Verse 1. - I cried unto God with my voice, even unto God with my voice. The repetition marks the intensity of the appeal, "with my voice" - that the appellant is not content with mere silent prayer. And he gave ear unto me; rather, "that he may hearken unto me" (Cheyne), or "and do thou hearken unto me" (Hengstenberg, Kay).
In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord: my sore ran in the night, and ceased not: my soul refused to be comforted.
Verse 2. - In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord (comp. Genesis 35:3; Habakkuk 3:16). My sore ran in the night; rather, my band was stretched out in the night (Cook, Cheyne, Revised Version); comp. Psalm 28:2. And ceased not. He continued in prayer all through the night. My soul refused to be comforted (comp. Genesis 37:35; Jeremiah 31:15). He was like Jacob when he lost Joseph, or like Rachel weeping for her children.
I remembered God, and was troubled: I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah.
Verse 3. - I remembered God, and was troubled. The tenses used are present rather than past; they mark continuance; they describe the condition in which the writer remained for days or weeks. He thought of God, but the thought troubled him. It was God who had brought the calamity, whatever it was, upon his people. Seemingly, he had "cast them off" - he had "forgotten to be gracious" (see vers. 7-9). I complained; rather, I muse or meditate (Hengstenberg, Kay, Cheyne). And my spirit was overwhelmed; or, waxeth faint, as in the Prayer book Version.
Thou holdest mine eyes waking: I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
Verse 4. - Thou holdest mine eyes waking; literally, thou boldest the watches of mine eyes; i.e. preventedst me from obtaining any sleep. I am so troubled that I cannot speak; literally, I was perplexed and did not speak. The perplexity was probably caused by an inability to understand God's ways. Why had he afflicted his people? Was the affliction always to continue? Was Israel cast off?
I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times.
Verse 5. - I have considered; rather, I considered. In my perplexity, when I could no longer speak, I betook myself to meditation. I considered the days of old, the years of ancient times. He called to mind, i.e., God's doings in the past (comp. vers. 14-19).
I call to remembrance my song in the night: I commune with mine own heart: and my spirit made diligent search.
Verse 6. - I call to remembrance my song in the night. He bethought himself of the songs of thanksgiving which he used to sing to God in the night (comp. Job 35:10) on account of mercies received; but this did not comfort him. "Nessun maggior dolore che ricordarsi di tempo felice nella miseria." I commune with mine own heart, and my spirit made diligent search; or, "and I diligently searched out my spirit" (Cheyne). The results of the searchings out seem to be given in vers. 7-10.
Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favourable no more?
Verse 7. - Will the Lord cast off forever? The psalmist asked himself in the night such questions as these: Is it really to be supposed that God will cast off his people forever? And will he be favourable (or, gracious) no more? Surely such desertion is incredible.
Is his mercy clean gone for ever? doth his promise fail for evermore?
Verse 8. - Is his mercy clean gone forever? The mercy which he has so long shown towards Israel (comp. Psalm 78.). Doth his promise fail forevermore? The promise which he made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that he would be with their seed forever (Genesis 17:7-13; Genesis 26:24; Genesis 35:11, 12).
Hath God forgotten to be gracious? hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? Selah.
Verse 9. - Hath God forgotten to be gracious? Can God, who forgets nothing and no one (Isaiah 49:15), have forgotten his own nature, which is to be "merciful and gracious, long suffering, and abundant in goodness" (Exodus 34:6)? Assuredly not. The higher nature in the psalmist, as Professor Cheyne observes, expostulates with the lower one. Hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? Has he shut them up, "as in a closed hand" (Kay, Canon Cook)? (comp. Deuteronomy 15:7).
And I said, This is my infirmity: but I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High.
Verse 10. - And I said, This is my infirmity; i.e. "the fault is not in God, but in myself" - in my own weakness and want of faith. But I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High. There is no "I will remember" in the original, which expresses the thought of the writer imperfectly; but some such phrase must of necessity be supplied. The words are retained in the Revised Version and by Professor Cheyne. The remembrance of God's mercies during the many years that are past is that which best sustains us in a time of severe trouble.
