A thanksgiving of the people for deliverance from difficulties and dangers; their state compared to a journey through a frightful wilderness, 1-9; to confinement in a dreary dungeon, 10-16; to a dangerous malady, 17-22; to a tempest at sea, 23-32. The psalmist calls on men to praise God for the merciful dispensations of his providence, in giving rain and fruitful seasons, after affliction by drought and famine, 33-38; for supporting the poor in affliction, and bringing down the oppressors, 39-41. The use which the righteous should make of these providences, 42; and the advantage to be derived from a due consideration of God's merciful providence, 43.
NOTES ON PSALM CVII
This Psalm has no title, either in the Hebrew, or any of the Versions; the word "Hallelujah," which is prefixed to some of the latter, is no title, but was most probably borrowed from the conclusion of the preceding Psalm. The author is unknown; but it was probably like Psalms cv. and cvi., made and sung at the dedication of the second temple. The three Psalms seem to be on the same subject. In them the author has comprised the marvellous acts of the Lord towards his people; the transgressions of this people against God; the captivities and miseries they endured in consequence; and finally God's merciful kindness to them in their restoration from captivity, and re-establishment in their own land.
This Psalm seems to have been sung in parts: the 8th, 15th, 21st, and 31st verses, with the 6th, 13th, 19th, and 28th, forming what may be called the burden of the song. In singing of which the whole chorus joined.
We may easily perceive that the Psalm must have been sung in alternate parts, having a double burden, or intercalary verse often recurring, and another immediately following, giving a reason for the former. See the 8th and 9th, the 15th and 16th, the 21st and 22nd, the 31st and 32nd, and the 42nd and 43rd, which may be reckoned under the same denomination.
Dr. Lowth, in his 29th prelection, has made some excellent remarks on this Psalm. "It is observable," says he, "that after each of the intercalary verses one is added, expressive of deliverance or praise. I would farther observe, that if the Psalm be supposed to be made with a view to the alternate response of one side of the choir to the other, then it may be considered as if it were written exactly after the method of the ancient pastorals, where, be the subject of their verse what it will, each swain endeavours to excel the other; and one may perceive their thoughts and expressions gradually to arise upon each other; and hence a manifest beauty may be discovered in this Divine pastoral. We will suppose, then, that the author composed it for the use of his brethren the Jews, when, in the joy of their hearts, they were assembled after their return from captivity. At such a time, what theme could be so proper for the subject of his poem, as the manifest goodness of Almighty God? The first performers, therefore, invite the whole nation to praise God for this; a great instance of it being their late return from captivity. At Psalms 107:10, the other side take the subject, and rightly observe that the return of their great men, who were actually in chains, was a more remarkable instance of God's mercy to them, than the return of the people in general, who were only dispersed, we may suppose, up and down the open country. Then the first performers beautifully compare this unexpected deliverance to that which God sometimes vouchsafes to the languishing dying man, when he recalls, as it were, the sentence of death, and restores him to his former vigour. The others again compare it, with still greater strength and expression, to God's delivering the affrighted mariner from all the dreadful horrors of the ungovernable and arbitrary ocean. But the first, still resolved to outdo the rest, recur to that series of wonderful works which God had vouchsafed to their nation, Psalms 107:32, and of which they had lately such a convincing proof. Wherefore at last, as in a common chorus, they all conclude with exhorting each other to a serious consideration of these things, and to make a proper return to Almighty God for them.
"No doubt the composition of this Psalm is admirable throughout; and the descriptive part of it adds at least its share of beauty to the whole; but what is most to be admired is its conciseness, and withal the expressiveness of the diction, which strikes the imagination with inimitable elegance. The weary and bewildered traveller, the miserable captive in the hideous dungeon, the sick and dying man, the seaman foundering in a storm, are described in so affecting a manner, that they far exceed any thing of the kind, though never so much laboured." I may add that had such an Idyl appeared in Theocritus or Virgil, or had it been found as a scene in any of the Greek tragedians, even in AEschylus himself, it would have been praised up to the heavens, and probably been produced as their master-piece.
