Psalm 104:8
They go up by the mountains; they go down by the valleys to the place which you have founded for them.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(8) They go up.—This translation is grammatically possible, but is inconsistent with the preceding description. It is better therefore to take the clause parenthetically, and to make hills and valleys the subjects. Hills rise, valleys sink, an interesting anticipation of the disclosures of geology, which, though in a different sense, tells of the upheaval of mountains and depression of valleys. Two passages in Ovid have been adduced in illustration (Met. i. 43, 344). And Milton, no doubt with the psalm as well as Ovid in his mind, wrote

“Immediately the mountains huge appear

Emergent,” &c—Paradise Lost, book vii.

Psalm 104:8. They go up by the mountains — Rather, They went up mountains: they went down valleys, &c. — They went over hill and dale, as we say; they neither stopped at the former, nor lodged in the latter, but made the best of their way to the place founded for them. The psalmist is “describing the motion of the waters in mountains and valleys, when, at God’s command, they filed off from the surface of the earth, into the posts assigned them.” Some interpret the psalmist’s meaning to be, that, in that first division of the waters from the earth, part went upward and became springs in the mountains, but the greatest part went downward to the channels made for them. Thus Dr. Waterland: They climb the mountains; they fall down on the valleys. The Hebrew, however, may be rendered, (as it is by some, both ancient and later interpreters,) The mountains ascended; the valleys descended; that is, when the waters were separated, part of the earth appeared to be high, and formed the mountains, and a part to be low, and constituted the valleys or low grounds. So Bishop Patrick: “Immediately the dry land was seen, part of which rose up in lofty hills; and the rest sunk down in lowly valleys, where thou hast cut channels for the waters to run into the main ocean, the place thou hast appointed for them.” But the former sense seems most agreeable to the context, because he speaks of the waters both in the foregoing and following verses. 104:1-9 Every object we behold calls on us to bless and praise the Lord, who is great. His eternal power and Godhead are clearly shown by the things which he hath made. God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. The Lord Jesus, the Son of his love, is the Light of the world.They go up by the mountains ... - That is, when they were gathered together into seas. They seemed to roll and tumble over hills and mountains, and to run down in valleys, until they found the deep hollows which had been formed for seas, and where they were permanently collected together. The margin here is, "The mountains ascend, the valleys descend." So it is translated in the Septuagint, in the Latin Vulgate, by Luther, and by DeWette. The more natural idea, however, is that in our translation: "They (the waters) go up mountains; they descend valleys."

Unto the place - The deep hollows of the earth, which seem to have been scooped out to make a place for them.

Which thou hast founded for them - Where thou hast laid a permanent foundation for them on which to rest; that is, which thou hast prepared for them.

6-9. These verses rather describe the wonders of the flood than the creation (Ge 7:19, 20; 2Pe 3:5, 6). God's method of arresting the flood and making its waters subside is poetically called a "rebuke" (Ps 76:6; Isa 50:2), and the process of the flood's subsiding by undulations among the hills and valleys is vividly described. In that first division of the waters from the earth, some part of them by God’s command, contrary to their own nature, went upwards, and became springs in the mountains, and the greatest part went downwards to the channels made for them. Others, both ancient and later interpreters, read the words thus, The mountains ascend, the valleys descend; when the waters were separated, part of the earth went upward, and made the mountains; and part went downward, and made the valleys or low grounds. But our translation seems the best, as being most agreeable to the context, because he speaks of the waters both in the foregoing and following verses.

Unto the place which thou hast founded for them; unto their proper channels and receptacles which God provided for them. They go up by the mountains, they go down by the valleys,.... The Targum is,

"they ascend out of the deep to the mountains;''

that is, the waters, when they went off the earth at the divine orders, steered their course up the mountains, and then went down by the valleys to the place appointed for them; they went over hills and dales, nothing could stop them or retard their course till they came to their proper place; which is another instance of the almighty power of the Son of God. Some render the words, "the mountains ascended, the valleys descended (m)"; and then the meaning is, when the depth of waters were called off the earth, the mountains and valleys appeared, the one seemed to rise up and the other to go down; but the former reading seems best, and emblematically describes the state of God's people in this world, in their passage to their appointed place; who have sometimes mountains of difficulties to go over, and which seem insuperable, and yet they surmount them; sometimes they are upon the mount of heaven by contemplation, and have their hearts and affections above; they mount up with wings as eagles; sometimes they are upon the mount of communion with God, and by his favour their mount stands strong, and they think they shall never be moved; at other times they are down in the valleys, in a low estate and condition; in low frames of soul, in a low exercise of grace, and in the valley of the shadow of death, of afflictive providences in soul or body: and as the waters, thus steering their course under a divine direction, and by an almighty power, at length came unto the place which, the psalmist says, thou hast founded for them, meaning the seas; which the Lord founded and prepared for the reception of them; and which collection of waters in one place he called by that name, Genesis 1:10. So the Lord's people, through a variety of circumstances, trials, and exercises, will be all brought safe to the place appointed for them, and prepared by Christ in his Father's house; where they will be swallowed up in the boundless ocean of everlasting love.

(m) So Pagninus, Musculus, Cocceius.

They go up by the mountains; they go down by the valleys unto the place which thou hast founded for them.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
8. (The mountains rise, the vales sink down,)

Unto the place which thou hadst founded for them.

