Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
The psalmist prays for mercy, and deprecates judgment, Psa 143:1, Psa 143:2. His persecutions, Psa 143:3. His earnest prayer for deliverance, Psa 143:4-9. Prays for God's quickening Spirit, Psa 143:10, Psa 143:11. And for the total discomfiture of his adversaries, Psa 143:12
The Hebrew and all the Versions attribute this Psalm to David; and the Vulgate, Septuagint, Ethiopic and Arabic state that it was composed on the rebellion of his son Absalom: nor is there any thing in the Psalm that positively disagrees with this inscription. This is the last of the seven Psalms styled penitential.
In thy faithfulness answer me - Thou hast promised to support me in my difficulties, and, though my children should forsake me, never to withdraw thy loving-kindness from me. See the present unnatural rebellion of my son. Lord, undertake for me!
Enter not into judgment - אל תבוא al tabo. Do not come into court, either as a Witness against me, or as a Judge, else I am ruined; for thou hast seen all my ways that they are evil, and thy justice requires thee to punish me. Nor can any soul that has ever lived be justified in the sight of thy justice and righteousness. Had I my desert from thee, I should have worse than even my unnatural son intends me. O what a relief is Jesus crucified to a soul in such circumstances!
He hath made me to dwell in darkness - Literally, in dark places. This may be understood of David's taking refuge in caves and dens of the earth, to escape from his persecuting son; yea, even to take refuge in the tombs, or repositories of the dead.
Therefore is my spirit - I am deeply depressed in spirit, and greatly afflicted in body.
My heart within me is desolate - It has no companion of its sorrows, no sympathetic friend. I am utterly destitute of comfort.
I remember the days of old - Thou hast often helped me, often delivered me. I will therefore trust in thee, for thy mercy is not clean gone from me.
I stretch forth my hands - This is a natural action. All in distress, or under the influence of eager desire, naturally extend their hands and arms, as if to catch at help and obtain succor.
As a thirsty land - Parched and burned by the sun, longs for rain, so does my thirsty soul for the living God.
Hear me speedily - מהר maher, make haste to answer me. A few hours, and my state may be irretrievable. In a short time my unnatural son may put an end to my life.
Cause me to hear thy Loving-kindness in the morning - This petition was probably offered in the night-season. David had despatched his messengers in all directions; and prays to God that he might by the morning get some good news.
Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk - Absalom and his partisans are in possession of all the country. I know not in what direction to go, that I may not fall in with them: point out by thy especial providence the path I should take.
I flee unto thee to hide me - That I may not be found by my enemies, who seek my life to destroy it.
Teach me to do thy will - רצונך retsonecha, thy pleasure. To be found doing the will of God is the only safe state for man.
Thy Spirit is good - The Author of every good desire and holy purpose.
Lead me - Let it lead me by its continued inspirations and counsels.
Into the land of uprightness - "Into a right land," Chaldee. Into the place where I shall be safe. The old Psalter has, Thi goste gude sal lede me into rygt lande.
Quicken me - I am as a dead man, and my hopes are almost dead within me.
And of thy mercy - To me and the kingdom.
Cut off mine enemies - Who, if they succeed, will destroy the very form of godliness. The steps he has already taken show that even morality shall have no countenance, if Absalom reign.
I am thy servant - Whoever is disloyal to me, I will love and serve thee.
For a full explanation of this Psalm, as applied to penitents, see the analysis.