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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Psalms 42

Verse 1

As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.

Psalms 42:1-19.42.11; Psalms 43:1-19.43.5 form one pair, and therefore have but one title, as Psalms 1:1-19.1.6; Psalms 2:1-19.2.12.

Psalms 42:1-19.42.11.-The Psalmist's panting after restoration to the sanctuary, from which he has been excluded by God's judicial wrath: his tears flow while his foes taunt him with his being deserted by God. His past frequenting of God's house with the thronging worshippers sadly contrasts with his present exclusion. He rouses his cast-down soul to hope in God (Psalms 42:1-19.42.5); his depression returns; but he looks for the loving-kindness of the Lord, and so has the song of praise and prayer with him still, and anticipates that he shall yet praise God as the health of his countenance (Psalms 42:6-19.42.11).

On Maschil see note on the title, Psalms 32:1-19.32.11. The term implies the instruction designed not for the individual Psalmist alone, but for the godly in general, that they may be taught how to behave wisely, especially under exclusion from spiritual privileges and means of grace.

For the sons of Korah. The Hebrew expressing "for" lª-, or belonging to, marks the author or authors. In the psalms written by the sons of Korah, the name 'Elohiym (H430), or GOD, is the favourite one; whereas in the Psalms of David, which, compose the first book, Yahweh (H3068), or "the LORD," is the prevalent name. The Korahites, or Korhites, are mentioned as late as the time of Jehoshaphat, as singers, so that their psalms seem to have been productions of various ages. Still, though the authorship of Psalms 42:1-19.42.11 belongs to the sons of Korah, it is David who speaks throughout; and the occasion is plainly the time when he was fleeing from Absalom, and was on the other side of Jordan, as Psalms 42:6 implies. They regarded him as head of their choral school. Compare 2 Samuel 15:24 on the Levites' faithfulness to him. The Korahites were appointed by him to lead the temple music (cf. 2 Chronicles 20:19 with 1 Chronicles 6:16; 1 Chronicles 6:22; 1 Chronicles 6:32; Numbers 26:11).

As the hart panteth. The Hebrew verb is feminine. The female is therefore meant-namely, 'the hind.' Her weakness aggravates her thirst.

After the water brooks - literally, UPON them [ `al (H5921)]: the desire hangs over, and rests upon its object. After thee, O God - a different Hebrew preposition [ 'el (H413)], 'toward thee,' appropriately used of David's desire directed toward the sanctuary, where God was accustomed to manifest Himself, but from which the royal exile was now excluded. The hind is supposed to be in a thirsty land where no water is, just as David was without access to the channels of spiritual water at Jerusalem (Psalms 63:1; cf. Joel 1:20). Under the Old Testament, though access to God was not wholly denied away from Jerusalem, yet the temple services were ordinarily the chief means of devotion. Israel's church life concentrated itself there, and the religious life of the individual Israelite was greatly quickened by the public communion in it; so that exclusion from it was felt as a virtual excommunication.

Verse 2

My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?

My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God. It is not a mere dead idol I thirst for, but the God who has life in Himself, and imparts life to His people (Psalms 42:8), "the God of my life."

When shall I come. To be separated from such a God, even for a time, seems the height of misery. Oh when shall this terrible separation come to an end?

And appear before God? - namely, in His sanctuary (cf. Psalms 42:4; Psalms 43:3-19.43.4); literally, 'appear before the faces of God:' the regular phrase (Exodus 23:15; Exodus 23:17; Exodus 34:24; Deuteronomy 31:11). There is included in this the idea of restoration to God's favour, from the manifestation of which he had been excluded during his exile. Compare Psalms 41:12, "Thou ... settest me before thy face for ever;" Genesis 4:14; Genesis 4:16, "Cain went out from the presence of the Lord" (perhaps the cherubim at the east of Eden, the symbol of God's presence).

Verse 3

My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is thy God?

My tears have been my meat day and night - I cannot eat with sadness. Instead of "meat," or food, tears are my continual portion, as in Psalms 80:5 (cf. Psalms 102:4; Job 3:24; 1 Samuel 1:7).

