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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Psalms 42



Verse 1

1. As the hart panteth— “Hart,” though here construed with a feminine verb, (which would require it to be rendered hind,) should be taken as a common gender. The “hart” repeatedly stands connected with “roebuck” in the Pentateuch, (Deuteronomy 12:15; Deuteronomy 12:22,) as belonging to the same family, and of the class of clean animals. It is the symbol of fleetness, of surefootedness, of timidity and innocence, Psalms 18:33; Habakkuk 3:18-19; Song of Solomon 2:8-9; and is here represented as hotly pursued, faint, and thirstyan emblem of the fugitive and weary king.

Water brooks—The term applies often to streams which dry up in summer. The pursued hind would pass the dry beds of such brooks with aggravated thirst at the disappointment. Job 6:15-20. So David had found treachery where he looked for fidelity, and nothing could revive him but the everliving waters of divine grace.

Verse 2

2. Thirsteth for God… the living God—Not for any gift or benefit out of God, but God himself; personal communion with him could alone meet his longing, languishing desire. Here was the source of all his greatness and prosperity as a king, or joy and delight as a human soul, and hence his first want. These expressions of longing after God have nothing to excel them for spirituality and intensity in holy Scripture.

Appear before God—The sanctuary worship is here intended, as containing the most lively symbols of God, and the nearest visible approach to him.

Verse 3

3. Tears have been my meat—Because their ceaseless flow mingled with his food. Psalms 80:5; Psalms 102:9.

Where is thy God—This was not the taunt of atheists or heathen, but of men who believed in the Hebrew theism, and affected to believe God had abandoned David. See Psalms 41:8; Psalms 71:11

Verse 4

4. When I remember these things—It is more easy and simple to take “these things” as referring, not to what follows, as some do, but to the psalmist’s sorrow and to the cruel taunts of his enemies; and he appeals to his habit of worship in vindication of his sincerity.

With the voice of joy and praise—The description here applies to their great festivals and most public occasions of worship, in which he led the procession with singing and joy,


freely placing himself among the masses, as on the removal of the ark, 2 Samuel 6:14.

Kept holyday— חגג, (hhagag,) translated “kept holyday,” primarily means, to move, or dance in a circle, and thence to move in a procession, to celebrate a feast. In this last sense it is always rendered in the English version, except in 1 Samuel 30:16, where it is translated dancing. In the earlier Hebrew history dancing, which was often little else than a graceful keeping of step with the music, was, though not of Mosaic origin, an early accompaniment of their festivals, (Judges 21:19-23,) and always of public celebrations of victory. Exodus 15:20 ; 2 Samuel 6:14; see also on Psalms 68:11; Psalms 68:25. From a too literal construction of David’s words it has been supposed by some that he introduced dancing at the great festivals: but of this there is no evidence, though it reappeared in later Maccabean times. It was universal as a religious ceremony in heathen festivals, but never obtained any permanency among the Hebrews. In Psalms 30:11; Psalms 149:3; Psalms 150:4, a different word is used, where see notes. In the text it means no more than “the multitude, celebrating the feast,” not a “festive crowd dancing in a circle.

Verse 5

5. The apostrophic address of this verse shows the highly impassioned state of the author.

Cast down—Calvin says, “David here presents himself divided into two parts.” “It is the struggle,” says Perowne, “between the spirit of faith and the spirit of dejectionbetween the higher nature and the lower.” “It is the spirit, mighty in God, which here meets the trembling soul.”Hengstenberg.

For the help of his countenance—Hebrew, The deliverance, or salvation, of his face; that is, the deliverance which is assured by the turning of his face to me, or looking upon me, according to the Oriental custom of looking upon the suppliant as a sign of granting his request, or turning away the face as a token of denial. See note on Psalms 42:11

Verse 6

6. Therefore—That is, because of my distress.

From the land of Jordan—From beyond Jordan, or east of Jordan.

Hermonites—Mount Hermon bounded Palestine proper on the northeast, and the Hermonites inhabited the adjacent lower lands south and southeast of the mountain.

Hill Mizar—Or the small mountain. It applies to some hill of Gilead, or more probably, some peak of Anti-Lebanon. Nothing definite is known of it, but these references to place indicate that David’s flight would be northeastward if compelled to go beyond Mahanaim. The facts illustrate the faith, courage, and resolution of the king.

Verse 7

7. Waterspouts—The word naturally refers us to a water fall, or cataract; the idea is that of noisy, rushing waters, which call or echo to each other. David now lay encamped on the east of Jordan, (2 Samuel 17:22,) within hearing of some of the rapids of that river, of which there are twenty seven between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. (Lt. Lynch.) To the nightly roar of these an answer might have been given by some mountain torrents on the side of Gilead, east of the royal tent. Thus was deep calling unto deep, their solemn chiming symphonizing with the sombre feelings of the king. The word rendered “deep,” though ordinarily applicable only to the ocean, may fitly be used here, where the feelings and the imagination hold sway.

Waves and… billows—Probably, breakers and billows, as the word for “waves” comes from a verb signifying to break.

Verse 8

8. In the daytime, and in the night—Faith here rallies. God shall command, or make sure, confirm, his mercy to me by day, and in the night his song shall be with me; a picture of unintermitted trust, prayer, and praise. “His song” means a song concerning Him, as celebrating his glorious attributes and acts. While God makes sure his mercy, David is ceaseless in praise and confidence.

Verse 9

9. I will say unto God—That is, in order to bring about the deliverance just assured, “I will say,” etc. He will urge his cause to this end.

Verse 10

10. With a sword in my bones—The reproaches of my enemies pierce me to the bones like a dagger, or they are as a crushing “in my bones.”

Verse 11

11. Why art thou cast down, O my soul—The refrain is repeated from Psalms 42:5, where see note. Whether we take נפשׁ, (soul,) here as distinct from רוח, (spirit,) according to the later Greek trichotomy, or consider the former as synonymous with the latter, in either case, and from the very design of the apostrophe, we have here the highest proof of a nature in man superior to the organic or psychical, rising by faith in God victorious over all infirmities and disasters of the latter, as its nature and existence are distinct from and independent of it. It is the spiritual and immortal nature asserting its superiority over the instinctive and perishable.

Health of my countenance—Hebrew, Deliverance, or salvation, of my face. The word rendered “health,” here, is the same as is rendered “help” in Psalms 42:5, where also we have “his” (God’s) countenance, instead of “my” countenance, as here. That is, in Psalms 42:5 God turns his face towards David as a token and pledge of his delivering grace, and this revives and gladdens the countenance of the suppliant. The language is strongly oriental.


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 42:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

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