Psalm 142:3
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.
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(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.)

Psalm 142:3. When my spirit was overwhelmed within me — And ready to sink under the burden of grief and fear: when I was quite at a loss what steps to take, and almost ready to despair; then thou knewest my path — That is, practically, so as to direct me what way I should take, in order that I might escape Saul and his men: or, thou knowest my sincerity and innocence, the straight path in which I have walked, and that I am not such a one as my persecutors represent me. And it was, and is, a comfort to me, that thou knewest this, and also, that thou knewest the danger that I was, and am, in, and how; in the way wherein I walked — Suspecting no danger; they have privily laid a snare for me — To entrap me. Saul gave Michal his daughter to David, on purpose that she might be a snare to him, 1 Samuel 18:21. And as he complains, every thing that was done to, or respecting him, was done with a design to insnare and destroy him. Yet, in the midst of all, he knew he was under the eye and guardian care of his all-wise and almighty Friend: in him he trusted, and this was his support and comfort. And “such should be, at all times, the confidence of believers in the wisdom, the power, and the goodness of God, even when human prudence has done its utmost and is at its wit’s end.”

142:1-7 David's comfort in prayer. - There can be no situation so distressing or dangerous, in which faith will not get comfort from God by prayer. We are apt to show our troubles too much to ourselves, poring upon them, which does us no service; whereas, by showing them to God, we might cast the cares upon him who careth for us, and thereby ease ourselves. Nor should we allow any complaint to ourselves or others, which we cannot make to God. When our spirits are overwhelmed by distress, and filled with discouragement; when we see snares laid for us on every side, while we walk in his way, we may reflect with comfort that the Lord knoweth our path. Those who in sincerity take the Lord for their God, find him all-sufficient, as a Refuge, and as a Portion: every thing else is a refuge of lies, and a portion of no value. In this situation David prayed earnestly to God. We may apply it spiritually; the souls of believers are often straitened by doubts and fears. And it is then their duty and interest to beg of God to set them at liberty, that they may run the way of his commandments. Thus the Lord delivered David from his powerful persecutors, and dealt bountifully with him. Thus he raised the crucified Redeemer to the throne of glory, and made him Head over all things for his church. Thus the convinced sinner cries for help, and is brought to praise the Lord in the company of his redeemed people; and thus all believers will at length be delivered from this evil world, from sin and death, and praise their Saviour for ever.When my spirit was overwhelmed within me - Luther renders this, "When my spirit was in distress." The Hebrew word rendered "overwhelmed" means, in Kal, to cover as with a garment; then, to be covered as with darkness, trouble, sorrow; and then, to languish, to faint, to be feeble: Psalm 77:3; Psalm 107:5. The idea here is, that, in his troubles, he had no vigor, no life, no spirit. He did not see how he could escape from his troubles, and he had no heart to make an effort.

Then thou knewest my path - Thou didst see all. Thou didst see the way that I was treading, and all its darkness and dangers, implying here that God had made it an object to mark his course; to see what egress there might be - what way to escape from the danger. It was in no sense concealed from God, and no danger of the way was hidden from him. It is much for us to feel when we are in danger or difficulty that God knows it all, and that nothing can be hidden from him.

In the way wherein I walked - In my path; the path that I was treading.

Have they privily laid a snare for me - They treated me as a man would treat his neighbor, who should spread a snare, or set a trap, for him in the path which he knew he must take. The word rendered "have privily laid" means to hide, to conceal. It was so concealed that I could not perceive it. They did it unknown to me. I neither knew that it was laid, nor where it was laid. They meant to spring it upon me at a moment when I was not aware, and when I should be taken by surprise. It was not open and manly warfare; it was stealth, cunning, trick, art.

3. thou knewest … path—The appeal is indicative of conscious innocence; knowest it to be right, and that my affliction is owing to the snares of enemies, and is not deserved (compare Ps 42:4; 61:2). Thou knewest, to wit, practically, so as to direct me to it.

My path; what paths I should choose whereby I might escape Saul, when I fled hither and thither in deserts, and mountains, and woods; and which way I should get out of his hands when he and all his men were at the cave’s mouth, which passed my skill.

Wherein I walked; wherein I used to walk, or they supposed that I would walk.