O give thanks
Here is a duty prescribed; and the reasons of it are immediately laid down. 1. He is good. This is his nature. 2. His mercy endureth for ever. This is the stream that flows from the fountain of his goodness.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so
For they have had the fullest proof of this goodness, in being saved by the continuing stream of his mercy.
And gathered them out of the lands
Though many Jews returned into Jerusalem from various parts of the world, under the reigns of Darius Hystaspes, Artaxerxes, and Alexander the Great; yet this prophecy has its completion only under the Gospel, when all the ends of the earth hear the salvation of God.
They wandered in the wilderness
Here begins the FINEST comparison: the Israelites in captivity are compared to a traveller in a dreary, uninhabited, and barren desert, spent with hunger and thirst, as well as by the fatigues of the journey, Psalms 107:5.
Then they cried unto the Lord
When the Israelites began to pray heartily, and the eyes of all the tribes were as the eyes of one man turned unto the Lord, then he delivered them out of their distresses.
That they might go to a city of habitation.
God stirred up the heart of Cyrus to give them liberty to return to their own land: and Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah, at different times, brought many of them back to Judea.
O that men would praise the Lord
This is what is called the intercalary verse, or burden of each part of this responsive song: see the introduction. God should be praised because he is good. We naturally speak highly of those who are eminent. God is infinitely excellent, and should be celebrated for his perfections. But he does wonders for the children of men; and, therefore, men should praise the Lord. And he is the more to be praised, because these wonders, niphlaoth, miracles of mercy and grace, are done for the undeserving. They are done libney Adam, for the children of Adam, the corrupt descendants of a rebel father.
For he satisfieth the longing soul
This is the reason which the psalmist gives for the duty of thankfulness which he prescribes. The longing soul, nephesh shokekah, the soul that pushes forward in eager desire after salvation.
Such as sit in darkness
Here begins the SECOND similitude, which he uses to illustrate the state of the captives in Babylon, viz., that of a prisoner in a dreary dungeon. 1. They sit in or inhabit darkness. They have no light, no peace, no prosperity. 2. "In the shadow of death." The place where death reigns, over which he has projected his shadow; those against whom the sentence of death has been pronounced. 3. They are bound in this darkness, have no liberty to revisit the light, and cannot escape from their executioners. 4. They are afflicted, not only by want and privation in general, but they are tortured in the prison, oni, afflicted, humbled, distressed. 5. Their fetters are such as they cannot break; they are iron. The reason of their being in this wretched state is given.
Because they rebelled against the words of God
1. God showed them their duty and their interest, and commanded them to obey his word; but they cast off all subjection to his authority, acted as if they were independent of heaven and earth, and broke out into open rebellion against him. 2. He counselled and exhorted them to return to him: but they contemned his advice, and turned his counsel into ridicule. 3. As lenient means were ineffectual, he visited them in judgment: hence it is added,
He brought down their heart with labour
He delivered them into the hands of their enemies. and, as they would not be under subjection to GOD, he delivered them into slavery to wicked men: "So they fell down, and there was none to help ;" God had forsaken them because they had forsaken him.
Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble
This was the salutary effect which their afflictions produced: they began to cry to God for mercy and help; and God mercifully heard their prayer, and reversed their state; for,
He brought then out of darkness
1. Gave them again peace and prosperity. 2. Repealed the sentence of death. 3. "Unbound the poor prisoners." 4. Broke their iron bonds in sunder.
O that men,
This is the intercalary verse, or burden, of the second part, as it was of the first. See Psalms 107:8.
For he hath broken
This is the reason given for thanks to God for his deliverance of the captives. It was not a simple deliverance; it was done so as to manifest the irresistible power of God. He tore the prison in pieces, and cut the bars of iron asunder.
Fools because of their transgression
This is the THIRD comparison; the captivity being compared to a person in a dangerous malady. Our Version does not express this clause well: Fools midderech pisham, because of the way of their transgressions, are afflicted. Most human maladies are the fruits of sin; misery and sin are married together in bonds that can never be broken.
Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat
A natural description of a sick man: appetite is gone, and all desire for food fails; nutriment is no longer necessary, for death has seized upon the whole frame. See a similar image, Job 33:20.
Then they cry
The effect produced by affliction as before.
He sent his word, and healed them
He spoke: "Be thou clean, be thou whole;" and immediately the disease departed; and thus they were delivered from the destructions that awaited them.
O that men,
The intercalary verse, or burden, as before.
And let them sacrifice
For their healing they should bring a sacrifice; and they should offer the life of the innocent animal unto God, as he has spared their lives; and let them thus confess that God has spared them when they deserved to die; and let them declare also "his works with rejoicing;" for who will not rejoice when he is delivered from death?
They that go down to the sea in ships
This is the FOURTH comparison. Their captivity was as dangerous and alarming as a dreadful tempest at sea to a weather-beaten mariner.
These see the works of the Lord
Splendid, Divinely impressive, and glorious in fine weather.
His wonders in the deep.
Awfully terrible in a tempest.
For he commandeth
And what less than the command of God can raise up such winds as seem to heave old Ocean from his bed?
They mount up to the heaven
This is a most natural and striking description of the state of a ship at sea in a storm: when the sea appears to run mountains high, and the vessel seems for a moment to stand on the sharp ridge of one most stupendous, with a valley of a frightful depth between it and a similar mountain, which appears to be flying in the midst of heaven, that it may submerge the hapless bark, when she descends into the valley of death below. This is a sight the most terrific that can be imagined: nor can any man conceive or form an adequate idea of it, who has not himself been at sea in such a storm.
Their soul is melted because of trouble.
This is not less expressive than it is descriptive. The action of raising the vessel to the clouds, and precipitating her into the abyss, seems to dissolve the very soul: the whole mind seems to melt away, so that neither feeling, reflection, nor impression remains, nothing but the apprehension of inevitable destruction! When the ship is buffeted between conflicting waves, which threaten either to tear her asunder or crush her together; when she reels to and fro, and staggers like a drunken man, not being able to hold any certain course; when sails and masts are an incumbrance, and the helm of no use; when all hope of safety is taken away; and when the experienced captain, the skilful pilot, and the hardy sailors, cry out, with a voice more terrible than the cry of fire at midnight, We are ALL lost! we are all LOST! then, indeed, are they at their wit's end; or, as the inimitable original expresses it, vechol chochmatham tithballa, "and all their skill is swallowed up,"-seems to be gulped down by the frightful abyss into which the ship is about to be precipitated. Then, indeed, can the hand of God alone "bring them out of their distresses." Then, a cry to the Almighty (and in such circumstances it is few that can lift up such a cry) is the only means that can be used to save the perishing wreck! Reader, dost thou ask why I paint thus, and from whose authority I describe? I answer: Not from any books describing storms, tempests, and shipwrecks; not from the relations of shipwrecked marines; not from viewing from the shore a tempest at sea, and seeing a vessel beat to pieces, and all its crew, one excepted, perish. Descriptions of this kind I have read, with the shipwrecked mariner I have conversed, the last scene mentioned above I have witnessed: but none of these could give the fearful impressions, the tremendous and soul-melting apprehensions, described above. "Where then have you had them?" I answer, From the great deep. I have been at sea in the storm, and in the circumstances I describe; and, having cried to the Lord in my trouble, I am spared to describe the storm, and recount the tale of his mercy. None but either a man inspired by God, who, in describing, will show things as they are, or one who has been actually in these circumstances, can tell you with what propriety the psalmist speaks, or utter the thousandth part of the dangers and fearful apprehensions of those concerned in a tempest at sea, where all the winds of heaven seem collected to urge an already crazy vessel among the most tremendous rocks upon a lee shore! God save the reader from such circumstances!
