Psalm 144:5
Bow your heavens, O LORD, and come down: touch the mountains, and they shall smoke.
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(5) Come down.—The theophany for which the psalmist prays is described in the classic language for such manifestations taken from Psalm 18:9; Psalm 18:13; Psalm 18:16-17; Psalm 18:43; Psalm 18:45, with reminiscences of Psalm 104:32; Exodus 19:18. But there are touches of originality, as in the next clause.

Psalm 144:5-8. Bow thy heavens and come down — To help me before it be too late, remembering what a frail and perishing creature I am. “David having celebrated his victories over some of his enemies, and extolled the mercy and goodness of God, to whom he ascribed the achievement of them, now proceeds to request a further manifestation of the omnipotent arm in his favour against other hostile forces, which still threatened his country upon his accession to the throne.” Touch the mountains and they shall smoke — As Sinai did at thy glorious appearance, Exodus 19:18. This is a figurative and poetical description of God’s coming to take vengeance on his enemies, which is continued in the next verse. The images used are taken from the promulgation of the law on Sinai. Cast forth lightning and scatter them — Namely, the enemies of David and Judah, such as the Philistines, Moabites, Ammonites, and Syrians: see 2 Samuel 5:8. Shoot out thine arrows — Thy thunderbolts, or lightnings, as before; and destroy them — Totally: for these weapons of thine are irresistible. Send thy hand — Thy power; from above — For from thence we look for help; deliver me out of great waters — Which are ready to overflow me, namely, the multitude of enemies, which assault me on all sides; from the hand of strange children — Either of the heathen nations, or of the rebellious Israelites. Whose mouth speaketh vanity — Empty boasts, or vain threatenings which come to nothing; or false and deceitful promises and professions of friendship, which they cannot, or do not, make good; and their right hand, a right hand of falsehood — “For, with that hand, as with a pledge, they confirmed the treaties of peace, and leagues of friendship made with Israel, all which they had perfidiously broken. Lifting up the hand was the usual ceremony at the taking of an oath, Genesis 14:22. So that this clause seems to be a repetition of the sense contained in the former: agreeably to which the Chaldee interprets the former part of the verse to mean a false oath; and the Arabic renders the latter part thus; and their oath is an oath of iniquity.” — Dodd.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.Bow thy heavens, O Lord ... - Come to my aid "as if" the heavens were bent down; come down with all thy majesty and glory. See the notes at Psalm 18:9 : "He bowed down the heavens also, and came down." What it is there declared that the Lord "had" done, he is here implored to do again.

Touch the mountains, and they shall smoke - See the notes at Psalm 104:32 : "He toucheth the hills, and they smoke." It is there affirmed as a characteristic of God that he "does" this; here the psalmist prays that, as this belonged to God, or was in his power, he "would" do it in his behalf. The prayer is, that God would come to his relief "as if" in smoke and tempest - in the fury of the storm.


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.

5 Bow thy heavens, O Lord, and come down, touch the mountains, and they shall smoke.

6 Cast forth lightning, and scatter them, shoot out thine arrows, and destroy them.

7 Send thine hand from above; rid me, and deliver me out of great waters, from the hand of strange children;

8 Whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of falsehood.

Psalm 144:5

"Bow thy heavens, O Lord, and come down." The heavens are the Lord's own, and he who exalted them can bow them. His servant is struggling against bitter foes, and he finds no help in men, therefore he entreats Jehovah to come down to his rescue. It is, indeed, a coming down for Jehovah to interfere in the conflicts of his tried people. Earth cries to heaven to stoop; nay, the cry is to the Lord of heaven to bow the heaven, and appear among the sons of earth. The Lord has often done this, and never more fully than when in Bethlehem the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us' now doth he know the way, and he never refuses to come down to defend his beloved ones. David would have the real presence of God to counterbalance the mocking appearance of boastful man, eternal verity could alone relieve him of human vanity. "Touch the mountains, and they shall smoke." It was so when the Lord appeared on Sinai; the strongest pillars of earth cannot bear the weight of the finger of God. He is a consuming fire, and his touch kindles the peaks of the Alps, and makes them smoke. If Jehovah would appear, nothing could stand before him; if the mighty mountains smoke at his touch, then all mortal power which is opposed to the Lord must end in smoke. How long-suffering he is to his adversaries, whom he could so readily consume. A touch would do it; God's finger of flame would set the hills on fire, and consume opposition of every kind.

Psalm 144:6

"Cast forth lightning, and scatter them." The Eternal can hurl his lightnings wheresoever he pleases, and effect his purpose instantaneously. The artillery of heaven soon puts the enemy to flight, a single bolt sets the armies running hither and thither in utter rout. "Shoot out thine arrows, and destroy them." Jehovah never misses the mark; his arrows are fatal to his foes when he goes forth to war. It was no common faith which led the poet-king to expect the Lord to use his thunder - bolts on behalf of a single member of that race which he had just now described as "like to vanity." A believer in God may without presumption expect the Almighty Lord to use on his behalf all the stores of his wisdom and power, even the terrible forces of tempest shall be marshalled to the fight, for the defence of the Lord's chosen. When we have once mastered the greater difficulty of the Lord's taking any interest in us, it is but a small thing that we should expect him to exert his great power on our behalf. This is far from being the only time in which this believing warrior had thus prayed: the eighteenth Psalm is specially like the present; the good man was not abashed at his former boldness, but here repeats himself without fear.

