Psalm 29:3
The voice of the LORD is on the waters: the God of glory thunders: the LORD is on many waters.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(3) The voice.—The invocation to the angels over, the storm bursts, and seven successive peals of thunder mark its course of fury and destruction. It is first heard rolling over the waters from the west (comp. 1Kings 18:44), unless the “waters” and “many waters,” as in Psalm 18:11-12, refer to the gathered masses of rain-cloud, when we might compare

“Then broke the thunder

Like a whole sea overhead.”

BROWNING: Pippa Passes.

The Hebrew kôl (“voice”), used also of any loud sound (2Samuel 15:10, of the trumpet; Ezekiel 1:24, of water), is sometimes used (Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 52:8) to call attention, like our “Hark !” So Ewald here. Others refer it to the thunder, as in Psalm 77:18; but it seems better to take it for the combined noise of the storm, thunder, wind, and rain, as in Shakespeare—

“The gods who keep this pudder o’er our heads.”

Psalm 29:3. The voice of the Lord — That is, thunder, frequently so called; is upon the waters — Upon the seas, where its noise spreads far and wide, and is very terrible; or rather above the clouds, which are sometimes called waters, as Genesis 1:7; Psalm 18:11, because they are of a watery substance, and frequently much water is contained in them. And this circumstance is noticed here as being of considerable importance to magnify the divine power, which displays itself in these superior regions, which are far above the reach of all earthly potentates, and from whence he can easily and unavoidably smite all that dwell upon the earth, and will not submit to him. The Lord is upon many waters — Upon the clouds, in which there are sometimes vast treasures of water, and upon which God is said to sit and ride, Psalm 18:10-11; Psalm 104:3.29:1-11 Exhortation to give glory to God. - The mighty and honourable of the earth are especially bound to honour and worship him; but, alas, few attempt to worship him in the beauty of holiness. When we come before him as the Redeemer of sinners, in repentance faith, and love, he will accept our defective services, pardon the sin that cleaves to them, and approve of that measure of holiness which the Holy Spirit enables us to exercise. We have here the nature of religious worship; it is giving to the Lord the glory due to his name. We must be holy in all our religious services, devoted to God, and to his will and glory. There is a beauty in holiness, and that puts beauty upon all acts of worship. The psalmist here sets forth God's dominion in the kingdom of nature. In the thunder, and lightning, and storm, we may see and hear his glory. Let our hearts be thereby filled with great, and high, and honourable thoughts of God, in the holy adoring of whom, the power of godliness so much consists. O Lord our God, thou art very great! The power of the lightning equals the terror of the thunder. The fear caused by these effects of the Divine power, should remind us of the mighty power of God, of man's weakness, and of the defenceless and desperate condition of the wicked in the day of judgment. But the effects of the Divine word upon the souls of men, under the power of the Holy Spirit, are far greater than those of thunder storms in the nature world. Thereby the stoutest are made to tremble, the proudest are cast down, the secrets of the heart are brought to light, sinners are converted, the savage, sensual, and unclean, become harmless, gentle, and pure. If we have heard God's voice, and have fled for refuge to the hope set before us, let us remember that children need not fear their Father's voice, when he speaks in anger to his enemies. While those tremble who are without shelter, let those who abide in his appointed refuge bless him for their security, looking forward to the day of judgment without dismay, safe as Noah in the ark.The voice of the Lord - The voice of Yahweh. There can be no doubt that the expression here, which is seven times repeated in the psalm, "the voice of Jehovah," refers to thunder; and no one can fail to see the appropriateness of the expression. In heavy thunder it seems as if God spake. It comes from above. It fills us with awe. We know, indeed, that thunder as well as the other phenomena in the world, is produced by what are called "natural causes;" that there is no miracle in thunder; and that really God does not "speak" anymore in the thunder than he does in the sighing of the breeze or in the gurgling of the rivulet; but:

(a) He seems more impressively to speak to people in the thunder; and

(b) He may not improperly be regarded as speaking alike in the thunder, in the sighing of the breeze, and in the gurgling stream.

