Psalm 143:12
And of your mercy cut off my enemies, and destroy all them that afflict my soul: for I am your servant.
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(12) Comp. Pss. xviii, 40, 54:7.

143:7-12 David prays that God would be well pleased with him, and let him know that he was so. He pleads the wretchedness of his case, if God withdrew from him. But the night of distress and discouragement shall end in a morning of consolation and praise. He prays that he might be enlightened with the knowledge of God's will; and this is the first work of the Spirit. A good man does not ask the way in which is the most pleasant walking, but what is the right way. Not only show me what thy will is, but teach me how to do it. Those who have the Lord for their God, have his Spirit for their Guide; they are led by the Spirit. He prays that he might be enlivened to do God's will. But we should especially seek the destruction of our sins, our worst enemies, that we may be devotedly God's servants.And of thy mercy ... - Thy mercy to me; thy mercy to the world. The destruction of the wicked is a favor to the universe; just as the arrest and punishment of a robber or a pirate is a mercy to society, to mankind; just as every prison is a display of "mercy" as well as of "justice" - mercy to society at large; justice to the offenders.

And destroy all them that afflict my soul - Cut them off; render them powerless to do mischief.

For I am thy servant - Not as a matter of private feeling - not for personal revenge - but because I am in thy service, and it is only by being delivered from these dangers that I can honor thee as I would. It is thine own cause, and I ask that they may be cut off "in order" that the service which I might render thee may be unembarrassed.

12. God's mercy to His people is often wrath to His and their enemies (compare Ps 31:17).

thy servant—as chosen to be such, entitled to divine regard.

Of thy mercy; out of thy mercy to me, whose life they seek. And of thy mercy cut off mine enemies,.... Which, though an act of vindictive justice, and terrible righteousness to them, would be an act of grace and mercy to him, who thereby would be delivered from them: or, "for thy grace" (b); for the sake of it, for the honour of it, do this; those being, as Cocceius thinks, despisers of the grace of God;

and destroy all them that afflict my soul; by their persecutions, reproaches, and blasphemies. These clauses, with those in Psalm 143:11, are read in the future tense, "thou shalt quicken--bring out--cut off--destroy", in the Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, and Arabic versions; and so may be considered as a prophecy of what would be the case of David and his enemies, or of the Messiah and his, here typified; as well as a prayer for those things;

for I am thy servant; by creation, by redemption and grace; and by office, being set upon the throne for the service of God and his people, and therefore pleads for his protection and help; and the rather, as he was the servant of God; and not they, his enemies, as Kimchi observes.

(b) "propter misericordiam tuam", Pagninus; "propter benignitatem tuam", Musculus, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; "pergratiam tuam", Cocceius, Gejerus, Michaelis.

And of thy mercy {m} cut off mine enemies, and destroy all them that afflict my soul: for I am thy {n} servant.

(m) Which will be a sign of your fatherly kindness toward me.

(n) Resigning myself wholly to you, and trusting in your protection.

12. And in thy lovingkindness wilt thou cut off my enemies,

And destroy all them that distress my soul,

For I am thy servant.

The prayer for ‘life’ is characteristic of Psalms 119 : see note on p. 705: cp. Psalm 138:7. The plea for thy name’s sake is found in Psalm 25:11, and often elsewhere. With thou wilt bring my soul out of distress cp. Psalm 142:7.

12. Cp. Psalm 54:5, “Cut them [my enemies] off in thy truth”; Psalm 94:23. Such a prayer breathes the spirit of the Old Testament and not of the Gospel. It is a harsh and discordant conclusion to a Psalm full of humble penitence, patient resignation, and persevering faith. But the enemies who are relentlessly persecuting Jehovah’s servant to the death are the enemies of Jehovah; they are traitors to His kingdom who have forfeited their right to live; they give no quarter and deserve none themselves; if they triumph, Jehovah’s faithfulness to His promises would seem to have failed and his lovingkindness to have been exhausted or defeated (Psalm 77:8-9). For such hardened and impenitent offenders nothing remains but extermination.

for I am thy servant] And therefore entitled to claim Thy protection. Cp. Psalm 143:2; Psalm 86:2; Psalm 86:4; Psalm 86:16; Psalm 119:17, and often.Verse 12. - And of thy mercy cut off mine enemies. In thy goodness towards me, remove those enemies whose conduct towards me has been described in vers. 3, 4. And destroy all them that afflict my soul. This is David's ordinary prayer with respect to his enemies, whom be counts as God's adversaries, and the persecutors of faithful Israel (see Psalm 5:10; Psalm 7:9; Psalm 10:15; Psalm 28:4, 5; Psalm 35:4-6, 8, etc.). For I am thy servant. Entitled, therefore, to thy special care and protection (comp. Psalm 27:9; Psalm 69:17; Psalm 86:2, 4, 16; Psalm 116:16, etc.).

