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Friday, September 22nd, 2023
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 29

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verses 1-11

[1] Note.—Thunder is extremely rare in Palestine during summer. Hence the miracle wrought by Samuel at the time of wheat-harvest must have made the greater impression on the people (1 Samuel 12:17-18). Thunder is called “the voice of God” (cf. Job 37:2; Job 40:9, Psalms 38:13, Isaiah 30:31). It is the symbol of the Divine power and vengeance (1 Samuel 2:10; 1 Samuel 7:10; 2 Samuel 22:14; Exodus 9:28). On occasions when God has specially intimated His presence, there have been accompaniments of thunder (cf. Sinai, Exodus 19:16, and Hebrews 12:18-24, also John 12:29, and Revelation 4:5; Revelation 8:5, &c). The poets of all lands make frequent reference to the thunder. There is a magnificent description of a thunder-storm in Job 36:27 to Job 37:5, which may be compared with that in this psalm, Æschylus, Virgil, and Lucretius (book vi.) among the ancients, and Milton, Klopstock, and others among the moderns, have passages of great sublimity and beauty, describing thunderstorms. The following extracts are from Æschylus and Milton:

“I feel in very deed

The firm earth rock; the thunder’s deepening roar
Rolls with redoubled rage; the bickering flames
Flash thick; the eddying sands are whirl’d on high;
In dreadful opposition, the wild winds
Rend the vexed air; the boisterous billows rise,
Confounding earth and sky, the impetuous storm
Rolls all its terrible fury.”—Trans, by Potter.

“Either tropic now

‘Gan thunder, and both ends of heaven, the clouds
From many a horrid rift abortive pour’d
Fierce rain, with lightning mix’d, water with fire,
In ruin reconcil’d; nor slept the winds
Within their stony caves, but rush’d abroad
From the four hinges of the world, and fell
On the vex’d wilderness, whose tallest pines,
Though rooted deep as high, and sturdiest oaks,
Bow’d their stiff necks, laden with stormy blasts,
Or torn up sheer.”

—Paradise Regained, book iv.


“This psalm is a magnificent description of a thunder-storm. Its mighty march from north to south, the desolation and terror which it causes, the peal of thunder, the flash of the lightning, even the gathering fury and lull of the elements, are vividly depicted. The psalm consists of five parts: a prelude, the body of the poem in three divisions, and a conclusion. The structure (‘first fully explained by Ewald’) of the whole is highly artificial, and elaborated with a symmetry of which no more perfect specimen exists in Hebrew. But this evidently artificial mode of composition is no check to the force and fire of the poet’s genius, which kindles and glows, and sweeps along with all the freedom and majesty of the storm; the whole psalm being one continued strain of triumphant exultation. I. In the prelude, the singer lifts our thoughts at once from earth to heaven, by calling on the angels, who stand around the throne of God, to praise Him who manifests His glory in the thunder and lightning which He sends upon the earth (Psalms 29:1-2). II. Then follows the description of the storm in the three strophes which constitute the main body of the poem. These are so constructed, that too first (Psalms 29:3-4) gives us the beginning of the storm, the low, faint muttering thunder in the distant heavens; the next (Psalms 29:5-7) describes the storm at its height, when it crashes the cedars and shakes the mountains; the last (Psalms 29:8-9) tells how it passes on over the plain-country to the forest of Kadesh, where it dies away. III. The conclusion consists, like the prelude, of two verses, each of two members. And here we are beautifully reminded that Jehovah, whom the angels praise, and who both rules and stills the elements in their wildest uproar, is the Jehovah who gives strength and peace to His people” (Psalms 29:10-11).—Preowne.

(Psalms 29:1-11.)

If Psalms 8:0. should be read at night, when the sky is bright with stars, and Psalms 19:0 by day, when the sun is high in the heavens, this ought to be studied during the gloom of the tempest, when the thunder rolls, and the lightnings flash, and the terrors of the Lord are on every side. It is then we can best realise its grandeur and beauty, and feel its power to bring us nearer God (Psalms 29:1-2). First, the psalmist would raise us to the true stand-point, that side by side with the angels, “the godlike ones,” “the sons of the mighty,” and inspired like them with holy love and joy, we may sing Jehovah’s praise:

“Give unto the Lord, ye sons of the mighty,
Give unto the Lord glory and strength;
Give unto the Lord the glory of His name,
Bow down to the Lord in the beauty of holiness.”

