Psalm 44 – “Historical Petition”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
The psalmist describes God’s past deeds and asks for a military victory.

II. Photo
God has given up on his people: “You sell Your people for no fortune, You set no high price on them.” (v. 13)

III. Select Verses    
2-4:  We have heard, O God, our fathers have told us the deeds You performed in their time, in days of old. With Your hand You planted them, displacing nations; You brought misfortune on peoples, and drove them out. It was not by their sword that they took the land, their arm did not give them victory, but Your right hand, Your arm, and Your goodwill, for You favored them.
10-17: Yet You have rejected and disgraced us; You do not go with our armies.  You make us retreat before our foe; our enemies plunder us at will. You let them devour us like sheep; You disperse us among the nations. You sell Your people for no fortune, You set no high price on them.  You make us the butt of our neighbors, the scorn and derision of those around us. You make us a byword among the nations, a laughingstock among the peoples. I am always aware of my disgrace; I am wholly covered with shame at the sound of taunting revilers, in the presence of the vengeful foe.
23: It is for Your sake that we are slain all day long, that we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.
24-26: Rouse Yourself; why do You sleep, O Lord? Awaken, do not reject us forever! Why do You hide Your face, ignoring our affliction and distress? We lie prostrate in the dust; our body clings to the ground!

IV. Outline
1. Superscription
2a. Invocation
2b-4. Pedagogic history lesson
5-9. Affirmation of trust, praise
10-17. Complaint
18-23. Proclamation of innocence, complaint
24. Petition
25-26. Rationale/complaint
27. Petition

V. Comment
Psalm 44 speaks about God’s role in the battles of Israel. When would this psalm have been composed? Like many psalms, the answer to this question will probably never be known. Craigie writes: “The setting in which the psalm was used is not known with certainty. It is unlikely that the psalm was used merely with the threat of disaster facing the nation. Thus 2 Chr 20:4–13, in which Jehoshaphat proclaimed a fast in Judah in view of the impending military attack by Moab and Ammon, does not provide in principle an appropriate type of setting for Ps 44. The lament of this psalm presupposes the battle has already been lost (vv 10–11), prisoners have been taken and made slaves (v 13), and the army has been decimated in a long day of slaughter (v 23). The lament, then, was used following a defeat, not merely when disaster threatened. And though it is possible to suppose a national setting in the temple in Jerusalem, it is more likely that one should think of the lament being used at the end of the day of battle and defeat. Thus Ps 44 should be seen as the precise counterpart of the victory hymn (e.g. Judg 5); just as the latter was employed after battle to celebrate victory, so this psalm was used to lament defeat.” (332)

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Collins, John J. “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible,” (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
Craigie, Peter C. “Psalms 1-50” Word Biblical Commentary vol. 19 (Waco, Texas: Wordbooks, 1983).
Gerstenberger, Erhard S. “Psalms Part 1 with an Introduction to Cultic Poetry” Forms of Old Testament Literature (Michigan: Eerdmans, 1988).
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