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Bible Commentaries

Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

Psalms 42

Verses 1-11

This Ps. and the following one are closely connected, and it is practically certain that they were originally one. Psalms 43 has no separate title, and its closing refrain occurs twice in Psalms 42 (Psalms 42:5, Psalms 42:11). Both Pss. belong to a time when the Temple worship was in full activity, and the writer is a Levite who is detained in the N. of Palestine (Psalms 42:6), and beset by enemies, apparently heathen (Psalms 42:9; Psalms 43:1-2), who taunt him about his God (Psalms 42:3, Psalms 42:10). He longs to return and take his part in the Temple service, and is confident that God will yet fulfil his desire.

Title.—Maschil] see on Psalms 32. For (RV ’of’) the sons of Korah] i.e. from a collection compiled by the Levitical guild bearing that name.

2. Appear before God] in the Temple at Jerusalem. 4. Read, ’These things would I remember as I pour out my soul within me.’ AV and RV suggest that the Psalmist’s memories of better days add to his sorrow; but the meaning is rather that they give him hope. For I had gone, etc.] RV ’how I went with the throng, and led them to the house of God.’ Holyday] a sacred festival, the original meaning of ’holiday.’

5. For the help of his countenance] We should probably read, ’who is the health of my countenance and my God,’ as in Psalms 42:11, Psalms 43:5.

6. Land of Jordan.. Hermonites] RV ’land of Jordan and the Hermons,’ the sources of the Jordan in the NE. of Palestine. The plural ’Hermons’ refers to the separate peaks of the mountain. The hill Mizar] the ’little mountain,’ some lower hill in the same locality.

7. At the noise of thy waterspouts] better, ’in the roar of thy cataracts,’ the cascades that rush down Hermon when the snow melts in spring. Thy waves and.. billows] a figure for trouble, probably in this case suggested by the appearance of the Jordan in flood.

8. And my prayer] RVeven a prayer.’

10. As with a sword in my bones] better, ’as though they would crush my bones,’ the whole framework of my being.

Verses 1-20

Book 2

The second and third Books of the Psalter (Psalms 42-72, 73-89) are but the two parts of a whole, the largest section of which (Psalms 42-83) is called the Elohistic Psalter, because the name Elohim (God) is used almost exclusively instead of the name Jehovah (the Lord), which is predominant in the rest of the Psalms. It is evident from the contents of these two books that the Elohistic compiler gathered them from at least three earlier collections, for Psalms 42-49 are Psalms of the Korahites (43 is part of 42), as are also Psalms 84-89 (except 86); Psalms 50, 73-83 are Psalms of Asaph; while Psalms 51-72, 86, are Psalms of David. Psalms 72 originally ended a collection of Psalms attributed to David; and it is a plausible conjecture that Psalms 42-50 once stood after Psalms 72, the Davidic Psalms being thus together and the subscription (Psalms 72:20) appropriate.

Taking Book 2 by itself, we may notice that in the Davidic collection Psalms 66, 67 did not originally belong to it, while Psalms 72 is called ’a psalm of Solomon.’ The great majority of these Pss. have the rendering in AY ’To the chief musician’; indicating (see Intro.) that they had been included in the collection of the Chief Musician as well as in that of the Elohistic collector, both of these editors working on previously existing collections. Psalms 53 is an Elohistic form of Psalms 14, and Psalms 70 of Psalms 40:13-17 while Psalms 57:7-11 and Psalms 60:5-12 are combined in Psalms 108. Several of the Davidic Psalms in this book are referred by their titles to incidents in David’s life; these are of varying degrees of probability, and are discussed in their places.

It is difficult to classify the Pss. according to their subjects or references, but a rough division may be attempted. Thus, (a) Psalms 42, 43, 51, 54, 55, 56, 57, 59, 61, 64, 69, 70, 71 are prayers for personal help and deliverance; (b) Psalms 44, 46, 47, 48, 62 are thanksgivings, and breathe the spirit of confidence and triumph; (c) Psalms 45 is a marriage ode; (d) Psalms 49 is a didactic piece akin to the book of Proverbs; (e) Psalms 65 is a thanksgiving in time of harvest. References to the Temple as the centre of worship are found in Psalms 42, 43, 48, 50, 65. The following are quoted in the NT.: 44, 45, 48, 50, 55, 82, 67, 68, and 69. The writers of the Pss. in this Book evince the same perfect trust in God and confidence in His power to relieve them from their troubles, as are exhibited in the first Book.

Several of the Pss., such as the 51st, have an unmistakable personal tone; and there are not wanting indications of a highly spiritual view of religious worship and ritual. The desire of the true Israelite is not only for the Temple (Psalms 42:4), but ’for God, for the living God.’ Burnt offerings are of small account in the sight of Him to whom belongs ’the world and the fulness thereof’ (Psalms 50:7-14). ’The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit’ (Psalms 51:17).

In this Book the 45th and 72nd Pss. are usually classed as Messianic. They both describe the character of the ideal king, ruling in righteousness, watching over the poor and punishing the oppressor, having dominion over subject nations ’from sea to sea,’ and being blessed by all nations, because they have been blessed by him. Probably they were written in connexion with definite historical events—in the one case the marriage of a king, in the other a king’s accession to the throne; still they unite themselves with that Messianic hope which gradually took shape among the Jews, and came to fill a large place in their religious thought.

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Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Psalms 42". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". 1909.