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Deep waters

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cry out

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to deep waters with the sound of pouring water;

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your breaking waves, yes, your heaped-up waves, have all passed over me.

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Deep troubles and the threat of death called for backup from more deep troubles; the presence of difficulties in my life was overwhelming.

It was as if You, Lord, were pounding on me, beating me down with every type of hardship possible.



The word used here, which I have rendered as “deep waters” can mean “the sea, the abyss, deep, depths.” The sea was a mysterious, dangerous place, especially during storms. These depths could be a spring or a river but more typically were a large body of water like the sea. While water can be a symbol of abundance, this is not that symbol, this is the sea or the abyss, which is a symbol of danger and death. This Psalm is a description of deep anguish and turmoil of soul. The psalmist mentions several times in this psalm that his soul is “downcast” and “troubled.”


The word that I have rendered as “cry out” can also mean “call, or proclaim.” The real question is “Why is one batch of deep water communicating with more deep water?” Well, since we don’t often hear water talking to water it requires an educated guess on our part. From the rest of the psalm it seems that waters here are a symbol for danger and the threat of death so the reason would have something to do with that. The psalmist feels overwhelmed as if circumstances and even God himself, have ganged up against him. Therefore I have decided to explain it in the paraphrase as one set of deep troubles calling for backup from more deep troubles.


The word I have rendered as “pouring water” refers to a conduit for water, such as “a gutter, a waterspout, a channel.” While the meaning of the word is that of the vessel that carries the water, the emphasis of its usage here is on the movement of the water itself, and lots of it. It is a picture of a great volume of water rushing down all at one time. We cannot know what the psalmist had in mind, some have suggested the Jordan river at flood stage, some say first the Jordan and then an angry sea. It could also refer to a waterfall or even to a torrential downpour of rain. In the end it does not matter; the point is that the psalmist is beset by many troubles and feels overwhelmed by them.


This phrase “have all passed over me” can be taken too different ways. It could mean that the troubles are now in the past and the dilemma has been resolved, or it can mean “I have faced every type of hardship possible, because you threw everything at me.” The feeling one gets from this psalm is that he is still in the midst of the problems, yet in the end he finds hope in trusting in God despite those problems. So the second option is preferred.

Bouncing Back and Forth

This psalm has several sections which bounce back and forth from the psalmist’s depression and despair, to his reliance on God for hope and the resolution of his problems. Verses 6 and 7 above are the “depressed” part of this section, so I can’t stop there; I need to also give you the resolution and hope.