Psalm 144:12
That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(12) That our sons.—This rendering of the relative, which so strangely begins this fragment, would be possible after Genesis 11:7; Genesis 13:16, &c, if a finite verb instead of participles followed; or it might mean “because,” as in Genesis 30:18, &c, but for the same anomalous construction; or it might, as by the LXX., be rendered whose, if any antecedent for it could be discovered. But all these devices are plainly impossible, and there is nothing for it but to treat the passage which it introduces as a fragment of another poem quite unconnected with the previous part of the psalm. Render, we whose.

As plants.—The Hebrew word seems always to denote a young, vigorous tree lately planted. (See especially Job 14:9, aptly translated by the LXX. νεόϕυτον. (For the comparison, comp. Isaiah 5:7; Psalm 1:3, Note, Psalm 128:3.)

Grown up in their youth.—The form here used is peculiar, but in another conjugation the verb is frequently used of bringing up children (see 2Kings 10:6; Isaiah 1:2; Isaiah 23:4, &c.). as it is of the rain nourishing young plants (Isaiah 44:14). Here the poet must mean grown tall beyond their age, or the figure is somewhat tame. A suggestion to read, “reproductive in their youth,” i.e., though young themselves, bringing up families, improves the poetry, and suits well the intention of this fragment of song and the general feeling of the Hebrew race. Comp. especially Psalm 127:4, “sons of youth” (Burgess).

Corner stones.—The word only occurs once besides, in Zechariah 9:15, where it is used of the corners of the altar. The derivation is from a root meaning to conceal, as is also the word rendered garners, in the next verse. Aquila and Symmachus, “angles.”

Polished.—The Hebrew word means to hew, used, with one exception, of wood for fuel, but is cognate with a word used of stones, and in Isaiah 51:1 in the passive participle of a cave hewn in a rock. The exception is Proverbs 7:16, where the word is applied to tapestry.

After the similitude of a palace—i.e., like a large and stately building. There seems no reason to confine the reference to the Temple, as the LXX. and Vulg. do, though the absence of the article is not insuperably against this (Isaiah 44:28).

The explanations usually given of this passage make the resemblance to be either to caryatides carved at the angles of a palace, or to carved or variegated wood pillars in the corners of a spacious room. For the former there seems to be no authority in Scripture or known Hebrew usage. The latter has the support of Dr. J. G. Wetzstein, but seems far-fetched. It is far more according to Hebrew feeling to render the words simply, like hewn angles, the building of a palace; an image suggestive, like that of “the wall” in Song of Solomon 8:9 (see Note), of unassailable chastity and virtue. Perhaps the phrase “women of strength or of a strong fortification,” in Ruth 3:11, may imply the same figure. Grätz alters to “daughters of a palace.”

144:9-15 Fresh favours call for fresh returns of thanks; we must praise God for the mercies we hope for by his promise, as well as those we have received by his providence. To be saved from the hurtful sword, or from wasting sickness, without deliverance from the dominion of sin and the wrath to come, is but a small advantage. The public prosperity David desired for his people, is stated. It adds much to the comfort and happiness of parents in this world, to see their children likely to do well. To see them as plants, not as weeds, not as thorns; to see them as plants growing, not withered and blasted; to see them likely to bring forth fruit unto God in their day; to see them in their youth growing strong in the Spirit. Plenty is to be desired, that we may be thankful to God, generous to our friends, and charitable to the poor; otherwise, what profit is it to have our garners full? Also, uninterrupted peace. War brings abundance of mischiefs, whether it be to attack others or to defend ourselves. And in proportion as we do not adhere to the worship and service of God, we cease to be a happy people. The subjects of the Saviour, the Son of David, share the blessings of his authority and victories, and are happy because they have the Lord for their God.That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth - That our sons - not called forth to the hardships of the tent and the field, the perils and the exposures of war - may grow up under the culture of home, of the family, in quiet scenes, as plants carefully cultivated and flourishing. Compare Psalm 128:3. The Hebrew here is, "grown large in their youth;" not "grown up," which has a paradoxical appearance. The meaning is, that they may be stout, strong, vigorous, well-formed, even in early life; that they may not be stunted in their growth, but be of full and manly proportions.

That our daughters may be as cornerstones - The word used here - זויות zâvı̂yôth - occurs only in the plural form, and means properly "corners" - from a verb meaning to hide away, to conceal. The word is used respecting the corners of an altar, Zechariah 9:15; and seems here to refer to the corner columns of a palace or temple: perhaps, as Gesenius (Lexicon) supposes, in allusion to the columns representing female figures so common in Egyptian architecture.

