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Psalms 42, 43
SEPARATED from the sanctuary, in circumstances which constrain him to recognize therein the mark of God’s desertion, the Psalmist expresses his lively desire, that access to the sanctuary, and through that to the grace of God, might be again thrown open to him. His pain is still further increased by the scorn of his enemies, who, from his misery, and especially from his exile from the sanctuary, infer the want of any true relation on his part to the Lord; and increased also by the remembrance of his earlier prosperity, his participation in the delightful service of the Lord, ( Psalms 42:3-4.) But amidst the uproar of a disturbed soul, faith calls him to “wait on the Lord,” and promises that the Psalmist will still have occasion to thank him for his salvation, Psalms 42:5.
The power of the temptation is broken by this address, but still it is not entirely vanquished. The pain revives again, but the Psalmist, recurring to the “wait on the Lord,” carries it immediately to him. The substance of the second strophe is briefly summed up, in Psalms 42:6, in the words: “My God, my soul is troubled within me, therefore remember I thee,” which is more fully expanded in what follows. First the words: “my soul is troubled within me,” in Psalms 42:7, in which we see all the floods of distress going over him; then: “I remember thee,” in ver. Psalms 42:8-11, wherein he shows how the Lord gives him grace, so that amid these unspeakable sufferings he can praise the Lord, cheerfully pray to him, and lay before him his distress. What still remained in his soul of trouble and disheartening, is removed at the close by the repeated call upon his spirit to wait upon the Lord, and the Psalm concludes with the full triumph of faith.
In Psalms 43 the Psalmist prays the Lord, that he, as his God, would support him against his malicious enemies, and bring him back again to his loved sanctuary. At the close the Spirit silences the soul with the same address, which had already proved so effectual.
The formal arrangement is very easily perceived. Psalms 42 falls into two strophes, each of five verses; ver. 6 is not reckoned with the second, because it has merely the character of a prelude. Psalms 43 has also five verses, and thereby discovers itself, precisely as Psalms 70 in relation to Psalms 40, as a kind of half, incomplete, which has respect to a larger whole.
That the two Psalms stand in very close relation to each other, is manifest from this very circumstance, the number five in Psalms 43 pointing to the number ten in Psalms 42; then, from the agreement of the closing verse in Psalms 43 with Psalms 42:5, Psalms 42:11, as also, from the repetition Psalms 42:9 in Psalms 43:2; farther, from the similarity of situation, which is clear as day; and, finally, from the want of a superscription in Psalms 43. But we must not therefore think, according to the idea now prevalent, of throwing both Psalms into one. The more their agreement lies upon the surface, the less can it be supposed that the division into two Psalms had first taken place at a later period. No one would have thought of this, if it had not been met with abroad. Besides, the analogy is against it. Where we find elsewhere a marked correspondence between two Psalms standing beside each other, there they always appear, not as parts of an original whole arbitrarily separated from each other, but as a pair of Psalms, comp. particularly Psalms 1 and Psalms 2, Psalms 9 and Psalms 10, Psalms 32 and Psalms 33, which have also this in common with those before us, that the second Psalm wants the superscription. Then, the supposition of an actual oneness destroys the organism. The second strophe of Psalms 42 carries an internal reference to the first. The words: my God, my soul is troubled within me, with which it commences, have for their foundation the close of the first: why troublest thou thyself; and what is still more important than this formal connection, the second part starts from the consolation already described in the first, and an orderly advance may be clearly perceived. On the other hand, in Psalms 43 a quite new commencement meets us: it bears the character, not of a third strophe and stage, but of a compend of the whole. To which we may add, the far lighter and simpler style of Psalms 43 to be explained in this way, that here the lamentation and the consolation are given in their simplest main features; the reference of, “the salvation of my countenance,” in Psalms 42:11, to “the salvation of my countenance,” in Psalms 43:5, which is darkened the moment we attach the latter to the same Psalm with the former; and, finally, the formal arrangement, the supposition of the two Psalms forming properly but one, leaving unnoticed the number ten in Psalms 42 as an indication of what is complete in itself, and the number five in Psalms 43, as the broken ten, and presenting to us, instead of the significant ten and five, the number fifteen, which signifies nothing.
The Psalm bears in the superscription the name of משכיל , instruction, comp. on Psalms 32. The character of a Psalm of this description meets us in the very form. The spirit appears in Psalms 42:5, Psalms 42:11, and Psalms 43:5, as a teacher of the soul, and makes it, the foolish, wise. Since, according to the superscription, the Psalm was given up to the chief musician for being used in public, the maskil cannot be referred merely to the immediate, individual occasion of the Psalmist: it indicates an appointment to teach the pious in general, how they must keep themselves under the cross.
