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5

By awesome deeds you answer us with deliverance,

O God of our salvation;

you are the hope of all the ends of the earth

and of the farthest seas.

6

By your strength you established the mountains;

you are girded with might.

7

You silence the roaring of the seas,

the roaring of their waves,

the tumult of the peoples.

8

Those who live at earth’s farthest bounds are awed by your signs;

you make the gateways of the morning and the evening shout for joy.

 

9

You visit the earth and water it,

you greatly enrich it;

the river of God is full of water;

you provide the people with grain,

for so you have prepared it.

10

You water its furrows abundantly,

settling its ridges,

softening it with showers,

and blessing its growth.

11

You crown the year with your bounty;

your wagon tracks overflow with richness.

12

The pastures of the wilderness overflow,

the hills gird themselves with joy,

13

the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,

the valleys deck themselves with grain,

they shout and sing together for joy.


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5 Terrible things 453453     The original word for terrible things “signifies sometimes terrible sometimes wonderful things, anything that exceeds in greatness or quality. In the latter sense we have it, Deuteronomy 10:21, when speaking of God, it is said, ‘He is thy praise, and he is thy God, that hath done for thee these great and terrible things,’ — great, exceeding, wonderful things; and those acts of mercy, and not of justice or punishment; and so here it appears to signify, being joined with answering us, or granting us, in answer to our prayers, (so ענת signifies to answer a request, to hear a prayer,) and with in righteousness, which frequently imports mercy The LXX. accordingly read it θαυμαστὸς, wonderful.” — Hammond in righteousness wilt thou answer to us He proceeds to illustrate, although in a somewhat different form, the same point of the blessedness of those who are admitted into the temple of God, and nourished in his house. He declares that God would answer his people by miracles or fearful signs, displaying his power; as if he had said, in deliverances as wonderful as those which he wrought for their fathers when they went out of Egypt. It is in no common or ordinary manner that God has preserved his Church, but with terrible majesty. It is well that this should be known, and the people of God taught to sustain their hopes in the most apparently desperate exigencies. The Psalmist speaks of the deliverances of God as specially enjoyed by the Jewish nation, but adds, that he was the hope of the ends of the earth, even to the world’s remotest extremities. Hence it follows, that the grace of God was to be extended to the Gentiles.

6. By his strength setting fast the mountains For the sake of illustration, he instances the power of God seen in the general fabric of the world. In these times it sounded as a new and strange truth to say that the Gentiles should be called to the same hope with the Jews. To prove that it was not so incredible as they were apt to conceive, the Psalmist very properly adverts to the Divine power apparent in all parts of the world. He instances the mountains rather than the plains, because the immense masses of earth, and the lofty rocks which they present, convey a more impressive idea of the Godhead. Interpreters are not agreed as to the exact meaning of the verse which follows. Some think that the mark of similitude must be supplied before the first word of the sentence, and that it is meant to be said that God stills the tumults of men when raging in their insolent attempts, as he stills the agitations of the sea. Others understand the first part of the verse to be a metaphorical declaration of what is plainly stated in the close. I would take the words simply as they stand, and consider that in the first member of the verse, David adverts to the illustration of the divine power which we have in the sea, and in the second to that which we have in his operations amongst men. His strength is shown in calming the waves and tempestuous swellings of the ocean. It is put forth also in quelling tumults which may have been raised by the people.

8 They also that dwell, etc. By the signs referred to, we must evidently understand those signal and memorable works of the Lord which bear the impress of his glorious hand. It is true, that the minutest and meanest objects, whether in the heavens or upon the earth, reflect to some extent the glory of God; but the name mentioned emphatically applies to miracles, as affording a better display of the divine majesty. So striking would be the proofs of God’s favor to his Church, that, as the Psalmist here intimates to us, they would constrain the homage and wonder of the most distant and barbarous nations. In the latter part of the verse, if we take the interpretation suggested by some, nothing more is meant, than that when the sun rises in the morning, men are refreshed by its light; and again, that when the moon and stars appear at night, they are relieved from the gloom into which they must otherwise have been sunk. Were this interpretation adopted, a preposition must be understood; as if it had been said, Thou makest men to rejoice on account of, or by the rising of the sun, of the moon, and of the stars. But the words, as they stand, convey a sense which is sufficiently appropriate without having recourse to any addition. It was said, that in consequence of the wonders done by the Lord, fear would spread itself over the uttermost parts of the earth; and the same thing is now asserted of the joy which they would shed abroad: from the rising to the setting sun, men would rejoice in the Lord, as well as fear him.

