As the hart panteth after the water-brooks - Margin, brayeth. The word rendered hart - איל 'ayâl - means commonly a stag, hart, male deer: Deuteronomy 12:15; Deuteronomy 14:5; Isaiah 35:6. The word is masculine, but in this place is joined with a feminine verb, as words of the common gender may be, and thus denotes a hind, or female deer. The word rendered in the text "panteth," and in the margin "brayeth" - ערג ‛ârag - occurs only in this place and in Joel 1:20, where it is applied to the beasts of the field as "crying" to God in a time of drought. The word properly means to rise; to ascend; and then, to look up toward anything; to long for. It refers here to the intense desire of the hind, in the heat of day, for water; or, in Joel, to the desire of the cattle for water in a time of drought. Luther renders it "cries;" the Septuagint and Vulgate render it simply "desires."
Neither the idea of panting nor braying seems to be in the original word. It is the idea of looking for, longing for, desiring, that is expressed there. By 'water-brooks' are meant the streams that run in vallies. Dr. Thomson (Land and the Book, vol. i., p. 253) says, "I have seen large flocks of these panting harts gather round the water-brooks in the great deserts of Central Syria, so subdued by thirst that you could approach quite near them before they fled." There is an idea of tenderness in the reference to the word "hart" here - female deer, gazelle - which would not strike us if the reference had been to any other animal. These are so timid, so gentle, so delicate in their structure, so much the natural objects of love and compassion, that our feelings are drawn toward them as to all other animals in similar circumstances. We sympathize with them; we pity them; we love them; we feel deeply for them when they are pursued, when they fly away in fear, when they are in want. The following engraving will help us more to appreciate the comparison employed by the psalmist. Nothing could more beautifully or appropriately describe the earnest longing of a soul after God, in the circumstances of the psalmist, than this image.
So panteth my soul after thee, O God - So earnest a desire have I to come before thee, and to enjoy thy presence and thy favor. So sensible am I of want; so much does my soul need something that can satisfy its desires. This was at first applied to the case of one who was cut off from the privileges of public worship, and who was driven into exile far from the place where he had been accustomed to unite with others in that service Psalm 42:4; but it will also express the deep and earnest feelings of the heart of piety at all times, and in all circumstances, in regard to God. There is no desire of the soul more intense than that which the pious heart has for God; there is no want more deeply felt than that which is experienced when one who loves God is cut off by any cause from communion with him.
My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?
My soul thirsteth for God - That is, as the hind thirsts for the running stream.
For the living God - God, not merely as God, without anything more definitely specified, but God considered as living, as himself possessing life, and as having the power of imparting that life to the soul.
When shall I come and appear before God? - That is, as I have been accustomed to do in the sanctuary. When shall I be restored to the privilege of again uniting with his people in public prayer and praise? The psalmist evidently expected that this would be; but to one who loves public worship the time seems long when he is prevented from enjoying that privilege.
My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is thy God?
My tears have been my meat - The word rendered tears in this place is in the singular number, and means literally weeping. Compare Psalm 39:12. The word meat here means literally bread, and is used in the general signification of food, as the word meat is always used in the English version of the Bible. The English word meat, which originally signified food, has been changed gradually in its signification, until it now denotes in common usage animal food, or flesh. The idea here is, that instead of eating, he had wept. The state described is that which occurs so often when excessive sorrow takes away the appetite, or destroys the relish for food, and occasions fasting. This was the foundation of the whole idea of fasting - that sorrow, and especially sorrow for sin, takes away the desire for food for the time, and leads to involuntary abstinence. Hence arose the correlative idea of abstaining from food with a view to promote that deep sense of sin, or to produce a condition of the body which would be favorable to a proper recollection of guilt.
Where is thy God? - See Psalm 3:2; Psalm 22:8. The meaning here is, "He seems to be utterly forsaken or abandoned by God. He trusted in God. He professed to be his friend. He looked to him as his protector. But he is now forsaken, as if he had no God; and God is treating him as if he were none of his; as if he had no love for him, and no concern about his welfare."
