Psalm 142: Emerging from a cave

‘Free me from prison, that I may give thanks.’ (7)

David’s cave did not look like this, which is in the Kimberley.

The back-story in this short song has David hiding in a cave. Which cave is not clear, as several such events are mentioned, but maybe when pursued by Saul in 1 Samuel 24 — a good read.

David cries his troubles, since he feels that God knows his path and understands the pressure of being pursued by the king and his three thousand henchmen. (3)

David complains that he has no friend, no refuge save God, no one cares. (4)

The prayer to be set free from this ‘prison’ opens the song to a more positive and trusting mood, like emerging from trembling in a cave of society’s or our own making, into fresh air. Then, when divine love has broken through, people of goodness ‘will gather around’.(7)


This is another psalm with few settings in our regular sources, however a nice refrain in The Emergent Psalter pays attention to the idea of faith as a refuge:

You are my refuge, all I have in the land of the living. (5)

The name of Costanzo Porta, (1529 – 1601) is little seen these days, even though he was a prolific composer and highly sought after in his day. Born in Cremona, he studied under Willaert in Venice, and was no doubt influenced by the polychoral style of the Venetian school. He wrote many books full of motets, masses and hymns as well as occasional madrigals. This short (two pages) setting is listed below as Psalm 142:2,3. These verse numbers are those in the Vulgate, and are the opening verses 1 and 2 in the modern version.