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Psalms 42:1

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

As the hart panteth after the water brooks - The hart is not only fond of feeding near some water for the benefit of drinking, "but when he is hard hunted, and nearly spent, he will take to some river or brook, in which," says Tuberville, "he will keep as long as his breath will suffer him. Understand that when a hart is spent and sore run, his last refuge is to the water; and he will commonly descend down the streame and swimme in the very middest thereof; for he will take as good heede as he can to touch no boughes or twygges that grow upon the sides of the river, for feare lest the hounds should there take sent of him. And sometimes the hart will lye under the water, all but his very nose; and I have seene divers lye so until the hounds have been upon them, before they would rise; for they are constrayned to take the water as their last refuge." - Tuberville's Art of Venerie, chapter 40: Lond. 4th., 1611.

The above extracts will give a fine illustration of this passage. The hart feels himself almost entirely spent; he is nearly hunted down; the dogs are in full pursuit; he is parched with thirst; and in a burning heat pants after the water, and when he comes to the river, plunges in as his last refuge. Thus pursued, spent, and nearly ready to give up the ghost, the psalmist pants for God, for the living God! for him who can give life, and save from death.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

As the hart panteth after the water-brooks - Margin, brayeth. The word rendered hart - איל 'ayâl - means commonly a stag, hart, male deer: Deuteronomy 12:15; Deuteronomy 14:5; Isaiah 35:6. The word is masculine, but in this place is joined with a feminine verb, as words of the common gender may be, and thus denotes a hind, or female deer. The word rendered in the text “panteth,” and in the margin “brayeth” - ערג ‛ârag - occurs only in this place and in Joel 1:20, where it is applied to the beasts of the field as “crying” to God in a time of drought. The word properly means to rise; to ascend; and then, to look up toward anything; to long for. It refers here to the intense desire of the hind, in the heat of day, for water; or, in Joel, to the desire of the cattle for water in a time of drought. Luther renders it “cries;” the Septuagint and Vulgate render it simply “desires.”

Neither the idea of panting nor braying seems to be in the original word. It is the idea of looking for, longing for, desiring, that is expressed there. By ‹water-brooks‘ are meant the streams that run in vallies. Dr. Thomson (Land and the Book, vol. i., p. 253) says, “I have seen large flocks of these panting harts gather round the water-brooks in the great deserts of Central Syria, so subdued by thirst that you could approach quite near them before they fled.” There is an idea of tenderness in the reference to the word “hart” here - female deer, gazelle - which would not strike us if the reference had been to any other animal. These are so timid, so gentle, so delicate in their structure, so much the natural objects of love and compassion, that our feelings are drawn toward them as to all other animals in similar circumstances. We sympathize with them; we pity them; we love them; we feel deeply for them when they are pursued, when they fly away in fear, when they are in want. The following engraving will help us more to appreciate the comparison employed by the psalmist. Nothing could more beautifully or appropriately describe the earnest longing of a soul after God, in the circumstances of the psalmist, than this image.

So panteth my soul after thee, O God - So earnest a desire have I to come before thee, and to enjoy thy presence and thy favor. So sensible am I of want; so much does my soul need something that can satisfy its desires. This was at first applied to the case of one who was cut off from the privileges of public worship, and who was driven into exile far from the place where he had been accustomed to unite with others in that service Psalm 42:4; but it will also express the deep and earnest feelings of the heart of piety at all times, and in all circumstances, in regard to God. There is no desire of the soul more intense than that which the pious heart has for God; there is no want more deeply felt than that which is experienced when one who loves God is cut off by any cause from communion with him.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The psalmist looked to the Lord as his chief good, and set his heart upon him accordingly; casting anchor thus at first, he rides out the storm. A gracious soul can take little satisfaction in God's courts, if it do not meet with God himself there. Living souls never can take up their rest any where short of a living God. To appear before the Lord is the desire of the upright, as it is the dread of the hypocrite. Nothing is more grievous to a gracious soul, than what is intended to shake its confidence in the Lord. It was not the remembrance of the pleasures of his court that afflicted David; but the remembrance of the free access he formerly had to God's house, and his pleasure in attending there. Those that commune much with their own hearts, will often have to chide them. See the cure of sorrow. When the soul rests on itself, it sinks; if it catches hold on the power and promise of God, the head is kept above the billows. And what is our support under present woes but this, that we shall have comfort in Him. We have great cause to mourn for sin; but being cast down springs from unbelief and a rebellious will; we should therefore strive and pray against it.
Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, 159

I saw that it is the privilege of every Christian to enjoy the deep movings of the Spirit of God. A sweet, heavenly peace will pervade the mind, and you will love to meditate upon God and heaven. You will feast upon the glorious promises of His word. But know first that you have begun the Christian course. Know that the first steps are taken in the road to everlasting life. Be not deceived. I fear, yea, I know, that many of you know not what religion is. You have felt some excitement, some emotion, but have never seen sin in its enormity. You have never felt your undone condition and turned from your evil ways with bitter sorrow. You have never died to the world. You still love its pleasures; you love to engage in conversation on worldly matters. But when the truth of God is introduced, you have nothing to say. Why so silent? Why so talkative upon worldly things, and so silent upon the subject that should most concern you—a subject that should engage your whole soul? The truth of God does not dwell in you. 1T 159.1

