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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Psalms 29

A Psalm of David.

The artistic finish of this psalm places it in the first class of the sacred lyrics, while the conception and expression spring from the soul of poetry and devotion. Its earnest, exultant tone, its graphic delineations, and its devout spirit, point to some external occasion. The thunderstorm itself could not have been that occasion. Above the storm, and in the wild confusion of warring elements, there was a providence, a moral significance, which made God himself the ultimate thought, and gave to the scene its real sublimity. This religious element is indicated in the highly Jehovistic character of the psalm, and is directly expressed in the concluding verse. The name Jehovah the covenant name of God occurs eighteen times; the name God, twice. The majesty and the power of Jehovah are climaxed with the thought, “Jehovah will give strength unto his people; Jehovah will bless his people with peace.” Psalms 29:11. The manifestations of God in physical nature were subordinate to the doctrine of his faithfulness to his people, while the storm itself was Jehovah’s blessing of peace, and his pledge of protection. The whole seems to point to the transactions of 2 Samuel 21:1-14. The psalm is divided into five strophes. Psalms 29:1-2, the introduction; vers. 3-9, the description of the storm, which is in three parts (vers. 3, 4, the storm rising in the distant north; Psalms 29:5-7, its lowering and discharging itself upon Lebanon; Psalms 29:8-9, its passing south into Arabia and producing its effects on inanimate nature and animals and Psalms 29:10-11, the conclusion and application.

Verses 1-2

1, 2. These verses open the scene with a call upon celestial beings to praise and glorify Jehovah.

O ye mighty Hebrew, sons of God; angels and archangels. See Job chap. Psalms 38:7, and note on Psalms 89:6.

Glory and strength It was fit that beings in heaven should take the lead in praising Him who alone rideth upon the storm, and maketh the clouds his chariot. Psalms 18:13-15; Psalms 104:3.

Beauty of holiness The Septuagint reads “holy court,” ( αυλη αγια ,) and is followed by the Vulgate, as if the splendour of the sanctuary or of the high priest’s vestments was referred to. But it had better be understood of moral beauty; that beauty or ornament which is “produced by or consists in holiness.” Alexander. Comp. 1 Peter 3:3-5. It can hardly be taken here, as some do, for holy or ornamental vestments, such as the priests wore. See note on Psalms 96:9; Psalms 110:3

Verse 3

3. The voice of the Lord This poetic name for thunder (Job 37:4; Job 40:9) has a sevenfold repetition, and is probably the type and basis of the apocalyptic “seven thunders,” (Revelation 10:3-4,) as the allegoric imagery of that book is almost wholly borrowed from the Old Testament.

Upon the waters Either the “great waters” that is, the sea, as in third line of the verse or dark water clouds, as Psalms 18:11. Thunder upon the ocean has a peculiarly deep and solemn sound, which is probably referred to here.

Verse 5

5. Breaketh the cedars of Lebanon Thunderbolts riving great trees and tearing up the earth, particularly as seen in tropical climates, have been the terror of all ages.

Verse 6

6. Skip like a calf A poetical hyperbole, as also “shaketh the wilderness” in Psalms 29:8, as if it had been an earthquake. The same occurs Psalms 68:8-9; Psalms 18:7. The impression on the nerves is transferred to reality.

Lebanon and Sirion “Sirion” is the old Sidonian name for Hermon. Deuteronomy 3:9. The storm originates in the north, in Lebanon and Hermon, and the psalmist traces its progress southward, as if it were its natural pathway, to Arabia. This theory of storms agrees with Proverbs 25:23, where, instead of “The north wind driveth away rain,” it should be translated, “The north wind bringeth forth rain,” in the sense of “ giveth birth to rain.” See note on Psalms 133:3.

Unicorn The buffalo. See on Psalms 22:21

Verse 7

7. Divideth the flames of fire A poetical description of forked lightning, as if it were cleaved or split. The word frequently means hewing and splitting, as Isaiah 10:15. The grammatical construction would make “the voice of the Lord” (thunder) the cause of cleaving or cutting out, the lightning; but the poet speaks phenomenally, as it appears. Elsewhere the thunder is put for the effect of lightning. Job 37:3-4. “With every thunder peal comes the terrible forked lightning, so striking in tropical and eastern lands. Its vivid, zig-zag, serpent-like flash, is given in a few words.” Perowne.

Verse 8

8. Shaketh the wilderness of Kadesh The describer has now followed the track of the storm from Lebanon in the north to Kadesh in Arabia in the south, about two hundred miles, through the utmost extent of the Promised Land. This answers to the historic occasion we have assumed for the psalm, when a three years’ famine, as a judgment, had wasted the earth, and it is said: “After that God was entreated for the land.” 2 Samuel 21:14.

Verse 9

9. Hinds to calve That is, prematurely. This effect of heavy thunder was well known. Pliny, (book viii, chap. 47,) affirms the same of sheep when alone from the flock, but being with the flock the evil was obviated.

Discovereth the forests To discover the forest is to uncover, to make it bare, to strip it of foliage. Devastation marks the storm track.

In his temple doth every one speak of his glory Literally, in his temple all of it speaks ( is speaking) glory, namely, to God. The destructive force of the elements, no less than the fertilizing rain, glorifies God.

Verses 10-11

10, 11. The Lord sitteth upon the flood The moral application of the psalm is given in these last two verses. In Psalms 29:10, the first corollary is given in the supremacy of God in nature, ruling and directing all its forces to wise and beneficent ends. The second is stated in Psalms 29:11, which brings out the special covenant relations of God to his people, to whom “he will give strength,” and the blessing of “peace,” of which this timely rain and terrible display of power are both the pledge and fulfilment.

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 29". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/psalms-29.html. 1874-1909.