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.
When I remember these things - These sorrows; this banishment from the house of God; these reproaches of my enemies. The verb used here is in the future tense, and would be appropriately rendered "I will remember these things, and I will pour out my soul within me." That is, it is not a mere recollection of the past, but it indicates a state or purpose of mind - a solemn resolution to bear these things ever in remembrance, and to allow them to produce a proper impression on his mind and heart that would not be effaced by time. Though the future tense is used as denoting what the state of his mind would be, the immediate reference is to the past. The sorrows and afflictions which had overwhelmed him were the things he would remember.
I pour out my soul in me - Hebrew, upon me. See the notes at Job 30:16. The idea is derived from the fact that the soul in grief seems to be dissolved, or to lose all firmness, consistency, or power, and to be like water. We speak now of the soul as being melted, tender, dissolved, with sympathy or grief, or as overflowing with joy.
For I had gone with the multitude - The word here rendered "multitude" - סך sâk - occurs nowhere else in the Scriptures. It is supposed to denote properly a thicket of trees; a thick wood; and then, a crowd of men. The Septuagint renders it, "I will pass on to the place of the wonderful tabernacle," σκηνῆς θαυμαστῆς skēnēs thaumastēs. So the Latin Vulgate. Luther translates it, "multitude," Haufen. The Hebrew verb is in the future - "I shall pass," or "when I pass," indicating a confident expectation of a favorable issue of his present trials, and referring not to the fact that he had gone with the multitude in time past, but to the fact that he would be permitted to go with them in solemn procession to the house of God, and that then he would recall these things, and pour out his soul in the fullness of his emotions. The Septuagint renders this in the future; so also the Latin Vulgate, DeWette, and Prof. Alexander. Luther renders it, "For I would gladly go hence with the multitude." It seems clear, therefore, that this does not refer to what had been in the past, but to what he confidently hoped and expected would be in the future. He expected again to go with the multitude to the house of God. Even in his exile, and in his sorrows, he confidently anticipated this, and he says that he would then pour forth the full expression of gratitude - his whole soul - in view of all these things which had occurred. He was now in exile: his heart was overwhelmed with sorrow; he was away from the place of worship - the house of God; he no longer went with others with solemn steps to the sanctuary, but he hoped and expected again to be permitted to do so; and, in view of this, he calls on his soul Psalm 42:5 not to be cast down. This interpretation, referring it to the future, also brings this part of the psalm into harmony with the subsequent part Psalm 42:8, where the author of the psalm confidently expresses the same hope.
I went with them to the house of God - The tabernacle; the place of public worship. See the notes at Psalm 23:6. The Hebrew verb here is also in the future tense, and, in accordance with the interpretation above, the meaning is, "I will go," etc. The word occurs only here, and in Isaiah 38:15, "I shall go softly all my years." See the word explained in the notes at that passage. It seems here to be used with reference to a movement in a slow and solemn procession, as in the usual processions connected with public worship among the Hebrews. The meaning is, that he would go with the multitude with seriousness and solemnity, as they went up to the house of God to worship.
With the voice of joy and praise - Chanting hymns to God.
With a multitude that kept holyday - The word here rendered "multitude" - המון hâmôn - is different from that which is employed in the former part of the verse. This is the usual word to denote a multitude. It literally means a noise or sound, as of rain, 1 Kings 18:41; then, a multitude or crowd making a noise, as of nations, or of an army, Isaiah 13:4; Judges 4:7; Daniel 11:11-13. The word rendered "that kept holyday" - חוגג chogēg - from חגג châgag, to dance - means literally dancing; dancing in a circle; and then, keeping a festival, celebrating a holyday, as this was done formerly by leaping and dancing, Exodus 5:1; Leviticus 23:41. The meaning is, that he would join with the multitude in the joyful celebrations of public worship. This was the bright anticipation before him in exile; this cheered and sustained his heart when sinking in despair.