Then, in the superscription the Psalm is described as belonging to the sons of Korah, as Psalms 45-49, Psalms 84, Psalms 85, Psalms 87, Psalms 88. These were, according to 1 Chronicles 6:16, ss., 1 Chronicles 9:19, 1 Chronicles 26:1-2; 2 Chronicles 20:19, a Levitical family of singers. Their musical gifts they probably owed to one of their members, the Heman who lived in David’s time. According to the view of many, the Korahites must be named, not as the authors of the Psalms marked with their names, but as the persons who had charge of their performance in public. Against this, however, there are the following grounds. 1. When a song is marked in the superscription as belonging to any one, every one immediately conceives from this, that it belongs to him, as its author. Hence, where the name of the author is not given besides in the superscription there the delivering of the Psalm for musical performance cannot be indicated by ל without any thing further, and in all the superscriptions of the Psalms there is to be found no case, where this might seem probable. 2. Among all Korahite Psalms there is not so much as one, in which David or any other not a Korahite, is named as author. 3. In one particular Psalm, which bears at its head, besides the “Sons of Korah,” the name of the author, that author is himself a Korahite, Heman—in Psalms 88:4. In by far the greater number of the Korahite Psalms there is a common predilection for the name Elohim, which has had the effect of the mass of such Psalms being assigned to the commencement of the second book, which contains the Psalms that make predominating use of Elohim. Such a peculiarity is hardly explicable on the supposition, that the Korahites were only the singers.
With the certainty besides, that the Psalms marked with the name of the Korahites proceeded from the bosom of this family, still nothing is determined as to the time of their composition. For as this family continued to exist for a long time as a singing family, and no doubt did so as long as Psalms were being made, (comp. 2 Chronicles 20:19, where the Korahites are mentioned in the time of Jehoshaphat), there is nothing against the supposition, that these Psalms belonged to very different times.
While the superscription attributes this Psalm to the sons of Korah, internal grounds not less strong favour the conclusion, that the person speaking in it is no other than David. To this, first of all, point the special references to personal circumstances of the speaker, such as are very rarely found elsewhere; comp. especially the following: “Therefore will I remember thee from the land of Jordan, and Mount Hermon, from the small mountains.” Such references are to be found elsewhere only in the Psalms, which have respect to persons who occupied a position of importance for the whole community, above all to David, and from the nature of things can only be found in these, as the Psalms were certainly intended for the public worship of God. Then, the situation remarkably agrees with a similar one in the life of David, the period of his flight from Absalom. David was then deprived of access to the sanctuary under the same circumstances as the speaker here, so that he saw therein a mark of the divine displeasure, regarded his exclusion from the sanctuary as at the same time exclusion from God, and the return of the favour of God and return to the sanctuary as inseparably united; comp. in the latter respect 2 Samuel 15:25-26: “And the king said unto Zadok, carry back the ark of God into the city; if I shall find favour in the eyes of the Lord he will bring me again, and shew me himself and his habitation. But if he thus say, I have no delight in thee, behold here am I, let him do to me as seemeth good unto him.” This coincidence alone is a very individual one: similar relations certainly occur most rarely. David, further, betook himself at that time to Mahanaim on the other side of Jordan; in the land beyond Jordan does the speaker here call God to remembrance. The coincidence regarding the situation is strengthened as to its present bearing, by the circumstance, that this Psalm agrees in an extraordinary manner with Psalms 63, which, according to the superscription, was composed by David when he was fleeing before Absalom in the wilderness of Judah. To tear asunder this Psalm and Psalms 63 were as improper as to do so in regard to Psalms 44 and Psalms 60. Finally, we find a proof against the Korahite, and for David as the object, in Psalms 42:4, where the speaker painfully reminds himself of the blessed time when he went at the head of the worshipping multitude, as their leader, to the house of God. This trait points either to one of the leading priests, or to the king. It does not suit the Korahites; for these, as mere Levites, could not have been choir-leaders. But we find David exercising a quite similar function at the introduction of the ark of the covenant, 2 Samuel 6:14, “and David danced with all his might before the Lord, and David was clothed with a linen ephod,” because he found himself as it were in the priest’s function, comp. 2 Samuel 6:18, whence David blessed the people in the name of the Lord.
The superscription, which names the children of Korah as author, and the internal grounds, which point to David as the object of the Psalm, have equal justice done to them, if it is supposed, that one of the sons of Korah had sung this Psalm as from the soul of David. This supposition has certainly nothing improbable in itself. There is nothing more natural, than that David, who so often sinks himself in song, that he might dispense consolation to others, should now experience the same good office at the hands of one of the people; nothing more natural, than that, beside the love which was eager to impart bodily refreshment to David, there should also have been in active exercise, that love which breaks to the hungry the bread of life. It was a time, in which the love of the faithful proves itself just as lively as the hatred of the rebellious, and that among the first were all those who stood in nearest relation to the sanctuary, arises from the nature of things, and is shown to have been the case by 2 Samuel 15:24. Besides, we have a perfect analogy in Psalms 84 which, according to the superscription, was in like manner composed by the sons of Korah, but who, according to Psalms 84:9, speak from the soul of the king, when in a state of exile.
By the view now given, we can explain the relation of this Psalm to Psalms 63. The latter, composed by David himself when on his flight in the wilderness of Judah, formed the natural point of contact for ours, which belongs to the time of sojourn in the land beyond Jordan.
The reasons which have been brought against the reference to David, are of no force. The enemies are missed in Mahanaim who taunted the Psalmist on account of his faith, Psalms 42:3 and Psalms 42:10. But the raillery does not proceed upon faith in Jehovah generally, but on Jehovah as the God of the speaker, and is quite analogous to that in Psalms 3:2; Psalms 22:8. The objection, that Mahanaim did not lie in Hermon itself, arises from a false view of Psalms 42:6, where the Psalmist, by “the land of Jordan and of Hermon,” describes the whole of the region beyond Jordan.