I will remember the works of the LORD: surely I will remember thy wonders of old.
Verse 11. - I will remember the works of the Lord. The same thought is carried on and expressed more clearly in the present and the ensuing verse. Then a special remembrance is made of one particular mercy - the deliverance from Egypt (vers. 13-20). Surely I will remember thy wonders of old (comp. Exodus 15:11).
I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings.
Verse 12. - I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings; rather, as in the Revised Version, and muse on thy doings (comp. ver. 3).
Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary: who is so great a God as our God?
Verse 13. - Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary; rather, in holiness. God's "way" - his conduct, his proceedings - however strange and mysterious it may seem to us, is always holy, i.e. just and right (comp. Genesis 18:25; Job 8:3). Who is so great a God as our God? God is both good and great; just in himself, and able to execute justice.
Thou art the God that doest wonders: thou hast declared thy strength among the people.
Verse 14. - Thou art the God that doest wonders. The gods of the heathen could do nothing. They were weakness, vanity, nothingness. Jehovah alone was powerful. He could work, and could "work wonders." This clause prepares the way for the magnificent description of the deliverance of Israel at the Red Sea, which occupies vers. 16-19. Thou hast declared thy strength among the people; rather, among the peoples - i.e. in the sight of many heathen nations (comp. Exodus 15:14-16).
Thou hast with thine arm redeemed thy people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah.
Verse 15. - Thou hast with thine arm (i.e. with thy mighty strength) redeemed thy people. The deliverance from Egypt is constantly called a "redemption" (Exodus 6:6; Exodus 15:13; Deuteronomy 7:8; Deuteronomy 9:26, etc.; 2 Samuel 7:23; 1 Chronicles 17:21, etc.). It is brought forward here "as the greatest and most wonderful of all the works of God, and hence as containing the strongest pledge of future deliverance" (Hengstenberg). The sons of Jacob and Joseph. A new designation of the people of Israel, and one which elsewhere occurs only in Obadiah 1:18. Professor Cheyne suggests that it is a geographical division - by Jacob southern Israel, and by Joseph northern Israel, being intended (comp. Hosea 12:2; Amos 5:6, 15; Amos 6:6).
The waters saw thee, O God, the waters saw thee; they were afraid: the depths also were troubled.
Verse 16. - The waters saw thee, O God, the waters saw thee. Professor Cheyne regards this and the three following verses as not belonging properly to this psalm, but a "fragment of another," accidentally transferred to this place. But most commentators see in the passage a most essential portion of the poem. It is the thought of the deliverance from Egypt that especially sustains and comforts the psalmist in his extreme distress. The passage is prepared for by vers. 11 and 14, and is exegetical of ver. 15. They were afraid. They shrank from the sight of God, and made a way for his people to pass over. The depths also were troubled. The very abysses trembled with fear, and moved themselves, leaving the bottom of the sea dry (see Exodus 14:29).
The clouds poured out water: the skies sent out a sound: thine arrows also went abroad.
Verse 17. - The clouds poured out water. The description here becomes more poetical than historical, unless, indeed, we may suppose that the writer possessed, besides what is said in Exodus, some traditional account of the passage. The skies sent out a sound; or, "uttered a voice" - the voice of the thunder, beyond a doubt (compare next verse). Thine arrows also went abroad; i.e. lightnings darted hither and thither (see Psalm 18:14; 2 Samuel 22:15).
The voice of thy thunder was in the heaven: the lightnings lightened the world: the earth trembled and shook.
Verse 18. - The voice of thy thunder was in the heavens; rather, in the whirlwind (Kay, Cheyne, Revised Version). A storm of wind usually accompanies thunder and lightning. This the author, with poetical exaggeration, heightens into a "whirlwind" (comp. Psalm 83:13; Isaiah 17:13). The lightnings lightened the world. More hyperbole. Not only did they "go abroad" (ver. 17), darting hither and thither, but their intense brightness illuminated the whole earth. The earth trembled and shook. Through the reverberation of air, the earth seems to shake in a heavy thunderstorm.
Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known.
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.
Thou leddest thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.