9. Thou hast visited the earth, and watered it This and the verbs which follow denote action continually going forward, and may therefore be rendered in the present tense. The exact meaning of the second verb in the sentence has been disputed. Some derive it from the verb שוק, shuk, signifying to desire; and giving this meaning, that God visits the earth after it has been made dry and thirsty by long drought. 456456     This is the sense preferred by Aben Ezra and Kimchi. Thou hast visited in mercy; i.e., blessed the earth or land, after thou hast made it dry or thirsty; thou hast or dost enrich it greatly; i.e., thou, the same God, who hast punished and made thirsty dost again return in mercy, enriching the land and restoring plenty to it. Thus it was after the three years’ famine recorded in 2 Samuel 21:1. But the Septuagint, Arabic, Chaldee, and Syriac versions, interpret the word in the sense of watering. Others derive it from the verb שקה, shakah, signifying to give drink. This seems the most natural interpretation — Thou visitest the earth by watering it. It suits the connection better, for it follows, thou plentifully enrichest it, an expression obviously added by way of amplification. Whether the Psalmist speaks of Judea only, or of the world at large, is a point as to which different opinions may be held. I am disposed myself to think, that although what he says applies to the earth generally, he refers more particularly to Judea, as the former part of the psalm has been occupied with recounting the kindness of God to his own Church and people more especially. This view is confirmed by what is added, the stream or river of God is full of water Some take the river of God to mean a great or mighty river, 457457     Some think reference is made to the overflowing of the Jordan after a long drought. but such a rendering is harsh and overstrained, and on that supposition, rivers, in the plural number, would have been the form of expression used. I consider that he singles out the small rivulet of Siloah, 458458     This river ran through Jerusalem, the city of God. Bishop Hare, following Simeon de Muis, is of opinion that this river is meant. and sets it in opposition to the natural rivers which enrich other countries, intending an allusion to the word of Moses, (Deuteronomy 11:10,) that the land which the Lord their God should give unto his people would not be as the land of Egypt, fertilized by the overflowings of the Nile, but a land drinking water of the rain of heaven. Or we may suppose that he calls the rain itself metaphorically the river of God 459459     “The stream of God, i e., copious rain, according to the Oriental idiom.” — Dr Geddes. See p. 7, note 1, of this volume. And without supposing this Hebraism, the treasures of water which descend from the clouds may, with great poetical beauty, be termed the river of God He collects them there by the wonderful process of evaporation, and he pours them down. They are entirely in his hand, and absolutely beyond the control of man. “The keys of the clouds,” say the Jews, “are peculiarly kept in God’s hand, as the keys of life and resurrection.” He can employ them as the instruments of his mercy, by pouring down from them upon the earth copious and refreshing showers, to promote vegetation and produce fruitful seasons; and he can also make them when he pleases the instruments of judgment, either by bottling them up, or by pouring from them floods of rain, as in the deluge, and when the harvest is made a heap in the day of grief and desperate sorrow, Isaiah 17:11. Horsley, instead of פלג, peleg, in the singular, proposes to read פלגות, pelagoth, in the plural, and translates, “God is he who filleth the rivulets with water.” “The word פלג,” says he, “as remarked by “Archbishop Secker, is very rarely used as a noun in the singular number. Mr Bates, indeed, takes it to be a noun in Psalm 55:9; but his interpretation of that text is very doubtful. In the plural it never signifies large rivers, but small brooks and rivulets. We have the authority of the Syriac for reading it in the plural.” The words must, at any rate, be restricted to Judea, as by the pastures or dwellings of the wilderness, we are also to understand the more dry and uncultivated districts, called in Scripture “the hill country.” But while it is the kindness of God to his own people which is here more particularly celebrated as being better known, we are bound, in whatever part of the world we live, to acknowledge the riches of the Divine goodness seen in the earth’s fertility and increase. It is not of itself that it brings forth such an inexhaustible variety of fruits, but only in so far as it has been fitted by God for producing the food of man. Accordingly, there is a propriety and force in the form of expression used by the Psalmist when he adds, that corn is provided for man, because the earth has been so prepared by God; 460460     In the Septuagint the last clause reads, “Οτι οὕτῶς ἡ ἑτοιμασία,” “For thus is the preparation;” that is, the earth was thus prepared. In the Syriac it is, “When thou didst found or establish it;” and in the Chaldee, “Seeing thou hast so founded it.” which means, that the reason of that abundance with which the earth teems, is its having been expressly formed by God in his fatherly care of the great household of mankind, to supply the wants of his children.

