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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
Psalms 42

 

 

Verse 1

Psalms 42.

David's zeal to serve God in the temple: he encourageth his soul to trust in God.

To the chief musician, Maschil, for the sons of Korah.

Title. קרח לבני משׂכיל למנזח lamnatseach maskiil libnei korach. This begins the Second Book of Psalms: 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 who led the band. Some of these were undoubtedly the composition of David, as it is evident that most of those in the latter part of this book are directed in the same manner, and are unanimously acknowledged to have been written by him. When he composed this Psalm, it is manifest that his mind was fluctuating with despondence 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 more we attend to this Psalm, 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 is worked up with as much art and address as perhaps is to be found in any writing of the same kind. The fluctuating state of the mind even of a good man, which, when greatly oppressed, may be at sometimes desponding, and then again at others recollecting and correcting itself with religious considerations, is carried on throughout, and makes the repetition of the 5th and 6th verses at the end of the Psalm exceedingly beautiful. David's distress is finely and poetically set forth, aggravated with these three considerations: his absence from the worship of God in his tabernacle, the severe insults and blasphemous reproaches of his enemies, and the sad comparison which he could not but make between his present miserable circumstances and those of his prosperous and happy state. Finding himself in a melancholy and desponding state of mind from these thoughts, Psalms 42:5. He corrects himself with a recollection of God's powerful providence, Psalms 42:6. But (Psalms 42:9.) his reflections on his miserable condition return more horrid than they were before. At length, however, he resumes his confidence, and concludes with the same persuasion which had consoled him, Psalms 42:6. See Bishop Lowth's 23rd Prelection.

Psalms 42:1. As the hart panteth As the hart brayeth. Mudge. The original word ערג arag, 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 animal for a cooling and refreshing draught of water. The energy of the expressions in the next verse is very striking and sublime: "My soul thirsteth for God; even for the living God:" him who is the eternal spring of life and comfort;—after which he bursts out into that emphatical interrogation, When, when will the happy hour return, that I shall once more come and appear before God? When shall I be so happy as to have access again to his tabernacle, where he manifests his presence, and from whence I am now driven by those who seek my life?


Verse 3

Psalms 42:3. My tears have been my meat day and night i.e. "I am wholly given over to grief and sorrow, whilst I hear the continual reproaches of mine enemies, saying unto me, What is become of thy God, in whom thou wast wont to repose so much confidence?" See Archbishop Sharp's Sermons, vol. 3: p. 2, &c.


Verse 4

Psalms 42:4. When I remember these things, &c.— When I call to mind these things, my soul is melted within me; when I marched along under a scarlet canopy to the house of God, with the voice of shout and praise; a tumultuous crowd of people keeping holy-day. The Psalmist says, that his soul was melted within him when he called to mind past times, when on solemn days he paid his devotions at the sanctuary. Mudge.


Verse 5

Psalms 42:5. Why art thou cast down, &c.— Bishop Hare, Mr. Mudge, &c. &c. concur in reading this period in the same manner as the last periods of this and the next Psalm are read.


Verse 6

Psalms 42:6. And of the Hermonites, &c.— And Hermonim from the little hill. See Wall, and the version of the Liturgy of the Church of England. Mudge reads, from the little mountain of the Hermons. His soul being cast down, he knows no better way of raising his spirits than by reflecting upon God, where he now is, even beyond Jordan. This he does, Psalms 42:8-9. Hermon probably rose in more eminences than one, and therefore is expressed plurally; one of them, perhaps smaller than the rest, is called here מצער Mitsaar, the little one; from whence probably he used to cast a wistful eye towards Jerusalem. But Bishop Hare observes, that Hermon being nowhere read in the plural, should not be so read here.


Verse 7

Psalms 42:7. Deep called unto deep Bishop Lowth observes, that no metaphor occurs more frequently in the sacred poems than that by which grievous and sudden calamities are expressed under the image of overflowing waters. The Hebrews seem to have had this very familiar, from the peculiar nature of their country. They saw the river Jordan before their eyes, twice every year overflowing its banks (Joshua 3:15.; 1 Chronicles 12:15.) when the snows of Lebanon and the neighbouring mountains, melting at the beginning of the summer, increased with sudden torrents the waters of the stream. Besides, the country of Palestine was not watered with many constant rivers, but, as being principally mountainous, was obnoxious to frequent torrents bursting through narrow vallies after the stated seasons of rain; from whence Moses himself commended this country (Deuteronomy 8:7; Deuteronomy 11:10-11.) to the Israelites who were about to invade it, as very dissimilar to every thing they had seen in Egypt before, or lately in the desarts of Arabia. This image, therefore, is used by all poets, but may be esteemed particularly familiar, and, as it were, domestic to the Hebrews; and, accordingly they apply it very frequently. The poet seems to have expressed the very face of nature such as it then presented itself to him, and to have transferred it to himself and his circumstances, when, from the land of Jordan and the mountains situated at the rise of that flood, he utters the most ardent expressions of his grief, with that impetuosity and boldness of words:

Abyss calleth to abyss, thy cataracts roaring around; All thy waves and waters have overwhelmed me. See his 6th Prelection.

