Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
1 When Israel went out of Egypt,
The house of Jacob from a people of strange language,
2 Judah was his sanctuary,
And Israel his dominion.
3 The sea saw it, and fled:
Jordan was driven back.
4 The mountains skipped like rams,
And the little hills like lambs.
5 What ailed thee, O thou sea, that thou fleddest?
Thou Jordan, that thou wast driven back?
6 Ye mountains, that ye skipped like rams;
And ye little hills, like lambs?
7 Tremble, thou earth, at the presence of the Lord,
At the presence of the God of Jacob;
8 Which turned the rock into a standing water,
The flint into a fountain of waters.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
CONTENTS AND COMPOSITION.—The wonderful power of God over nature is celebrated in a compact lyrical form and with poetic vividness (Psalm 114:3–6), as it was displayed in the leading of the people from Egypt, for the purpose of establishing a Divine government in Israel (Psalm 114:1, 2), and forms the ground of a summons to the earth to tremble before this wondrous God of Jacob (Psalm 114:7, 8). The time of composition cannot be ascertained. A union with the preceding so as to make one Passover-Psalm, under the supposition that a sacrifice intervenes (Ewald), is altogether arbitrary. The combination with the following into one Psalm (Sept., Syr., and others, Kimchi and some MSS.) was not made till later, and that for liturgical purposes.
[PEROWNE: “This is perhaps the most beautiful of all the Psalms which touch on the early history of Israel. It is certainly the most graphic and the most striking in the boldness of its outlines. The following remarks may perhaps illustrate the conception and plan of the Poem. 1. In structure it is singularly perfect.—We have four strophes, each of two verses, and each of these of two lines, in which the parallelism is carefully preserved. 2. The effect is produced, as in Ps. 29, not by minute tracing of details, but by the boldness with which certain great features of the history are presented. 3. A singular animation and dramatic force are given to the Poem by the beautiful apostrophe in Psalm 114:5, 6, and the effect or this is heightened to a remarkable degree by the use of the present tenses. The awe and the trembling of nature are a spectacle on which the Poet is looking. The parted sea through which Israel walks as on dry land; the rushing Jordan arrested in its course; the granite cliffs of Sinai, shaken to their base—he sees it all, and asks in wonder what it means. 4. Then it is that the truth burst upon his mind, and the impression of this upon the reader is very finely managed. The name of God, which has been entirely concealed up to this point in the poem, …is now only introduced after the apostrophe in Psalm 114:5, 6.” “The reason 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 afterwards; and then, with a very agreeable turn of thought, God is introduced at once in all His majesty” (Spectator, No. 461).—J. F. M.]
Psalm 114:1, 2. The people from which Israel was separated are called stammering [E. V.: of a strange language], not in ridicule, but for the purpose of describing their language as unintelligible, that is, foreign. [Dr. Alexander thinks that such expressions may perhaps involve an allusion to the pre-eminence of Hebrew as the primitive and sacred language. See Alexander on Isa. 33:19. For the other view comp. Deut. 28:49; Isa. 28:11; Jer. 5:15.—J. F. M.]. It is characteristic of the poetic plan and beauty of this Psalm that God the Lord is only suggested in Psalm 114:2 and not named definitely till Psalm 114:7. [See addition above]. The differences in the designations applied to the people of God are also intentional and admirable. They are first named genealogico-historically the house of Jacob. [ALEXANDER: “The house of Jacob is a phrase peculiarly appropriate to those who entered Egypt as a family and left it as a nation.”—J. F. M.]. Next they are termed Judah, in allusion to the sanctuary in their midst; for after David’s time Jerusalem was regarded as belonging to Judah rather than to Benjamin. Lastly they are called Israel, with reference to the relation in which they stood to God as their King, as citizens of His kingdom.—Judah is here feminine, being regarded as a nation or country.
Psalm 114:3 ff. The leaping of the mountains probably refers to the shaking of Sinai at the giving of the law (Ex. 19:18), since the miracle at the Red Sea, which began the journey through the desert, and that at the Jordan, which terminated it, are mentioned. The last verse alludes to Ex. 17:6; Num. 20:11; Deut. 8:15. The derivation of Challamish (Psalm 114:8) is doubtful. According to Wetzstein, it is perhaps the ancient name of basalt. The word appears to be a mingling of the verbal roots: to be hard, and: to be dark-brown.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. The religious reformation of Israel was bound up with its deliverance as a nation, and its historical separation from a strange people and country. Its formation into a separate people is not to be severed from its character as having been chosen, called, and planted as a people consecrated to God and a kingdom of Jehovah.
2. In this, God has proved Himself to be the unconditioned Ruler of all the forces of nature, and manifested Himself to His people as their Deliverer from bodily and spiritual distress. The Church upon the quaking earth should acknowledge this, proclaim it with praises, and exhibit it in her conduct.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
The Lord of nature and the Founder of the Church is one and the same God: what consolation there is in this assurance! And what a warning too in this truth!—Deliverance from the powers of this world, and subjection to the dominion of God, go hand in hand with God’s people.—The Almighty is thy God; what dost thou fear? But He is a holy King, too; how dost thou serve Him?—Let the earth tremble, but bold thou fast to God, us His redeemed people and consecrated inheritance.
STARKE: The misery of the oppressed is so much the more aggravated when it is endured in the midst of people whose language they cannot understand.—If we are God’s kingdom, let none become lord and master of our hearts except Him who has purchased us at such a price, to be His peculiar possession.—Sinai and Horeb quaked before the dreadful Lawgiver; Golgotha and Tabor leap with joy for the Redeemer.—If God can make the stones and water, He can also make stones bread and water wine, and thus in every need help His own.—LUTHER: We now sing this Psalm to the praise of Christ, who leads us out of death and sin, through the raging of the world, the flesh, and the devil, to eternal life.—OSIANDER: Miracles are related to us that we may know how we, with the help and succor of our God, may overcome all adversity and trouble. For the course of nature must be changed, rather than that God should let us perish.—The best weapon we can use against unbelief is this: with God nothing is impossible. Rieger: Faith must ever keep looking back to the small beginnings of God’s works.—GUENTHER: All the history of God’s people is prefigurative, both for other nations and for the Church of the Lord, and for each of its members.—DIEDRICH: Wherever God’s testimony is now beheld, there is Judah, and where there is strife for endless victory through God’s word alone, there is Israel.—TAUBE: The Lord over all is the Lord of His people, the God of Jacob: the ever-green olive leaf of consolation for His Church at all times.
[MATTH. HENRY: What is God’s sanctuary must be His dominion. Those only have the privileges of His house that submit to the laws of it: and for this end Christ hath redeemed us that He might bring us into God’s service and engage us for ever in it.—What turns the streams in a regenerate soul? What ails the lusts and corruptions that they fly back? that the prejudices are removed and the whole man becomes new? It is at the presence of God’s Spirit, that imaginations are cast down, 2 Cor. 10:5.—The trembling of the mountains before the Lord may shame the stupidity and obduracy of the children of men who are not moved at the discoveries of His glory.—The same almighty power which turned waters into a rock to be a wall to Israel, Ex. 14:22, turned the rock into waters to be a well to Israel; as they were protected so were they provided for by miracles, standing miracles, for such was the standing water, that fountain of waters into which the rock, the flinty rock, was turned, and that rock was Christ, 1 Cor. 10:4. For He is a fountain of living water to His Israel, from whom they receive grace for grace.—J. F. M.]
When Israel went out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language;