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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 142

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

Verses 1-7

Psalms 142:0

Maschil of David; A Prayer when he was in the cave

2          I cried unto the Lord with my voice;

With my voice unto the Lord did I make my supplication.

3     I poured out my complaint before him;

I shewed before him my trouble.

4     When my spirit was overwhelmed within me,

Then thou knewest my path.
In the way wherein I walked
Have they privily laid a snare for me.

5     I looked on my right hand, and beheld,

But there was no man that would know me:

Refuge failed me;
No man cared for my soul.

6     I cried unto thee, O Lord:

I said, Thou art my refuge

And my portion in the land of the living.

7     Attend unto my cry;

For I am brought very low:
Deliver me from my persecutors;
For they are stronger than I.

8     Bring my soul out of prison,

That I may praise thy name:
The righteous shall compass me about;
For thou shalt deal bountifully with me.


Contents and Composition.—On maskil see Introd. § 8, No. 3. The Psalm is closely related to Psalms 141, 143. The superscription assigns it to the time of 1 Samuel 22:0, if the cave of Adullam be meant, here designated by the article as a well-known one, or to that of 1 Samuel 24:0, if the cave of Engedi be meant. The contents agree with this statement, which cannot be successfully impugned on linguistic grounds, although there appears to be a certain dependence upon Psalms 77:0. which has given rise to some hesitation.

The Author calls upon God, with a loud voice, for deliverance on account of the greatness of his distress and anguish; for even the eye of God, to whom his every way is known, will see only snares in his path, but no helping friend, (Psalms 142:2-5). And he cries to God, for He remains his refuge and his portion, and will deliver him from oppression and weakness in spite of his powerful persecutors, so that he may praise Him amid the acclamations of His people (Psalms 142:6-7).

[Psalms 142:4. When my spirit was over whelmed.—The same mode of expression occurs in Psalms 77:4. Hupfeld would connect this line with the preceding verse, as is done in Psalms 102:1. This would certainly give a more natural and easy connection.—J. F. M.]

Psalms 142:5. Look to the right hand [E. V.: I looked, etc.]—The ancient versions and Rabbins whom Calvin follows, and by whose influence Ewald is moved to change the pointing, translate as if the verb, instead of being in the imperat. Hiphil, were in the absolute infinitive, which they then render in the first person. They mistake the character of the language of prayer. The right side is mentioned since being the side defended, it was the point of attack (Psalms 109:6) where, therefore, the defenders post themselves (Psalms 109:31; Psalms 110:5) as a shelter (Psalms 121:5). There is no need of changing the reading with a view to gain the sense: looking all the day long and seeing (Hitzig). [Translate: look at the right hand and see. No friend (appears) for me; refuge for me is lost. There is none that inquireth after my soul. Perowne: “There is no contradiction in this prayer to the previous statement of belief in God’s omniscience: Thou knowest my path, as has been alleged. Such appeals to God to see, to regard, etc., are common enough, and ‘are bound up with the very nature of prayer, which is one great anthropomorphism.’ ”—J. F. M.]

Psalm 142:8. It is not indicated in the text whether the term prison, employed for affliction, is figurative or not. The translation of the last line: the righteous wait for me (Septuagint, Syriac, Aquila, Ewald), would require the construction with לְ (Job 36:2). The renderings: crown (Symm., Jerome), or figuratively: triumph in me as in a crown (Aben Ezra, Kimchi), or: deck themselves as with a crown, i.e., triumph like a king (Cocceius, Venema, Del.), are far-fetched. The explanation: surround, here naturally not in a hostile but in a friendly manner (Luther, after Felix Pratensis and most of the recent expositors), has to meet only the difficulty of the construction with בְּ. [The sense of the E. V. is therefore probably the correct one. On the feelings of the Psalmist, Delitzsch: “The poet thus finds himself not so completely alone as might appear from Psalms 142:5. He does not fancy that he is the only righteous one. He is only a member of a common Church, whose lot is interwoven with his, and who will triumph in his deliverance as in their own (1 Corinthians 12:26).”—J. F. M.]


The great distress of God’s children, the conduct of the believer, and his certain help.—We can lose everything on earth without harm to us, if only God remains as our Portion.—The friendship of God and the enmity of the world, in the community of the righteous.

Starke: The inner suffering of the heart, when the spirit is under deepest oppression, is the true school of prayer.—God often purposely permits His children to come into great affliction, so that His works may become manifest. He will yet be acknowledged by us as our only and best Helper.—When other men find reasons for despairing, believers make God their refuge, and He then manifests His might and help in a way that gladdens their hearts.—There is no better friend than God; He does not forsake His own even in the greatest need.—Oppression and affliction, faith and prayer, often meet; affliction tries faith and strengthens prayer.—This whole world is to God’s children often nothing but a prison, in which with tears and groans they await the redemption of the body.—God does not yield His honor. When He knows how to glorify it through them or others, He will not spare Himself. Recall it to Him in an earnest, upright spirit, and thou shalt see thy desire in His mercy and help.

Frisch: Those who pray best do not know how to sink deep enough before God’s supreme majesty.—Diedrich: If the soul has only its refuge and its light in God, it can praise Him even in the midst of enemies, and then also be assured of the greatest triumph.—Taube: Persecution from the side of enemies presses sorely, but abandonment by friends, who should have stood by one’s side as helpers and defenders, presses more sorely still.

[Matt. Henry: We are apt to show our trouble too much to ourselves, aggravating it and poring upon it, which doth us unkindness, whereas by showing it to God, we might cast the care on Him who careth for us, and thereby ease ourselves. Nor should we allow of any complaint to ourselves and others, which we cannot with the due decency and sincerity make to God, and stand to before Him.—This is the greatest comfort of our temporal mercies, that they furnish us with matter and give us opportunity for the excellent duty of praise.—Others’ mercies ought to be the matter of our praises to God; and others’ praises on our behalf ought to be both desired and rejoiced in by us.—Bp. Horne: When danger besetteth us around, and fear is on every side, let us follow the example of David, and that of a greater than David, who, when Jews and Gentiles conspired against Him, and He was left all alone in the garden and on the cross, gave Himself unto prayer.—Barnes: That God may be honored, is an object at all times much more important than our own welfare, even than our salvation.—It is an honor to be desired, to be associated with good men, to possess their esteem, to have their sympathy, their prayers, and their affections, to share their joys here and their triumphs in the world to come.—J. F. M.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 142". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/psalms-142.html. 1857-84.
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