Psalm 144:7

"Send thine hand from above." Let thy long and strong arm be stretched out till thine hand seizes my foes, and delivers me from them. "Rid me, and deliver me out of great waters." Make a Moses of me, - one drawn out of the waters. My foes pour in upon me like torrents, they threaten to overwhelm me; save me from their force and fury; take them from me, and me from them. "From the hand of strange children." From foreigners of every race; men strange to me and thee, who therefore must work evil to me, and rebellion against thyself. Those against whom he pleaded were out of covenant with God; they were Philistines and Edomites; or else they were men of his own nation of black heart and traitorous spirit, who were real strangers, though they bore the name of Israel! Oh to be rid of those infidel, blaspheming beings who pollute society with their false teachings and hard speeches! Oh to be delivered from slanderous tongues, deceptive lips, and false hearts! No wonder these words are repeated, for they are the frequent cry of many a tried child of God; - "Rid me and deliver me." The devil's children are strange to us: we can never agree with them, and they will never understand us, they are aliens to us, and we are despised by them. O Lord, deliver us from the evil one, and from all who are of his race.

Psalm 144:8

"Whose mouth speaketh vanity." No wonder that men who are vanity speak vanity. "When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own." They cannot be depended upon, let them promise as fairly as they may: their solemn declarations are light as the foam of the sea, in no wise to be depended upon. Good men desire to be rid of such characters' of all men deceivers and liars are among the most disgusting to true hearts. "And their right hand is a right hand of falsehood." So far their hands and their tongues agree, for they are vanity and falsehood. These men act as falsely as they speak, and prove themselves to be all of a piece. Their falsehood is right-handed, they lie with dexterity, they deceive with all their might. It is a dreadful thing when a man's expertness lies more in lies than in truth; when he can neither speak nor act without proving himself to be false. God save us from lying mouths, and hands of falsehood.

Come down, to help me, before it be too late, remembering what a frail and perishing creature I am.

And they shall smoke; or, that they may smoke; or, and let them smoke, as Sinai did at thy glorious appearance, Exodus 19:18. This is a figurative and poetical description of God’s coming to take vengeance upon his enemies, which is continued in the next verse. Bow thy heavens, O Lord, and come down,.... The heavens, which the Lord has made, and where he dwells; and which are under his influence, and he can cause to incline or bow at his pleasure: and which literally may be said to bow, particularly the airy heavens, when these are filled with clouds heavy with rain, and hang low, ready to fall upon the earth, and being rent, let down showers on it: and mystically may design storms of wrath gathering over the heads of ungodly men, and revealed from heaven against them. Or rather, as connected with the phrase, "and come down", denotes some appearance or manifestation of God; either for the help and assistance of his people; or in a way of vengeance against their enemies; or both: and which descent must be understood in consistence with the omnipresence of God; and supposes his habitation to be on high, and is expressive of regard to the persons and affairs of men on earth; and is by some considered as a prayer for the incarnation of Christ, which is sometimes signified by coming down from heaven; not by change of place, nor by bringing an human nature, soul or body, down with him from heaven; but by the assumption of our nature; and which was greatly wished, prayed, and longed for, by the Old Testament saints The Targum is,

"O Lord, bow the heavens, and manifest thyself;''

see Psalm 18:9;

touch the mountains, and they shall smoke; as Mount Sinai did when the Lord descended on it, Exodus 19:18; see Psalm 104:32; These, according to Kimchi, signify mighty kings, strong as mountains: so kingdoms are sometimes called; as the Babylonian empire is called a mountain, a destroying and burnt mountain, Zechariah 4:7. Such kings and kingdoms rose up like mountains against Christ, when here incarnate; and against his Gospel, and the ministry of it by his apostles; as the kingdom and nation of the Jews, and the whole Pagan empire: but these, by a touch of his almighty power, have vanished into smoke, Psalm 2:1, Revelation 8:8.

{d} Bow thy heavens, O LORD, and come down: touch the mountains, and they shall smoke.

(d) He desires God to continue his graces, and to send help for the present need.

5. The descriptions of Psalm 18:9, Psalm 104:32 are turned into prayer.

5–8. Prayer that God will appear in His majesty and deliver the Psalmist from his treacherous enemies.Verse 5. - Bow thy heavens, O Lord, and come down. The strain changes. From praise of God's loving-kindness and might, the psalmist proceeds to invoke his aid. Taking his metaphors from Psalm 18:9. "Bow thy heavens, O Lord," he says, "and come down" to earth - appear in thy might, to the discomfiture of thy enemies and the relief of thy faithful ones. Touch the mountains, and they shall smoke. Do as thou wert pleased to do at Sinai, when thou showedst thyself - "Touch the mountains, and let a smoke go up from them" (see Exodus 19:16, 18; Deuteronomy 4:11; Psalm 18:7-14) - a consuming fire, that shall burn up the ungodly. 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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