Psalm 143:3
For the enemy hath persecuted my soul; he hath smitten my life down to the ground; he hath made me to dwell in darkness, as those that have been long dead.
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(3) This verse explains the last. The affliction under which the psalmist suffers is evidence that God is visiting for sin.

He hath made . . .—See Lamentations 3:6; and comp. Psalm 88:5-6.

Long dead.—Literally, either dead of old, or dead for ever, according as we take ‘ôlam of past or future time. LXX., νεκροὺς αἰῶνος; Vulg., mortuos sæculi.

Psalm 143:3-4. For the enemy hath persecuted my soul — This is not a reason of what he said last, Psalm 143:2, but an argument to enforce his petition, delivered Psalm 143:1, and repeated Psalm 143:7. He hath smitten my life down to the ground — He hath beaten me down to the earth, where I lie struggling for life. He hath made me to dwell in darkness — Not only in dark caves, but under dark apprehensions, and clouds of trouble and distress, out of which I see no way of deliverance, except from thy power and mercy; as those that have been long dead — In as hopeless a condition in the eye of man, as those that have lain long in the grave. Therefore is my spirit overwhelmed — See on Psalm 142:3. My heart within me is desolate — Deprived of all hope and comfort, except from thee; or, is astonished, as ישׁתומם may be properly rendered.

143:1-6 We have no righteousness of our own to plead, therefore must plead God's righteousness, and the word of promise which he has freely given us, and caused us to hope in. David, before he prays for the removal of his trouble, prays for the pardon of his sin, and depends upon mercy alone for it. He bemoans the weight upon his mind from outward troubles. But he looks back, and remembers God's former appearance for his afflicted people, and for him in particular. He looks round, and notices the works of God. The more we consider the power of God, the less we shall fear the face or force of man. He looks up with earnest desires towards God and his favour. This is the best course we can take, when our spirits are overwhelmed. The believer will not forget, that in his best actions he is a sinner. Meditation and prayer will recover us from distresses; and then the mourning soul strives to return to the Lord as the infant stretches out its hands to the indulgent mother, and thirsts for his consolations as the parched ground for refreshing rain.For the enemy hath persecuted my soul - Has persecuted me; has sought my life.

He hath smitten my life down to the ground - He has, as it were, trampled me down to the earth. The word rendered "smitten" means to break in pieces, to beat small, to crush. See Psalm 72:4; Psalm 89:10; Job 6:9. His very life seemed to be crushed out as one that is trodden down to the ground.

He hath made me to dwell in darkness - He has made my life like that of one who dwells in darkness; he has made it a life of sorrow, so that I have no comfort - no light.

As those that have been long dead - A similar expression occurs in Lamentations 3:6 : "He hath set me in dark places, as they that be dead of old." The same Hebrew words are used. The word rendered "long" means, age, duration, eternity: Psalm 139:24. The idea here is, that his condition was like that of those who had been long in their graves; who had long since ceased to see any light; whose abode was utter and absolute gloom.

3, 4. The exciting reason for his prayer—his afflictions—led to confession as just made: he now makes the complaint.

as those that have been long dead—deprived of life's comforts (compare Ps 40:15; 88:3-6).

This is not a reason of what he last said, Psalm 143:2, but an argument to enforce his petition delivered Psalm 143:1, and repeated Psalm 143:7, &c. For though I am not faultless, if thou shouldst make an exact search into me, yet mine enemies are more culpable and highly unjust, and therefore I hope for thy help against them, from thy justice as well as mercy.

My soul, i.e. my life; for nothing less will satisfy him.

He hath smitten my life down to the ground; he hath beaten me down to the ground, where I lie struggling for life.

He hath made me to dwell in darkness; he hath forced me to have mine abode in dark vaults and caves, where I am out of sight and memory, and in as forlorn and hopeless a condition in the eye of man as those that have lain long rotting in the grave.

For the enemy hath persecuted my soul,.... Which is to be connected with Psalm 143:1; and is a reason why he desires his prayer might be answered, seeing his enemy, either Saul, or Absalom his own son, persecuted him, or pursued him in order to take away his soul, or life; or Satan, the enemy and avenger, who goes about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour; or persecuting men, who are his emissaries and instruments, whom he instigates to persecute the Lord's people, and employs them therein;

he hath smitten my life down to the ground: brought him into a low, mean, and abject state, and near to death; had with a blow struck him to the ground, and left him wallowing in the mire and dirt, just ready to expire. The phrase is expressive of a very distressing state and condition. Some render it "my company" (r); meaning the men that were with him, his soldiers, who were reduced to a low condition with him, and greatly enfeebled and dispirited;

he hath made me to dwell in darkness: in the sides of the cave, as Kimchi; see 2 Samuel 24:3; or in great affliction of body and mind, frequently signified by darkness, as prosperity is by light; he was not only obliged by his enemy to hide himself in woods and wildernesses, and in caves and dens, but was filled with gloomy apprehensions of things, Psalm 88:6;

as those that have been long dead; or "of old" (s), an age or two ago, who are out of mind and forgotten, and of whom there is no hope of their coming to life again until the resurrection; or who are "dead for ever" (t); will remain so till that time comes; signifying hereby his hopeless, helpless, and forlorn state and condition; see Psalm 31:12.

(r) "catervam meam", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator. (s) "olim", Tigurine version, Vatablus, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Cocceius. (t) So Syriac and Arabic versions.

For the enemy hath persecuted my soul; he hath smitten my life down to the ground; he hath made me to dwell in darkness, as those that have been {d} long dead.

(d) He acknowledges that God is the only and true physician and heal him: and that he is able to raise him to life, though he were dead long ago, and turned to ashes.

3. Cp. Psalm 7:5; Psalm 88:3-6. The last line agrees verbatim with Lamentations 3:6.

in darkness] In dark places, as Psalm 88:6, probably a figure for calamity, in which he is as it were buried alive. But it is possible (cp. Psalm 142:7) that he was actually a prisoner.

as those that have been long dead] And so are forgotten alike by God and man (Psalm 88:5). But the meaning may be those who are dead for ever, who will never return to life; lit. dead of eternity, cp. Jeremiah 51:39, ‘sleep of eternity’ = perpetual sleep; Ecclesiastes 12:5, ‘house of eternity’ = perpetual abode.

3, 4. The reason for his prayer. The extremity of his present sufferings seems to be a proof that God is calling him to account and punishing him for his sins with strict severity.

Verse 3. - For the enemy hath persecuted my soul. "The enemy" may be Saul, but is more probably an abstract expression - for "my enemies" generally. He hath smitten my life down to the ground; or, "crushed my life to the ground" - brought me, i.e., very low (comp. Psalm 42:6). He hath made me to dwell in darkness (comp. Psalm 88:6). As those that have been long dead. I have dwelt in a darkness like that of Shell; i.e. in gloom and unhappiness (comp. Lamentations 3:6). Psalm 143:3The 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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