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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 13

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 1-2

1. Lament over prolonged suffering 13:1-2

Rhetorical questions expressed David’s frustration and sought to move God to action (cf. Psalms 6:3). God had apparently forgotten His servant or was hiding from him (cf. Exodus 2:24-25). Having no word from the Lord, David had to listen to his own reasoning that he regarded as a poor substitute. In the meantime, his enemy continued to enjoy the upper hand.

"Psalms 13 is indeed a speech of disorientation. Something is terribly wrong in the life of the speaker, and in the life of the speaker with God." [Note: Brueggemann, p. 58.]

Verses 1-6

Psalms 13

Like several of the preceding psalms, this one is also a prayer that the psalmist offered in the midst of affliction. David rested in confidence in the Lord even though he saw no immediate relief from his predicament, possibly illness. This individual lament psalm designed for community use begins with sobbing and ends with singing.

"The Psalm consists of . . . three groups of decreasing magnitude. A long deep sigh is followed, as from a relieved breast, by an already much more gentle and half calm prayer; and this again by the believing joy which anticipates the certainty of being answered. This song as it were casts up constantly lessening waves, until it becomes still as the sea when smooth as a mirror, and the only motion discernible at last is that of the joyous ripple of calm repose." [Note: Delitzsch, 1:199.]

Verses 3-4

2. Petition for an answer 13:3-4

David needed information and wisdom in view of his need. If he did not receive them from the Lord soon, he despaired of life. "Lightening the eyes" refers to refreshing one’s vital powers (cf. 1 Samuel 14:27; 1 Samuel 14:29; Ezra 9:8). If he died, his enemy, who was also the Lord’s enemy, since David was God’s representative, would conclude he had overcome him and would rejoice. The "sleep of death" may be a metaphor for deep depression and suffering. [Note: VanGemeren, p. 140.]

"His thought is dominated by one anxiety only, the anxiety that he might waver in his faith and lose confidence in God and so might provide for his adversaries the opportunity of gaining an easy victory [cf. Numbers 14:15-16]." [Note: A. Weiser, The Psalms: A Commentary, p. 163.]

"Awareness of God and the enemy is virtually the hallmark of every psalm of David; the positive and negative charge which produced the driving-force of his best years." [Note: Kidner, p. 78.]

"We do not need to engage in any ontological speculation about whether God knows this [problem] before the speech is spoken. Inside the psalm the speech proceeds on the assumption that Yahweh is now being told what Yahweh needs to know. And that, of course, is the premise on which all serious prayer operates." [Note: Brueggemann, p. 59.]

Verses 5-6

3. Trust in eventual deliverance 13:5-6

In spite of God’s lack of response, David continued to trust in the Lord’s loyal love. He was confident that Yahweh would eventually deliver him and that he would rejoice in the Lord and sing praises to Him. The basis of this confidence was God’s bountiful goodness to him in the past. The goodness of God is a recurring theme in the psalms.

"The actual song of praise would burst forth once deliverance had been accomplished, but the knowledge that deliverance was coming created an anticipatory calm and sense of confidence." [Note: Craigie, p. 143.]

"The three pairs of verses climb up from the depths to a fine vantage-point of confidence and hope. If the path is prayer (3f.), the sustaining energy is the faith expressed in Psalms 13:5. The prospect from the summit (5) is exhilarating, and the retrospect (6) overwhelming." [Note: Kidner, p. 77.]

When the heavens seem to be brass and we feel God has departed from us, we should continue to trust Him and wait for His salvation. We can find encouragement by remembering His past loyal love and goodness to us. [Note: See Swindoll, pp. 37-46; and Ronald B. Allen, And I Will Praise Him, pp. 150-65.]

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Psalms 13". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/psalms-13.html. 2012.
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