When, in the visitation of the winds, He takes the ruffian billows by the top, Curling their monstrous heads, and hanging them, With deafening clamours, on the slippery clouds, That with the hurly death itself awakes! HENRY IV.
A storm at sea-the lifting the vessel to the clouds-her sinking into the vast marine valleys-the melting of the soul-and being at their wit's end, are well touched by several of the ancient poets. See particularly Virgil's description of the storm that dispersed the fleet of AEneas, who was himself not unacquainted with the dangers of the sea:-
Tollimur in coelum curvato gurgite, et idem Subducta ad manes imos descendimus unda. AEN. iii., 364.
Now on a towering arch of waves we rise, Heaved on the bounding billows to the skies. Then, as the roaring surge retreating fell, We shoot down headlong to the gates of hell. PITT.
Rector in incerto est, nec quid fugiatve, petatve, Invenit: ambiguis ars stupet ipsa malis.
"The pilot himself is in doubt what danger to shun; or whither to steer for safety he knows not: his skill is nonplussed by the choice of the difficulties before him."
See more in the analysis.
He maketh the storm a calm
He causes the storm to stand dumb, and hushes the waves. See the original, where sense and sound emphatically meet:-
galleyhem vaiyecheshu lidemamah searah yakem He shall cause the whirlwind to stand dumb, and he shall hush their billows.
Then are they glad because they be quiet
The turbulence of the sea being hushed, and the waves still, they rejoice to see an end to the tempest; and thus, having fine weather, a smooth sea, and fair wind, they are speedily brought to the desired haven.
O that men
The intercalary verse, or burden, as before. See Psalms 107:8.
Let them exalt him also in the congregation
Their deliverance from such imminent danger, and in a way which clearly showed the Divine interposition, demands, not only gratitude of heart and the song of praise at the end of the storm, but when they come to shore that they publicly acknowledge it in the congregation of God's people. I have been often pleased, when in sea-port towns, to see and hear notes sent to the minister from pious sailors, returning thanks to the Almighty for preservation from shipwreck, and, in general, from the dangers of the sea; and for bringing them back in safety to their own port. Thus "they exalt the Lord in the congregation, and praise him in the assembly of the elders." And is it not something of this kind that the psalmist requires?
He turneth rivers into a wilderness
After having, as above, illustrated the state of the Jews in their captivity, and the deliverance which God wrought for them, he now turns to the general conduct of God in reference to the poor and needy; and his gracious interpositions in their behalf, the providential supply of their wants, and his opposition to their oppressors. On account of the wickedness of men, he sometimes changes a fruitful land into a desert. See the general state of Egypt in the present time: once a fertile land; now an arid, sandy wilderness. Again, by his blessing on honest industry, he has changed deserts into highly fertile ground. And, as for the wickedness of their inhabitants, many lands are cursed and rendered barren; so, when a people acknowledge him in all their ways, he blesses their toil, gives them rain and fruitful seasons, and fills their hearts with joy and gladness.
And there he maketh the hungry to dwell
All this seems to apply admirably to the first colonists of any place. They flee from a land of want, an ingrata terra that did not repay their toil, and they seek the wilderness where the land wants only cultivation to make it produce all the necessaries of life. He, by his providence, so guides their steps as to lead them to rivers which they can navigate, and from which they can procure plenty of fish, and shows them wells or springs which they have not digged. The hungry dwell there; and jointly agree, for convenience and defence, to build them a city for habitation. They sow the fields which they have cleared; and plant vineyards, and orchards which yield them in creasing fruits, Psalms 107:37, and he multiplies their cattle greatly, and does not suffer them to decrease, Psalms 107:38. What a fine picture is this of the first peopling and planting of America, and of the multiplication and extension of that people; of the Divine blessing on their industry, and the general and astonishing prosperity of their country! May they never again know what is spoken in the following verse:
Again, they are minished
Sometimes by war, or pestilence, or famine. How minished and brought low was the country already spoken of, by the long and destructive war which began in 1775, and was not ended till 1783! And what desolations, minishings, and ruin have been brought on the fertile empires of Europe by the war which commenced in 1792, and did not end till 1814! And how many millions of lives have been sacrificed in it, and souls sent unprepared into the eternal world! When God makes inquisition for blood, on whose heads will he find the blood of these slaughtered millions? Alas! O, alas!