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.
Why art thou cast down, O my soul? - Margin, bowed down. The Hebrew word means to bow down, to incline oneself; then, usually, to prostrate oneself as in public worship; and then, to sink down under the weight of sorrow; to be depressed and sad. The Septuagint renders it, "Why art thou grieved?" - περίλυπος perilupos. So the Vulgate. This is an earnest remonstrance addressed by himself to his own soul, as if there were really no occasion for this excessive depression; as if he cherished his grief improperly. There was a brighter side, and he ought to turn to that, and take a more cheerful view of the matter. He had allowed his mind to rest on the dark side, to look at the discouraging things in his condition. He now felt that this was in some measure voluntary, or had been indulged too freely, and that it was wrong: that it was proper for a man like him to seek for comfort in brighter views; that it was a duty which he owed to himself and to the cause of religion to take brighter views. We may remark,
(1) That there are two sides to the events which occur, and which seem so discouraging to us - a dark side and a bright side.
(2) That in certain states of mind, connected often with a diseased nervous system, we are prone to look only on the dark side, to see only what is gloomy and discouraging.
(3) That this often becomes in a sense voluntary, and that we find a melancholy satisfaction in being miserable, and in making ourselves more unhappy, as if we had been wronged, and as if there were a kind of virtue in dejection and gloom - in "refusing," like Rachel, "to be comforted" Jeremiah 31:15; perhaps also feeling as if by this we were deserving of the divine approbation, and laying the foundation for some claim to favor on the score of merit.
(4) That in this we are often eminently guilty, as putting away those consolations which God has provided for us; as if a man, under the influence of some morbid feeling, should find a kind of melancholy pleasure in starving himself to death in the midst of a garden full of fruit, or dying of thirst by, the side of a running fountain. And
(5) That it is the duty of the people of God to look at the bright side of things; to think of the past mercies of God; to survey the blessings which surround us still; to look to the future, in this world and the next, with hope; and to come to God, and cast the burden on him. It is a part of religious duty to be cheer ful; and a man may often do more real good by a cheerful and submissive mind in times of affliction, than he could by much active effort in the days of health, plenty, and prosperity. Every sad and desponding Christian ought to say to his soul, "Why art thou thus cast down?"
And why art thou disquieted in me? - Troubled, sad. The word means literally,
(1) to growl as a bear;
(2) to sound, or make a noise, as a harp, rain, waves;
Hope thou in God - That is, trust in him, with the hope that he will interpose and restore thee to the privileges and comforts heretofore enjoyed. The soul turns to God when all other hope fails, and finds comfort in the belief that he can and will aid us.
For I shall yet praise him - Margin, give thanks. The idea is, that he would yet have occasion to give him thanks for his merciful interposition. This implies a strong assurance that these troubles would not last always.
For the help of his countenance - literally, "the salvations of his face," or his presence. The original word rendered help is in the plural number, meaning salvations; and the idea in the use of the plural is, that his deliverance would be completed or entire - as if double or manifold. The meaning of the phrase "help of his countenance" or "face," is that God would look favorably or benignly upon him. Favor is expressed in the Scriptures by lifting up the light of the countenance on one. See the notes at Psalm 4:6; compare Psalm 11:7; Psalm 21:6; Psalm 44:3; Psalm 89:15. This closes the first part of the psalm, expressing the confident belief of the psalmist that God would yet interpose, and that his troubles would have an end; reposing entire confidence in God as the only ground of hope; and expressing the feeling that when that confidence exists the soul should not be dejected or cast down.
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.
