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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 142

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Psalms 142:0


Prayer for Help in TroubleMT IntroMaskil of David, when he was in the cave. A Prayer.A Plea for Relief from PersecutorsPrayer for Deliverance from Personal Enemies(A Lament)A Prayer for HelpPrayer in Persecution
Psalms 142:1-4Psalms 142:1-2Psalms 142:1-3bPsalms 142:1-4Psalms 142:1-3b
Psalms 142:3-4
Psalms 142:3-4 Psalms 142:3-4
Psalms 142:5-7Psalms 142:5-7Psalms 142:5-6bPsalms 142:5-7Psalms 142:5-6b
Psalms 142:6-7 Psalms 142:6-7

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Etc.

Verses 1-4

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 142:1-4 1I cry aloud with my voice to the Lord; I make supplication with my voice to the Lord. 2I pour out my complaint before Him; I declare my trouble before Him. 3When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, You knew my path. In the way where I walk They have hidden a trap for me. 4Look to the right and see; For there is no one who regards me; There is no escape for me; No one cares for my soul.

Psalms 142:1-2 This Psalm starts out with four imperfects which denote ongoing prayer.

1. I cry aloud - BDB 277, KB 277, Qal imperfect

2. I make supplication - BDB 335, KB 334, Hithpael imperfect

3. I pour out my complaint - BDB 1049, KB 1629, Qal imperfect, cf. 1 Samuel 1:15; Psalms 62:8; Lamentations 2:19

4. I declare my trouble - BDB 616, KB 665, Hiphil imperfect

Psalms 142:3 “my spirit” This is the Hebrew term ruah (BDB 924), which denotes “wind,” “breath,” or “spirit.” It is used of the God-given life force in humanity. See Special Topic: Spirit in the Bible.

The psalmist is confused by the attacks of his accusers (i.e., those who hid a trap for him, Psalms 142:0:3d, cf. Psalms 140:4-5; Psalms 141:9-10; they are also called “persecutors” in Psalms 142:6c).

The psalmist asserts that YHWH knows him (i.e., his path, where he walks, Psalms 142:3b,c and Psalms 139:0) but it does not feel that way (i.e., Psalms 142:4).

NASB, NKJV“overwhelmed” NRSV, NJB, REB“faint” LXX“failing me” JPSOA“fails within me”

This Hithpael infinitive construct (BDB 742 III) basically means “to be feeble” or “to faint.”

1. feeble - Hiphil, Genesis 30:42

2. faint - Qal, Psalms 61:3; Isaiah 57:16

3. faint - Hithpael, Psalms 77:4; Psalms 107:5; Psalms 143:4; Lamentations 2:12; Jonah 2:7

It is an idiom of discouragement and hopelessness.

Lines b and c express the truth that God is well acquainted with the lives of His faithful followers. Why problems, sickness, rejection, and attacks come is a mystery (i.e., Job), but the Bible teaches YHWH is for us, with us, and will never leave us. We can face circumstances with faith in Him!

Psalms 142:4 The psalmist is surprised that no one comes to his aid (cf. Psalms 142:4), not even YHWH. Note the imperatives.

1. look - BDB 613, KB 661, Hiphil imperative

2. see - BDB 906, KB 1157, Qal imperative

Line d is so sad! He felt all alone, all alone! He felt his situation was hopeless (i.e., Job)!

The LXX, apparently following the DSS understanding, made the imperatives into simple statements, “I look. . .I see,” referring not to YHWH, but to the psalmist. This is followed by the Aramaic Targums and the Vulgate. I think the imperatives fit the context best (i.e., the psalmist is addressing God, Psalms 142:1-3).

“soul” This is the Hebrew term nephesh; see note at Genesis 35:18.

“No one cares for my soul” The participle (BDB 205, KB 233, Qal participle) is literally “seek” and the phrase may be translated “no one seeks my life,” but this is easily misunderstood in English. So the NASB caught the meaning well.

Verses 5-7

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 142:5-7 5I cried out to You, O Lord; I said, “You are my refuge, My portion in the land of the living. 6Give heed to my cry, For I am brought very low; Deliver me from my persecutors, For they are too strong for me. 7Bring my soul out of prison, So that I may give thanks to Your name; The righteous will surround me, For You will deal bountifully with me.”

Psalms 142:5 This is the psalmist's affirmation of faith.

1. You are my refuge

2. You are my portion in the land of the living (i.e., note, not the afterlife, cf. Job 28:13; Psalms 27:13; Psalms 52:5; Psalms 116:9; Isaiah 38:11; Jeremiah 11:19)

“refuge” See Special Topic: Refuge (OT).

“my portion” See note at Psalms 16:5 online.

Psalms 142:6-7 There is a series of prayer requests (Hiphil imperatives).

1. give heed - BDB 904, KB 1151, Hiphil imperative

2. deliver me - BDB 664, KB 717, Hiphil imperative

3. bring out - BDB 422, KB 425, Hiphil imperative

Psalms 142:7 “out of prison” This must be

1. metaphorical for his confusion and low state (cf. Psalms 142:3-4, Psalms 142:6-7)

2. a reference to one taken forcibly into exile

3. an idiom for Sheol

The term “prison” (BDB 689) can mean

1. “locksmith” or “smith” - 2 Kings 24:14; Jeremiah 24:1; Jeremiah 29:2

2. dungeon (only three times in the OT)

a. literal of eschatological underground prison (cf. I Enoch 10.4,12)

b. figurative - Isaiah 42:7

“So that I may give thanks to Your name” This would be a request to visit the temple in Jerusalem. This is reinforced by the next line, “the righteous will surround me” (i.e., in corporate worship).


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk n the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. The psalmist asserts YHWH's knowledge of him (cf. Psalms 142:3b, c), but questions his circumstances! Sound familiar? Does knowledge of God's presence and care remove problems, sickness, and evil people from our lives?

2. Is Psalms 142:4 about being abandoned by friends and family or by God?

3. To what does “prison” of Psalms 142:7 refer?

4. Is Psalms 142:7 referring to temple worship?

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Psalms 142". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/psalms-142.html. 2021.
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