He poureth contempt upon princes
How many have lately been raised from nothing, and set upon thrones! And how many have been cast down from thrones, and reduced to nothing! And where are now those mighty troublers of the earth? On both sides they are in general gone to give an account of themselves to God. And what an account!
Where there is no way.
Who can consider the fate of the late emperor of the French, Napoleon, without seeing the hand of God in his downfall! All the powers of Europe were leagued against him in vain; they were as stubble to his bow. "HE came, HE saw, and HE conquered" almost every where, till God, by a Russian FROST, destroyed his tens of thousands of veteran troops. And afterwards his armies of raw conscripts would have over-matched the world had not a particular providence intervened at Waterloo, when all the skill and valour of his opponents had been nearly reduced to nothing. How terrible art thou, O Lord, in thy judgments! Thou art fearful in praises, doing wonders.
The dreary rock of St. Helena, where there was no way, saw a period to the mighty conqueror, who had strode over all the countries of Europe!
Yet setteth he the poor on high
This probably refers to the case of the Israelites and their restoration from captivity. But these are incidents which frequently occur, and mark the superintendence of a benign Providence, and the hand of a just God; and are applicable to a multitude of cases.
The righteous shall see it
The wicked are as inconsiderate as they are obstinate and headstrong.
To have such ample proofs that God ruleth in the earth, and that none that trust in him shall be desolate.
All iniquity shall stop her mouth.
God's judgments and mercies are so evident, and so distinctly marked, that atheism, infidelity, and irreligion are confounded, and the cause of error and falsehood has become hopeless. It was only the mouth that could do any thing; and that only by lies, calumnies, and blasphemies: but God closes this mouth, pours contempt upon the head and judgment upon the heart. This may also be applied to the case of the Israelites and the Babylonians. The former, when they turned to God, became righteous; the latter were a personification of all iniquity.
Whoso is wise
That is, He that is wise, he that fears God, and regards the operation of his hand will observe-lay up and keep, these things. He will hide them in his heart, that he sin not against Jehovah. He will encourage himself in the Lord, because he finds that he is a never-failing spring of goodness to the righteous.
They shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord
chasdey Yehovah, the exuberant goodness of Jehovah. This is his peculiar and most prominent characteristic among men; for "judgment is his strange work." What a wonderful discourse on Divine Providence, and God's management of the world, does this inimitable Psalm contain! The ignorant cannot read it without profit; and by the study of it, the wise man will become yet wiser.
ANALYSIS OF THE ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTH PSALM
The title of this Psalm is Hallelujah, because it sets forth the praises of God for delivering such as are oppressed from four common miseries; after each of which is expressed those intercalary verses: "O that men would praise the Lord," They cried unto the Lord in their trouble." It also praises God for his providence in its effects.
I. A preface in which he exhorts all to praise God, especially the redeemed, Psalms 107:1,2.
II. A declaration of his goodness in particular.
I. To the travellers and strangers, famished, Psalms 107:3-9.
2. To the prisoners and captives, Psalms 107:10-16.
3. To the sick, Psalms 107:16-23.
4. To the mariners, Psalms 107:23-32.
III. A praise of God's power and providence. which is evidently seen in the changes and varieties in the world, of which he gives many instances, that prove him to be the sole Disposer and Governor of the universe, Psalms 107:33-42.
IV. The conclusion, which sets forth the use we are to make of it, Psalms 107:42,43.
I. 1. This Psalm, like the former, begins: "That we celebrate and set forth God's praise," and for the same reasons. "O give thanks unto the Lord;" 1. "For he is good;" 2. And merciful: "For his mercy endureth for ever."
