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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical

Psalms 13

Verses 1-6

Psalms 13:0

To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David

1          How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord? forever?

How long wilt thou hide thy face from me?

2     How long shall I take counsel in my soul?

Having sorrow in my heart daily?

How long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?

3     Consider and hear me, O Lord my God:

Lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death;

4     Lest mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him;

And those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved.

5     But I have trusted in thy mercy;

My heart shall rejoice in thy salvation.

6     I will sing unto the Lord, because he hath dealt bountifully with me.


Its character. The Psalm begins with a strophe of five lines, a lamentation from a sighing breast, in which hope is in severe conflict with despair; then follows a strophe of four lines of urgent prayer; from which breaks forth in a strophe of three lines, faith in the Divine grace, with expressions of joyous personal participation therein. It is all expressed in language so true to life, and with the freshness of experience, that it is entirely inadmissible to regard as its subject the people of Israel oppressed by foreign nations (Rabbin., Rosenm., De Wette) or the suffering Christ. David can only apply as a type, so far as his experience is applied to the God-fearing sufferer and Christian martyr. [Perowne: “The rapid transition of feeling from a depth of misery bordering on despair, to hope, and even joy, is very remarkable.” Hitzig refers this Psalm to the time of Saul’s persecution of David. Delitzsch likewise inclines to this opinion.—C. A. B.]

Str. I. Psa 13:1. How longforever.—The meeting together of the question, and the lamentation, in apparent conflict, in the words which begin and close the clause, is found likewise, Psalms 74:10; Psalms 79:5; Psalms 89:46. Thus it cannot be merely an accidental want of exactness in the expression, nor can it be set aside by interpreting “forever” by “entirely” (Aquil., Rosenm.), which the language does not permit, but it is to be explained from the conflict in the Psalmist’s own feelings (Calv., Hengst., Hupf., Delitzsch), which Luther (although he incorrectly translates “entirely,” “fully”) very properly describes as “an anguish of spirit which feels that it has to do with a God alienated, hostile, implacable, inexorable, whose wrath is eternal, where hope itself despairs, and yet despair hopes; and all that lives is the ‘groaning that cannot be uttered,’ wherewith the Holy Spirit maketh intercession for us brooding over the waters shrouded in darkness.” [The punctuation of the A. V., “How long wilt thou forget me? forever?” is incorrect. Perowne: “It is natural for a perturbed and doubting heart thus to express itself in a confused and almost contradictory manner.”—“Well must David have understood what this was, when, hunted by Saul, he knew not where to betake himself; at one time seeking refuge among the Moabites, at another in the wilderness of Ziph; now an outlaw hiding himself in the cave of Adullam, and anon a captain in the service of the king of the Philistines; and amid all his projects, haunted by the mournful conviction ‘I shall now one day perish by the hand of Saul.’ ”—C. A. B.]

Psalms 13:2. Daily.—[Barnes: “Everyday; constantly. That is, there was no intermission to his troubles. The sorrow in his heart seems to have been not merely that which was caused by trouble from without, but also that which sprang from the painful necessity of attempting to form plans for his own relief—plans which seemed to be in vain.”7—C. A. B.]

Str. II. Psa 13:3. Make mine eyes clear.—[A. V., “lighten mine eyes”] does not mean: illuminate mine eyes = my face; namely: with the light of Thy countenance (Geier, and most interpreters), but states the consequences and the work of the Divine glance of grace, namely: the strengthening of the vitality, whose mirror is the clear and cheerful eye, 1 Samuel 14:27; 1 Samuel 14:29. Their dimness shows the exhaustion of vitality, Psalms 6:7; Lamentations 5:17. It is true Psalms 19:8 speaks of enlightening the eyes by the Spirit and the word of God (Chald., Cocc., et al.), but this is not referred to here, where it has to do with enlightening with the light of life, as Job 33:30; Psalms 38:10; Proverbs 29:13. [Delitzsch: “The enlightening light to which הֵאִיר refers, is the love-light of the Divine countenance, Psalms 31:16. Light, love, and life, are related ideas in the Scriptures. He upon whom God looks in love, remains alive, he who is permeated with new vitality, obtains not to sleep the sleep of death.”—C. A. B.] The kind of sleep is indicated by the accusative. [A. V.: the sleep of death.] The ancient translations on the other hand have erroneously taken it as if death is not figuratively represented as sleep, but as a condition, to which, or into which, sleep might lead.8

[Psalms 13:4. When I am moved.—Barnes: “Moved from my steadfastness or firmness; when I am overcome. Hitherto he had been able to hold out against them, now he began to despair, and to fear that they would accomplish their object by overcoming and subduing him. His ground of apprehension and of appeal was, that by his being vanquished the cause in which he was engaged would suffer, and that the enemies of religion would triumph.”—C. A. B.]

[Str. III. Psa 13:5-6. Tholuck: “Whilst the thunder and lightning are still raging around him, David sings his song of praise, as Luther also says, ‘While Satan rages and roars about him, he meanwhile sings quietly his little Psalm.’ ” The Septuagint has an additional clause, followed by the Vulgate and the English prayer book: “Yea, I will praise the name of the Lord Most High.” It is not found in any Hebrew MSS.—C. A. B.]


