Psalm 142

Psalm 142 Summary. David is overwhelmed so he cries to the LORD


David is overwhelmed by the dangers and dangerous people who surround him and senses that no one cares for him, so he confidently cries out to the LORD to free him from those dangers so he may thank the LORD and others will see the LORD’S deliverance of him.


David, trapped by Saul’s troops, is overwhelmed by a sense of no one to turn to. According to the superscription he is hiding in a cave—either in Adullam (1 Samuel 22.1) or En Gedi (1 Samuel 24.1-21). The Adullam incident is more dangerous and the more probable historical situation. In this psalm David first says he will cry aloud, make supplication, pour out his complaint, and declare his trouble to Yahweh, not to people (Psalm 142.1-2). He then expresses his condition—he is overwhelmed, trapped, and no cares about him (Psalm 142.3-4). David confidently concludes by specifically asking Yahweh, who is his refuge and portion (the only one of value he has), to listen, deliver, and free him so that he may thank Yahweh and be a witness to Yahweh’s great goodness to him (Psalm 142.5-7).


  1. Psalm 142.1-2. David states his intension—I will cry out to the LORD for deliverance.
  2. Psalm 142.3-4. David makes his case—I am overwhelmed, and no one cares, but you LORD, know me and my dreadful situation, and you do care.
  3. Psalm 142.5-7. David now specifies to the LORD: give heed to me, deliver me, free me so I may thank you and the righteous will recognize your blessing on me.

