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Psalm 29

The Voice of God in a Great Storm

A Psalm of David.


Ascribe to the L ord, O heavenly beings,

ascribe to the L ord glory and strength.


Ascribe to the L ord the glory of his name;

worship the L ord in holy splendor.



The voice of the L ord is over the waters;

the God of glory thunders,

the L ord, over mighty waters.


The voice of the L ord is powerful;

the voice of the L ord is full of majesty.



The voice of the L ord breaks the cedars;

the L ord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.


He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,

and Sirion like a young wild ox.



The voice of the L ord flashes forth flames of fire.


The voice of the L ord shakes the wilderness;

the L ord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.



The voice of the L ord causes the oaks to whirl,

and strips the forest bare;

and in his temple all say, “Glory!”



The L ord sits enthroned over the flood;

the L ord sits enthroned as king forever.


May the L ord give strength to his people!

May the L ord bless his people with peace!

1. Give unto Jehovah, ye sons of the mighty. It was no doubt David’s design to lead all men to worship and reverence God; but as it is more difficult to reduce great men, who excel in rank, to order, he expressly addresses himself to them. It is obvious, that the LXX, in giving the translation, sons of rams, 605605     The entire reading of the verse in the Septuagint is, “Ενέγκατε τῷ Κυρίῳ ὑιοὶ Θεοῦ ενέγκατε τῷ Κυρίῳ ὑιοὺς κριῶν“Bring to the Lord, ye sons of God, bring to the Lord young rams.” Thus the LXX, as is not unusual in other places, render the words for “Ye sons of the mighty” twice; first, in the vocative case, addressing them, Υιοὶ Θεου, Ye sons of God, and then in the accusative case, ὑιοὺς κριῶν, young rams, being apparently doubtful which was the correct rendering, and, therefore, putting down both. The Vulgate, Arabic, and Ethiopic, exactly follow them. Jerome also reads, “Afferte Domino filios arietum;” although he does not give a double translation of the original words. But the correct rendering, we have no doubt, is, “Ye sons of the mighty;” which is just a Hebrew idiomatic expression for “Ye mighty ones,” or, “Ye princes;” and to them the inspired writer addresses an invitation to acknowledge and worship God from the manifestation of his majesty and power in the wonders of nature. were led into a mistake by the affinity of the Hebrew words. 606606     The Hebrew word which Calvin renders “mighty,” is אלים, elym, a word which means gods. The Hebrew word אילים, eylim, which means rams, nearly resembles it, having only an additional י, yod, and this letter is often cut off in nouns. About the signification of the word, indeed, the Jewish commentators are all agreed; but when they proceed to speak of its meaning, they pervert and obscure it by the most chilling comments. Some expound it of the angels, 607607     The Chaldee paraphrases it thus:— “The assembly of angels, sons of God,” meaning by God angels. some of the stars; and others will have it, that by the great men who are referred to are meant the holy fathers. But David only intended to humble the princes of this world, who, being intoxicated with pride, lift up their horns against God. This, accordingly, is the reason why he introduces God, with a terrific voice, subduing by thunders, hail-storms, tempests, and lightnings, these stubborn and stiff-necked giants, who, if they are not struck with fear, refuse to stand in awe of any power in heaven. We see, therefore, why, passing by others, he directs his discourse particularly to the sons of the mighty. The reason is, because there is nothing more common with them than to abuse their lofty station by impious deeds, while they madly arrogate to themselves every divine prerogative. At least that they may modestly submit themselves to God, and, mindful of their frailty, place their dependence upon his grace, it is necessary, as it were, to compel them by force. David, therefore, commands them to give strength unto Jehovah, because, deluded by their treacherous imaginations, they think that the power which they possess is supplied to them from some other quarter than from heaven. In short, he exhorts them to lay aside their haughtiness, and their false opinion about their own strength, and to glorify God as he deserves. By the glory of God’s name, (ver. 2,) he means that which is worthy of his majesty, of which the great men of this world are wont to deprive him. The repetition, also, shows that they must be vehemently urged ere a proper acknowledgement be extorted from them. By the brightness of God’s sanctuary 608608     This translation conveys a somewhat different meaning from that of our English version; but it is supported by several critics. Green reads, “In his beautiful sanctuary;” and Fry, “Worship Jehovah with holy reverence,” or, “Worship Jehovah in the glorious places of the sanctuary.” “Where the Hebrews read בהדרת” says Hammond, “in the glory or beauty of holiness, from הדר, to honor, or beautify, the LXX. read, ἐν αὐλὣ ἁγίᾳ αὐτου, in his holy court, as if it were from, “penetrale, thalamus, area, a closet, a marriage-chamber, a court; and so the Latin and Syriac follow them, and the Arabic, in his “holy habitation.” is to be understood, not heaven as some think, but the tabernacle of the covenant, adorned with the symbols of the divine glory, as is evident from the context. And the prophet designedly makes mention of this place, in which the true God had manifested himself, that all men, bidding adieu to superstition, should betake themselves to the pure worship of God. It would not be sufficient to worship any heavenly power, but the one and unchangeable God alone must be worshipped, which cannot come to pass until the world be reclaimed from all foolish inventions and services forged in the brains of men.

3. The voice of Jehovah is upon the waters. David now rehearses the wonders of nature which I have previously referred to; and well indeed does he celebrate the power of God as well as his goodness, in his works. As there is nothing in the ordinary course of nature, throughout the whole frame of heaven and earth, which does not invite us to the contemplation of God, he might have brought forward, as in Psalm 19:1, the sun and the stars, and the whole host of heaven, and the earth with its riches; but he selects only those works of God which prove not only that the world was at first created by him, and is governed by his power, but which also awaken the torpid, and drag them, as it were, in spite of themselves, humbly to adore him; as even Horace was compelled, though he was not only a heathen poet, but an Epicurean, and a vile contemner of Deity, to say of himself in one of his Odes, — (Lib. I. Ode 34.)