2. And those whom he invites to perform this duty are all who are sensible that they have received any mercy or goodness from him in either soul or body, whom he calls the redeemed of the Lord; that men may know, when they are freed from any evil, that it is not by chance or their wisdom: God's hand is in it; he is the First Cause; the rest are only his instruments.
1. "Let the redeemed of the Lord say," i.e., that he is good and merciful.
2. "They say so whom he hath redeemed," means, when he speaks of our redemption by Christ, the enemy, the devil, or some tyrant, tribulations then a corporeal and temporal redemption is meant. The next verse seems to refer to their banishment.
3. "And gathered them out of the lands," true of our spiritual redemption. Matthew 8:11; ; John 10:16;; 11:52.
II. Most expositors begin the second part at the second verse, but some at the fourth; but it is not material. In those two there was mention made of God's goodness in their deliverance, in their collection from all lands. But the following is a declaration of what they suffered during their absence from their country. And this is the misery which the prophet first instances in this place, then shows the course the travellers took, and lastly acquaints us with the manner of their deliverance. Their misery was-
1. "That they wandered." No small discomfort for an ingenious native to go from place to place as a vagrant. God's people were for a time pilgrims; "few and evil were their days."
2. The place adds to their misery. Travellers are not confined always to solitary places, they occasionally have company; but these "wandered in the wilderness in a solitary place," Literally it was fulfilled in the Israelites, while they travelled through the wilderness.
3. "Hungry and thirsty." Men may wander and be solitary; and yet have a sufficient supply of food; but God's people sometimes fast, as Elijah, David,
4. And the famine was so great "that their soul," that is, their life, "was ready to faint." This is the incrementum that the prophet uses to aggravate the misery of the travellers, and the several steps by which it rises.
The prophet shows the course which these travellers and hungry souls took for ease and help; and that it did not fail them, nor any one else who has tried it.
1. "Then in their trouble." God let them be brought into trouble to bring them back to himself.
2. "They cried." In their petition they were very earnest; it was no cold prayer, which froze on the way before it got to heaven; but fervent. A cry.
3. "And they cried." Not to any false god, but unto the Lord.
The success was answerable to their desire.
1. In general, "He delivered them out of their distresses."
2. But in particular, the deliverance was every way fit.
1. "They wandered in the wilderness," Psalms 107:4. "But he led them forth, that they might go to a city of habitation."
2. "They were hungry, and thirsty," hungry soul,"
And upon this he concludes his exhortation to praise God, which he is so earnest for them to do, that he inserts the exhortation between each mention of the mercies.
1. The Lord delivered: "The Lord led them forth." Praise him then.
2. Of his mere mercy, not of desert. "For he is good."
3. And the effects of his goodness were seen in his works; let his praise then be as public as his works; "O that men,"
The second corporeal misery to which men are subject is captivity and imprisonment; he then shows the course the captives took, and God's mercy in their deliverance.
1. Captives; they were taken by the enemy, put in dungeons and prisons, where they were debarred the comfort of the sun: "For they sat in darkness,"
2. Besides, in this place "they were fast bound with affliction," "The iron entered into their soul." "He brought them low;" but they sought help of the Lord.
"They cried unto the Lord in their trouble." "And found the same favour as the travellers did. "And he saved them out of their distresses."
The manner was suitable to their distress.
1. "For they sat in darkness,"
2. "They were bound in affliction and iron," not so strong but he was stronger, and delivered them from captivity. Now the psalmist interposes his thanksgiving: "O that men,"
The third misery is some great sickness or pining away of the body under some grievous disease, such as when stung by fiery serpents, as the Israelites. 1. He describes the danger under which they languished. 2. Shows the method they took for their recovery.
1. The appellation he fastens on the diseased persons, fools; not but that, generally speaking, they were wise enough; but in that they sinned with a high hand against God, "they are fools."
2. Now such fools God often smites with an incurable disease: "Fools, because of their transgression," sickness is from sin; but this that the prophet speaks of was their general apostasy, rebellion, and contempt of God's will and commandment.