As for those who are inclined to transpose the Psalm to a very late time, that of the Babylonish captivity, or who, as Hitzig, to that of the Maccabees, besides the grounds already given for the reference to David, there is against it the circumstance, that already Joel, in Joel 1:20, had the first verse of the Psalm before his eyes, and that, in Jonah 2:4, there is an undeniable reference to Psalms 42:7. Koester’s idea, that the Psalm is a lamentation of the children of Israel on their exile, is already exploded by the fifth characteristic exhibited by Venema, “that this man was merely deprived by his banishment of the worship of God, while the seat of religion and its exercise was not destroyed, but still remained.” Opinions such as those, which would make Jehoiakin, when carried into exile, the author, may safely be left to their fate.
The following words of Luther furnish the best preparation for a deep insight into the current of thought pervading the Psalm: “God is of a twofold sort. At times he is a concealed and hidden God; as, when the conscience in temptation feels sin, feels other injuries, whether bodily or spiritual, it clings to these with heart and thought, and cannot find consolation in the grace and goodness of God. Those who judge of God after such a concealed form, fall without remedy into despair and ruin.
That there is still another and manifested form of God, or a disclosed and not concealed God, viz. the real form of the good, gracious, compassionate, reconciled God. As also the sun is of two sorts, though there is in reality but one sun, just as there is but one God; for it may be named another sun, when it appears dark and covered with clouds, compared with what it is when shining bright and clear from the heavens. And if one were to judge when the sun is dark and veiled in clouds, he would conclude that there would never more be clear day, but only eternal night. Now, however, is this an art, and in truth a golden art, to be able to hold, that though the sun, when covered with clouds and fog, cannot give a clear light, yet it will break forth through the clouds and fog, and again beam upon the world with a bright lustre. So does the prophet act here, when under temptation, comforting himself, and desiring to see the sun when it should break forth through the clouds. He thinks in his heart upon another image than he at present sees before his eyes. And though his conscience is affrighted, though all evil threatens, and he is ready to sink amid doubts, he yet elevates himself in faith, holds fast by hope, and consoles himself that God will help him, and again appoint him to see the service of God in the only place, which God had chosen for it on the surface of the earth.”
To the chief musician, an instruction of the sons of torah. Ver. 1. As a hart which pants after the water-brooks, so pants my soul after thee, O God. איל is a common noun, comp. Ew. § 367, although it generally denotes the male hart, the hind being designated by אילה . That it must here be taken as a designation of the hind, appears from the verb being in the fem. The Psalmist chose the hind that תערג might correspond to תערג , but chiefly because the hind rather than the hart is suitable, as compared with the feminine soul, which is like it in its weakness. Since כ always mean as=like, never=so as, the relat. is to be supplied after כאיל ערג to pant, with על , in so far as the desire hangs over its object, rests upon it, with אל , in so far as it is directed upon that. Upon אפיקים brooks, comp. on Psalms 18:15. That in the hind’s panting after water, we are to think, not of exhaustion caused by pursuit, but of the prevailing draught, is clear from a comp. of Psalms 63:1, “My soul thirsteth for thee in a dry land,” and Joel 1:20, “The beasts of the field long after thee, for the rivers of water are dried up, and fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness.” The latter passage manifestly depends on this; the peculiar expression: they long after thee, naturally suggests the thought, that there is here an allusion to an older passage; excepting in these two places ערג does not occur again, and the תערג אליךָ? literally agree. The prophet has there attributed to beasts what is here said of the soul, in a connection with beasts, which naturally suggested such an application. The words: after thee, O God, refer, as appears from the following context, not alone to the wish of the Psalmist, of his internally participating in the grace of God. But as little, on the other hand, must we substitute: after thy temple, for: after thee. The longing of the Psalmist is described as going upon God himself, not upon the place of his worship. The temptation to turn aside into one of these bypaths, will be removed by the following remarks. Under the Old Testament, it was of great importance that one possessed access to the place where God had promised, as God of Israel, to be present. The outward nearness was the medium of securing the inward, (in this respect Calvin remarks, that as the godly of the Old Testament knew, that wings for flying failed them, they availed themselves of ladders wherewith to mount up to God; and we heed these helps to weakness no longer, simply because they have been furnished us in Christ in a far more real form,) and then the Israelitish church-life concentrated itself there, and contemplation and love were in the individual mightily roused and called forth by the public fellowship. If, because God is to his people a God of salvation, there is contained in every withdrawal of blessing, in every severe affliction, a testimony against our sins, a matter-of-fact declaration of God, that he has driven us from his presence, it is impossible that so long as such an affliction continues, we can come to the full consciousness of fellowship with God and his grace. Hence, as certainly as under the Old Testament, it was the greatest evil to be separated from the sanctuary of God, so certainly must such a separation, effected by God, have carried the import more than any other evil could of a matter-of-fact excommunication. And though in such a case the consolations of God might have internally refreshed the soul, still the return to full peace and blessedness, could only take place with the return to the sanctuary. From what has been said, it is obvious that the tribulation, in which the Psalmist was involved, was peculiar to him only as concerned its form, and that we are brought into a similar situation to his, as to what is properly essential, in every heavy affliction, Most closely analogous are the circumstances in which the Lord withdraws from us his felt nearness—the states of internal drought and darkness, amid which his form fades in our souls.