“In the beauty of holiness.” This is rendered in the margin of our Bibles, “In His glorious sanctuary,” others translate, “in holy attire,” “in the vestments of the sanctuary,” “in the beautiful robes of the priesthood.” True holiness is of the soul. All things outwardly beautiful are but types of the beautiful in soul. The meaning seems to be that as in heaven, so on earth, God should be worshipped in the beauty of holiness. Standing with the psalmist, as it were, on the heights of Zion, let us watch the tempest, and let our hearts answer as he calls us.

I. To hear the voice of God in the thunder-storm (Psalms 29:3). “The voice of the Lord.” This was heard in the garden (Genesis 3:8) calling Adam; or Mount Sinai (Deuteronomy 4:12; Deuteronomy 5:22) proclaiming the ten commandments; by the prophets (Isaiah 6:8; Jeremiah 26:13) announcing the invitations and warnings of the gospel; and in the thunderings with which the mountains tremble (1 Samuel 7:10). The inspired writers see a unity in things, and discern the voice of God in the sounds of inanimate nature, as well as in the articulate words of human speech. In the present passage, the voice of the thunder is mentioned seven times (Revelation 10:3), which points to its sacred nature, and heavenly source.”—Murphy. Reason and revelation agree in their teachings. The cold scientist may see nothing in the thunder-storm but law and force, and the trembling savage may behold only a dreadful power which he cannot comprehend; but the Hebrew poet teaches us to recognise the presence and working of Jehovah. What is law, but His will; what is force, but His strength; what are all the phenomena of nature, but manifestations of His glory. A voice implies a speaker, and interprets to us his thought. Nature is to us the voice of God, and interprets to us His thoughts. We should think of Him as present not only representatively or influentially, but personally, and speaking to us, as truly by His works, as by His Word.

II. To adore the glory of God in the thunder-storm (Psalms 29:3-9). Realising the presence of God, we are called to behold His strength and glory as reflected in the tempest. The description, though artificial, is in the highest degree vivid and powerful.

“i. In the first strophe, we hear the first yet distant sound of the thunder in the words, ‘The voice of Jehovah is upon the waters.’ In the next two clauses, ‘The God of glory thundereth: Jehovah is upon many waters,’ the long, loud peal grows more distinct; whilst in Psalms 29:4., again, it is pitched in a lower key, as if telling us of a pause in the storm.

“ii. In the next strophe, we have again (a) first, the renewed fury of the tempest, as coming nearer yet, it falls on the glory of Lebanon, and breaks her cedars in its might. ‘The voice of Jehovah breaketh the cedars,’ &c. (b) Next, gathering, with a wilder intensity of wrath, it bursts upon the mountain peaks, roaring amid their rocks, and shattering them; and making the everlasting hills themselves to tremble as if with the throes of an earthquake, so that ‘Lebanon and Sirion skip like young buffaloes.’ (c) Lastly, we hear it sinking down in the line which describes the flashing of the forked lightning: ‘The voice of Jehovah cleaveth the flames of fire’ (Psalms 29:5-7).

“iii. Again, the same structure is observable. One long peal after another has rolled and reverberated along the sky, and now the storm, in its jubilant strength, sweeps the whole land from north to south. (a) Again, it is up in its majesty: ‘The voice of Jehovah maketh the wilderness to tremble.’ (b) Again, its last fury is poured out upon the wilderness of Kadesh. The very hinds bow themselves in travail pangs, and the forest is torn open and laid bare, as the hurricane drives through it in its path. (c) And again, the tempest is stilled, but this time its voice is hushed and lost for ever in the music and songs of the heavenly host. ‘In His temple, all that are therein cry Glory’ (Psalms 29:8-9).”—Perowne.

