New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

Psa 114:1

When Israel went forth out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of foreign language-
It is part of the "Hallel Psalms" (Ps. 111-118), chants sung at the feasts of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles, which consist of Psalm 113-118. Fittingly, therefore, "it divides into four stanzas of four lines each, very evenly balanced, and perfect in its metrical arrangement".

This Psalm appears to be encouraging the exiles to perceive that just as Israel had been delivered from Egypt and brought to Canaan, so they could be from Babylon, and led to the restored Kingdom of God in Israel.

Psa 114:2

Judah became His sanctuary, Israel His kingdom-
The exiles had no physical sanctuary, as the temple was in ruins. But this reminds them that Israelites who left Egypt likewise had no temple; they as people were the essence of God's sanctuary. They as a people were "His Kingdom" (Ex. 19:5), the dominion of the King. Their lack of a human king and national territory didn't at all mean that they were not "His Kingdom", or that God was without "His sanctuary".

Psa 114:3

The sea saw it, and fled. The Jordan was driven back-
The seas and waters symbolically refer to nations; just as the Red Sea and Jordan had literally fled, so would the nations before tiny Judah. The sea is personified as people fleeing because of this intended connection between the seas and nations; the same word is used of the Egyptians fleeing from the returning Red Sea (Ex. 14:25,27). We are here invited to play "Bible television", to use a phrase of Harry Whittaker; standing on the banks and watching the waters fleeing back. This is exactly the encouragement to the exiles given in Is. 51:10; the seas would be dried up to make "a way for the ransomed to pass over".

Psa 114:4

The mountains skipped like rams, the little hills like lambs-
The reference is to the earthquakes which were associated with the division of the Red Sea. But the mountains are personified as people skipping with joy; just as the waters represent peoples in :3. Mountains and hills represent nation and kingdoms. The hope was that the exiles would repent, and along with joyful, repentant Gentiles, return to form a multiethnic people of God in the restored Kingdom of God in Israel.

Psa 114:5

What was it, you sea, that you fled? You Jordan, that you turned back?-
The idea may be 'What do these things mean?'. And the answer is in :7- that the peoples of the earth / eretz promised to Abraham to tremble at Yahweh's presence- in repentance and acceptance of Him. Perhaps we can read "turned back" as referring to repentance.

Psa 114:6

You mountains, that you skipped like rams; you little hills, like lambs?-
See on :4,5. There is a similar idea in Ps. 29:6 "He also makes them to skip like a calf; Lebanon and Sirion like a young wild ox", GNB "He makes the mountains of Lebanon jump like calves and makes Mount Hermon leap like a young bull". There is the idea that Lebanon and Hermon, from where the cedars came from, would join in response to God's word. For David ever had the hope of Gentile response to Israel's God.

Psa 114:7

Tremble, you earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob-
The idea is that as the earth had trembled at the exodus, so it could do again at the restoration from Babylon. But the imperative to "tremble" is a suggestion that we are to read this as an appeal to the peoples of the earth / eretz promised to Abraham to tremble at Yahweh's presence- in repentance and acceptance of Him.

Psa 114:8

who turned the rock into a pool of water, the flint into a spring of waters-
Just as God had provided for His people on their journey to Canaan after delivering them from Egypt, so He would for the exiles from Babylon. Tragically, most preferred to remain in Babylonian exile.