Psalm 143

Submitted by admin on Sun, 2007-07-15 09:50.

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This psalm is ascribed to David. In the Septuagint, the additional comment (“when [his] son pursued him”) links the composition to the time of Absalom’s revolt.

David petitioned YHWH to hear his prayer, to give ear to his supplications, making his appeal on the basis of God’s faithfulness (“truth,” LXX) and righteousness. The psalmist regarded the Most High as being the one on whom he could rely fully and who would execute justice, rescuing him from the grave danger he faced.

Recognizing that he had no merit on his own, “for no one living is righteous before [God’s] face,” David prayed, “Do not enter into judgment with your servant.” He knew that his life had not been without serious flaws, and so asked to be shown mercy and not to have strict justice applied to him.

The enemy (probably Absalom and his supporters) had relentlessly pursued him, crushing his life to the ground. This suggests that David had been made to feel like a person about to lose his life. He portrayed himself as having been forced to sit in the realm of darkness like those long dead.

Within him, David’s spirit proved to be faint, suggesting that he had lost hope and courage. His “heart” or his deep inner self was overcome with horror. The Hebrew word describing the state of the psalmist’s heart is shamém, which basically means “be desolated,” and can convey the sense of “shuddering” or “being appalled.” In the Septuagint, the term tarásso (“to trouble,” “stir up,” or “disturb”) appears, indicative of an inner upheaval or a sense of foreboding and alarm.

David’s remembering the “days of old” may refer to his calling to mind when his circumstances were different, when he was not an object of intense hostility. In view of his making God’s activity the focus of his meditation and thinking about the “work of [his] hands,” David’s remembering “days of old” could also include his reflecting on YHWH’s deeds and his acts of deliverance. In his own case, he had repeatedly experienced God’s assistance and safeguarding.

In an attitude of prayer, David stretched out his hands to God. His “soul” or he himself proved to be like a parched land in need of water, indicative of his desperate longing for divine intervention. A Dead Sea Psalms scroll reads, “in a parched land,” which would suggest that the psalmist likened his situation to being in an inhospitable, barren wilderness.

With his “spirit” or his courage and hope having been exhausted, David pleaded for YHWH to hasten in answering his prayer, not hiding his face from him. He feared that, without immediate help, he would perish, coming to be like those descending into the pit or the grave.

In the morning or upon arising, David wanted to “hear” or experience the expressions of God’s steadfast love, compassionate care, or “mercy” (LXX), for he had put his trust in YHWH. Desiring dependable guidance, he asked YHWH to make him know or to teach him the way in which he should go. The words “I lift up my soul” may denote that David entrusted his life to God, putting his complete reliance upon him as if placing himself in his exalted presence.

With enemies arrayed against him, David prayed to be delivered. His looking intently to YHWH for protection was comparable to fleeing to him for refuge.

Wanting to do what is right, David pleaded, “Teach me to do your will, for you [are] my God.” He desired that God’s good spirit would lead him in the “land of uprightness.” Being a force for good, the spirit would impel him to conduct himself in a godly manner as one walking in a realm where right and justice prevail.

YHWH had revealed himself to be a loving and just God. Therefore, on the basis of God’s name or the kind of God he is, David prayed to be preserved alive. In keeping with YHWH’s righteousness or uprightness, he prayed that his “soul” or he himself would be delivered from trouble or affliction.

In expression of God’s steadfast love, compassionate care, or “mercy” (LXX), David wanted the Most High to act, cutting off his enemies, destroying his adversaries (the adversaries of his “soul” or, according to the Septuagint, “all those afflicting [his] soul”). As expressed in the concluding words, David confidently made his appeal because of being God’s servant.


See Psalm 1 for comments regarding the divine name (YHWH).

The Hebrew term transliterated “selah,” found at the end of verse 6, is of uncertain significance. In the Septuagint, the rendering is diápsalma, thought to mean “pause” or “musical interlude.”