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Commentary On Psalms Volume 5 by Jean Calvin

Psalm 144:12-15

12. Because our sons are as plants which have grown up in their youth, our daughters as corners polished after the similitude of a palace. 13. Our recesses [or corners] full, going out, from kind to kind; our sheep brining forth to thousands, to ten thousands, in our streets. 14. Our oxen accustomed to the burden, no breach, nor going out, nor cry in our streets.15. Happy the people to whom it is so! happy the people whose God is Jehovah!

12. Because our sons, etc. These three concluding verses some consider as being a wish or a prayer. Others think that David congratulates himself, and all the people, that through the divine blessing every species of mercy was showered down prosperously upon them. I have no doubt that David commemorates, by way of thanksgiving, the liberality which God had shown to his people. But it consists very well with this, to suppose that he prays at the same time for the continuance or preservation of those divine benefits which must well-nigh be cut off altogether by wicked men and domestic foes, unless God should interpose, in the troubles and confusions which prevailed. The end he has in view therefore is, that God would not suffer the signal blessings with which he had loaded his people to fail and depart. He begins by making mention of the children, comparing the male portion of them, by way of commendation of their excellency, to plants which have grown up in their youth; for trees rarely come to any height if they do not grow large early, and when yet tender. He speaks of the girls as being like corners skillfully and ingeniously cut out, to make the building beautiful; as if he would say that they adorned the house by their comeliness and elegance. It is not surprising that he should reckon a noble and well trained offspring to be the very first of God's earthly blessings, a point of which I have spoken elsewhere more at large. As David speaks in the name of the whole people, and of his own condition as mixed up with that of the community, we may infer from this that he was not exclusively occupied with his own private interests.

13. Our recesses full, etc. Some read storehouses, and I would not reject this meaning. But as the word comes from the same root with zvh, zavah, which is rendered corner in the previous verse, it seems more agreeable to the etymology to translate the words as I have done -- |that the recesses or corners were full.| The participle mphyqym, mephikim, some take transitively, and read producing, but the meaning comes to the same thing, that abundance of every blessing flowed from all the corners, expression mzn 'l-zn, mizan el-zan, seems to me to denote the variety and manifold nature of the blessings, rather than, as some interpreters think, so abundant a produce as would issue in the different species being mixed, and forming a confused heap owing to the unmanageable plenty. We have no need to have recourse to this strained hyperbole, and the words as they stand evidently do not favor that sense, for had a confused heap been meant, it would have read simply zn zn, zan. The meaning in short is, that there prevailed amongst the people such plenty, not only of wheat, but all kinds of produce, that every corner was filled to sufficiency with every variety.

14. Our oxen, etc. The Hebrew word svl, sabal, is properly to carry. Accordingly some understand msvvlym, mesubbalim, to mean robust, as unless they were strong oxen they would not be fit for carriage, or bearing burdens. Others think they are spoken of as laden with fat. There is no need for insisting upon this point, as it does not affect the main scope of the passage. It may be more important to notice, that God's fatherly care of his people is celebrated on the account that he condescends to attend to every the smallest matter which concerns their advantage. As in the verse before he had ascribed the fruitfulness of the herds and flocks to God's goodness, so now the fattening of their oxen, to show that there is nothing relating to us here which he overlooks. As it would signify little to have abundance of everything unless we could enjoy it, he takes notice of it as another part of the Lord's kindness that the people were peaceable and quiet. By breach I have no doubt that he alludes to hostile incursions, that there was no enemy to break in upon them through demolished gates or walls. By goings out it is surprising that any should understand exile, that the people were not torn away from the bounds of their native country. All he means simply is, in my opinion, that there was no necessity of sallying out to repel an enemy, none offering violence or molestation. To the same effect is the expression, as to any crying in the streets, the effect of a sudden tumult. The meaning is, accordingly, that there was no disturbance in the cities, because God kept enemies at a distance.

15. Happy the people, etc. He thus concludes that the divine favor had been sufficiently shown and manifested to his people. Should any object that it breathed altogether a gross and worldly spirit to estimate man's happiness by benefits of a transitory description, I would say in reply that we must read the two things in connection, that those are happy who recognize the favor of God in the abundance they enjoy, and have such a sense of it from these transitory blessings as leads them through a persuasion of his fatherly love to aspire after the true inheritance. There is no impropriety in calling those happy whom God blesses in this world, provided they do not show themselves blinded in the improvement and use which they make of their mercies, or foolishly and supinely overlook the author of them. The kind providence of God in not suffering us to want any of the means of life is surely a striking illustration of his wonderful love. What more desirable than to be the objects of God's care, especially if we have sufficient understanding to conclude from the liberality with which he supports us he is our Father? For everything is to be viewed with a reference to this point. Better it were at once to perish for want than have a mere brute satisfaction, and forget the main thing of all, that they and they only are happy whom God has chosen for his people. We are to observe this, that while God in giving us meat and drink admits us to the enjoyment of a certain measure of happiness, it does not follow that those believers are miserable who struggle through life in want and poverty, for this want, whatever it be, God can counterbalance by better consolations.

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