The Agora
Bible Commentary

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139 140 141 142 143 144 145 146 147 148 149 150

Psalm 42

Psa 42:1

Psalms 42-72: Book Two: See Lesson, Psalms and Pentateuch.


"For the sons of Korah" is an unexpected label which calls for some sort of link with Num 16. Evidently when Korah died because of his rebellion, his family did not (ct Jos 7:15,24), but rather departed from his tent in the nick of time (Num 16:26; 26:11). This suggests a deliberate and public disowning of their father's rebellion. In later times Korah's descendants became famous in Israel: Samuel was a Korahite (1Ch 6:22-28,33-38: "Shemuel" = Samuel); his grandson was Heman the singer (vv 31-48). The Korahites were keepers of the temple gates (1Ch 9:19; cp Psa 84:10) and singers (2Ch 20:19). The psalms for the sons of Korah invariably reflect a serious interest in the affairs of God's temple and formal worship. The Korah psalms belong to the time of Hezekiah, when estranged brethren of the northern kingdom were encouraged to renew loyalty to the temple in Jerusalem. One of the leading Levites in Hezekiah's reformation was another Korah (or Kore) (2Ch 31:14) -- and poss it is his name, and that of his sons, that is preserved in the psalm titles.

HISTORICAL: Absalom's rebellion, but the even greater appropriateness to the reign of Hezekiah, plus the fact that all the Korah psalms fit into that period, makes this the important ref of the psalm. So here a Psa of David which was adapted by Hezekiah (under inspiration, certainly) to his own special circumstances.

42 & 43 ONE PSALM: (a) Psa 43 is the only psalm in Book 2 without a title. (b) Themes and refrains (Psa 42:5,11; 43:5) are virtually the same (see later commentary on the deliberate small variation).

The refrain, in Psa 42:5,11; 43:5, makes the three sections, all on the same theme, very easy to sort out. Further division or analysis is really unnecessary. For other psalms with recurring refrains, see Psa 46, 49, 59, 80, and 107.

AS THE DEER PANTS FOR STREAMS OF WATER: An eager thirsty animal in time of drought (cp the figure in Joe 1:20; Jer 14:1-6) somehow sensing water below ground and yet having no access to it. How fitting to Hezekiah, prevented by his unclean illness from participating in the temple worship of Yahweh. Cp also Psa 63:1.

(NT) "With desire have I desired to eat this Passover [and to drink this cup!] with you before I suffer" (Luk 22:15,17,18).

David and Christ: A Meditation on Psalms 42 and 43: His tired eyes had seen more than their share of troubles. Now they stared into the depths of murky Jordan; he saw mirrored there the turmoil of his own life. It had come to this: his own son and an army of his own men in hot pursuit of him. "The sword shall not depart from your house," Nathan had well said (2Sa 12:10). The young men were beside him now. "Arise and go quickly!" Must it always be so quick? He glimpsed the panorama of the years, the scenes tumbling over one another -- a shepherd boy in the hills of Judea, a bear and a giant, a jealous king, a beautiful woman, intrigue and murder, a wrathful prophet, sorrow and tears... and now an old man by a dark river. "Then David arose, and all the people that were with him, and they crossed the Jordan" (2Sa 17:22).

"As a hart longs for flowing streams, so longs my soul for thee, O God. I am as a hart, timid and fearful, as powerless as he to reach the pure underground streams of thy peace. When shall I return to your house, to behold your face again? Have I gone forth for the last time from 'the city of the great king'?

"Before thee, O God, my life is poured out as the blood of a sacrifice. Yet I remember still, what painful memories? Dancing with the throng, in joyful procession, with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving, a multitude celebrating your festivals. With what merriment we brought the ark into the city of David (2Sa 6:12-18)!

"But now my very soul is cast down within me. I go mourning from one brief refuge to another, dogged by deceitful and unjust men. But worst of all, by far the worst, they say of me, 'Where is his God?' It is a deadly wound that penetrates my inmost parts. I am the same man; I am that David who slew his tens of thousands, and Yahweh was with him. I stood before that 'behemoth' of a Philistine in your Name! I fought your battles; I gathered the materials to build your house! Why have you forgotten me... me of all people? Why have you cast me off?

"But no, I don't believe it can be. You are the God in whom I have taken refuge at every crisis of my life. You will defend my cause. I walk in darkness without you. O send forth your light and your truth; let them lead me. And I will come again to your holy hill... even to your altar. How false and baseless are my fears. My God, I cast myself upon you alone, waiting for the morning."

* * * * *

His eyes strained through the darkness. Under the great trees some distance away, his friends were sleeping. It was very late and he was very tired, but it would not be long now; his time was measured in hours. It had finally come to this: there was no man to stand with him. Through the valley and up the hillside there came a procession of lights. "I have not come to bring peace, but a sword." Those had been his own words; now he would live them out. "Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand." Quickly it would go now, with no opportunity for quiet retrospect. The scenes rushed by: the child of Nazareth, the young carpenter, then the stirring proclamations, the outstretched hands -- "Master, have mercy upon us!" The hands were outstretched again, but this time they held swords and shackles. "Then they seized him, and led him away."

