Psalm 144:14
That our oxen may be strong to labor; that there be no breaking in, nor going out; that there be no complaining in our streets.
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(14) This verse is full of obscurities. The words rendered “oxen, strong to labour,” can hardly bear this meaning with the present pointing, since the participle is passive, and there is no authority for rendering oxen bearing burdens. The words have been rendered oxen laden, either with the produce of the land, or with their own fat (so apparently the LXX.), or with young, pregnant—all open to the objection that the passive of to bear must mean “to be borne,” and the latter to the further objection that the words are in the masculine. But since allûphîm elsewhere means “heads of families” (Jeremiah 13:21, &c) or “princes,” and the noun cognate with the verb is used of a post connected with the revenue (1Kings 11:28; comp. the connection between the Greek ϕορός and ϕέρτερος), the participle passive may easily here mean “honoured,” or “high in office.” Or, from the use of the cognate Chaldee form in Ezra 6:3, “strongly laid,” we might render, our princes firmly established; and this is the best explanation of the passage.

No breaking in.—Heb., a “breach,” i.e., in the town walls. LXX. and Vulg., “no falling of the fence.” Others refer to the folds for cattle. (See Psalm 60:2.) Ewald, however, connecting closely with the mention of “pregnant oxen,” renders no abortion. So Syriac: “Our cattle are great (with young), and there is not a barren one among them.”

Nor going outi.e., either to war, or into captivity (Prayer Book version), or the breaking out of cattle. The first is the more probable.

Complaining.—Rather, outcry, cry of sorrow, as in Jeremiah 14:2; or possibly, cry of battle.

Streets.—Better, squares.

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 oxen may be strong to labour - Margin, "able to bear burdens;" or, "laden with flesh." The Hebrew is simply loaded or laden: that is, with a burden; or, with flesh; or, as Gesenius renders it, with young. The latter idea would best suit the connection - that of cattle producing abundantly or multiplying.

That there be no breaking in, nor going out - No breaking in of other cattle into enclosed grounds, and no escape of those which are shut up for pasture. That property may be safe everywhere. The image is that of security, peace, order, prosperity.

That there be no complaining in our streets - literally, "outcry; clamor." That the land may be at peace; that order and law may be observed; that the rights of all may be respected; that among neighbors there may be no strifes and contentions.


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.

To labour, Heb. laden, either with flesh and fat, as many understand it; or, as others, with young: but then the foregoing word is not to be rendered

oxen, but cows, as the same word and in the same masculine gender is used Deu 7:13. And so this agrees best with the former prayer for the sheep, Psalm 144:13, and he wisheth the same blessing of fruitfulness both for greater and smaller cattle.

No breaking in, to wit, of enemies invading the land, or assaulting our cities, and making breaches in their walls.

Nor going out, to wit, of our people; either out of the towns and cities, to fight with an invading enemy; or out of the land into captivity.

No complaining; or, no outcry, or howling, for any sad tidings, or public grievances or calamities. That our oxen may be strong to labour,.... To draw carriages, to plough with, and to tread out the corn: or "may be burdened" (w); fit to carry burdens; or burdened with flesh, be plump and fat, and in good condition to work; or burdened with young, as some (x) understand it, and then it must be meant of cows, as the word is used, Deuteronomy 7:13; and so here an increase of kine is wished for, as of sheep before. Ministers of the word are compared to oxen for their patience in suffering, and their laboriousness in working, 1 Corinthians 9:9, 1 Timothy 5:17; and happy is it for the churches of Christ when their ministers are laborious ones; are strong to labour, and do labour, in the word and doctrine; stand fast in the faith, and quit themselves like men, and are strong;

that there be no breaking in: of the enemy into the land to invade it, into cities and houses to plunder and spoil them;

nor going out: of the city to meet the enemy and fight with him, peace and not war is desirable; or no going out of one's nation into captivity into a foreign country, as Kimchi; or no breaking in to folds and herds, and leading out and driving away cattle, to the loss of the owners thereof. Some (y) understand both these of abortion, of any violent rupture of the womb, and an immature birth;

that there be no complaining in our streets; on account of famine, pestilence, the sword, violence, and oppression; or no crying (z), no mournful cry or howling and shrieking on account of the enemy being at hand, and just ready to enter in, or being there, killing, plundering, and spoiling.

(w) "onusti", Pagninus, Montanus, Gejerus; "onerarii", so some in Vatablus; "onerati", Schmidt; "loden", Ainsworth, (x) So Bochart. Hierozoic. par. 1. l. 2. c. 295. (y) lbid. (z) "clamor", Pagninus, Montanus, Tigurine version, Musculus, Cocceius, Gejerus, Michaelis.

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

(m) He attributes not only the great conveniences, but even the least also to God's favour.

14. our oxen … strong to labour] Both words are of uncertain meaning. (1) Most commentators follow the Ancient Versions in regarding the word allûphîm here as a variant form for alâphîm, ‘oxen’ or ‘cattle.’ Oxen, it is thought, are naturally mentioned after sheep. The participle m’subbâlîm is variously explained. As it is passive in form it can hardly mean capable of bearing burdens, strong to labour (A.V.); and as it is masculine, it can hardly mean laden with young, pregnant. It is not a natural expression fox fat and strong, as the LXX, Aq., Symm. and Jerome render it, i.e. loaded with flesh. Most probably it means well laden (R.V.) with the produce of the fields which they draw home in carts.

(2) Allûphîm however may mean chieftains (cp. Zechariah 12:5-6), and in Ezra 6:3 the verb in Aramaic appears to mean set up or firmly established. In such a late Psalm it is quite possible that the word might be used in the sense it bears in Aramaic (cp. the word for rescue in Psalm 144:7), and the meaning our chieftains firmly established suits the context very well. It is of course to be connected with the remainder of the verse, and not with Psalm 144:13. If the leaders of the community are strong and their authority well established, the community will be in less danger of attacks from without.

no breaking in] No hostile invasion of the country: or, no breach in the city walls by which the enemy may enter (Nehemiah 6:1).

nor going out] No going forth to surrender to the enemy (Amos 4:3; 2 Kings 24:11), or into captivity (Jeremiah 29:16): or no sallying forth to repel an attacking force.

no complaining in our streets] No outcry of citizens surprised by the enemy, or generally, no cry of mourning for disaster (Jeremiah 14:2; Jeremiah 46:12), in our broad places (Jeremiah 5:1), the open space inside the city gates, which was the usual place of concourse for the citizens, where justice was administered, and business transacted.Verse 14. - That our oxen may be strong to labor; rather, and our oxen are heavily laden. A sign that an abundant harvest is being gathered in. That there be no breaking in, nor going out; literally, and there is no breach and no removal; i.e. no breach made in our walls, and no removal of our population into captivity. That there be no complaining in our streets; rather, and no wailing in our streets. Here the description of a happy time ends, and a burst of congratulation follows (see the next verse). 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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