Psalm 42:1 Commentary + Memorization Tutorial

Memorize Psalm 42:1 with context

Verse of the Day 8.9.17 — Psalm 42:1

As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.1

כְּאַיָּל תַּעֲרֹג עַל־אֲפִיקֵי־מָיִם כֵּן נַפְשִׁי תַעֲרֹג אֵלֶיךָ אֱלֹהִים׃2

C4C Translation: As deer pant for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, God.

  1. Context
  2. Commentary
  3. Memorization
  4. Application



This song is a maskil — “a kind of musical term or kind of song”3— of the “Sons of Korah” (Ps 42:1).

Who were the “Sons of Korah?”  Apparently, the sons of Korah or “Korahites”, were one of the most prominent families with regards to worship and leadership at the Temple (2 Chr 20:19, etc.).4 Korahites are thought to have descended from the tribe of Levi, and the division of Kohath (Ex 6:18, Num 16:1).5

There is much one could say concerning the debate surrounding the origins of the Korahites but, at present, it seems more pertinent to mention that the Korahites were renowned temple singers6— singers responsible for the so-called “Korahite Psalter” (Psalms 42, 44-49, 84-85, 87-88).7 After bringing the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, King David placed the Korahites in charge of the music in the house of the LORD — the tabernacle, the precursor to Solomon’s Temple.8


Scholars believe that Psalm 42 and 43 are actually one singular song — a song that could plausibly be entitled, “Why go I mourning?” (Ps 42:9, 43:2) or “Why, my soul, are you downcast?” (Ps 42:5, 11; 43:5). It appears to be a song sung by a temple singer(s) who has been exiled to the north (read more about the historical context concerning the Israelite exile here). The singer(s) cry out to God in lament, longing to return to the house of the LORD, before “turn[ing] his longing into resolute faith and hope in God himself.”9

Both Psalms 42 and 43 end with the same lines,

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God (Ps 42:11; 43:9).10

Literary Context

Please see the Psalm 51:15 post for more literary context.


As deer pant: The Hebrew word translated pant” is עָרַג (ʿârag, aw-rag),11 which means to “long for,”12 with a strong wish, desire, or yearning as “a figurative extension of the panting of an animal which is overheated or dehydrated.”13



One really must read the entire Psalm — and probably Psalm 43, as well — to feel the entire weight of this song. Like the psalmist, we can cry out to the LORD when our souls are downcast (Ps 42:6), when experiencing physical affliction (Ps 42:10), and when people taunt us for putting our hope in God (Ps 42:10).

Then, we also can remember the good times God has allowed us to have  — like the singer who recalls the times in the house of God, full of joyful shouting and praising (Ps 42:4).

Finally, we can put our hope in the LORD. As followers of Christ, we know that we will have various troubles in this world (Jn 16:33), we will endure various hardships (Ac 14:22; 2 Tim 4:5), and we will face various persecution (Jn 15:20; 2 Tim 3:12). But, we ought to remember that neither trouble, nor hardship, nor persecution, nor famine, nor nakedness, nor danger, nor sword shall separate us from the love of God in Christ (Rom 8:35). And, we can await the blessed hope — the appearing of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Ti 2:13). Jesus will return to bring salvation — in the fullest sense of the word — to all who are waiting for Him (Heb 9:28).

A Christian worldview affords one a hope like none other.


  1. The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Ps 42:1.
  2. The Hebrew Bible: Andersen-Forbes Analyzed Text (Francis I. Andersen; A. Dean Forbes, 2008), Ps 42:2.
  3. cf. Ps 32:1; 42:1; 44:1; 45:1; 47:8; 52:1; 53:1; 54:1; 55:1; 74:1; 78:1; 88:1; 89:1; 142:1; James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).
  4. Rodney R. Hutton, “Korah (Person),” ed. David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 100.
  5. Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, “Korahite, Korathite,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 1294.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Hutton, 100.
  8. Elwell, 1294
  9. Derek Kidner, Psalms 1–72: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 15, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1973), 183.
  10. The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Ps 43:5.
  11. James Strong, A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009), 91.
  12. Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver, and Charles Augustus Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977), 788.
  13. James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).
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Imperfect Servant ✝📖⛪ | Husband | Princeton U. Alum | M. Div. | Assistant (to the) Pastor | Sound Doctrine & Apologetics @catchforchrist