"As a hart longs for flowing streams, so longs my soul for you, O God. I am entrapped by ungodly men; they have encircled me like a pack of wild dogs. O Father, is it possible to see your face in this mad multitude?

"Once I went with the throng into the holy city, riding upon an ass. In joyful procession we went to the house of God, accompanied by loud Hosannahs and festive palm branches. With glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving they cried, 'Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord' (Matt. 21:9).

"But now my very soul is cast down within me. Tears have been my meat and drink this night. The quietly flowing stream of pure communion with you has become a thundering cataract. I am plunged into its depths; your waves and your billows, as the sea, have gone over me. Now is my soul exceeding sorrowful.

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? It is the deadliest of wounds, that which my enemies inflict upon me: 'This is the one that trusted in God! Let us see now if his God will deliver him!' But I am the same man; I am your Beloved Son. All my life I have sought refuge in you alone. I know you will not leave me to the confusion of my face and the reproach of your Name."

* * * * *

"Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour." And he prayed the more earnestly, "O send out your light and your truth, let them lead me." The Father in heaven heard his prayer, and his last mortal moments were brightened by a divine light. He was the beginning of his Father's new Creation, accompanied by the divine directive: "Let there be light."

"May your light and your truth bring me to your holy hill, and to your dwelling. Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy." The last and greatest trial was faced successfully. Led by God's light, his Son approached the altar of the Father's presence and poured out his life-blood. The hill of death, Golgotha, was made forever holy by that blood. God at last had fashioned and perfected His mercy-seat, where He might dwell with man.

"It is finished." The last words were a cry of triumph. The old creation of God was plunged into darkness, but on the horizon could be seen the dawn of a new day. God's new creation was just beginning.

"Beneath the verdant, woodland roof,
A small gazelle
With stately tread of cloven hoof,
Paused by the well;
Deep down, unseen, the waters burst
Across the shaft.
Oh! how it longed to slake its thirst,
In one sweet draught.

"The Psalmist felt like this ofttimes,
Through toiling days,
In deep descents and upward climbs,
Along life's ways;
And in his thoughts he stood beside
The panting hind.
Like him, to quench the thirst, he tried
His God to find.

"And when I'm weary, when I'm weak,
I fain would go,
Like them that lovely place to seek,
Where waters flow;
And take my fill at length within
The water brooks,
And find eternal strength within
The Book of Books."

Psa 42:2

With this v cp Psa 84:2 and Isa 55:1.

MY SOUL THIRSTS FOR GOD: "The essence of living success is to keep the mind focused on God Himself -- not merely, be it noted, on His works or purpose or service. It is possible to miserably fail by allowing the means to obscure the end -- or even become the end. It is possible to work intensely all day with great enthusiasm in the 'service' of God, without even thinking of God Himself at all. That 'service' is as useless as a papist's beads, or blind Israel's dead, wooden rituals. All that we do must be consciously centered upon and directed toward God Himself, as a Person, in intense love -- just as the natural mind, amid all changing circumstances and activities, will gravitate irresistibly and obsessively toward the one person upon whom its affection is fixed. What we think and say and do in a few moments of relaxation at the end of the day may be a much more accurate revelation of our character and personality than the whole day's virtuous and laborious but perverted self-satisfying 'service' to God. God seeks -- not great works -- but our simple faith in and all-absorbing love of Him. These will, if real and true, inevitably bring forth the greatest works we are capable of: but the works are the byproduct -- the central essence is personal, conscious, love and remembrance of God" (GVG).

THE LIVING GOD: Usually means: The God of the living creatures (the Cherubim): Deu 5:26; Jos 3:10; 1Sa 17:26; 2Ki 19:4,16; Hos 1:10; 2Co 3:3; 6:16; Heb 3:12; 9:14; 12:22; Rev 7:2. Cp the prayer of Hezekiah in Isa 37:16,17.

MEET WITH GOD: Lit, "behold the faces (Cherubim) of God". The king's leprosy seemed to forbid him this privilege, for all time, of attending the festivals of the Lord.

Psa 42:3

MY TEARS: Hezekiah again, in Isa 38:5.

MY FOOD DAY AND NIGHT: No peace offering of fellowship with his God was possible. 'Instead of eating, I weep.'

WHERE IS YOUR GOD?: The constant scornful reproach made by Rabshakeh: eg Isa 36:7,15.

(NT) The Lord's adversaries were persistent in their demands for a sign from heaven: Mat 16:1.

Psa 42:4

Echo of Hezekiah's great Passover (2Ch 30) and, of course, those which had followed annually.

(NT) Because of the hostility shown him, the time came when Jesus could no longer find satisfaction in worship in the temple along with his people (Joh 7:1-7).

I POUR OUT MY SOUL: Like the blood of the Passover lamb, at the base of the altar (Psa 22:14). Nevertheless, "I shall yet praise him" (v 5).

