Psalm 33:17
An horse is a vain thing for safety: neither shall he deliver any by his great strength.
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(17) Safety.—Better, victory. (Comp. Habakkuk 3:8.) The allusion is to the war-horse.

33:12-22 All the motions and operations of the souls of men, which no mortals know but themselves, God knows better than they do. Their hearts, as well as their times, are all in his hand; he formed the spirit of each man within him. All the powers of the creature depend upon him, and are of no account, of no avail at all, without him. If we make God's favour sure towards us, then we need not fear whatever is against us. We are to give to him the glory of his special grace. All human devices for the salvation of our souls are vain; but the Lord's watchful eye is over those whose conscientious fear of his name proceeds from a believing hope in his mercy. In difficulties they shall be helped; in dangers they shall not receive any real damage. Those that fear God and his wrath, must hope in God and his mercy; for there is no flying from him, but by flying to him. Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us; let us always have the comfort and benefit, not according to our merits, but according to the promise which thou hast in thy word given to us, and according to the faith thou hast by thy Spirit and grace wrought in us.An horse - The reference here is undoubtedly to the war-horse. See the notes at Psalm 20:7.

Is a vain thing - literally, is a "lie." That is, he cannot be confided in.

For safety - For securing safety in battle. He is liable to be stricken down, or to become wild and furious so as to be beyond the control of his rider; and however strong or fleet he may be, or however well he may be "broken," yet none of these things make it certain that the rider will be safe. God is the only being in whom perfect confidence can be reposed.

Neither shall he deliver any by his great strength - Safety cannot be found in his mere "strength," however great that may be. These illustrations are all designed to lead the mind to the great idea that safety is to be found in God alone, Psalm 33:18-19.

17. On the war horse (compare Job 39:19-25).

a vain thing—a lie, which deceives us.

An horse; though he be strong, Job 39:19, &c., and fit for battle, Proverbs 21:31; or for flight, if need requires. And so this is put for all warlike provisions; of which horses were and are a very considerable part.

A vain thing, Heb. a lie, because it promiseth that help and safety which it cannot give. A horse is a vain thing for safety,.... Though it is prepared for the day of battle, and is a very warlike creature, and of great service in war, yet safety only is of the Lord, Proverbs 21:31; this is put for all kinds of military preparations which men are apt to trust in, but should not, for they are "a lie" (i), as the horse is here said to be; that is, deceives and disappoints when trusted to; in like manner the olive is said "to lie", Habakkuk 3:17; when hope of fruit from it is disappointed; so "fundus mendax" in Horace (k);

neither shall he deliver any by his great strength; in the time of battle; either by fighting for him, or fleeing with him.

(i) "mendacium", Pagninus, Montanus; "fallax", V. L. (k) Epod. l. 1. Ode 16. ver. 45. Carmin. l. 3. Ode 1. v. 30. "Spem mentita seges", ib. Epist. l. 1. ep. 7. v. 87.

An horse is a vain thing for safety: neither shall he deliver any by his great strength.
17. A horse—to the Israelites cavalry seemed the most formidable part of an army—is but a vain thing—lit. a lie, a delusion—for safety—for victory (Psalm 21:1): neither can it give escape by the greatness of its power: it cannot even secure its rider’s escape in case of defeat. Cp. Proverbs 21:31.Verse 17. - A horse is a vain thing for safety; literally, the horse; i.e. the species, horse, is not to be depended on for safety - it is "a vain thing," quite unable to secure victory, or even escape, to those who trust in it. The use of the horse in war seems certainly to be implied here as familiar to the writer, whence it is rightly concluded that he must have lived later than the time of David. Solomon was the first Israelite king who enrolled a chariot and a cavalry force (1 Kings 10:26). Neither shall he deliver any by his great strength. (On the "great strength" of the horse, see Job 39:19; Psalm 147:10.) His praiseworthiness (c) as the irresistible Ruler in the history of men. Since in 2 Samuel 15:34; 2 Samuel 17:14, and frequently, הפר עצה is a common phrase, therefore heepiyr as in Psalm 89:34, Ezekiel 17:19, is equivalent to הפר (Ges. ֗67, rem. 9). The perfects are not used in the abstract, but of that which has been experienced most recently, since the "new song" presupposes new matter. With Psalm 33:11 compare Proverbs 19:21. The עצת of God is the unity of the "thoughts of His heart," i.e., of the ideas, which form the inmost part, the ultimate motives of everything that takes place. The whole history of the world is the uninterrupted carrying out of a divine plan of salvation, the primary object of which is His people, but in and with these are included humanity at large.
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