“A fugitive from heaven and prayer,
I mocked at all religious fear,
Deep scienced in the mazy lore
Of mad philosophy; but now
Hoist sail, and back my voyage plough
To that blest harbour which I left before.

“For, lo! that awful heavenly Sire,
Who frequent cleaves the clouds with fire,
Parent of day, immortal Jove;
Late through the floating fields of air,
The face of heaven serene and fair,
His thund’ring steeds, and winged chariot drove,” etc. 609609     Dr Francis’ Translation of Horace.

Experience, too, tells us that those who are most daring in their contempt of God are most afraid of thunderings, storms, and such like violent commotions. With great propriety, therefore, does the prophet invite our attention to these instances which strike the rude and insensible with some sense of the existence of a God, 610610     “Qui contraignent les barbares et gens esbestez sentir qu’il y a un Dieu.” — Fr. “Which constrain the rude and insensible to feel that there is a God.” and rouse them to action, however sluggish and regardless they are. He says not that the sun rises from day to day, and sheds abroad his life-giving beams, nor that the rain gently descends to fertilise the earth with its moisture; but he brings forward thunders, violent tempests, and such things as smite the hearts of men with dread by their violence. God, it is true, speaks in all his creatures, but here the prophet mentions those sounds which rouse us from our drowsiness, or rather our lethargy, by the loudness of their noise. We have said, that this language is chiefly directed to those who with stubborn recklessness, cast from them, as far as they can, all thought of God. The very figures which he uses sufficiently declare, that David’s design was to subdue by fear the obstinacy which yields not willingly otherwise. Thrice he repeats that God’s voice is heard in great and violent tempests, and in the subsequent verse he adds, that it is full of power and majesty.

5. The voice of Jehovah breaketh the cedars. We see how the prophet, in order to subdue the stubbornness of men, shows, by every word, that God is terrible. He also seems to rebuke, in passing, the madness of the proud, and of those who swell with vain presumption, because they hearken not to the voice of God in his thunders, rending the air with his lightnings, shaking the lofty mountains, prostrating and overthrowing the loftiest trees. What a monstrous thing is it, that while all the irrational portion of the creation tremble before God, men alone, who are endued with sense and reason, are not moved! Moreover, though they possess genius and learning, they employ enchantments to shut their ears against God’s voice, however powerful, lest it should reach their hearts. Philosophers think not that they have reasoned skilfully enough about inferior causes, unless they separate God very far from his works. It is a diabolical science, however, which fixes our contemplations on the works of nature, and turns them away from God. If any one who wished to know a man should take no notice of his face, but should fix his eyes only on the points of his nails, his folly might justly be derided. But far greater is the folly of those philosophers, who, out of mediate and proximate causes, weave themselves vails, lest they should be compelled to acknowledge the hand of God, which manifestly displays itself in his works. The Psalmist particularly mentions the cedars of Lebanon, because lofty and beautiful cedars were to be found there. He also refers to Lebanon and Mount Hermon, and to the wilderness of Kadesh, 611611     That is, the wilderness of Zin, Numbers 33:36. It is described in Deuteronomy 1:19, as the “great and terrible wilderness.” The Israelites passed through this wilderness in their way from Egypt to the promised land, Numbers 13:27. It received its name from the city of Kadesh, by which it lay, Numbers 20:1, 16. because these places were best known to the Jews. He uses, indeed, a highly poetical figure accompanied with a hyperbole, when he says, that Lebanon skips like a calf at God’s voice, and Sirion (which is also called Mount Hermon 612612     The Sidonians applied to Hermon the name of Sirion, Deuteronomy 3:9. ) like a unicorn, which, we know, is one of the swiftest animals. He also alludes to the terrific noise of thunder, which seems almost to shake the mountains to their foundations. Similar is the figure, when he says, the Lord striketh out flames of fire, which is done when the vapours, being struck, as it were, with his hammer, burst forth into lightnings and thunderbolts. Aristotle, in his book on Meteors, reasons very shrewdly about these things, in so far as relates to proximate causes, only that he omits the chief point. The investigation of these would, indeed, be both a profitable and pleasant exercise, were we led by it, as we ought, to the Author of Nature himself. But nothing is more preposterous than, when we meet with mediate causes, however many, to be stopped and retarded by them, as by so many obstacles, from approaching God; 613613     “D’approcher de Dieu.” — Fr. for this is the same as if a man were to remain at the very rudiments of things during his whole life, without going farther. In short, this is to learn in such a manner that you can never know any thing. That shrewdness alone, therefore, is worthy of praise, which elevates us by these means even to heaven, in order that not a confused noise only may strike our ears, but that the voice of the Lord may penetrate our hearts, and teach us to pray and serve God. Some expound the Hebrew word יחיל, yachil, which we have translated to tremble, in another way, namely, that God maketh the wilderness of Kadesh to travail in birth; 614614     “Fait avortir.” — Fr. “To miscarry or prove abortive.” because of the manifold wonders which were wrought in it as the Israelites passed through it. But this sense I object to, as far too subtle and strained. David appears rather to refer to the common feelings of men; for as wildernesses are dreadful of themselves, they are much more so when they are filled with thunders, hail, and storms. I do not, however, object that the wilderness may be understood, by synecdoche, to mean the wild beasts which lodge in it; and thus the next verse, where hinds are mentioned, may be considered as added by way of exposition.

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