Verse 1. - As the hart panteth after the water-brooks. Stags and hinds need abundant water, especially in hot countries, and, in time of drought, may be said, with a slight poetical licence, to "pant," or "cry" (Joel 1:20) for it. They are still found in Palestine (Tristram, ' Land of Israel,' pp. 418, 447), though rather scarce. So panteth my soul after thee, O God. The "panting" of the soul does not mean any physical action, but a longing desire for a Messing that is, at any fate for a time, withheld.
My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?
Verse 2. - My soul thirsteth for God (comp. Psalm 63:1; Psalm 143:6; Isaiah 55:1). The devout soul is always athirst for God. David felt his severance from the tabernacle and its services as a sort of severance from God himself, whom he was accustomed to approach through the services of the sanctuary (see 2 Samuel 15:25, 26). For the living God. This title of God occurs only in one other psalm (Psalm 84:2); but it was a title familiar to David (1 Samuel 17:27). It is first used in Deuteronomy 5:26; and, later, in Joshua 3:10; 2 Kings 19:4, 16; Isaiah 37:4, 17; Jeremiah 10:10; Jeremiah 23:36; Daniel 6:26; Hosea 1:10. It expresses that essential attribute of God that he is "the eternal Life" (1 John 5:20), the Source and Origin of all life, whether angelic, human, or animal. When shall I come and appear before God? Appearance in the tabernacle must here be specially meant, but with this David connects his return to God's favour and to the light of his countenance (2 Samuel 15:25).
My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is thy God?
Verse 3. - My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is thy God? (comp. Psalm 80:9, "Thou feedest them with the bread of tears;" and Ovid, 'Metaph.,' 10:288, "Cure dolorque animi, lachrymaeque, alimenta fuere" - "They who grieve deeply do not eat; they only weep;" yet they live on, so that their tears appear to be their aliment). David's grief at being shut out from God's presence is intensified by the reproaches of his enemies, "Where is thy God?" i.e. "Is he not wholly gone from thee? Has he not utterly cast thee off?" (comp. 2 Samuel 16:8).
When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me: for I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday.
Verse 4. - When I remember these things; rather, these things I remember - the things remembered being those touched on in the rest of the verse - his former free access to the house of God, and habit of frequenting it, especially on festival occasions, when the multitude "kept holy day." "Deep sorrow," as Hengstenberg remarks, "tries to lose itself in the recollection of the happier past." I pour out my soul in me. "The heart pours itself out, or melts in any one, who is in a manner dissolved by grief and pain." David does not alleviate his sorrow, but aggravates it, by thinking of the happy past. "Nessun muggier dolore che ricordarsi di tempo felice nella miseria" (Dante). For I had gone (rather, how I went) with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holy day (comp. 2 Samuel 6:12-19).
Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.
Verse 5. - Why art thou cast down? or, Why art thou bowed down? i.e. brought low - a term indicative of the very extreme of dejection. O my soul. The spirit, or higher reason, rebukes the "soul," or passionate nature, for allowing itself to be so depressed, and seeks to encourage and upraise it. And why art thou so disquieted in me? rather, Why dost thou make thy moan over me? literally, make a roaring noise like the sea (comp. Psalm 46:3; Jeremiah 4:19; Jeremiah 5:22). Hope thou in God (comp. Psalm 33:22; Psalm 39:7, etc.). For I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance. Another reading assimilates the refrain here to the form which it takes in ver. 11 and in Psalm 43:5. But, as Hengstenberg observes, Hebrew poets, and indeed poets generally, avoid an absolute identity of phrase, even in refrains (see Psalm 24:8, 10; Psalm 49:12, 20; Psalm 56:4, 11, etc.).
O my God, my soul is cast down within me: therefore will I remember thee from the land of Jordan, and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar.
Verse 6. - O my God, my soul is cast down within me; or, bowed down, as in the first clause of ver. 5. Therefore will I remember thee. As a remedy for my depression, I will call thee to mind, and cast myself on thee. From the land of Jordan. From the place of my present abode - the Trans-Jordanic region - to which, on the revolt of Absalom, David had fled (2 Samuel 17:24). And of the Hormonites; rather, and of the Hermons. This expression is not elsewhere used, and can only be explained conjecturally. It probably means the mountain ranges which, starting from Hermon in the north, extend in a southerly direction down the entire Trans-Jordanic territory. From the hill Mizar. This name occurs nowhere else; and can be assigned to no special locality.
Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.
Verse 7. - Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts. Blow follows blow. Misfortunes "come not in single file, but in battalions." The imagery may be taken from the local storms that visit the Trans-Jordanic territory (see Lynch, 'Expedition to the Jordan and the Dead Sea;' and Wilson, 'Negeb,' pp. 26, 27). All thy waves and thy billows are gone over me (comp. Psalm 69:1, 2; Psalm 88:7, 17; Psalm 144:7).
Yet the LORD will command his lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life.
Verse 8. - Yet the Lord will command his loving-kindness in the daytime. Notwithstanding all these present woes, God wilt at some time "command" his loving-kindness to make itself apparent (comp. Psalm 44:4; Psalm 68:28), and both "in the daytime" and in the night will so comfort me that his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life; i.e. I shall offer him both praise and prayer continually both day and night (Psalm 92:2) for his great mercies.
I will say unto God my rock, Why hast thou forgotten me? why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?
Verse 9. - I will say unto God my Rock (comp. Psalm 18:1; Psalm 31:3). Why hast thou forgotten me? (see the comment on Psalm 13:1). God does not forget even when he most seems to forget (comp. Psalm 9:12; Psalm 37:28). As the event showed, he had not now forgotten David (see 2 Samuel 19:9-40). Why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? Why am. I allowed to remain so long an exile, sorrowing and oppressed (comp. Psalm 43:2)? Even to repentant sinners God's judgments are apt to seem too severe, too much prolonged, too grievous.
As with a sword in my bones, mine enemies reproach me; while they say daily unto me, Where is thy God?
Verse 10. - As with a sword in my bones, mine enemies reproach me. The reproaches of his enemies were as daggers struck into his bones; or, according to others, as blows that crushed his bones (LXX.). So keenly did he feel them. The worst of all was that they could say daily unto him, Where is thy God? What has become of him? Has he wholly forsaken thee (see above, ver. 3)?
Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.
Verse 11. - Why art thou cast down (or, bowed down), O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me! hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him. Thus far is identical with ver. 5; but what follows is slightly different: who is the health of my countenance, and my God, instead of "for the help (health?) of his countenance." Most commentators assimilate the text in ver. 5 to that of the present verse, which can be effected by a mere alteration of the pointing; but Hengstenberg, Kay, Professor Alexander, and others regard the variant forms as preferable.