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Bible Commentaries

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Psalms 42

A.M. 2981. B.C. 1023.

This begins the second book of Psalms, (according to the Hebrew division,) the first part of which consists of pieces directed to the sons of Korah, to be set, or sung by them under the direction of the chief musician. Some of these were, undoubtedly, the composition of David, and probably this; as it is certain he composed most, if not all, of those that are contained in the latter part of this second book, from Psalm fifty to the end of the seventy-second. When he wrote this it is evident his mind was fluctuating between despondency, and hope. What the particular occasion was, is not expressed; but it is generally believed that it was upon the rebellion of Absalom, when he was driven away from the house and service of God. The distress he was in, at this time, is finely and poetically set forth, aggravated with these three considerations:

(1,) His absence from the worship of God in his tabernacle.

(2,) The severe insults and blasphemous reproaches of his enemies; and,

(3,) The sad comparison which he could not but make between his present miserable circumstances, and those of his former prosperous and happy state. “The more we attend to this Psalm,” says Dr. Dodd, “the better shall we discern its beauties. It is an exquisite performance: in which David gives us, in his own example, a lively and natural image of a great and good man in affliction; and this worked up with as much art and address as, perhaps, is to be found in any writing of the same kind.” The general contents are, He longs for the public service of God, Psalms 42:1-4 . Stirs himself up to trust in God, Psalms 42:5-9 . Reproached by his enemies, still hopes in him, Psalms 42:10 , Psalms 42:11 .

Title. For the sons of Korah Who were an eminent order of singers in the house of God.

Verses 1-2

Psalms 42:1-2. As the hart panteth תערג , tagnarog, brayeth: “The word is strong, and expresses that eagerness and fervency of desire, which extreme thirst may be supposed to raise in an animal almost spent in its flight from the pursuing dogs. Nothing can give us a higher idea of the psalmist’s ardent and inexpressible longing to attend the public worship of God than the burning thirst of such a hunted creature for a cooling and refreshing draught of water.” So panteth my soul after thee, O God After the enjoyment of thee in thy sanctuary, as appears from Psalms 42:4. My soul thirsteth for God Thirst is more vehement than hunger, and more impatient of dissatisfaction; for the living God Him who is the eternal spring of life and comfort. This he mentions as a just cause of his thirst. He did not thirst after vain, useless idols, but after the only true and living God, who was his life, and the length of his days, Deuteronomy 30:20; without whose presence and favour David accounted himself for a dead and lost man; when shall I come and appear before God In the place of his special presence and public worship? When, when will the happy hour return that I shall once more have access to his tabernacle, where he manifests his presence, and from which I am now driven by them who seek my life? Archbishop Sharp’s Sermons, vol. 3. p. 2.

Verses 3-4

Psalms 42:3-4. My tears have been my meat, &c. That is, I am wholly given over to grief and sorrow while I hear the continual reproaches of my enemies, saying unto me, Where is thy God? Of whom thou hast so often boasted, as of one so able and ready to help all that trust in him, and call upon him? and particularly as one engaged to thee by many great and special promises? He is departed from thee, and nowhere to be found of thee. He is either unable or unwilling to help thee, or regardless of thee. When I remember these things Namely, my banishment from God’s presence, and my enemies’ scoffs and triumphs upon that occasion. I pour out my soul In fervent prayer and bitter sorrows, whereby his very heart was almost melted or dissolved, and his spirits spent, and he was ready to faint away. For I had gone with the multitude In the way to Jerusalem, according to the custom, in the company of the Israelites, who went thither in great numbers at the solemn feasts. I went with them to the house of God Or, I led them, encouraging them by my presence and forwardness. With a multitude that kept holy-day The feasts, or festival solemnities, which they kept holy unto the Lord.

Verse 5

Psalms 42:5. Why art thou cast down, O my soul With excessive sorrow and despair. Why art thou disquieted within me? Is there any cause that anxiety of mind should put thee into a state of such perturbation, as if all hopes of this felicity were lost for ever? Hope thou in God Trust in him, and patiently wait upon him. For I shall yet praise him The time will come when I shall go again to his house, and praise him for his favour toward me. For the help of his countenance Hebrew, For the salvations of his face, for those supports, deliverances, and comforts, which, I doubt not, I shall ere long enjoy, both in his presence and sanctuary, to which he will restore me, and from his presence, and the light of his countenance, which he will graciously afford me.

