Psalm 144:4
Man is like to vanity: his days are as a shadow that passeth away.
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(4) Vanity . . . shadow.—See Psalm 39:5-6; Psalm 102:11. The occasion of the introduction of these sentiments here is not quite clear. It may be the humility of the warrior who ascribes all success to God instead of to human prowess, or it may be a reflection uttered over the corpses of comrades, or, perhaps, a blending of the two.

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.The idea of Job is, that there is no substance, nothing that is permanent. A shadow moves on gently and silently, and is soon gone. It leaves no trace of its being, and returns no more. They who have watched the beautiful shadow of a cloud on a landscape, and have seen how rapidly it passes ever meadows and fields of grain, and rolls up the mountain side and disappears, will have a vivid conception of this figure. How gently yet how rapidly it moves. How soon it is gone. How void of impression is its course. Who can track its way; who can reach it? So man moves on. Soon he is gone; he leaves no trace of his being, and returns no more.

Psalm 144:4Man is like to vanity - See the notes at Psalm 39:5-6; Psalm 62:9. The idea here is, that man can be compared only with that which is utterly vain - which is emptiness - which is nothing.

His days are as a shadow that passeth away - See the notes at Psalm 102:11 : "My days are like a shadow that declineth." The idea is essentially the same. It is, that as a shadow has no substance, and that as it moves along constantly as the sun declines, until it vanishes altogether, so man has nothing substantial or permanent, and so he is constantly moving off and will soon wholly disappear.


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.

Man is like, in his nature and continuance in the world,

to vanity, or to a vapour or a breath, as Isaiah 57:13, which is gone in an instant.

That passeth away; or, that declineth, as Psalm 102:11 109:23; that groweth less and less, till it be quite out of sight, and lost.

Man is like to vanity,.... Is vanity itself, in every age, state, and condition; yea, in his best estate, Psalm 39:5; or, "to the breath" (h) of the mouth, as Kimchi; which is gone as soon as seen almost: or, to a vapour (i); to which the life of man is compared, James 4:14;

his days are as a shadow that passeth away; as the former denotes the frailty and mortality of man, this the shortness of his duration; his days fleeing away, and of no more continuance than the shadow cast by the sun, which presently declines and is gone.

(h) "halitui", Muis; so Kimchi. (i) "Vapori", Cocceius; so the Syriac and Arabic versions.

Man is like to vanity: his days are as a shadow that passeth away.
4. vanity] Or, a breath, unsubstantial and evanescent (a different word from that in Psalm 144:8; Psalm 144:11). Cp. Psalm 39:5; Psalm 39:11; Psalm 62:9.

his days &c.] Cp. Psalm 102:11; Psalm 109:23; Job 8:9; Ecclesiastes 6:12.

Verse 4. - Man is like to vanity; or, "to a breath" (comp. Psalm 39:5; Psalm 62:9). His days are as a shadow that passeth away (see Psalm 102:11; Psalm 119:23). And yet God has regard to this weak creature of an hour. Psalm 144:4It is evident that Psalm 144:3 is a variation of Psalm 8:5 with the use of other verbs. ידע in the sense of loving intimacy; חשּׁב, properly to count, compute, here rationem habere. Instead of כּי followed by the future there are consecutive futures here, and בּן־אדם is aramaizingly (בּר אנשׁ) metamorphosed into בּן־אנושׁ. Psalm 144:4 is just such another imitation, like a miniature of Psalm 39:6., Psalm 39:11, cf. Psalm 62:10. The figure of the shadow is the same as in Psalm 102:12, cf. Psalm 109:23. The connection of the third stanza with the second is still more disrupt than that of the second with the first.
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