Remember the Good Times

Psalms 42 and 43

An EasyEnglish Translation with Notes (about 1200 word vocabulary) on Psalms 42 and 43

Gordon Churchyard

Words in boxes are from the Bible.

Words marked with a *star are described in the word list at the end.

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Jesus said, "My *soul is so sad that I am nearly dying", (Mark 14:34) and "My *soul is in trouble". (John 12:27)

Psalm 42:1-5

  (This is) for the music leader.
 (It is) a *maskil for the *sons of Korah.

v1   My *soul cries out for you, (my) God,
  *like a *hart crying out for streams of water.

v2   My *soul is *thirsty for God, the God that is alive.
  When can I come and see the face of God?

v3   (All) day and (all) night I cry and do not eat.
  All day (my enemies) say to me, "Where is your God?"

v4   My *soul cries inside me when I remember that:
  ·  I went with a crowd (to *worship you)
  ·  I went to the house of God
  ·  there was the sound of singing
  ·  there was a loud noise of people thanking (you) and dancing.

v5   My *soul, why are you so sad?
  Why are you so *restless inside me?
  Hope in God because I will *praise him again!
  When God is with me, he will do great things (for me).

The Story of Psalms 42 and 43

We think that these two psalms started as one psalm. The Jews made them into two psalms about 200 years before Jesus came to the earth. They did this when they translated their Bible from Hebrew into Greek. See below for more about this.

We do not know who wrote the psalm. What we do know about him is that:

  ·   in the past he went to the house of God in Jerusalem (verse 4)

  ·   he can not go there now (verse 2)

  ·   he hoped that one day he would go back to it (verse 5)

  ·   he was now 200 kilometres north of Jerusalem (verse 6)

  ·   his enemy had taken him away from his home (Psalm 43:1).

This probably happened to many people in the Old Testament of the Bible. Maybe it was someone that King Jehoash of Israel took as a hostage. He took hostages from Jerusalem in Judah to the mountains of Hermon in Israel. The story is in 2 Kings 14:14.

A hostage is someone that is not free. His enemy catches him. He puts him in a place *like a prison. The enemy lets the hostage out only when the enemy gets what he wants. Maybe the hostage in the psalm was a Levite from the house of God. We call this house a *temple. Levites were God’s servants in the *temple. He may have been one of the "*sons of Korah". Look after Psalm 43 where it tells you who they were. Sometimes hostages never return home. They die in prison, or in the country where their enemies take them. If the enemy was not Jehoash in 800 *BC then maybe it was:

  ·   the King of Assyria in 700 *BC; or

  ·   the King of Babylon in 600 *BC.

BC means "years Before Jesus Christ came to the earth". Many of the hostages in Assyria or Babylon never went home.

Whatever story is true, the hostage went through two places before the end of his journey. One was a desert place, where there was not much water but a lot of sand. The other was a group of mountains called the Hermons. Iraq is now where Assyria and Babylon were.

What Psalm 42:1-5 means

Verses 1 – 2: The *hart, or male deer, is *thirsty. It is in a desert place where there is no water. It cries while it looks for water. The *psalmist says that he is *like the *hart. The *psalmist is the person that wrote the psalm. His enemy has taken him through a desert where he saw the *thirsty animal. The *psalmist is *thirsty too. But he is not *thirsty for water, but for God. His body is not *thirsty, but his *soul inside him is *thirsty. He is a hostage so that he cannot go to the *temple and see God. In the psalm, "not seeing God" means "not *worshipping God". He did not really see God, he only saw the place where he believed that God lived.

Verses 3 – 4: His enemies laugh at him and ask, "Where is your God?" They are saying, "God is not with you now". The *psalmist remembers how he *worshipped God in the *temple. There were crowds of people there. They all *worshipped God with singing and dancing. It was *like a great party or festival. But now he thought that his enemies were right: he had left God in Jerusalem.

