Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
This psalm is chiefly interesting as an instance of the way in which the deeper religious life of the post-exile times was upheld and cherished by the experience of past times and the faith of older generations as it had found expression in prophecy and song. For, as the Notes will show, there is hardly a phrase which is not derived from some older source—a fact which at once disposes of the inscription.
Probably it is not an individual, but the community, which thus under affliction confesses its sin and comforts itself with reflections on the past.
A Psalm of David. Hear my prayer, O LORD, give ear to my supplications: in thy faithfulness answer me, and in thy righteousness.(1) Faithfulness . . . righteousness.—The first word recalls the covenant promise, the second the faith, expressed so frequently, on which the covenant rested, that the Judge of all the world must do right. St. John founds the appeal for forgiveness on the same pair of Divine qualities (1John 1:9; comp. Psalm 65:5.)
And enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.(2) And enter not.—The Divine justice has just been invoked, and now the appellant suddenly seems to deprecate it. These verses really sum up the apparent paradox of the Book of Job, as also the expressions recall that Book. (See Job 4:17; Job 9:2; Job 9:32; Job 14:3, seq., Job 15:14; Job 22:4, &c) In one breath Job frequently pours forth pathetic protestations of his innocence, and dread lest God should take him at his word and arraign him for trial. Man, in his desire to have his character vindicated before man, appeals to the just Judge, but instantly falls back with a guilty sense that before that tribunal none can stand:
“For merit lives from man to man,
And not from man, O Lord, to Thee.
Shall . . . be justified.—This follows the LXX. Better, is just.
For the enemy hath persecuted my soul; he hath smitten my life down to the ground; he hath made me to dwell in darkness, as those that have been long dead.(3) This verse explains the last. The affliction under which the psalmist suffers is evidence that God is visiting for sin.
Long dead.—Literally, either dead of old, or dead for ever, according as we take ‘ôlam of past or future time. LXX., νεκροὺς αἰῶνος; Vulg., mortuos sæculi.
Therefore is my spirit overwhelmed within me; my heart within me is desolate.(4) See Psalm 142:3, and Notes.
I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the work of thy hands.(5) See Psalm 77:5-6.
I stretch forth my hands unto thee: my soul thirsteth after thee, as a thirsty land. Selah.(6) With the first clause comp. Psalm 44:20.
Thirsty land.—See Psalm 63:1, which explains this elliptical sentence. As our Lord taught, God is even more ready to send the refreshing spiritual shower than man’s heart to receive it.
Hear me speedily, O LORD: my spirit faileth: hide not thy face from me, lest I be like unto them that go down into the pit.(7) With the first clause comp. Psalm 69:17, with the second, Psalm 102:2,
This dependence on former psalms does not detract from the reality of the feeling expressed by means of these ancient sobs and cries. The contrast of the present with former times (Psalm 143:5) with the recollection of God’s dealings then, joined to thoughtful contemplation of the reality of His power as displayed in His works, makes the psalmist’s anguish the more intense, his longing the more consuming, his supplication the more urgent.
Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee.(8) In the morning.—Comp. Psalm 90:14. The expression either means “early,” or is figurative of the dawn of hope and salvation.
The way wherein I should walk—i.e., the way at once of duty and safety.
I lift up my soul.—Or, my desire.
Deliver me, O LORD, from mine enemies: I flee unto thee to hide me.(9) I flee . . .—Literally, unto thee have I hidden. A phrase which has been variously explained—(1) to Thee I have confided my troubles: (2) and, better, as in the Authorised Version, to Thee I (have fled and) hid (myself). The reflexive use of the Hebrew verb is sufficiently established by Genesis 38:14; Deuteronomy 22:12 (Jonah 3:6 is doubtful).
Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness.(10) Thy spirit is good; lead me.—Or, rather, let thy good spirit lead me. (For the omission of the article with the adjective after the determinative noun, comp. Genesis 37:2.)
Quicken me, O LORD, for thy name's sake: for thy righteousness' sake bring my soul out of trouble.(11, 12) The last two verses are made of reminiscences of former psalm experiences. The verbs should be in the future, not the imperative.
For thy name’s sake.—Comp. Psalm 23:3, &c.
(11) Quicken me, O Lord.—Comp. Psalm 138:7 and Psalms 119 frequently.
And of thy mercy cut off mine enemies, and destroy all them that afflict my soul: for I am thy servant.(12) Comp. Pss. xviii, 40, 54:7.