Commentary on Psalm 13 and ‘Lighten My Eyes’

Psalm 13 seems to be a great introduction to the Psalms. Here I’ve concentrated on the back and forth we see in many Psalms and commentary on what “lighten my eyes” may mean.

To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.
How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord? for ever?
how long wilt thou hide thy face from me?
2How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
having sorrow in my heart daily?
how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?
3Consider and hear me, O Lord my God: lighten mine eyes,
lest I sleep the sleep of death;
4Lest mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him;
and those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved.
5But I have trusted in thy mercy;
my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation.
6I will sing unto the Lord,
because he hath dealt bountifully with me. (KJV)

The fluidity of genres of many of the psalms is an expression of their psychological dynamism – they express not one static but an inner evolution or oscillation of attitudes. Perhaps prayer itself served as a vehicle of transformation from acute distress to trust.

Robert Alter, The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary

How he expostulates with God hereupon: “How long shall it be thus?” And, “Shall it be thus for ever?” Long afflictions try our patience and often tire it. It is a common temptation, when trouble lasts long, to think it will last always; despondency then turns into despair, and those that have long been without joy begin, at last, to be without hope. “Lord, tell me how long thou wilt hide thy face, and assure me that it shall not be for ever, but that thou wilt return at length in mercy to me, and then I shall the more easily bear my present troubles.”

–Matthew Henry

His prayers are soon turned into praises (Psalm 13:5, Psalm 13:6): But my heart shall rejoice and I will sing to the Lord. What a surprising change is here in a few lines! In the beginning of the psalm we have him drooping, trembling, and ready to sink into melancholy and despair; but, in the close of it, rejoicing in God, and elevated and enlarged in his praises. See the power of faith, the power of prayer, and how good it is to draw near to God. If we bring our cares and griefs to the throne of grace, and leave them there, we may go away like Hannah, and our countenance will be no more sad, 1 Sam 1:18. [Psalm 55:22]

–Matthew Henry

Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee:
he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.
Psalm 55:22

My soul followeth hard after thee:
thy right hand upholdeth me.
Psalm 63:8

Enlighten my eyes:

What his petitions are: Consider my case, hear my complaints, and enlighten my eyes, that is, (1.) “Strengthen my faith;” for faith is the eye of the soul, with which it sees above, and sees through, the things of sense. “Lord, enable me to look beyond my present troubles and to foresee a happy issue of them.” (2.) “Guide my way; enable me to look about me, that I may avoid the snares which are laid for me.” (3.) “Refresh my soul with the joy of thy salvation.” That which revives the drooping spirits is said to enlighten the eyes, 1 Sam 14:27; Ezra 9:8. “Lord, scatter the cloud of melancholy which darkens my eyes, and let my countenance be made pleasant.”

–Matthew Henry

“Lighten mine eyes:” that is, let the eye of my faith be clear, that I may see my God in the dark; let my eye of watchfulness be wide open, lest I be entrapped, and let the eye of my understanding be illuminated to see the right way. Perhaps, too, here is an allusion to that cheering of the spirits so frequently called the enlightening of the eyes because it causes the face to brighten, and the eyes to sparkle. Well may we use the prayer, “Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord!” for in many respects we need the Holy Spirit’s illuminating rays.

–Charles Spurgeon, Treasury of David

the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.
Psalm 19:8b KJV/ESV/NASB

God is our light and life

The word sleep, as it is used in this passage, is a metaphor of a similar kind, being put for death. In short, David confesses, that unless God cause the light of life to shine upon him, he will be immediately overwhelmed with the darkness of death, and that he is already as a man without life, unless God breathe into him new vigor. And certainly our confidence of life depends on this, that although the world may threaten us with a thousand deaths, yet God is possessed of numberless means of restoring us to life.

–John Calvin

If your revelation hadn’t delighted me so,
I would have given up when the hard times came.
Psalm 119:92

I’ll let you guess the Bible translation of that last verse.


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