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The superscription reads: an instruction of David. When he was in the cave. A prayer. On משכיל , instruction, comp. at Psalms 32. This designation is here proved to be original by the conclusion of the Psalm, which, in conformity with that, points to the general import of what primarily applied only to David, thus corresponding to the relation which Psalms 32:8 bears to the superscription in Psalms 32. The: in the cave, refers not to some particular cave, but only indicates that the Psalm contains cave-thoughts—comp. at Psalms 57. On תפלה , not prayer generally, but supplicatory prayer entirely—comp. on Psalms 102 supers. Psalms 141:5.
That the situation indicated in the superscription was not the proper occasion of the Psalm, but that David here only applies what he then experienced for the edification of others, appears not simply from the expression, “an instruction,” in the front of the superscription, out of which the following words: when he was in the cave, derive their more definite import, but still more from the fact, that the Psalm stands in close contact with the rest of the cycle of which it forms a part—comp., for example, Psalms 142:3, with Psalms 149:9, Psalms 140:5, Psalms 143:4, and the exposition.
David sees in his desperate condition, when he was in the cave, a type of the future condition of his race and of the church. His cave-reflections he sets before them as an instruction. When it might come with them to an extremity—this is the posture of affairs contemplated, and such must come, for it cannot go otherwise with the son than with the father, they too must have their Saul to withstand—they should still not despair, but pour out their complaint before the Lord.
The whole is completed in the number seven, divided by the four and three. The name Jehovah occurs three times, twice at the beginning of the first, and once at the beginning of the second strophe.
Ver. 1. I cry to the Lord with my voice, I make supplication to the. Lord with my voice. Ver. 2. I pour out my complaint before him, and show before him my distress. Ver. 3. Because my spirit is overwhelmed in me, and thou knowest my path upon the way that I should go they hid snares for me. Ver. 4. Look to the right hand and lo! there will no one know me, every refuge is lost for me, no one concerns himself for my soul.
On קולי , Psalms 142:1, comp. Psalms 3:4. To the Lord—who once so gloriously listened to the progenitor, when he was hopelessly lost. On the second member comp. Psalms 30:8. On Psalms 142:2 comp. the superscription of Psalms 102, a Psalm of David: “Prayer of the miserable when he is in distress, and pours out his complaint before the Lord;” also Psalms 62:8, Psalms 64:1.
Psalms 142:3 declares what caused the Psalmist to go with supplication and prayer to the Lord. This was the deep prostration of spirit corresponding to his desperate condition, coupled with the conviction that God knew his way, and, as is further mentioned with the view of presenting a more exact and extended description of it, the dangers which threatened him in the way—comp. Psalms 1:6. Others, after the example of Luther, elevate the connection between this verse and the preceding, and take the vau in ואתה as the mark of a conclusion from the former member: when my spirit is overwhelmed, then thou knowest my path, for then the thought comforts me, that thou knowest. On עטף comp. at Psalms 102 supers., 107:5, Psalms 77:3. In regard עלי , in me, comp. at Psalms 42:4. That we must explain: which I should go, not: which I go, appears from Psalms 143:8.
The right hand is named in Psalms 142:4, because, being the instrument of action, it is the most suitable place for any one who would either effectually hinder or support one—comp. on Psalms 109:5, Psalms 11:5. There is no one that knows me, will know, they all make themselves strange, and no one extends to me assistance, comp. Psalms 38:11. The consideration of this mournful helplessness, which, according to Psalms 142:3, lay open before God as the omniscient, must move him to come forth as the present help in trouble. “When there is no longer any one on earth, in whose aid thou canst confide, then will he be thy comforter, and will look on thee for thy good.” מנוס , refuge, as Psalms 59:16.
Ver. 5. I cry to thee, Lord, I say: thou art my confidence, my portion in the land of the living. Ver. 6. Attend to my supplication, for I have become very thin; deliver me from my persecutors, for they are too powerful for me. Ver. 7. Bring my soul out of prison, that men may praise thy name; the righteous shall compass me about, when thou dealest kindly with me.
The beginning of the second strophe, in Psalms 142:5, takes up again the beginning of the first. On the expression: thou art my confidence, comp. Psalms 62:7, Psalms 71:7. On: my portion, q. d. my helper and bestower of salvation, comp. on Psalms 16:5, Psalms 73:26. On: in the land of the living, at Psalms 27:13, Psalms 52:6.
On the words: attend to my supplication, Psalms 142:6, comp. Psalms 17:1, Psalms 61:1. I have become very thin, comp. Psalms 79:9, rests, as it appears, on Judges 6:6, “and Israel was very thin before Midian.” On: deliver me from my persecutors, comp. Psalms 7:1. The allusion to this passage warrants us to read between the lines: thou, who didst once so wonderfully answer the same prayer. On: for they are too powerful for me, comp. Psalms 18:17.
On: bring me—out of the prison, comp. Psalms 25:17: “Bring me out of my distresses,” and Psalms 143:11: “Thou wilt bring my soul out of distress.” Upon the prison as an image of trouble and distress, see on Psalms 107:10. There is, perhaps, an allusion to the history of Joseph, q. d., lead me out of distress, as formerly in the type Joseph was delivered from the prison, comp. on Psalms 105:17 ss. My soul, the distressed, Psalms 142:3, the endangered, Psalms 141:8. That the expression: to praise thy name, comp. Ps. 17, 140:14, must be explained: that men may praise, I in company with the righteous, not with Luther: that I may praise, appears from the following words. כתר means in Hiph. only to compass about, comp. Habakkuk 1:4, Proverbs 14:8; as also in Pi. comp. Psalms 22:12, with the single exception of Job 36:2, where the Arabic usage is employed. בי marks the tender fellow-feeling with which they surround him, pressing closely upon him. The allusion to the sympathy of the righteous, in regard to the deliverance granted to the Psalmist, is one of frequent occurrence with David; comp., for example. Psalms 40:16, Psalms 35:27. On גמל with על , to give, to deal kindly, comp. on Psalms 13:6, Psalms 103:10.
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Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Psalms 142". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany