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Bible Commentaries

Trapp's Complete Commentary

Psalms 42

Verse 1

Psalms 42:1 « To the chief Musician, Maschil, for the sons of Korah. » As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.

Maschil, for the sons of Korah ] Korah and his compilers were swallowed up quick by the earth in the wilderness for their gainsaying, Numbers 16:1-4.16.50 , but some of his sons, disliking his practice, escaped, and of them came Heman (the nephew of Samuel), a chief singer, 1 Chronicles 6:23 . Now, to him and his brethren was this and some other of David’s psalms committed, both to be kept as a treasure, and to be sung in the sanctuary, for comfort and instruction under affliction, according to the signification of the word Maschil; whereof see Psalms 32:1 , title, παθηματα γαρ μαθηματα . Nocumenta documenta.

Ver. 1. As the hart panteth after the water brooks ] Heb. As the hind. Greek, η ελαφος , for in females the passions are stronger, saith an interpreter here, quicquid volunt, valde volunt. This creature is naturally hot and dry, about autumn especially (as Aristotle testifieth), but when hunted extremely thirsty. Chrysostom and Basil say, that she eateth serpents, and so is further inflamed by their poison. Now, as the hunted and heated hind glocitat, breatheth and brayeth after the water brooks,

So panteth my soul after thee, O God ] He saith not, after my former dignity and greatness, before Absalom disturbed me, and drove me out (though he could not but be sensible of such a loss; we know what miserable moans Cicero made when sent into banishment; how impatient Cato and many others were in like case, so that they became their own deathsmen), but after thee, Lord, and the enjoyment of thy public ordinances; from which I am now, alas, hunted and hindered. Amo te Domine plus quam mea, meos, me (Bern.). After that God’s Holy Spirit hath once touched a soul it will never be quiet until it stands pointed Godward.

Verse 2

Psa 42:2 My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?

Ver. 2. My soul thirsteth for God ] More than ever it did once for the water of the well of Bethlehem; and that, because he is the living God, the fountain of living waters, that only can cool and quench my desires, Jeremiah 2:13 ; Jeremiah 17:13 , so as I shall never thirst again, John 4:14 , whereas of all things else we may say

Quo plus sunt potae, plus sitiuntur aquae.

The Rabbis note here, that David saith not so hungereth, but so thirsteth my soul; because men are more impatient of thirst than of hunger; they can go several days without food, but not without drink. Alexander lost a great part of his army marching through the wilderness of the Susitans by lack of water (Curt. ex Diodoro).

When shall I come and appear before God? ] Heb. and see the face of God? viz. in his tabernacle. Eheu igitur quando tandem mihi miserrimo dabitur, ut te in aede tun conspiciam? These earnest pantings, inquietations, and unsatisfiable desires after God and his ordinances, are sure signs of true grace. But woe to our worship scorners, &c.

Verse 3

Psa 42:3 My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where [is] thy God?

Ver. 3. My tears have been my meat day and night ] Hunters say the hart sheddeth tears, or something like tears, when he is pursued, and not able to escape. Hereunto David might allude. Sure it is, that as hinds calving, so men, by weeping, cast out their sorrows, Job 39:3 .

Expletur lachrymis egeriturque dolor.

And, Affert solatium lugentibus suspiriorum societas, saith Basil, sighs are an ease of sorrow. Of Mr Bradford the martyr it is reported, that in the midst of dinner he used oft to muse, having his hat over his eyes, from whence came commonly plenty of tears dropping on his trencher. - αγαθοι δ αριδακρυες ανθρες . The better any are, the more inclined to weeping; as David than Jonathan, 1Sa 20:41 Here we have him telling us that his tears were his meat, so Psalms 80:5 , or his bread, as Gregory readeth it; and he giveth this reason, that, like as the more bread we eat the dryer we are, and the more thirsty; so the more tears of godly sorrow we let fall the more we thirst after that living fountain springing from above. David’s greatest grief was, that he was banished from the sanctuary; and next to that, the reproachful blasphemy of his enemies hitting him in the teeth with his God, as if not able or not willing to relieve him now in his necessity, and bitterly upbraiding him with his hopes as altogether vain.

Whiles they continually say unto me, Where is thy God? ] Violenti certe impetus, saith Vatablus here. These were violent shocks indeed; and such as wherewith David’s faith might have been utterly overthrown, had it not been the better rooted, and with it upheld, by the special power of the Spirit of grace. Other of God’s suffering saints have met with the like measure. At Orleans, in France, as the bloody Papists murdered the Protestants, they cried out, Where is now your God? What is become of all your prayers and psalms now? Let your God that you called upon save you if he can. Others sang in scorn, Judge and revenge my cause, O Lord; others, Have mercy on us, Lord, &c. The queen mother of Scotland, having received aid from France, forced the Protestants for a while to retire to the highlands, whereupon she scoffingly said, Where is now John Knox’s God? My God is now stronger than his, yea, even in Life; but her brags lasted not long; for within a few days six hundred Protestants beat above four thousand French and Scots, &c. (Mr Knox’s Life, by Mr Clark). God’s servants fare the better for the insolencies of their enemies; who, when they say, Where is now their God? might as well say between the time of the new and old moon, Where is now the moon? when as it is never nearer the sun than at that time.

Verse 4

Psa 42:4 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.

Ver. 4. When I remember these things ] viz. My present pressures compared with my former happiness, Miserum sane est, fuisse felicem. The Epicures held (but I believe they did not believe themselves therein) that a man might be cheerful amidst the most exquisite torments, ex praeteritarum voluptatum recordatione, by the remembrance of his former pleasures and delights (Cir. de Fin. l. ii.; Sen. de Bon. l. iv. c. 22). David found this here but a slight and sorry comfort, though he better knew how than any of them to make the best of it; and his delights had been far more solid and cordial.

I pour out my soul ] See Job 30:16 , See Trapp on " Job 30:16 "

For I had gone with a multitude ] Heb. a thick crowd, or throng of good people, frequenting the public ordinances, and David in the head of them. One rendereth it, In umbra vel umbrella, sicut mos est Orientalium ambulare umbrellis contra ardorem solis accommodatis.

I went with them to the house of God ] Lente itabam, I went with a gentle pace, gressu grallatorio. He speaketh, saith Vatablus, of the order observed by the faithful when they went to the sanctuary, viz. in comely equipage, singing praise to God, and confessing his goodness.

Verse 5

Psa 42:5 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.

Ver. 5. Why art thou cast down, O my soul? ] Here David seemeth to be Homo divisus in duas partes, saith Vatablus, a man divided into two parts, as indeed every new man is two men; and what is to be seen in the Shulamite but as it were the company of two armies? Song of Solomon 6:13 . David chideth David out of his dumps. So did Alice Benden, the martyr, rehearsing these very words (when she had been kept in the bishop’s prison all alone nine weeks with bread and water), and received comfort by them in the midst of her miseries (Acts and Mon. 1797).

And why art thou disquieted in me? ] A good man’s work lieth most within doors; he hath more ado with himself than with all the world besides; he prayeth oft, with that ancient, Libera me Domine a malo homine meipso, Deliver me, Lord, from that naughty man, myself. How oft do we punish ourselves by our passions, as the lion that beateth himself with his own tail! Grief is like lead to the soul, heavy and cold, sinking it downward, taking off the wheels of it, and disabling it for duty; like as a limb that is out of joint can do nothing without deformity and pain. Keep up thy spirit, therefore, and watch against dejection, whatsoever befalls thee, yea, against all distempers; since they hinder comfortable intercourse with God, and that spiritual composedness, that sabbath of spirit, that we must enjoy, or else we cannot keep that continual holyday ( εορταζωμεν ), 1 Corinthians 5:8 . How many are there who through unnecessary sadness come to heaven before they are aware!

Hope thou in God ] Faith quieteth the soul first or last, saith reverend Dr Sibbes on these words. There will be stirring at the first; as in a pair of balances, there will be a little stirring when the weight is put in, till it come to a poise; so in the soul, it comes not to a quiet consistency till there be some victory of faith, till it rest and stay the soul.

For I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance ] Heb. the healths of his countenance, Adhuc confitebor ei salutes vultus eius. Chrysostom bringeth in a man laden with troubles coming into the church, where, when he heard this passage read, Why art thou cast down? hope in God, he presently recovered (Homil. in Genes.).

Verse 6

Psa 42:6 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.

Ver. 6. O my God, my soul is cast down within me ] Though before he had schooled himself out of his distempers yet now he is troubled again; such are the vicissitudes and interchanges of joy and sorrow that the saints are here subject unto; as soon as the spirit gets the better, as soon the flesh; sometimes good affections prevail, sometimes unruly passions. Affections are the wind of the soul, passions the storm. The soul is well carried when neither so becalmed that it moves not when it should, nor yet tossed with tempests to move disorderly.

Therefore will I remember thee from the land of Jordan ] That is, saith one, I will call to mind former experiments there, and take comfort. Or, I will remember thee, as I may, here at Mahanaim beyond Jordan, under the mount Hermon, and that other little hill (where I have found thee in my meditations and prayers propitious unto me), though I cannot now worship thee in the beauty of holiness, being driven out by my ungracious son Absalom from the place where thine honour dwelleth.

Verse 7

Psa 42:7 Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.

Ver. 7. Deep calleth unto deep ] Vorago voraginem advocat, i.e. one calamity inviteth another, Gurges gurgitem excipit (Beza); Aliud ex alio malure, they come thick and threefold; the clouds return after the rain, Ecclesiastes 12:2 ; as one shower is unburdened another is brewed. One affliction followeth and occasioneth another, without ceasing or intermission; so that they are grown, as it were, to an infiniteness, as Psalms 40:12 .

At the noise of thy waterspouts ] i.e. Thy clouds pouring down in full force, in a storm at sea especially, by a cataclysm of waters falling at once out of the clouds, sometimes to the overwhelming and breaking of a ship. This mariners call a spout. Psalms 18:4 , The floods of Belial made me afraid.

All thy waves and thy billows are gone over me ] Fluctus fluctum trudit; yet not without the Lord; the enemies and the evils that befell him are called God’s waves or breakings, Propter peccata nostra a te immissa You have been against us on account of our sins. (Kimchi).

Verse 8

Psalms 42:8 [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.

Ver. 8. Yet the Lord will command his lovingkindness ] He will after all this misery send forth a commission and a command to set me free; and his mandamus command will do it at any time.

And in the night his song shall be with me ] When others that are without God in the world have restless nights, the gnats of cares and griefs molesting them, a saint can sing away care, and call his soul to rest, as Psalms 116:7 , being filled with peace and joy through believing; such as setteth him a singing to God’s glory.

And my prayer unto the God of my life ] i.e. My praises, which are a chief part of prayer, 1 Timothy 6:1 . Thanksgiving is an artificial begging, Gratiarum actio est ad plus dandum invitatio.

Verse 9

Psa 42:9 I will say unto God my rock, Why hast thou forgotten me? why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?

Ver. 9. I will say unto God my rock, Why hast thou forgotten me? ] Tene veto mei immemorem esse? Thus I will in a familiar manner expostulate with him, and lay my case open unto him, as to a friend. The flesh suggesteth that he is forgotten, but faith holdeth its own, fastening on the Rock of ages.

Why go I mourning ] Heb. Black, as one that is in mourning weeds; or, that had lain among the pots.

Verse 10

Psalms 42:10 [As] with a sword in my bones, mine enemies reproach me; while they say daily unto me, Where [is] thy God?

Ver. 10. As with a sword in my bones ] Heb. a murdering weapon, which, when thrust into the bones, causeth most exquisite pain; so deeply was good David affected with the dishonour done to God by his blasphemous enemies; it went to the very heart of him, as a dagger.

While they say daily ] See Trapp on " Psa 42:3 "

Verse 11

Psa 42:11 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.

Ver. 11. Why art thou cast down ] See Psalms 42:5 .

Who is the health of my countenance ] i.e. The Author of my manifold, present, and apparent safety; such as shall make me look blithe and beautiful, cheery and chirp.

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Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Psalms 42". Trapp's Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.