Psalms 114

PSALM CXIV

Miracles wrought at the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt,

at the Red Sea, and at Jordan, 1-6;

and at the rock of Horeb, 7, 8.

NOTES ON PSALM CXIV

This Psalm has no title. The word Hallelujah is prefixed in all

the Versions except the Chaldee and Syriac. It seems like a

fragment, or a part of another Psalm. In many MSS. it is only the

beginning of the following; both making but one Psalm in all the

Versions, except the Chaldee. It is elegantly and energetically

composed; but begins and ends very abruptly, if we separate it

from the following. As to the author of this Psalm, there have

been various opinions; some have given the honour of it to

Shadrach, Meshech, and Abed-nego; others to Esther; and others,

to Mordecai.

Verse 1. A people of strange language] This may mean no more

than a barbarous people; a people whom they did not know, and who

did not worship their God. But it is a fact that the language of

the Egyptians in the time of Joseph was so different from that of

the Hebrews that they could not understand each other. See

Ps 81:5; Ge 42:23.

The Chaldee has here meammey barbarey, which gives

reason to believe that the word is Chaldee, or more properly

Phoenician. See this word fully explained in the note on

Ac 28:2. My old

Psalter understood the word as referring to the religious state

of the Egyptians: In gangyng of Isrel oute of Egipt, of the house

of Jacob fra hethen folke.

Verse 2. Judah was his sanctuary] He set up his true worship

among the Jews, and took them for his peculiar people.

And Israel his dominion.] These words are a proof, were there

none other, that this Psalm was composed after the days of David,

and after the division of the tribes, for then the distinction of

Israel and Judah took place.

Verse 3. The sea saw it, and fled] Mr. Addison has properly

observed (see Spect. No. 461) that the author of this Psalm

designedly works for effect, in pointing out the miraculous

driving back the Red Sea and the river Jordan, and the commotion

of the hills and mountains, without mentioning any agent. At last,

when the reader sees the sea rapidly retiring from the shore,

Jordan retreating to its source, and the mountains and hills

running away like a flock of affrighted sheep, that the passage of

the Israelites might be every where uninterrupted; then the cause

of all is suddenly introduced, and the presence of God in his

grandeur solves every difficulty.

Verse 5. What ailed thee, O thou sea] The original is very

abrupt; and the prosopopoeia, or personification very fine and

expressive:-

What to thee, O sea, that thou fleddest away!

O Jordan, that thou didst roll back!

Ye mountains, that ye leaped like rams!

And ye hills, like the young of the fold!

After these very sublime interrogations, God appears; and the

psalmist proceeds as if answering his own questions:-

At the appearance of the Lord, O earth, thou

didst tremble;

At the appearance of the strong God of Jacob.

Converting the rock into a pool of waters;

The granite into water springs.

I know the present Hebrew text reads chuli, "tremble thou,"

in the imperative; but almost all the Versions understood the word

in past tense, and read as if the psalmist was answering his own

questions, as stated in the translation above. "Tremble thou, O

earth." As if he had said, Thou mayest well tremble, O earth, at

the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob.

Verse 8. The flint] I have translated challamish,

GRANITE; for such is the rock of Horeb, a piece of which now lies

before me.

This short and apparently imperfect Psalm, for elegance and

sublimity, yields to few in the whole book.

It is so well translated in the old Psalter, that I think I

shall gratify the reader by laying it before him.

Ver. 1. In gangyng of Isrel oute of Egipt,

Of the house of Jacob fra hethen folke.

Ver. 2. Made is Jude his halawyng

Isrel might of hym.

Ver. 3. The se sawe and fled,

Jurdan turned is agayne;

Ver. 4. Hawes gladed als wethers,

And hilles als lambes of schepe.

Ver. 5. What is to the se, that thou fled?

And thou Jordane that thou ert turned agayne?

Ver. 6. Hawes gladded als wethers?

And hils als lambs of schepe.

Ver. 7. Fra the face of Lorde styrde is the erth,

Fra the face of God of Jabob;

Ver. 8. That turnes the stane in stank of waters,

And roche in wels of waters.

And, as a still more ancient specimen of our language, I shall

insert the Anglo-Saxon, with a literal reading, line for line, as

near to the Saxon as possible, merely to show the affinity of the

languages.

Ver. 1. [Anglo-Saxon]

Ver. 2. [Anglo-Saxon]

Ver. 3. [Anglo-Saxon]

Ver. 4. [Anglo-Saxon]

Ver. 5. [Anglo-Saxon]

Ver. 6. [Anglo-Saxon]

Ver. 7. [Anglo-Saxon]

Ver. 8. [Anglo-Saxon]

Ver. 1. On outgang Israel of Egypt,

House Jacob of folk foreigners;

Ver. 2. Made is Jacob holyness his;

Israel andweald (government) his.

Ver. 3. Sea saw, and flew!