Verse summary

  1. Psalm 142.1-2. David states his intension—I will cry out to the LORD for deliverance.
    1. David stresses what he will do in this very dangerous and stressful situation by four verbs: cry (זעק za`aq cry out), make supplication (חָנַן chanan hithpael imperfect, plead for mercy), pour out (שָׁפַךְ shaphaq, pour out, spill out), declare (נגד nagad, speak out, announce).
    2. The LORD Yahweh is the one to whom he pleaded and he did so out loud. Possibly his band of men were there with him and he was telling them his only solution Can you sense the emotion within David? Not only does he call out, but he is so troubled and this chimes out the way he prays.
  2. Psalm 142.3-4. David makes his case—I am overwhelmed and no one cares, but you LORD know me and my dreadful situation, and you do care.
    1. Psalm 142.3 His spirit (רוּחַ ruach) refers to his human spirit. His human spirit was feeling faint (NASB, overwhelmed, עטף `ataph grow weak, feel faint in the hithpael). Hithpael generally has a reflexive meaning such as, my spirit falls down or my spirit shrinks (UBS Handbook: Psalms). The danger tests David and challenges him to live by faith and fellowship with God.
      1. The human spirit is that part of the immaterial person which seems to have capacity for and concentrates more on God or substitutes for God. The soul (נֶפֶשׁ nephesh, see Psalm 141.8; 142.4) seems to relate more to earth life. “Pneuma [Greek for spirit] is the higher principle of our spiritual nature, that which betokens its divine origin, and which adapts it to receive the Holy Spirit, and in which He works and dwells. Psuche [Greek for soul], on the other hand, is the lower principle–the seat of instinct, emotions, and other powers connected with the animal life.” (Eadie, 73-34).
      2. In spite of all the stress and sense of being overwhelmed, David says “you know my path,” where I am and what is in store for me. David falls back to his confidence in Yahweh. He is relying on Yahweh’s character. No matter how overwhelmed or spiritually faint David may be, the LORD knows all about him and is in control of the situation. Knowing and believing the doctrines of divine attributes, our position in Christ, and God’s promises are crucial to us as we face tests. We do not want to be overwhelmed in our Christian life by the tests and heartaches. See these doctrines.
      3. Those wanting to destroy David have laid traps for him. We do not know the specifics. This may refer to slander about David which will turn people against him. It may refer to ambushes along the trails or roads that he travels. It may refer to enemies infiltrating his camp.
    2. Psalm 142.4. David senses that he has no one upon whom he can depend. The right side is where his defenders would stand. No one is there. He says to the LORD, “Glance (hiphil imperative) to the right and see (qal imperative) that there is no one who recognizes me” (in the sense of cares). “A place of refuge has perished.” There is nowhere to go. He cannot escape. No one cares for his life (soul נֶפֶשׁ nephesh). The word care (דָּרַשׁ darash, qal participle, to seek for) is here in the good sense. No one is interested; no one even cares to find out how he is. In Psalm 142.3, he is overwhelmed; in Psalm 142.4, no one even cares. This is a common experience for all people, even believers. But he knows that the LORD cares about him and for him. This is not a complaint against God, or even a complaint to people. David expresses his inner soul life with confidence that the LORD has everything in hand.
  3. Psalm 142.5-7. David now specifies to the LORD: give heed to me, deliver me, free me so I may thank you, and the righteous will recognize your blessing on me. What we need to do is just what David did—cry out to the LORD and believe that he is our refuge and portion. We see his confidence in Yahweh when he says you are my refuge, my portion, and you will deal bountifully with me.
    1. Psalm 142.5. David cried out to the LORD (Psalm 142.1, same word, זעק za`aq cry out). David gets personal. You are my refuge and portion. Refuge (מַחְסֶה machseh is used many times. Examples include Proverbs 14.26; Isaiah 4.6). People fail us, but the LORD is always our place of refuge. Portion (חֵלֶק chelaq, a share of booty or property) refers to what David possess as his own. It speaks of relationship and what David can depend upon, similar to a person’s land or right to blessing. The land of the living means in life now.
    2.  Psalm 142.6. Now a repeat of the call for help because David is helpless by himself. When David says pay attention (קשׁב qashab hiphil imperative) to my cry of lamentation because I am small and unimportant, he means, I am in big trouble so please listen. Rescue (נצל natzal hiphil imperative, snatch away) me. Now we have a little more information. The persecutors (רָדַף radaph) are the men chasing, pursuing, persecuting him, Amos 1.11; Deuteronomy 28.22). Apparently, he is being hounded by his enemies. They will not let him rest. They keep up the pressure. They are too strong and he has no other help.
    3. Psalm 142.7. David is not in a literal prison, but he senses that his plight is just like being in prison. He cannot come and go as he wants. Powerful people try to dictate his activities. He feels like he is constantly watched. So, he asks Yahweh to free him (יָצָא yatza’ hiphil imperative, lead out). The result will be that David will praise Yahweh. The righteous will be with David as he praises the LORD, and so they observe David and the LORD’S full or bountiful blessing on him. He finishes this psalm with the confident statement that the LORD will do good (גָּמַל gamal, qal imperfect, deal fully, do good, Psalm 13.6) for him.

So what for us?

  1. David’s plight is that of many Christians today. There are many believers today who are harassed and persecuted. We should pray for them and support them at times and in ways that we have opportunity.
  2. When we are overwhelmed by life (requests by people, expectations of our job or family, apparent dead ends in ministry, schedules, gossip, misunderstandings with believers or nonbelievers, subtle or outright attacks by people, illness, finances, and others), we need to know what David knew and do what he did. He knew biblical doctrines: God’s attributes, his relationship and position before the LORD, that the LORD was his refuge, God’s promises, and that he wanted to honor the LORD. What did he do? He cried out to the LORD, trusted him, determined to thank him no matter what, and kept his eyes on the LORD and whatever future the LORD had for David.
  3. This psalm gives three knowledge peaks for each of us to master: you knew my path (the LORD watching, Psalm 142.3, you are my refuge (the LORD is his safe house, Psalm 142.5, and you are my portion (all that is of value to him, Psalm 142.5. Each requires some knowledge of the Bible plus faith in the specific truth known.
  4. This is a lament psalm. Lament psalms are cries to the LORD for help. Within them, as in Psalm 142, the psalmist confidently looks to the LORD for the needed help. When we cry out to the LORD for help, let’s focus our attention on him and the anticipated help instead of wallowing in whatever problems we have. To focus on the lament will increase our sense of being overwhelmed. To focus on the LORD increases our sense of victory and confidence, and lifts our spirits.