While they continually (literally, all the day) say unto me, Where is thy God? - What part hast thou in Him, seeing He casts thee away from His sanctuary? (Psalms 42:10) Though this cavil of his enemies was not always sounding in his bodily ears, yet it rang continually in the ear of his soul; because it found in his despondency, and his self-accusing conscience, a true echo (2 Samuel 15:25-10.15.26). His exclusion from the sanctuary he felt peculiarly painful, because it seemed the mark of God's wrath. Compare Shimei's words, "The Lord hath returned upon thee all the blood of the house of Saul," etc. (2 Samuel 16:8; also Psalms 3:2; Psalms 71:11; Psalms 115:2).

Verse 4

When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me: for I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday.

When I remember these (things), I pour out my soul in me: for I had gone with the multitude - rather, 'I will purposely remember these things, and will pour out my soul in (literally, upon, or with) me.' For there is no proper contrast between remembering the scornful question of the enemy (as "these things" mean in the English version) and the going with the multitude to the house of God. "These things" mean his former happiness in being privileged to take part in the worship of the sanctuary (Psalms 55:14), in contrast to his present exclusion from it. 'I will remember thee' (Psalms 42:6) thus explains 'I will remember these things' here. The futures (and these with the paragogic he (h), which expresses a deliberate effort, or striving) imply repeated and intentional recalling to the mind, and pouring out of the soul. He purposely aggravates his pain. In deep sorrow one's tendency is to call up the remembrance of better times now gone, and so to increase one's pain by brooding over the contrast (cf. Psalms 77:3). With the phrase, "I pour out my soul in (Hebrew, upon) me," cf. Job 30:16; Psalms 22:14. It implies, I will give loose rein to all my sorrow. The use of the UPON [ `al (H5921)] expresses that the soul is the ruling principle in man (Koester in Hengstenberg). (Jeremiah 8:18, margin.)

I went with them to the house of God - properly, 'I advanced with the solemn step of religious processionists.' The Hebrew verb, 'edadeem (H1718), is found elsewhere only in Hezekiah's prayer (Isaiah 38:15), "I shall go softly all my years." For "with them," translate, 'advanced before them' as their leader; I moved, with measured step, heading them in procession to the house of God. Compare 2 Samuel 6:5-10.6.6; 2 Samuel 6:14-10.6.15.

With the voice of joy and praise - with such processional psalms as were customary in going up to the sanctuary: called 'songs of degrees,' or 'pilgrim songs,' (Psalms 120:1-19.120.7; Psalms 121:1-19.121.8; Psalms 122:1-19.122.9; Psalms 123:1-19.123.4; Psalms 124:1-19.124.8; Psalms 125:1-19.125.5; Psalms 126:1-19.126.6; Psalms 127:1-19.127.5; Psalms 128:1-19.128.6; Psalms 129:1-19.129.8; Psalms 130:1-19.130.8; Psalms 131:1-19.131.3; Psalms 132:1-19.132.18; Psalms 133:1-19.133.3; Psalms 134:1-19.134.3.)

Verse 5

Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.

Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? He is affected in a double manner:

(1) by dejection (Hebrew, 'bowed down');

(2) by tumultuous, noisy restlessness ( tehemiy (H1993)) - literally, disquiet like that of the roaring sea (Psalms 46:3; Jeremiah 5:22). His spiritual self debates with his flesh in its unbelieving despondency.

Hope thou in God the remedy against the weakness of the flesh Hope thou in God - the remedy against the weakness of the flesh.

