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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 13

Pett's Commentary on the BiblePett's Commentary


As often with the Psalms this is the cry of someone in dire trouble. It would fit many periods in David’s life, but it would also fit the same in many of his godly successors. It would also fit Israel at various times. In the end it is a message that sometimes fits us all. And that is the genius of the Psalms. They apply to the psalmist, they apply to those who sing the psalms, and they apply to all who read them today. But the psalm also ends on a note of confident assurance. The psalmist refuses to believe that YHWH will leave him in his distress.

Verse 1

‘For the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David.’

Once again we are reminded that this is one of the Psalms dedicated to the Choirmaster, and from the Davidic collection.

Verses 1-2

‘How long, O YHWH? Will you forget me for ever?

How long will you hide your face from me?

How long shall I take counsel in my soul,

Having sorrow in my heart by day?

How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?’

The psalmist has been at prayer over his problems but feels that his prayers are unanswered, and that YHWH has forgotten him, and has hidden His face from him, and he does not know why. It almost feels to him as though it is going to be for ever, and yet he does not really think so, for he asks how much longer he must wait.

So he is puzzled and wants to know how long this is to go on. His thoughts within him are in turmoil, his heart is filled with sorrow, and the reason is because his enemy seems to triumph.

‘How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart by day?’ The problem is such that it requires much thought during each day. It would seem that he had little to fear at night. This may suggest such a time as when David was hiding in the mountains which he and his men knew well. Saul would not dare seek him at night for he did not himself know the terrain. But once day came he pursued David with a vengeance, prompting David to constant use of his mind, and counsel from others, in order to avoid him.

This might well fit David when his controversy with Saul had been going on for some long time, when the searches were constant and he was beginning to feel that it would never end. It would fit any ruler who was being hard pressed by enemies in such a situation. It fits any who have a private enemy and feel that they are experiencing constant persecution and defeat in one way or another. It is a reminder of those times when God tests us by not responding immediately, so that we might learn to trust Him ‘in the dark’.

But in its own way it is also a cry of faith. The psalmist cannot believe that God can leave him in this situation for much longer. He is confident that at some stage God will act. But the question is, when?

How often we too might find ourselves in such a situation, and then we too must have the confidence that in the end God will act on our behalf.

Verses 3-4

‘Consider, answer me, O YHWH my God:

Lighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death;

Lest my enemy say, I have prevailed against him;

Lest my adversaries rejoice when I am moved.

Yet the situation is getting desperate. He pleads for YHWH to consider his case and deal with it. He is very much aware that death may not be far away, so the situation is serious. And he prays that his enemy might not triumph over him simply because he himself is in despair and becomes careless or uncaring. He does not want him to be able to gloat over his removal. This could again well fit David’s problems with Saul. But it could also have in mind any continual dangerous threat against a ruler.

‘Consider, answer me.’ He urgently presses YHWH to look at the situation, and respond. Let him no longer forget him and hide His face from him. For it is a genuine response that he desires, not just comfort.

‘Lighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death.’ The light in the eye can reveal the situation of the soul. He is weary of what he is facing. He feels that life is going from him. He wants YHWH to lift him from his state of resignation and imbue him with life, (which indicates that he already feels half dead), and to bring new light to his eyes so that he is again confident and again looks for and receives YHWH’s positive response. For he does not want to die at the hand of his enemy.

Or the thought may be that he wants God’s light to shine on Him, that He wants the evidence of His presence in His activity on his behalf, so as to save him from death.

Verses 5-6

‘But I have trusted in your covenant love (lovingkindness within the covenant);

My heart will rejoice in your salvation.

I will sing to YHWH,

Because he has dealt bountifully with me.

But the psalmist finishes on a note of assurance. In the darkness he finds light. He reminds YHWH that he is trusting to His covenant love. That is what the covenant is all about, that YHWH will act on behalf of those who are faithful towards Him. So he anticipates deliverance, and that he will again sing to YHWH, because he expects Him to deal bountifully towards him, indeed know that He must do so for He has chosen him as His own. For he who believes in God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). So in the end his despair vanishes in the renewed faith that his prayer has revived.

Bibliographical Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 13". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pet/psalms-13.html. 2013.
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