When my spirit was overwhelmed within me,.... Ready to sink and faint under the present affliction, being attended with the hidings of God's face, and with unbelieving frames; which is sometimes the case of God's people, and with which they are as it were covered and overwhelmed, as well as with a sense of sin, and with shame and sorrow for it; see Psalm 61:2;

then thou knewest my path: the eyes of the Lord are upon all men, and he knows their goings, none of them are hid from him; and he sees and approves of the way, of the life and conversation of his people in general; and particularly observes what way they take under affliction, which is to apply to him for help and deliverance, Psalm 1:6. R. Moses in Aben Ezra and Kimchi interpret it of the path he walked in, which was right and not evil, for which he could appeal to God, that knows all things; it may literally intend the path David took to escape the fury of Saul, that pursued him from place to place;

in the way wherein I walked have they privily laid a snare for me; let him take which way he would, there were spies upon him, or men that were in ambush to take him; and snares were everywhere laid for him to entrap him; see Psalm 140:5.

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 fainteth upon me, THOU knowest my path,

In the way wherein I must walk have men hidden a snare for me.

3, 4. Jehovah knows his peril, and his loneliness.

Verse 3. - When my spirit was overwhelmed within me; or, "fainted within me." Then thou knewest my path. I had not to tell thee because thou didst not know, but to relieve my own feelings. In the way wherein I walked have they privily laid a snare for me (comp. Psalm 140:5; Psalm 141:9, 10). Psalm 142:3The prayer of the poet now becomes deep-breathed and excited, inasmuch as he goes more minutely into the details of his straitened situation. Everywhere, whithersoever he has to go (cf. on Psalm 143:8), the snares of craftily calculating foes threaten him. Even God's all-seeing eye will not discover any one who would right faithfully and carefully interest himself in him. הבּיט, look! is a graphic hybrid form of הבּט and הבּיט, the usual and the rare imperative form; cf. הביא 1 Samuel 20:40 (cf. Jeremiah 17:18), and the same modes of writing the inf. absol. in Judges 1:28; Amos 9:8, and the fut. conv. in Ezekiel 40:3. מכּיר is, as in Ruth 2:19, cf. Psalm 10, one who looks kindly upon any one, a considerate (cf. the phrase הכּיר פּנים) well-wisher and friend. Such an one, if he had one, would be עמד על־ימינו or מימינו (Psalm 16:8), for an open attack is directed to the arms-bearing right side (Psalm 109:6), and there too the helper in battle (Psalm 110:5) and the defender or advocate (Psalm 109:31) takes his place in order to cover him who is imperilled (Psalm 121:5). But then if God looks in that direction, He will find him, who is praying to Him, unprotected. Instead of ואין one would certainly have sooner expected אשׁר or כי as the form of introducing the condition in which he is found; but Hitzig's conjecture, הבּיט ימין וראה, "looking for days and seeing," gives us in the place of this difficulty a confusing half-Aramaism in ימין equals יומין in the sense of ימים in Daniel 8:27; Nehemiah 1:4. Ewald's rendering is better: "though I look to the right hand and see (וראה), yet no friend appears for me;" but this use of the inf. absol. with an adversative apodosis is without example. Thus therefore the pointing appears to have lighted upon the correct idea, inasmuch as it recognises here the current formula הבּט וּראה, e.g., Job 35:5; Lamentations 5:1. The fact that David, although surrounded by a band of loyal subjects, confesses to having no true fiend, is to be understood similarly to the language of Paul when he says in Philippians 2:20 : "I have no man like-minded." All human love, since sin has taken possession of humanity, is more or less selfish, and all fellowship of faith and of love imperfect; and there are circumstances in life in which these dark sides make themselves felt overpoweringly, so that a man seems to himself to be perfectly isolated and turns all the more urgently to God, who alone is able to supply the soul's want of some object to love, whose love is absolutely unselfish, and unchangeable, and unbeclouded, to whom the soul can confide without reserve whatever burdens it, and who not only honestly desires its good, but is able also to compass it in spite of every obstacle. Surrounded by bloodthirsty enemies, and misunderstood, or at least not thoroughly understood, by his friends, David feels himself broken off from all created beings. On this earth every kind of refuge is for him lost (the expression is like Job 11:20). There is no one there who should ask after or care for his soul, and should right earnestly exert himself for its deliverance. Thus, then, despairing of all visible things, he cries to the Invisible One. He is his "refuge" (Psalm 91:9) and his "portion" (Psalm 16:5; Psalm 73:26), i.e., the share in a possession that satisfies him. To be allowed to call Him his God - this it is which suffices him and outweighs everything. For Jahve is the Living One, and he who possesses Him as his own finds himself thereby "in the land of the living" (Psalm 27:13; Psalm 52:7). He cannot die, he cannot perish.
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