Psalm 13

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Psalm 13
"How long, O Lord"
125 MS 65 F61.jpg
Other name
  • Psalm 12 (Vulgate)
  • "Usquequo Domine"
LanguageHebrew (original)

Psalm 13 is the 13th psalm of the Book of Psalms, generally known in English by its first verse, in the King James Version, "How long, O Lord". The Book of Psalms is the third section of the Hebrew Bible,[1] and a book of the Christian Old Testament. In the Greek Septuagint version of the bible, and in its Latin translation in the Vulgate, this psalm is Psalm 12 in a slightly different numbering system. In Latin, it is known as "Usquequo Domine".[2]

The psalm is a regular part of Jewish, Catholic, Anglican and Protestant liturgies.

Background and themes[edit]

Theodoret theorized that this psalm was composed by David when his son Absalom conspired against him.[3] However, Spurgeon asserts that any attempt to link it to a specific incident is conjecture; rather, the psalm gives voice to feelings that arise in any of the many trials that a person undergoes in life.[4]

Both Jewish and Christian commentators note the three-part structure of this psalm, with verses 2-3 in the Hebrew (1-2 in the KJV) relating to David's complaint, verses 4-5 in the Hebrew (3-4 in the KJV) expressing David's prayer, and verse 6 in the Hebrew (5-6 in the KJV) describing David's salvation.[5] A. G. Brown asserts that prayer is the turning point between mourning and rejoicing.[4]

Spurgeon notes that the repetition of the words "How long?" four times in this psalm resemble cries; he creatively refers to this psalm as the "How Long Psalm"—or, the "Howling Psalm".[4]


Hebrew Bible version[edit]

Following is the Hebrew text and an English translation of Psalm 13:[6]

Verse Hebrew English
1 לַֽ֜מְנַצֵּ֗חַ מִזְמ֥וֹר לְדָוִֽד To the conductor, a song of David.
2 עַד־אָ֣נָה יְ֖הֹוָה תִּשְׁכָּחֵ֣נִי נֶ֑צַח עַד־אָ֓נָה | תַּסְתִּ֖יר אֶת־פָּנֶ֣יךָ מִמֶּֽנִּי How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?
3 עַד־אָ֨נָה אָשִׁ֪ית עֵצ֡וֹת בְּנַפְשִׁ֗י יָג֣וֹן בִּלְבָבִ֣י יוֹמָ֑ם עַד־אָ֓נָה | יָר֖וּם אֹֽיְבִ֣י עָלָֽי How long will I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart by day; how long will my enemy have the upper hand over me?
4 הַבִּ֣יטָֽה עֲ֖נֵנִי יְהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהָ֑י הָאִ֥ירָה עֵ֜ינַ֗י פֶּן־אִישַׁ֥ן הַמָּֽוֶת Look and answer me, O Lord my God; enlighten my eyes lest I sleep the sleep of death.
5 פֶּן־יֹאמַ֣ר אֹֽיְבִ֣י יְכָלְתִּ֑יו צָרַ֥י יָ֜גִ֗ילוּ כִּ֣י אֶמּֽוֹט Lest my enemy say, "I have overwhelmed him"; my adversaries will rejoice when I totter.
6 וַֽאֲנִ֚י | בְּחַסְדְּךָ֣ בָטַחְתִּי֘ יָגֵ֪ל לִבִּ֗י בִּישֽׁוּעָ֫תֶ֥ךָ אָשִׁ֥ירָה לַֽיהֹוָ֑ה כִּ֖י גָמַ֥ל עָלָֽי But I trusted in Your loving-kindness, my heart will rejoice in Your salvation; I will sing to the Lord for He has bestowed [it] upon me.

King James Version[edit]

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



Verse 6 in the Hebrew is recited in the morning prayer service during Pesukei dezimra.[7]

The entire psalm is recited as a prayer for the well-being of a sick person, according to the Chasam Sofer and the Siddur Sfas Emes.[7]


Around 530, St. Benedict of Nursia chose this psalm to be recited for the office of prime on Thursday in the Rule of St. Benedict. In the modern liturgy, Psalm 13 is recited or sung to the Office of the mid-day Tuesday of the first week.[8]

Musical settings[edit]

The psalm was set to music by Johannes Brahms for women's choir in three voices.

In 1692, Michel-Richard de Lalande wrote his great Latin motet (S.40) for the offices to the Royal Chapel of Versailles and his contemporary, Henry Desmarest also composed a grand motet on this Psalm, as did Franz Liszt, scored for a tenor soloist as the Psalmist, SATB chorus, and symphony orchestra.


  1. ^ Mazor 2011, p. 589.
  2. ^ "Parallel Latin/English Psalter / Psalmus 12 (13)".
  3. ^ "Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 8". Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  4. ^ a b c "Charles H. Spurgeon's Treasury of David". 2019. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  5. ^ Samet, Rav Elchanan (2019). "Shiur #17: Psalm 13 – "How long, O Lord… Look, and hear me… I Will Sing to the Lord" From Complaint to Supplication and From Prayer to Praise". Yeshivat Har Etzion. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  6. ^ "Tehillim – Psalms – Chapter 13". 2019. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  7. ^ a b Brauner, Reuven (2013). "Shimush Pesukim: Comprehensive Index to Liturgical and Ceremonial Uses of Biblical Verses and Passages" (PDF) (2nd ed.). p. 33.
  8. ^ The main cycle of liturgical prayers takes place over four weeks.

Cited sources[edit]

External links[edit]

  • Psalm 13 in Hebrew and English - Mechon-mamre