Psalm 144:3
LORD, what is man, that you take knowledge of him! or the son of man, that you make account of him!
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(3) See Psalm 8:4.

Psalm 144:3-4. Lord, what is man — He magnifies and illustrates God’s goodness to him, by the consideration of his own meanness. Though I am a king over my people, yet, alas, I am but a man, a base, sinful; and mortal creature; if compared with thee, less than nothing and vanity; that thou takest knowledge of him — That thou so much as takest notice, or makest any account of him, especially that thou hast any care over, or kindness for him; or the son of man, &c. — The same thing repeated in other words: see on Psalm 8:4; Job 7:17-18. Man — In his nature and continuance in the world; is like to vanity — Or, to a vapour, or a breath, as Isaiah 57:13, which is gone in an instant. His days are as a shadow that passeth away — That declineth, as Psalm 102:11; Psalm 109:23, (where see the notes,) or “that glides over the earth, vanishes, and is seen no more. Such was human nature; but the Son of God hath taken it upon himself, rendered it immortal, and exalted it to heaven; whither all will follow him hereafter who follow him now in the paths of righteousness and holiness. It is justly observed here by Dr. Horne, (as had been suggested by Dr. Hammond,) that, “if David, upon the remembrance of what God had done for him, could break forth into this reflection, much more may we do so, for whom the Redeemer hath been manifested in the form of a servant, and in that form hath humbled himself to the death of the cross, to gain the victory over principalities and powers, to put all things under our feet, and to make us partakers of his everlasting kingdom. Lord, what, indeed, is man, or what is the son of such a miserable creature, that thou shouldst take this knowledge, and make this account of him!”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.Lord, what is man, that thou takest knowledge of him? - The sentiment here is the same as in Psalm 8:4, though the language is not precisely the same. See the notes at that passage. The word rendered "that thou takest knowledge of him," means here to take notice of; to regard. The idea is, It is amazing that a being so insignificant as man should be an object of interest to God, or that One so great should pay any attention to him and to his affairs. In Psalm 8:4, the language is "that thou art mindful of him," that is, that thou dost remember him - that thou dost not altogether pass him over. In Psalm 8:1-9 the remark is made in view of the heavens as being so exalted in comparison with man, and the wonder is, that in view of worlds so vast occupying the divine attention, and needing the divine care, "man," so insignificant, does not pass out of his view altogether. Here the remark seems to be made in illustration of the idea that there is no strength in man; that he has no power to accomplish anything of himself; that he is entirely dependent on God.

Or the son of man - Man - any of the race. See the notes at Psalm 8:4.

That thou makest account of him! - Psalm 8:4, "that thou visitest him." See the notes at that passage. The word here means "that thou shouldest "think" of him," that he should ever come into thy thought at all.

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.

3 Lord, what is man, that thou takest knowledge of him! or the son of man, that thou makest account of him!

4 Man is like to vanity: his days are as a shadow that passeth away.

Psalm 144:3

"Lord what is man, that thou takest knowledge of him!" What a contrast between Jehovah and man! The Psalmist turns from the glorious all-sufficiency of God to the insignificance and nothingness of man. He sees Jehovah to be everything, and then cries, "Lord, what is man!" What is man in the presence of the Infinite God? What can he be compared to? He is too little to be described at all, only God, who knows the most minute object, can tell what man is. Certainly he is not fit to be the rock of our confidence, he is at once too feeble and too fickle to be relied upon. The Psalmist's wonder is that God should stoop to know him, and indeed it is more remarkable than if the greatest archangel should make a study of emmets, or become the friend of mites. God knows his people with a tender intimacy, a constant, careful observation: he foreknew them in love, he knows them by care, he will know them is acceptance at last. Why and wherefore is this? What has man done? What has he been? What is he now that God should know him, and make himself known to him as his goodness, fortress, and high tower? This is an unanswerable question. Infinite condescension can alone account for the Lord stooping to be the friend of man. That he should make man the subject of election, the object of redemption, the child of eternal love, the darling of infallible providence, the next of kin to Deity, is indeed a matter requiring more than the two notes of exclamation found in this verse.