Ver. 2. My soul thirsts after God, after the living God. When shall I come and appear before God’s face? The addition: after the living God, draws attention to what the Psalmist had lost in this God, and indicates the ground of his fervent desire and his painful longing after him. His God is not a phantom, which, itself dead, is also incapable of imparting life; he is the living, and consequently the life giving; comp. the corresponding phrase, “The God of my life,” in Psalms 42:8, rich in salvation for his people. The question: When, etc. q. d. when at length, O si rumpatur mora, etc., even the short period of separation from such a God, extending, in his apprehension, to eternity. That in the appearing before God’s face we must think primarily of a re-opened access to the sanctuary, not of a purely internal access, is evident from the words; when shall I come, also from the comparison of Psalms 42:4 with Psalms 43:3-4, and, finally, from the usage, according to which the expression: to appear before the face of the Lord, is regularly employed of the appearance before God in his sanctuary. But according to what has been remarked, the opening of the approach into the sanctuary is to be regarded as the actual manifestation of God’s restored favour, and so the question: when shall I appear before the face of God, incloses in itself also this: when shall I behold the countenance of God? Psalms 17:15, when wilt thou place me before thy countenance? Psalms 41:12, q. d. when shall I enjoy again thy favour? To appear before God’s presence is elsewhere נראה אל פני יהוה , Exodus 23:17, but here the proposition fails, as in Deuteronomy 31:11, Isaiah 1:12, Exodus 23:15. Several have found such difficulty in this, that they would substitute the kal for the niphal, אֶ רְ אֶ ה , Luther: that I may behold God’s face. But the construction is either to be explained by this, that the appearing here has the nature of a verb of motion, or by this, that פני here takes the character of a particle, in presence of, for which latter exposition only Deuteronomy 31:11 occasions difficulty.
Ver. 3. My, tears are my food day and night, while they continually say to me, where is thy God? On the first words J. Arnd. “When one is in great sadness, he cannot eat, his tears become in a manner his food, he drinks and eats, as it were, more tears than bread or other food, as David says in Psalms 80 : thou feedest them with bread of tears, and givest them tears to drink in great measure.” That we must expound thus, not with Calvin: “he finds in nothing more consolation, than in tears, they are his refreshment, as others enjoy themselves with food;” nor yet with Stier: “they are my daily bread, and mingle themselves with my daily bread;” that the sense simply is: instead of eating, I drink, appears from the parallel pass. Job 3:24, “for my sighing cometh before I eat,” 1 Samuel 1:7, where it is said of Hannah, “she wept and ate not,” Psalms 102:4, “I forget to eat my bread.” While they say; the speakers, David’s enemies, are not more definitely marked, because the allusion bears not upon their person, but only upon their discourse, which found in the Psalmist’s feeling so mournful an echo. On the continually (כל היום signifies here, as always, the whole day, not every day,) Stier remarks: “For although the millers may not incessantly cause such things to be heard, yet the oppressed soul continually hears their raillery clanging in itself.” On the words: where is thy God, Calvin: “What wilt thou? Seest thou not, that thou art rejected by God? For assuredly will prayer be made to him in the holy tabernacle, from access to which thou art cut off.” But the separation from the sanctuary comes here into consideration only as the pinnacle of the mischief impending over the Psalmist, which the enemies turned to account as a matter-of-fact proof, that he had been cast off by God—comp. Shimei’s words in 2 Samuel 16:7-8, Psalms 71:11, Psalms 115:2.
Ver. 4. Thereon will I think, and pour out my soul in me, that I drew with the multitude, proceeded before them to the house of God with the voice of joy and praise, among the multitude keeping holiday. Some, and last Stier, refer the אלה to the preceding, the scorn of the enemies, and take the fut. אעבר and אדדם in the meaning of the fut. Luther: When I think on this, I pour out my heart in myself, for I would indeed go; Stier: I consume myself, pour out my soul in longing after this, that I (once more again) might go away. But in thus referring the this to the “mournful question, which David cannot answer, but of which he must constantly think,” we get entangled in the difficulty, that the question of the enemies: where is now thy God, or the position of the Psalmist, which gives occasion to this question, and the going with the multitude and proceeding to the house of God, form no proper and fitting contrast. It were somewhat different, if the discourse here were only generally of the coming to the sanctuary, to its again opened way of approach. To this belongs the comp. of Psalms 42:6, where the object of the thinking is, not the scorn of enemies, but God and his earlier salvation, and the comp. of the quite parall. Psalms 55:14. We would, therefore, with the overwhelming majority of expositors refer the this to what follows, and must take the fut. as indicative of the frequently repeated action in the past, precisely as they occur in Psalms 55:14. The pain of the Psalmist is increased, when he brings into view his earlier blessedness, and places it beside his present misery. There is no propriety in taking, with many expositors, the two fut. with the ה of striving, at the commencement, in the meaning of the common future: thereon think I and pour out; nor with Ewald, of substituting for, I will, I shall, or must think and pour out. The common import of this fut., according to which it denotes “the striving of the mind, the direction of the will upon a determinate aim,” is quite suitable here. The Psalmist will purposely aggravate his pain. He will recall his earlier prosperity to mind, in order thereby the more sensibly to feel his present misery, his separation from the sanctuary. It is peculiar to deep sorrow, that it seeks out what tends to feed it, in particular, purposely loses itself in the mournful remembrance of the happier past. That the common import of the fut. parag. is to be retained, is decisively proved also by the comp. of Psalms 77:3, which place further shows, that the object of the thinking is not the scorn of the enemies, but the vanished prosperity, as is also confirmed