Verse 5: The *psalmist tells his *soul that although he is sad and *restless he will still hope in God. Our *soul is that part of us that makes us feel happy or sad. It will still live when our bodies die. Jesus repeated some of these words the week before he died. They are at the top of the psalm. They are not quite the same because Jesus repeated words from the Greek Old Testament, not the Hebrew Old Testament. People made this about 200 years before Jesus came to the earth. Many Jews lived in Egypt where they spoke Greek, not Hebrew. So they translated their Bible (our Old Testament) into Greek. This is the Bible that most of the New Testament quotations are in. A quotation is when someone repeats words from another book. The words are not always the same in the Greek and Hebrew Bibles. Both sets of words are true!

Psalm 42:6-11

v6   My *soul is sad inside me.
  So I will remember you (my God) from:
  ·   the land of (the) Jordan (river)
  ·   (the mountains) of Hermon
  ·   the hill of Mizar.

v7   The deep (waters) make a noise when your *waterfalls thunder.
  All your big *waves and all your little waves roll over me.

v8  In the day time the *LORD sends to me his kind love.
  At night his song is with me.
  My *prayer is to the God of my life.

v9   I will say to the God (that is) my Rock,
  "Why did you forget me? Why must I be so sad?
  You let my enemy do what he likes to me!"

v10   My enemies hurt all my bones.
  The people that fight me are always saying, "Where is your God?"

v11   My *soul, why are you so sad?
  Why are you so *restless inside me?
  Hope in God, because I will *praise him again!
  When God is with me, he will do great things (for me).

What Psalm 42:6 - 11 means

Verses 6 – 7: In verses 1 - 5 the *psalmist was in dry country, what we call a desert. Now, in verses 6-11, we are in a different country. There is a river and mountains. Where are we? 200 kilometres north of Jerusalem is a group of mountains called the Hermons. Maybe they called one of the hills Mizar, we are not sure. But we do know that the River Jordan started in the Hermons. When it rained a lot the river ran over the rocks and made *waterfalls. In places, it was very deep. When he saw the deep water, it made the *psalmist think of his life. He felt that his enemy was pushing him along *like the water would push him if he fell in! The Hermons were in Israel, where Jehoash was king. Jehoash may have taken the *psalmist hostage in Jerusalem. Then he took him through the deserts of Judah to the hills of Israel.

If this is true, an interesting thing may have happened. In the chapter of Kings that tells us the story of Jehoash (2 Kings 14) we read about a man called Jonah. Maybe Jonah knew Psalm 42. He repeated a bit of verse 7 when the fish swallowed him. You will find it in the book of Jonah, chapter 2. Did Jonah learn the psalm from the hostage? Jonah did live in Israel!

Verse 8: This is the turning-point of the psalm. A turning-point is when something changes. You will see two important changes in this verse. First, he calls God by the name *LORD. Only God’s friends did this in the Old Testament. What happened to make him do this? Everywhere else he used the name God. We believe that what happened was this. He found God was with him in the Hermons. God did not only live in Jerusalem. God was everywhere!

Verses 9 – 10: But there were still questions. (A question is something that you ask.) He asked why God had forgotten him and why he was so sad. He asked why God let his enemies hurt him. And the enemies asked the same question as in verse 3, ‘Where is your God?’ But things are different now. The *psalmist is sure that God is with him and he hopes that things will get better.

Verse 11: So he repeats verse 5. But this time we think that he said it with more belief that it was true. Another way to say this is that he was more sure of it.

Verses 5 and 11 and verse 5 of Psalm 43 are all exactly the same. We think that this is a good reason for thinking that they are really two parts of one psalm.

There are other reasons:

  ·   Psalm 43 does not say at the top who wrote it.

  ·   Some old Bibles print them as one psalm.

