Psalm 13 is the 13th psalm of the Book of Psalms, beginning in English in the King James Version (KJV): "How long, O Lord". The Book of Psalms is part of the third section of the Hebrew Bible,[1] and a book of the Christian Old Testament. In the Greek Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate, this psalm is Psalm 12 in a slightly different numbering system. In Latin, it is known as "Usquequo Domine".[2]

Psalm 13
"How long, O Lord"
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Other name
  • Psalm 12 (Vulgate)
  • "Usquequo Domine"
LanguageHebrew (original)

The psalm forms a regular part of Jewish, Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican and other Protestant liturgies.

Background and themesEdit

Theodoret theorized that this psalm was composed by David when his son Absalom conspired against him.[3] However, Charles 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]

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 versionEdit

Following is the Hebrew text of Psalm 13:

Verse Hebrew
1 לַֽ֜מְנַצֵּ֗חַ מִזְמ֥וֹר לְדָוִֽד
2 עַד־אָ֣נָה יְ֖הֹוָה תִּשְׁכָּחֵ֣נִי נֶ֑צַח עַד־אָ֓נָה | תַּסְתִּ֖יר אֶת־פָּנֶ֣יךָ מִמֶּֽנִּי
3 עַד־אָ֨נָה אָשִׁ֪ית עֵצ֡וֹת בְּנַפְשִׁ֗י יָג֣וֹן בִּלְבָבִ֣י יוֹמָ֑ם עַד־אָ֓נָה | יָר֖וּם אֹֽיְבִ֣י עָלָֽי
4 הַבִּ֣יטָֽה עֲ֖נֵנִי יְהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהָ֑י הָאִ֥ירָה עֵ֜ינַ֗י פֶּן־אִישַׁ֥ן הַמָּֽוֶת
5 פֶּן־יֹאמַ֣ר אֹֽיְבִ֣י יְכָלְתִּ֑יו צָרַ֥י יָ֜גִ֗ילוּ כִּ֣י אֶמּֽוֹט
6 וַֽאֲנִ֚י | בְּחַסְדְּךָ֣ בָטַחְתִּי֘ יָגֵ֪ל לִבִּ֗י בִּישֽׁוּעָ֫תֶ֥ךָ אָשִׁ֥ירָה לַֽיהֹוָ֑ה כִּ֖י גָמַ֥ל עָלָֽי

King James VersionEdit

  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.[6]

According to the Chasam Sofer and the Siddur Sfas Emes, the entire psalm is recited as a prayer for the well-being of a sick person.[6]


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 of the Hours, Psalm 13 is recited or sung to the Office for Midday Prayer on the Tuesday of the first week of the four-weekly cycle.

Book of Common PrayerEdit

In the Church of England's Book of Common Prayer, Psalm 13 is appointed to be read on the evening of the second day of the month.[7]

Musical settingsEdit

In 1692, Michel-Richard de Lalande wrote his great Latin motet (S. 40) for the offices of the Royal Chapel of Versailles. His contemporary Henry Desmarest also composed a grand motet on this psalm. Marc-Antoine Charpentier set around 1685 one "Usquequo Domine" H.196, for 4 voices, recorder, flutes, and continuo. In German, the psalm was set to music by Johannes Brahms for women's choir in three voices, "Herr, wie lange willst du".[8] Friedrich Kiel set verses as No. 6 of his Six Motets, Op. 82, published in 1883. Franz Liszt scored it for a tenor soloist as the psalmist, mixed choir, and orchestra.

The Canadian Christian singer-songwriter and worship leader Brian Doerksen wrote with others a song called 'How long, O Lord'.[9]


  1. ^ Mazor 2011, p. 589.
  2. ^ "Parallel Latin/English Psalter / Psalmus 12 (13)".
  3. ^ "Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 8". Retrieved 2 October 2021.
  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. ^ a b Brauner, Reuven (2013). "Shimush Pesukim: Comprehensive Index to Liturgical and Ceremonial Uses of Biblical Verses and Passages" (PDF) (2nd ed.). p. 33.
  7. ^ Church of England, Book of Common Prayer: The Psalter as printed by John Baskerville in 1762, p. 203ff
  8. ^ Free scores by Psalm 13, Op. 27 (Johannes Brahms) in the Choral Public Domain Library (ChoralWiki)
  9. ^ Doerksen, B. (2002), Psalm 13 (How Long O Lord), accessed 2 October 2021

Cited sourcesEdit

External linksEdit