Psalms 29

PSALM XXIX

The psalmist calls upon the great and mighty to give thanks

unto God, and to worship him in the beauty of holiness, on

account of a tempest that had taken place, 1, 2.

He shouts the wonders produced by a thunderstorm, which he

calls the voice of God, 3-9.

Speaks of the majesty of God, 10;

and points out the good he will do to his people, 11.

NOTES ON PSALM XXIX

In the Hebrew, this is called A Psalm for David. The Vulgate

says, "A Psalm of David, when the tabernacle was completed." The

Septuagint says: "A Psalm of David, at the going out or exodus

of the tabernacle." The Arabic states it to be "A prophecy

concerning the incarnation; and concerning the ark and the tent."

Nu 5:12. The

Syriac, "A Psalm of David, concerning oblation." The Psalm was

probably written to commemorate the abundant rain which fell in

the days of David, after the heavens had been shut up for three

years; 2Sa 21:1-10.

Verse 1. O ye mighty] beney elim, "sons of the strong

ones," or "sons of rams." The Chaldee has, "Ye hosts of angels,

sons of God." The Vulgate has, "Offer to the Lord, ye sons of God;

offer to the Lord the sons of rams;" in this rendering agree the

Septuagint, AEthiopic, Arabic, and Anglo-Saxon. The old Psalter

has, Bringes til Lord ye goddes sonnes; brynges til Lord sonnes of

wether: which it paraphrases thus: that es, yourself, sonnes of

apostles, that war leders of goddes folk; qwam ye study to folow.

Glory and strength.] Ascribe all excellence and might to him.

The whole Psalm is employed in describing the effects produced

by a thunder-storm which had lately taken place.

Verse 2. The glory due unto his name] Rather, the glory of his

name. His name is Mercy; his nature is love. Ascribe mercy,

love, power, and wisdom to him. All these are implied in the name

Jehovah.

In the beauty of holiness.] behadrath kodesh, "the

beautiful garments of holiness." Let the priests and Levites put

on their best and cleanest apparel; and let the whole service be

conducted in such a way as to be no dishonour to the Divine

Majesty. The Vulgate and others read, In the palace of his

holiness. Let all go to the temple, and return thanks to God for

their preservation during this dreadful storm. See on Ps 29:9.

Verse 3. The voice of the Lord] THUNDER, so called,

Ex 9:23, 28, 29; Job 37:4; Ps 18:13; Isa 30:30. On this

subject see the note on Job 37:4, where there is a particular

description of the nature and generation of thunder; and of the

lightning, clap, rain, and other phenomena which accompany it.

Upon many waters.] The clouds, which Moses calls the waters

which are above the firmament.

Verse 4. Is powerful] There is no agent in universal nature so

powerful as the electric fluid. It destroys life, tears castles

and towers to pieces, rends the strongest oaks, and cleaves the

most solid rocks: universal animate nature is awed and terrified

by it. To several of these effects the psalmist here refers; and

for the illustration of the whole I must refer to the above notes

on Job.

Full of majesty.] No sound in nature is so tremendous and

majestic as that of thunder; it is the most fit to represent the

voice of God.

Verse 5. Breaketh the cedars] Very tall trees attract the

lightning from the clouds, by which they are often torn to pieces.

Woods and forests give dreadful proof of this after a

thunderstorm.

Verse 7. Divideth the flames of fire.] The forked zigzag

lightning is the cause of thunder; and in a thunder-storm these

lightnings are variously dispersed, smiting houses, towers, trees,

men, and cattle, in different places.

Verse 8. The wilderness of Kadesh.] This was on the frontiers of

Idumea and Paran. There may be a reference to some terrible

thunder-storm and earthquake which had occurred in that place.

Verse 9. Maketh the hinds to calve] Strikes terror through all

the tribes of animals; which sometimes occasions those which are

pregnant to cast their young. This, I believe, to be the whole

that is meant by the text. I meddle not with the fables which have

been published on this subject both by ancients and moderns.

Discovereth the forests] Makes them sometimes evident in the

darkest night, by the sudden flash; and often by setting them on

fire.

And in his temple] Does this refer to the effect which a

dreadful thunder-storm often produces? Multitudes run to places of

worship as asylums in order to find safety, and pray to God. See

on Ps 29:2.

Verse 10. The Lord sitteth upon the flood]

Jehovah lammabbul yasheb, "Jehovah sat upon the deluge." It was

Jehovah that commanded those waters to be upon the earth. He

directed the storm; and is here represented, after all the

confusion and tempest, as sitting on the floods, appeasing the

fury of the jarring elements; and reducing all things, by his

governing influence, to regularity and order.

Sitteth king for ever.] He governs universal nature; whatsoever

he wills he does, in the heavens above, in the earth beneath, and

in all deep places. Every phenomenon is under his government and

control. There is something very like this in Virgil's description

of Neptune appeasing the storm raised by Juno for the destruction

of the fleet of AEneas. See at the end of this Psalm.

See Clarke on Ps 29:11.

Verse 11. The Lord will give strength] Prosperity in our secular

affairs; success in our enterprises; and his blessing upon our

fields and cattle.

The Lord will bless his people with peace.] Give them victory

over their enemies, and cause the nations to be at peace with

them; so that they shall enjoy uninterrupted prosperity. The

plentiful rain which God has now sent is a foretaste of his future

blessings and abundant mercies.

In the note on Ps 29:10 I have referred to the following

description taken from Virgil. Did he borrow some of the chief

ideas in it from the 29th Psalm? The reader will observe several

coincidences.

Interea magno misceri murmure pontum,

Emissamque hyemem sensit Neptunus, et imis

Stagna refusa vadis: graviter commotus, et alto

Prospiciens, summa placidum caput extulit unda.

