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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 114

Clarke's CommentaryClarke Commentary

Verse 1


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.


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 Psalms 114:1. 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 Psalms 81:5; Genesis 42:23.

The Chaldee has here מעמי ברבראי 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 Acts 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

Verse Psalms 114:2. 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

Verse Psalms 114:3. 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

Verse Psalms 114:5. 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 חולי 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

Verse Psalms 114:8. The flint — I have translated חלמיש 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.

Psalms 114:1. In gangyng of Isrel oute of Egipt,

Of the house of Jacob fra hethen folke.

Psalms 114:2. Made is Jude his halawyng

Isrel might of hym.

Psalms 114:3. The se sawe and fled,

Jurdan turned is agayne;

Psalms 114:4. Hawes gladed als wethers,

And hilles als lambes of schepe.

Psalms 114:5. What is to the se, that thou fled?

And thou Jordane that thou ert turned agayne?

Psalms 114:6. Hawes gladded als wethers?

And hils als lambs of schepe.

Psalms 114:7. Fra the face of Lorde styrde is the erth,

Fra the face of God of Jabob;

Psalms 114:8. 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.

Psalms 114:1; Psalms 114:1. [Anglo-Saxon]

Psalms 114:2; Psalms 114:2. [Anglo-Saxon]

Psalms 114:3; Psalms 114:3. [Anglo-Saxon]

Psalms 114:4; Psalms 114:4. [Anglo-Saxon]

Psalms 114:5; Psalms 114:5. [Anglo-Saxon]

Psalms 114:6; Psalms 114:6. [Anglo-Saxon]

Psalms 114:7; Psalms 114:7. [Anglo-Saxon]

Psalms 114:8; Psalms 114:8. [Anglo-Saxon]

Psalms 114:1; Psalms 114:1. On outgang Israel of Egypt,

House Jacob of folk foreigners;

Psalms 114:2; Psalms 114:2. Made is Jacob holyness his;

Israel andweald (government) his.

Psalms 114:3; Psalms 114:3. Sea saw, and flew!

Jordan turned underback!

Psalms 114:4; Psalms 114:4. Mounts they fain (rejoiced) so (as) rams,

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

Psalms 114:5; Psalms 114:5. What is the sea, that thou flew?

And thou river for that thou turned is underback?

Psalms 114:6; Psalms 114:6. Mounts ye fained (rejoiced) so so rams;

And hills so so lambs-sheep.

Psalms 114:7; Psalms 114:7. From sight Lord's stirred is earth;

From sight God of Jacob.

Psalms 114:8; Psalms 114:8. 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: -

Psalms 114:2; Psalms 114:2. Andweald, government. Hence weal and wealth, commonweal or wealth; the general government, that which produces the welfare of the country.

Psalms 114:4; Psalms 114:4. Faegnodon, fained - desired fervently, felt delight in expectation.

Psalms 114:4; Psalms 114:4. 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.

Psalms 114:8; Psalms 114:8. 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.


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, Psalms 114:1; the state to which they were brought, Psalms 114:2; the miracles then done, Psalms 114:3; and the law given, Psalms 114:4.

II. A prosopopoeia set down by way of dialogue: 1. The prophet asks the sea and Jordan why they fled, Psalms 114:5-6. 2. To which the answer is, that "the earth trembled," c., Psalms 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," Exodus 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, Joshua 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, Numbers 20:11. Psalms 114:8.

Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Psalms 114". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/acc/psalms-114.html. 1832.
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