by Psalms 42:6 and Psalms 42:11. The heart pours itself forth, or melts in any one, who is in a manner dissolved by grief and pain,—comp. Job 30:16, “and now my soul is poured out upon me,” Psalms 22:14, “My heart has become like water, melts in my inwards,” and the passages there referred to. Some improperly supply: in sighing and tears. עלי unquestionably signifies in a large number of places with me, and Gesenius, in his Thes. p. 1027, justly notices other places, which, though if considered by themselves, another exposition might be possible, yet are so similar to these, that they cannot be dissevered from them. However, it is carefully to be remarked, that על occurs in the sense of with only in a certain connection, “in speeches which refer to the heart, the soul, the mind, with their concerns and changes.” This fact shows, that we must not drop from our view the radical meaning of the preposition. The עלי in such passages signifies with me, alluding to this, that the soul is the honour, the better part. Quite correctly Koester: “everywhere (besides here Psalms 42:5-6, Psalms 42:11; Psalms 43:5,) our poet uses על of the soul, whereby the soul is indicated as the ruling principle in man.—סךְ? multitude, here of the companies of worshippers, of their solemn processions to the temple. אדדם is Hithp. of דדה , to go slowly along, which elsewhere occurs only in Isaiah 38:15, in the song of Hezekiah: “I will go slowly all my days in the bitterness of my soul,” as one, who was at once freed from death, and appointed to death. Here it refers to the measured, solemn step of the procession. The suffix appended to it, referring to the collect. סךְ? , requires a modification of the verbal idea, since the supposition, that the suffix accus. stands here for the dative, is untenable. The Hithp. standing properly as reflexive without an object, often receives such an one, if the language in reflexive gradually insinuates a possibly active application of the idea, Ew. § 243. So here the idea of the moving one’s self slowly, goes over into that of the leading slowly, which the verb, however, contains only by its construction with the accus. The expression: I moved to and fro to them, could not be used.
The mention of joy and praise shows, that it was customary to go to the sanctuary with songs of praise to the Lord, such as are found in the “Pilgrim-songs,” Psalms 120-134. The use of music in the processions is clear from 2 Samuel 6:5-6. The ב is placed at every secondary matter, which accompanies the action, comp. Ew. § 521. Before the last words it is better to supply the ב from the immediately preceding, with a multitude keeping holiday, or to suppose, that they stand formally as quite independent, “a holiday-keeping multitude,” then to consider them as appos. to the suff. in אדדם , which would make a trailing period. המון prop. tumult, is used also of the festival-holding multitude in 2 Samuel 6:19. The verse gives us a deep insight into the nature of the true service of God under the Old Testament, shows how the minds of the assembly were seized by a mighty impulse, and the fire of devotion and adoration was fanned into a bright flame.
Ver. 5. Why art thou troubled, my soul, and art so disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall still praise him, the salvation of his countenance. Calvin: “David represents himself here to us as divided into two parts. In so far as he rests through faith in God’s promises, he raises himself, equipped with the spirit of an invincible valour, against the feelings of the flesh, and at the same time blames his weakness.” It is the spirit mighty in God, which here meets the trembling soul, that in the book of Job appears personified as Job’s wife. The weakness of the Psalmist manifests itself in a twofold manner, first, through deep dejection, (שחח , in hithp. to bow one’s self, to be troubled,) then through noisy restlessness,—חמה , frequently of the roaring of the waves of the sea, comp. Psalms 46:3, Jeremiah 4:19, Jeremiah 5:22. The means of help for his weakness, is hope in God, and the ground of hope his believing confidence, that the Lord, who is still always his God, will by his deliverance give him occasion for thanks. The expression: the salvation of his countenance, is appos. to the suffix of the verb. The salvation is attributed to the countenance of God, with reference to the Mosaic blessing, in which the bestowal of grace and peace goes forth from the countenance of the Lord, which is turned toward the blessed, compare Psalms 31:16, Psalms 44:3, Psalms 16:10, Psalms 17:15. On the plural ישועות compare on Psalms 18:50. Some expositors, after the example of the LXX, Vulgate, Syriac, read: ישועת פני ואלהי , the salvation of my countenance and my God, while they draw the אלהי of the following verse to this. They rest on the circumstance, that it is required in order to maintain uniformity between this, and the two terminating verses, Psalms 42:11, and Psalms 43:5. But that the Israelitish poets were accustomed, for the sake of shunning sameness of sound, such as might carry the appearance of want of feeling, to introduce into their reiterations small changes, is shown by Psalms 24:7, Psalms 24:9; Psalms 49:12, Psalms 49:20; Psalms 56:1, Psalms 56:11, Psalms 59:9, Psalms 59:17. In our religious poetry, also, this is to be met with. In the song: “wer weiss wie nahe mix mein ende,” for ex. the regular form of reiteration is: “mein Gott ich bitt’ durch Christi Blut, mach’s nur mit meinem Ende gut,” while in the last ver. it runs: “durch deine Gnad and Christi Blut machst du mein letztes Ende gut.” The reading of the text, besides having the external proof on its side, is supported by the following reasons:—1. In the other passages which agree with each other in these Psalms, the coincidence is never a literal one, but is always attended with some slight variation. If men would change here, they must also, to be consistent, change the אל חי of Psalms 42:2, into the אלהיי of Psalms 42:8, the באמר of Psalms 42:3, into the באמרם of Psalms 42:10, as also conform to each other Psalms 42:9, and Psalms 43:2. 2. The “my God” cannot be wanted in the following verse. The address to God: I remember thee, comes in too abruptly, if it is cut off. 3. There manifestly exists between “his countenance” here, and “my countenance” in Psalms 42:11, a very perceptible connection. The salvation goes forth from the friendly countenance of God, and upon the afflicted countenance of the Psalmist. The light of the countenance of God illuminates the darkness of his countenance.