Verse 6

Psalms 42:6 . My soul is cast down within me I am overcome with grief, while I am forced to hide myself in this wilderness beyond Jordan, and wander up and down on these solitary mountains, far distant from thy tabernacle; therefore That I may revive my drooping spirits; I will remember thee from the land of Jordan I will consider thy infinite mercy, and power, and faithfulness, and thy gracious presence in the sanctuary, from whence thou dost hear and answer all those that call upon thee. From the hill Mizar From all the places and parts of the land to which I shall be driven; whether from the parts about, or beyond Jordan on the east; or mount Hermon, which was in the northern parts, here called Hermonim, in the plural number, because of its great extent, and many tops and parts of it called by several names.

Verse 7

Psalms 42:7. Deep calleth unto deep One affliction comes immediately after another, as if it were called for, or invited by the former. This he expresses by a metaphor taken from the old flood, when the upper deep, or collection of waters in the clouds, called for the lower deep, or abyss of waters in the sea and rivers, and in the bowels of the earth; that both might unite their forces to drown the world. Thus the Chaldee understands it. Or the metaphor may be taken from the sea, when its waves rage, and deep furrows are everywhere made in it, into which ships, and the people in them, sink down, and then rise and sink again, successively and continually. At the noise of thy water-spouts This may be understood of water- spouts, properly so called; which, according to Dr. Shaw, p. 333 of his Travels, are more frequent on the Syrian and Jewish coasts than in any other part of the Mediterranean, and could not be unknown to David and the Israelites. Or he may allude to violent and successive rains, which frequently descend from heaven at the noise or call of God’s water-spouts, the clouds; which, by their terrible thunders, and rattling noises, as it were, incite and call forth the heavy and tempestuous showers which are contained within them. But Bishop Lowth, in his 6th Prelection, translates this clause, Abyss calleth to abyss, thy cataracts roaring around. And he thinks the psalmist’s metaphor is taken from the sudden torrents of water which were wont to descend from the mountains twice in the year, and to burst through the narrow valleys of that hilly country, from the periodical rains, and the melting of the snows of Lebanon and the neighbouring mountains, in the beginning of the summer, and causing the river Jordan to overflow all its banks. All thy waves and billows are gone over me That is, are gone over my head, as the verb עברו , gnabaru, is used Psalms 38:4. They do not lightly sprinkle me, but almost overwhelm me. Thus Bishop Lowth, All thy waves and waters have overwhelmed me. The meaning is, Thou hast sent one sharp trial or affliction upon me after another.

Verses 8-9

Psalms 42:8-9. Yet the Lord will command Will effectually provide and confer upon me; his lovingkindness His blessings, the effect of his lovingkindness, which God is often said to command. In the day-time, and in the night Both day and night, that is, continually. His song shall be with me I shall have constant cause for singing and praising God for his loving-kindness. And my prayer shall be unto the God of my life The giver and preserver of my life from time to time. I will boldly and believingly direct my prayers to him, of whose readiness to hear and help me I have had such ample experience. I will say unto God my rock I will expostulate the case with him, who hath formerly been a sure refuge to me; Why hast thou forgotten me? Why dost thou now seem quite to neglect and forget me? Why go I mourning? Why dost thou leave me in this mourning state, and not succour me speedily?

Verse 10

Psalms 42:10. As with a sword in my bones Or, in my body, the bones being often put for the body, whereof they are a very considerable part. Or, as a sword which pierceth and cutteth my flesh even to the bones, and cutteth or breaketh the very bones also. So painful and vexatious are their reproaches. While they say, Where is thy God? What is become of thy God. in whom thou trustedst? Why does he make no more haste to send thee deliverance?

Verse 11

Psalms 42:11. Why art thou cast down, &c. See note on Psalms 42:5. Who is the health of my countenance Hebrew, The salvations of my face: which will make my face to shine, and my countenance cheerful, which supposes the gladness of the heart and the bettering of his condition. And my God As he formerly was, so he is still, and ever will be; and will assuredly show himself to be my God, although, for a season, he may hide his face, or withdraw his help from me.

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Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 42". Benson's Commentary. 1857.