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Psalm 104:16-18

16. The trees of Jehovah 188188     “In the Septuagint it is, ξύλα του πεδίου, ‘trees of the field;’ they, therefore, read עצי שדי; and שדיbeing a name of the Almighty, when differently pointed, thus, שדי, was afterwards changed to יהוה, ‘Jehovah,’ as the text now is. Theodoret notices in his time, that the Hebrew, and other Greek interpreters of it, had ξύλα του κυρίου, ‘trees of the Lord.’ So was the Hebrew in Jerome’s time, who has it ligna Domini.” — Reeves Collation, etc. shall be satiated; the cedars of Lebanon, which he hath planted; 17. For there the birds build their nests: the stork, 189189     חסידה, chasidah, the original word for the stork, is from חסד, piety, beneficence, because, says Bythner, “the stork nourishes, supports, and carries on its back, when weary, its aged parents.” Storks are a species of birds very numerous in Palestine, and other eastern countries. Doubdan thus speaks of them in his account of a journey from Cana to Nazareth in Galilee, (page 513,) “All these fields were so filled with flocks of storks, that they appeared quite white with them, there being above a thousand in each flock, and when they rose and hovered in the air they seemed like clouds. The evening they rest in trees.” This account is confirmed by Dr Shaw, who informs us, that as he lay at anchor near Mount Carmel, he saw “three flights of them, some of which were more open and scattered, with larger intervals between them; others were closer and more compact, as in the flight of wrens and other birds, each of which took up more than three hours in passing by us, extending itself at the same time more than half a mile in breadth.” — See his Travels, volume 2, page 269. The stork constructs her nest with exquisite skill of dry twigs of trees and coarse grass from the marsh. But instead of confining herself to one situation, she builds it sometimes on the highest parts of old ruins and houses, — sometimes in the canals of ancient aqueducts, and sometimes on the tops of the eastern mosques and dwelling-houses; so very familiar is she by being never molested, the Mahometans accounting it profane to kill, or even to hurt, or disturb this species of bird, because of their important services in clearing the country of serpents, and other venomous animals, on which they feed. She frequently retires from the noise and bustle of the town to the adjacent field, selecting the highest tree of the forest on which to build her nest, and always preferring the fir, when it is equally suitable to her purpose — Ibid. volume 2, page 272. Harmer remarks, that חסידה, chasidah, seems to signify the heron as well as the stork; and Dr Adam Clarke is of opinion, that the heron is here meant, conceiving the description of its making the fir-tree its house, as other bird.make their nests in the cedars of Lebanon, to be more agreeable to its natural history than to that of the stork properly speaking. He farther observes, that Aquila, who has given us an ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament, and who is said to have been exquisitely skilled in the original language, always understood the chasidah to mean the heron, rather than the stork. “But,” he adds, “the two species resemble each other so much, that it is not improbable but one Hebrew word stood for both,” and refers to Doubdan, who supposes that storks in Palestine roost in trees — Harmers Observations, volume 2, page 465, and volume 3, page 338. whose dwelling is the fir trees. 18. The high mountains are for the deer 190190     “On, chevreux.” — Fr. marg. “Or, the kids.” Calvin, by giving two different translations of the original word, appears to have been at a loss as to the animal meant. “The animal here intended,” says Mant, “is the Ibex or Rock Goat, a species of wild goat, deriving its Hebrew name from the wonderful manner in which it mounts to the top of the highest rocks, to which quality the sacred writers allude in the other two passages where the word occurs as well as in this. — See 1 Samuel 24:3; Job 39:1. To this quality natural historians bear abundant witness. Mr Cox thus describes the action of the Ibex, in ascending the mountains of Switzerland: — ‘He mounts a perpendicular rock of fifteen feet at three leaps, or rather three successive bounds of five feet each. It does not seem as if he found any footing on the rock, appearing to touch it merely to be repelled, like an elastic substance striking against a hard body. He is not supposed to take more than three successive leaps in this manner. If he is between two rocks which are near each other, and wants to reach the top, he leaps from the side of one rock to the other alternately, till he has obtained the summit.’” and the rocks are a place of shelter for the hedgehogs. 191191     “Ou, connils.” — Fr marg. “Or, the conies, or rabbits.” The Hebrew name of this animal, שפן, shaphan, from the verbs שפן, shaphan, or ספן, saphan, to hide, seems to indicate a creature of a timid and harmless disposition. Feeble, and apprehensive of danger, it seeks a shelter among the fissures of the rocks, where it may be concealed from its enemies. To this circumstance allusion is here made; and it is also referred to by Solomon, (Proverbs 30:26) “The shaphans are but a feeble folk, yet make they their houses in the rocks.” It is evident from these words, that the shaphan is gregarious. What particular animal then is indicated by this name? Calvin, from giving the original term, one translation in the text, and a different one on the margin, seems to have been uncertain as to the species of animal intended, and on this point considerable variety of opinion has obtained. Some copies of the Septuagint have hedgehogs, and others, hares, the former being probably the right reading, as the Vulgate agrees with it. Bochart supposed the jerboa, or jumping-mouse, to be meant. But to this it has been justly objected, that the jerboa always digs its habitation in the smoother places of the desert, especially where the soil is fixed gravel; that it is not gregarious, nor distinguished by feebleness, which it supplies by its wisdom. Nor can it be the coney, or rabbit, that is here referred to; for, instead of seeking a habitation among the rocks, it delights to burrow in the sandy downs; and if it sometimes digs a place of shelter among the rocks, it is only where the openings are filled with earth. It is now pretty generally agreed, that the shaphan is the Daman Israel, as suggested by Dr Shaw. “The Daman Israel,” says this traveler, “is an animal likewise of Mount Lebanus, though common in other places of this country. It is a harmless creature, of the same size and quality with the rabbit, and with the like incurvating posture and disposition of the fore-teeth. But it is of a browner color with smaller eyes, and a head more pointed, like the marmots. The fore-feet likewise are short, and the hinder are nearly as long in proportion as those of the jerboa. Though this animal is known to burrow sometimes in the ground, yet as its usual residence and refuge is in the holes and clifts of the rocks, we have so far a more presumptive proof, that this creature may be the shaphan of the Scriptures, than the jerboa. I could not learn why it was called Daman Israel, i.e., Israels lamb, as those words are interpreted.” Travels, volume 2, pages 160, 161. It is called in Amhara, “Ashkoko.” Bruce confirms Dr Shaw’s opinion. He identifies the animals by the several other particulars mentioned in Scripture, as well as by their attachment to rocks, and their constant residence in holes and caves, as noticed in this psalm. See also Paxton’s Illustrations of Scripture, volume 2, pages 204-209.

 

16. The trees of Jehovah shall be satiated The Psalmist again treats of God’s general providence in cherishing all the parts of the world. In the first place, he asserts, that by the watering of which he had spoken the trees are satiated, or filled with sap, that thus flourishing they may be a place of abode to the birds. He next declares, that the wild deer and conies have also their places of shelter, to show that no part of the world is forgotten by Him, who is the best of fathers, and that no creature is excluded from his care. The transition which the prophet makes from men to trees is as if he had said, It is not to be wondered at, if God so bountifully nourishes men who are created after his own image, since he does not grudge to extend his care even to trees. By the trees of the Lord, is meant those which are high and of surpassing beauty; for God’s blessing is more conspicuous in them. It seems scarcely possible for any juice of the earth to reach so great a height, and yet they renew their foliage every year.


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