Psalm 42:5
Why are you cast down, O my soul? and why are you disquieted in me? hope you in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.
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(5) Why art thou.—The refrain here breaks in on the song like a sigh, the spirit of dejection struggling against the spirit of faith.

Cast down.—Better, as in margin, bowed down, and in the original with a middle sense, “why bowest thou down thyself?”

Disquieted.—From root kindred to and with the meaning of our word “hum.” The idea of “internal emotion” is easily derivable from its use. We see the process in such expressions as Isaiah 16:11, “My bowels shall sound like a harp for Moab.”

For the help of his countenance.—There is no question but that we must read the refrain here as it is in Psa. 42:12, and in Psalm 43:5. The LXX. and Vulg. already have done so, and one Hebrew MS. notices the wrong accentuation of the text here. The rhythm without this change is defective, and the refrain unnecessarily altered. Such alteration, however, from comparison of Psalm 24:8; Psalm 24:10; Psalm 49:12; Psalm 49:20; Psalm 56:4; Psalm 56:10; Psalm 59:9; Psalm 59:17, is not unusual.

Psalm 42:5. Why art thou cast down, O my soul — With excessive sorrow and despair. Why art thou disquieted within me? — Is there any cause that anxiety of mind should put thee into a state of such perturbation, as if all hopes of this felicity were lost for ever? Hope thou in God — Trust in him, and patiently wait upon him. For I shall yet praise him — The time will come when I shall go again to his house, and praise him for his favour toward me. For the help of his countenance — Hebrew, For the salvations of his face, for those supports, deliverances, and comforts, which, I doubt not, I shall ere long enjoy, both in his presence and sanctuary, to which he will restore me, and from his presence, and the light of his countenance, which he will graciously afford me. 42:1-5 The psalmist looked to the Lord as his chief good, and set his heart upon him accordingly; casting anchor thus at first, he rides out the storm. A gracious soul can take little satisfaction in God's courts, if it do not meet with God himself there. Living souls never can take up their rest any where short of a living God. To appear before the Lord is the desire of the upright, as it is the dread of the hypocrite. Nothing is more grievous to a gracious soul, than what is intended to shake its confidence in the Lord. It was not the remembrance of the pleasures of his court that afflicted David; but the remembrance of the free access he formerly had to God's house, and his pleasure in attending there. Those that commune much with their own hearts, will often have to chide them. See the cure of sorrow. When the soul rests on itself, it sinks; if it catches hold on the power and promise of God, the head is kept above the billows. And what is our support under present woes but this, that we shall have comfort in Him. We have great cause to mourn for sin; but being cast down springs from unbelief and a rebellious will; we should therefore strive and pray against it.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;

(3) to be agitated, troubled, or anxious in mind: to moan internally. See the notes at Isaiah 16:11; compare Jeremiah 48:36.

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.

5. Hence he chides his despondent soul, assuring himself of a time of joy.

help of his countenance—or, "face" (compare Nu 6:25; Ps 4:6; 16:11).

Why art thou cast down with excessive sorrow and despair?

For the help of his countenance, Heb. for the salvations of his face, i.e. for those supports, deliverances, and comforts which I doubt not I shall ere long enjoy, both in his presence and sanctuary, to which he will restore me, and from his presence, and the light of his countenance, which he will graciously afford to me. Why art thou cast down, O my soul?.... The psalmist corrects himself, as being too much depressed in spirit with his present circumstances, and expostulates with himself; adding,

and why art thou disquieted in me? which suggests, that the dejections of God's people are unreasonable ones; sin itself is no just cause and reason of them; for though it is very disagreeable, loathsome, and abhorring, troublesome and burdensome, to a spiritual man, and is ingenuously confessed, and heartily mourned over, and is matter of humiliation; yet no true reason of dejection: because there is forgiveness of it with God; the blood of Christ has been shed for the remission of it; it has been bore and done away by him; nor is there any condemnation for it to them that are in him; and though it rages, and threatens to get the ascendant; yet it is promised it shall not have the dominion over the saints; neither the nature of it, being great, as committed against God himself, nor the multitude of sins, nor the aggravated circumstances of them, are just causes of dejection, since the blood of Christ cleanses from all sin; nor are Satan and his temptations; he is indeed an enemy, very powerful, subtle, and terrible; he is the strong man armed, the old serpent, and a roaring lion; and his temptations are very troublesome and grieving; and it becomes the saints to be upon their guard against him and them; but they have no reason to be cast down on account hereof; for God, who is on the side of his people, is mightier than he; Christ is stronger than the strong man armed, and the divine Spirit who is in them is greater than he that is in the world: Satan is under divine restraints, and can go no further in tempting than he is suffered, and his temptations are overruled for good; besides, good armour is provided for the Christian to fight against him with, and in a short time he will be bruised under his feet: nor are the hidings of God's face a sufficient reason of dejection; for though such a case is very distressing, and gives great trouble to those that love the Lord; nor can they, nor does it become them to sit easy and unconcerned in such circumstances, as they are great trials of faith and patience; yet it is the experience of the people of God in all ages: some good ends are answered hereby, as to bring saints to a sense of sins, which has deprived them of the divine Presence, to make them prize it the more when they have it, and to be careful of losing it for the future. Besides, the love of God continues the same when he hides and chides; and he will return again, and will not finally and totally forsake his people; and in a little while they shall be for ever with him, and see him as he is; and though by one providence or another they may be deprived for a while of the word, worship, and ordinances of God, he that provides a place for his church, and feeds and nourishes her in the wilderness, can make up the lack of such enjoyments by his presence and Spirit. The means and methods the psalmist took to remove his dejections and disquietudes of mind are as follow;

