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He bowed the heavens, and came down;

thick darkness was under his feet.

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8. There went up a smoke by [or out of] his nostrils, etc The Hebrew word אף, aph, properly signifies the nose, or the nostrils. But as it is sometimes taken metaphorically for wrath, some translate it thus, There went up a smoke in his wrath, which, in my opinion, is not at all appropriate. David compares the mists and vapours which darken the air to the thick smoke which a man sends forth from his nostrils when he is angry. And when God, by his very breath, covers the heaven with clouds, and taking away from us the brightness of the sun and of all the stars, overwhelms us in darkness, by this we are very impressively taught how dreadful is his wrath. By the rendering which I have given, the figure here strikingly harmonises with the one in the clause which immediately follows, namely, that fire proceeding from his mouth consumed The Psalmist means, that God, without great labor or effort, as soon as he shall have sent forth a breath or blast from his nostrils, and opened his mouth, will kindle such a fire that its smoke will darken the whole world, and its intense heat devour it. What he adds, Coals were kindled by it, serves to distinguish this dreadful fire from a flame which blazes for a moment, and then is extinguished. The bowing of the heavens, denotes a time when the heavens are covered and obscured with clouds. When dense vapours occupy the middle of the air, the clouds seem to us to come down and to lie upon our heads. And not only so, but the majesty of God then approaching, as it were, nearer us, strikes us with dread dismay, and greatly distresses us, although before, when the sky was fair, agreeable, and tranquil, we took ample scope, and enjoyed ourselves with much gaiety. Again, let us remember, that the Scripture, under these descriptions of a clouded and darkened sky, pourtray to us the anger of God. When the sky is clear and unclouded, it seems as if it were the pleasant and benignant countenance of God beaming upon us, and causing us to rejoice; whereas, on the other hand, when the atmosphere is troubled, we feel a depression of the animal spirits which constrains us to look sad, as if we saw God coming against us with a threatening aspect. At the same time, we are taught that no change takes place either in the atmosphere or in the earth, but what is a witness to us of the presence of God.