"Or the son of man, that thou makest account of him!" The son of man is a weaker being still, - so the original word implies. He is not so much man as God made him, but man as his mother bore him; and how can the Lord think of him, and write down such a cipher in his accounts? The Lord thinks much of man, and in connection with redeeming love makes a great figure of him: this can be believed, but it cannot be explained. Adoring wonder makes us each one cry out, Why dost thou take knowledge of me? We know by experience how little man is to be reckoned upon, and we know by observation how greatly he can vaunt himself, it is therefore meet for us to be humble and to distrust ourselves; but all this should make us the more grateful to the Lord, who knows man better than we do, and yet communes with him, and even dwells in him. Every trace of the misanthrope should be hateful to the believer; for if God makes account of man it is not for us to despise our own kind.

Psalm 144:4

"Man is like to vanity." Adam is like to Abel. He is like that which is nothing at all. He is actually vain, and he resembles that unsubstantial empty thing which is nothing but a blown-up nothing, - a puff, a bubble. Yet he is not vanity, but only like it. He is not so substantial as that unreal thing; he is only the likeness of it. Lord, what is a man? It is wonderful that God should think of such a pretentious insignificance. "His days are as a shadow that passeth away." He is so short-lived that he scarcely attains to years, but exists by the day, like the ephemera, whose birth and death are both seen by the self-same sun. His life is only like to a shadow, which is in itself a vague resemblance absence of something rather than in itself an existence. Observe that human life is not only as a shade, but as a shade which is about to depart. It is a mere mirage, the image of a thing which is not, a phantasm which melts back into nothing. How is it that the Eternal should make so much of mortal man, who begins to die as soon as he begins to live?

The connection of the two verses before us with the rest of the Psalm is not far to seek, David trusts in God and finds him everything; he looks to man and sees him to be nothing; and then he wonders how it is that the great Lord can condescend to take notice of such a piece of folly and deceit as man.

Lord, what is man he aggravates God’s goodness to him, expressed Psalm 144:2, by the consideration of his own meanness. Though I am king over my people, yet, alas, I am but a man. a base, sinful, mortal, and miserable creature; if compared with thee, less than nothing and vanity.

Takest knowledge of him, i.e. hast any care and kindness for him, as words of knowledge commonly imply in Scripture.

Makest account of him; the same thing repeated in other words. Lord, what is man, that thou takest knowledge of him?.... Man, that is at most and best but a creature, made of the dust of the earth, is but dust and ashes; yea, a sinful creature, that drinks up iniquity like water: and yet the Lord not only knows him, as he is the omniscient God, but takes notice of him in a way of providence, and in a way of grace. His chosen people are no other nor better than others, of the same original, and of the same character; and yet he owns and acknowledges them as his peculiar people, and makes himself known unto them: and so it is rendered by the Septuagint version, "that thou shouldest be known unto him?" or, "appear to him?" as the Arabic; reveal thyself to him, not only by the light of nature and works of creation, but in Christ, and by the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him;

or the son of man, that thou makest account of him? as the Lord does, especially of some of the sons of men; whom he reckons as his portion and inheritance, his jewels and peculiar treasure, and who are as dear to him as the apple of his eye; whom he "magnifies", as in Job 7:17; makes them kings and priests; raises them from the dunghill, and sets them among princes, to inherit the throne of glory; on whom he sets his heart, and loves them with an everlasting love: or, "that thou shouldest think of him?" (g) thoughts of peace, and not of evil; so as to provide a Saviour for men, and send down the Spirit of his Son into their hearts to quicken them; so as to bless them with all spiritual blessings, and at last to glorify them. David no doubt had a special respect to himself; and wondered at the goodness of God to him, in taking him from a family of little or no account, from a mean employ, from a shepherd's cottage, and raising him to the throne of Israel; and especially in making him a partaker of grace, and an heir of glory; see Psalm 8:4; which is applied to Christ, Hebrews 2:6.

(g) "quod cogites de eo", Tigurine version, Vatablus.

LORD, what is man, that thou {c} takest knowledge of him! or the son of man, that thou makest account of him!

(c) To give to God just praise, is to confess ourselves to be unworthy of so excellent benefits, and that he bestows them on us of his free mercy.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
3. A variation of Psalm 8:4. Cp. 2 Samuel 7:18.

3, 4. From the enthusiastic contemplation of Jehovah’s goodness the Psalmist turns to reflect upon the character of the object of it. Man’s insignificance and transitoriness enhance the marvel of God’s gracious care for him.Verse 3. - Lord, what is man, that thou takest knowledge of him! (comp. Job 7:17, 18; Psalm 8:4). Or the sea of man, that thou makest account of him! It enhances our estimate of God's goodness to consider the insignificance and unworthiness of the creatures on whom he bestows it. 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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