Title. A Psalm of David. From the title we learn nothing but the authorship: but this is interesting and leads us to observe the wondrous operations of the Spirit upon the mind of Israel’s sweet singer, enabling him to touch the mournful string in Psalm twenty-two, to pour forth gentle notes of peace in Psalm twenty-three, and here to utter majestic and triumphant strains. We can do or sing all things when the Lord strengtheneth us.
This sacred hymn was probably written to be sung when the ark of the covenant was taken up from the house of Obed-edom, to remain within curtains upon the hill of Zion. The words are not unsuitable for the sacred dance of joy in which David led the way upon that joyful occasion. The eye of the psalmist looked, however, beyond the typical up going of the ark to the sublime ascension of the King of glory. We will call it The Song of the Ascension.
Division. The Psalm makes a pair with the Psalms 15:1-5. It consists of three parts. The first glorifies the true God, and sings of his universal dominion; the second describes the true Israel, who are able to commune with him; and the third pictures the ascent of the true Redeemer, who has opened heaven’s gates for the entrance of his elect.
The Treasury of David.
In the second verse we have the reason why the world belongs to God, namely, because he has created it, which is a title beyond all dispute.
For he hath founded it upon the seas. It is God who lifts up the earth from out of the sea, so that the dry land, which otherwise might in a moment be submerged, as in the days of Noah, is kept from the floods. The hungry jaws of ocean would devour the dry land if a constant fiat of Omnipotence did not protect it.
He hath established it upon the floods. The world is Jehovah’s, because from generation to generation he preserves and upholds it, having settled its foundations. Providence and Creation are the two legal seals upon the title deeds of the great Owner of all things. He who built the house and bears up its foundations has surely a first claim upon it. Let it be noted, however, upon what insecure foundations all terrestrial things are founded. Founded on the seas! Established on the floods! Blessed be God the Christian has another world to look forward to, and rests his hopes upon a more stable foundation than this poor world affords. They who trust in worldly things build upon the sea; but we have laid our hopes, by God’s grace, upon the Rock of Ages; we are resting upon the promise of an immutable God, we are depending upon the constancy of a faithful Redeemer. Oh! ye worldlings, who have built your castles of confidence, your palaces of wealth, and your bowers of pleasure upon the seas, and established them upon the floods; how soon will your baseless fabrics melt, like foam upon the waters! Sand is treacherous enough, but what shall be said of the yet more unstable sea?
He hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods. This founding the land upon the seas, and preparing it upon the floods, is so wonderfully wonderful, that Almighty God asked his servant Job, “Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened?” Job 38:6. Xerxes commanded his soldiers to fetter the waters of Hellispontus; and so God bindeth, as it were, the floods in fetters, at St. Basil plainly, Ligatum est mare praecepto Creatoris quasi compedibus; he saith unto the sea, “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further, there shall it stay thy proud waves.” “He gathereth the waters of the sea together as an heap; he layeth up the depth in storehouses” (Job 38:11 Psalms 33:7); so that without his leave not so much as one drop can overflow the land. John Boys.
(New translation.) For he hath founded it upon the seas, and upon streams doth he make it fast. The reference is no doubt to the account of the Creation, in Genesis, the dry land having emerged from the water, and seeming to rest upon it. (comp. 136:6; Proverbs 8:29.) It would, however, be quite out of place to suppose that in such language we have the expression of any theory, whether popular or scientific, as to the structure of the earth’s surface: Job says (Job 26:7), “He hangeth the earth upon nothing.” Such expressions are manifestly poetical. See Job 38:6. J. J. Stewart Perowne.
Upon the seas: that is, upon the great abyss of water which is under the earth, enclosed in great hollow places, whence the heads of rivers do spring, and other waters bubble out upon the earth. John Diodati.
Above the floods he hath established it. Both the words עַל (Al) in the two clauses of this verse mean either “above” as we have rendered it, and refer to Genesis 1:9-10, denoting that Jehovah hath called forth dry land from the midst of the seas, and established it above the floods, and hath set a boundary to the latter never to turn and overflow it (see Job 38:8: Psalm 104 chronologically Psalms 7:9); or “by, or at”, as they often denote, and refer to the same subject of the omnipotence of God in relation to the same quoted passages, i.e., that though our globe is situated at or by the floods—is surrounded with mighty waters whose single wave could bury it for ever, still the Lord has so established it that this never can happen. This is a mighty reason why the earth and all its fulness and inhabitants belong to Jehovah. Benjamin Weiss.
Hereby is mystically meant, that he hath set his church above the waters of adversities, so that how high soever they arise, it is kept still above them in safety, and so shall be for evermore; or it may agree thus—he will take in all nations to be in his grace, because all be his creatures; he made them so admirable an habitation at the first, and upholds it still, showing hereby how much he regards them; therefore he will now extend his favour further towards them, by taking them in to be his people. Augustine, quoted by Mayer.
Divine purposes accomplished by singular means.
Founded on the seas. Instability of terrestrial things.
The Treasury of David.
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