Psalm 77:19
Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known.
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(19) Are not known.—“We know not, they knew not, by what precise means the deliverance was wrought; we know not by what precise track through the gulf the passage was effected. We know not; we need not know. The obscuring, the mystery, here as elsewhere, was part of the lesson. . . . All that we see distinctly is, that through this dark and terrible night, with the enemy pressing close behind, and the driving sea on either side, He led His people like sheep by the hand of Moses and Aaron” (Stanley, Jewish Church, i. 128).

To some minds the abruptness of the conclusion of the psalm marks it as unfinished. But no better end could have been reached in the poet’s perplexity than that to which he has been led by his musings on the past, the thought of the religious aids ready to his hand, in the faith and worship left by Moses and Aaron. We are reminded of him who recalled the thoughts of the young man, searching for a higher ideal of duty, back to the law and obedience. Or if the psalm is rather an expression of the feeling of the community than of an individual, there is a pointed significance in the conclusion given to all the national cries of doubt and despair—the one safe course was to remain loyal and true to the ancient institutions.

Psalm 77:19. Thy way is in the sea, &c. — Or rather, was, at that time; thou didst walk and lead thy people in untrodden paths; and thy footsteps — Or, though thy footsteps were not seen — God walked before his people through the sea, though he left no footsteps of himself behind him. Thus “the dispensations and ways of God, like the passage through the Red sea, are all full of mercy to his people; but they are also, like that, often unusual, marvellous, inscrutable; and we can no more trace his footsteps than we could have done those of Israel, after the waters had returned to their place again. Let us resolve, therefore, to trust in him at all times; and let us think that we hear Moses saying to us, as he did to the Israelites, when seemingly reduced to the last extremity, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of Jehovah.” — Horne.

77:11-20 The remembrance of the works of God, will be a powerful remedy against distrust of his promise and goodness; for he is God, and changes not. God's way is in the sanctuary. We are sure that God is holy in all his works. God's ways are like the deep waters, which cannot be fathomed; like the way of a ship, which cannot be tracked. God brought Israel out of Egypt. This was typical of the great redemption to be wrought out in the fulness of time, both by price and power. If we have harboured doubtful thoughts, we should, without delay, turn our minds to meditate on that God, who spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, that with him, he might freely give us all things.Thy way is in the sea - Probably the literal meaning here is, that God had shown his power and faithfulness in the sea (that is, the Red Sea), in delivering his people; it was there that his true character was seen, as possessing almighty power, and as being able to deliver his people. But this seems to have suggested, also, another idea - that the ways of God, in his providential dealings, were like walking through the sea, where no permanent track would be made, where the waves would close on the path, and where it would be impossible by any footprints to ascertain the way which he had taken. So in regard to his doings and his plans. There is nothing by which man can determine in regard to them. There are no traces by which he can follow out the divine designs - as none can follow one whose path is through the trackless waters. The subject is beyond man's reach, and there should be no rash or harsh judgment of the Almighty.

And thy path in the great waters - The additional idea here may be, that the ways or plans of God are vast - like the ocean. Even in shallow waters, when one wades through them, the path closes at once, and the way cannot be traced; but God's goings are like those of one who should move through the great ocean - over a boundless sea - where none could hope to follow him.

And thy footsteps are not known - The word rendered "footsteps" means properly the print made by the "heel," and the print made by the foot. The idea here is, that there are no traces in regard to many of the dealings of God, which appear most incomprehensible to us, and which trouble us most, as there can be no footprints left in the waters. We should not venture, therefore, to sit in judgment on the doings of God, or presume that we can understand them.

19. waters … , footsteps—may refer to His actual leading the people through the sea, though also expressing the mysteries of providence. Is in the sea; or rather was at that time; thou didst walk and lead thy people in untrodden paths.

Are not known, because the waters suddenly returned and covered them.

Thy way is in the sea,.... In the sea of Suph, as the Targum, the Red sea; it was the Lord that made the way in the sea for the Israelites, and went before them, and led them through it:

and thy path in the great waters; because the word rendered path is written with yod, and is in the plural number, though the Masorites observe, that that letter is redundant, and so the word is singular; hence the Jews imagine there were more paths than one, even twelve, according to the number of the tribes, and which they think is intimated in Psalm 136:13,

and thy footsteps are not known; not by the Egyptians, who assayed to follow after the people of Israel with the Lord at the head of them, nor by any since; for the waters returned and covered the place on which the Israelites went as on dry ground; so that no footsteps or traces were to be seen at all ever since; and such are the ways God, many of them in providence as well as in grace, Romans 11:33, it may be rendered "thy heels", which made the footsteps or impressions; which latter being the works of God, may be seen and known, but not the former, he being invisible; so Gussetius (e) observes.

