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This is one of the eight psalms assigned by their inscriptions to the time of David’s persecution by Saul.
There is nothing in the contents either to support or controvert the title, unless the recurrence of expressions found in Psalms 42, 61, 77, marks dependence on them. But such dependence would not detract from the originality of the poem before us, an originality shown rather in the passion and play of feeling than in the poetic figure and expression. The parallelism is varied.
Title.—Maschil. (See Title Psalms 32:0) For the rest of the inscription see Introduction.
(1) I cried . . .—See Psalms 3:4, &c.
(2) I poured out.—See the same verb used in similar sense, Psalms 42:4; Psalms 62:8; and with the second clause comp. Psalms 107:6.
(3) When my spirit.—Literally, in the muffling upon me of my spirit. When my spirit was so wrapped in trouble and gloom, so “muffled round with woe” that I could not see the path before me, was distracted and unable to chose a. line of conduct, Thou (emphatic) knewest my path. (Comp. for the same verb Psalms 61:2; Psalms 77:3.)
(4) I looked.—The Authorised Version follows the ancient versions in turning the Hebrew imperatives into historic tenses. But they are easily intelligible if taken rhetorically, and indeed the psalm loses in liveliness by missing them:
“On the path by which I must walk they have laid a trap for me;
Look to the right and see,
Not a friend is in sight.
Failed has refuge from me,
There is none who careth for my soul.”
To the “right,” because according to the regular Hebrew metaphor it was on the “right hand” that the protector would stand. (See Note Psalms 16:8, &c; and comp. Psalms 109:6; Psalms 109:31; Psalms 110:5; Psalms 121:5.)
(5) With this verse comp. Psalms 31:3; Psalms 22:8; Psalms 16:5, &c.
(7) Out of prison.—This expression, which must certainly be figurative of distress (comp. Psalms 143:11), probably led to the inscription.
Compass me about.—The Hebrew word here employed is used in a hostile sense in Psalms 22:12; Judges 20:43; Habakkuk 1:4. It is better, therefore, to follow the LXX. and render:
“In my case the righteous are waiting
This sense “waiting for,” besides being favoured by the construction, suits well the passage, Proverbs 14:18.
“The simple inherit folly,
But the prudent wait for knowledge,
and is Aquila’s rendering there of the word as it is here.
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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Psalms 142". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25