Psalm 42


In the second book of the Psalms, we see several texts that relate to the fears that troubled people and the paths to which they turn for help. We learn about the true and the false grounds for hope in a world of uncertainty.

In Book 2 we find that 18 psalms are ascribed to David and 1 to Solomon, Psalm 72, the rest are anonymous. In Book 1 the name ‘Yahweh’ is found 273 times. In Book 2 the name ‘Yahweh’ is found 74 times. In Book 3 the name ‘Yahweh’ is found 13 times and finally, in Books 4 and 5, the name ‘Yahweh’ is found 339 times. As you can see the name ‘Yahweh’ is more popular in Book 1.

In Book 1 the name ‘Elohim’ is found 15 times. In Book 2 the name ‘Elohim’ is found 207 times. In Book 3 the name, ‘Elohim’ is found 36 times and finally, in Books 4 and 5, the name ‘Elohim’ is found 7 times. As you can see, the name ‘Elohim’ is more popular in Book 2.

This psalm is another psalm of lament, we’re not told who the author is, but the psalmist appears to be in exile among those who don’t believe in God.

While the psalmist is in exile, they reminisce the times when they were able to go to the house of God together with other believers to worship Him.

Some commentators believe that this psalm and the next psalm actually belong together as one psalm.


‘For the director of music. A maskil of the Sons of Korah.’

Although the headings aren’t inspired by God, they are important because they give us some understanding of the Psalm and they help us to see why it was written. The headings usually tell us four things.

1. Who wrote them, probably wrote them or possibly wrote them.

2. Information about the historical background to the Psalm. Why it was written.

3. They tell us of the tune the Psalm was written to.

4. How it was used.

The heading tells us that this is a psalm for the director of music. Some commentators believe that the ‘director of music’ is God Himself and others believe that it is a song leader who led choirs or musicians, 1 Chronicles 6:33 / 1 Chronicles 16:17 / 1 Chronicles 25:6.

No one really knows what the word ‘maskil’ means, some believe it’s a musical term or a literary term. The word is used thirteen times throughout the Psalms, Psalm 32 / Psalm 42 / Psalm 44 / Psalm 45 / Psalm 52 / Psalm 53 / Psalm 54 / Psalm 55 / Psalm 74 / Psalm 78 / Psalm 88 / Psalm 89 / Psalm 142. The word is also used in Amos 5:13.

The sons of Korah were Levites, from the family of Kohath, who by the time of David, served in the musical aspect of the temple worship, 1 Chronicles 9:19 / 1 Chronicles 26:1 / 1 Chronicles 26:19 / 2 Chronicles 20:19. It was David who originally organised the temple singers, 1 Chronicles 15:17 / 1 Chronicles 16:41-42 / 1 Chronicles 25:4-5.

Korah is probably most famous for his role in the rebellion against Moses during the wilderness days of the Exodus, Numbers 16 / Jude 11. God judged Korah and his leaders and they all died, but the sons of Korah remained, Numbers 26:9-11. It’s possible they were so grateful for this mercy that they became prominent in Israel for praising God.

‘As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng. Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.’ Psalm 42:1-5

The psalmist begins by liking their thirst for God as a deer who is thirsty, Deuteronomy 12:15 / Deuteronomy 14:5 / Isaiah 35:6. They crave communion with God, Romans 12:1-2, their souls thirst for the living God. The psalmist appears to be contrasting the pagan dead gods with the true living God, who is alive and active in the lives of people, Jeremiah 10:10.

The psalmist’s longing to have communion with God is seen in the question, ‘where can I go and meet with God?’ The answer of course was God’s house, Exodus 23:15 / Exodus 25:30, the place where God dwells and where the ark of the covenant was present, 1 Chronicles 13:10 / 2 Samuel 6:7.

It appears the more their enemies asked the psalmist, ‘where is your God?’, Psalm 42:10, the more they get upset. They constantly cry, Psalm 1:2 / Psalm 39:12, and their tears have become their food, that is, their tears keep them going.

The psalmist may have also been asking himself this very question, they may have felt alone and abandoned by God, Psalm 3:2 / Psalm 22:8.

The psalmist remembers how life was like when they and other believers went to worship God in His house, that is the tabernacle, Psalm 23:6. They ‘pour out their soul’, Job 30:16, that is, their soul just melts, as these memories of the good old days which were filled with shouts of joy and praise bring back a lot of joy.

The psalmist remembers how protected they felt by the Mighty One, they remember the shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng.

The ‘festive throng’, is a reference to all the holidays within the Jewish calendar, these were times of great celebrations, eating, drinking and spending a lot of time together, this would include the feasts of Passover, Exodus 12, Pentecost, Exodus 34:22-23 / Leviticus 23:1-19, and the Tabernacle, Deuteronomy 26:1-11.

The psalmist continues to ask themselves why they are so upset, but then they turn to God for hope. They will praise Him, they will praise their Saviour, God.

Some translations end this verse with the words, ‘the help of his countenance’, Psalm 4:6 / Psalm 11:7 / Psalm 21:6 / Psalm 44:3 / Psalm 89:15, which means, the psalmist is hoping that God would look favourably upon them.

‘My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life. I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?” My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?” Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.’ Psalm 42:6-11

It appears that every time the psalmist feels down, they chose to remember. Here, they remember when they were in the land of Jordan, Jeremiah 49:19 / Jeremiah 50:44, where Mount Hermon is. This is where David once fled when his son, Absalom, rebelled against him, 2 Samuel 15:19-37.

The psalmist’s life was like one flood coming after another, they were being overcome by the floods of those who opposed them. The rushing, heaving, and restless waters provided the psalmist with an illustration of the deep sorrows of their soul, Psalm 124:4-5.

The psalmist remembers God’s love once again, Psalm 42:5, whilst feeling down, and when they do, they want to praise God. Regardless of how they are feeling, regardless of all the turmoil, which is happening around them, they want to sing praises to God, Job 35:10 / Acts 16:25, their hope remained in God.

Despite God being their Rock, who is their helper and Saviour, Psalm 18:2, the psalmist appears to think that God has forgotten them, or forsaken them, Psalm 22:1, as a result, they were mourning, Psalm 35:14 / Psalm 38:6. They felt oppressed by their enemies, and they felt in distress, Job 36:15 / 1 Kings 22:27 / Isaiah 30:20.

When their enemies asked, ‘where is your God?’, they felt like their enemies’ words were cutting them down, crushing them, Ezekiel 21:22. Because their enemies said this to them all day long, that is constantly, the psalmist felt like God had indeed forgotten and abandoned them.

Once again, the psalmist in the midst of their distress, remembers God and puts their hope in Him. They will continue to praise God, their Saviour, no matter how they are feeling and no matter what their enemies may say.


Whilst in exile, the psalmist felt really despondent but they remembered the good old days, the joyful days of the festive celebrations, the days when they praised God and worshipped Him at the tabernacle and the days when they were in the land of Jordan.

As Christians, when we’re feeling despondent, it may be helpful for us to reminisce about the good old days. The days when we were together with God’s people in worship, the days when we just blasted out, from the depths of our hearts songs of praise, Ephesians 5:19 / Colossians 3:16 / Hebrews 13:15.

When we’re feeling down, those are the times to remember our times together with God’s people outside of worship times, Hebrews 10:23-25.

Those are the times to remember that all is not lost, God hasn’t forgotten us or forsaken us, but He is still our living hope and Saviour, Psalm 71:5 / Psalm 39:7 / Psalm 43:5 / Lamentations 3:24 / 1 Peter 1:3.

Go To Psalm 43


"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."