O my God, my soul is cast down within me - This is the utterance of a soul in anguish, notwithstanding the purpose not to be cast down, and the conviction that hope ought to be cherished. The psalmist cannot but say that, despite all this, he is sad. His troubles come rushing over his soul; they all return at once; his heart is oppressed, and he is constrained to confess that, notwithstanding his solemn purpose not to be sad, and the conviction that he ought to be cheerful, and his wish to be and to appear so, yet his sorrows get the mastery over all this, and his heart is filled with grief. What sufferer has not felt thus? When he really wished to trust in God; when he hoped that things would be better; when he saw that he ought to be calm and cheerful, his sorrows have returned like a flood, sweeping all these feelings away for the time, filling his soul with anguish, compelling him to form these resolutions anew, and driving him afresh to the throne of grace, to beat back the returning tide of grief, and to bring the soul to calmness and peace.
Therefore will I remember thee - I will look to thee; I will come to thee; I will recall thy former merciful visitations. In this lone land; far away from the place of worship; in the midst of these privations, troubles, and sorrows; surrounded as I am by taunting foes, and having no source of consolation here, I will remember my God. Even here, amidst these sorrows, I will lift up my heart in grateful remembrance of him, and will think of him alone. The words which follow are designed merely to give an idea of the desolation and sadness of his condition, and of the fact of his exile.
From the land of Jordan - Referring probably to the fact he was then in that "land." The phrase would denote the region adjacent to the Jordan, and through which the Jordan flowed, as we speak of "the valley of the Mississippi," that is the region through which that river flows. The lands adjacent to the Jordan on either side were covered with underbrush and thickets, and were, in former times, the favorite resorts of wild animals: Jeremiah 49:19; Jeremiah 50:44. The psalmist was on the eastern side of the Jordan.
And of the Hermonites - The land of the Hermonites. The region in which Mount Hermon is situated. This was on the northeast of Palestine, beyond the Jordan. Mount Hermon was a ridge or spur of Antilibanus: Joshua 11:3, Joshua 11:17. This spur or ridge lies near the sources of the Jordan. It consists of several summits, and is therefore spoken of here in the plural number, Hermonim, the Hebrew plural of Hermon. These mountains were called by the Sidonians, Sirion. See the notes at Psalm 29:6. Different names were given to different parts of these sum mits of the mountain-ranges. The principal summit, or Mount Hermon properly so called, rises to the height of ten or twelve thousand feet, and is covered with perpetual snow; or rather, as Dr. Robinson says (Biblical Researches, iii. 344), the snow is perpetual in the ravines; so that the top presents the appearance of radiant stripes around and below the summit. The word is used here with reference to the mountain-region to which the general name of Hermon was given on the northeast of Palestine, and on the east of the sources of the Jordan. It would seem not improbable that after passing the Jordan the psalmist had gone in that direction in his exile.
From the hill Mizar - Margin, the little hill. So the Septuagint, the Latin Vulgate, and Luther. DeWette renders it as a proper name. The word Mizar, or Mitsar (Hebrew), means properly smallness; and thus, anything small or little. The word seems here, however, to be used as a proper name, and was probably applied to some part of that mountain-range, though to what particular portion is now unknown. This would seem to have been the place where the psalmist took up his abode in his exile. As no such name is now known to be given to any part of that mountain-range, it is impossible to identify the spot. It would seem from the following verse, however, that it was not far from the Jordan.
Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.
Deep calleth unto deep - The language used here would seem to imply that the psalmist was near some floods of water, some rapid river or water-fall, which constituted an appropriate illustration of the waves of sorrow that were rolling over his soul. It is not possible to determine exactly where this was, though, as suggested in the verse above, it would seem most probable that it was in the vicinity of the upper portion of the Jordan; and doubtless the Jordan, if swollen, would suggest all that is conveyed by the language used here. The word rendered deep - תהום tehôm - means properly a wave, billow, surge, and then, a mass of waters; a flood - the deep; the sea. In this latter sense it is used in Deuteronomy 8:7; Ezekiel 31:4; Genesis 7:11; Job 28:14; Job 38:16, Job 38:30; Psalm 36:6. Here it would seem to mean merely a wave or billow, perhaps the waves of a rapid stream dashing on one shore, and then driven to the opposite bank, or the torrents pouring over rocks in the bed of a stream. It is not necessary to suppose that this was the ocean, nor that there was a cataract or water-fall. All that is meant here would be met by the roaring waters of a swollen river. The word "calleth," here means that one wave seemed to speak to another, or one wave responded to another. See a similar expression in Psalm 19:2, "Day unto day uttereth speech." Compare the notes at that verse.