Polished - Margin, "cut." The idea is not that of "polishing" or "smoothing," but of cutting or sculpturing. It is the stone carefully cut as an ornament.

After the similitude of a palace - A more literal translation would be, "The likeness or model of a temple;" or, for the building of a temple. That is, that they may be such as may be properly compared with the ornamental columns of a temple or palace. The comparison is a very beautiful one, having the idea of grace, symmetry, fair proportions: that on which the skill of the sculptor is most abundantly lavished.

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.

12 That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished alter the similitude of a palace'

13 That our garners may be full, affording all manner of store, that our sheep may bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our streets'

14 That our oxen may be strong to labour; that there be no breaking in, nor going out; that there be no complaining in our streets.

15 Happy is that people, that is in such a case, yea, happy is that people, whose God is the Lord.

Riddance from the wicked and the gracious presence of the Lord are sought with a special eye to the peace and prosperity which will follow thereupon. The sparing of David's life would mean the peace and happiness of a whole nation. We can scarcely judge how much of happiness may hang upon the Lord's favour to one man.

Psalm 144:12

God's blessing works wonders for a people. "That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth." Our sons are of first importance to the state, since men take a leading part in its affairs; and what the young men are the older men will be. He desires that they may be like strong, well rooted, young trees, which promise great things. If they do not grow in their youth, when will they grow? If in their opening manhood they are dwarfed, they will never get over it. O the joys which we may have through our sons! And, on the other hand, what misery they may cause us! Plants may grow crooked, or in some other way disappoint the planter, and so may our sons. But when we see them developed in holiness, what joy we have of them! "That our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace." We desire a blessing for our whole family, daughters as well as sons. For the girls to be left out of the circle of blessing would be unhappy indeed. Daughters unite families as corner stones join walls together, and at the same time they adorn them as polished stones garnish the structure into which they are builded. Home becomes a palace when the daughters are maids of honour, and the sons are nobles in spirit; then the father is a king, and the mother a queen, and royal residences are more than outdone. A city built up of such dwellings is a city of palaces, and a state composed of such cities is a republic of princes.

Psalm 144:13

"That our garners may be full, affording all manner of store." A household must exercise thrift and forethought: it must have its granary as well as its nursery. Husbands should husband their resources; and should not only furnish their tables but fill their garners. Where there are happy households there must needs be plentiful provision for them, for famine brings misery even where love abounds. It is well when there is plenty, and that plenty consists of "all manner of store." We have occasionally heard murmurs concerning the abundance of grain, and the cheapness of the poor man's loaf. A novel calamity! We dare not pray against it. David would have prayed for it, and blessed the Lord when he saw his heart's desire. When all the fruits of the earth are plentiful, the fruits of our lips should be joyful worship and thanksgiving. Plenteous and varied may our products be, that every form of want may be readily supplied. "That our sheep mall bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our streets," or rather in the open places, the fields, and sheep-walks where lambs should be born. A teeming increase is here described. Adam tilled the ground to fill the garner, but Abel kept sheep, and watched the lambs. Each occupation needs the divine blessing. The second man who was born into this world was a shepherd, and that trade has ever held an important part in the economy of nations. Food and clothing come from the flock, and both are of first consideration.

Psalm 144:14

"That our oxen may be strong to labour;" so that the ploughing and cartage of the farm may be duly performed, and the husbandman's work may be accomplished without unduly taxing the cattle, or working them cruelly. "That there be no breaking in, nor going out;" no irruption of marauders, and no forced emigration; no burglaries and no evictions. "That there be no complaining in our streets;" no secret dissatisfaction, no public riot; no fainting of poverty, no clamour for rights denied, nor concerning wrongs unredressed. The state of things here pictured is very delightful: all is peaceful and prosperous; the throne is occupied efficiently, and even the beasts in their stalls are the better for it. This has been the condition of our own country, and if it should now be changed, who can wonder? for our ingratitude well deserves to be deprived of blessings which it has despised.

These verses may with a little accommodation be applied to a prosperous church, where the converts are growing and beautiful, the gospel stores abundant, and the spiritual increase most cheering. There ministers and workers are in full vigour, and the people are happy and united. The Lord make it so in all our churches evermore.