Ver. 6. My God, my soul is troubled in me, therefore do I remember thee from the land of Jordan, and of the Hermons, from the small mountain. The Psalmist, following out the admonition to wait on God, seeks, amid the deep pain, which his separation from the sanctuary had occasioned him, consolation in this, that he thinks of God, and vividly realizes his grace and compassion, of which at an earlier period he had received so many proofs. Calvin: “For how can it be possible, if God withholds his grace from us, that we should overmaster so many evil thoughts, as every moment press in upon us? For man’s soul is as a workshop of Satan to produce in a thousand ways despair.” Many expositors have not been able to lay hold of the thoughts of the verse. Thus, Stier remarks: “This otherwise just sense does not fit itself well into the internal organism of the song, rising as it does, at this time, from lamentation into consolation. It is not for consolation, but primarily for doleful longing, that the Psalmist here thinks of God, who once was his God, and appeared now to have forgotten him in his removal and banishment.” Hence several of such expositors seek to extort the sense wished for by them, just at the expense of the ascertained meaning of the words: they explain על כן , which never signifies anything else than therefore, by because, and thus exchange what, in the text, appears as the symptom of the affliction into its ground. Others who cannot consent to this, expound: because the Psalmist feels himself so unfortunate he thinks with painful longing of his country’s God. But the reason derived from the organism of the Psalm against the right exposition given above, amounts to nothing. Even according to that exposition, the Psalmist ascends from lamentation to consolation; but that the lamentation here does not figure so broadly as in the first strophe, that the consolation so immediately meets it, must appear highly natural, when the exhortation to “wait on God” had just preceded. This exhortation could not possibly die away without producing an effect. But that the thinking is of a consolatory, not of a painful sort, is clear from the following considerations—1. The verse evidently gives in rapid outline, what in Psalms 42:7-10 is more fully delineated. The formal arrangement already speaks in favour of this. According to it, there must necessarily have existed an intercalated verse in the second strophe, and none excepting this can be found. Now, Psalms 42:7 is an expansion of the thought: my soul is troubled, Psalms 42:8-10, an expansion of this: I think of thee. But in these verses the Psalmist represents his consolation and his help as being in God, who quickens him through the manifestations of his grace, who gives him joyfulness for his praise—joyfulness to pour out his heart before him in child-like confidence, and unfold to him all his necessity and his pain. 2. The prayer of Jonah, which manifestly leans throughout on passages of the Psalms, presents in Jonah 2:7 the oldest commentary on this verse: “Then was my spirit troubled in me, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to thee into thy holy temple”—where, it is clear as day, that the remembering is of a consolatory nature, the antidote to the affliction. The expression: “my soul is troubled in me,” the Lord has appropriated to himself in Matthew 26:38, John 12:27, not without profound reason borrowing the words, which indicated his sorrow, from a Psalm rich in consolation, so that, whosoever should take these words from him, might with him also look into the back-ground. It is remarkable, that the two Greek forms of the declaration in the Gospels are found in the LXX; in Psalms 42:5 they have περίλυπος εἶ? ἡ? ψυχή μου , comp. Matt., and in this ver. ἡ? ψυχή μου ἐ?ταραχθη , comp. John. The phrase: I remember, think of thee, has respect to that in Psalms 42:4: I think on this. The thought of the Lord forms the counterpoise to the thought of the lost salvation. The land of Jordan of itself may mean the Cisjordanic, as well as the Transjordanic land. We must not regard this designation as separate, but must view it in connection with the following: and of the Hermons. Hermon represents also in Psalms 89:12, the Transjordanic region, as Tabor the Cisjordanic: “Tabor and Hermon rejoice in thy name.” That the Psalmist was situated, not precisely on Hermon, but only generally in the Transjordanic region—that we are hence perfectly justified in thinking here of David’s sojourn at Mahanaim, on the further side of Jordan, to the north of Jabbok, upon the boundaries of the tribes Gad and Manasseh, comp. 2 Samuel 17:24, 2 Samuel 17:27, 1 Kings 2:8, is clear, not only from the mention of the Jordan, but also from the plural: the Hermons. As this nowhere else occurs, we cannot go along with the current supposition, that it is not a single mountain, but an entire mountain-range, just as we say now: the Alps, the Appennines; for it is not probable, that a geographical designation should find a place only here. We would rather understand the plural according to the analogy of Leviticus 17:7, where “the bucks” denotes the buck-god and others of his brotherhood—comp. Beitr. P. IL p. 120,—and 1 Kings 18:18, where the Baalim stand for, Baal and his companions; the Hermons=Hermon and the other mountains of the Transjordanic region. The plural indicates, that Hermon comes into consideration only as a representative of the species. Finally, the special mention of Hermon would be quite unsuitable here, since the Psalmist manifestly did not wish to determine exactly his place of sojourn in a geographical point of view, but only to indicate this in so far as to make it clear, how much reason on that account he had to think of the Lord. But this reason was not specially connected with Hermon; it belonged generally to his retreat beyond Jordan. The Cisjordanic land was the land of Canaan in the proper sense, comp. Joshua 22:11. The transaction related in that chapter between the Cisjordanic and Transjordanic tribes abundantly explain the painful emotions, with which the Psalmist mentions here “the land of Jordan and the Hermons.” The people on the further side of Jordan betray their fear, that their brethren might come to say, the Jordan separates between those who are, and those who are not the people of the covenant. The people on the other side say to them, Joshua 22:19, “And if the land of your possession be unclean, then pass ye over into the land of the possession of the Lord, wherein the Lord’s tabernacle is.” To be driven out into this land, and thereby cut off from all access to the sanctuary of the Lord, the Psalmist must have felt to be a heavy affliction. From what has been said, it is at the same time clear, that though we should take Mizhar as nom. propr. of a mountain, on which the Psalmist stood, still a reference must even then lie at bottom to its appellative signification, the small mountain, as it cannot be designed to give a geographically exact description of the Psalmist’s place of retreat. The name of the hill is to the Psalmist an omen of the condition of the whole land, in which he is located. Comp. Psalms 68:16, Isaiah 2:2.