At the noise of thy water-spouts - literally, "at the voice." That is, "water-spouts" make a noise, or seem to give forth a voice; and this appears to be as if one part of the "deep" were speaking to another, or as if one wave were calling with a loud voice to another. The word "water-spouts" - צנור tsinnor - occurs only here and in 2 Samuel 5:8, where it is rendered gutter. It properly means a cataract, or a water-fall, or a water-course, as in 2 Samuel. ny pouring of water - as from the clouds, or in a swollen river, or in a "water spout," properly so called - would correspond with the use of the word here. It may have been rain pouring down; or it may have been the Jordan pouring its floods over rocks, for it is well known that the descent of the Jordan in that part is rapid, and especially when swollen; or it may have been the phenomena of a "water-spout," for these are not uncommon in the East. There are two forms in which "waterspouts" occur, or to which the name is given in the east, and the language here would be applicable to either of them.
One of them is described in the following manner by Dr. Thomson, Land and the Book, vol. i., pp. 498, 499: "A small black cloud traverses the sky in the latter part of summer or the beginning of autumn, and pours down a flood of rain that sweeps all before it. The Arabs call it sale; we, a waterspout, or the bursting of a cloud. In the neighborhood of Hermon I have witnessed it repeatedly, and was caught in one last year, which in five minutes flooded the whole mountain side, washed away the fallen olives - the food of the poor - overthrew stone walls, tore up by the roots large trees, and carried off whatever the tumultuous torrents encountered, as they leaped madly down from terrace to terrace in noisy cascades. Every summer threshing-floor along the line of its march was swept bare of all precious food, cattle were drowned, flocks disappeared, and the mills along the streams were ruined in half an hour by this sudden deluge."
The other is described in the following language, and the above engraving will furnish an illustration of it. Land and the Book, vol, ii., pp. 256, 257: "Look at those clouds which hang like a heavy pall of sackcloth over the sea along the western horizon. From them, on such windy days as these, are formed waterspouts, and I have already noticed several incipient "spouts" drawn down from the clouds toward the sea, and ... seen to be in violent agitation, whirling round on themselves as they are driven along by the wind. Directly beneath them the surface of the sea is also in commotion by a whirlwind, which travels onward in concert with the spout above. I have often seen the two actually unite in mid air, and rush toward the mountains, writhing, and twisting, and bending like a huge serpent with its head in the clouds, and its tail on the deep." We cannot now determine to which of these the psalmist refers, but either of them would furnish a striking illustration of the passage before us.
All thy waves and thy billows are gone over me - The waves of sorrow; anguish of soul; of which rolling floods would be an emblem. The rushing, and heaving, and restless waters furnished the psalmist with an illustration of the deep sorrows of his soul. So we speak of "floods of grief ... floods of tears," "oceans of sorrows," as if waves and billows swept over us. And so we speak of being "drowned in grief;" or "in tears." Compare Psalm 124:4-5.
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.
Yet the Lord will command his loving-kindness in the daytime - literally, "By day the Lord will command his mercy;" that is, he will so order or direct his mercy or his favor. The word "daytime" here refers evidently to prosperity; and the expectation of the psalmist was that a time of prosperity would return; that he might hope for better days; that the loving-kindness of God would again be manifested to him. He did not wholly despair. He expected to see better times (compare the notes at Psalm 42:5); and, in view of this, and in the confident assurance of it, he says in the subsequent part of the verse that even in the night - the season of calamity - his song should be unto God, and he would praise Him. Some, however, as DeWette, have understood the words "daytime" and "night" as synonymous with "day and night;" that is, at all times; implying an assurance that God would always show his loving-kindness. But it seems to me that the above is the most correct interpretation.