Psalm 43

v1   (My) God, say that I am right.
  Tell it to the people that do not love (me).
  *Rescue me from the man that tells *lies and does bad things.

v2   (This is) because you are my *refuge, God.
  Why are you always so *unkind to me?
  Why must I continue to be so sad?
  You let my enemy do what he likes to me!

v3   Send out your light and your *truth.
  Let them be my guide.
  They will bring me to your *holy mountain
  and to the house where you live.

v4   Then I will come to the *altar of God,
  the God that makes me happy.
  I will *praise you with a *harp, God, my God.

v5   My *soul, why are you so sad?
  Why are you so *restless inside me?
  Hope in God, because I will *praise him again!
  When God is with me, he will do great things for me.

 What Psalm 43 means

We have seen that these two psalms are probably about a hostage. Maybe one of the kings that we have already talked about took him hostage. Maybe it was someone else. He probably went through a desert where he saw a *hart. The *hart was *thirsty. It made the *psalmist think that he was *thirsty for God. This was because he could not go to the *temple in Jerusalem. He was sad because he thought that God was still in Jerusalem. (Psalm 42:1-5)

Then he found that God was still with him when he reached the Hermons. All the things round him ... the *waterfalls and the *waves on the water ... were things of God. That meant that God was still with him. This made the *psalmist happier. (Happier means "more happy".) He began to think that his *prayer would get an answer. This is the *prayer in Psalm 42:5 and 11.

We do not know where the hostage went now. It may be Israel, it may be Assyria or it may be Babylon. It may be somewhere else. We do not know if he went home to Jerusalem or if he died a hostage. What we do know is that in Psalm 43 the *psalmist decided that it did not matter. God was with him everywhere that he went! He still thought that God was *unkind to him (the Hebrew word means that God had a very bad smell!) But he believed that God would answer his *prayer. Even if he was a hostage, God would do wonderful things for him.

Verse 1: The *psalmist is asking God to be his *judge. A judge is someone that decides who is right and who is wrong. The *psalmist believes that he is right and he asks God to tell everyone. God will do this by making him free so that he is not a hostage any more. "The people that do not love me" are his enemies, maybe from Israel, Assyria, Babylon or somewhere else. "The man that tells *lies and does bad things" is one of the *psalmist’s enemies. Maybe he was their leader.

Verse 2: But things are still bad for the *psalmist. He believes that God is his *refuge, but God is not doing anything. The *psalmist is still a hostage!

Verse 3: He prays for God to send light and *truth. He believes that they will take him back to Jerusalem. That is where the *holy mountain and the house of God are. The *holy mountain is Mount Zion where the *temple was. It was *holy because the Jews believed that God lived there. Solomon built the *temple about 950 *BC. The King of Babylon (Nebuchadnezzar) destroyed it in 587 *BC. There were other *temples, but we believe that the *psalmist meant this one in Jerusalem. God’s light and *truth would make people see (light) that the *psalmist was right (*truth). He should not be a hostage.

Verse 4: A *harp is something you make music with. We call it a *musical instrument. Psalm 150 tells us about other *musical instruments that the Jews played.

Verse 5: This verse comes three times in the psalm (Psalm 42:5 and 11; and here.) Each time we think that the *psalmist became more certain that God would answer him. (Certain means "sure".) We do not know if God did answer in the way the *psalmist wanted. Maybe he did go back to Jerusalem. Maybe he learned that God was with him where he was hostage. This was all that mattered!

The *Sons Of Korah

Several psalms in Book 2 of the Psalms have "the sons of Korah" at the top. Book 2 of the Psalms goes from Psalm 42 to Psalm 72. Some of these psalms probably come from a book that the sons of Korah used.

Korah was the grandson of Kohath. Kohath was the son of Levi. Levi was one of the sons of Jacob. All the Jews that were God’s servants in the *temple came from the family of Levi. They were all Levites.

