Psalm 29:9-11

9. The voice of Jehovah maketh the hinds to bring forth, and discovereth [or maketh bare] the forests, and in his temple every one speaketh of his praise. 10. Jehovah sitteth upon the flood; Jehovah, I say, sitteth king for ever. 11. Jehovah will give strength to his people; Jehovah will bless his people with peace.


9. The voice of Jehovah maketh the hinds to bring forth1 A tacit comparison, as I have said, is here made. It is worse than irrational, it is monstrous, that men are not moved at God's voice, when it has such power and influence on wild beasts. It is base ingratitude, indeed, in men not to perceive his providence and government in the whole course of nature; but it is a detestable insensibility that at least his unusual and extraordinary works, which compel even wild beasts to obey him, will not teach them wisdom. Some interpreters think that hinds are mentioned, rather than other beasts, on account of their difficulty in bringing forth their young; which I disapprove not. The voice of the Lord is also said to discover or make bare the forests, either because there is no covering which can prevent it from penetrating into the most secret recesses and caverns; or, because lightnings, rains, and stormy winds, beat off the leaves and make the trees bare. Either sense is appropriate.

In his temple. God's voice fills the whole world, and spreads itself to its farthest limits; but the prophet declares that his glory is celebrated only in his church, because God not only speaks intelligibly and distinctly there, but also there gently allures the faithful to himself. His terrible voice, which thunders in various ways in the air, strikes upon the ears, and causes the hearts of men to beat in such a manner, as to make them shrink from rather than approach him not to mention that a considerable portion turn a deaf ear to its sound in storms, rains, thunder, and lightnings. As men, therefore, profit not so much in this common school as to submit themselves to God, David wisely says especially that the faithful sing the praises of God in his temple, because, being familiarly instructed there by his fatherly voice, they devote and consecrate themselves wholly to his service. No man proclaims the glory of God aright but he who worships him willingly. This may be understood likewise as a complaint, in which David reproves the whole world of being silent in so far as the glory of God is concerned,2 and laments that although his voice resounds through all regions, yet his praises are no where sung but in his temple alone. He appears, however, after the example of all the godly, to exhort the whole of mankind to praise God's name, and designedly to erect a temple as a receptacle for his glory, for the purpose of teaching us, that in order truly to know God, and praise him as is his due, we need another voice than that which is heard in thunders, showers, and storms in the air, in the mountains, and in the forests; for if he teach us not in plain words, and also kindly allure us to himself, by giving us a taste of his fatherly love, we will continue dumb. It is the doctrine of salvation alone, therefore, which cheers our hearts and opens our mouths in his praises, by clearly revealing to us his grace, and the whole of his will. It is from thence that we must learn how we ought to praise him. We may also unquestionably see that at that time there was nothing of the light of godliness in the whole world, except in Judea. Even philosophers, who appeared to approach nearest to the knowledge of God, contributed nothing whatever that might truly glorify him. All that they say concerning religion is not only frigid, but for the most part insipid. It is therefore in his word alone that there shines forth the truth which may lead us to true piety, and to fear and serve God aright.3

10. Jehovah sitteth upon the flood. Some think that David here alludes to that memorable instance of God's vengeance, when he drowned the world at once by the flood,4 and thus testified to all ages that he is the judge of mankind. I agree to this in part, but extend his meaning still farther. In my opinion, he prosecutes the former subject, putting us in mind that those floods, which still threaten destruction to the earth, are controlled by the providence of God in such a way, as to make it evident that it is he alone who governs all things at all times.5 David, therefore, mentions this among other proofs of God's power, that even when the elements appear to be mingled and confounded together by the utmost fury of the weather, God controls and moderates these commotions from his throne in heaven. He accordingly adds, for the sake of explanation, God sits King for ever.

11. Jehovah will give strength to his people. He returns to his former doctrine, namely, that although God exhibits his visible power to the view of the whole world indiscriminately, yet he exerts it in a peculiar manner in behalf of his elect people. Moreover, he here describes him in a very different manner from what he did formerly; that is to say, not as one who overwhelms with fear and dread those to whom he speaks, but as one who upholds, cherishes, and strengthens them. By the word strength is to be understood the whole condition of man. And thus he intimates that every thing necessary to the preservation of the life of the godly depends entirely upon the grace of God. He amplifies this by the word bless; for God is said to bless with peace those whom he treats liberally and kindly, so that nothing is awanting to the prosperous course of their life, and to their complete happiness. From this we may learn, that we ought to stand in awe of the majesty of God, in such a manner as, notwithstanding, to hope from him all that is necessary to our prosperity; and let us be assuredly persuaded, that since his power is infinite, we are defended by an invincible fortress.

1 Bishop Lowth reads, "Maketh the oaks to tremble," (Lectures on Hebrew Poetry, vol. 2:p.253,) in which he is followed by Dimock, Green, Seeker, Horsley, Fry, and others. But Dathe, Berlin, De Rossi, Dr Adam Clarke, Rogers, etc., adhere to the common interpretation, in which they are supported by all the ancient versions, except the Syriac, which seems to favor the view of Lowth. A main argument of Lowth and those who follow him in support of his rendering is, that the common translation, which supposes the passage to relate to the hinds bring forth their young, agrees very little with the rest of the imagery either in nature or dignity; whereas the oak struck with lightning, is a far nobler image, and one which falls in more naturally with the scattering of a forest's foliage under the action of a storm. But Rogers justly observes, that "we are not warranted in altering the Hebrew text, because the oriental imagery which we meet with does not correspond with our ideas of poetical beauty and grandeur," (Book of Psalms in Hebrew, metrically arranged, vol. it. p. 186.) With respect to the sense conveyed by the common reading, it may be observed, that birds bring forth their young with great difficulty and pain, bowing themselves, bruising their young ones, and casting out their sorrows, (Job 39:4, 6;) and it therefore heightens the description given of the terrific character of the thunder-storm, when the thunder, which is here called the voice of God, is represented as causing, through the terror which it inspires, the hinds in their pregnant state prematurely to drop their young; although, according to our ideas of poetical imagery, this may not accord so well with the other images in the passage nor appear so beautiful and sublime as the image of the oaks trembling at the voice of Jehovah.

2 "Etant que touche la gloire de Dieu." -- Fr.

3 "Pour le craindre et servir comme il appartient." -- Fr.

4 "Par le deluge." -- Fr. This is the view taken of the passage by the ancient versions. "God," says the Chaldee, "in the generation of the deluge sat in judgment." The Septuagint reads, "God shall make the deluge to be inhabited," or "make the world habitable after it"; the Syriac, "God called back the deluge;" and the Arabic, "God restrained the deluge." Ainsworth reads, "Jehovah sat at the flood," and explains it as meaning "Noah's flood."

5 "Que c'est luy seul qui gouverne toutes choses en tout temps." -- Fr.