As the hart pants after the water brooks, so pants my soul after you, O God.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)As the hart panteth.—“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” (Thomson, Land and Book, p. 172).Psalm 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 Psalm 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.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.
Ps 42:1-11. Maschil—(See on Ps 32:1, title). For, or of (see Introduction) the sons of Korah. The writer, perhaps one of this Levitical family of singers accompanying David in exile, mourns his absence from the sanctuary, a cause of grief aggravated by the taunts of enemies, and is comforted in hopes of relief. This course of thought is repeated with some variety of detail, but closing with the same refrain.
1, 2. Compare (Ps 63:1).
2 My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God?
3 My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is thy God?
4 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.
5 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.
"As the hart panteth after the waterbrooks, so panteth my soul after thee, 0 God." As after a long drought the poor fainting hind longs for the streams, or rather as the hunted hart instinctively seeks after the river to lave its smoking flanks and to escape the dogs, even so my weary, persecuted soul pants after the Lord my God. Debarred from public worship, David was heartsick. Ease he did not seek, honour he did not covet, but the enjoyment of communion with God was an urgent need of his soul; he viewed it not merely as the sweetest of all luxuries, but as an absolute necessity, like water to a stag. Like the parched traveller in the wilderness, whose skin bottle is empty, and who finds the wells dry, he must drink or die - he must have his God or faint. His soul, his very self, his deepest life, was insatiable for a sense of the divine presence. As the hart brays so his soul prays. Giro him his God and he is as content as the poor deer which at length slakes its thirst and is perfectly happy; but deny him his Lord, and his heart heaves, his bosom palpitates, his whole frame is convulsed, like one who gasps for breath, or pants with long running. Dear reader, dost thou know what this is, by personally having felt the same? It is a sweet bitterness. The next best thing to living in the light of the Lord's love is to be unhappy till we have it, and to pant hourly after it - hourly, did I say? thirst is a perpetual appetite, and not to be forgotten, and even thus continual is the heart's longing after God. When it is as natural for us to long for God as for an animal to thirst, it is well with our souls, however painful our feelings. We may learn from this verse that the eagerness of our desires may be pleaded with God, and the more so, because there are special promises for the importunate and fervent.
"My soul." All my nature, my inmost self. "Thirsteth." Which is more than hungering; hunger you can palliate, but thirst is awful, insatiable, clamorous, deadly. O to have the most intense craving after the highest good! this is no questionable mark of grace. "For God." Not merely for the temple and the ordinances, but for fellowship with God himself. None but spiritual men can sympathise with this thirst. "For the living God." Because he lives, and gives to men the living water; therefore we, with greater eagerness, desire him. A dead God is a mere mockery; we loathe such a monstrous deity; but the ever-living God, the perennial fountain of life and light and love, is our soul's desire. What are gold, honour, pleasure, but dead idols? May we never pant for these. "When shall I come and appear before God?" He who loves the Lord loves also the assemblies wherein his name is adored. Vain are all pretences to religion where the outward means of grace have no attraction. David was never so much at home as in the house of the Lord; he was not content with private worship; he did not forsake the place where saints assemble, as the manner of some is. See how pathetically he questions as to the prospect of his again uniting in the joyous gathering! How he repeats and reiterates his desire! After his God, his Elohim (his God to be worshipped, who had entered into covenant with him), he pined even as the drooping flowers for the dew, or the moaning turtle for her mate. It were well if all our resortings to public worship were viewed as appearances before God, it would then be a sure mark of grace to delight in them. Alas, how many appear before the minister, or their fellow men, and think that enough! "To see the face of God" is the nearer translation of the Hebrew; but the two ideas may be combined - he would see his God and be seen of him; this is worth thirsting after!
"My tears have been my meat day and night." Salt meats, but healthful to the soul. When a man comes to tears, constant tears, plenteous tears, tears that fill his cup and trencher, he is in earnest indeed. As the big tears stand in the stag's eyes in her distress, so did the salt drops glitter in the eyes of David. His appetite was gone, his tears not only seasoned his meat, but became his only meat, he had no mind for other diet. Perhaps it was well for him that the heart could open the safety valves; there is a dry grief far more terrible than showery sorrows. His tears since they were shed because God was blasphemed, were "honourable dew," drops of holy water, such as Jehovah putteth into his bottle. "While they continually say unto me, Where is thy God?" Cruel taunts come naturally from coward minds. Surely they might have left the mourner alone; he could weep no more than he did - it was a supererogation of malice to pump more tears from a heart which already overflowed. Note how incessant was their jeer, and how artfully they framed it! It cut the good man to the bone to have the faithfulness of his God impugned. They had better have thrust needles into his eyes than have darted insinuations against his God. Shimei may here be alluded to who after this fashion mocked David as he fled from Absalom. He roundly asserted that David was a bloody man, and that God was punishing him for supplanting Saul and his house; his wish was father to his thought. The wicked know that our worst misfortune would be to lose God's favour, hence their diabolical malice leads them-to declare that such is the case. Glory be to God, they lie in their throats, for our God is in the heavens, ay, and in the furnace too, succouring his people.