III. To confide in God as the Almighty ruler of the thunder-storm (Psalms 29:10-11). The tempest has fulfilled its mission. The air seems purer, and the sun shines with a more chastened radiance. In the sweet tranquillity of the scene, the psalmist speaks words of instruction and comfort. He would strengthen our faith and hope in God.

1. We are taught to confide in God as an Almighty King. “Sitteth” in the tranquillity of an upright and Almighty Judge. “Upon the flood,” that overwhelmed the old world, and rises and surges for the final overthrow of the wicked in a deluge, not of water, but of fire (2 Peter 3:7-10). “Sitteth King,” to defend the right and defeat the wrong. “For ever!” The dominion that “has no beginning, knows no end.”—Murphy.

2. As blessing His people with strength and peace. “These are the two great blessings of salvation. ‘His people,’ who are born of God, receive from Him the inheritance of sons, and are for ever distinguished from that wicked world that rejects the offers of His grace, and reaps the vengeance of everlasting destruction.”—Murphy. “Very beautiful is the conclusion of the psalm. If, in His heavenly temple above, all that are therein ascribe ‘glory’ to God, upon earth, too, He has manifested His glory. He sat as king when He sent the flood of water to destroy the earth. He sits now, and for ever will sit, as king. As then He saved the righteous man from death, so now He watches over His people, for Jehovah is the God of Israel. It was He who, when the storm waxed strong, gave it its strength; it was He who, when it was hushed, spread over earth, and sea, and sky, the sweet Sabbath stillness of peace. And He whose almighty power was seen in the march of the tempest, whose voice was heard in its wildest uproar, and whose word stilled its fiercest war, shall He not give both strength and peace? Yea Jehovah, who is strong and mighty, will give His own strength to His people. And He who is the Prince of Peace, will bless His people with peace. Thus the psalm begins, as Delitzch says, with a gloria in excelsis, and ends with a pax in torris.”—Perowne.


I. Built by His hand (Psalms 29:9). “I asked the earth, and it said, ‘I am not He,’ and all that is upon it made the same confession. I asked the sun, and the depths, and the creeping things that have life, and they answered, ‘We are not thy God; look thou above us.’ I asked the breezes and the gales; and the whole air with its inhabitants said to me, ‘Anaximenes is in error, I am not God.’ I asked the heaven, the sun, the moon, the stars, ‘We too,’ said they, ‘are not the God whom thou seekest.’ And I said to all the creatures that surround the doors of my fleshly senses, ‘Ye have said to me, of my God, that ye are not He; tell me somewhat of Him.” And with a great voice, they exclaimed, ‘He made us.’ ”Augustine (Conf. 10, 6). “Every house is builded by some man, but he that built all things is God” (Hebrews 3:4).

II. Hallowed by His presence. Nature is not an empty framework—a house without an inhabitant—a temple without a God. “I had rather believe all the fables in the Legend, and the Talmud, and the Alcoran, than that this universal frame is without a mind.”—Bacon. God is everywhere, and to the eye of faith He is ever revealing more and more of His glory. “How precious are Thy thoughts to me, O Lord” (Psalms 139:17). He who cannot find God in His works, is likely to miss Him in His Word. He who does not regard earth as sacred, is in danger of treating heaven as profane.

“The men,

Whom nature’s works can charm, with God Himself
Hold converse; grow familiar day by day
With his conceptions; act upon His plan,
And form to His, the relish of their souls.”

III. Consecrated to His worship (Psalms 29:9). This implies worshippers. Though nature reveals God, what boots it, if there were none to “speak of His glory.” The devout soul turns to nature as to a temple.

“To that cathedral, boundless as our wonder,
Whose quenchless lamps, the sun and moon supply;
Its choir the winds and waves, its organ thunder,

Its dome, the sky.

There amid solitude and shade I wander
Through the green aisles; and stretched upon the sod,
Awed by the silence, reverently ponder

The ways of God,”

1. The sanctity of nature.
2. The holy uses of nature.
3. The subordination of nature to Christ

“Read nature, nature is a friend to truth,
Nature is Christian, preaches to mankind,
And bids dead matter aid us in our Creed.”


Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Psalms 29". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/psalms-29.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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