23. They that go down to the sea in ships, trading in the great waters, 24. See the works of Jehovah, his wonders in the deep.25. He speaks, and raiseth the stormy wind, and causeth the billows thereof to mount on high.26. They mount up to the heavens, they descend into the deeps; their soul breaketh because of trouble.27. They are tossed and totter like a drunken man, and all their senses are overwhelmed. And they cry to Jehovah in their straits, and he rescues them from their troubles.29. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.30. And they rejoice because they are calmed; and he brings them to the coast which they desired.31. Let them celebrate the mercy of Jehovah in his presence, and his wonders among the sons of men; 32. And let them exalt him in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders.
23. They that go down to the sea in ships Here we have another instance of God's superintending care towards mankind pointed out to us by the prophet, exemplified in the bringing of those who are shipwrecked to the harbour, and this, too, as if he had raised them from the depth and darkness of the tomb, and brought them to live in the light of day. I do not understand what is here said about those who are accustomed to navigate the ocean seeing the wonders of God, as referring generally to the many wonderful things with which it abounds. Such persons are well fitted to bear testimony regarding the works of God, because they there behold more vast and various wonders than are to be seen upon earth. But it appears to me preferable to connect this with the subsequent context, where the prophet is his own interpreter, and where he shows how suddenly God raises and calms the tempest.
The sum of the matter is, that the scope of the passage is to point out that the lives of those who navigate the seas are often in great jeopardy by the storms which they encounter; because, as often as the ocean heaves and is agitated, and the billows rise and rage, so often does death stare them in the face. But he furnishes us with a still more vivid picture of the providence of God; for in telling us, that the sea does not of its own accord rise into a tempest, he makes use of the verb, he speaks, intimating that the word and providence of God make the winds blow, to agitate the sea. True, indeed, the mariners imagine from certain phenomena, that a storm is approaching, but sudden changes proceed only from the secret appointment of God. Therefore, he gives not merely a historical narrative of the manner in which squalls and storms arise, but, assuming the character of a teacher, begins with the cause itself, and then directs to the imminent danger with which the tempest is fraught; or rather, portrays, as in a picture, the image of death, in order that the goodness of God may appear the more conspicuous when the tempest happily ceases without any loss of life. They mount up, says he, to the heavens, they descend into the deeps; as if he should say, they mount up into the air, so that their life may be destroyed, and then they tumble down towards the caverns of the ocean, where they may be drowned. Next, he mentions the fears which torment them, or rather which may deprive them of understanding; intimating by these words, that however skilfully mariners may steer their vessels, they may happen to be deprived of their senses; and being thus paralysed, they could not avail themselves of aid, were it even at hand. For though they collect all their tackling, cast their sounding line into the deep, and unfurl their sails to all points, yet after making every attempt, and all human skill is baffled, they give themselves up to the mercy of wind and wave. All hope of safety being cut off, no farther means are employed by them. And now that all human aid fails, they cry unto God for deliverance, which is a convincing evidence that they had been as it were dead.
29. He maketh the storm a calm A profane author, in narrating the history of such an event, would have said, that the winds were hushed, and the raging billows were calmed; but the Spirit of God, by this change of the storm into a calm, places the providence of God as presiding over all; thereby meaning, that it was not by human agency that this violent commotion of the sea and wind, which threatened to subvert the frame of the world, was so suddenly stilled. When, therefore, the sea is agitated, and boils up in terrific fury, as if wave were contending with wave, whence is it that instantly it is calm and peaceful, but that God restrains the raging of the billows, the contention of which was so awful, and makes the bosom of the deep as smooth as a mirror? Having spoken of their great terror, he proceeds next to mention their joy, so that their ingratitude may appear the more striking, if they forget their remarkable deliverance. For they are not in want of a monitor, having been abundantly instructed by the storm itself, and by the calm which ensued, that their lives were in the hand and under the protection of God. Moreover, he informs them that this is a species of gratitude which deserves not only to be acknowledged privately, or to be mentioned in the family, but that it should be praised and magnified in all places, even in the great assemblies. He makes specific mention of the elders, intimating that the more wisdom and experience a person has, the more capable is he of listening to, and being a witness of, these praises.