode: in him we dwell as behind impregnable ramparts and immovable bastions. We cannot be driven out, or starved out; for our fortress is prepared for a siege; it is stored with abundance of food, and a well of living water is within it. Kings usually think much of their fenced cities, but King David relies upon his God, who is more to him than fortresses could have been. "My high tower, and my deliverer." As from a lofty watch-tower the believer, trusting in the Lord, looks down upon his enemies. They cannot reach him in his elevated position; he is out of bow-shot; he is beyond their scaling ladders; he dwells on high. Nor is this all; for Jehovah is our Deliverer as well as our Defender. These different figures set forth the varied benefits which come to us from our Lord. He is every good thing which we can need for this world or the next. He not only places us out of harm's way full often, but when we must be exposed, he comes to our rescue, he raises the siege, routs the foe, and sets us in joyous liberty. "My shield, and he in whom I trust." When the warrior rushes on his adversary, he bears his targe upon his arm, and thrusts death aside; thus doth the believer oppose the Lord to the blows of the enemy, and finds himself secure from harm. For this and a thousand other reasons our trust rests in our God for everything; he never fails us, and we feel boundless confidence in him. "Who subdueth my people under me." He keeps my natural subjects subject, and my conquered subjects peaceful under my sway. Men who rule others should thank God if they succeed in the task. Such strange creatures are human beings, that if a number of them are kept in peaceful association under the leadership of any one of the Lord's servants, he is bound to bless God every day for the wonderful fact. The victories of peace are as much worthy of joyful gratitude as the victories of war. Leaders in the Christian church cannot maintain their position except as the Lord preserves to them the mighty influence which ensures obedience and evokes enthusiastic loyalty. For every particle of influence for good which we may possess let us magnify the name of the Lord.

Thus has David blessed Jehovah for blessing him. How many times he has appropriated the Lord by that little word My! Each time he grasps the Lord, he adores and blesses him; for the one word Blessed runs through all the passage like a golden thread. He began by acknowledging that his strength for fighting foreign enemies was of the Lord, and he concluded by ascribing his domestic peace to the same source. All round as a king he saw himself to be surrounded by the King of kings, to whom he bowed in lowly homage, doing suit and service on bended knee, with grateful heart admitting that he owned everything to the Rock of his salvation. THE ARGUMENT

The matter of this Psalm is partly gratulatory for mercies received, and partly petitionary for further blessings. It seems to have been composed after Saul’s death, and in the beginning of David’s reign, when he was exposed to many perils, both from his own rebellions subjects, and from the Philistines and other foreign enemies, yet so that lie had a good prospect and assurance of a more complete and established felicity.

David, blesseth God for his mercy to him in his wars and government, confesseth his own and man’s nothingness, Psalm 144:1-4; prayeth that he would deliver him from his powerful enemies, Psalm 144:5-8, and promiseth to praise him, Psalm 144:9-11. The happiness of that kingdom whose God is the Lord, Psalm 144:12-15.

Who has given me that skill in military conduct, and that dexterity in the management of my weapons, which was wholly unsuitable to and much above my education and former course of life.

Blessed be the Lord my strength,.... The author and giver of his natural strength of body, and of the fortitude of his mind, and of all the spiritual strength he had, to exercise grace, to bear up under afflictions and trials, to perform duty, and withstand enemies. It may be applied to Christ, the antitype of David, the man of God's right hand, he has made strong for himself. It may be rendered, "my rock" (c); to whom the psalmist fled for shelter, when in distress and overwhelmed; and on whom he built his faith, and hope of eternal salvation, as well as depended on him for all supplies of grace and strength, and for help and succour in all times of need. The Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, Ethiopic, and Arabic versions, render it, "my God": and so the word "rock" is used for God, Deuteronomy 32:30;

which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight; he took him from being a shepherd, and made him a soldier; and from being the leader of a flock of sheep, to be a general of armies; and all his military skill in marshalling of troops, in leading them on to battle, and bringing them off as well as all his courage and success, were from the Lord: he whose hands and fingers had been used to the shepherd's crook, and to the handling of the harp and lyre, were taught how to handle the sword, the bow, the shield, and spear. God is a man of war himself; and he teaches the art of war, as he does husbandry and other things; see Exodus 15:3; and so the Lord furnishes his people, who are here in a militant state, with spiritual armour, to fight against their spiritual enemies; he teaches them how to put it on, and directs them how to make use of every piece of it; as well as gives them boldness to face their enemies, and victory over them.

(c) "rupes mea", Montanus, Tigurine version, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, &c. so Ainsworth.

<<A Psalm of David.>> Blessed be the LORD my strength, which {a} teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight:

(a) Who out of a poor shepherd has made a valiant warrior and mighty conqueror.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1. Blessed be Jehovah my rock] From Psalm 18:46.

which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight] An expansion of Psalm 18:34 a. Hands and fingers are a common parallelism, but possibly fingers may refer particularly to the use of the bow. Cp. Psalm 18:34 b.

