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Christianity and the Martial Arts - Psalm 144

Updated on June 18, 2013

Psalm 144:1, A Psalm of David. Blessed be the Lord my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight:

We note that David is the writer as the Psalm tells us. Some might say that "A Psalm of David." is not part of the Psalm. We disagree for two reasons.

First, these lead-in’s are portions of the Psalms is found in many of the text used for the composition of the Bible.

Second, our now-a-days neo-theologians who are "updating" the Bible do not have the credentials of those who included these lead-ins.

Our study here is the martial arts so we will not be debating fine points of this verse.

David was a warrior. David was a man after God’s own heart, 1 Samuel 13:11; 1 Samuel 16:13, in spite of his failings, which we all have. God found it important to put David’s name here in this Psalm as an example of a strong, courageous warrior, even before he met Goliath, 1 Samuel 16:18.

We note Psalm 144 uses the two words "hands" and "fingers." They are significant.

Were we addressing only "karate" then the word "hands" (yad) used here would be sufficient as karate means empty hand.

But the verse takes us a bit further with the use of the word "fingers." A man can lose his fingers and still use what’s left of his hands for fighting. But without fingers, he would be unable to grip or hold a weapon. Martial arts includes skills in the use of swords, spears, bows, etc., all of which would be impossible to use without "fingers."

This is an amazing statement by the psalmist who, in this case, is David the King of Israel. He is praising God for giving him and teaching him to use these valuable, natural weapons.

When we read the whole psalm, and we are obliged to do in order to keep reigns on our own personal subjectivity, we see that God has trained men but He also does some of the "fighting."

Prior to this verse being written, God did do the work directly as shown in various verses of the Bible: at the Red Sea, Exodus 14; at Jerusalem, 2 Samuel 7.

At other times, God worked "in concert" with Israel in battle fronts: Jericho, Joshua 6; Sisera at the river of Kishon, Judges 4.

But most times, men of God were the direct combatants and used the skills given by God.

Consider the many battles during the Exodus. After that were the battles with the Philistines, Assyrians, Babylonians and more. Without skills the Hebrews would have died in the desert long before crossing over Jordan.

And let’s not assume man accomplished things on his own at anytime. God was in charge, in victory or defeat. Victory glorified God and rewarded man for their faith. Defeat gloried God and punished man for their sins. The two battles of Ai exemplify each, Joshua 7 and 8.

So we can see that Israel was trained in the skills of combat, martial arts. And God was the One who gave them their ability and instruction.

Now let’s take this a bit further, and for some it will be a stretch, but still plausible.

We have seen that the verse names "hands" and "fingers." Karate and martial arts also employ the use of the foot as a basic. To end this section, we will paste in the Hebrew word used here for "fingers" and let the reader make his or her own judgement as to whether or not this includes the foot!

OT:676 etsba` (ets-bah'); from the same as OT:6648 (in the sense of grasping); something to seize with, i.e. a finger; by analogy, a toe: KJV - finger, toe.

(Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.)

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