Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
Commotion of Nature before God the Redeemer out of Egypt
To the side of the general Hallelujah Psalm 113:1-9 comes an historical one, which is likewise adorned in Psalm 114:8 with the Chirek compaginis, and still further with Cholem compaginis, and is the festival Psalm of the eighth Passover day in the Jewish ritual. The deeds of God at the time of the Exodus are here brought together to form a picture in miniature which is as majestic as it is charming. There are four tetrastichs, which pass by with the swiftness of a bird as it were with four flappings of its wings. The church sings this Psalm in a tonus peregrinus distinct from the eight Psalm-tones.
When Israel went out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language;Egypt is called עם לעז (from לעז, cogn. לעג, לעה), because the people spoke a language unintelligible to Israel (Psalm 81:6), and as it were a stammering language. The lxx, and just so the Targum, renders ἐκ λαοῦ βαρβάρου (from the Sanscrit barbaras, just as onomatopoetic as balbus, cf. Fleischer in Levy's Chaldisches Wrterbuch, i. 420). The redeemed nation is called Judah, inasmuch as God made it His sanctuary (קדשׁ) by setting up His sanctuary (מקדּשׁ, Exodus 15:17) in the midst of it, for Jerusalem (el ḳuds) as Benjamitish Judaean, and from the time of David was accounted directly as Judaean. In so far, however, as He made this people His kingdom (ממשׁלותיו, an amplificative plural with Mem pathachatum), by placing Himself in the relation of King (Deuteronomy 33:5) to the people of possession which by a revealed law He established characteristically as His own, it is called Israel. 1 The predicate takes the form ותּהי, for peoples together with country and city are represented as feminine (cf. Jeremiah 8:5). The foundation of that new beginning in connection with the history of redemption was laid amidst majestic wonders, inasmuch as nature was brought into service, co-operating and sympathizing in the work (cf. Psalm 77:15.). The dividing of the sea opens, and the dividing of the Jordan closes, the journey through the desert to Canaan. The sea stood aside, Jordan halted and was dammed up on the north in order that the redeemed people might pass through. And in the middle, between these great wonders of the exodus from Egypt and the entrance into Canaan, arises the not less mighty wonder of the giving of the Law: the skipping of the mountains like rams, of the ills like בּני־צאן, i.e., lambs (Wisd. 19:9), depicts the quaking of Sinai and its environs (Exodus 19:18, cf. supra Psalm 68:9, and on the figure Psalm 29:6).
Judah was his sanctuary, and Israel his dominion.
The sea saw it, and fled: Jordan was driven back.
The mountains skipped like rams, and the little hills like lambs.
What ailed thee, O thou sea, that thou fleddest? thou Jordan, that thou wast driven back?The poet, when he asks, "What aileth thee, O sea, that thou fleest...?" lives and moves in this olden time as a contemporary, or the present and the olden time as it were flow together to his mind; hence the answer he himself gives to the question propounded takes the form of a triumphant mandate. The Lord, the God of Jacob, thus mighty in wondrous works, it is before whom the earth must tremble. אדון does not take the article because it finds its completion in the following יעקב (אלוהּ); it is the same epizeuxis as in Psalm 113:8; Psalm 94:3; Psalm 96:7, Psalm 96:13. ההפכי has the constructive ı̂ out of the genitival relation; and in למעינו in this relation we have the constructive ô, which as a rule occurs only in the genitival combination, with the exception of this passage and בּנו באר, Numbers 24:3, Numbers 24:15 (not, however, in Proverbs 13:4, "his, the sluggard's, soul"), found only in the name for wild animals חיתו־ארץ, which occurs frequently, and first of all in Genesis 1:24. The expression calls to mind Psalm 107:35. הצּוּר is taken from Exodus 17:6; and חלּמישׁ (lxx τὴν ἀκρότομον, that which is rugged, abrupt)
(Note: One usually compares Arab. chlnbûs, chalnabûs the Karaite lexicographer Abraham ben David writes חלמבוס]; but this obsolete word, as a compound from Arab. chls, to be black-grey, and Arab. chnbs, to be hard, may originally signify a hard black-grey stone, whereas חלמישׁ looks like a mingling of the verbal stems Arab. ḥms, to be hard, and Arab. ḥls, to be black-brown (as Arab. jlmûd, a detached block of rock, is of the verbal stems Arab. jld, to be hard, and Arab. jmd, to be massive). In Hauran the doors of the houses and the window-shutters are called Arab. ḥalasat when they consist of a massive slab of dolerite, probably from their blackish hue. Perhaps חלמישׁ is the ancient name for basalt; and in connection with the hardness of this form of rock, which resembles a mass of cast metal, the breaking through of springs is a great miracle. - Wetzstein. For other views vid., on Isaiah 49:21; Isaiah 50:7.)
stands, according to Deuteronomy 8:15, poetically for סלע, Numbers 20:11, for it is these two histories of the giving of water to which the poet points back. But why to these in particular? The causing of water to gush forth out of the flinty rock is a practical proof of unlimited omnipotence and of the grace which converts death into life. Let the earth then tremble before the Lord, the God of Jacob. It has already trembled before Him, and before Him let it tremble. For that which He has been He still ever is; and as He came once, He will come again.
Ye mountains, that ye skipped like rams; and ye little hills, like lambs?
Tremble, thou earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob;
Which turned the rock into a standing water, the flint into a fountain of waters.