TO GO WITH THE MULTITUDE: Sw Isa 38:15: "to go softly". "I went in procession" (RV mg.). "I marched in the ranks" (NEB).

THE FESTIVE THRONG: Ref to Passover?

Psa 42:5

(NT) This refrain is quoted in Mat 26:38 (Jesus in Gethsemane) and Joh 12:27; 13:21 (similar circumstances).

I WILL YET PRAISE HIM: Faith in the promised recovery: 2Ki 20:8.

FOR HIS SAVING HELP: "The help of his countenance" (AV). The high-priestly blessing: Num 6:26.

Psa 42:6

THEREFORE I WILL REMEMBER YOU FROM THE LAND OF THE JORDAN, THE HEIGHTS OF HERMON: 'Therefore will I remember thee from the land of Jordan and the Hermonites" (AV) (plural: the great Hermon, with its several mighty peaks). The remote parts of the Land sending their representatives to join in Hezekiah's Passover.

Rephrasing v 6: "I will remember You (in God's holy mountain) even though I am come down to the Jordan; I will remember you (in the heights of) Hermon (the greatest of mountains!) even though I am come down to the "mount" of Mizar (the little hill of humiliation, or degradation)." Thus the two phrases may be seen as in parallel.

JORDAN: (NT) First he withdrew beyond Jordan, and there he abode (Joh 10:39,40). But from thence he returned to the vicinity of Jerusalem upon hearing of the illness of Lazarus (Joh 11:6,7,16).

THE HEIGHTS OF HERMON: (NT) The most northern limits of the Land, where Jesus spent considerable time: eg Mat 16:13. But from thence he also returned.

MOUNT MIZAR: Completely unknown today. The name may sig 'the mount of humiliation': Samaria, which had been captured and destroyed by the Assyrians at the beginning of Hezekiah's reign? Even this center of disloyalty was not without its devotees coming to Jerusalem.

(NT) Golgotha, the place of Christ's humiliation?

Psa 42:7

DEEP CALLS TO DEEP IN THE ROAR OF YOUR WATERFALLS: "Waterfalls" sw "water shaft" which Joab climbed (2Sa 5:8; 1Ch 11:6). The underground pool became the starting point of Hezekiah's conduit (2Ch 32:30); but "waterfalls" (plural) is used because the conduit was begun simultaneously from both ends -- from the Virgin's Fountain and (1,200 cubits to the southeast) from Siloam. The word "deep" is used by poetic metonymy for the workmen deep underground. Hezekiah's inscription, now in Istanbul, has this detail: "This is the story of the piercing through. While (the stone-cutters were swinging their) axes, each towards his fellow, and while there were yet three cubits to be pierced through (there was heard) the voice of a man calling to his fellow, for there was a crevice (or cleft, or fissure) on the right..." Thus "deep calls to deep" can be taken literally. That conduit became, humanly speaking, the lifeline of Jerusalem at the time of the siege by Sennacherib's host.

ALL YOUR WAVES AND BREAKERS HAVE SWEPT OVER ME: Hezekiah felt himself swamped by adversity: his incurable sickness, the remorseless Assyrian aggression, the futile politics of his statesmen, desertion by his army... (see esp Isa 8:7,8).

(NT) A "baptism" of suffering (Mat 20:22; Mar 10:38). Cp the language of Psa 69:1,2; 124:4.

Psa 42:8

BY DAY... AT NIGHT: In the daytime there was the vision of the Glory of the Lord, causing the shadow of the sun-dial to shift backwards (Isa 38:7,8); here was the token of renewal of life for the king. And in the night of Passover there was a song of deliverance (Isa 30:29, and entire context there).

Psa 42:9

GOD MY ROCK: The solid rock (still to be seen in the temple area) which was the core and foundation of the altar of burnt-offering (WBS 111-116).

WHY MUST I GO ABOUT MOURNING, OPPRESSED BY THE ENEMY?: This is very explicit: the Assyrian enemy, of course.

(NT) Others rejoiced at God's blessings in his ministry, but he faced the prospect of being swamped by evil (Luk 12:50).

Psa 42:10

The shouted propaganda campaign by Rabshakeh, on behalf of his royal master, before the walls of Jerusalem; and the letter direct from Sennacherib: 2Ki 18:17-19:19.

Psa 42:11

PUT YOUR HOPE IN GOD: Usually, sig the hope of having children (see Psa 16:9r). One of Hezekiah's great griefs was that at this time he had no son. It seemed that the perpetual promise to David would come to nought (Psa 132:11,17; Isa 38:19). Note here, also, how "the help of thy countenance" (v 5) becomes "the health of my countenance" (AV). (Other examples of variation in refrain: Psa 49:12,20; 59:6,14.)

(NT) The help of God's countenance -- the angel of the Lord strengthening him: Luk 22:43 -- became the health of his own countenance. This might explain Joh 18:6: his enemies falling backward before the brightness of his countenance in Gethsemane.

Previous Index Next