Saturday, March 31, 2018

Deep cries out to deep

As the deer pants for the waters so my soul longs after thee

Everybody knows about the panting deer of the opening line of Psalm 42, and many experience the sentiment that gave rise to this image. But few realize the exquisite and valiant choice of words the sons of Korah display, especially in the seventh verse.

Psalm 42 is a dance of fluidic words. Meticulously, the author breaks a continuum, evokes contrasts and has elements congrue into new onenesses.

The word for "deer" comes from a root that generally denotes a protruding or something that stands proudly and quietly ('wl; other derivations are words meaning: belly, leader, porch, ram, door post, terebinth).

Its longing or panting is penciled with the verb arag, a very unusual word that, judging from equivalents in cognate languages, rather means a bending, declining or even ascending.

Contrary to common interpretation, the image is gentle and still and charged with great tension. The deer emerges from the forest — early morning perhaps; mist in elongated blurs rests nimbly on the grass — and as it stands attention the observer feels its thirst. Slowly the animal stoops towards the flow of water below.

The author yearns to emerge from the throngs of those who challenge his trust in the One he desires. But in stead of drinking Him, he drinks his own tears, and all that pours is his own soul within him, descended, like the very water that the deer yields towards. The author's soul is depressed, like the Jordan (means Descender or Descended, follow the link below to visit our Biblical Name Vault). That is why he remembers God from the Jordanian low land, but also from the high peaks of the Hermon, and thus he creates the maximum vertical stretch possible from his local perspective. The author fills the entire leap from highest point of the earth to the lowest; the deepest depth, and cries out to the deepest depth after which he was created.

Creation began when the Spirit of God hovered over the waters, and darkness lay on the face of the deep (tehom; same word; and note that the word for 'to' is 'el, which is also the word for God). In Romans 8 we read about creation groaning and suffering anxiously from longing for the revelation of the sons of God, and we must recognize that in the private ardor of Psalm 42, the voice of the entire universe resounds, perhaps even as primary intend. But that's far from all.

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