As part of my daily Bible reading, I was going through Psalm 44, which contains a very familiar verse from Paul's writings:

22 Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.

As somebody who's only recently started reading through the Bible in a deliberate fashion, this jumped out at me, and immediately raised the question: What is the context of this psalm? Who were they being slaughtered by? Into whose hand were they being given (even though they had been faithful to the covenant)? At what point in Israel's history does this narrative arise?

Any insight would be appreciated.


5 Answers 5


Psalm 44 was written during the Babylonian Exile, at a time of despair for the Jews, but hope that God would rescue them.

Verse 11 tells us that the Jews have been defeated and scattered among the heathens, which can only be a reference to the Exile:

44:11:Thou hast given us like sheep appointed for meat; and hast scattered us among the heathen.

God is held responsible for everything that happens to the Jews, so it must be that they are being punished, rather than that the Babylonians were simply able to defeat them. This is why verse 11 says God has "given us like sheep."

Verses 12-13,22 tell of the despair of the Jews, becoming mere property for their Babylonian masters and feeling humiliated in the sight of their neighbours:

44:12-13 Thou sellest thy people for nought, and dost not increase thy wealth by their price. Thou makest us a reproach to our neighbours, a scorn and a derision to them that are round about us. 44:2 Yea, for thy sake are we killed all the day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter.

The author wonders why God has not come to their aid and begs him to do so:

44:23-26: Awake, why sleepest thou, O Lord? arise, cast us not off for ever. Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and forgettest our affliction and our oppression? For our soul is bowed down to the dust: our belly cleaveth unto the earth. Arise for our help, and redeem us for thy mercies' sake.


Scholars do not know when this psalm was written, or by whom, so it would be best to refrain from limiting it to any one context/time when we read it.

The psalmist seems earnest in their assertion that this present suffering is not a judgment for sin (verses 17-22), and that their current torment feels as though God has abandoned them (verses 23-24).

It would be easy to write off the author/s as being disingenuous or overly dramatic, but the psalm is much more powerful if we take it at face value: sometimes we suffer and it's not our fault; sometimes the suffering we endure is all-consuming and seems like it will never end; sometimes God feels so distant that faith in Him seems like folly.

And yet, the psalmist still cries out to God for relief. And yet, the psalmist still calls God's love "unfailing" (verse 26).

This psalm is one of tremendous faith and humility in the face of heart-rending evil.

  • Welcome to Bible Hermeneutics SE and thank you for your contribution. When you get a chance, please take the tour to understand how the site works and how it is different than others.
    – agarza
    Aug 27, 2021 at 17:14

I think that they were being good after being bad,. Were they initially worshipping idols? Then got obedient during crisis? This is what hard headed people do,. I know God Always Give good Endings. Some of us try Him. And, He Try some of us. Amen. My take on 44 Psalms,. And, why no usual Happy ending. In Jesus Name this is how I feel. Amen.

  • Sheila, you sound like you're a very nice lady, and I appreciate what you're trying to say, although your English is a little hard to understand. Consider what Jesus said on the cross and then read Psalm 22. Sometimes good people have to suffer--Jesus suffered for us-- and eventually we all have to die. Afterwards, when we come before God, God will dry our tears, as it says in Revelation 21:4. That means we will have tears in this life. For this website, we try to prove what what we believe by using other scriptures in the Bible as I just tried to do. Also see what Jesus said in Matthew 5:45.
    – Dieter
    Apr 11, 2018 at 1:26

I think that in verses 1-8 they (the Korahites) are reflecting on the past days that their ancestors told them about. This is a generation that came after their ancestors, who had told them how God saved them.

In verses 9-16, they seem to think that God has forsaken them, which isn't the case. Hebrews 13:5 says "I will never leave you nor forsake you."

In verses 17-19, they're searching for sins they might have done to cause this separation from God, or so was their thinking. The assumption is also present in the book of Job, where he felt God's presence was withdrawn from him.

In verse 22, we're told that bad things happen to God's people as well. Some testing is allowed to enter our lives in order to strengthen us.

In verses 23-26, we're reminded that whatever we're facing and going through when we don't feel or see the presence of God in our life, we shouldn't give up nor stop praying. Romans 8:17, 36-39 reminds us of this perspective as well.

  • Perhaps this is why the book of Job is in the Bible. Just like Jobs friends most people will attribute suffering to punishment for sin.
    – Graham
    Apr 19, 2023 at 10:22

I read Psalm 44 today in the context of presently working through Ezekiel for my daily readings. Ezekiel was sent by God to to proclaim His message to Israel while they were in exile. Despite repeated warnings that their sin, and in particular, idolatry (worshipping gods other that The Lord), would lead to exactly what happened - being thrust from God’s presence and taken away into captivity in Babylon - they continued in their idolatry and the result was the exile. Whilst understanding and accepting the usual interpretation of Psalm 44, verses 17 to 21 leapt out at me today as being completely delusional. They were in that situation because of their sin, not because they had walked closely with God, following His laws and worshipping Him only. It is important to understand that, ‘If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His Word is not in us’. (1 John 1 vs. 8-10). So let’s be honest and accept that the exile happened because of sin and that our separation from The Lord happens because of our sin. But praise be to Jesus that He has carried all our sin on the cross and paid the ultimate penalty, death, and conquered death itself by His resurrection, so that by simply believing in Him, turning from sin and towards Him, accepting Him into our hearts and making Him Lord of our lives, we no longer have to pay that penalty ourselves and can look forward with anticipation to eternal life in the presence of our wonderful Saviour.

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