In each and all of these ways God is addressing men; in each and all there are lessons of great value conveyed, as if by His own voice, respecting His own existence and character. Those which are addressed to us particularly in thunder, pertain to His power, His majesty, His greatness; to our own weakness, feebleness, dependence; to the ease with which He could take us away, and to the importance of being prepared to stand before such a God. "Is upon the waters." The word "is" is supplied here by our translators in italics. The whole passage might be read as an exclamation: "The voice of Jehovah upon the waters!" It is the utterance of one who is overpowered by a sudden clap of thunder. The mind is awed. God seems to speak; His voice is heard rolling over the waters. The psalm was most likely composed in view of the sea or a lake - not improbably in view of the Mediterranean, when a storm was passing over it. A thunderstorm is sublime anywhere, in mountain scenery or upon the plains, upon the land or upon the ocean; but there are circumstances which give it special grandeur at sea, when the thunder seems to "roll" along with nothing to check or break it, and when the sublimity is increased by the solitude which reigns everywhere on the ocean.

The God of glory - The glorious God. See the notes at Psalm 24:7-10.

The Lord is upon many waters - Yahweh Himself seems to be on the ocean. His voice is heard there, and He Himself appears to be there. The margin here is, "great waters." This would seem to imply that the psalm was composed in view of waters more extended than a lake or a river, and sustains the idea above expressed, that it was in view of the great waters which must have been so familiar to the mind of the sacred writer - the waters of the Mediterranean.

3. The voice of the Lord—audible exhibition of His power in the tempest, of which thunder is a specimen, but not the uniform or sole example.

the waters—the clouds or vapors (Ps 18:11; Jer 10:13).

3 The voice of the Lord is upon the waters: the God of glory thundereth: the Lord is upon many waters.

4 The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.

5 The voice of the Lord breaketh the cedars; yea, the Lord breaketh the cedars of Lebanon.

6 He maketh them also to skip like a calf; Lebanon and Sirion like a young unicorn.

7 The voice of the Lord divideth the flames of fire

8 The voice of the Lord shaketh the wilderness; the Lord shaketh the wilderness of Kadesh.

9 The voice of the Lord maketh the hinds to calve, and discovereth the forests: and in his temple doth every one speak of his glory.

10 The Lord sitteth upon the flood; yea, the Lord sitteth King for ever.

Psalm 29:3

"The voice of the Lord is upon the waters." The thunder is not only poetically but instructively called "the voice of God," since it peals from on high; it surpasses all other sounds, it inspires awe, it is entirely independent of man, and has been used on some occasions as the grand accompaniment of God's speech to Adam's sons. There is peculiar terror in a tempest at sea, when deep calleth unto deep, and the raging sea echoes to the angry sky. No sight more alarming than the flash of lightning around the mast of the ship; and no sound more calculated to inspire a reverent awe than the roar of the storm. The children of heaven have often enjoyed the tumult with humble joy peculiar to the saints, and even those who know not God have been forced into unwilling reverence while the storm has lasted. "The God of glory thundereth." Thunder is in truth no mere electric phenomenon, but is caused by the interposition of God himself. Even the old heathen spake of Jupiter Tonans; but our modern wise men will have us believe in laws and forces, and anything or nothing so that they may be rid of God. Electricity of itself can do nothing; it must be called and sent upon its errand; and until the almighty Lord commissions it, its bolt of fire is inert and powerless. As well might a rock of granite, or a bar of iron fly in the midst of heaven, as the lightning go without being sent by the great First Cause. "The Lord is upon many waters." Still the Psalmist's ear hears no voice but that of Jehovah, resounding from the multitudinous and dark waters of the upper ocean of clouds, and echoing from the innumerable billows of the storm-tossed sea below. The waters above and beneath the firmament are astonished at the eternal voice. When the holy Spirit makes the divine promise to be heard above the many waters of our soul's trouble, then is God as glorious in the spiritual world as in the universe of matter. Above us and beneath us all is the peace of God when he gives us quiet.