The author of the Observations is of opinion, p. 324 that our translation of water-spouts is just. Natural philosophers, says he, often make mention of water-spouts, which are most surprising appearances; but hardly any of the commentators that I have observed speak of them, though our translators have here used the term, and the Psalmist seems to be directly describing those phoenomena, and painting a storm at sea; and none of them, I think, take notice of the frequency of them on the Jewish coast, and, consequently, that it was natural for a Jewish poet to mention them in the description of a violent and dangerous storm. That this however is the fact, we learn from Dr. Shaw, who tells us in his Travels, p. 333 that water-spouts are more frequent near the lakes of Latikea, Greego, and Carmel, than in any other part of the Mediterranean. These were all places on the coast of Syria, and the last of them, every body knows, in Judea; it being a place rendered famous by the prayers of the prophet Elijah. The Jews then could not be ignorant of what frequently happened on their coasts; and David must have known of these dangers of the sea, if he had not actually seen them, as Dr. Shaw did. Strange then, since this is the case, that commentators should speak of these water-spouts as only meaning vehement rains, or that any should imagine that he compares his afflictions to the pouring of water through the spouts of a house, as Bythner seems to do in his Lyra; when they have nothing to do with a storm at sea, which the Psalmist is evidently describing! See Poole's Synopsis on the place. Others have observed, that these spouts are often seen in the Mediterranean; but I do not remember to have seen it any where remarked, before I read Dr. Shaw, that they are more frequent on the Syrian and Jewish coast than on any other part of this sea.


Verse 8

Psalms 42:8. Yet the Lord will command, &c.— In the day-time the Lord commanded his favour; I say; and in the night his song is in my mouth; a prayer to my living God. He applies to God day and night. In the day-time he prays God to command his favour to attend him; and in the night he has always a song directed to him. I cannot withhold from my reader in this place, the ingenious Mr. Merrick's paraphrase of this and the two foregoing verses:

Thy mercies, Lord, before my eyes Shall yet in sweet remembrance rise; Tho' now, with mournful step, and slow, O'er Jordan's lonely banks I go, And, exil'd from thy much-lov'd dome, On distant Hermon pensive roam; Deeps to confederate deeps aloud Have call'd, and from the bursting cloud Their licens'd rage the storms have shed, And heap'd their billows o'er my head. Yet, midst the storm, and midst the wave, Thy love the beams of comfort gave: Thy name to rapture prompts my tongue, My joy by day, by night my song: To thee my soul ascends in prayer, And in thy bosom pours its care.


Verse 10

Psalms 42:10. As with a sword in my bones The reproaches which my adversaries cast upon me are as a sword in my bones. Bishop Hare. i.e. "Their reproaches and calumnies are as painful to my soul, as the stab of a sword would be to my heart." See Psalms 55:21; Psa_59:7.


Verse 11

Psalms 42:11. The health of my countenance The salvation of my countenance; i.e. The preserver of my person, which is chiefly expressed in the countenance; or rather the support of my face; he who enableth me to hold up my face; which is equivalent to another expression, the lifter up of my head. Mudge.

REFLECTIONS.—We have here,

1. The eager longings of David's soul after communion with God in the courts of his sanctuary. Like the hart flying before the blood-thirsty hounds, parched with heat, and panting for breath, with such intense desires is he athirst for God, for a sense of his love and favour, even for the living God, the only fountain of true felicity. Note; (1.) Nothing but God will satisfy the believer's soul; a sense of his love is his supreme happiness; and, if that be withdrawn, every other enjoyment is tasteless. (2.) While foolish men, with eager impatience, seek from their broken cisterns of earthly comforts to slake their raging thirst: how few feel these ardent desires after the living fountain! (3.) Constrained absence from the means of grace is a sore burden to the true believer, and quickens his longings after them. (4.) If God's sanctuary was so desirable, how much more his beatific presence in his eternal temple!

2. He laments the sorrows which oppressed him, the insults that he sustained from his taunting enemies, and his dejection under the views of the blessings he had lost and the miseries he endured. The heathens, among whom he dwelt, upbraided him as having no visible God, while their idols stood in their temples; or his Jewish enemies reproached him, as if he was now abandoned of God, because he appeared not instantly for his relief. These things melted his heart with sorrow, and made his eyes as fountains of tears which, flowing ceaseless, mingled with his cup, or so affected him, that he forgot to eat his bread; while the remembrance of past happy days rose up to aggravate his distress in that strange land, where no songs of Zion were heard, no holy festivals observed to Jehovah, nor multitude of worshippers appeared, crowding his gates with sacrifices of praise.

3. Under all, he encourages his heart in God. Why art thou cast down, O my soul, so broken, so dispirited, and why art thou disquieted within me, as if all were lost, and help despaired of? hope thou in God, cast this firm anchor there, and then thou shalt not only ride out the storm in safety, but, when these thick clouds disperse before his bright beams, the light of his countenance shall return, and the language of my ransomed soul be praise. Note; (1.) In our distresses it is good to reason with our souls, why am I thus? We often cause our own dejection, by poring on our trials or afflictions, and forgetting the promises, grace, and faithfulness of our Redeemer. (2.) In heaven at least all the sorrows of the faithful shall end, and the never-clouded light of God's countenance fill their souls with everlasting consolations.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 42:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/psalms-42.html. 1801-1803.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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