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Psalm 143

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Prayer for Deliverance and Guidance
MT Intro
A Psalm of David.
An Earnest Appeal for Guidance and Deliverance Prayer for Deliverance from Personal Enemies
(A Lament)
A Prayer for Help A Humble Entreaty
143:1-4 143:1-2 143:1-2 143:1-2 143:1-2
  143:3-4 143:3-4 143:3-4 143:3-4
143:5-6 143:5-6 143:5-6 143:5-6 143:5-6
143:7-9 143:7-8 143:7-8 143:7-8 143:7
        143:8
  143:9-10 143:9-10 143:9-10 143:9-10
143:10-12        
  143:11-12 143:11-12 143:11-12 143:11-12

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. There are several imperatives and jussives of request.

1. hear, Ps. 143:1a

2. give ear, Ps. 143:1b

3. do not exile into judgment, Ps. 143:2a

4. answer me quickly, Ps. 143:7a

5. do not hide Your face, Ps. 143:7b

6. let me hear, Ps. 143:8a

7. teach me, Ps. 143:8c

8. deliver me, Ps. 143:9a

9. teach me, Ps. 143:10a

10. let Your good Spirit lead me, Ps. 143:10c

B. There are three people characterized in this Psalm.

1. YHWH

a. faithful, Ps. 143 1c

b. righteous, Ps. 143:1c,11b

c. lovingkindness, Ps. 143:8a,12a

d. in Ps. 143:10c and 11a the parallel phrases (i.e., "Your good Spirit" and "Your Name") also characterize YHWH

2. the psalmist

a. his spirit is overwhelmed, Ps. 143:4a

b. his spirit is appalled, Ps. 143:4b

c. he remembers God's past acts, Ps. 143:5

d. he longs for God, Ps. 143:6

e. his spirit fails, Ps. 143:7a

f. he trusts in God, Ps. 143:8b

g. he lifts his soul to God, Ps. 143:8d

h. he takes refuge in God, Ps. 143:9b

i. YHWH is his God, Ps. 143:10b

3. the enemy

a. persecutes the psalmist, Ps. 143:3a

b. crushed his life, Ps. 143:3b

c. made him dwell in dark places, Ps. 143:3c

d. afflicted the psalmist, Ps. 143:12b

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 143:1-4
 1Hear my prayer, O Lord,
 Give ear to my supplications!
 Answer me in Your faithfulness, in Your righteousness!
 2And do not enter into judgment with Your servant,
 For in Your sight no man living is righteous.
 3For the enemy has persecuted my soul;
 He has crushed my life to the ground;
 He has made me dwell in dark places, like those who have long been dead.
 4Therefore my spirit is overwhelmed within me;
 My heart is appalled within me.

143:1 "faithfulness" This noun (BDB 53) comes from the verb (BDB 52) which denotes "believe," "faith," "trust," and "faithfulness." See Special Topic: Believe, Trust, Faith and Faithfulness in the OT.

A different word (BDB 105, KB 120) in Ps. 143:8b also means "trust."

▣ "righteousness" See Special Topic: Righteousness.

Notice how YHWH is characterized, see Contextual Insights, B. 1.

143:2 If YHWH counts sin(s), who can stand? All humans are affected by the Fall of Genesis 3 (see Special Topic: The Fall and the notes at Ps. 130:3-4).

Some rabbis assert that sin begins in Genesis 3 but most in Genesis 6. The rabbis assert the choices of humans as the source of evil (i.e., the two yetzers). Paul affirms Genesis 3 as the source (cf. Rom. 1:18-3:20; 3:23; 11:32; Gal. 3:22). The result is the same, as humans are rebels and need to be forgiven (cf. 1 Kgs. 8:46; Job 4:17; 9:2; 25:4; Ps. 130:3-4; Pro. 20:9; Eccl. 7:20; Isa. 53:6; Rom. 5:12-21)!

143:2b The UBS Handbook (p. 1151) mentions that this line of poetry, as translated by the LXX, may be alluded to by Paul in Rom. 3:20 and Gal. 2:16.

143:3-4 These verses describe in poetic language the feelings of the persecuted psalmist. The imagery is related to the Hebrew concept of Sheol (cf. Job 10:21; Ps. 88:5-6; Lam. 3:6).

But notice the drastic change that comes in Ps. 143:5, when the psalmist reflects on YHWH's wonderful, gracious acts in the past (i.e., creation, call of the Patriarchs, Israel becoming a nation and occupying the land of promise, etc.).