hope thou in God; for the pardon of sin; for which there is good ground of hope, and so no reason to be cast down on account of it; for strength against Satan's temptations, which is to be had in Christ, as well as righteousness; and for the appearance of God, and the discoveries of his love, who has his set time to favour his people, and therefore to be hoped, and quietly waited for. Hope is of great use against castings down; it is an helmet, an erector of the head, which keeps it upright, and from bowing down: it is an anchor of the soul, sure and steadfast, and is of great service in the troubles of life, and against the fears of death;

for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance; or "the salvations of his countenance" (h); which implies that the psalmist believed, notwithstanding his present circumstances, that he should have salvation upon salvation; salvation of every kind; or a full and complete one, which should spring, not from any merits of his, but from the free grace and favour of God, expressed in his gracious countenance towards him; and also intimates, that the light of his countenance would be salvation to him (i) now; and that his consummate happiness hereafter would lie in beholding his face for evermore: all which would give him occasion and opportunity of praising the Lord. Now such a faith and persuasion as this is a good antidote against dejections of soul, and disquietude of mind; see Psalm 27:13.

(h) "salutes faciei ipsius", Cocceius; so Michaelis. (i) "Salutes sunt facies ejus", De Dieu.

Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? {e} hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.

(e) Though he sustained grievous assaults of the flesh to cast him into despair, yet his faith grounded on God's accustomed mercies gets the victory.

5. In this refrain the truer ‘self’ chides the weaker ‘soul,’ the emotional nature, for its despondency and complaint.

cast down] Bowed down as a mourner. Cp. Psalm 35:14; Psalm 38:6.

The resemblance of our Lord’s words in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:38; Mark 14:34) to the Sept. rendering of this verse, Why art thou exceeding sorrowful, O my soul? (ἵνα τί περίλυπος εἶ, ἡ ψυχή;) suggests that this Psalm may have been in His mind at the time; the more so as He appears to use the words of Psalm 42:6, which the Sept. renders, My soul is troubled (ἡ ψυχή μου ἑταράχθη), in a similar connexion upon another occasion (John 12:27). In view of this it is interesting to remember that the hart is a common emblem for our Lord in Christian art.

disquieted in me] Lit. moanest, or frettest upon me, the same idiom as in Psalm 42:4. Cp. Psalm 77:3; Jeremiah 4:19.

hope thou in God] Or, wait thou for God. Cp. Psalm 38:15; Psalm 39:7; Micah 7:7.

praise him] Or, give him thanks, as in past time (Psalm 42:4).

for the help of his countenance] This is the reading of the Massoretic Text. But the construction is peculiar, and the LXX and Syr. suggest that we ought to read here as in Psalm 42:11, and Psalm 43:5, (Who is) the help of my countenance and my God. But O my God should be retained at the beginning of Psalm 42:6, where it is needed[22]. The help (lit. salvations, the plur. denoting manifold and great deliverances, as in Psalm 28:8) of my countenance is a periphrasis for my help, facilitated by phrases like to look upon or turn away the face of a person (Psalm 84:9; Psalm 132:10).

[22] The error arose very simply from the transference of the ו from the beginning of ואלהי to the end of מני, so that מני ואלהי became מניו אלהי. Then אלהי was assumed to be merely an accidental repetition of אלהי at the beginning of Psalm 42:6, and dropped out.Verse 5. - Why art thou cast down? or, Why art thou bowed down? i.e. brought low - a term indicative of the very extreme of dejection. O my soul. The spirit, or higher reason, rebukes the "soul," or passionate nature, for allowing itself to be so depressed, and seeks to encourage and upraise it. And why art thou so disquieted in me? rather, Why dost thou make thy moan over me? literally, make a roaring noise like the sea (comp. Psalm 46:3; Jeremiah 4:19; Jeremiah 5:22). Hope thou in God (comp. Psalm 33:22; Psalm 39:7, etc.). For I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance. Another reading assimilates the refrain here to the form which it takes in ver. 11 and in Psalm 43:5. But, as Hengstenberg observes, Hebrew poets, and indeed poets generally, avoid an absolute identity of phrase, even in refrains (see Psalm 24:8, 10; Psalm 49:12, 20; Psalm 56:4, 11, etc.). (Heb.: 41:11-13) Having now described their behaviour towards him, sick in soul and body as he is, so devoid of affection, yea, so malignantly hostile and so totally contrary to the will and promise of God, David prays that God would raise him up, for he is now lying low, sick in soul and in body. The prayer is followed, as in Psalm 39:14 and many other passages, by the future with ah: that I may be able to requite them, or: then will I requite them. What is meant is the requiting which it was David's duty as a duly constituted king to exercise, and which he did really execute by the power of God, when he subdued the rebellion of Absalom and maintained his ground in opposition to faithlessness and meanness. Instead of בּזאת אדע (Genesis 42:33, cf. Genesis 15:8, Exodus 7:17; Numbers 16:28; Joshua 3:10) the expression is בּזאת ידעתּי in the sense of (ex hoc) cognoverim. On חפצתּ בּי cf. Psalm 18:20; Psalm 22:9; Psalm 35:27. By the second כּי, the בּזאת, which points forwards, is explained. The adversatively accented subject ואני stands first in Psalm 41:13 as a nom. absol., just as in Psalm 35:13. Psalm 41:13 states, retrospectively from the standpoint of fulfilment, what will then be made manifest and assure him of the divine good pleasure, viz., Jahve upholds him (תּמך as in Psalm 63:9), and firmly sets him as His chosen one before Him (cf. Psalm 39:6) in accordance with the Messianic promise in 2 Samuel 7:16, which speaks of an unlimited future.
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