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Bible Commentaries

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

Psalms 142

Verse 1

PSALM 142

O JEHOVAH; THOU ART MY REFUGE

Baigent pointed out that the sentiments of this psalm are those of Charles Wesley's immortal hymn, "Jesus, Lover of my Soul."[1]

"Other refuge have I none;

Hangs my helpless soul on thee.

Hide me, O my Saviour, hide

Till the storm of life is past."[2]

The superscription ascribes Psalms 142 to David; and there being nothing whatever in the psalm to raise any doubt of it, we shall so consider it. Of course, scholars who find an Aramaism here and there, speak knowingly of post-exilic times, apparently never having heard of the Ras Shamra discoveries which have completely exploded the myth that Aramaisms indicate a late date. Rawlinson's comment on the author is, "Once more David cries to God for protection and deliverance."[3]

The superscription also carries the line, "When he was in the cave." Rawlinson identified the cave as that of Adullam (1 Samuel 22:1,2)."[4] Delitzsch, however, added "The cave of Engedi (1 Samuel 24) as another possibility."[5] Halley's comment is that, "This is one of David's prayers in early life, while hiding in a cave from Saul."[6]

Here we shall follow the paragraphing suggested by Delitzsch.

Psalms 142:1-3a

"I cry with my voice unto Jehovah;

With my voice unto Jehovah do I make supplication.

I pour out my complaint before him; I show before him my trouble.

When my spirit was overwhelmed within me,

Thou knewest my path."

"I cry with my voice" (Psalms 142:1). There was nothing "silent" about this prayer. Briggs pointed out that the repetition of the words, "with my voice," "Is to emphasize the fact that it was oral ... it burst forth in loud cries."[7]

Nothing embarrasses the Devil like a loud prayer. The classical example is Bartimaeus' yelling at the top of his voice, "Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy upon me!" This sent the Pharisees into a frenzy trying to hush him up, but Jesus loved it, and said, "Bring the man to me" (Mark 10:47).

"Thou knewest my path" (Psalms 142:3c). God already knew all about David's problems, but that did not eliminate the necessity of his calling upon God for help. "Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things" (Matthew 6:32).

Verse 3

"In the way wherein I walk

Have they hidden a snare for me.

Look on my right hand, and see;

For there is no man that knoweth me:

Refuge hath failed me;

No man careth for my soul.

I cried unto thee, O Jehovah;

I said, Thou art my refuge,

My portion in the land of the living."

"They have hidden a snare for me" (Psalms 142:3b). The Davidic nature of this complaint must be obvious to anyone. Such things as "snares," "gins" and "traps" were common terms in David's vocabulary of complaint.

"Look on my right hand and see" (Psalms 142:4). "The right hand was the place of the advocate,"[8] or the defense attorney, in all ancient court proceedings; and David here uses this as a metaphor declaring that there is no one to defend him, no one on his right hand.

"But thou art my refuge" (Psalms 142:5). Briggs noted that, "`Thou' is here emphatic, emphasizing that it is God, and no other, who is his refuge."[9]

"Refuge" (Psalms 142:5). "This word carries with it the meaning of, "Shelter from storm or danger."[10] See the words of Wesley's hymn (above). Kidner identified the term "refuge" as, "A favorite word with David, as in Psalms 57:1)."[11]

Verse 6

"Attend unto my cry, for I am brought very low:

Deliver me from my persecutors;

For they are stronger than I.

Bring my soul out of prison,

That I may give thanks unto thy name:

The righteous shall compass me about;

And thou wilt deal bountifully with me."

"Attend unto my cry" (Psalms 142:6). Again emphasizing the loud nature of this prayer, Briggs rendered this clause, "Attend unto my yell."[12]

"They are stronger than I" (Psalms 142:6). "In the cave of Adullam, David had only 400 outlaws to defend him against the tens of thousands of the armies of Saul, the king of Israel (1 Samuel 22:2)."[13]

"Bring my soul out of prison" (Psalms 142:7). To this writer, it appears as simply amazing that some interpreters discover in this psalm the prayer of some "Israelite dying in jail"! To begin with, David's "body" was not imprisoned here; his "soul," that is his "spirit" was imprisoned by his enforced hiding from the armies of Saul. As Addis affirmed, "The term `prison' in Psalms 142:7 need not be taken in a literal sense."[14] Also, as McCaw wrote, "Prison, not in the sense of `jail', but in the sense of being restricted in movement."[15]

"Thou wilt deal bountifully with me" (Psalms 142:7). Thus, the psalm closes on a note of firm confidence in God and in his solution of all the problems that press upon David's heart. God provides the refuge; he is the advocate on the right hand; his strength is the foil of every enemy; his love shall achieve its noble purpose in the person of "the man after God's own heart."

Copyright Statement
Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Psalms 142". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/psalms-142.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.