10. Thou dost saturate its furrows Some take the verbs as being in the optative mood, and construe the words as a prayer. But there can be little doubt that David still continues the strain of thanksgiving, and praises God for moistening and saturating the earth with rains that it may be fitted for producing fruit. By this he would signify to us, that the whole order of things in nature shows the fatherly love of God, in condescending to care for our daily sustenance. He multiplies his expressions when speaking of a part of the divine goodness, which many have wickedly and impiously disparaged. It would seem as if the more perspicacity men have in observing second causes in nature, they will rest in them the more determinedly, instead of ascending by them to God. Philosophy ought to lead us upwards to him, the more that it penetrates into the mystery of his works; but this is prevented by the corruption and ingratitude of our hearts; and as those who pride themselves in their acuteness, avert their eye from God to find the origin of rain in the air and the elements, it was the more necessary to awaken us out of such a spirit.

11 Thou crownest the year with thy goodness 461461     This, say some, was probably the year which followed the three years of famine, after Absalom’s rebellion. Some read — Thou crownest the year of thy goodness; as if the Psalmist meant that the fertile year had a peculiar glory attached to it, and were crowned, so to speak, by God. Thus, if there was a more abundant crop or vintage than usual, this would be the crown of the year. And it must be granted that God does not bless every year alike. Still there is none but what is crowned with some measure of excellency; and for that reason it would seem best to retain the simpler rendering of the words, and view them as meaning that the Divine goodness is apparent in the annual returns of the season. The Psalmist further explains what he intended, when he adds, that the paths of God dropped fatness, — using this as a metaphorical term for the clouds, upon which God rideth, as upon chariots, as we read in Psalm 104:3 462462     Some have imagined that instead of paths we should render cloud; but the former reading is more poetical. The original word מעגלך, paths, is derived from עגל, round, circular, smooth, because paths are made by cart-wheels turning round upon them. Accordingly, Horsley renders it, “thy chariot-wheels,” and French and Skinner, “the tracts of thy chariot-wheels.” God is here represented as driving round the earth, and from the clouds the paths of his chariot everywhere scattering blessings upon mankind. This is an instance of the bold and sublime imagery for which the Hebrew poetry is so remarkably distinguished. God is elsewhere described as riding on the clouds during a storm of rain or thunder, Psalm 18:9, 10, 11. Some read, “thy orbits,” and understand all the circling seasons of the year, as ruled by the courses of the heavenly bodies. The earth derives its fruitfulness from the sap or moisture; this comes from the rain, and the rain from the clouds. With a singular gracefulness of expression, these are therefore represented as dropping fatness, and this because they are the paths or vehicles of God; as if he had said, that, wherever the Deity walked there flowed down from his feet fruits in endless variety and abundance. He amplifies this goodness of God, by adding, that his fatness drops even upon the wilder and more uncultivated districts. The wilderness is not to be taken here for the absolute waste where nothing grows, but for such places as are not so well cultivated, where there are few inhabitants, and where, notwithstanding, the Divine goodness is even more illustrated than elsewhere in dropping down fatness upon the tops of the mountains. 463463     “By desert or wilderness,” observes Dr Shaw, “the reader is not always to understand a country altogether barren and unfruitful, but such only as is rarely or never sown or cultivated; which, though it yields no crops of corn or fruit, yet affords herbage, more or less, for the grazing of cattle, with fountains or rills of water, though more sparingly interspersed than in other places.” Notice is next taken of the valleys and level grounds, to show that there is no part of the earth overlooked by God, and that the riches of his liberality extend over all the world. The variety of its manifestation is commended when it is added, that the valleys and lower grounds are clothed with flocks, 464464     The phrase, “the pastures are clothed with flocks,” cannot be regarded as the vulgar language of poetry. It appears peculiarly beautiful and appropriate, when we consider the numerous flocks which whitened the plains of Syria and Canaan. In the Eastern countries, sheep are much more prolific than with us, and they derive their name from their great fruitfulness; bringing forth, as they are said to do, “thousands and ten thousands in their streets,” Psalm 144:13. They, therefore, formed no mean part of the wealth of the East. as well as with corn. He represents inanimate things as rejoicing, which may be said of them in a certain sense, as when we speak of the fields smiling, when they refresh our eye with their beauty. It may seem strange, that he should first tell us, that they shout for joy, and then add the feebler expression, that they sing; interposing, too, the intensative particle, אף, aph, they shout for joy, yea, they also sing The verb, however, admits of being taken in the future tense, they shall sing, and this denotes a continuation of joy, that they would rejoice, not only one year, but through the endless succession of the seasons. I may add, what is well known, that in Hebrew the order of expression is frequently inverted in this way.




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