When Israel went out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language;
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).
Judah was his sanctuary, and Israel his dominion.
Verse 2. - Judah was his sanctuary; or "became his sanctuary;" Judah - i.e. the land of Judah - received the special honor of being chosen for the seat of God's sanctuary. And Israel his dominion. While all the rest of Israel was accepted as constituting his kingdom or dominion. The whole people came under God's special protection.
The sea saw it, and fled: Jordan was driven back.
Verse 3. - The sea saw it, and fled. "The sea" is the Red Sea. It "looked," and saw God leading his people (Exodus 14:19-24), and then at once "fled," and left a dry channel as "a way for the ransomed to pass over." Jordan (literally, the Jordan) was driven back (comp. Joshua 3:13-17). These two marvels "marked respectively the beginning and the end of Israel's long journey" (Cheyne). They were parallel facts, and are naturally alluded to together (comp. Habakkuk 3:8).
The mountains skipped like rams, and the little hills like lambs.
Verse 4. - The mountains skipped like rams, and the little hills like lambs. The poet sees in the earthquake that shook Sinai (Exodus 19:18) a general commotion of the entire region, in which both the greater and the lesser elevations take part (comp. Psalm 29:6; Psalm 68:8, 16).
What ailed thee, O thou sea, that thou fleddest? thou Jordan, that thou wast driven back?
Verses 5, 6. - What ailed thee, O thou sea, that thou filledest thou Jordan, that thou wast driven back t. ye mountains, that ye skipped like rams; and ye little hills, like lambs? Most poetically, the psalmist apostrophizes the sea, the Jordan, the mountains, and the lesser hills, inquiring of them for what reason they had forsaken their nature and done such strange things; or rather, addressing them as present, and as if the scenes were being enacted before his eyes, and asking why they are so strangely employed - what is causing the commotion and disturbance (see the Revised Version, where the present tense is used throughout the two verses).
Ye mountains, that ye skipped like rams; and ye little hills, like lambs?
Tremble, thou earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob;
Verse 7. - Tremble, thou earth, at the presence of the Lord. The answer is given, but only indirectly given, in these words. Nothing less than "the presence of the Lord" - a miraculous and abnormal presence - can have produced the strange phenomena. The earth has felt the presence of God, and has trembled, and has done right to tremble; but Israel may take comfort from the theophany, for it is a manifestation on her behalf. The presence that has made itself felt is the presence of the God of Jacob - the God who watches over Jacob, and will succor and protect him constantly.
Which turned the rock into a standing water, the flint into a fountain of waters.