Psalm 114:1
When Israel went out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language;
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(1) When Israel went out.—LXX., in the Exodus of Israel.”

A people of strange language.—LXX., rightly, “a barbarous people.” Since the Hebrew word, like the Greek, implies a certain scorn or ridicule, which ancient races generally had for those speaking another language. To this day the Russians call the Germans “dumb.”

Psalm 114:1-2. When Israel went out of Egypt — That is, were brought out by mighty signs and wonders wrought by the power of God; from a people of a strange language — From a barbarous people, as some render it: though it is not improbable that the Israelites, though they stayed so long in Egypt, yet, having little converse or society with the Egyptians, knew little or nothing of their language. Judah was his sanctuary — The tribe of Judah is here put for the Jews in general, because Judah was their principal tribe. And they are said to have been his sanctuary and his dominion, because he appointed that a tabernacle should be placed for himself among them, promised to receive their homage and service, granted them a glorious token of his presence, and became their Lawgiver, King, and Governor, in a peculiar sense.

114:1-8 An exhortation to fear God. - Let us acknowledge God's power and goodness in what he did for Israel, applying it to that much greater work of wonder, our redemption by Christ; and encourage ourselves and others to trust in God in the greatest straits. When Christ comes for the salvation of his people , he redeems them from the power of sin and Satan, separates them from an ungodly world, forms them to be his people, and becomes their King. There is no sea, no Jordan, so deep, so broad, but, when God's time is come, it shall be divided and driven back. Apply this to the planting the Christian church in the world. What ailed Satan and his idolatries, that they trembled as they did? But especially apply it to the work of grace in the heart. What turns the stream in a regenerate soul? What affects the lusts and corruptions, that they fly back; that prejudices are removed, and the whole man becomes new? It is at the presence of God's Spirit. At the presence of the Lord, not only mountains, but the earth itself may well tremble, since it has lain under a curse for man's sin. As the Israelites were protected, so they were provided for by miracles; such was that fountain of waters into which the flinty rock was turned, and that rock was Christ. The Son of God, the Rock of ages, gave himself to death, to open a fountain to wash away sins, and to supply believers with waters of life and consolation; and they need not fear that any blessing is too great to expect from his love. But let sinners fear before their just and holy Judge. Let us now prepare to meet our God, that we may have boldness before him at his coming.When Israel went out of Egypt - literally, "In the going out of Israel from Egypt." This is not to be confined to the exact act of the exodus, but embraces all that properly entered into that migration - the whole train of events which resuited in their being brought into the promised land.

The house of Jacob - The family of Jacob - a name appropriately used here, since it was the family of Jacob that had gone down into Egypt, and that had increased to these great numbers.

From a people of strange language - Speaking a foreign or a barbarian tongue. See the notes at Psalm 81:5.


Ps 114:1-8. The writer briefly and beautifully celebrates God's former care of His people, to whose benefit nature was miraculously made to contribute.

1-4. of strange language—(compare Ps 81:5).

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.

Psalm 114:1

"When Israel went out of Egypt." The song begins with a burst, as if the poetic fury could not be restrained, but overleaped all bounds. The soul elevated and filled with: a sense of divine glory cannot wait to fashion a preface, but springs at once into the middle of its theme. Israel emphatically came out of Egypt, out of the population among whom they had been scattered, from under the yoke of bondage, and from under the personal grasp of the king who had made the people into national slaves. Israel came out with a high hand and a stretched-out arm, defying all the power of the empire, and making the whole of Egypt to travail with sore anguish, as the chosen nation was as it were born out of its midst. "The house of Jacob from a people of strange language." They had gone down into Egypt as a single family - "the house of Jacob"; and, though they had multiplied greatly, they were still so united, and were so fully regarded by God as a single unit, that they are rightly spoken of as the house of Jacob. They were as one man in their willingness to leave Goshen; numerous as they were, not a single individual stayed behind. Unanimity is a pleasing token of the divine presence, and one of its sweetest fruits. One of their inconveniences in Egypt was the difference of languages, which was very great. The Israelites appear to have regarded the Egyptians as stammerers and babblers, since they could not understand them, and they very naturally considered the Egyptians to be barbarians, as they would no doubt often beat them because they did not comprehend their orders. The language of foreign taskmasters is never musical in an exile's ear. How sweet it is to a Christian who has been compelled to hear the filthy conversation of the wicked, when at last he is brought out from their midst to dwell among his own people!

Psalm 114:2

"Judah was his sanctuary, and Israel his dominion." The pronoun "his" comes in where we should have looked for the name of God; but the poet is so full of thought concerning the Lord that he forgets to mention his name, like the spouse in the Song, who begins, "Let him kiss me," or Magdalene when she cried, "Tell me where thou hast laid him." From the mention of Judah and Israel certain critics have inferred that this Psalm must have been written after the division of the two kingdoms; but this is only another instance of the extremely slender basis upon which an hypothesis is often built up. Before the formation of the two kingdoms-David had said, "Go, number Israel and Judah," and this was common parlance, for Uriah the Hittite said, "The ark and Israel, and Judah abide in tents"; so that nothing can be inferred from the use of the two names. No division into two kingdoms can have been intended here, for the poet is speaking of the coming out of Egypt when the people were so united that he has just before called them "the house of Judah." It would be quite as fair to prove from Psalm 114:1 that the Psalm was written, when the people were in union as to prove from the second that its authorship dates from their separation. Judah was the tribe which led the way in the wilderness march, and it was forseen in prophecy to be the royal tribe, hence its poetical mention in this place. The meaning of the passage is that the whole people at the coming out of Egypt were separated unto the Lord to be a peculiar people, a nation of priests whose motto should be, "Holiness unto the Lord." Judah was the Lord's "holy thing," set apart for his special use. The nation was peculiarly Jehovah's dominion, for it was governed by a theocracy in which God alone was King. It was his domain in a sense in which the rest of the world was outside his kingdom. These were the young days of Israel, the time of her espousals, when she went after the Lord into the wilderness, her God leading the way with signs and miracles. The whole people were the shrine of Deity, and their camp was one great temple. What a change there must have been for the godly amongst them from the idolatries and blasphemies of the Egyptians to the holy worship and righteous rule of the great King in Jeshurun. They lived in a world of wonders, where God was seen in the wondrous bread they ate and in the water they drank, as well as in the solemn worship of his holy place. When the Lord is manifestly present in a church, and his gracious rule obediently owned, what a golden age has come, and what honourable privileges his people enjoy! May it be so among us.