Ver. 7. Contains a farther expansion of the thought: My soul is troubled. Flood calls to flood through the noise of thy water-torrents, all thy waves and thy billows go over me. The floods are the roaring sea-billows of suffering and pain. Flood calls to flood, one invites, as it were, another to pour itself forth upon the Psalmist. In לקול צנוריך , through the voice of thy channels, the Psalmist points to the origin of these floods: a new opening again of the windows of heaven, Genesis 7:11, has brought this new deluge upon him, by which he is already well nigh drowned, For the reference throughout here, as in Psalms 29:10, Psalms 32:6, is to the deluge. The ל in לקול is that of the cause and the author, comp. לקולם in Numbers 16:34, Gesen. Thes. 729, Ew. § 520. The expression: through the voice, points to the pattering of the rain, perhaps also to the accompanying thunders. The expression: of thy channels, (Berleb. Bible: “through which thou purest forth great rain of tribulation,”) for, thy water torrents, has an exact corresponding parallel in Job 38:25-26: “who hath divided the water-flood channels, and a way for the lightning, to rain upon a land uninhabited, the wilderness without man.” We present the current exposition in the words of Stier: “Lebanon is full of springs, water-falls, and lakes, and this scenery, surrounding the Psalmist, (that is according to the false exposition of Psalms 42:6,) supplies him with an image for the overwhelming waves of sorrow and distress, which pass over his soul” It is fatal to this view, that תהום is throughout commonly used of sea -floods, גלים and משברים always. Peculiarly significant is the reference to the sea by a comparison of Jonah 2:3, which unquestionably has reference to this: “all thy waves and thy billows have gone over me”—compare also: the floods compassed me about in Jonah 2:5. Finally, by this exposition צנור has, without any reason, the sense of water-fall pressed upon it: at the noise of thy waterfalls. The signification of water-channel, canal, is ascertained by the only passage in which the word is found besides, 2 Samuel 5:8, and by the related צנתר in Zechariah 4:12. In regard to the main subject, rightly, John Arnd: “This language is descriptive of a great temptation. For just as on the sea, when there is storm and tempest, when wind and sea roar, and the waves and billows mount now high aloft, now open a great deep, so that one sees on all sides nothing but one abyss calling, in a manner, to another, and one thinks the abyss will swallow all up, and the mighty waves will fall upon the ship and cover her; so happens it invariably with the heart in heavy trials. But God has the floods in his hand and power, can soon alter and assuage them, and by his word still them, as the Lord Christ commands the wind and sea and it becomes a great calm.”
There follows now the further expansion of the idea: “I think upon thee,” the representation of the comfort in God in the midst of the trouble from God.
