Psalm 142:3
When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then you knew my path. In the way wherein I walked have they privately laid a snare for me.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
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). Thus far the Psalm is comparatively easy of exposition; but now it becomes difficult, yet not hopelessly so. David, thoroughly conscious of his sins against God and of his imperfection as a monarch, says, in opposition to the abuse which he is now suffering, that he would gladly accept any friendly reproof: "let a righteous man smite in kindness and reprove me - head-oil (i.e., oil upon the head, to which such reproof is likened) shall my head not refuse." So we render it, following the accents, and not as Hupfeld, Kurtz, and Hitzig do: "if a righteous man smites me, it is love; if he reproves me, an anointing of the head is it unto me;" in connection with which the designation of the subject with היא would be twice wanting, which is more than is admissible. צדּיק stands here as an abstract substantive: the righteous man, whoever he may be, in antithesis, namely, to the rebels and to the people who have joined them. Amyraldus, Maurer, and Hengstenberg understand it of God; but it only occurs of God as an attribute, and never as a direct appellation. חסד, as in Jeremiah 31:3, is equivalent to בּחסד, cum benignitate equals benigne. What is meant is, as in Job 6:14, what Paul (Galatians 6:1) styles πνεῦμα πραΰ́τητος. and הלם, tundere, is used of the strokes of earnest but well-meant reproof, which is called "the blows of a friend" in Proverbs 27:6. Such reproof shall be to him as head-oil (Psalm 23:5; Psalm 133:2), which his head does not despise. יני, written defectively for יניא, like ישּׁי, in Psalm 55:16, אבי, 1 Kings 21:29 and frequently; הניא (root נא, Arab. n', with the nasal n, which also expresses the negation in the Indo-Germanic languages) here signifies to deny, as in Psalm 33:10 to bring to nought, to destroy. On the other hand, the lxx renders μὴ λιπανάτω τὴν κεφαλήν μου, which is also followed by the Syriac and Jerome, perhaps after the Arabic nawiya, to become or to be fat, which is, however, altogether foreign to the Aramaic, and is, moreover, only used of fatness of the body, and in fact of camels. The meaning of the figure is this: well-meant reproof shall be acceptable and spiritually useful to him. The confirmation כּי־עוד וגו follows, which is enigmatical both in meaning and expression. This עוד is the cipher of a whole clause, and the following ו is related to this עוד as the Waw that introduces the apodosis, not to כּי as in 2 Chronicles 24:20, since no progression and connection is discernible if כי is taken as a subordinating quia. We interpret thus: for it is still so (the matter still stands thus), that my prayer is against their wickednesses; i.e., that I use no weapon but that of prayer against these, therefore let me always be in that spiritual state of mind which is alive to well-meant reproof. Mendelssohn's rendering is similar: I still pray, whilst they practise infamy. On עוד ו cf. Zechariah 8:20 עוד אשׁר (vid., Khler), and Proverbs 24:27 אחר ו. He who has prayed God in Psalm 141:3 to set a watch upon his mouth is dumb in the presence of those who now have dominion, and seeks to keep himself clear of their sinful doings, whereas he willingly allows himself to be chastened by the righteous; and the more silent he is towards the world (see Amos 5:13), the more constant is he in his intercourse with God. But there will come a time when those who now behave as lords shall fall a prey to the revenge of the people who have been misled by them; and on the other hand, the confession of the salvation, and of the order of the salvation, of God, that has hitherto been put to silence, will again be able to make itself freely heard, and find a ready hearing.

As Psalm 141:6 says, the new rulers fall a prey to the indignation of the people and are thrown down the precipices, whilst the people, having again come to their right mind, obey the words of David and find them pleasant and beneficial (vid., Proverbs 15:26; Proverbs 16:24). נשׁמטוּ is to be explained according to 2 Kings 9:33. The casting of persons down from the rock was not an unusual mode of execution (2 Chronicles 25:12). ידי־סלע are the sides (Psalm 140:6; Judges 11:26) of the rock, after which the expression ἐχόμενα πέτρας of the lxx, which has been misunderstood by Jerome, is intended to be understood;

(Note: Beda Pieringer in his Psalterium Romana Lyra Radditum (Ratisbonae 1859) interprets κατεπόθησαν ἐχόμενα πέτρας οἱ κραταιοὶ τὐτῶν, absorpti, i.e., operti sunt loco ad petram pertinente signiferi turpis consilii eorum.)

they are therefore the sides of the rock conceived of as it were as the hands of the body of rock, if we are not rather with Bttcher to compare the expressions בּידי and על־ידי construed with verbs of abandoning and casting down, Lamentations 1:14; Job 16:11, and frequently. In Psalm 141:7 there follows a further statement of the issue on the side of David and his followers: instar findentis et secantis terram (בּקע with Beth, elsewhere in the hostile signification of irrumpere) dispersa sunt ossa nostra ad ostium (לפי as in Proverbs 8:3) orci; Symmachus: ὥσπερ γεωργὸς ὅταν ῥήσσῃ τὴν τὴν, οὕτως ἐσκορπίσθη τὰ ὀστᾶ ἡμῶν εἰς στόμα ᾅδου; Quinta: ὡς καλλιεργῶν καὶ σκάπτων ἐν τῇ γῇ κ. τ. λ. Assuming the very extreme, it is a look of hope into the future: should his bones and the bones of his followers be even scattered about the mouth of Shel (cf. the Syrian picture of Shel: "the dust upon its threshold ‛al-escûfteh," Deutsche Morgenlnd. Zeitschrift, xx. 513), their soul below, their bones above - it would nevertheless be only as when on in ploughing cleaves the earth; i.e., they do not lie there in order that they may continue lying, but that they may rise up anew, as the seed that is sown sprouts up out of the upturned earth. lxx Codd. Vat. et Sinait. τὰ ὀστᾶ ἡμῶν, beside which, however, is found the reading αὐτῶν (Cod. Alex. by a second hand, and the Syriac, Arabic, and Aethiopic versions), as Bttcher also, pro ineptissimo utcunque, thinks עצמינו must be read, understanding this, according to 2 Chronicles 25:12 extrem., of the mangled bodies of those cast down from the rock. We here discern the hope of a resurrection, if not directly, at least (cf. Oehler in Herzog's Real-Encyclopdie, concluding volume, S. 422) as am emblem of victory in spite of having succumbed. That which authorizes this interpretation lies in the figure of the husbandman, and in the conditional clause (Psalm 141:8), which leads to the true point of the comparison; for as a complaint concerning a defeat that had been suffered: "so are our bones scattered for the mouth of the grave (in order to be swallowed up by it)," Psalm 141:7, would be alien and isolated with respect to what precedes and what follows.

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