Psalm 114:3

"The sea saw it, and fled"; or rather, "The sea saw and fled" - it saw God and all his people following his lead, and it was struck with awe and fled away. A bold figure I The Bed Sea mirrored the hosts which had come down to its shore, and reflected the cloud which towered high over all, as the symbol of the presence of the Lord- never had such a scene been imagined upon the surface of the Bed Sea, or any other sea, before. It could not endure the unusual and astounding sight, and fleeing to the right and to the left, opened a passage for the elect people. A like miracle happened at the end of the great march of Israel, for "Jordan was driven back." This was a swiftly-flowing river, pouring itself down a steep decline, and it was not merely divided, but its current was driven back so that the rapid torrent, contrary to nature, flowed up-hill. This was God's work' the poet does not sing of the suspension of natural laws, or of a singular phenomenon not readily to be explained; but to him the presence of God with his people is everything, and in his lofty song he tells how the river was driven back because the Lord was there. In this case poetry is nothing but the literal fact, and the fiction lies on the side of the atheistic critics who will suggest any explanation of the miracle rather than admit that the Lord made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all his people. The division of the sea and the drying up of the river are placed together though forty years intervened, because they were the opening and closing scenes of one great event. We may thus unite by faith our new birth and our departure out of the world into the promised inheritance, for the God who led us out of the Egypt of our bondage under sin will also conduct us through the Jordan of death out of our wilderness wanderings in the desert of this tried and changeful life. It is all one and the same deliverance, and the beginning ensures the end.

continued...THE ARGUMENT

This Psalm is a solemn commemoration of Israel’s deliverance out of Egypt; and probably it was to be sung, amongst others, at the celebration of the passover.

The psalmist, rehearsing God’s delivering the Israelites out of Egypt, exhorteth all creatures to praise him.

Which was a great aggravation of their captivity and misery. Compare Jeremiah 5:15.

When Israel went out of Egypt,.... The people of Israel in a body, publicly, openly, and not by stealth; freely and willingly, not forced and drove out; though urged by the Egyptians to go, through the hand of God upon them; and so went out with the mighty hand and outstretched arm of the Lord, and with great riches, and in health, not one feeble or sick among them.

The house of Jacob from a people of strange language; or barbarous; as every language was reckoned by the Jews but their own; the Egyptian language they did not understand; see Psalm 81:5, no doubt many of them learned it during their long stay there, but in general they retained their own language. This was an emblem of the Lord's people in effectual calling, coming out of bondage into liberty, out of darkness into light, out of superstition, and idolatry and profaneness, to the service of the true God in righteousness and true holiness; and from a people of a strange language to those that speak the language of Canaan, a pure language, in which they can understated one another when they converse together, either about experience or doctrine; and the manner of their coming out is much the same, by strength of hand, by the power of divine grace, yet willingly and cheerfully, with great riches, the riches of grace, and a title to the riches of glory, and with much spiritual strength; for, though weak in themselves, yet are strong in Christ.

When Israel went out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of {a} strange language;

(a) Or, barbarous.

1. When Israel went forth out of Egypt] LXX ἐν ἐξόδῳ Ἰσραὴλ ἐξ Αἰγύπτου, In the exodus of Israel from Egypt; Vulg. In exitu Israel.

a people of strange language] The Egyptian language was unintelligible to Israelites (Genesis 42:23). In the ancient world difference of language emphasised difference of race; and a stranger was presumably an enemy. The tyranny of oppressors seemed to be aggravated by the barrier which difference of language placed between them and their victims. Cp. Deuteronomy 28:49; Isaiah 28:11; Isaiah 33:19. The Greek work barbăros (used by the LXX here) which originally meant simply a foreigner as one who spoke unintelligibly came gradually to bear the modern sense of barbarous.

1, 2. When Jehovah brought Israel out of Egypt He separated them from all other nations to be a holy people over which He Himself designed to rule.

Verse 1. - When Israel went out of Egypt; literally, at the going forth of Israel from Egypt; ἐν ἐξόδῳ Ἰσράηλ, LXX. The "going forth from Egypt" was the only thing parallel in Israelitish history to the going forth from Babylon. The nation should learn what to expect in the future by what occurred in the past. The house of Jacob (compare the more common "house of Israel," Psalm 98:3; Psalm 115:12; Psalm 135:19) from a people of strange language; literally, from a stammering people; but a people of foreign speech is no doubt meant (compare the Septuagint, ἐκ λαοῦ βαρβάρου). Psalm 114:1Egypt 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).
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