1, 2. Praise of Jehovah the Giver of victory.Verse 1. - Blessed be the Lord my strength; or, "my rock" (comp. Psalm 18:2, 46; Psalm 31:3; Psalm 62:7, etc.). Which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight (comp. Psalm 18:34). In this second half the Psalm seems still more like a reproduction of the thoughts of earlier Psalms. The prayer, "answer me speedily, hide not Thy face from me," sounds like Psalm 69:18; Psalm 27:9, cf. Psalm 102:3. The expression of languishing longing, כּלתה רוּחי, is like Psalm 84:3. And the apodosis, "else I should become like those who go down into the pit," agrees word for word with Psalm 28:1, cf. Psalm 88:5. In connection with the words, "cause me to hear Thy loving-kindness in the early morning," one is reminded of the similar prayer of Moses in Psalm 90:14, and with the confirmatory "for in Thee do I trust" of Psalm 25:2, and frequently. With the prayer that the night of affliction may have an end with the next morning's dawn, and that God's helping loving-kindness may make itself felt by him, is joined the prayer that God would be pleased to grant him to know the way that he has to go in order to escape the destruction into which they are anxious to ensnare him. This last prayer has its type in Exodus 33:13, and in the Psalter in Psalm 25:4 (cf. Psalm 142:4); and its confirmation: for to Thee have I lifted up my soul, viz., in a craving after salvation and in the confidence of faith, has its type in Psalm 25:1; Psalm 86:4. But the words אליך כסּיתי, which are added to the petition "deliver me from mine enemies" (Psalm 59:2; Psalm 31:16), are peculiar, and in their expression without example. The Syriac version leaves them untranslated. The lxx renders: ὅτι πρὸς σὲ κατέφυγον, by which the defective mode of writing כסתי is indirectly attested, instead of which the translators read נסתי (cf. נוּס על in Isaiah 10:3); for elsewhere not חסה but נוּס is reproduced with καταφυγεῖν. The Targum renders it מימרך מנּתי לפריק, Thy Logos do I account as (my) Redeemer (i.e., regard it as such), as if the Hebrew words were to be rendered: upon Thee do I reckon or count, כסּיתי equals כּסתּי, Exodus 12:4. Luther closely follows the lxx: "to Thee have I fled for refuge." Jerome, however, inasmuch as he renders: ad te protectus sum, has pointed כסּיתי (כסּיתי). Hitzig (on the passage before us and Proverbs 7:20) reads כסתי from כּסא equals סכא, to look ("towards Thee do I look"). But the Hebrew contains no trace of that verb; the full moon is called כסא (כסה), not as being "a sight or vision, species," but from its covered orb.

The כסּתי before us only admits of two interpretations: (1) Ad (apud) te texi equals to Thee have I secretly confided it (Rashi, Aben-Ezra, Kimchi, Coccejus, J. H. Michaelis, J. D. Michalis, Rosenmller, Gesenius, and De Wette). But such a constructio praegnans, in connection with which כּסּה would veer round from the signification to veil (cf. כסה מן, Genesis 18:17) into its opposite, and the clause have the meaning of כּי אליך גּלּיתי, Jeremiah 11:20; Jeremiah 20:12, is hardly conceivable. (2) Ad (apud) te abscondidi, scil. me (Saadia, Calvin, Maurer, Ewald, and Hengstenberg), in favour of which we decide; for it is evident from Genesis 38:14; Deuteronomy 22:12, cf. Jonah 3:6, that כּסּה can express the act of covering as an act that is referred to the person himself who covers, and so can obtain a reflexive meaning. Therefore: towards Thee, with Thee have I made a hiding equals hidden myself, which according to the sense is equivalent to חסיתּי, as Hupfeld (with a few MSS) wishes to read; but Abulwald has already remarked that the same goal is reached with כסּתי. Jahve, with whom he hides himself, is alone able to make known to him what is right and beneficial in the position in which he finds himself, in which he is exposed to temporal and spiritual dangers, and is able to teach him to carry out the recognised will of God ("the will of God, good and well-pleasing and perfect," Romans 12:2); and this it is for which he prays to Him in Psalm 143:10 (רצונך; another reading, רצונך). For Jahve is indeed his God, who cannot leave him, who is assailed and tempted without and within, in error; may His good Spirit then (רוּחך טובה for הטּובה, Nehemiah 9:20)

(Note: Properly, "Thy Spirit, רוּח הטּובה, a spirit, the good one, although such irregularities may also be a negligent usage of the language, like the Arabic msjd 'l-jâm‛, the chief mosque, which many grammarians regard as a construct relationship, others as an ellipsis (inasmuch as they supply Arab. 'l-mkân between the words); the former is confirmed from the Hebrew, vid., Ewald, 287, a.))

lead him in a level country, for, as it is said in Isaiah, Isaiah 26:7, in looking up to Jahve, "the path which the righteous man takes is smoothness; Thou makest the course of the righteous smooth." The geographical term ארץ מישׁור, Deuteronomy 4:43; Jeremiah 48:21, is here applied spiritually. Here, too, reminiscences of Psalms already read meet us everywhere: cf. on "to do Thy will," Psalm 40:9; on "for Thou art my God," Psalm 40:6, and frequently; on "Thy good Spirit," Psalm 51:14; on "a level country," and the whole petition, Psalm 27:11 (where the expression is "a level path"), together with Psalm 5:9; Psalm 25:4., Psalm 31:4. And the Psalm also further unrolls itself in such now well-known thoughts of the Psalms: For Thy Name's sake, Jahve (Psalm 25:11), quicken me again (Psalm 71:20, and frequently); by virtue of Thy righteousness be pleased to bring my soul out of distress (Psalm 142:8; Psalm 25:17, and frequently); and by virtue of Thy loving-kindness cut off mine enemies (Psalm 54:7). As in Psalm 143:1 faithfulness and righteousness, here loving-kindness (mercy) and righteousness, are coupled together; and that so that mercy is not named beside towtsiy', nor righteousness beside תּצמית, but the reverse (vid., on Psalm 143:1). It is impossible that God should suffer him who has hidden himself in Him to die and perish, and should suffer his enemies on the other hand to triumph. Therefore the poet confirms the prayer for the cutting off (הצמית as in Psalm 94:23) of his enemies and the destruction (האביד, elsewhere אבּד) of the oppressors of his soul (elsewhere צררי) with the words: for I am Thy servant.

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