For I shall yet praise him (for) the help of his countenance. Faith assures him that God will "help" him with "His countenance," and so will give him cause for "praise." There is no "for" in the Hebrew: the relation in which David will praise "Him" is in respect to "the help of (or rather, as the same Hebrew is translated in Psalms 42:11, the health-literally, plural, healths; saving healths; the manifold salvation emanating from) His countenance." Salvation is ascribed to 'the countenance of God,' as in the Mosaic blessing, "The Lord make His face shine upon thee ... the Lord lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace" (Numbers 6:25-4.6.26). The countenance of God is turned toward His servants, to bless them (Psalms 31:16; Psalms 44:3). The Septuagint, Vulgate, and Syriac read, 'The health of my countenance, and my God,' substituting 'my' for His, adding 'and,' and joining to this verse the words, "my God," of Psalms 42:6. Thus they make this verse exactly the same as Psalms 42:11, and Psalms 43:5. But the Hebrew poets introduce variations in repeating similar sentiments (Psalms 24:7; Psalms 24:9; Psalms 49:12; Psalms 49:20; Psalms 56:4; Psalms 56:11; Psalms 59:9; Psalms 59:17; cf. Psalms 42:2, "the living God," with Psalms 42:8, "the God of my life;" Psalms 42:9 with Psalms 43:2).

Moreover, the address, "O my God" (Psalms 42:6), is needed to escape the abruptness which would ensue by joining it to Psalms 42:5, end. Above all, there is a beautiful correspondence between "His countenance" here and "my countenance," Psalms 42:11. The health, or salvation, goes forth from God's loving countenance upon the afflicted countenance of the Psalmist. The light of God's countenance illuminates the darkness of his countenance (Hengstenberg). Compare 1 Samuel 30:6, as beautifully in undesigned coincidence with the character of David as it appears in this psalm - "David was greatly distressed ... but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God."

The sixth verse is a prefatory summary to the following strophe of five verses (Psalms 42:7-19.42.11). Psalms 42:7 is an expansion of the thought, "my soul is cast down;" Psalms 42:8-19.42.10 expands 'I will remember thee.'

Verse 6

O my God, my soul is cast down within me: therefore will I remember thee from the land of Jordan, and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar.

O my God, my soul is cast down within me. David here follows out his own call to his soul to 'hope in God' (Psalms 42:5). Jonah evidently based his prayer (Jonah 2:7) on the prayer of David: "When my soul fainted within me I remembered the Lord: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple." The great Antitype, Messiah, in Matthew 26:38 ("My soul is exceeding sorrowful" - literally, surrounded with sorrow; and John 12:27, "Now is my soul troubled"), used the very words wherewith the Septuagint translate Psalms 42:4-19.42.5 [ perilupos (G4036) ei (G1487) hee (G3588) psuchee (G5590) mou (G3450) (Psalms 42:5); and Psalms 42:6, hee (G3588) psuchee (G5590) mou (G3450) etarachthee (G5015). So the Greek in Matthew 26:38 and John 12:27 ].

Therefore will I remember thee. It is his consolation that he can still remember God, and His past grace to him, even though he is excluded from the temple of God. Whilst he 'remembers this' his exclusion (Psalms 42:4) with bitter pain, he can also 'remember God' to his soul's consolation. The remembrance of the Lord counterbalances the remembrance of the removal of past privileges.

From the land of Jordan, and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar. Translate, '(from the land) of the From the land of Jordan, and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar. Translate, '(from the land) of the Hermons' - i:e., from the region beyond Jordan. Hermon, in Psalms 89:12, represents the transjordanic region, as Tabor represented the Canaanite side of Jordan. Not that David was exactly at Hermon, but he was in the transjordanic region wherein 'the Hermons' - i:e., Hermon and its fellow-mountains-were; namely, at Mahanaim, north of the Jabbok, upon the borders of Gad and Manasseh (2 Samuel 17:24; 2 Samuel 17:27; 1 Kings 2:8). The transjordanic region was regarded as in a measure separate from the Holy Land proper, as the transaction between Reuben, Gad, and half Manasseh on one side, and the rest of Israel on the other shows (Joshua 22:1-6.22.29). The reference in "Mizar" is to its meaning little. The name is regarded by David as ominous of the locality where he is exiled. The greatest of earthly elevations is but little when compared with the moral elevation of the Lord's hill of Zion (Psalms 68:15-19.68.16). The greatest 'hide their diminished heads' before Yahweh (Psalms 114:4; Psalms 114:6; Isaiah 2:2).

Verse 7

Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.

Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy water-spouts - expansion of the first clause of Psalms 42:6, "My soul is cast down within me." One flood of suffering invites another flood to pour itself on the sufferer. "Thy water-spouts" - literally, 'thy water-channels' (2 Samuel 5:8). The imagery is from the flood (cf. Psalms 29:10; Psalms 32:6); again, as then, "the windows of heaven" are opened (Genesis 7:11), the deluging cataract pours down by the appointed courses with an awful roar. The "at" lª- expresses the cause of the rapid succession of billows-namely, thy having let loose the roaring cataracts (Job 38:25-18.38.26).

All thy waves and thy billows are gone over me. "Waves" - literally, 'breakers.' This can only refer to the sea. Therefore the view of Maurer, etc., is incorrect - namely, that the imagery is drawn from the mountain-floods, in the hilly region beyond Jordan, where David in exile was. Jonah 2:1-32.2.10; Jonah 3:1-32.3.10; Jonah 4:1-32.4.11 draws his language from David here.

Verse 8

Yet the LORD will command his lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life.

Yet the Lord will command his loving kindness in the day-time, and in the night his song shall be with me - in beautiful contrast to Psalms 42:3, "My tears have been my meat day and night." The two clauses mutually complement one another - "The Lord will command his loving-kindness in the day-time (and so, since experienced loving-kindness generates praise in the recipient, his song shall be with me in the day-time), and in the night His song shall be with me" (even as He will command His loving-kindness to be with me in the night). Compare Psalms 92:1-19.92.2. "By day and by night" God gives me His consoling grace to counteract "my tears day and night;" so I am enabled by Him (such is the meaning of "His song") to exchange my tears for songs of praise both day and night. So Job 35:10, "God my maker ... giveth songs in the night." As a sample of such a song, cf. Psalms 40:3. So Paul and Silas in the prison "sang praises unto God at midnight" (Acts 16:25). And my prayer unto the God of my life. Prayer follows naturally praise for loving-kindness received. We are likely then to pray for further blessings most successfully when we acknowledge most gratefully those already received. The prayer itself is given in Psalms 42:9-19.42.10. He calls God 'the God of his life,' as being that character of God which he prays now to be manifested in his behalf, since sorrow has brought him well-nigh unto death. It answers to "My soul thirsteth for the living God" (Psalms 42:2).

Verse 9

I will say unto God my rock, Why hast thou forgotten me? why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?

I will say unto God my rock, Why hast thou forgotten me? Not despair; for faith (Psalms 42:8) has triumphed by this time; but the appeal of trust (Psalms 22:1). Thou canst not possibly forget me any longer: for thou art "God, my Rock" - i:e., my strong "Deliverer," the God of my strength (Psalms 18:2); especially seeing that "I remember thee" (Psalms 42:6).

Why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? - (Psalms 43:2).

Verse 10

As with a sword in my bones, mine enemies reproach me; while they say daily unto me, Where is thy God?

(As) with a sword in my bones, mine enemies reproach me - literally, 'in slaughter;' i:e., it is like a slaughter ("a sword," the instrument of slaughter, Ezekiel 21:28) "in my bones," that "mine enemies reproach me." Reproaches are to David's soul what the sword or slaughter is to the body (Luke 2:35). The "bones" express the inmost part.

While they say daily unto me, Where is thy God? For, Psalms 42:3, "continually," there, is here substituted "daily." Their "reproach" was that his present situation refuted his pretension to a filial relation to God as his God. What gave this reproach its sting was, it found an echo in the breast of the sufferer. His suffering seemed to be the expression of God's displeasure at his sins. He therefore prays God to take away this reproach by delivering him from his present situation.

Verse 11

Why art thou cast down O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.

Why art thou cast down, O my soul? ... for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God. See note, Psalms 42:5, "the help" or "the saving health of His countenance" is "the health of my countenance." The sufferer's countenance, once downcast with grief, is now brightened by the Lord lifting up the light of His countenance upon him. He therefore adds what was not in Psalms 42:5 - namely, "and my God." Thus, he closes with a triumph over the despondency into which he had been cast by his enemies.

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Psalms 42". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.