Who lays the beams of his chambers in the waters: who makes the clouds his chariot: who walks on the wings of the wind:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Layeth the beams.—Literally, maketh to meet The meaning of the Hebrew word, which is an exact equivalent of the Latin contignare, is clear from Nehemiah 2:8; Nehemiah 3:3; Nehemiah 3:6, and from the meaning of the derived noun (2Kings 6:2; 2Kings 6:5; Song of Solomon 1:17).
In the waters.—The manner of this ethereal architecture is necessarily somewhat difficult to picture. The pavilion which God rears for His own abode appears to rest on a floor of rain-clouds, like a tent spread on a flat eastern roof. (See Psalm 18:11; Amos 9:6-7.) Southey’s description of the Palace of Indra may perhaps help the imagination:—
“Built on the lake, the waters were its floor;
And here its walls were water arched with fire,
And here were fire with water vaulted o’er;
And spires and pinnacles of fire
Round watery cupolas aspire,
And domes of rainbow rest on fiery towers.”
Curse of Kehama.
Who maketh the clouds His chariot.—See Psalm 18:10, probably the original of this verse; chariot (rekhûb) here taking the place of cherub.
Walketh upon the wings of the wind.—Doubtless the metaphor is taken from the clouds, which, in a wind-swept sky, float along like “the drifted wings of many companies of angels.” The clause is thus in direct parallelism with the description of the cloud chariot. The figure has passed into modern song:
“Every gust of rugged wings
That blows from off each beaked promontory.”
“No wing of wind the region swept.”
TENNYSON: In Memoriam.Psalm 104:3. Who layeth the beams of his chambers — His upper rooms, (so the word עליותיו signifies,) in the waters — The waters that are above the firmament, (Psalm 104:3,) as he has founded the earth upon the seas and floods, the waters beneath the firmament. The Almighty is elsewhere said to make those dark waters, compacted in the thick clouds of the skies, the secret place, or chamber, of his residence, and a kind of footstool to his throne: see Psalm 18:9; Psalm 18:11. Though air and water are fluid bodies, yet, by the divine power, they are kept as tight and as firm in the place assigned them, as a chamber is with beams and rafters. How great a God is he whose presence-chamber is thus reared, thus fixed! Who maketh the clouds his chariot — In which he rides strongly, swiftly, and far above, out of the reach of opposition, when at any time it is his will to make use of uncommon providences in his government of the world. He descended in a cloud, as in a chariot, to mount Sinai, to give the law, and to mount Tabor, to proclaim the gospel; and he still frequently rides upon the clouds, or heavens, to the help of his people, Deuteronomy 33:26. Who walketh upon the wings of the wind — “There is an unequalled elegance,” says Mr. Hervey, “in these words. It is not said he flieth, he runneth, but he walketh; and that, on the very wings of the wind; on the most impetuous element, raised into the utmost rage, and sweeping along with incredible rapidity. We cannot have a more sublime idea of the Deity; serenely walking on an element of inconceivable swiftness, and, as it seems to us, uncontrollable impetuosity.” “How astonishingly magnificent and tremendous is the idea which these words convey to us of the great King, riding upon the heavens, encompassed with clouds and darkness, attended by the lightnings, those ready executioners of his vengeance, and causing the world to resound and tremble at the thunder of his power and the noise of his chariot-wheels. By these ensigns of royalty, these emblems of omnipotence, and instruments of his displeasure, doth Jehovah manifest his presence, when he visiteth rebellious man, to make him own and adore his neglected and insulted Lord.” — Horne.Acts 1:13; Acts 9:37, Acts 9:39; Acts 20:8. It refers here to the chamber - the exalted abode of God - as if raised above all other edifices, or above the world. The word "waters" here refers to the description of the creation in Genesis 1:6-7 - the waters "above the firmament," and the waters "below the firmament." The allusion here is to the waters above the firmament; and the meaning is, that God had constructed the place of his own abode - the room where he dwelt - in those waters; that is, in the most exalted place in the universe. It does not mean that he made it of the waters, but that his home - his dwelling-place - was in or above those waters, as if he had built his dwelling not on solid earth or rock, but in the waters, giving stability to that which seems to have no stability, and making the very waters a foundation for the structure of his abode.
Who walketh upon the wings of the wind - See the notes at Psalm 18:10.
Psalm 104:3I saw in the night visions, and behold, one like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven' Daniel 7:13. So the Saviour is represented as coming to judgment in the clouds of heaven Matthew 24:30. Compare the sublime description in Habakkuk 3:3-10.
And the idols of Egypt - It is well known that Egypt was celebrated for its idolatry. They worshipped chiefly the heavenly bodies; but they worshipped also all kinds of animals, probably as living symbols of their gods. "Shall be moved." That is, shall tremble, be agitated, alarmed; or shall be removed from their place, and overthrown. The word will bear either construction. Vitringa inclines to the latter.
