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Commentary On Psalms Volume 4 by Jean Calvin

Psalm 114:5-8

5. What ailed thee, O see! that thou fleddest? and thou, Jordan, that thou turnedst back? 6. The mountains, that ye did leap like rams; and ye hills, like lambs of the flock? 7. At the presence of the Lord, tremble, thou earth, at the presence of the God of Jacob; 8. Who turned the rock into pools of water, and the mighty rock into a fountain of waters.

5 What ailed thee, O sea! The prophet interrogates the sea, Jordan, and the mountains, in a familiar and poetical strain, as lately he ascribed to them a sense and reverence for God's power. And, by these similitudes, he very sharply reproves the insensibility of those persons, who do not employ the intelligence which God has given them in the contemplation of his works. The appearance which he tells us the sea assumed, is more than sufficient to condemn their blindness. It could not be dried up, the river Jordan could not roll back its waters, had not God, by his invisible agency, constrained them to render obedience to his command. The words are indeed directed to the sea, the Jordan, and the mountains, but they are more immediately addressed to us, that every one of us, on self-reflection, may carefully and attentively weigh this matter. And, therefore, as often as we meet with these words, let each of us reiterate the sentiment, -- |Such a change cannot be attributed to nature, and to subordinate causes, but the hand of God is manifest here.| The figure drawn from the lambs and rams would appear to be inferior to the magnitude of the subject. But it was the prophet's intention to express in the homeliest way the incredible manner in which God, on these occasions, displayed his power. The stability of the earth being, as it were, founded on the mountains, what connection can they have with rams and lambs, that they should be agitated, skipping hither and thither? In speaking in this homely style, he does not mean to detract from the greatness of the miracle, but more forcibly to engrave these extraordinary tokens of God's power on the illiterate.

7 At the presence of the Lord Having aroused the senses of men by interrogations, he now furnishes a reply, which many understand to be a personification of the earth; because they take y, yod, to be the affix of the verb chvly, chuli; and they represent the earth as saying, It is my duty to tremble at the presence of the Lord. This fanciful interpretation is untenable; for the term, earth, is immediately subjoined. Others, with more propriety, considering the y, yod, in this, as in many other passages, to be redundant, adopt this interpretation: It is reasonable and becoming that the earth should tremble in the presence of the Lord. Again, the term chvly, chuli, is by many rendered in the imperative mood; which interpretation I readily adopt, as it is most probable that the prophet again makes an appeal to the earth, that the hearts of men may be the more sensibly moved. The meaning is the same, -- It must be that the earth quake at the presence of her King. And this view receives confirmation from the term 'dvn, adon, being used, which signifies a lord or a master. He then immediately introduces the name of the God of Jacob, for the purpose of banishing from men all notions of false gods. Their minds being prone to deceit, they are always in great danger of allowing idols to usurp the place of the true God. Another miracle is mentioned, in which God, after the passage of the people through the Red Sea, gave an additional splendid manifestation of his power in the wilderness. The glory of God, as he informs us, did not appear for one day only, on the departure of the people; it constantly shone in his other works, as when a stream suddenly issued out of the dry rock, Exodus 17:6. Waters may be found trickling out from among rocks and stony places, but to make them flow out of a dry rock, was unquestionably above the ordinary course of nature, or miraculous. I have no intention of entering into any ingenious discussion, how the stone was converted into water; all that the prophet means amounts simply to this, that water flowed in places formerly dry and hard. How absurd, then, is it for the sophists to pretend that a transubstantiation takes place in every case in which the Scripture affirms that a change has been produced? The substance of the stone was not converted into water, but God miraculously created the water, which gushed out of the dry rock.

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