Disjectam AEneae toto videt aequore classem,

Fluctibus oppressos Troas, coelique ruina.

* * * * *

Eurum ad se zephyrumque vocat: dehinc talia fatur

* * * * *

Sic ait: et dicto citius tumida aequora placat,

Collectasque fugat nubes, solemque reducit.

Cymothoe simul, et Triton adnixus acuto

Detrudunt naves scopulo; levat ipse tridenti;

Et vastas aperit syrtes, et temperat aequor,

Atque rotis summas levibus perlabitur undas.

* * * * *

Sic cunctus pelagi cecidit fragor, aequora postquam

Prospiciens genitor, caeloque invectus aperto,

Flectit equos, curruque volans dat lora secundo.

AEn. lib. i., ver. 124.

"Mean time, imperial Neptune heard the sound

Of raging billows breaking on the ground.

Displeased, and fearing for his watery reign,

He rears his awful head above the main,

Serene in majesty; then rolled his eyes

Around the space of earth, of seas, and skies.

He saw the Trojan fleet dispersed, distressed,

By stormy winds and wintry heaven oppressed.

* * * * *

He summoned Eurus and the Western Blast,

And first an angry glance on both he cast;

Then thus rebuked.

* * * * *

He spoke; and while he spoke, he soothed the sea,

Dispelled the darkness, and restored the day.

Cymothoe, Triton, and the sea-green train

Of beauteous nymphs, and daughters of the main,

Clear from the rocks the vessels with their hands;

The god himself with ready trident stands,

And opes the deep, and spreads the moving sands;

Then heaves them off the shoals: where'er he guides

His finny coursers, and in triumph rides,

The waves unruffle, and the sea subsides.

* * * * *

So when the father of the flood appears,

And o'er the seas his sovereign trident rears,

Their fury fails: he skims the liquid plains

High on his chariot; and with loosened reins,

Majestic moves along, and awful peace maintains.

DRYDEN.

Our God, Jehovah, sitteth upon the flood: yea, Jehovah sitteth

King for ever.

The heathen god is drawn by his sea-horse, and assisted in his

work by subaltern deities: Jehovah sits on the flood an

everlasting Governor, ruling all things by his will, maintaining

order, and dispensing strength and peace to his people. The

description of the Roman poet is fine; that of the Hebrew poet,

majestic and sublime.

ANALYSIS OF THE TWENTY-NINTH PSALM

There are two parts in this Psalm:-

I. The exhortation itself, Ps 29:1, 2.

II. The reasons on which it is founded. These are drawn,

1. From his power, Ps 29:3-11.

2. From the protection he affords to his people, Ps 29:11.

I. The exhortation, which is singular. It proceeds from a king,

and not from a common man; a prince, a great prince; and reminds

princes and great men that there is One greater than they; and

that, therefore, they should yield unto him his due honour and

worship.

1. That they freely yield and give it up: for which he is very

earnest, as appears from the urged repetition, give, give, give.

2. That in giving this, they must understand they are giving him

no more than his due: "Give him the honour due to his name."

3. What they are to give: glory and strength. 1. They must make

his name to be glorious. 2. They must attribute their strength to

him.

4. That they bow before and adore him.

5. That they exhibit this honour in the proper PLACE: "In his

temple; and in the beauty of holiness."

II. And that they may be more easily persuaded to give the Lord

the honour due to his name, he proposes two reasons to be

considered:-

First. His power; for although they be mighty ones, his power

is infinitely beyond theirs; which is seen in his works of nature;

but, omitting many others, he makes choice of the thunder, and the

effects it produces.

1. From its nature: for howsoever philosophers may assign it to

natural causes, yet religious men will look higher; and, when

they hear those fearful noises in the air, will confess, with the

psalmist, that it is the voice of the Lord, which he repeats here

seven times; and this voice has affrighted the stoutest-hearted

sinners, and the mightiest of tyrants.

2. From the place where this voice is given: "The voice of the

Lord is upon the waters; upon many waters."

3. From its force and power. They are not vain and empty noises,

but strike a terror: "The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice

of the Lord is full of majesty."

4. From its effects; which he explains by an induction:-

1. Upon the strong TREES, the cedars of Lebanon: "The voice of

the Lord breaks the cedars," &c.

2. Upon the firmest MOUNTAINS, even Lebanon and Sirion; for

sometimes the thunder is accompanied with an earthquake, and the

mountains skip like a calf.

3. Upon the air; which is, to common minds, no small wonder;

for, as nothing is more contrary to fire than water, it is next to

miraculous how, out of a watery cloud, such flames of fire should

be darted. "The voice of the Lord divideth the flames of fire."

4. In the brute creation; for it makes them fear and leave their

caves, dens, and woods; yea, makes some of them cast their young:

"The voice of the Lord shaketh the wilderness," &c.; "it maketh

the hinds to calve."

5. In the mighty rains which follow upon it; when the cataracts

of heaven are opened, and such floods of water follow that a man

might fear that the earth was about to be overwhelmed by a second

inundation. Out of all which he draws this conclusion: "The Lord

sitteth upon the flood; the Lord sitteth a King for ever;"

therefore, the earth is not destroyed.

Secondly. His second reason is drawn from the works of grace. 1.

When He moves men to acknowledge his voice, and to give him glory

in his temple: "In his temple doth every man speak of his honour."

2. By the security He gives to his people, even in the time when

he utters his voice, and speaks in thunder; whereas the wicked

then tremble and quake: "The Lord will give strength unto his

people; the Lord will bless his people with peace," i.e., bodily

security, and peace of conscience.

Copyright information for Clarke