"When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me." When he harped upon his woes his heart melted into water and was poured out upon itself. God hidden, and foes raging, a pair of evils enough to bring down the stoutest heart! Yet why let reflections so gloomy engross us, since the result is of no value: merely to turn the soul on itself, to empty it from itself into itself is useless, how much better to pour out the heart before the Lord! The prisoner's treadwheel might sooner land him in the skies than mere inward questioning raise us nearer to consolation. "For I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God." Painful reflections were awakened by the memory of past joys; he had mingled in the pious throng, their numbers had helped to give him exhilaration and to awaken holy delight, their company had been a charm to him as with them he ascended the hill of Zion. Gently proceeding with holy ease, in comely procession, with frequent strains of song, he and the people of Jehovah had marched in reverent ranks up to the shrine of sacrifice, the dear abode of peace and holiness. Far away from such goodly company the holy man pictures the sacred scene and dwells upon the details of the pious march. "With the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday." The festive noise is in his ears, and the solemn dance before his eyes. Perhaps he alludes to the removal of the ark and to the glorious gatherings of the tribes on that grand national holy day and holiday. How changed his present place! For Zion, a wilderness.; for the priests in white linen, soldiers in garments of war; for the song, the sneer of blasphemy; for the festivity, lamentation; for joy in the Lord, a mournful dirge over his absence.
"I sigh to think of happier days
so panteth my soul after thee, O God; being persecuted by men, and deprived of the word and worship of God, which occasioned a vehement desire after communion with him in his house and ordinances: some render the words, "as the field", or "meadow, desires the shower", &c. (e); or thirsts after it when parched with drought; see Isaiah 35:7; and by these metaphors, one or the other, is expressed the psalmist's violent and eager thirst after the enjoyment of God in public worship.
(c) Aristot. Hist. Animal. l. 4. c. 11. (d) Lexic. Pentaglott. Colossians 68. so Kimchi. (e) Sept. & Symmachus apud Drusium.<
(a) As a treasure to be kept by them, who were of the number of the Levites.
(b) By these comparisons of the thirst and panting, he shows his fervent desire to serve God in his temple.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)1. As a hind which panteth for water-brooks,
So panteth my soul for Thee, O God.
Render hind, not hart, for the verb is feminine, and the timorous hind is the apter emblem for the soul. The parallel in Joel 1:20 (the only other instance of the verb) makes it clear that the figure is suggested by the sufferings of wild animals in a prolonged drought (cp. Jeremiah 14:5 f.), not by the hind “heated in the chase,” and deterred by the fear of its pursuers from descending into the valley to slake its thirst.
1, 2. The yearning of the Psalmist’s soul for communion with God.Verse 1. - As the hart panteth after the water-brooks. Stags and hinds need abundant water, especially in hot countries, and, in time of drought, may be said, with a slight poetical licence, to "pant," or "cry" (Joel 1:20) for it. They are still found in Palestine (Tristram, ' Land of Israel,' pp. 418, 447), though rather scarce. So panteth my soul after thee, O God. The "panting" of the soul does not mean any physical action, but a longing desire for a Messing that is, at any fate for a time, withheld. 2 Samuel 12:19, to whisper to one another, or to whisper among themselves; the Hithpa. sometimes (cf. Genesis 42:1) has a reciprocal meaning like the Niphal. The intelligence brought out by hypocritical visitors of the invalid concerning his critical condition is spread from mouth to mouth by all who wish him ill as satisfactory news; and in fact in whispers, because at that time caution was still necessary. עלי stands twice in a prominent position in the sense of contra me. רעה לּי belong together: they maliciously invent what will be the very worst for him (going beyond what is actually told them concerning him). In this connection there is a feeling in favour of בּליּעל being intended of an evil fate, according to Psalm 18:5, and not according to Psalm 101:3 (cf. Deuteronomy 15:9) of pernicious or evil thought and conduct. And this view is also supported by the predicate יצוּק בּו: "a matter of destruction, an incurable evil (Hitzig) is poured out upon him," i.e., firmly cast upon him after the manner of casting metal (Job 41:15.), so that he cannot get free from it, and he that has once had to lie down will not again rise up. Thus do we understand אשׁר in Psalm 41:9; there is no occasion to take it as an accusative by departing from the most natural sense, as Ewald does, or as a conjunction, as Hitzig does. Even the man of his peace, or literally of his harmonious relationship (אישׁ שׁלום as in Obadiah 1:7, Jeremiah 20:10; Jeremiah 38:22), on whom he has depended with fullest confidence, who did eat his bread, i.e., was his messmate (cf. Psalm 55:15), has made his heel great against him, lxx ἐμεγάλυνεν ἐπ ̓ ἐμὲ πτερνισμόν. The combination הגדּיל עקב is explained by the fact that עקב is taken in the sense of a thrust with the heel, a kick: to give a great kick, i.e., with a good swing of the foot.
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