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Bible Commentaries

Adam Clarke Commentary

Psalms 142

Verse 1

The psalmist, in great distress and difficulty, calls upon

God, 1-7.


The title says, "An Instruction of David," or a Psalm of David giving instruction; "A Prayer when he was in the cave."

David was twice in great peril in caves.

1. At the cave of Adullam, when he fled from Achish, king of Gath, 1 Samuel 22:1.

2. When he was in the cave of En-gedi, where he had taken refuge from the pursuit of Saul; and the latter, without knowing that David was in it, had gone into it on some necessary occasion, 1 Samuel 24:1-3.

If the inscription can be depended on, the cave of En-gedi is the most likely of the two, for the scene laid here. But were there doubts concerning the legitimacy of the title, I should refer the Psalm to the state of the captives in Babylon, to which a great part of the Psalms refer. Bishop Horsley calls it "A Prayer of the Messiah taken and deserted." It may be so: but where is the evidence, except in the conjectural system of Origen.

Verse Psalms 142:1. I cried unto the Lord — See on the first verse of the preceding Psalm.

Verse 3

Verse Psalms 142:3. Then thou knewest my path. — When Saul and his army were about the cave in which I was hidden, thou knewest my path - that I had then no way of escape but by miracle: but thou didst not permit them to know that I was wholly in their power.

Verse 4

Verse Psalms 142:4. There was no man, that would know me — This has been applied to the time in which our Lord was deserted by his disciples. As to the case of David in the cave of En-gedi, he had no refuge: for what were the handful of men that were with him to Saul and his army?

Verse 5

Verse Psalms 142:5. Thou art my refuge — Even in these most disastrous circumstances, I will put my trust in thee.

Verse 6

Verse Psalms 142:6. I am brought very low — Never was I so near total ruin before.

Deliver me from my persecutors — They are now in full possession of the only means of my escape.

They are stronger than I. — What am I and my men against this well-appointed armed multitude, with their king at their head.

Verse 7

Verse Psalms 142:7. Bring my soul out of prison — Bring נפשי naphshi, my life, out of this cave in which it is now imprisoned; Saul and his men being in possession of the entrance.

The righteous shall compass me aboutיכתרו yachtiru, they shall crown me; perhaps meaning that the pious Jews, on the death of Saul, would cheerfully join together to make him king, being convinced that God, by his bountiful dealings with him, intended that it should be so. The old Psalter, which is imperfect from the twenty-first verse of Psalm cxix. (Psalms 119:21) to the end of Psalm cxli. (Psalms 141:10), concludes this Psalm thus: "Lede my saule oute of corruption of my body; that corrupcion is bodely pyne, in whilk my saule is anguyst; after that in Godes house, sal al be louyng (praising) of the."

The substance of this Psalm is the earnest prayer of the psalmist that he might be delivered from the danger he was in.

The parts are,

I. An exordium, in which he

1. Shows what he did in his trouble; took himself to prayer, Psalms 142:1-2.

2. Then his consternation and anxiety of mind, which arose from the malice and craft of his enemies, and want of help from his friends, Psalms 142:3-4.

II. His address and petition to God, Psalms 142:5-7. 1. The two first verses show the psalmist's intention. "I cried unto the Lord," c. 2. "I poured out my supplication," &c.

This he amplifies, -

1. From his vehemence: "I cried, I supplicated."

2. From the object: "Unto the Lord." I invoked him, and no other.

3. From the instrument: "With my voice."

4. From his humility in prayer. It was a supplication.

5. From his free and full confession: "I poured out," &c.

6. From his sincerity and confidence in God.

The reason was: -

1. This I did "when my spirit was overwhelmed," &c. There being no sufficiency in me, I betook myself to the all-sufficient God.

2. "For thou knowest my path," &c. My actions and intentions.

The craft and subtlety of his enemies, especially Saul.

1. "In the way wherein I walked," &c. My vocation.

2. "Have they privily laid," &c. Saul gave him his daughter Michal to be a snare to him and a dowry he must have of a hundred foreskins of the Philistines, that David might fall by their hands.

His destitution in the time of trouble.

1. "I looked on my right hand," c. But no friend was near: "There was no man," &c. The miserable have few friends.

2. "Refuge failed me," &c. I had no place of safety.

3. "No man cared," &c. Regarded my life, or cared if I perished.

II. The psalmist, having no human help, calls upon God.

1. "Thou art my refuge," &c. My hiding-place.

2. "Thou art my portion," &c. While I live in this world.

Then he sends up his prayer, fortified by a double argument.

1. From the lamentable condition he was brought into: "I was brought low," &c.

2. From the malice and power of his enemies: "Deliver me," &c.

Again he renews his prayer, and presses it from the final cause: "Bring my soul," &c.

Upon which follow two effects: -

1. His gratitude: "That I may praise thy name."

2. That of others: "The righteous shall compass me," &c. Come unto me.

3. The reason for this: "For thou shalt deal bountifully with me." Bestow favours upon me, having delivered me from my former miseries which men seeing, who are commonly the friends of prosperity, will magnify and resort to me.

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Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Psalms 142". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/acc/psalms-142.html. 1832.