Jordan turned underback!

Ver. 4. Mounts they fain (rejoiced) so (as) rams,

And burghs (hillocks) so (as) lamb-sheep.

Ver. 5. What is the sea, that thou flew?

And thou river for that thou turned is underback?

Ver. 6. Mounts ye fained (rejoiced) so so rams;

And hills so so lambs-sheep.

Ver. 7. From sight Lord's stirred is earth;

From sight God of Jacob.

Ver. 8. Who turned stone in mere waters;

And cliffs in wells waters.

I have retained some words above in nearly their Saxon form,

because they still exist in our old writers; or, with little

variation, in those of the present day:-

Ver. 2. Andweald, government. Hence weal and wealth, commonweal

or wealth; the general government, that which produces the welfare

of the country.

Ver. 4. Faegnodon, fained-desired fervently, felt delight in

expectation.

Ver. 4. Burgh, a hill-a mound or heap of earth, such as was

raised up over the dead. Hence a barrow; and hence the word bury,

to inhume the dead.

Ver. 8. Mere, or meer, a large pool of water, a lake, a lough,

still in use in the north of England. Gentlemen's ponds, or large

sheets of water so called; and hence Winander-mere. a large lake

in Westmoreland. Mere also signifies limit or boundary; hence the

Mersey, the river which divides Lancashire from Cheshire, and

serves as a boundary to both counties. The mere that spreads

itself out to the sea.

Instead of cludas, which signifies rocks, one MS. has

[Anglo-Saxon] clyf, which signifies a craggy mountain or broken

rock.

The reader will see from this specimen how much of our ancient

language still remains in the present; and perhaps also how much,

in his opinion, we have amplified and improved our mother tongue.

ANALYSIS OF THE HUNDRED AND FOURTEENTH PSALM

David in this Psalm chants forth the wonderful works and

miracles that God wrought, when he brought forth Israel out of

Egypt.

This Psalm has two parts:-

I. A narration of Israel's deliverance, amplified by the state

they were in, Ps 114:1; the state to which they were brought,

Ps 114:2; the miracles then done, Ps 114:3; and the law given,

Ps 114:4.

II. A prosopopoeia set down by way of dialogue: 1. The prophet

asks the sea and Jordan why they fled, Ps 114:5, 6. 2. To which

the answer is, that "the earth trembled," &c., Ps 114:7, 8.

I. In the narration, Israel's condition is set down by way of

comparison, in order that their deliverance might make the deeper

impression. We must recollect that Jacob and Judah in this place

signify the whole nation of the Israelites that descended out of

Jacob's loins; but of the house of Jacob there is made particular

mention, because with him they came into Egypt; and of Judah,

because from him they were called Jews. This being premised. 1. We

are presented with the condition of the Jews before their

deliverance; before they were formed into a state or Church; they

were among "a people of a strange language."

2. The condition of the Jews after their deliverance: "When

Israel went out of Egypt," &c., then "Judah was his sanctuary,"

&c. 1. "His sanctuary: " A people sanctified and adopted by him,

consecrated to his worship as holy temples and sanctuaries, and

having a holy priest to govern them in points of piety. 2. "His

dominion:" In which he reigned as King by his laws and Spirit, and

appointed godly magistrates to rule them in matters of policy; for

the government was a theocracy, till they cast it off by choosing

a king.

The prophet explains the manner of their deliverance, which was

by miracles and signs; and gives us these instances:-

1. "The sea saw it, and fled," as the people advanced to it. "At

the presence of the Lord it turned back all night," Ex 14:21. In

a poetical strain he attributes this to the sense of the sea. "The

sea saw," &c.

2. "Jordan was driven back," &c. Forty years after, when they

were entering the promised land, then Jordan suffered a long

reflux, Jos 3:15-17.

3. At Sinai, when the law was given, then the mountains and

hills quaked: "The mountains skipped like rams," &c.

II. This Psalm abounds with poetical imagery; and having related

the wonderful deliverances wrought for God's people, the psalmist

expostulates with the sea and mountains, and interrogates them as

to what so strangely altered their course. "What ailed thee, O

thou sea, &c. ?.-Ye mountains that ye skipped like rams," &c.

To which, in the person of the earth speaking to herself, the

prophet answers; thus making both a prosopopoeia and an

apostrophe.

1. "Tremble, thou earth, at the presence of the Lord," &c. As if

it had been said, Would you know the reason why we fly? The cause

is, the Lord has appeared and showed his force and power, and laid

his commands upon us; and therefore, not abiding his presence, the

mountains are moved, &c.

2. Of his power this miracle is sufficient for an instance:

"Which turned the rock into a standing water, the flint into a

fountain of waters." Causing not only waters to flow from thence,

but turning the very substance of a flint, which is apter to yield

fire than water, into that fluid element, Nu 20:11.

See Clarke on Ps 114:8.

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