Korah himself died because he did not obey God. The story is in a book of the Bible called Numbers (Numbers 16:1-35). Some of his family did not die. Moses gave them special jobs to do. At first, this was before Solomon built the *temple, but they also did these jobs after Solomon built the *temple. One of their jobs was to make music in the *temple. The best singers and players on *musical instruments did this. The Jews called them "the sons of Korah". They used the psalms that David wrote and they used others as well. We do not know if they wrote them or if they got them from other people. When we read ‘the sons of Korah’ at the top of a psalm, it means that it came from their book of psalms.

Psalm 42 has "the sons of Korah" at the top. Psalm 43 does not have anything at the top. We think that they are really one psalm. We think that a hostage wrote it. He may have been a Levite, maybe a "son of Korah". If he was not, he gave the psalm to someone who put it into the book of ‘the sons of Korah’.

So, "sons of Korah" is probably the name of a music group. They made music in the *temple at Jerusalem until Nebuchadnezzar took the Jews to Babylon. He destroyed the *temple at the same time. When the Jews came back from Babylon 70 years later, they built the *temple again. But now the ‘sons of Korah’ did not make music in the *temple. We do not know why!

Something to do

1.  Study a map of Israel if you can. Can you find where the hostage saw the *thirsty *hart and the Hermons?

2.   Learn to say Psalm 42:5 without looking at the words. Next time you have trouble, say these words. Tell God that you are *unhappy, but that you will hope in him. Then wait for him to do something good for you. While you wait, remember the good times! (Psalm 42:4), and that God is with you (Psalm 42:8).

3.  Read about the last week in the life of Jesus. Do you think that Jesus knew Psalm 42? Read Matthew 26:38 and John 12:27 for help.

Christian Pictures

The Jews did not paint pictures of God. They thought that this broke one of God’s rules. At first, Christians did not paint Jesus in pictures for the same reason. Instead, when they wanted Jesus in a picture, they painted a *hart (or a male deer). They did this because they believed that Jesus repeated parts of Psalm 42 before he died. The parts are at the top of Psalm 42. As the *psalmist was "*like a *hart", so Jesus was "*like a *hart". So they painted a *hart, not Jesus. Later artists painted Jesus. As we have no pictures of the real Jesus, artists now paint what they thought he looked *like.

God’s rules are in The 10 Commandments. One of these says "You must not make for yourself anything that looks *like me". (Exodus 20:4) "Looks *like me" in Hebrew is "image". It could be a picture or an idol.

Word list

altar ~ a special table in God’s house.

BC ~ years Before Christ came to the earth.

harp ~ an instrument (thing) that makes music.

hart ~ a male deer, *like a small cow.

holy ~ very very good; only God is really holy (because he always obeys his rules); Jerusalem was holy because people *worshipped God there.

judge ~ (noun, or being something) someone that decides.

judge ~ (verb, or doing something) decide if someone did right or wrong.

lies ~ words that are not true.

like ~ another word for "as".

LORD ~ a special name for God; only his people use it (look after Psalm 25).

maskil ~ a psalm that teaches you something.

musical instruments ~ something that you make music with.

praise ~ (noun, or being something) words that say that someone or something is very good.

praise ~ (verb, or doing something) say that someone or something is very good.

prayer ~ words that you say when you pray.

psalmist ~ the person that wrote a psalm.

refuge ~ a place where you are safe.

rescue ~ take someone away from their enemies.

restless ~ not able to sleep or to be happy.

sons of Korah ~ the people that sang in the *Temple (look in Psalm 43).

soul/spirit ~ the part of us that lives on after our bodies die.

temple ~ a special building where people *worship God.

thirsty ~ wanting a drink (thirsty land is dry land).

trust ~ (noun, or being something) believing that someone will help.

truth ~ words that are true.

unhappy ~ not happy.

unkind ~ not kind.

waterfall ~ water falling from a high to a low place.

waves ~ water moves in waves when it goes from one place to another.

worship ~ say that someone is very wonderful.


© 2001, Wycliffe Associates (UK)

This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level A (1200 words)

July 2001

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