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Commentary On Psalms Volume 2 by Jean Calvin

Psalm 42:9-11

9. I will say to God my rock, Why hast thou forgotten me? Why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? 10. It is as a wound in my bones when my enemies reproach me, saying to me daily, Where is thy God? 11. O my soul! why art thou cast down? and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise him, the helps [or salvations] of my countenance, and my God.

9. I will say to God my rock If we read the preceding verse in the past tense, the meaning of this verse will be, Since God has, in this way, heretofore shown himself so kind towards me, I will pray to him now with so much the greater confidence: for the experience which I have had of his goodness will inspire me with courage. But if the preceding verse is rendered in the future tense, David, in this verse, combines the prayer which it contains with the reflections which faith led him to make. And, surely, whoever, from a persuasion of the paternal love of God, anticipates for himself the same favor which David has just described, will also be induced from his example to pray for it with greater confidence. The meaning, then, will be this: Since I expect that God will be favorable to me, inasmuch as by day he manifests his favor towards me, and continues to do this, so that even by night I have occasion to praise him, I will bewail the more frankly my miseries before him, saying, O Lord! my rock, why hast thou forgotten me? In making such a complaint, the faithful are not to be understood as meaning that God has utterly rejected them: for if they did not believe that they were under his care and protection, it were in vain for them to call upon him. But they speak in this manner according to the sense of the flesh. This forgetfulness, then, relates both to outward appearance, and to the disquietude by which the faithful are troubled according to the flesh, although, in the meantime, they rest assured by faith that God regards them, and will not be deaf to their request.

10 It is as a slaughter in my bones. This verse is somewhat involved in point of expression; but as to the meaning of it there is no obscurity. David here affirms that the grief which he experienced from the reproaches of his enemies, wounded him in no degree less than if they had pierced through his bones. The word vrtsh, beretsach, signifies killing; and, therefore, I have retained this idea in the translation of it. And yet I do not condemn the opinion of those who render it a slaughtering sword. There is here a difference as to the reading, arising from the great similarity which there is between the two letters v, beth, and k, caph, the mark of similitude. As the letter v beth, is often superfluous, I would rather be disposed, in a doubtful matter like this, to omit it altogether. But as I have said, the sense is perfectly plain, except that interpreters do not seem to take this sufficiently into their consideration, that by the terms my bones, the bitterness of grief is referred to; for we feel much more acutely any injury which is done to the bones, than if a sword should pierce the bowels, or the other parts of the body which are soft and yielding. Nor should the children of God regard this similitude as hyperbolical; and if one should wonder why David took so sorely to heart the derision of his enemies, he only manifests in this his own insensibility. For of all the bitter evils which befall us, there is nothing which can inflict upon us a severer wound than to see the wicked tear in pieces the majesty of God, and endeavor to destroy and overturn our faith. The doctrine taught by Paul, (Galatians 4:24,) concerning the persecution of Ishmael, is well known. Many consider his childish jesting as of little moment, but as it tended to this effect, that the covenant of God should be esteemed as a thing of no value, it is on that account, according to the judgment of the Holy Spirit, to be accounted a most cruel persecution. David, therefore, with much propriety, compares to a slaughtering sword, which penetrates even within the bones and marrow, the derision of his enemies, by which he saw his own faith and the word of God trampled under foot. And would to God that all who boast themselves of being his children would learn to bear their private wrongs more patiently, and to manifest the same vehement zeal for which David is here distinguished, when their faith is assailed to the dishonor of God, and when the word also which gives them life is included in the same reproach!

11 O my soul! why art thou cast down? This repetition shows us that David had not so completely overcome his temptations in one encounter, or by one extraordinary effort, as to render it unnecessary for him to enter anew into the same conflict. By this example, therefore, we are admonished, that although Satan, by his assaults, often subjects us to a renewal of the same trouble, we ought not to lose our courage, or allow ourselves to be cast down. The latter part of this verse differs from the fifth verse in one word, while in every other respect they agree. In the fifth verse, it is the helps of His countenance, but here we have the relative pronoun of the first person, thus, The helps of My countenance Perhaps in this place, the letter w, vau, which in the Hebrew language denotes the third person, is wanting. Still, as all the other versions agree in the reading which I have adopted, David might, without any absurdity, call God by this designation, The helps or salvations of My countenance, inasmuch as he looked with confidence for a deliverance, manifest and certain, as if God should appear in a visible manner as his defender, and the protector of his welfare. There can, however, be no doubt, that in this place the term helps or salvations is to be viewed as an epithet applied to God; for immediately after it follows, and my God

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