Psalm 144:15

"Happy is that people, that is in such a case." Such things are not to be overlooked. Temporal blessings are not trifles, for the miss of them would be a dire calamity. It is a great happiness to belong to a people so highly favoured. "Yea, happy is that people, whose God is the Lord." This comes in as an explanation of their prosperity. Under the Old Testament Israel had present earthly rewards for obedience; when Jehovah was their God they were a nation enriched and flourishing. This sentence is also a sort of correction of all that had gone before; as if the poet would say - all these temporal gifts are a part of happiness, but still the heart and soul of happiness lies in the people being right with God, and having a full possession of him. Those who worship the happy God become a happy people. Then if we have not temporal mercies literally we have something better, if we have not the silver of earth we have the gold of heaven, which is better still.

continued...

This mercy I beg, not only for my own sake, but for the sake of thy people, that thine and our enemies being subdued, and peace established in the land, thy people may enjoy those blessings which thou hast promised to them; and particularly,

that our sons, which are the strength, and safety, and hopes of a nation, may be like plants, flourishing and thriving, and growing in height and strength, as plants do in their youth, and they only; for when they grow old, they wither and decay.

Our daughters; upon whom the hope of posterity depends.

As corner-stones, polished after the similitude of palace; strong and beautiful, and adorned with all the ornaments belonging to their sex. That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth,.... The Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, Ethiopic, Syriac, and Arabic versions, read, "whose sons are as plants", &c. as if this and what follows were a description of the families, estates, substance, and outward happiness of wicked men, the enemies of David, the strange children he desired to be delivered from, agreeably to Job 21:7; and if the word "saying", or "who say", be supplied, as by some (o), and connected with "that our sons are", &c. they may express the vain boastings of these men, and explain what is meant by the vanity their mouth spake; as well as furnish out another reason for the repetition of the above requests, namely, for the sake of introducing those vain boasts to which the happiness of good men is opposed, who have an interest in God as their God, Psalm 144:15; but we with other versions take them to be a petition of the psalmist; that as he would deliver him personally out of the hands of his enemies, so he would bless his subjects with all prosperity and happiness in their families and estates; like a good prince concerned for the real welfare of his people, and wishes that their sons might be as plants, young, tender, well nursed, and taken care of, that were healthful, thriving, flourishing, and promising much fruit; so they might he of healthful constitutions, well educated in all useful knowledge, natural and religious, and grow both in wisdom and stature, and appear to be of promising parts for usefulness in the church and state; and especially that they might be the plants of the Lord, pleasant ones to him, and profitable to others; be planted in Christ, and in his house, and grow in grace and in the knowledge of him, and grow up to him their bead in all things. The Targum is,

"that our sons may be as plants of the dactyles (or palm trees, Psalm 92:12), nourished up in the doctrine of the law from their youth;''

see Psalm 128:3;

that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace; or "temple"; tall, beautiful, and in good proportion; children have their name in Hebrew from a word which signifies to "build" (p), because by them families are built up, Ruth 4:11; and by marriage divers families are connected together, so that they are as corner stones to them; thus Plautus (q) speaks of children as a building, and parents as the fabricators of them; laying the foundation of them, raising them up and polishing them, and sparing no cost to make them useful to the commonwealth: or "as corner pillars" (r), which support the house and continue in it; so they guide the house, take care of the affairs of it, and be keepers at home, 1 Timothy 5:14; and like such as are in temples or in kings' palaces, finely graved and beautifully polished, be adorned with grace and good works, particularly with modesty, meekness, and humility, 1 Thessalonians 2:9; and grow up into an holy temple in the Lord, being parts of the spiritual building, and being laid on the foundation, of which Jesus Christ is the corner stone. The Targum is,

"our daughters splendid and fit for the priests that minister in the midst of the temple.''

The Syriac version,

"their daughters as spouses adorned like temples.''

(o) So Schmidt. (p) "aedificavit, unde" & "filii et filiae". (q) Mostellaria, Acts 1. Sc. 2.((r) "sicut angulares lapides, aut columnae", Michaelis.

{k} That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace:

(k) He desires God to continue his benefits toward his people, counting the procreation of children and their good education among the chiefest of God's benefits.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
12. That our sons may be like plants well grown in their youth] Cp. Psalm 128:3. Plant denotes a freshly planted sapling sending up its young shoots, LXX νεόφυτα, cp. Job 14:9. Vergil uses a similar comparison (Aen. ix. 674), “Abietibus iuvenes patriis et montibus aequos.”

