top of page

Psalm 13

THIS psalm consists of a complaint, ver. 2, 3 (1, 2), a prayer for deliverance, vers. 4, 5 (3, 4), and an expression of strong confidence that God will grant it, ver. 6 (5, 6).

There is no trace of a specific reference to any particular period in the life of David, or to any persecution of the ancient Israel by heathen enemies. The psalm appears to be intended as a vehicle of pious sentiment, for the church at large and individual believers, under any affliction of the sort here described, namely, that arising from the spiteful hostility of wicked men. The tone, as in several of the foregoing psalms, varies from that of deep depression to that of an assured hope, connected, as in actual experience, by one of strong desire and fervent supplication.

  1. To the Chief Musician, a Psalm of David. This title differs from that of the fourth psalm, as the title of the twelfth does from that of the sixth, to wit, by the omission of בנגינות.

  2. (1). Until when, how long, Jehovah, wilt thou forget me forever? Until when wilt thou hide thy face from me? The refusal or delay of the divine help is here, as often elsewhere, represented by the figures of forgetfulness and an averted countenance. See above, on Ps. 9:13, 19 (12, 18), 10:11, 12. The apparent solecism of combining how long with forever may be avoided by supposing two interrogations, how long? forever? It may also be avoided by giving to נֶצַח the sense of continuously, uninterruptedly. But even the obvious construction, which is more agreeable to usage and the Masoretic interpunction of the sentence, may be justified as a strong but natural expression of the conflict between sense and faith. To the eye of sense and reason, the abandonment seemed final; but faith still prompted the inquiry, how long, which implies that it was not to last forever. As if he had said, How long wilt thou persist in the purpose of forgetting me forever?

  3. (2). Till when, how long, shall I place (or layup) counsels, plans, in my soul, grief in my heart by day? Till when shall my enemy be high above me? The idea in the first clause seems to be that of accumulating methods or expedients of escape, as in a storehouse, without finding any that will answer the purpose. The same figure may be continued in the second clause: (how long shall I lay up) sorrow in my heart? The sense is then that the multiplication of devices only multiplies his sorrows. Or the figure of laying up may be confined to the first clause, and the noun grief governed by a verb understood: (how long shall I feel) sorrow in my heart? The common version, having sorrow, conveys the same idea, but supplies a verb unknown to the Hebrew and its cognate languages.—By day is elsewhere put in opposition to by night, as for instance in Ps. 1:2 above. Here it may possibly mean all day, but more probably means every day, daily, as in Ezek. 30:16.—Be high: the original expression is a verb alone. How long shall my enemy soar or tower above me, i.e. be superior, prevail? This clause determines the precise form of suffering complained of, namely, that occasioned by the malice of a powerful persecutor or oppressor. In all such cases, Saul was no doubt present to the mind of David, but only as a specimen or type of the whole class to which the psalm relates.

  4. (3). Look, hear me, Jehovah, my God, lighten my eyes, lest I sleep the death. The complaint is now followed by a corresponding prayer. In allusion to the hiding of the face in ver. 2 (1), he now beseeches God to look towards him, or upon him, to shew by his acts that he has not lost eight of him. As he before complained of God’s forgetting him, so here he prays that he will hear and answer him. See above, on Ps. 3:5 (4). The idea of Jehovah as a God in covenant with his people, is brought out still more fully by the phrase my God, i.e. one on whom I have a right to call, with a well-founded hope of being heard. See above on Ps. 3:8 (7).—Enlighten my eyes, or make them shine, is by some understood to mean, Dispel my doubts, and extricate me out of my perplexities, with reference to the plans or counsels mentioned in the preceding verse. Others, with more probability, suppose an allusion to the dimness of the eyes produced by extreme weakness or approaching death, and understand the prayer as one for restoration and deliverance from imminent destruction. Compare 1 Sam. 14:27, 29, where the relief of Jonathan’s debility, occasioned by long fasting, is described by saying that his eyes were enlightened.—Lest I sleep (in) death, or lest I sleep the (sleep of) death, as in the common version. Compare the beautiful description of death as a sleep of perpetuity, a perpetual or everlasting sleep, in Jer. 51:39, 57.

  5. (4). Lest my enemy say, I have overpowered him (and) my adversaries shout when I am shaken, or because I shall be shaken.—The verb יכלתי strictly means, I have been able. The unusual construction with a pronoun (יכלתיו) cannot be literally rendered into English, but the meaning evidently is, I have been able (to subdue) him, or, I have been strong (in comparison with) him. As to the combination of the singular and plural (enemy and adversaries), see above, on Ps. 10:11 (10).—Shout, i.e. for joy, or in a single word, triumph. See above, on Ps. 2:11.—The last verb (אֶמּוֹט) has the same sense as in Ps. 10:6, viz., that of being moved or cast down from one’s firm position.

  6. (5, 6). And I in thy mercy have trusted; let my heart exult in thy salvation; I will sing to Jehovah, for he hath done me good, or acted kindly towards me. The transition indicated by the phrase and I, is the same as in Ps. 2:6 above. Such are the enemies and dangers which environ me, and (yet) I have trusted in thy mercy. The past tense of the verb describes the trust, not as something to be felt hereafter, or as just beginning to be felt at present, but as already entertained and cherished, and therefore likely to be still continued. I have trusted, and do still trust, and will trust hereafter.—There is a beautiful gradation in the clauses of this verse. First, a fact is stated: ‘I have trusted in thy mercy;’ then a desire is expressed: ‘let my heart rejoice in thy salvation;’ then a fixed purpose is announced: ‘I will sing unto Jehovah.’ The reason annexed to this determination or engagement, implies an assured expectation of a favourable issue. As if he had said, I know the Lord will treat me kindly, and I am resolved to praise him for so doing.—In thy salvation, not merely on account of it, but in the contemplation, the possession, the enjoyment of it. See above, Ps. 5:12 (11), 9:3 (2). The verb גָּמַל, which occurs above in Ps. 7:5 (4), corresponds most nearly to the English treat, in the sense of dealing with or acting towards; but when absolutely used, as here, almost invariably has a good sense, and specifically means to treat well or deal kindly with a person. The idea of requital or reward, which is frequently attached to it in the English version, is suggested, if at all, not by the word itself, but by the context.

The Septuagint has an additional clause, which is retained in the Prayer Book version, and thus rendered: Yea, I will praise the name of the Lord most Highest. The words are not found in any Hebrew manuscript.

Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained (pp. 58–60). Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)

37 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page