143:3 "the enemy" Note this (Qal participle) is linked to singular verbs. There are two good options.

1. a collective term (plural in Ps. 143:9,12)

2. one main enemy

3. a reference to "death," "the pit," "Sheol"

 

143:4 "spirit. . .heart" Both of these refer to the person. The first phrase is a repeat of Ps. 142:39, see note there.

The same thought is repeated in Ps. 143:7a.

For "spirit" see SPECIAL TOPIC: SPIRIT IN THE BIBLE.

For "heart" see SPECIAL TOPIC: THE HEART.

▣ "overwhelmed" This is literally "faint" (BDB 742, KB 814, Hithpael imperfect with waw, cf. Ps. 142:3a). This verb is used with

1. spirit (ruah) - Ps. 77:3; 142:3; 143:4

2. heart (leb) - Ps. 61:2; 143:4

3. soul (nephesh) - Ps. 107:5

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 143:5-6
 5I remember the days of old;
 I meditate on all Your doings;
 I muse on the work of Your hands.
 6I stretch out my hands to You;
 My soul longs for You, as a parched land.  Selah.

143:5-6 This describes the actions of the psalmist.

1. he remembers God's gracious acts of deliverance in the past, Ps. 143:5a

2. he continues to meditate on God's actions, Ps. 143:5b, cf. 105:2

3. he reflects/muses (cf. Ps. 77:12; 145:5) on God's creation, Ps. 143:5c, cf. Ps. 8:6; 102:25

4. he prays to God, Ps. 143:6a

5. his soul longs for God, Ps. 143:6b, cf. Ps. 42:2; 63:1

These are the focus of faithful followers' thoughts. We are what we think about. Our prayers and our acts reveal the true nature of each person.

143:5 "days of old" This noun (BDB 869) can mean "ancient" or "before time" (cf. Deut. 33:27; Pro. 8:22-23; Micah 5:2). Usually the root denotes "east" or "before" (NIDOTTE, vol. 3, pp. 869-871).

143:6 "I stretch out my hands to You" See note at Ps. 141:2b.

▣ "soul" This is the Hebrew term nephesh. See note at Gen. 35:18 online.

▣ "My soul longs for You, as a parched land" The psalmist longs/thirsts for personal fellowship with YHWH (i.e., Ps. 143:7b; Ps. 42:2; 63:1; 84:2). This is the goal of Gen. 1:26-27. It was "the" purpose of creation!

Notice that remembering YHWH's acts and worship gives hope in current circumstances!

▣ "Selah" See note at Ps. 3:2 online.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 143:7-9
 7Answer me quickly, O Lord, my spirit fails;
 Do not hide Your face from me,
 Or I will become like those who go down to the pit.
 8Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning;
 For I trust in You;
 Teach me the way in which I should walk;
 For to You I lift up my soul.
 9Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies;
 I take refuge in You.

143:7 "my spirit fails" The verb (BDB 477, KB 476, Qal perfect) means "to be complete" or "to be finished." It is used of a person in

1. Job 33:21, flesh fails

2. Ps. 71:9, strength fails

3. Ps. 73:26, flesh and heart fail

4. Pro. 5:11, flesh and body fail

The psalmist feels he is about to die and go to Sheol (i.e., the pit, Ps. 143:7c).

▣ "hide Your face from me" This is idiomatic, anthropomorphic language of (1) God being silent and not responding to the psalmist's prayers or (2) God rejecting the psalmist; only context or parallelism can determine (cf. Ps. 10:11; 13:1; 27:9; 30:7; 51:9; 69:17; 88:14; 102:2). It expresses a sense of hopeless helplessness (cf. Ps. 142:4).

143:8c "Teach me the way in which I should walk" This verb (BDB 393, KB 390, Hiphil imperative) basically means "to know." The NASB translates it as

1. make known - 1 Chr. 17:19; Job 26:3; Ps. 89:1; 98:2; 106:8; 145:12; Isa. 64:1; Hab. 3:2

2. teach - Exod. 18:20; Jer. 31:19; and here

"Walk" is often used as a metaphor for daily living (i.e., Ps. 1:1; Pro. 1:15; 4:14; Isa. 48:17; Jer. 42:3; in the NT also, i.e., Rom. 14:15; Eph. 4:1,17; 5:2,15).

