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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 114

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Psalms 114:0


God's Deliverance of Israel from EgyptNo MT IntroThe Power of God in His Deliverance of IsraelHymn in Praise of God's Great Work in Creating the NationA Passion SongPassover Hymn
Psalms 114:1-2Psalms 114:1-2Psalms 114:1-2Psalms 114:1-2Psalms 114:1a
Psalms 114:1-2
Psalms 114:3-6Psalms 114:3-6Psalms 114:3-4Psalms 114:3-4Psalms 114:3-4
Psalms 114:5-6Psalms 114:5-6Psalms 114:5-6
Psalms 114:7-8Psalms 114:7-8Psalms 114:7-8Psalms 114:7-8Psalms 114:7-8

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

Verses 1-2

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 114:1-2 1When Israel went forth from Egypt, The house of Jacob from a people of strange language, 2Judah became His sanctuary, Israel, His dominion.

Psalms 114:1-2 This Psalm is about the exodus from Egypt (cf. Exodus 1-12). The exodus is a direct fulfillment of YHWH's revelation and promise to Abraham in Genesis 15:12-21. The exodus was the beginning of the People of God (cf. Exodus 19-20).

Notice the different designations for the people of God.

1. Israel

2. house of Israel

3. Judah

Psalms 114:1 “Israel” See Special Topic: Israel (the name).

“from a people of strange language” This phrase occurs only here in the OT. The AB (p. 134) takes the same consonants and revocalizes them to fit the imagery of Isaiah 25:3, where it denotes a “cruel people” (BDB 470, i.e., the Israelites' taskmasters, cf. Exodus 3:7). The same root is used with an emphatic lamedh (i.e., Hebrew letter L) in Lamentations 4:3.

The historical reality of Israel's having to deal with foreign domination is recurrent (cf. Isaiah 28:22; Isaiah 33:19; Jeremiah 5:15). The question of interpretation is how God's people could be dominated by pagans (cf. Habakkuk). As God took the Canaanite tribes out of the land because of their sin, so too, the Israelites because of their sin (i.e., the exiles by Assyria, Babylon, and Persia).

Psalms 114:2 Because both Judah and Israel are mentioned, one wonders when this Psalm was written.

1. the United Monarchy lasted from Saul - Solomon

2. in 922 B.C. the Kingdom split between

a. Rehoboam in Judah

b. Jeroboam I in Israel

3. after the return from Persian exile under Cyrus II, the Israelites took their collective name again, although they possessed only a small part of the tribal allocation of Judah (i.e., small area around Jerusalem)

“His sanctuary” This refers to

1. the temple in Jerusalem on Mt. Moriah

2. the whole land of Canaan as YHWH's special possession

“His dominion” This term (BDB 606) has two connotations.

1. YHWH's universal reign/realm, Psalms 103:22; Psalms 145:13 (cf. Joshua 3:0; Joshua 11:0; Joshua 13:0)

2. Canaan as YHWH's unique possession (i.e., the Promised Land, cf. Exodus 15:17)

Verses 3-6

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 114:3-6 3The sea looked and fled; The Jordan turned back. 4The mountains skipped like rams, The hills, like lambs. 5What ails you, O sea, that you flee? O Jordan, that you turn back? 6O mountains, that you skip like rams? O hills, like lambs?

Psalms 114:3-6 This is figurative language (cf. Psalms 18:7-15; Psalms 29:3-9; Psalms 68:7-8; Psalms 77:16-19). The two books that have helped me most in the area of OT hyperbole and imagery are

1. D. Brent Sandy, Plowshares and Pruning Hooks: Rethinking the Language of Biblical Prophecy and Apocalyptic

2. G. B. Caird, The Language and Imagery of the Bible

It is significant that “water” is mentioned in several senses. Water is the only thing not specifically said to be created in Genesis 1:0. Water in ANE mythology was divine (i.e., salt water, fresh water). There was conflict between water and the gods. The Bible often uses this imagery to describe YHWH (cf. Job 41:1; Psalms 74:12-17; Isaiah 27:1). YHWH controls Leviathan in Job 3:8; Psalms 104:26. But also notice the “sea” is personified in Psalms 114:3, Psalms 114:5 (along with other aspects of nature).

However, in Psalms 114:8 the life-giving aspect of water is stated. YHWH, not Ba'al, is the source of fertility (i.e., rain).

In a sense the imagery of separating water and dry land is an ANE allusion to initial creation. The goal of physical creation was the creation of the people of God. Creation's purpose was fellowship with God (see Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan).

Psalms 114:3 “The sea looked and fled” This could refer to

1. the crossing of the “Red Sea” (lit. “sea of reeds,” see SPECIAL TOPIC: THE RED SEA), which is described in Exodus 14:0 and in Moses' poem in Exodus 15:0; God did it by using

a. Moses' staff

b. a strong east wind

2. the crossing of the Jordan River at flood stage (cf. Joshua 3:0); see full exegetical notes on Joshua 3:0 online; God did it by a landslide upriver, which began at just the right moment and ended at just the right moment

Psalms 114:4, Psalms 114:6 The topological features of Canaan rejoice at the coming of YHWH and His people (cf. Psalms 96:9). This is expressed in the Qal imperative, “tremble” (BDB 296, KB 297), which denotes both

1. trembling in fear (cf. 1 Chronicles 16:30)

2. dancing in joy (cf. Psalms 87:7; Psalms 96:9)

Psalms 114:4 “the mountains” This could refer to Mt. Sinai, but probably to the “mountains” (i.e., hills) of Canaan.

Psalms 114:6 Notice this verse repeats the verb of Psalms 114:4.

1. skip, Psalms 114:4 - Qal perfect

2. skip, Psalms 114:6 - Qal imperfect

Psalms 114:5-6 asks the question as to “why” nature acted so strangely. It was because of the presence of the Creator. What happened at the inception of the people of God is meant to continue!

Verses 7-8

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 114:7-8 7Tremble, O earth, before the Lord, Before the God of Jacob, 8Who turned the rock into a pool of water, The flint into a fountain of water.

Psalms 114:7 The earth physically convulses at the approach of the Creator.

Notice He is called “Lord” (Adon) here, not “Lord” (YHWH), as in Psalms 114:7a and Eloah in Psalms 114:7b. See SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY.

Psalms 114:8 The verse alludes to two specific occasions during the wilderness wandering period where YHWH supernaturally provided life-giving water (cf. Psalms 78:15; Psalms 105:41).

1. Exodus 17:6

2. Numbers 20:11

It is used to describe the eschatological period in Isaiah 48:21 (i.e., a second exodus).


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. To what historical period in Israel's history does this Psalm refer?

2. What is the theological purpose of personified nature?

3. Why is God's control of water so important?

4. How does the double meaning of “tremble” help with understanding this Psalm?

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Psalms 114". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/psalms-114.html. 2021.
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