Psalm 142:4
I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul.
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(4) I looked.—The Authorised Version follows the ancient versions in turning the Hebrew imperatives into historic tenses. But they are easily intelligible if taken rhetorically, and indeed the psalm loses in liveliness by missing them:

“On the path by which I must walk they have laid a trap for me;

Look to the right and see,

Not a friend is in sight.

Failed has refuge from me,

There is none who careth for my soul.”

To the “right,” because according to the regular Hebrew metaphor it was on the “right hand” that the protector would stand. (See Note Psalm 16:8, &c; and comp. Psalm 109:6; Psalm 109:31; Psalm 110:5; Psalm 121:5.)

Psalm 142:4. I looked on my right hand, &c. — The place where the patron, or assistant used to stand; but there was no man — Namely, in Saul’s court or camp: none of my former relations, friends or acquaintance; that would know me — Own me, or show any respect or kindness to me. The verb, in the first clause of the verse, being in the imperative; look on my right hand, &c. — Dr. Horne considers the words as a request to God to look on his destitute condition, and to pity and relieve him; but Bishop Patrick views them as a kind of soliloquy, and explains them thus, “Look about thee, O my soul, and see if thou canst spy any hope of relief from thy best and most powerful friends: there are none of them that dare own thee; nor do I know whither to flee for safety.” Refuge failed, or rather, faileth me — There is no patron on earth to whom I can commit my cause, nor any help in man for me. No man cared, rather careth, for my soul — Or, for my life, namely, to preserve it: but they all conspire to take it away.

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.I looked on my right hand, and beheld - Margin, "Look on the right hand and see The words translated "looked" and "beheld" are in the imperative mood in the Hebrew. They are not, however, improperly rendered as to the sense. They refer to David's state of mind at the time, and give vividness to the description. The psalmist seems to be in the presence of others. He calls upon them to look around; to see how he was encompassed with danger. Look, says he, in every direction; see who there is on whom I may rely; what there is to which I may trust as a refuge. I can find none; I see none; there is none. The "right hand" is referred to here as the direction where he might look for a protector: Psalm 109:6, Psalm 109:31.

But there was no man that would know me - No man to be seen who would recognize me as his friend; who would stand up for me; on whom I could rely.

Refuge failed me - Margin, as in Hebrew, "perished from me." If there had been any hope of refuge, it has failed altogether. There is none now.

No man cared for my soul - Margin, "No man sought after my soul." Hebrew, after my "life." That is, No one sought to save my life; no one regarded it as of sufficient importance to attempt to preserve me.

4. Utter desolation is meant.

right hand—the place of a protector (Ps 110:5).

cared for—literally, "sought after," to do good.

Right hand; the place where the patron or assistant used to stand. See Psalm 16:8 109:31 121:5.

No man, to wit, in Saul’s court or camp; none of my former acquaintance, and friends. and relations.

Know me; own me, or show any respect or kindness to me.

For my soul; or, for my life, to wit, to preserve it; but they all conspired to take it away; which is here implied.

I looked on my right hand, and beheld,.... On the left, so Kimchi supplies it, and after him Piscator; he looked about him every way to the right and left, to see if he could get any help, or find out any way of deliverance. To this sense the Targum, Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Arabic versions render the words; and so Kimchi and Aben Ezra understand them: but some render them in the imperative, "look on the right hand, and behold" (n); and consider them; either as spoken to his own soul, to stir up himself to look around him for help and relief; or as an address to God, to look and behold, as in Psalm 80:14; and R. Obadiah reads them, "look, O right hand"; O right hand of God, that does valiantly: but looking cannot properly be ascribed to the right hand; and besides it is not the Lord the psalmist is speaking to, or looking after, but men, as follows;

but there was no man that would know me; take notice of him, and acknowledge and own him, or show him any favour, or even own that they had any knowledge of him; which is often the case when men are in affliction and distress, their former friends, acquaintance, yea, relations, keep at a distance from them; so it was with Job, the Messiah, and others; see Job 19:13;

refuge failed me; as he could get no help from men, so there was no way open for his escape, or by which he could flee and get out of the hands and reach of his enemies; in these circumstances he was when in the cave;

no man cared for my soul; or "life" (o); to save it, protect and defend it, that is, very few; otherwise there were some that were concerned for him, as the men that were with him, and Jonathan, Saul's son; but none of Saul's courtiers, they were not solicitous for his welfare, but on the contrary sought his life, to take it away. This is an emblem of a soul under first awakenings and convictions, inquiring the way of salvation, and where to find help, but at a lois for it in the creature.

(n) "respice dexteram et vide", Montanus; "vel ad dexteram", Musculus, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Cocceius, Michaelis. (o) "vitam meam", Junius & Tremellius.

I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul.
4. Look on the right hand and see, for I have none that acknowledgeth me:

There is no asylum left me; my soul hath none that careth for her.

Though he will tell Jehovah of his distress, he knows that, even if he has no human sympathisers, He at any rate (Thou is emphatic) knows it already. His spirit faints (Psalm 77:3; Psalm 143:4; Jonah 2:7) within him, literally upon him, for the spirit (as elsewhere the soul or heart) is distinguished from a man’s whole ‘self,’ and regarded as acting upon him from without (cp. Psalm 42:4); he is in despair, but his comfort is that Jehovah knows the course which he must take (Psalm 143:8), and the perils which beset him from treacherous enemies.

4. The Massoretic text reads the imperative look … and see. The rendering of P.B.V. and A.V. I looked … and saw (beheld) follows the LXX, Vulg., Syr., and Targ., but requires a change in the vocalisation of the Hebrew words. The indicative I looked is the more obvious reading; but the appeal to Jehovah, look! is more forcible. Cp. Lamentations 1:11; Lamentations 2:20; Lamentations 5:1.

on my right hand] Where his protector would be standing if he had one. Cp. Psalm 16:8; Psalm 109:31; Psalm 110:5; Psalm 121:5. But there is no one to acknowledge him as his client (Ruth 2:10; Ruth 2:19) and defend him. He has no asylum left: lit. a place of flight is perished from me. Cp. Job 11:20; Jeremiah 25:35; Amos 2:14.

With the last clause cp. Jeremiah 30:17, “Yonder is Zion, who hath none to care for her.”

Verse 4. - I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me. I looked about, i.e., for human aid, but there was no one who would so much as know me. I was utterly deserted in my trouble. Refuge failed me. I had nowhere to flee unto - no safe and sure abiding-place. The "cave of Adullam" was but a miserable spot to hide in. No man cared for my soul; or, "looked after my soul" (comp. Jeremiah 30:17). Psalm 142:4The 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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