143:8d "to You I lift up my soul" This could be imagery, used only three times with YHWH as the object (cf. Ps. 25:1; 86:4) related to

1. praying (i.e., lift up my hands/palms)

2. sacrifice (i.e., wave offering or the imagery of the horns of the sacrificial altar)

 

143:9

NASB"I take refuge in You"
NKJV"In You I take shelter"
NJB"since in you I find protection"
JPSOA"to You I look for cover"
REB"with you I seek refuge"
LXX, Vulgate"to You I flee"

The participle (BDB 491, KB 487, Piel participle) basically means "to cover" or "to hide." It is a very common root in the OT.

The AB (p. 325) translates this line of poetry as "my God (El), truly am I being submerged." Dahood connects it to a reference to Sheol by using Job 22:11.

The UBS Handbook (p. 1153) mentions two Hebrew MSS which translate the MT differently.

1. "I seek refuge in You"

2. "to You I flee"

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 143:10-12
 10Teach me to do Your will,
 For You are my God;
 Let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground.
 11For the sake of Your name, O Lord, revive me.
 In Your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble.
 12And in Your lovingkindness, cut off my enemies
 And destroy all those who afflict my soul,
 For I am Your servant.

143:10 "Teach me to do Your will" This is a different word (BDB 540, KB 531, cf. Deut. 4:1; 6:1; 20:18; Jer. 12:16) from the "teach" of Ps. 143:8c. YHWH wants to teach us His will so that His faithful followers can model it for the lost world!

Also note the sovereign God must reveal His will but humans must choose to act (and continue to act) on this revelation. The covenant involves both God and humans!

NASB"Your good Spirit"
NKJV"Your Spirit is good"
NRSV, LXX"Your good spirit"
NJB"your generous spirit"
JPSOA, REB"Your gracious spirit"
Peshitta"Your gentle spirit"

As is obvious from the English translations there are two theological issues.

1. how to view "spirit"

a. imagery of God's agency (i.e., Gen. 1:2; Num. 11:17,25,29; Ps. 139:7; Hag. 2:5)

b. as a characterization of God Himself (cf. Ps. 51:11; Isa. 63:10-11)

2. the definition of "good" (BDB 373 III), which is a common verb with a wide semantic field; the general sense is

a. "pleasing," "good" (verb)

b. "pleasant," "agreeable," "good" (adjective)

c. "good thing," "goodness" (masculine noun)

d. "welfare," "benefit," "good thing" (feminine noun)

For #1 please look at Special Topic: The Personhood of the Spirit and SPECIAL TOPIC: THE TRINITY.

▣ "level ground" The OT uses the imagery of a path/road/way to describe one's life (cf. Ps. 5:8; 26:12; 27:11).

1. the good/godly life is

a. smooth

b. level

c. unobstructed

d. straight

2. the wicked life is

a. crooked

b. unlevel

c. obstructed

d. slippery

 

143:11-12 The psalmist bases his request, not on his own merit (cf. Ps. 143:2), but on

1. God's good name, Ps. 143:11a

2. God's righteousness, Ps. 143:11b

3. God's lovingkindness, Ps. 143:12a

 

143:11 "For the sake of Your Name" See Special Topic: "The Name" of YHWH.

NASB, NKJV,
TEV, REB"revive me"
NRSV, JPSOA"preserve my life"
NJB"give me life"
LXX"quicken me"

The verb (BDB 310, KB 309, Piel imperfect) is the common term "life" (noun), "live" (verb), "alive," or "living" (adjective). This Piel stem is used often in the Psalter (cf. Ps. 80:18; 85:6; 119:25,37, 40,50,88,93,107,149,154,156, 159). It is often parallel to BDB 996, KB 1427, cf. Ps. 80:3,17,19. It can refer to

1. physical life

2. spiritual life

 

143:12 "Your servant" This can mean

1. a faithful follower

2. an honorific title for leaders

a. Moses

b. Joshua

c. David (i.e., Kings of Judah)

d. Messiah/Israel (i.e., Servant Songs of Isaiah 41-53)

 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk n the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Since all humans are sinful, on what basis does the psalmist ask for God to hear and help him?

2. Who is "the enemy"?

3. Define "dark places" in Ps. 143:3.

4. What is the implication of YHWH "hiding His face"?

5. Does Ps. 143:10 refer to the Holy Spirit?

6. Define "servant."