Psalm 142:1-4

1. I cried to Jehovah with my voice, with my voice to Jehovah I made supplication. 2. I pour out my meditation before his face: I tell my affliction before his face. 3. When my spirit was perplexed within me, and thou knewest my path: in the way wherein I walked they laid a snare for me. 4. On looking to the right hand, and perceiving, none would know me, refuge failed me, there was none seeking after my soul.


1. I cried 1 to Jehovah, etc. It showed singular presence of mind in David that he was not paralyzed with fear, or that he did not in a paroxysm of fury take vengeance upon his enemy, as he easily might have done; and that he was not actuated by despair to take away his life, but composedly addressed himself to the exercise of prayer. There was good reason why the title should have been affixed to the Psalm to note this circumstance, and David had good grounds for mentioning how he commended himself to God. Surrounded by the army of Saul, and hemmed in by destruction on every side, how was it possible for him to have spared so implacable an enemy, had he not been fortified against the strongest temptations by prayer? The repetition he makes use of indicates his having prayed with earnestness, so as to be impervious to every assault of temptation.

He tells us still more clearly in the next verse that he disburdened his ears unto God. To pour out one's thoughts and tell over his afflictions implies the reverse of those perplexing anxieties which men brood over inwardly to their own distress, and by which they torture themselves, and are chafed by their afflictions rather than led to God; or it implies the reverse of those frantic exclamations to which others give utterance who find no comfort in the superintending providence and care of God. In short, we are left to infer that while he did not give way before men to loud and senseless lamentations, neither did he suffer himself to be tormented with inward and suppressed cares, but made known his grief's with unsuspecting confidence to the Lord.

3. When, my spirit, etc. Though he owns here that he felt anxiety, yet he confirms what he had said as to the constancy of his faith. The figure which he uses of his spirit being perplexed, 2aptly represents the state of the mind in alternating between various resolutions when there was no apparent outgate from danger, and increasing its distress by resorting to all kinds of devices. He adds, that though there was no apparent way of safety, God knew from the beginning in what way his deliverance should be effected. Others put a different meaning upon this clause, thou knowest my way, as if David asserted God to have been witness of his integrity, but the other is the more correct, that God knew the way to deliver him, while his own mind was distracted by a variety of thoughts, and yet could not conceive any mode of extrication. The words teach us, when we have tried every remedy and know not what to do, to rest satisfied with the conviction that God is acquainted with our afflictions, and condescends to care for us, as Abraham said --

"The Lord will provide." (Genesis 22:8.)

4. On looking to the right hand, 3 etc., He shows that there was good cause for the dreadful sufferings he experienced, since no human aid or comfort was to be expected, and destruction seemed inevitable. When he speaks of having looked and yet not perceived a friend amongst men, he does not mean that he had turned his thoughts to earthly helps in forgetfulness of God, but that he had made such inquiry as was warrantable after one on the earth who might assist him. Had any person of the kind presented himself, he would no doubt have recognized him as an instrument in the hand of God's mercy, but it was God's purpose that he should be abandoned of all assistance from man, and that his deliverance from destruction should thus appear more extraordinary. In the expression, none seeking after my soul, the verb to seek after is used in a good sense, for being solicitous about any man's welfare or safety.

1 In the Hebrew the verb is in the future -- "I will cry;" but as that language has no present tense, it frequently uses for it the past and future promiscuously. Bishop Horne, therefore, renders in the present all the verbs in this Psalm, which Calvin translates in the past, except the verbs in the two first verses, which he renders in the future. Translators, however, in general concur with Calvin, and we think justly, the Psalm, as we conceive, being a recollection of the substance of the prayers he addressed to God while in the cave of En-gedi, but which it cannot be supposed he had then an opportunity of committing to writing.

2 "Or c'est une belle similitude quand il dit que son esprit a este en tortille et enveloppe," etc. -- Fr.

3 The allusion here, it is supposed, is to the observances of the ancient Jewish courts of judicature, in which the advocate, as well as the accuser, stood on the right hand of the accused. (Psalm 109:5.) The Psalmist felt himself in the condition of one who had nobody to plead his cause, and to protect him in the dangerous circumstances in which he was placed.


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