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Bible Commentaries

Scott's Explanatory Notes, Practical Observations on the book Psalms

Psalms 42

Verses 1-11

Psalms 42:1-11. Title. This is rendered in the old translation, " A Psalm to give instruction, committed to " the sons of Korah." This Psalm begins the second book, according to the division made by the Jews. It has not David’s name prefixed to it : yet there is little doubt that he composed it, when driven from Jerusalem and beyond Jordan, by Absalom’s rebellion ; (6. Notes, 2 Samuel 17:17-29 ;) and when he was thus deprived of the benefit and comfort of publick ordinances, under his complicated afflictions, and imminent dangers. (Notes, 3:)

V 1- 3. The disconsolate state of the Psalmist’s mind is illustrated, by one of the most expressive comparisons that can be imagined. The hart, or deer, when covered with dust and sweat, having been long chased on a sultry day, is ready to faint and die, and pants, or brays, (marg.) to euench his extreme thirst from the brooks of water. (Joel 1:20. Heb.) Thus David longed and mourned after the courts of God : but still more for the living God himself; for his presence and favour, and those pleasures, which lie had enjoyed in communion with him.

(Notes, Psalms 63:1-4; Psalms 84:1-2. Psalms 143:6. Matthew 5:6. Revelation 7:13-17) The want of these consolations was the more grievous, because his former confidence was now openly derided, and it was thought, that God had deserted him, and would not, or could not, afford him any relief. (Notes, 9, 10. Psalms 3:1-2; Psalms 22:7-8.) These taunts and reproaches so distressed him, that he lost his appetite for his food, and tears were as his meat continually, his only solace and relief, day and night.

V. 4, 5. In this distressing situation, the Psalmist recollected former times, till his soul was even " poured " out," or melted, within him. (xxii. 14.) He had been used to accompany the multitude to the house of God, upon their solemn feast-days ; and he counted it his chief honour and happiness, to join in their sacred songs of joy and praise: (Notes, 2 Samuel 6:1-23. 1 Chronicles 15:16:)

but now he was driven as an exile far from that sacred scene ; and Jerusalem itself was profaned by the wickedness of his adversaries. Yet still he was fully convinced, that he ought not to yield to despondency : he would there- fore call his soul to account, for being thus cast down and disquieted ; enquiring of it what adequate cause could be assigned for it. Past experience and repeated express promises combined to encourage his hope, that God would yet favour, comfort, and help him, which would be done effectually with a look or a smile ; for " his presence is "salvation." Margin. (Notes, 1.Sam.30.6.)

V. 6- 8. As the Psalmist’s dejection continued, notwithstanding his earnest strivings against it, he next complains of it to his God ; being resolved to remember him with faith, and hope, and prayer, though he was apparently turned to be his enemy ; and though he was banished from mount Zion, into a remote part of the land beyond Jordan, to some little hill (marg.) in the land of Hermon. The word Mizar is justly rendered in other places, small, or little. (2 Chronicles 24:24. Is. 63. 18. Heb.) His sorrows were so complicated, and his outward calamities and inward anguish so combined, that he was like a ship in a violent storm, when assaulted by one billow after another, as if they called upon each other to concur in its destruction ; while the water-spouts, rushing with impetuous force into the ocean, with a dreadful noise, also called upon it to unite in overwhelming the astonished mariners, who sink into the deep, where all the waves and billows go over them. Thus David seemed ready to be swallowed up by his enemies ; who, along with his inward distresses, were as water-spouts, waves, and billows, with which God seemed ready to overwhelm him for his sins. (Notes,Psalms 69:14-15. 2 Samuel 22:5-6. Jonah 2:3-4.) Yet he trusted that he would command these storms into a calm. (Notes, Psalms 107:23-30. Matthew 8:23-27.) He hoped that in dueseason, God would discover his loving-kindness to him, which would be as the return of the day to his soul ; and therefore he would praise him for the past, and make his prayer unto him, as " the God of his life," even in the darkest night of sorrow and trouble. Or, he resolved to make the mercies of every day the subject of his praise, and the encouragement of his hope and prayer during the night-season, when pain or uneasiness prevented his sleep.

(Notes, Job 35:9-13. Isaiah 30:29-32. Acts 16:25-28.)

