Psalm 144:14
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.
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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). Psalm 144:14With reference to the relation of this passage to the preceding, vid., the introduction. אשׁר (it is uncertain whether this is a word belonging originally to this piece or one added by the person who appended it as a sort of clasp or rivet) signifies here quoniam, as in Judges 9:17; Jeremiah 16:13, and frequently. lxx ὢν οἱ υίοὶ (אשׁר בניהם); so that the temporal prosperity of the enemies is pictured here, and in Psalm 144:15 the spiritual possession of Israel is contrasted with it. The union becomes satisfactorily close in connection with this reading, but the reference of the description, so designedly set forth, to the enemies is improbable. In Psalm 144:12-14 we hear a language that is altogether peculiar, without any assignable earlier model. Instead of נטעים we read נטעים elsewhere; "in their youth" belongs to "our sons." מזוינוּ, our garners or treasuries, from a singular מזו or מזוּ (apparently from a verb מזה, but contracted out of מזוה), is a hapaxlegomenon; the older language has the words אסם, אוצר, ממּגוּרה instead of it. In like manner זן, genus (vid., Ewald, Lehrbuch, S. 380), is a later word (found besides only in 2 Chronicles 16:14, where וּזנים signifies et varia quidem, Syriac zenonoje, or directly spices from species); the older language has miyn for this word. Instead of אלּוּפים, kine, which signifies "princes" in the older language, the older language says אלפים in Psalm 8:8. The plena scriptio צאוננוּ, in which the Waw is even inaccurate, corresponds to the later period; and to this corresponds שׁ equals אשׁר in Psalm 144:15, cf. on the other hand Psalm 33:12. Also מסבּלים, laden equals bearing, like the Latin forda from ferre (cf. מעבּר in Job 21:10), is not found elsewhere. צאן is (contrary to Genesis 30:39) treated as a feminine collective, and אלּוּף (cf. שׁור in Job 21:10) as a nomen epicaenum. Contrary to the usage of the word, Maurer, Kצster, Von Lengerke, and F׬rst render it: our princes are set up (after Ezra 6:3); also, after the mention of animals of the fold upon the meadows out-of-doors, one does not expect the mention of princes, but of horned cattle that are to be found in the stalls.

זוית elsewhere signifies a corner, and here, according to the prevailing view, the corner-pillars; so that the elegant slender daughters are likened to tastefully sculptured Caryatides - not to sculptured projections (Luther). For (1) זוית does not signify a projection, but a corner, an angle, Arabic Arab. zâwyt, zâwia (in the terminology of the stone-mason the square-stone equals אבן פּנּהּ, in the terminology of the carpenter the square), from Arab. zwâ, abdere (cf. e.g., the proverb: fı̂'l zawâjâ chabâjâ, in the corners are treasures). (2) The upstanding pillar is better adapted to the comparison than the overhanging projection. But that other prevailing interpretation is also doubtful. The architecture of Syria and Palestine - the ancient, so far as it can be known to us from its remains, and the new - exhibits nothing in connection with which one would be led to think of "corner-pillars." Nor is there any trace of that signification to be found in the Semitic זוית. On the other hand, the corners of large rooms in the houses of persons of position are ornamented with carved work even in the present day, and since this ornamentation is variegated, it may be asked whether מחתּבות does here signify "sculptured," and not rather "striped in colours, variegated," which we prefer, since חטב (cogn. חצב) signifies nothing more than to hew firewood;

(Note: In every instance where חטב (cogn. חצב) occurs, frequently side by side with שׁאב מים (to draw water), it signifies to hew wood for kindling; wherefore in Arabic, in which the verb has been lost, Arab. ḥaṭab signifies firewood (in distinction from Arab. chšb, wood for building, timber), and not merely this, but fuel in the widest sense, e.g., in villages where wood is scarce, cow-dung (vid., Job, at Job 20:6-11, note), and the hemp-stalk, or stalk of the maize, in the desert the Arab. b‛rt, i.e., camel-dung (which blazes up with a blue flame), and the perennial steppe-plant or its root. In relation to Arab. ḥaṭab, aḥṭb signifies lopped, pruned, robbed of its branches (of a tree), and Arab. ḥrb ḥâtb a pruning war, which devastates a country, just as the wood-gathering women of a settlement (styled Arab. 'l-ḥâťbât or 'l-ȟwâṭt) with their small hatchet (Arab. miḥṭab) lay a district covered with tall plants bare in a few days. In the villages of the Merg' the little girls who collect the dry cow-dung upon the pastures are called Arab. bnât ḥâṭbât, בּנות הטבות. - Wetzstein.)

and on the other side, the signification of the Arabic chaṭiba, to be striped, many-coloured (IV to become green-striped, of the coloquintida), is also secured to the verb חטב side by side with that signification by Proverbs 7:16. It is therefore to be rendered: our daughters are as corners adorned in varied colours after the architecture of palaces.

(Note: Corners with variegated carved work are found even in the present day in Damascus in every reception-room (the so-called Arab. qâ‛t) or respectable houses cf. Lane, Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians, Introduction). An architectural ornament composed with much good taste and laborious art out of wood carvings, and glittering with gold and brilliant colours, covers the upper part of the corners, of which a ḳâ‛a may have as many as sixteen, since three wings frequently abut upon the bêt el-baḥǎra, i.e., the square with its marble basin. This decoration, which has a most pleasing effect to the eye, is a great advantage to saloons from two to three storeys high, and is evidently designed to get rid of the darker corners above on the ceiling, comes down from the ceiling in the corners of the room for the length of six to nine feet, gradually becoming narrower as it descends. It is the broadest above, so that it there also covers the ends of the horizontal corners formed by the walls and the ceiling. If this crowning of the corners, the technical designation of which, if I remember rightly, is Arab. 'l-qrnyt, ḳornı̂a, might be said to go back into Biblical antiquity, the Psalmist would have used it as a simile to mark the beauty, gorgeous dress, and rich adornment of women. Perhaps, too, because they are not only modest and chaste (cf. Arabic mesturât, a veiled woman, in opposition to memshushât, one shone on by the sun), but also, like the children of respectable families, hidden from the eyes of strangers; for the Arabic proverb quoted above says, "treasures are hidden in the corners," and the superscription of a letter addressed to a lady of position runs: "May it kiss the hand of the protected lady and of the hidden jewel." - Wetzstein.)

The words האליף, to bring forth by thousands, and מרבּב (denominative from רבבה), which surpasses it, multiplied by tens of thousands, are freely formed. Concerning חוּצות, meadows, vid., on Job 18:17. פּרץ, in a martial sense a defeat, clades, e.g., in Judges 21:15, is here any violent misfortune whatever, as murrain, which causes a breach, and יוצאת any head of cattle which goes off by a single misfortune. The lamentation in the streets is intended as in Jeremiah 14:2. שׁכּכה is also found in Sol 5:9; nor does the poet, however, hesitate to blend this שׁ with the tetragrammaton into one word. The Jod is not dageshed (cf. Psalm 123:2), because it is to be read שׁאדני, cf. מיהוה equals מאדני in Genesis 18:14. Luther takes Psalm 144:15 and Psalm 144:15 as contrasts: Blessed is the people that is in such a case, But blessed is the people whose God is the Lord. There is, however, no antithesis intended, but only an exceeding of the first declaration by the second. For to be allowed to call the God from whom every blessing comes his God, is still infinitely more than the richest abundance of material blessing. The pinnacle of Israel's good fortune consists in being, by the election of grace, the people of the Lord (Psalm 33:12).

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