1. It is true that God does not forget anyone, yet it may be that to the human spirit it appears as if he were forgotten by God, and that the Holy One had veiled His countenance from him. Then he feels at once that he is forsaken by God, and that he is weak with reference to his enemies. Whatever resolves he may make, he will not escape from his troubles. He fears the disfavor of God, and at the same time is anxious for his own life, and on account of his enemies shouts of victory.

2. Even a pious man may fall into such a state of anxiety of soul, especially if he is mindful of his sins whilst enduring these earthly troubles; if he experiences the nearness of Divine punishment in the dangers which threaten him; if he feels in his trials the hand of the righteous God chastising him; and if he recognizes his transgressions against Divine commands in the hindrances to his communion with God.

3. Yet; as long as the heart of man still retains faith in the Divine grace, despair does not gain the supremacy over his troubled soul. Fear may struggle for a long time with hope, as to whether this grace may still be referred to his own person, and glorify itself by it; but if such a man still earnestly prays, and can earnestly call upon the Divine grace, he will likewise learn again to firmly trust in that grace which alone affords help in dangers of body and necessities of soul; and fear is changed into assurance of salvation, just as lamentation into the praise of God. Mala enim, quæ nos hic premunt, ad Christum ire compellunt (Gregory).


Man may be in great need on earth, so that he no longer knows how to advise or help himself; but so long as he can pray, he is not lost.—Trouble of heart transcends bodily need; but the greatest trouble arises from anguish of soul on account of the wrath of God.—It is well for those who, although in the greatest anxiety, are driven by the feeling that they are abandoned by God, to seek the grace of God! Under the experience of the Divine grace the lamentations of a man are changed into thanksgiving.—According as God’s countenance is veiled against us or shines upon us, our life and our experience are darkened or brightened.

Starke:—God has provided and appointed to every Christian his cross, so also how long it is to last, and he cannot forget us or our crosses. God only is the light in all our troubles, yes, even in death. We are much blinder and more foolish in our own adversities than in those of others.—Sleep and death follow one another, and are brothers.—He who does not receive the enlightening grace of God, cannot awake from the sleep of sin, but must go to sleep in death itself.—The end of all the Christian’s troubles is joy. It is ungodly and inhuman to rejoice over the misfortunes of our neighbors; what a degree of wickedness, then, is it not, to rejoice over the undeserved disasters of righteous souls. He who rightly knows the grace of the Lord, His readiness to help, and His constant benefits, will hope, rejoice, and praise the Lord even under the cross.—Calvin: Until God actually stretches forth His hand to help us, the flesh cries, His eyes are closed.

Selnekker: At first we should complain to God of our need and solicitude; then we should pray to Him for help and deliverance, and all this for His own glory and name sake; and finally we should thank Him for His gracious advice, help, and assistance.—Franke: The chief thing, incumbent upon the children of God, is to possess their souls in patience.—Frisch: See what thy faith can do, and what power it has to chase away the spirit of sorrow, and bring pleasure and joy to the heart.—Roos: How do we come from darkness to bright light, from the depths into the heights, from straits into a wide room? By prayer and by a struggling faith, which God meets at the right time with His grace to help.—Tholuck: There is a much harder trial in the length of sufferings than in their strength.—Taube: As a child of God, man first feels what he is when left to himself.—Diedrich: Not to perceive God is the most bitter death, and still to behold God, is life, even in the midst of death.

[Matth. Henry: In singing this Psalm and praying over it, if we have not the same complaints to make that David had, we must thank God that we have not, dread and deprecate His withdrawing, pity and sympathize with those that are troubled in mind, and encourage ourselves in our most holy faith and joy.—Barnes: Afflicted, depressed, and sad, we go to God. Everything seems dark. We have no peace—no clear and cheerful views—no joy. As we wait upon God, new views of His character. His mercy, His love, break upon the mind. The clouds open. Light beams upon us. Our souls take hold of the promises of God, and we, who went to His throne sad and desponding, rise from our devotions filled with praise and joy, submissive to the trials which made us so sad, and rejoicing in the belief that all things will work together for our good.—Spurgeon: If the reader has never yet found occasion to use the language of this brief ode, he will do so ere long, if he be a man after the Lord’s own heart.—We are all prone to play most on the worst string. We set up monumental stones over the graves of our joys, but who thinks of erecting monuments of praise for mercies received? We write four books of Lamentations and only one of Canticles, and are far more at home in wailing out a Miserere than in chanting a Te Deum.—C. A. B.]


[7][Hupfeld translates: “All day long.” Delitzsch translates, “during the day,” and contrasts with the night employed in making his plans, which during the day prove of no avail, and thus he continues in trouble day after day.—C. A. B.]

[8][Perowne: “Such is the fearfulness of the spiritual conflict, that it seems as if death only could be the end. He knew this who said, ‘My soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death.’ ”—Barnes: “Death is often compared to sleep.—It is only, however, in connection with Christianity, that the idea has been fully carried out by the doctrine of the resurrection; for as we lie down at night with the hope of awaking to the pursuits and enjoyments of a new day, so the Christian lies down in death, with the hope of awaking in the morning of the resurrection to the pursuits and enjoyments of a new and eternal day.”—C. A. B.]

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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition available at Public Domain.
Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 13". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". 1857-84.