Psalm 44

Psalm 44[a]

Past Glory and Present Need of God’s People

1 For the director.[b] A maskil of the sons of Korah.

2 [c]O God, we have heard with our ears,
our ancestors have told us,
of the deeds you performed in their days,
in the days of old.
3 To establish them in the land,
you drove out the nations with your own hand;
you crushed the peoples
so that our ancestors could flourish.
4 It was not their own swords that won them the land,
nor did their own arms make them victorious;
rather, it was your right hand and your arm
and the light of your face,[d]
because you loved them.
5 You are my[e] King and my God,
who bestowed victories upon Jacob.
6 Through you we throw back our enemies;
through your name[f] we crush our assailants.
7 It is not in my bow that I trust,
nor can my sword ensure my victory.
8 It is you who saved us from our enemies;
you scattered in confusion those who hate us.
9 In God we boast the whole day long,
and we will praise your name forever. Selah
10 [g]But now you have rejected and humiliated us,
and you no longer accompany our armies.[h]
11 You have forced us to retreat[i] before the enemy;
those who hate us plunder us unceasingly.
12 You have handed us over like sheep to be slaughtered
and scattered us among the nations.
13 You have sold your people for nothing,
receiving no gain from their sale.
14 You have subjected us to the contempt of our neighbors,
to the mockery and scorn of all who are near.
15 You have made us a byword to the nations;
the peoples shake their heads[j] at us.
16 All day long I am confronted by my disgrace,
and my face is covered with shame
17 as I hear the shouts of taunting and abuse
and see the hateful enemy seeking revenge.
18 All this has happened to us
even though we have not forgotten you
or been false to your covenant.[k]
19 Our hearts[l] have not turned back,
nor have our feet wandered from your path.
20 Yet you have crushed us,
forced us to live among the jackals,[m]
and covered us with darkness.
21 If we had forgotten the name[n] of our God
or lifted up our hands to a foreign god,
22 would not God have discovered it,
he who knows the secrets of the heart?
23 For your sake we are put to death all day long;
we are treated like sheep destined to be slaughtered.[o]
24 Awake, O Lord. Why[p] do you sleep?
Rise up, and do not abandon us forever.
25 Why do you hide your face[q]
and continue to ignore our misery and our sufferings?
26 We have been brought down to the dust;
our bodies cling to the ground.[r]
27 Rise up and come to our aid;
redeem us for the sake of your kindness.[s]

Footnotes

  1. Psalm 44:1 In the history of Israel, times of joy and defeat alternate with one another. This hymn transmits the strong feeling of the people about the triumphs of bygone days and the defeat at hand. But they do not believe God can forget forever the people that he loves.
    As the true “remnant” and the elite of God’s servants, the Church very naturally uses this psalm of the remnant of Israel to beseech the Lord and Master to take pity on her in the severe trials that assail her. This national lamentation is a prayer for times when we feel overwhelmed by failure, uncertainty, and confusion.
  2. Psalm 44:1 For the director: these words are thought to be a musical or liturgical notation. Maskil: see note on Ps 32:1a. Sons of Korah: see note on Ps 42:1.
  3. Psalm 44:2 The liturgy of the Old Testament transmits with gratitude the memory of the great hours of the conquest. Isn’t God the one who at that time was responsible for this people’s victory? A hymn recalls these wondrous deeds.
  4. Psalm 44:4 The light of your face: see notes on Pss 4:7; 13:2.
  5. Psalm 44:5 My: this psalm is sung in the name of all Israel.
  6. Psalm 44:6 Name: see note on Ps 5:12.
  7. Psalm 44:10 Only a lament can evoke the situation of that moment; we are doubtless at the time of the Exile, after 587 B.C. This prayer could have been utilized and adapted at other times of national calamity; thus, verses 18-23 make us think of the Maccabean period when Israel is conscious of being the faithful community that did not deserve persecution (167–164 B.C.); the people suffer for their faith rather than for punishment of sin. For Paul, this lament (v. 23) reflects the condition of Christians (Rom 8:36).
  8. Psalm 44:10 You no longer accompany our armies: as commander-in-chief (see Pss 60:12; 68:8; Ex 15:3; Jdg 5:4).
  9. Psalm 44:11 You have forced us to retreat: God is responsible for the defeats as well as the victories (v. 5) of Israel.
  10. Psalm 44:15 Since the People of God have been allowed by God to be conquered, plundered, scattered like sheep, and enslaved by their enemies, their name has been disgraced among the nations (see Deut 28:37; 1 Ki 9:7; Jer 24:10). Shake their heads: a gesture of scorn (see Ps 64:9).
  11. Psalm 44:18 Israel’s present state is not the result of infidelity to God’s Covenant (see Ex 19–24).
  12. Psalm 44:19 Hearts: see note on Ps 4:8. Your path: the path or way shown them by the Lord (see Ps 18:31).
  13. Psalm 44:20 You have crushed us [and] forced us to live among the jackals: i.e., relegated Israel to a place unfit for human beings (see Isa 13:22; Jer 9:11; 10:22). Another translation proposed is: “you crushed us as you did the sea monster.” Darkness: they have been left without “light,” which symbolizes the fruits of God’s loving kindness (see note on Ps 36:10).
  14. Psalm 44:21 Name: see note on Ps 5:12. Lifted up our hands: the usual posture for prayer (see Ex 9:29), with palms turned upward.
  15. Psalm 44:23 In truth, Israel has suffered the hostility of the peoples because she has been the nation faithful to the Lord. Applying this verse to the Christian community (Rom 8:36), Paul is able to give it a positive slant because of Christ’s victory through his Passion and Resurrection (Rom 8:37-39).
  16. Psalm 44:24 Why . . . ?: see note on Ps 6:4.
  17. Psalm 44:25 Hide your face: see note on Ps 13:2.
  18. Psalm 44:26 Our bodies cling to the ground: posture of those who are defeated, those at prayer, or those in affliction (see Pss 7:6; 119:25; Num 24:4; Deut 9:18).
  19. Psalm 44:27 Kindness: see note on Ps 6:5.

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