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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Psalms 42

Verses 1-11

Psalms 42:3 . Tears have been my meat. I abstained from food to indulge in grief: my sorrows have superseded the desire of food.

Psalms 42:6 . The hill Mizar; the little hill on which Zoar was built, to which Lot and his daughters fled.

Psalms 42:7 . Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts. Waterspouts at sea are very analogous to whirlwinds on land. They are never noticed but in dark and rainy weather. They are seen from the deck of a ship to arise in the midst of a thick cloud as dark pillars; and if very near, in colour they resemble that of smoke when it issues from wet straw; but at a distance, the colour resembles a little thick cloud with tremendous rain. In these pillars the water ascends with a hissing gentle noise, and in their whirl they cast the spray around, but much slower than the dust in a whirlwind. When the thick column of vapour has reached a certain height, and becomes too heavy for the electric fluid, or the whirling current of air which it rolls, the head of the column begins to settle, and gives the form of a trumpet to the pillar of vapour. Sometimes the whole column inclines away, leaning towards the surface of the sea; and when several have been seen at once, they will sometimes cross each other like the letter X; but still slowly rolling, and apparently not swifter than the clouds. If one of these happen to touch a ship, it washes the deck with a torrent of water fresh as the rain, and not unfrequently endangers the sails and rigging by its weight and motion. Hence ships endeavour to avoid them, or fire a cannon shot into the midst of the cloud. Mr. John Daniel, of Coverack, observed one near the Lizard point, which had a very massy and inclined column; and it rolled in the clouds with a velocity which, in his opinion, would have completely stripped any ship of its rigging. Thus they who do business on great waters, see the wonderful works of the Lord. When they fall on the land, they sometimes devastate fields and houses in their course.


These two psalms were originally one, and it is difficult to account for their being divided. They both close with the same reviving chorus. David composed them beyond the Jordan, and in the vicinity of mount Hermon, when he fled from Absalom; and to that cruel and unnatural revolt we are indebted, under God, for some of his most pathetic pieces. The first object which pierced his soul in exile, was banishment from the house and altar of the Lord. He was perfectly acquainted with the omnipresence of the Maker of heaven and earth; yet no place was so dear to the pious Jew as the mercyseat. Therefore as the hart, the hunted hart, pants to cool his body in pools of water, so his soul panted for the river, whose streams make glad the city of God. How then will those christians appear, who discover so great an indifference to the means of grace?

The second cause of David’s grief was, that the infidel and rebellious crowd should now display their wanton wit in deriding the confidence he had ever reposed in the peculiar promises of God. Hearing of his flight, and presuming he was now for ever lost, they exclaimed, Where is now thy God. This was the more afflictive, as he had gone with those men to the house of God, and headed their devotion in all public days of joy and thanksgiving. Hence we should learn to trust in God alone, and not repose too much confidence in men, not even in the best of men.

We have next the power of faith, which can support the soul in the most afflictive situations. David’s army was small, the rebels were numerous and wicked beyond a name. His flight was attended with a thousand humiliations, and the revolt of his favourite son was connected with crimes peculiarly mortifying to the sire. So circumstanced, day and night he enjoyed his tears, instead of meat. All around him was impervious gloom; yet even then faith broke into his mind with rays of confidence and hope; and assuming the soul of a prophet and a king, he said, Why art thou cast down, oh my soul? Why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise him.

Providence presently realized his confidence; the rebels were defeated, many of the fugitives were driven over the precipice, in the wood of Ephraim; the kingdom was purified of a vast throng of incorrigible men, and the Lord brought back the king to his altar and his holy hill. Oh how good is the Lord to those who trust in his word: how bright are the beams of the sun after a dark and cloudy day. He who has God for his portion should never yield to despair.

Whether we are overwhelmed with spiritual despondency and gloom, whether involved in family afflictions, or overtaken with national calamities, let us fix our eye and heart steadfastly on the promises of God, and wait the issues of his holy will.

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Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 42". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.