The poet pleads two motives for the answering of his prayer which are to be found in God Himself, viz., God's אמוּנה, truthfulness, with which He verifies the truth of His promises, that is to say, His faithfulness to His promises; and His צדקה, righteousness, not in a recompensative legal sense, but in an evangelical sense, in accordance with His counsel, i.e., the strictness and earnestness with which He maintains the order of salvation established by His holy love, both against the ungratefully disobedient and against those who insolently despise Him. Having entered into this order of salvation, and within the sphere of it serving Jahve as his God and Lord, the poet is the servant of Jahve. And because the conduct of the God of salvation, ruled by this order of salvation, or His "righteousness" according to its fundamental manifestation, consists in His justifying the sinful man who has no righteousness that he can show corresponding to the divine holiness, but penitently confesses this disorganized relationship, and, eager for salvation, longs for it to be set right again - because of all this, the poet prays that He would not also enter into judgment (בּוא בּמשׁפּט as in Job 9:32; Job 22:4; Job 14:3) with him, that He therefore would let mercy instead of justice have its course with him. For, apart from the fact that even the holiness of the good spirits does not coincide with God's absolute holiness, and that this defect must still be very far greater in the case of spirit-corporeal man, who has earthiness as the basis of his origin-yea, according to Psalm 51:7, man is conceived in sin, so that he is sinful from the point at which he begins to live onward - his life is indissolubly interwoven with sin, no living man possesses a righteousness that avails before God (Job 4:17; Job 9:2; Job 14:3., Job 15:14, and frequently).

(Note: Gerson observes on this point (vid., Thomasius, Dogmatik, iv. 251): I desire the righteousness of pity, which Thou bestowest in the present life, not the judgment of that righteousness which Thou wilt put into operation in the future life - the righteousness which justifies the repentant one.)

With כּי (Psalm 143:3) the poet introduces the ground of his petition for an answer, and more particularly for the forgiveness of his guilt. He is persecuted by deadly foes and is already nigh unto death, and that not without transgression of his own, so that consequently his deliverance depends upon the forgiveness of his sins, and will coincide with this. "The enemy persecuteth my soul" is a variation of language taken from Psalm 7:6 (חיּה for חיּים, as in Psalm 78:50, and frequently in the Book of Job, more particularly in the speeches of Elihu). Psalm 143:3 also recalls Psalm 7:6, but as to the words it sounds like Lamentations 3:6 (cf. Psalm 88:7). מתי עולם (lxx νεκροὺς αἰῶνος) are either those for ever dead (the Syriac), after שׁנת עולם in Jeremiah 51:39, cf. בּית עולמו in Ecclesiastes 12:5, or those dead time out of mind (Jerome), after עם עולם in Ezekiel 26:20. The genitive construction admits both senses; the former, however, is rendered more natural by the consideration that הושׁיבני glances back to the beginning that seems to have no end: the poet seems to himself like one who is buried alive for ever. In consequence of this hostility which aims at his destruction, the poet feels his spirit within him, and consequently his inmost life, veil itself (the expression is the same as Psalm 142:4; Psalm 77:4); and in his inward part his heart falls into a state of disturbance (ישׁתּומם, a Hithpo. peculiar to the later language), so that it almost ceases to beat. He calls to mind the former days, in which Jahve was manifestly with him; he reflects upon the great redemptive work of God, with all the deeds of might and mercy in which it has hitherto been unfolded; he meditates upon the doing (בּמעשׂה, Ben-Naphtali בּמעשׂה) of His hands, i.e., the hitherto so wondrously moulded history of himself and of his people. They are echoes out of Psalm 77:4-7, Psalm 77:12. The contrast which presents itself to the Psalmist in connection with this comparison of his present circumsntaces with the past opens his wounds still deeper, and makes his prayer for help all the more urgent. He stretches forth his hands to God that He may protect and assist him (vid., Hlemann, Bibelstudien, i. 150f.). Like parched land is his soul turned towards Him, - language in which we recognise a bending round of the primary passage Psalm 63:2. Instead of לך it would be לך, if סלה (Targum לעלמין) were not, as it always is, taken up and included in the sequence of the accents.

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