The word for well-grown, which may be used either of children (Isaiah 1:2, nourished) or of trees (Isaiah 44:14), is to be connected with plants; in their youth belongs to sons.

our daughters … like corner pillars sculptured in the fashion of a palace] The exact meaning is uncertain. If this rendering is right, it is natural to think of the Caryatides, the graceful female figures so commonly employed as columns in Greek architecture. ‘Tall and stately’ would be the ideas suggested by the comparison. But, as Delitzsch points out, the architecture of Syria and Palestine has never employed Caryatides either in ancient or modern times. On the other hand the corners of the large rooms in the houses of wealthy Orientals are commonly ornamented with carved work richly coloured and gilded. He would render like richly coloured corners, and supposes that the comparison refers to the bright dresses and rich ornaments worn by the women. Cp. 2 Samuel 1:24. This explanation is however less natural.

12–15. A description of the prosperity of Israel under the protection and blessing of Jehovah. Cp. generally Deuteronomy 28:2 ff; Deuteronomy 30:9.

The absolute dependence of the earlier verses upon existing Psalms makes it probable that these verses also are borrowed, though the poem from which they were taken is not preserved; and the absence of a clear grammatical connexion with the preceding verses makes this probability almost a certainty.

What the compiler intended the connexion to be (for considering the general character of the Psalm we need not doubt that he appended them himself) is much disputed.

(1) The LXX (followed of course by the Vulg.) changes the pronouns to the third person, and makes Psalm 144:12-14 describe the temporal prosperity of the enemies of Israel referred to in Psalm 144:11. “Whose mouth hath spoken vanity … whose sons are as young plants &c.” Psalm 144:15 then describes the contrast between this temporal happiness and the true spiritual happiness which Israel possesses. ‘Men call the people happy who have these things; (but truly) happy is the people whose God is the Lord.’ This however can only be regarded as a conjectural alteration, and not as the true reading.

(2) It is possible to render, We whose sons, or (R.V.) When our sons &c., and to take Psalm 144:15 as the apodosis, but such a lengthy protasis as the whole of Psalm 144:12-14 is awkward.

(3) The A.V., which follows Aq., Symm. and Jer., may give the right meaning. The goal to which the Psalmist looks forward as the end of deliverance from enemies is the happiness and prosperity of the nation. No doubt the construction is harsh, but it may be explained by the supposition that the Psalmist borrowed the description in Psalm 144:12-14, and tacked it loosely on to the rest of his poem by the particle of relation or conjunction asher, without altering the construction of the passage to suit it.Verse 12. - That our sons may be as plants. The stanza which these words introduce is a very remarkable one, having nothing at all corresponding to it in the rest of the Psalter. It has been thought by some to be an antique document, quoted by the writer of the psalm, as suited for a festal occasion. Our translation makes it a picture of the condition to which the writer hopes that Israel may one day come; but the best recent critics see in it a description of Israel's actual condition in the writer's day. Professor Cheyne translates, "Because our sons are as plants;" and Dr. Kay, "What time our sons are as plants." Grown up in their youth; literally, grown large. The sons are compared to ornamental trees or shrubs, growing outside a building. That our daughters may be as cornerstones, polished (or, "carved") after the similitude of a palace. The daughters are like carved pillars, lighting up the angular recesses of the structure. The deeds of God which Psalm 18 celebrates are here made an object of prayer. We see from Psalm 18:10 that ותרד, Psalm 144:5, has Jahve and not the heavens as its subject; and from Psalm 18:15 that the suffix em in Psalm 144:6 is meant in both instances to be referred to the enemies. The enemies are called sons of a foreign country, i.e., barbarians, as in Psalm 18:45. The fact that Jahve stretches forth His hand out of the heavens and rescues David out of great waters, is taken verbatim from Psalm 18:17; and the poet has added the interpretation to the figure here. On Psalm 144:8 cf. Psalm 12:3; Psalm 41:7. The combination of words "right hand of falsehood" is the same as in Psalm 109:2. But our poet, although so great an imitator, has, however, much also that is peculiar to himself. The verb בּרק, "to send forth lightning;" the verb פּצה in the Aramaeo-Arabic signification "to tear out of, rescue," which in David always only signifies "to tear open, open wide" (one's mouth), Psalm 22:14; Psalm 66:14; and the combination "the right hand of falsehood" (like "the tongue of falsehood" in Psalm 109:2), i.e., the hand raised for a false oath, are only found here. The figure of Omnipotence, "He toucheth the mountains and they smoke," is, as in Psalm 104:32, taken from the mountains that smoked at the giving of the Law, Exodus 19:18; Exodus 20:15. The mountains, as in Psalm 68:17 (cf. Psalm 76:5), point to the worldly powers. God only needs to touch these as with the tip of His finger, and the inward fire, which will consume them, at once makes itself known by the smoke, which ascends from them. The prayer for victory is followed by a vow of thanksgiving for that which is to be bestowed.
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