V. 9, 10. The Psalmist was sensible, that God was chastening him for his sins ; but he was also conscious of being truly penitent. He likewise knew that his cause was that of God and righteousness, and that his enemies hated him for his religion. So that he could not but wonder, on what account God, his Rock, (Note, 2 Samuel 22:2-3,) should so long forget his servant, and leave his oppressors to prosper ; while they put him to extreme torture, by their impious sarcasms and reproachful enquiries. (Note, 13.)

V. 11 . ’ This repetition doth declare, that David did not overcome at once ; to teach us to be constant, for as ’ much as God will certainly deliver his. The concluding words are rather varied : The salvations of my countenance, and my God." (Note, 4, 5.) The deliverances and consolations of God, his Salvation, had often made the Psalmist lift up his face with joy and gladness ; and

he trusted he should again praise him for similar mercies. (Note, 2 Corinthians 1:8-11.)


The believer, in proportion to the degree in which he is spiritually-minded, will continually either be rejoicing in the living God, or mourning after him. The thirsty hart does not more eagerly pant and bray for the refreshing stream, than the lively Christian desires the consolations of the Holy Spirit, and the tokens of the love and presence of God : nothing else can afford him satisfaction ; and temptations, afflictions, and discouraging delays increase the spiritual appetite, and make him the more to thirst for these living waters. He therefore values publick ordinances, and delights in attending on them ; so that it is indeed a great affliction to him to be banished, or confined at a distance. Yet, unless he meet his God, and enjoy communion with him, he returns even from his courts disappointed and dissatisfied : and he looks especially with longing expectation for that season, when he shall appear before him in the temple above, and be for ever satisfied in his favour, and in that joy with which his manifested glory fills every enraptured beholder. (Note, Matthew 5:8.)

But the comfort of his hope is often abated, and even turned into mourning, in this evil world, by the insults and blasphemies of those, who deride his confidence in God, as presumption or delusion ; especially when he is under divine rebukes, or bereft of external advantages. In such seasons of distress and prevailing iniquity, he recollects more pleasant and prosperous days, when he Assembled with the people of God, and joined in his worship with the voice of joy and praise ; and, comparing them with present trials, he is apt to yield to impatience and despondency. It behoves us however, under, every distress, to call ourselves to account ; and to enquire why we are so cast down and disquieted. We may have great cause to mourn for sin, and to pray against prevailing impiety : but our great dejection, even under the severest outward afflictions or inward trials, springs from unbelief and a rebellious will we should therefore strive and pray against it, and endeavour to hope in God, persuaded that we shall " yet praise him for the salvation of his countenance." Our enemies may indeed drive us from publick ordinances, deprive us of our Bibles, banish us into deserts, or immure us in prisons ; but they cannot bereave us of the favour of our God, or preclude our approach to the throne of grace. Let us then complain unto him, and remember his mercy and power, under every disconsolation. And if one trouble follow hard after another ; if divine rebukes from above, the assaults of hell from beneath, and the insults of men, like floods, waves, and water-spouts, seem to combine for our ruin ; let us remember that they all are appointed and over-ruled by the Lord, and that we deserve more than all we endure on earth : let us recollect how Jesus said, " My soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death and how he suffered both from the cruelty of man, the rage of Satan, and the justice of the Father : yet was he heard and delivered. In his name, let us hope and pray one word from him will calm every storm, turn the midnight darkness into the light of noon, and the bitterest complaints into joyful praises. We should then employ our time, under tedious and discouraging trials, in praising God for his mercies to his church and to us, and in prayer for deliverance. Ere long our night of sorrow will finally terminate, and eternal day will succeed. Let us then never think that the God of our life," and " the Rock " of our salvation hath forgotten us ; " if we have indeed made his mercy, truth, and power our refuge. Even though we cannot but " go mourning, because of oppression of the enemy ; " and though the reproaches of the ungodly are painful as " a sword in our bones ; " yet we should struggle against despondency, and still hope in God, and praise him : his favour will be the health and help of our souls, and he will be " our Shield and

exceeding great Reward."

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Bibliographical Information
Scott, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 42". Scott's Explanatory Notes, Practical Observations on the book Psalms. 1804.