I saw that many are fair in their profession, while within is corruption. Deceive not yourselves, falsehearted professors. God looks at the heart. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” The world, I saw, is in the heart of such, but the religion of Jesus is not there. If professed Christians love Jesus better than the world, they will love to speak of Him, their best Friend, in whom their highest affections are centered. He came to their aid when they felt their lost and perishing condition. When weary and heavy-laden with sin, they turned unto Him. He removed their burden of guilt and sin, took away their sorrow and mourning, and turned the whole current of their affections. The things they once loved, they now hate; and the things they hated, they now love. 1T 159.2

Has this great change taken place in you? Be not deceived. I would never name the name of Christ, or I would give Him my whole heart, my undivided affections. We should feel the deepest gratitude that Jesus will accept this offering. He demands all. When we are brought to yield to His claims, and give up all, then, and not till then, will He throw around us His arms of mercy. But what do we give when we give all? A sin-polluted soul for Jesus to purify, to cleanse by His mercy, and to save from death by His matchless love. And yet I saw that some thought it hard to give up all. I am ashamed to hear it spoken of, ashamed to write it. 1T 160.1

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Ellen G. White
SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 3 (EGW), 1146-7

In the night season I seemed to be repeating these words to the people: There is need of close examination of self. We have no time now to spend in self-indulgence. If we are connected with God, we shall humble our hearts before Him, and be very zealous in the perfecting of Christian characters. We have a grand and solemn work to do, for the world is to be enlightened in regard to the times in which we live; and they will be enlightened when a straight testimony is borne. They will be led to earnest examination of self (Letter 12, 1909). 3BC 1146.1

18 (2 Samuel 16:12). A Strong Man in a Storm—David was never more worthy of admiration than in his hour of adversity. Never was this cedar of God truly greater than when wrestling with the storm and tempest. He was a man of the keenest temperament, which might have been raised to the strongest feelings of resentment. He was cut to the quick with the imputation of unmerited wrong. Reproach, he tells us, had broken his heart. And it would not have been surprising if, stung to madness, he had given vent to his feelings of uncontrollable irritation, to bursts of vehement rage, and expressions of revenge. But there was nothing of this which would naturally be expected of a man with his stamp of character. With spirits broken and in tearful emotion, but without one expression of repining, he turns his back upon the scenes of his glory and also of his crime, and pursues his flight for his life (Letter 6, 1880). 3BC 1146.2

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Ellen G. White
Messages to Young People, 102

Many of the youth have not a fixed principle to serve God. They sink under every cloud, and have no power of endurance. They do not grow in grace. They appear to keep the commandments of God, but they are not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. Their carnal hearts must be changed. They must see beauty in holiness: then they will pant after it as the hart panteth after the water-brooks; then they will love God and His law; then the yoke of Christ will be easy, and His burden light. MYP 102.1

If your steps are ordered by the Lord, dear youth, you must not expect that your path will always be one of outward peace and prosperity. The path that leads to eternal day is not the easiest to travel, and at times it will seem dark and thorny. But you have the assurance that God's everlasting arms encircle you, to protect you from evil. He wants you to exercise earnest faith in Him, and learn to trust Him in the shadow as well as in the sunshine. MYP 102.2

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Ellen G. White
Gospel Workers 1915, 257

Prayer is the opening of the heart to God as to a friend. The eye of faith will discern God very near, and the suppliant may obtain precious evidence of the divine love and care for him. The prayer that Nathanael offered came from a sincere heart, and it was heard and answered by the Master. The Lord reads the hearts of all, and “the prayer of the upright is His delight.” [Proverbs 15:8.] He will not be slow to hear those who open their hearts to Him, not exalting self, but sincerely feeling their weakness and unworthiness. GW 257.1

There is need of prayer, earnest, fervent, agonizing prayer, such prayer as David offered when he exclaimed, “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God.” “I have longed after Thy precepts.” “I have longed for Thy salvation.” “My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.” [Psalm 42:1; 119:40, 174; Psalm 84:2.] GW 257.2

Those who teach and preach the most effectively are those who wait humbly upon God, and watch hungrily for His guidance and His grace. Watch, pray, work—this is the Christian's watchword. The life of a true Christian is a life of constant prayer. He knows that the light and strength of one day is not sufficient for the trials and conflicts of the next. Satan is continually changing his temptations. Every day we shall be placed in different circumstances; and in the untried scenes that await us we shall be surrounded by fresh dangers, and constantly assailed by new and unexpected temptations. It is only through the strength and grace gained from heaven that we can hope to meet the temptations and perform the duties before us. GW 257.3

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