Psalm 42 Study Notes
Ps 42 title On Maskil, see note at Ps 32 title. The phrase sons of Korah appears in the titles of eleven psalms (42; 44-49; 84-85; 87-88). According to 1Ch 9:17-24 and 26:1-19, the Korahites were the gatekeepers in the temple. In 2Ch 20:19 they stood up in the congregation of Israel and praised the Lord. Most scholars believe they became associated with musicians (perhaps a group of singers) who were involved in the worship of the Lord. Many have argued that although Pss 42 and 43 are separated in the Hebrew text, they might actually have been composed as one psalm. One reason is that there is no title for the latter. While this is not unusual in comparison to all the psalms, in the second book only Pss 43 and 71 lack titles. The strongest evidence for connecting the two psalms is the occurrence of the same questions and responses in 42:5,11 and 43:5. These verses seem to end each of the sections of the psalms consisting of three strophes or poetic divisions. Psalm 43 would be the third strophe if they were joined as one psalm.
42:1-2 Longing and thirsting pictures a prolonged drought where even the animals are dying (Jr 14:1-6; Jl 1:20). Flowing streams recalls the blessings of God for the righteous who are often represented by flourishing trees (see note at 1:3). Also, in the shepherd image of 23:2 the Lord leads his people to refreshing water. What the psalmist desired was to appear before God (lit “see the face of God”), which probably refers to receiving God’s blessing and favor in his presence (84:7).
42:4 The house of God means the sanctuary of God where the Lord dwelt among his people (see note at 5:6-7). The house of God represents his presence, which for some reason was distant from the psalmist; he longed to be back among God’s people in the context of worship.
42:5 The questions and the response of v. 5 also appear in v. 11 and in 43:5 (perhaps because Ps 43 is part of this psalm; see note at Ps 42 title). The psalmist was speaking to himself (my soul) in an attempt to bring comfort and security. In answer to the questions focusing on his depression, he literally commands himself to hope in God. This means waiting on God during a time of crisis, trusting that he will answer prayer (see note at 27:14). The point the psalmist seems to be making is that there was no reason for his depression if God was his Savior. The fact that he repeated this several times shows the difficulty of internalizing this truth.
42:6 The geographical descriptions could refer to the place where the psalmist was praying since he was distant from the sanctuary, according to v. 3. The land of Jordan could refer to the entire Jordan River Valley, but in connection with Mount Hermon, which was in the extreme north of Israel, it probably refers to the sources for the river in the mountains of northern Israel. Mount Mizar is not as easy to identify, but it was probably part of the same mountain range as Mount Hermon in the north.
42:7 This verse is perhaps related to the Jordan River in v. 6. Even if this is the case, the imagery goes beyond the physical and describes the depths of the psalmist’s depression symbolized by deep waters churning around and sweeping over him. For similar imagery, see 18:4-5; 29:10-11; 32:6-7.
42:10 The taunt is the same as in v. 3. This reflects a common belief by the enemies of the psalmist that the Lord was not concerned about the plight of his servant and would not act (3:2; 22:7-8; 71:11).