The effect was lamentable and double.
1. "Their soul abhorred all manner of meat." Meat, with which the life of man is sustained, became loathsome to them, the disease was so grievous.
2. And deadly too; no art of the physician could cure them. "For they drew near to the gates of death," that is, the grave, where Death exercises his power, as the judges of Israel did in the gates.
But these, being but dead men in the eye of man, took the same course as they did before.
1. "They cried unto the Lord in their trouble."
2. And by God's blessing they recovered; God was alone their Physician.
3. This was the manner of their cure. "He saved them out of their distress."
1. "He sent his word, and healed them." He said the word only, and they were made whole. Or if any medicine were made use of, it was his word which made it medicinal, as in the case of the bunch of figs, and therefore the prophet uses an apt word to put them in mind. "He sent his word," as a great prince sends forth his ambassadors to do his commands. Most probably the centurion had this in his mind when he said, "Say the word only, and my servant shall be whole."
2. "And he delivered them from their destructions," which are opposed to their previous danger. "They drew nigh,"
3. But he exhorts the saved to be thankful: "O that men,"
And he adds,
1. "Let them sacrifice their sacrifices."
2. But with these conditions and limitations: 1. That it be with a thankful heart, for an outward sacrifice is nothing. 2. That with the sacrifice there go an annunciation; that men declare and publish that the cure came from God. 3. That it be done with rejoicing; that we have an experience of God's presence, favour, and mercy, for which the heart ought to rejoice more than for the cure of the body.
The fourth misery arises from the danger at sea.
1. He describes.
2. Shows the course they take in a storm.
3. And the event following upon their prayers.
Upon which he calls upon them, as upon the three before, to praise God.
1. "They that go down to the sea in ships." For the sea is lower than the earth.
2. "That do business in great waters." As merchants, mariners,
3. "These men see the works of the Lord," them by relation, but these see them: they see the great whales, innumerable kinds of fish, and monsters; islands dispersed and safe in the waves, whirlpools, quicksands, rocks; and have experience of the virtue of the loadstone. They discover many stars we know not; and they behold the vast workings of the sea, which fill the most valiant with fear.
4. "For he commandeth,"
Now he describes the tempest:-
1. From the cause. God speaks the word.
2. By it "he raiseth the stormy wind."
3. Which, inspired by his word, "lifts up the waves thereof."
------Fluctus ad sidera tollit.
"The waves arise to heaven."
4. "They" (that is, the passengers) "mount up to heaven,"
Hi summo in fluctu pendent, his unda dehiscens.
"They hung upon the wave; the sea yawns under them; and the bottom seems to be laid bare between the surges."
5. "Their soul its melted because of trouble." Their spirit fails.
Extemplo AEneae solvuntur frigora membra.
"The limbs of the hero himself dissolve with terror."
6. "They reel to and fro." Tossed this way and that way.
Tres Eurus ab alto in brevia, et syrtes urget.
"They are dashed against the shoals and quicksands."
7. "They stagger and totter,"
Cui dubli stantque labantque pedes.
"They cannot keep their feet."
8. "And are at their wit's end." Omnis sapientia eorum absorbetur.-"Their judgment roves; their art fails; their skill is at an end."
Et meminisse viae media Palinurus in unda.
"Even the pilot loses his way in the troubled deep."
Hitherto the prophet has poetically described the tempest and storm; and now he gives an account of the course they took to save their lives. "Then they cried unto the Lord," says: Qui nescit orare, discat navigare. "He who knows not how to pray, let him learn to be a sailor."
And the consequence of their praying was:
"And he brings them out,"
1. "He makes the storm a calm."
---------Dicto citius tumida aequora placat.
"By his word the swelling sea becomes calm."
2. "So that the waves thereof are still." Et cunctus pelagi cecidit fragor. "And the noise of it is hushed to silence."
3. "Then they are glad," whence arises their joy.
---------Laeto testantur gaudia plausu.
"The clapping of hands expresses their joy."
