Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
This is one of the eight psalms assigned by their inscriptions to the time of David’s persecution by Saul.
There is nothing in the contents either to support or controvert the title, unless the recurrence of expressions found in Psalms 42, 61, 77, marks dependence on them. But such dependence would not detract from the originality of the poem before us, an originality shown rather in the passion and play of feeling than in the poetic figure and expression. The parallelism is varied.
Title.—Maschil. (See Title Psalms 32) For the rest of the inscription see Introduction.
Maschil of David; A Prayer when he was in the cave. I cried unto the LORD with my voice; with my voice unto the LORD did I make my supplication.(1) I cried . . .—See Psalm 3:4, &c.
I poured out my complaint before him; I shewed before him my trouble.(2) I poured out.—See the same verb used in similar sense, Psalm 42:4; Psalm 62:8; and with the second clause comp. Psalm 107:6.
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.(3) When my spirit.—Literally, in the muffling upon me of my spirit. When my spirit was so wrapped in trouble and gloom, so “muffled round with woe” that I could not see the path before me, was distracted and unable to chose a. line of conduct, Thou (emphatic) knewest my path. (Comp. for the same verb Psalm 61:2; Psalm 77:3.)
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.(4) I looked.—The Authorised Version follows the ancient versions in turning the Hebrew imperatives into historic tenses. But they are easily intelligible if taken rhetorically, and indeed the psalm loses in liveliness by missing them:
“On the path by which I must walk they have laid a trap for me;
Look to the right and see,
Not a friend is in sight.
Failed has refuge from me,
There is none who careth for my soul.”
To the “right,” because according to the regular Hebrew metaphor it was on the “right hand” that the protector would stand. (See Note Psalm 16:8, &c; and comp. Psalm 109:6; Psalm 109:31; Psalm 110:5; Psalm 121:5.)
I cried unto thee, O LORD: I said, Thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living.(5) With this verse comp. Psalm 31:3; Psalm 22:8; Psalm 16:5, &c.
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.(7) Out of prison.—This expression, which must certainly be figurative of distress (comp. Psalm 143:11), probably led to the inscription.
“In my case the righteous are waiting
This sense “waiting for,” besides being favoured by the construction, suits well the passage, Proverbs 14:18.
“The simple inherit folly,
But the prudent wait for knowledge,
and is Aquila’s rendering there of the word as it is here.