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Bible Commentaries

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

Psalms 143



This psalm is chiefly interesting as an instance of the way in which the deeper religious life of the post-exile times was upheld and cherished by the experience of past times and the faith of older generations as it had found expression in prophecy and song. For, as the Notes will show, there is hardly a phrase which is not derived from some older source—a fact which at once disposes of the inscription.
Probably it is not an individual, but the community, which thus under affliction confesses its sin and comforts itself with reflections on the past.

Verse 1

(1) Faithfulness . . . righteousness.—The first word recalls the covenant promise, the second the faith, expressed so frequently, on which the covenant rested, that the Judge of all the world must do right. St. John founds the appeal for forgiveness on the same pair of Divine qualities (1 John 1:9; comp. Psalms 65:5.)

Verse 2

(2) And enter not.—The Divine justice has just been invoked, and now the appellant suddenly seems to deprecate it. These verses really sum up the apparent paradox of the Book of Job, as also the expressions recall that Book. (See Job 4:17; Job 9:2; Job 9:32; Job 14:3, seq., Job 15:14; Job 22:4, &c) In one breath Job frequently pours forth pathetic protestations of his innocence, and dread lest God should take him at his word and arraign him for trial. Man, in his desire to have his character vindicated before man, appeals to the just Judge, but instantly falls back with a guilty sense that before that tribunal none can stand:

“For merit lives from man to man,
And not from man, O Lord, to Thee.

Shall . . . be justified.—This follows the LXX. Better, is just.

Verse 3

(3) This verse explains the last. The affliction under which the psalmist suffers is evidence that God is visiting for sin.

He hath made . . .—See Lamentations 3:6; and comp. Psalms 88:5-6.

Long dead.—Literally, either dead of old, or dead for ever, according as we take ‘ôlam of past or future time. LXX., νεκροὺς αἰῶνος; Vulg., mortuos sæculi.

Verse 4

(4) See Psalms 142:3, and Notes.

Is desolate.—Or, more literally, as in Isaiah 59:16; Isaiah 63:5, &c, wondered; literally, fills itself with astonishment.

Verse 5

(5) See Psalms 77:5-6.

Verse 6

(6) With the first clause comp. Psalms 44:20.

Thirsty land.—See Psalms 63:1, which explains this elliptical sentence. As our Lord taught, God is even more ready to send the refreshing spiritual shower than man’s heart to receive it.

Verse 7

(7) With the first clause comp. Psalms 69:17, with the second, Psalms 102:2,

This dependence on former psalms does not detract from the reality of the feeling expressed by means of these ancient sobs and cries. The contrast of the present with former times (Psalms 143:5) with the recollection of God’s dealings then, joined to thoughtful contemplation of the reality of His power as displayed in His works, makes the psalmist’s anguish the more intense, his longing the more consuming, his supplication the more urgent.

Verse 8

(8) In the morning.—Comp. Psalms 90:14. The expression either means “early,” or is figurative of the dawn of hope and salvation.

The way wherein I should walk—i.e., the way at once of duty and safety.

I lift up my soul.—Or, my desire.

Verse 9

(9) I flee . . .—Literally, unto thee have I hidden. A phrase which has been variously explained—(1) to Thee I have confided my troubles: (2) and, better, as in the Authorised Version, to Thee I (have fled and) hid (myself). The reflexive use of the Hebrew verb is sufficiently established by Genesis 38:14; Deuteronomy 22:12 (Jonah 3:6 is doubtful).

Verse 10

(10) Thy spirit is good; lead me.—Or, rather, let thy good spirit lead me. (For the omission of the article with the adjective after the determinative noun, comp. Genesis 37:2.)

Land of uprightness.—Better, level land (Deuteronomy 4:43, “plain country;” comp. Jeremiah 48:21), here metaphorically of tranquility and happiness. (Comp. Isaiah 26:10; Psalms 27:11.)

Verse 11

(11) Quicken me, O Lord.—Comp. Psalms 138:7 and Psalms 119:0 frequently.

Out of trouble.—Comp. Psalms 34:17; Psalms 142:7.

Verses 11-12

(11, 12) The last two verses are made of reminiscences of former psalm experiences. The verbs should be in the future, not the imperative.

For thy name’s sake.—Comp. Psalms 23:3, &c.

Verse 12

(12) Comp. Pss. xviii, 40, 54:7.

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Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Psalms 143". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.