4. And to increase it: "So he brings them to their desired haven."
---------Magno telluris amore, Egressi optata nautae potiuntur arena, Et sale tabentes artus in littore ponunt.
"The weather-beaten marines having reached the shore, in an ecstacy of joy kiss the sand, and lay themselves down upon the beach."
And now, in the last place, he calls upon them to pay their tribute of thankful duty for the miracle done them in their preservation: "O that men would praise the Lord,"
And probably in their danger they might have made a vow, which is frequently done in such cases. Read the Life of Nazianzen. This vow the prophet would have them pay openly.
1. "Let them exalt him also in the congregation,"
2. And that not only before the promiscuous multitude; but "let them praise him in the assembly of the elders," sacer votiva paries indicat, uvida suspendisse potenti vestimenta maris Deo. "Let them here suspend their votive tablet; and hang their wet clothes against a wall, as a grateful offering to him who rules the seas."
III. The prophet had exalted God's mercies in freeing men from these four miseries and calamities; these travellers through the wilderness, captivity, sickness, shipwreck; and now he manifests his power, providence, and wisdom, in the vicissitudes we meet with below. In the earth we see strange mutations; in kingdoms, wonderful revolutions; yet we must go higher, and not rest short of the hand which governs all.
The prophet first instances the earth's changes.
1. "He turns rivers into a wilderness," land arises from its rivers, as is apparent in Egypt from the overflowing of the Nile. And when Elisha would free the soil from barrenness, he first healed the waters. The drying up of rivers produces famine, and when the channels are directed from their courses, the fruitful land becomes a wilderness.
2. And the cause of this is: "The iniquity of them that dwell therein."
On the contrary, God illustrates his mercy by sometimes changing the wilderness into a fruitful and abundant place.
1. "He turneth the wilderness into a standing water," shall be fruitful for man's sake.
2. "For there he makes the hungry to dwell." God puts it into men's minds to plant colonies in some newly found and good land, where the hungry find plenty and are satisfied.
3. And to build houses: "That they may prepare a city,"
Pars aptare locum tecto, pars ducere muros.
"Some dig out the foundations, others raise the walls."
4. The endeavours of the colonists are: 1. "To sow fields." 2. "To plant vineyards." Which was the first trade in the world.
5. And God's blessing on those endeavours: "God blessed them also." 1. In children: "So that they multiplied greatly." 2. In cattle: "And suffered not their cattle to decrease."
But there is nothing in this world perpetual and stable: even those whom God had sometimes blessed and enriched continued not at one stay.
1. These are "minished, and brought low."
2. These are "worn out by oppression," calamity, war, famine, invasion,
Even monarchs are subject to changes.
1. "He pours contempt upon princes." It is a heavy judgment for princes, civil or ecclesiastical, to become contemptible; for then the reins of discipline are let loose, confusion follows, and all things grow worse. And this for the iniquity of those,
2. "He causeth them to wander in the wilderness," clause is subject to a double interpretation.
Either that he suffers princes to err in their counsels, lives, and example; or they enact unjust laws, favour wicked men, or oppress the good. But in the following verse there is some comfort.
"Yet setteth he the poor man on high," affliction.
"And maketh him families like a flock." Becomes his shepherd, and governs him by his special providence.
IV. He concludes the Psalm with an epiphonema, in which he persuades good men to consider the former promises, and lay them to heart; to observe the whole course of God's providence, that they impute not the changes of the world to chance or fortune, but bless God for all his dispensations.
1. "The righteous shall see it,"
2. "And rejoice." When they are assured that God is their Guardian, and that all he lays upon them is for their real good.
"And all iniquity shall stop her mouth." By the observation of the event, at last evil doers shall not have cause to laugh and blaspheme, but to confess that all is justly and wisely done by God.
And this consideration is that of the wise man who looks afar off.
1. "Who is wise," properly.
2. "And they shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord." It shall be seen by them how ineffable is his mercy towards those who truly fear him, and call upon his name: but our life is hid with Christ in God.