Ver. 8. By day the Lord appoints his goodness, and by night his song is with me, prayer to the God my life. For the sense, a but must be supplied at the beginning. As the words: “day and night,” stand for an indication of continuance, and as an evident reference is found in them to the day and night in Psalms 42:3, (to the day and night of the Psalmist’s continued pain, there are here opposed the day and night of the abiding consolations of God), we must not with Jarchi, Venema, and others, understand by the day, the time of prosperity, by the night the time of adversity. It is a mere merismos, when the favour is attributed to the day, the song to the night, q. d. by day and by night the Lord sends his grace, and gives me to sing and pray to him, compare Psalms 92 “to shew forth thy loving-kindness in the morning and thy faithfulness in the nights.” The “goodness” or favour of God consists in the inward consolations which are granted to the Psalmist in the midst of his outward misery. In and along with the favour the song is also at the same time given. For the person, who is comforted through God’s favour, is enabled to sing praise to him. An example of a song in the midst of distress we have in Psalms 40:1-10. There also upon the song and out of it follows the prayer. Then with the words, “by night his song is with me,” we are to compare Job 35:10, (the miserable cry over their misfortunes,) “and he does not say, where is God my maker, who giveth songs in the night.” Of the grace of prayer, granted to him, the Psalmist makes use in Psalms 42:9-10. According to the current exposition, the Psalmist must speak in this verse of his former prosperity, and in the following one of his present distress: “at one time did the Lord impart to me of his goodness by day, and by night his song was with me, and my prayer flowed out in thankfulness to the God of my life; but now must I say to this same God my rock, wherefore hast thou forgotten me?” But this view is disproved by the following reasons: 1. If the Psalmist might have left out the formerly and the now, upon which in this connection every thing turns, he must, at least, by the use of the pres. and fut. in some measure have distinguished the two spheres. Indeed not in itself, but in such a connection as this, the designation of the absolute past by the future is quite inadmissible. 2. The תפלה is by this exposition understood of thanksgiving. But the reading of two MSS. תהלה is not, as De Wette thinks, a good one, but a bad gloss. תפלה always means prayer, supplication, even in Habakkuk 3:1, and Psalms 72:19, where the description, as one such, is to be taken a potiori. In this signification also it is always used in the superscriptions of the Psalms, Psalms 17, Psalms 86, 90, Psalms 102. Never is it found before songs of praise and thanksgiving. Comp. besides, Jonah 2:7. It forms here the opposite to שיר , which of itself, indeed, has the common signification of song, but is predominantly used of songs of praise, Psalms 18, Psalms 46, Psalms 66, Psalms 67,—an opposite quite naturally, as hymns of lamentation and prayer with their depressed tone do not rise to the full height of the Song of Solomon 3. Then manifestly follows in Psalms 42:9 and Psalms 42:10, the תפלה of which the discourse is here, or rather a particular specimen of the same. How could the Psalmist have well assigned the תפלה to the fortunate past, and then presently made a תפלה to follow out of the unfortunate present. How little the future parag. is tolerable with the current exposition, is clear from the translation: I must speak, to which its advocates are driven. The ground for the current view, which is derived from the connection, has already by the remarks on Psalms 42:6 been completely set aside. The Psalmist calls the Lord the God of his life, because to him his life belonged, because he preserved and supported it, and must awaken him out of the death to which he seemed now appointed.
Ver. 9. I will say to God, my rock: why dost thou forget me? Why go I mourning under the oppression of the enemy? Ver. 10. It is as a murder in my bones, that my enemies reproach me, when they continually say to me: Where now is thy God? Under the consolations of God, the Psalmist had at the last, in Psalms 42:8, brought out the fact, that the grace of supplication had been granted to him. The fut. parag. stands at the beginning and here in its usual signification: I will say. The figurative expression: my rock, is in Psalms 18:2, explained by the proper one: my deliverer. The why is in this connection, in a prayer, which the Psalmist has announced as the manifestation of a precious gift imparted to him in the midst of his sufferings, directed to God, only in appearance expressive of murmuring impatience, or of hopeless despondency, but in reality opposes this, comp. on Psalms 22:1. The why forgettest thou, etc., is in substance, q. d.: thou canst not possibly forget me longer, or allow me to go on still mourning. The expression: thou forgettest me, the Psalmist uses from the feeling of the flesh, which contends that God’s grace has quite gone, if that should still not visibly appear, while he was assured by the Spirit of the grace of God, and could magnify and praise him. In Psalms 42:10, the sense requires that why should be supplied, comp. Psalms 43:2. The Psalmist continues to represent the contrast between his relation to God, and God’s procedure toward him, which contained the ground of a speedy change in the latter. His rock cannot longer give him up to the heavy affliction, which comes upon him from the taunting language of his enemies, saying: Where is thy God? The first member literally: in murder in my bones my enemies reproach me. The ב serves not rarely to indicate, of what nature anything consists, comp. Ew. § 521, so that: in murder, is as much as: as murder; it is like a murder, has that character. The verb רצח always means in Kal to murder, as also in Piel in Psalms 62:3. The noun has the signification murder in the only other place where it occurs, Ezekiel 21:27. It is only by looking to the connection, that many expositors have here ascribed to it the meaning of shattering, bruising. The temptation to this rendering, is set aside by the remark, that the murder here is used figuratively for designating a deadly anguish of soul: the reproaches are to the soul of the Psalmist, what murder is to the body. Comp. Luke 2:35, “A sword shall pierce through thine own soul also.” That the murder is represented as having its seat in the bones of the Psalmist, is designed to mark the pain as going through the marrow and bones, wounding the heart. What rendered the reproaches of the enemies so very sharp to the Psalmist, appears from the nearer indication of their subject in the second member. They mocked at his pretension to a close relation to God, as one that was sufficiently refuted by his present situation: and this taunt received its sting from the fact, that in the Psalmist himself it found an echo, since he was at the time doubtful of his interest in the grace and election of God, and through that doubt had sunk into the deepest abyss of misery. The enemies had been right in their mockery, if the misery of the Psalmist had been a lasting one. That it might not be such, that God might soon remove the ground of offence, which it occasioned to his faith, is the reason of his here praying in faith.
At the close, what still remained of trembling in the “weaker vessel” of the soul is put away by the call on the spirit of joy. Ver. 11. Why troublest thou thyself, my soul, and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I will still praise him, the salvation of my countenance and my God. My countenance never stands as a mere circumlocution for the person. The pain occasioned by the distress, and the joy by the salvation discover themselves pre-eminently in the countenance. The Psalmist’s countenance, formerly blanched by pain, and reddened by shame, deprived of its bright glance, should now become fresh and clear. The expression: my God, stands opposed to the question; where is now thy God, in Psalms 42:3 and Psalms 42:10; and the Psalmist therefore closes with the most complete victory over the tribulation, into which the reproaches of the enemies had thrown him.
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Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Psalms 42". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://www.studylight.org/
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