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An exhortation, by the example of the dumb creatures, to fear God in his church.
BISHOP PATRICK supposes, that as the foregoing psalm recites some instances of divine providence to particular people, so this makes a brief narration of some miraculous works of that providence, which respected the whole Jewish nation, and which are very elegantly expressed.
Psalms 114:1. From a people of strange language— Or, according to the original, a barbarous people; such as the Jews esteemed all other nations: though the original word properly signifies only a stranger, or alien.
Psalms 114:2. Judah was his sanctuary— The tribe of Judah is here put for the Jews in general, because Judah was the principal tribe. See Num_2:3; Num_7:12; Num_10:14. A correspondent of Sir Richard Steele's (Spectator, No. 461.) has translated this psalm into English verse; and in doing it he perceived a beauty, which was entirely new to him, and which, he says, he was going to lose; and that is, that the poet utterly conceals the presence of God in the beginning of it, and rather lets the possessive pronoun go without a substantive, than he will so much as mention any thing of the divinity there. Judah was his sanctuary, and Israel his dominion. The reason now seems evident, and this conduct necessary; for if GOD had appeared before, there could be no wonder why the mountains should leap, and the sea retire; therefore, that this convulsion of nature may be brought in with due surprise, his name is not mentioned till afterward; and then, with a very agreeable turn of thought, God is introduced at once in all his majesty. Mr. Cowley, in his Davideis, makes David perform this ode before Saul, when he relieved him from his melancholy; and it was a pretty thought of his, for the subject of it is very well calculated for such a purpose: but from this verse it appears as if it was written after the division of the ten tribes from the kingdom of Judah. So that it was, probably, not composed by David, but by some other person, as a paschal hymn. The reader will observe how exactly the alternate lines correspond with those preceding them throughout the psalm.
Psalms 114:7. Tremble, thou earth— The LXX read, The earth did tremble, in a more easy meaning, as being an answer to the foregoing question; but perhaps not so well suited to the Psalmist's design, which is to let the world know, that as it was from the presence of God among his people heretofore that the sea fled, &c. so now there was the same reason for the earth to tremble; as he was still present among them. The answer is elegantly understood, and turned into a command. A standing water in the next verse, is rendered by some a river. We would just observe, that the hallelujah, or, praise ye the Lord, at the end of the last psalm, is placed by the LXX, and with much seeming propriety, at the beginning of this.
REFLECTIONS.—The wonders of former days deserve to be kept in everlasting remembrance, both that God may be glorified for them, and we take encouragement from thence to hope still in his mercy.
1. God brought his Israel from Egypt: They went out, with triumph, wealth, and honour, from a people of a strange language which they understood not, or barbarous, as they accounted the Egyptian tongue, compared with their own. The people of God are thus brought up out of spiritual Egypt, and called from this strange country the world, to join those who speak the pure language of Canaan.
2. Among them his special presence rested, and he was in a peculiar manner their king. Judah was his sanctuary; his presence rested visibly in the midst of them; and Israel his dominion, among whom he erected a theocracy, himself their lawgiver and judge, and exercising the power of civil government among them. Thus does his presence dwell in his living temples, the souls of his people; holiness is written upon their hearts; and, obedient to all his commands and ordinances, they desire to approve themselves his obedient and devoted subjects.
3. To open a passage for them, the sea affrighted fled, and Jordan backwards rolled his overflowing streams. How was the mighty miracle affected? why fled the sea? why skipped the mountains Horeb and Sinai? Why? They felt the present deity; the powers of nature stood controlled before him, and earth shook to its centre. Note; (1.) Whatever difficulties are in the way of God's Israel, from seas of tribulation, and mountains of corruption, as easily and certainly shall all hindrances be removed, if they will but believe. (2.) Did rocky Horeb tremble before God? and is thy heart, sinner, more obdurate and insensible?
4. He gave them waters out of the rock, and, all the desert through, caused the salutary streams to follow them. That rock was Christ; from him still flow, for every believer's use, full streams of grace and consolation, to cheer him in his passage through this world's howling wilderness; nor will he ever leave or forsake his faithful followers, who perseveringly and simply cleave to him, till, from drinking at the streams below, he shall bring them to the fountain-head above, and fill them with eternal consolations and glory in the heavenly Canaan.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 114". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19