And the heart of Egypt - The strength; the courage; the rigor. We use the word "heart" in the same sense now, when we speak of a stout heart; a courageous heart, etc.
walketh—or, "moveth" (compare Ps 18:10, 11; Am 9:6).In the waters; in the waters above the heavens, as they are called, Genesis 1:7; or, in the clouds, as it is explained in the next clause, in which he many times resides and rides, and manifests his presence. Who manageth and employeth the clouds and winds in his service. Amos 9:6, the chambers where he resides; his courts, as the Targum; his palace and apartments, his presence chamber particularly, the floor and beams of them are the waters bound up in the thick clouds; or the region of the air, from whence the rain descends to water the hills, as in Psalm 104:13.
Who maketh the clouds his chariot; to ride in; in these sometimes Jehovah rides to execute judgment on his enemies, Isaiah 19:1 and in these sometimes he appears in a way of grace and mercy to his people, Exodus 13:21, in these, as in chariots, Christ went up to heaven; and in these will he come a second time; and into these will the saints be caught up to meet the Lord in the air at his coming, Acts 1:9.
Who walketh upon the wings of the wind; see Psalm 18:10 which is expressive of his swiftness in coming to help and assist his people in time of need; who helps, and that right early; and may very well be applied both to the first and second coming of Christ, who came leaping upon the mountains, and skipping upon the hills, when he first came; and, when he comes a second time, will be as a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of spices, Sol 2:8. The Targum is,
"upon the swift clouds, like the wings of an eagle;''
hence, perhaps, it is, the Heathens have a notion of Jupiter's being carried in a chariot through the air, when it thunders and lightens (k).Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters: who maketh the clouds his chariot: who walketh upon the wings of the wind:
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)3. By a bold paradox the Creator is described as laying the beams of his upper chambers in the waters. On the mysterious reservoir of waters, which was imagined by the ancient Hebrews to exist above the ‘firmament’ (Genesis 1:7; Psalm 29:3; Psalm 148:4), He constructs His secret dwelling, as a man builds “upper chambers” on the roof of his house for air and privacy. The line is an echo of Amos 9:6, “he that buildeth his upper chambers in the heavens.”
who maketh the clouds &c.] The stormcloud and the tempest are the symbols of His Advent. Cp. Psalm 18:10; Isaiah 19:1; Daniel 7:13; Matthew 24:30.Verse 3. - Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters. God forms himself an upper chamber, as a dwelling place, in "the waters that are above the firmament" (Genesis 1:7), as a man builds himself an upper chamber with beams and rafters. Who maketh the clouds his chariot (comp. Isaiah 19:1, "Behold, the Lord rideth upon a thick cloud"). Who walketh upon the wings of the wind (comp. Psalm 18:10). The anthropomorphism will be pardoned for the sake of the beauty of the imagery. Psalm 115:3; Ecclesiastes 5:12, is the unchangeable realm above the rise and fall of things here below. On Psalm 103:19 cf. 1 Chronicles 29:12. בּכּל refers to everything created without exception, the universe of created things. In connection with the heavens of glory the poet cannot but call to mind the angels. His call to these to join in the praise of Jahve has its parallel only in Psalm 29:1-11 and Psalm 148:1-14. It arises from the consciousness of the church on earth that it stands in living like-minded fellowship with the angels of God, and that it possesses a dignity which rises above all created things, even the angels which are appointed to serve it (Psalm 91:11). They are called גּבּרים as in Joel 3:11, and in fact גּבּרי כּח, as the strong to whom belongs strength unequalled. Their life endowed with heroic strength is spent entirely - an example for mortals - in an obedient execution of the word of God. לשׁמע is a definition not of the purpose, but of the manner: obediendo (as in Genesis 2:3 perficiendo). Hearing the call of His word, they also forthwith put it into execution. the hosts (צבאיו), as משׁרתיו shows, are the celestial spirits gathered around the angels of a higher rank (cf. Luke 2:13), the innumerable λειτουργικὰ πνεῦματα (Psalm 104:4, Daniel 7:10; Hebrews 1:14), for there is a hierarchia caelestis. From the archangels the poet comes to the myriads of the heavenly hosts, and from these to all creatures, that they, wheresoever they may be throughout Jahve's wide domain, may join in the song of praise that is to be struck up; and from this point he comes back to his own soul, which he modestly includes among the creatures mentioned in the third passage. A threefold בּרכי נפשׁי now corresponds to the threefold בּרכוּ; and inasmuch as the poet thus comes back to his own soul, his Psalm also turns back into itself and assumes the form of a converging circle.
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