Psalms 42 Commentary

BOOK 2: PSALMS 42-72

Psalms 42-43 Longing for God’s temple

In many ancient manuscripts Psalms 42 and 43 form one psalm. Together they express the sorrow of a devout worshipper, possibly a temple singer, who lived in the far north of Israel (see 42:6) and could no longer go to worship at the temple in Jerusalem. This may have been because the kingdom was now divided, and the northern king would not allow his people to travel into the southern territory, where Jerusalem was situated. The king rejected the religion that was based in Jerusalem and set up his own idol-gods, one near his southern border and one in the far north where the writer of this psalm lived

(1 Kings 12:28-29).

The psalmist’s longing to draw near to God in his temple is likened to the intense thirst of an animal that seeks water in a dry sunburnt country (42:1-2). Ungodly friends mock him for having such strong feelings for a God who, living far away in Jerusalem, can be of no help to him (3). When he recalls how in former times he had led groups of singing worshippers to Jerusalem, his confidence in God is strengthened (4-5). As he watched the waters of those fast-flowing northern streams tumbling over the rocks, he felt that those waters were like the troubles that tumbled over him, almost drowning him in sorrow (6-7). But through all the disappointments and all the mockings of his enemies he knows that God will keep him (8-11).

Meanwhile the psalmist is still in an unsettled state of mind, because God has not yet given him his heart’s desire (43:1-2). Then, as he considers the certainty of God’s character, his confidence returns. He knows he will meet God at his altar on Mount Zion again (3-5).

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