The ‘rebuke’ of God is His command, uttered as it were with a voice of thunder (Psalm 18:15; Isaiah 50:2). It is best to follow the marg. of A.V. and R.V. in taking Psalm 104:8 a as a parenthesis, describing the result of this Divine command. Mountains and valleys appear (Genesis 1:9) as the waters retire to the place appointed for them. Cp. Ov. Metam. i. 344 f.

“Flumina subsidunt, colles exire videntur,

Surgit humus, crescunt loca, decrescentibus undis.”

See also Milton, Par. Lost, vii. 285 ff.

The rendering of the A.V. and R.V., which is also grammatically possible, appears to describe the commotion of the waters as the great deep breaks up and they seek their appointed place.Verse 8. - They go up by the mountains; they go down by the valleys; rather, they went up mountains; they went down valleys. In the general commotion of the waters, as they "hasted away," sometimes vast waves swept over mountain tops, sometimes huge floods washed down the courses of valleys - a graphic description of the scene which no eye saw, but which the poet figures to himself - a turmoil and confusion beyond that even of the great Deluge itself (see Genesis 7:17-19; Genesis 8:1-3). Unto the place which thou hast (rather, hadst) founded for them. The ocean bed, which had, in intention, been already prepared to receive them. The first decastich begins the celebration with work of the first and second days. הוד והדר here is not the doxa belonging to God πρὸ παντὸς τοῦ αἰῶνος (Jde 1:25), but the doxa which He has put on (Job 40:10) since He created the world, over against which He stands in kingly glory, or rather in which He is immanent, and which reflects this kingly glory in various gradations, yea, to a certain extent is this glory itself. For inasmuch as God began the work of creation with the creation of light, He has covered Himself with this created light itself as with a garment. That which once happened in connection with the creation may, as in Amos 4:13; Isaiah 44:24; Isaiah 45:7; Jeremiah 10:12, and frequently, be expressed by participles of the present, because the original setting is continued in the preservation of the world; and determinate participles alternate with participles without the article, as in Isaiah 44:24-28, with no other difference than that the former are more predicative and the latter more attributive. With Psalm 104:2 the poet comes upon the work of the second day: the creation of the expanse (רקיע) which divides between the waters. God has spread this out (cf. Isaiah 40:22) like a tent-cloth (Isaiah 54:2), of such light and of such fine transparent work; נוטה here rhymes with עטה. In those waters which the "expanse" holds aloft over the earth God lays the beams of His upper chambers (עליּותתו, instead of which we find מעלותיו in Amos 9:6, from עליּה, ascent, elevation, then an upper story, an upper chamber, which would be more accurately עלּיּה after the Aramaic and Arabic); but not as though the waters were the material for them, they are only the place for them, that is exalted above the earth, and are able to be this because to the Immaterial One even that which is fluid is solid, and that which is dense is transparent. The reservoirs of the upper waters, the clouds, God makes, as the lightning, thunder, and rain indicate, into His chariot (רכוּב), upon which he rides along in order to make His power felt below upon the earth judicially (Isaiah 19:1), or in rescuing and blessing men. רכוּב (only here) accords in sound with כּרוּב, Psalm 18:11. For Psalm 104:3 also recalls this primary passage, where the wings of the wind take the place of the cloud-chariot. In Psalm 104:4 the lxx (Hebrews 1:7) makes the first substantive into an accusative of the object, and the second into an accusative of the predicate: Ὁ ποιῶν τοὺς ἀγγέλους αὐτοῦ πνεῦματα καὶ τοὺς λειτουργοὺς αὐτοῦ πυρὸς φλόγα. It is usually translated the reverse say: making the winds into His angels, etc. This rendering is possible so far as the language is concerned (cf. Psalm 100:3 Chethb, and on the position of the worlds, Amos 4:13 with Psalm 5:8), and the plural משׁרתיו is explicable in connection with this rendering from the force of the parallelism, and the singular אשׁ from the fact that this word has no plural. Since, however, עשׂה with two accusatives usually signifies to produce something out of something, so that the second accusative (viz., the accusative of the predicate, which is logically the second, but according to the position of the words may just as well be the first, Exodus 25:39; Exodus 30:25, as the second, Exodus 37:23; Exodus 38:3; Genesis 2:7; 2 Chronicles 4:18-22) denotes the materia ex qua, it may with equal right at least be interpreted: Who makes His messengers out of the winds, His servants out of the flaming or consuming (vid., on Psalm 57:5) fire (אשׁ, as in Jeremiah 48:45, masc.). And this may affirm either that God makes use of wind and fire for special missions (cf. Psalm 148:8), or (cf. Hofmann, Schriftbeweis, i. 325f.) that He gives wind and fire to His angels for the purpose of His operations in the world which are effected through their agency, as the materials of their outward manifestation, and as it were of their self-embodiment,

(Note: It is a Talmudic view that God really makes the angels out of fire, B. Chagiga, 14a (cf. Koran, xxxviii. 77): Day by day are the angels of the service created out of the stream of fire (נהר דינור), and sing their song of praise and perish.)

as then in Psalm 18:11 wind and cherub are both to be associated together in thought as the vehicle of the divine activity in the world, and in Psalm 35:5 the angel of Jahve represents the energy of the wind.

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