(e) Comment. Ebr. p. 633.

Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not {m} known.

(m) For when you had brought over your people, the water returned to her course, and the enemies who thought to have followed them, could not pass through, Ex 14:28,29.

19. Thy way was in the sea,

And thy paths in the great waters,

And thy footsteps were not known. (R.V.)

Cp. Habakkuk 3:15. The A.V. path follows the Qrî; R.V. paths the Kthîbh and the Ancient Versions. The sea flowed back where Israel passed, and no visible trace of God’s victorious march was left:—a parable of His method of working. Cp. Job 23:8 ff.

Verse 19. - Thy way is in the sea; rather, was in the sea. Thou wentest, i.e., in person before thy people in their passage across the dry bed of the Red Sea; truly there, though invisible (comp. Exodus 15:13; Psalm 78:52, 53; Psalm 106:9; Isaiah 63:13). And thy path in the great waters; literally, thy paths. So the Revised Version. And thy footsteps are not known; rather, were not. No one perceived thy presence, much less discerned thy footsteps. As in external nature and in the human heart, God worked secretly. Psalm 77:19When He directed His lance towards the Red Sea, which stood in the way of His redeemed, the waters immediately fell as it were into pangs of travail (יחילוּ, as in Habakkuk 3:10, not ויּחילו), also the billows of the deep trembled; for before the omnipotence of God the Redeemer, which creates a new thing in the midst of the old creation, the rules of the ordinary course of nature become unhinged. There now follow in Psalm 77:18, Psalm 77:19 lines taken from the picture of a thunder-storm. The poet wishes to describe how all the powers of nature became the servants of the majestic revelation of Jahve, when He executed judgment on Egypt and delivered Israel. זרם, Poel of זרם (cognate זרב, זרף, Aethiopic זנם, to rain), signifies intensively: to stream forth in full torrents. Instead of this line, Habakkuk, with a change of the letters of the primary passage, which is usual in Jeremiah more especially, has זרם מים עבר. The rumbling which the שׁחקים

(Note: We have indicated on Psalm 18:12; Psalm 36:6, that the שׁהקים are so called from their thinness, but passages like Psalm 18:12 and the one before us do not favour this idea. One would think that we have more likely to go back to Arab. sḥq, to be distant (whence suḥḳ, distance; saḥı̂ḳ, distant), and that שׁהקים signifies the distances, like שׁמים, the heights, from שׁחק equals suḥḳ, in distinction from שׁחק, an atom (Wetzstein). But the Hebrew affords no trace of this verbal stem, whereas שׁחק, Arab. sḥq, contundere, comminuere (Neshwn: to pound to dust, used e.g., of the apothecary's drugs), is just as much Hebrew as Arabic. And the word is actually associated with this verb by the Arabic mind, inasmuch as Arab. saḥâbun saḥqun (nubes tenues, nubila tenuia) is explained by Arab. sḥâb rqı̂q. Accordingly שׁהקים, according to its primary notion, signifies that which spreads itself out thin and fine over a wide surface, and according to the usage of the language, in contrast with the thick and heavy פני הארץ, the uppermost stratum of the atmosphere, and then the clouds, as also Arab. a‛nân, and the collective ‛anan and ‛anân (vid., Isaiah, at Isaiah 4:5, note), is not first of all the clouds, but the surface of the sky that is turned to us (Fleischer).)

cause to sound forth (נתנוּ, cf. Psalm 68:34) is the thunder. The arrows of God (חצציך, in Habakkuk חצּיך) are the lightnings. The Hithpa. (instead of which Habakkuk has יחלּכוּ) depicts their busy darting hither and thither in the service of the omnipotence that sends them forth. It is open to question whether גּלגּל denotes the roll of the thunder (Aben-Ezra, Maurer, Bttcher): the sound of Thy thunder went rolling forth (cf. Psalm 29:4), - or the whirlwind accompanying the thunder-storm (Hitzig); the usage of the language (Psalm 83:14, also Ezekiel 10:13, Syriac golgolo) is in favour of the latter. On Psalm 77:19 cf. the echo in Psalm 97:4. Amidst such commotions in nature above and below Jahve strode along through the sea, and made a passage for His redeemed. His person and His working were invisible, but the result which attested His active presence was visible. He took His way through the sea, and cut His path (Chethb plural, שׁביליך, as in Jeremiah 18:15) through great waters (or, according to Habakkuk, caused His horses to go through), without the footprints (עקּבות with Dag. dirimens) of Him who passes and passed through being left behind to show it.

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