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Bible Commentaries

Adam Clarke Commentary

Psalms 143

Verse 1

The psalmist prays for mercy, and deprecates judgment, 1, 2.

His persecutions, 3.

His earnest prayer for deliverance, 4-9.

Prays for God's quickening Spirit, 10, 11.

And for the total discomfiture of his adversaries, 12.


The Hebrew and all the Versions attribute this Psalm to David; and the Vulgate, Septuagint, AEthiopic and Arabic state that it was composed on the rebellion of his son Absalom: nor is there any thing in the Psalm that positively disagrees with this inscription. This is the last of the seven Psalms styled penitential.

Verse Psalms 143:1. In thy faithfulness answer me — Thou hast promised to support me in my difficulties, and, though my children should forsake me, never to withdraw thy loving-kindness from me. See the present unnatural rebellion of my son. Lord, undertake for me!

Verse 2

Verse Psalms 143:2. Enter not into judgmentאל תבוא al tabo. Do not come into court, either as a Witness against me, or as a Judge, else I am ruined; for thou hast seen all my ways that they are evil, and thy justice requires thee to punish me. Nor can any soul that has ever lived be justified in the sight of thy justice and righteousness. Had I my desert from thee, I should have worse than even my unnatural son intends me. O what a relief is Jesus crucified to a soul in such circumstances!

Verse 3

Verse Psalms 143:3. He hath made me to dwell in darkness — Literally, in dark places. This may be understood of David's taking refuge in caves and dens of the earth, to escape from his persecuting son; yea, even to take refuge in the tombs, or repositories of the dead.

Verse 4

Verse Psalms 143:4. Therefore is my spirit — I am deeply depressed in spirit, and greatly afflicted in body.

My heart within me is desolate. — It has no companion of its sorrows, no sympathetic friend. I am utterly destitute of comfort.

Verse 5

Verse Psalms 143:5. I remember the days of old — Thou hast often helped me, often delivered me. I will therefore trust in thee, for thy mercy is not clean gone from me.

Verse 6

Verse Psalms 143:6. I stretch forth my hands — This is a natural action. All in distress, or under the influence of eager desire, naturally extend their hands and arms, as if to catch at help and obtain succour.

As a thirsty land. — Parched and burned by the sun, longs for rain, so does my thirsty soul for the living God.

Verse 7

Verse Psalms 143:7. Hear me speedilyמהר maher, make haste to answer me. A few hours, and my state may be irretrievable. In a short time my unnatural son may put an end to my life.

Verse 8

Verse Psalms 143:8. Cause me to hear thy loving-kindness in the morning — This petition was probably offered in the night-season. David had despatched his messengers in all directions; and prays to God that he might by the morning get some good news.

Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk — Absalom and his partisans are in possession of all the country. I know not in what direction to go, that I may not fall in with them: point out by thy especial providence the path I should take.

Verse 9

Verse Psalms 143:9. I flee unto thee to hide me. — That I may not be found by my enemies, who seek my life to destroy it.

Verse 10

Verse Psalms 143:10. Teach me to do thy willרצונך retsonecha, thy pleasure. To be found doing the will of God is the only safe state for man.

Thy Spirit is good — The Author of every good desire and holy purpose.

Lead meLet it lead me by its continued inspirations and counsels.

Into the land of uprightness. — "Into a right land," CHALDEE. Into the place where I shall be safe. The old Psalter has, Thi goste gude sal lede me into rygt lande.

Verse 11

Verse Psalms 143:11. Quicken me — I am as a dead man, and my hopes are almost dead within me.

Verse 12

Verse Psalms 143:12. And of thy mercy — To me and the kingdom.

Cut off mine enemies — Who, if they succeed, will destroy the very form of godliness. The steps he has already taken show that even morality shall have no countenance, if Absalom reign.

I am thy servant. — Whoever is disloyal to me, I will love and serve thee.

For a full explanation of this Psalm, as applied to penitents, see the analysis.

David, being driven from Jerusalem by his son Absalom, wisely calls to mind his sin, as being the cause of it.

