Psalm 42 – “Petition of Longing – Part I”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
The psalmist describes his yearning for God.

II. Photo
The psalmist is nostalgic: “When I think of this, I pour out my soul: how I walked with the crowd, moved with them, the festive throng, to the House of God with joyous shouts of praise!” (v. 5)

III. Select Verses    
2-4: Like a hind crying for water, my soul cries for You, O God; my soul thirsts for God, the living God; O when will I come to appear before God! My tears have been my food day and night; I am ever taunted with, “Where is your God?”
6: Why so downcast, my soul, why disquieted within me? Have hope in God; I will yet praise Him for His saving presence.
7-8:  O my God, my soul is downcast; therefore I think of You in this land of Jordan and Hermon, in Mount Mizar, where deep calls to deep in the roar of Your cataracts; all Your breakers and billows have swept over me.
10-11: I say to God, my rock, “Why have You forgotten me, why must I walk in gloom, oppressed by my enemy?” Crushing my bones, my foes revile me, taunting me always with, “Where is your God?”

IV. Outline
1. Superscription
2-5. Invocation, devotional complaint
6. First refrain
7-11. Devotional complaint
11-12. Second refrain

V. Comment
Note that the refrains in vv. 6, 12 and 43:5 are almost exactly the same: “Why so downcast, my soul, why disquieted within me? Have hope in God; I will yet praise Him, my ever-present help, my God.” Because of this, many scholars understand pss 42-43 as being one unit. Craigie writes: “There is extensive agreement among the majority of interpreters that Pss 42 and 43 should be interpreted as a single psalm, for the following reasons: (a) many [Hebrew manuscripts] present the psalms as a single unit; (b) Ps 43 has no title, which is surprising in Book II of the Psalter; and (c) they are joined by a common refrain (42:6, 12; 43:5). The reason for the separation into the two extant units is not known; it may originate with [the Septuagint], which provides a title for Ps 43 (“a psalm of David”), which in turn may have reflected an interpretation of the distinction between lament (Ps 42) and prayer (Ps 43). If the division of the original psalm was as early as [the Septuagint], then it is also the case that the unity (after the division) was recognized from an early period, at least as early as the time of Eusebius.” (326)

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Collins, John J. “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible,” (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
Craigie, Peter C. “Psalms 1-50” Word Biblical Commentary vol. 19 (Waco, Texas: Wordbooks, 1983).
Gerstenberger, Erhard S. “Psalms Part 1 with an Introduction to Cultic Poetry” Forms of Old Testament Literature (Michigan: Eerdmans, 1988).
Photo taken from