Psalm 29:4

"The voice of the Lord is powerful." An irresistible power attends the lightning of which the thunder is the report. In an instant, when the Lord wills it, the force of electricity produces amazing results. A writer upon this subject, speaks of these results as including a light of the intensity of the sun in his strength, a heat capable of fusing the compactest metals, a force in a moment paralysing the muscles of the most powerful animals; a power suspending the all-pervading gravity of the earth, and an energy capable of decomposing and recomposing the closest affinities of the most intimate combinations. Well does Thompson speak of "the unconquerable lightning," for it is the chief of the ways at God in physical forces, and none can measure its power.

As the voice of God in nature is so powerful, so is it in grace; the reader will do well to draw a parallel, and he will find much in the gospel, which may be illustrated by the thunder of the Lord in the tempest. His voice, whether in nature or revelation, shakes both earth and heaven; see that ye refuse not him that speaketh. If his voice be thus mighty, what must his hand be! beware lest ye provoke a blow. "The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty." The King of kings speaks like a king. As when a lion roareth, all the beasts of the forest are still, so is the earth hushed and mute while Jehovah thundereth marvellously.

"Tis listening fear and dumb amazement all."

continued...

The voice of the Lord, i.e. thunder, as is manifest from the next clause, and the following effects; which is oft called the Lord’s voice, as Exodus 9:23,28,29 Job 37:4,5 Psa 18:14 46:6. Upon the waters; either,

1. Upon the seas; where its noise spreads far and wide, and is very terrible. But the following verses speak of the effects of it upon the earth only. Or rather,

2. Above in the clouds, which are called waters, Genesis 1:7 Psalm 18:11, because they are of a watery substance. And this circumstance is considerable here, to magnify the Divine power, which displayeth itself in those high places, which are far above the reach of all earthly potentates, and from whence he can easily and unavoidably smite all that dwell upon the earth, and will not submit to him. Upon many waters, i.e. upon the clouds, in which there are vast treasures of water, and upon which God is said to sit or ride, Psalm 18:10,11 104:3. The voice of the Lord is upon the waters,.... What follows concerning thunder, the voice of the Lord, gives so many reasons why he should have glory given him and be worshipped; the Heathens (y) paid their devotion to thunder and lightning: but this should be done to the author of them; which may be literally understood of thunder, and is the voice of the Lord; see Psalm 18:13; and which is commonly attended with large showers of rain, Jeremiah 10:13; and is very terrible upon the waters, and has its effect there, Psalm 104:7; and this is the rather mentioned, because that there is a God above, who is higher than the mighty, who are called upon to give glory to him, and because that thunder has been terrible to kings and great men of the earth; or this may be figuratively interpreted of the voice of Christ in the Gospel, which reaches to many nations and people, compared to waters, Revelation 17:15. The disciples had a commission to preach it to all nations, and the sound of their words went into all the world, Romans 10:18;

the God of glory thundereth; this shows that thunder may be meant by the voice of the Lord, who is glorious in himself, and in all his works; and may be applied to the Gospel of Christ, who is the Lord of glory, and whose ministers, at least some of them, are sons of thunder; see 1 Corinthians 2:8;

the Lord is upon many waters; that is, his voice is, as before, which is thunder; and that this belongs to God, the Heathens were so sensible of, that they called their chief deity Jupiter Tonans (z).

(y) Pausan. Arcad. sive l. 8. p. 503. (z) Horat. Epod. l. 5. Ode 2. v. 29. Martial. l. 2. Ep. 95.

The {b} voice of the LORD is upon the waters: the God of glory thundereth: the LORD is upon many waters.

(b) The thunder claps that are heard out of the clouds should make the wicked tremble for fear of God's anger.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
3. The voice of the Lord] So thunder is called in Exodus 9:23 ff.; Psalm 18:13; &c. Cp. Revelation 10:3 f.

upon the waters] Hardly the sea, as though the storm were represented as coming in from the Mediterranean; but rather the waters collected in the dense masses of storm-cloud upon which Jehovah rides (Psalm 18:9 ff.; Psalm 104:3; Jeremiah 10:13).

the God of glory] Cp. “the King of glory” (Psalm 24:7 ff.).

the Lord is upon many waters] The idea of the first line is repeated and emphasised. Not Jehovah’s voice alone, but Jehovah Himself is there, and the waters are many (or, great). The R.V. Even the Lord upon many waters is hardly an improvement. The P.B.V. of Psalm 29:3-4 is a free paraphrase of the supposed sense.