This Psalm has four parts: -

I. A prayer for remission of sin, grounded on God's promise, Psalms 143:1; not on his own worthiness, Psalms 143:2.

II. A narration of the sad state of his affairs, Psalms 143:3-4.

III. The comfort he received in his sad condition, and whence, Psalms 143:5-6.

IV. His petition, containing many particulars and reasons, Psalms 143:7-12.

I. He prays for audience: "Hear my prayer, O Lord," c. He does not plainly express the matter he prayed for but it may be gathered from the context that it was for remission of sin.

1. "In thy faithfulness," c. Thou art a faithful God, and hast promised to pardon the penitent. I am a penitent have mercy on me.

2. "And in thy righteousness," c. Which here signifies mercy, loving-kindness.

This sense appears more plainly from the next verse.

1. "And enter not into judgment," c. Call me not to a strict account at the bar of thy justice. This he deprecates so that Justitia in the former verse could not be taken for that justice.

2. "For in thy sight," c. Not I, nor any other man: pardon me, then, for the sake of thy mercy and promise, not my merits.

II. And now he enters upon the narration of his sad condition.

1. "For the enemy hath persecuted," &c. My son Absalom seeks my life: but it was Satan who enticed me to adultery and homicide.

2. "He hath smitten," &c. Humbled me made me a lover of earth, vile in thy sight.

3. "He hath made me to dwell," c. After Satan had entangled me with earthly pleasures, I was in spiritual darkness, and saw not the way of life, any more than those who have been long dead.

The effect this darkness produced was fear and consternation.

1. "Therefore is my spirit," &c. I suffered a kind of swoon in my soul I was ready to faint when I considered thy holiness and my impurity.

2. "My heart within me," c. Far from comfort in heavy trouble.

III. In this sadness of heart and mind, -

1. "I remember the days of old," &c. Thy past kindness to me and to others.

2. "I meditate," &c. I did not slightly run them over, but pondered on them.

And I derived great profit from my meditation for,

1. "I stretch forth my hands," c. I began earnestly to pray to thee.

2. "My soul thirsteth," &c. After thy righteousness, as the dry land wanting water. For as the earth without rain has no consistence, but is pulverized so the soul not moistened with the grace of God falls on the right and left hand into temptation, and brings forth no fruit to God's glory.

IV. The sad case in which David was, upon a sense of God's indignation, makes him seek out a remedy.

1. "Hear me speedily," c. And his reason for this is the sad condition in which he was till God was pacified for his sin.

2. "Hide not thy face," &c. Thy presence, thy favour.

His next petition resembles the former in substance.

1. "Cause me to hear," &c. Thy pardoning mercy out of thy word it is thy Spirit which must work with it to save me.

2. "In the morning," c. Betimes, speedily, quickly, &c.

3. His reason: "For in thee do I trust," &c. I did not let go my hold even in my extremity but still hoped against hope.

His third petition is -

1. "Cause me to know," c. The psalmist. being truly penitent, fears to relapse into his pardoned sin, and prays to God for grace and direction.

2. His reason: "For I lift up my soul," &c. My purpose, to serve thee.

His fourth petition is -

1. "Deliver me, O Lord," &c. From the devil and all his temptations.

2. His reason: "I flee unto thee," &c. From them.

His fifth petition resembles his third.

1. "Teach me to do thy will," &c. Both by an active and passive obedience may I know thy will perfectly in adversity, to submit to it in prosperity, to do it without pride or presumption.

2. His reason: "For thou art my God." Who hast promised me thy help; and from whom all my good proceeds, being and well-being.

His sixth petition: "Thy Spirit is good." Not mine. Let then thy good Spirit instruct and lead me in the right way.

His seventh petition is -

1. "Quicken me, O Lord," c. Restore life justify me fully.

2. "For thy name's sake." Not my merits, but thy mercy, and the glory that will accrue to thy name in pardoning a penitent soul.

3. He goes on: "For thy righteousness' sake," c. Freedom he desires but still at the hands of God's infinite mercy.

His last petition is for the destruction of Satan's kingdom.

1. "Of thy mercy cut off mine enemies," c.

2. His reason: "For I am thy servant," c. A follower one under thy patronage and protection one of thy family honoured with the dignity of being thy servant, and well contented and pleased to perform my duty and service.

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Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Psalms 143". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/acc/psalms-143.html. 1832.