And in the night his song shall be with me - I will praise him, even in the dark night of calamity and sorrow. God will even then give me such views of himself, and such manifest consolations, that my heart will be full of gratitude, and my lips will utter praise. See the notes at Job 35:10; compare Acts 16:25.
And my prayer unto the God of my life - To God, who has given me life, and who preserves my life. The meaning is, that in the dark night of sorrow and trouble he would not cease to call on God. Feeling that he had given life, and that he was able to sustain and to defend life, he would go to him and supplicate his mercy. He would not allow affliction to drive him from God, but it should lead him the more earnestly and fervently to implore his aid. Afflictions, God's apparently severe dealings, which it might be supposed would have a tendency to turn people from God, are the very means of leading them to him.
I will say unto God my rock, Why hast thou forgotten me? why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?
I will say unto God my rock - I will appeal to God as my defense, my helper, my Saviour. On the word rock, as applied to God, see the notes at Psalm 18:2.
Why hast thou forgotten me? - See the notes at Psalm 22:1. He had seemed to forget and forsake him, for He did not come to interpose and save him. This is a part of the prayer which he says Psalm 42:8 that he would use.
Because of the oppression of the enemy - In the oppression of the enemy; that is, during its continuance, or on account of it. The word here rendered "oppression" means distress, affliction, straits, Job 36:15; 1 Kings 22:27; Isaiah 30:20. The "enemy" here referred to may have been Absalom, who had driven him from his throne and kingdom.
As with a sword in my bones, mine enemies reproach me; while they say daily unto me, Where is thy God?
As with a sword in my bones - Margin, killing. The treatment which I receive in their reproaches is like death. The word rendered "sword" - רצח retsach - means properly killing, slaying, breaking in pieces, crushing. It occurs only here and in Ezekiel 21:22, where it is rendered slaughter. The Septuagint renders it, "In the bruising of my bones they reproach me." The Vulgate, "While they break my bones they reproach me." Luther, "It is as death in my bones, that my enemies reproach me." The idea in the Hebrew is, that their reproaches were like breaking or crushing his very bones. The idea of the "sword" is not in the original.
Mine enemies reproach me - That is, as one forsaken of God, and as suffering justly under his displeasure. Their argument was, that if he was truly the friend of God, he would not leave him thus; that the fact of his being thus abandoned proved that he was not a friend of God.
While they say daily unto me - They say this constantly. I am compelled to hear it every day.
Where is thy God? - See the notes at Psalm 42:3.
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.
Why art thou cast down, O my soul? - This closes the second strophe of the psalm, and, with one or two slight and immaterial variations, is the same as that which closes the first Psalm 42:5. In this latter, the word "why" is inserted, and the expression "the salvation of my countenance" occurs instead of "salvations of his countenance," with the addition of the words "and my God" at the close. The sense, however, is the same; and the verse contains, as before, self-reproof for being thus cast down, and self-exhortation to put trust in God. In the former part of the psalm Psa 42:5 he had addressed this language to himself, as designed to impress his own mind with the guilt of thus yielding to discouragement and sorrow; but he had then almost immediately admitted that his mind was distressed, and that he was cast down; here he rallies again, and endeavors to arouse himself to the conviction that he ought not to be thus depressed and dejected. He exhorts himself, therefore; he charges his own soul to hope in God. He expresses again the assurance that he would yet be permitted to praise him. He regards God now as the "salvation of his countenance," or as his Deliverer and Friend, and expresses the conviction that he would yet make such manifestations of himself as to clear up and illuminate his countenance, at present made dark and saddened by affliction; and he appeals to him now as "his God." He has reached the true source of comfort to the afflicted and the sad - the living God as his God; and his mind is calm. Why should a man be sorrowful when he feels that he has a God? Why should his heart be sad when he can pour out his sorrows before Him? Why should he be cast down and gloomy when he can hope: hope for the favor of God here; hope for immortal life in the world to come!