3–9. The exhibition of Jehovah’s power which is the ground of the opening call to praise. His voice is heard in the pealing of the thunder above the storm-clouds (Psalm 29:3-4); the storm bursts, it shatters the cedars and shakes the mountains in the far north (Psalm 29:5-6); the lightnings flash (Psalm 29:7); the deserts to the far south with their affrighted denizens tremble (Psalm 29:8-9); and over all resounds the chorus, Glory (Psalm 29:9 b). The seven times repeated voice of the Lord is like successive peals of thunder.Verse 3. - The voice of the Lord is upon the waters. The description of God's might in the thunderstorm now begins with one of the sudden transitions which David loves. "The voice of the Lord" - already identified with the thunder in Psalm 18:13 - is suddenly heard muttering in the height of heaven, "upon the waters;" i.e. the waters stored in the clouds that float on high in the air. The God of glory - the God set forth in vers. 1, 2 - thundereth. It is he himself, according to the psalmist, no minor agent. The Lord (Jehovah) is upon the many (or, great) waters (comp. Job 37:2-5 and Psalm 18:7-14). The first half of the Psalm prayed for deliverance and for judgment; this second half gives thanks for both. If the poet wrote the Psalm at one sitting then at this point the certainty of being answered dawns upon him. But it is even possible that he added this second part later on, as a memorial of the answer he experienced to his prayer (Hitzig, Ewald). It sounds, at all events, like the record of something that has actually taken place. Jahve is his defence and shield. The conjoined perfects in Psalm 28:7 denote that which is closely united in actual realisation; and in the fut. consec., as is frequently the case, e.g., in Job 14:2, the historical signification retreats into the background before the more essential idea of that which has been produced. In משּׁירי, the song is conceived as the spring whence the הודות bubble forth; and instead of אודנּוּ we have the more impressive form אהודנּוּ, as in Psalm 45:18; Psalm 116:6; 1 Samuel 17:47, the syncope being omitted. From suffering (Leid) springs song (Lied), and from song springs the praise (Lob) of Him, who has "turned" the suffering, just as it is attuned in Psalm 28:6 and Psalm 28:8.

(Note: There is a play of words and an alliteration in this sentence which we cannot fully reproduce in the English. - Tr.)

The αὐτοί, who are intended by למו in Psalm 28:8, are those of Israel, as in Psalm 12:8; Isaiah 33:2 (Hitzig). The lxx (κραταίωμα τοῦ λαοῦ αὐτοῦ) reads לעמּו, as in Psalm 29:11, which is approved by Bצttcher, Olshausen and Hupfeld; but למו yields a similar sense. First of all David thinks of the people, then of himself; for his private character retreats behind his official, by virtue of which he is the head of Israel. For this very reason his deliverance is the deliverance of Israel, to whom, so far as they have become unfaithful to His anointed, Jahve has not requited this faithlessness, and to whom, so far as they have remained true to him, He has rewarded this fidelity. Jahve is a עז a si evhaJ to them, inasmuch as He preserves them by His might from the destruction into which they would have precipitated themselves, or into which others would have precipitated them; and He is the מעוז ישׁוּעות of His anointed inasmuch as He surrounds him as an inaccessible place of refuge which secures to him salvation in all its fulness instead of the destruction anticipated. Israel's salvation and blessing were at stake; but Israel is in fact God's people and God's inheritance - may He, then, work salvation for them in every future need and bless them. Apostatised from David, it was a flock in the hands of the hireling - may He ever take the place of shepherd to them and carry them in His arms through the destruction. The נשּׂאם coupled with וּרעם (thus it is to be pointed according to Ben-Asher) calls to mind Deuteronomy 1:31, "Jahve carried Israel as a man doth carry his son," and Exodus 19:4; Deuteronomy 32:11, "as on eagles' wings." The Piel, as in Isaiah 63:9, is used of carrying the weak, whom one lifts up and thus removes out of its helplessness and danger. Psalm 3:1-8 closes just in the same way with an intercession; and the close of Psalm 29:1-11 is similar, but promissory, and consequently it is placed next to Psalm 28:1-9.

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