The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Psalm 29

Psa 29:1


HISTORICAL REFERENCE: The time of David's first attempt to bring the Ark to Zion: 1Ch 13 (not 1Ch 15). Storm and whirlwind (and earthquake? v 8) suggest that the solemn procession expressing David's well-intentioned purpose was drastically interrupted by "natural" violence. The whirlwind was evidently violent enough to scare the oxen drawing the cart (v 6, where unicorn = ox-cherub: Psa 22:21; 80:1). Hence also Uzzah's concern for the Ark, and his sudden death by lightning (v 7). The psalm about David's second attempt looks back in awe and reverence to the happenings of that day of dread. Now the voice of the Lord in thunder and storm is replaced by repeated trumpet blasts (1Ch 15:28,29). Psa 18:7-15 is a very striking comparable passage.

In the LXX, Psa 29 has a brief enigmatic title which might mean: "At the exit of the Tabernacle", or "At the going forth of the Tabernacle".

THE LORD IN STORM AND WHIRLWIND: The (seven-fold) voice of the Lord is His thunder in the storm (v 3; cp Joh 12:29,30; Exo 9:23,28; 20:18; Job 37:2-5; Isa 30:30; 58:1; Eze 1:24). (Cp also the "rushing mighty wind" on the Day of Pentecost: Act 2:2.) The seven thunders of Rev 10:3 are later described as each being an "angel with a great voice" (Rev 14:6,7,9).

LITURGICAL USE: In the late temple era this psalm was used at the Feast of Trumpets, when seven priests blew trumpets at the entrance of the Sanctuary. This ceremony was repeated on the Day of Atonement itself. Vv 1 and 2 exhort the people to prepare themselves for the Day of Atonement which followed ten days later. Paul seemed to see the Feast of Trumpets (and the shortly following Day of Atonement) as typical of the resurrection and judgment of the Last Days: 1Co 15:52; 1Th 4:16. "The Lord will bless his people with peace" (v 11) is a clear allusion to the High Priestly blessing of the Day of Atonement (Num 6:22-27). "The strength of the Lord" (v 11) is an indirect allusion to the Shekinah Glory, manifest above the Cherubim in the Holy of Holies (v 1; Psa 80:1), from whence it shines forth in blessing on that Day.

MESSIANIC FULFILLMENT: Cp the 7-fold trumpet blast of Rev 8; 9 with Psa 29 (where "voice" occurs seven times). The introductory passage (Rev 8:1-6) has a marked sequence of allusions to the Day of Atonement ceremony:
  1. A half-hour silence while the high-priest is in the sanctuary.
  2. The burning of much incense: Lev 16:13.
  3. Coals of fire cast into the Land, and open signs of God's rejection of the prayers of Israel, instead of the manifestation the Shekinah Glory in the Most Holy.
Last Days fulfillment of the trumpet-visions are abundant (WRev 106,107). In the Apocalypse earthquake and storm are repeated accompaniments of the coming of the King of Glory. The double element of open judgment and gracious acceptance in David's bringing of the Ark to Zion will find expression in the Lord's coming. Psa 28:7,8 identifies "strength" (vv 1,11) with the glory of the Messiah, "his Anointed". "The beauty of holiness" (v 2) is another synonym for the Shekinah Glory (Psa 110:3; 1Ch 16:29; 2Ch 20:21). (Another possibility is reference to special priestly garments for the Day of Atonement: "for glory and for beauty": Exo 28:3.) "The flood" (v 10) is the same word as in Gen 7:7. Also see Luk 17:26,27: "As it was in the days of Noah." The lesson of the Flood is that God rules, and that no matter what circumstances may arise, He rules for ever -- manifesting Himself in judgment upon the wicked.

Since there is good reason to associate all of Psa 22:1 through Psa 31:5 with Christ while on the cross (cp Psa 22:1 with Mat 27:46, and Psa 31:5 with Luk 23:46), then the violent storm of Psa 29 should also be connected with the darkness and earthquake of the crucifixion scene (cp again Psa 18:7-15 and notes there).

O MIGHTY ONES: Heb "ye sons of Elim". The same phrase, in Psa 89:5-7, clearly describes immortal angels. Job 38:7 has a similar, though not identical, term. Also, see Psa 103:20.

Psa 29:2

THE SPLENDOR OF HIS HOLINESS: AV mg has "his glorious sanctuary". RSV has "in holy array". And NEB, like NIV, "the splendor of holiness". Is the glory described here (a) God's glory, (b) the glory of His house, or (c) the glory of His people? In fact, it is all three! The immortalized sons of God will be the sanctuary: Psa 110:3; cp Isa 26:19. Other Scriptures speak of the beauty and glory of God's sanctuary, also with an eye toward the future spiritual reality (Psa 96:9; Isa 60:7; Hag 2:7,9).

Psa 29:5

Voice = thunder!

Psa 29:6

SIRION: Sometimes shortened to Sion (not the same as Zion!), an alternative name for mount Hermon in the extreme north (Deu 3:9).

TO SKIP LIKE A CALF: Cp Psa 114:4, another "earthquake" context. Also, Psa 68:16.

YOUNG WILD OX: The AV has "unicorn" = "ox" of Psa 22:21; 80:1 -- and is so translated in most versions.

Psa 29:7

A poetic ref to lightning. As to Pentecost, cp the cloven (divided) tongues of fire, representing the Holy Spirit (Act 2:2,3). Cp also 2Ki 2:11; Isa 6:6; Jer 5:14; 23:29; Eze 1:4,3. This last passage, like Psa 29, brings together flames of fire, a great wind, and the voice of the Lord!

Psa 29:8

KADESH: The extreme south of the Holy Land: Num 13:26. Thus the violent effects of the whirlwind (or earthquake, or both) of the Lord were felt over the full length of the Land -- from Lebanon (v 6) to Kadesh. (From Hermon to Kadesh is almost exactly the 1,600 furlongs of Rev 14:20.) In keeping with the Tabernacle motif of this psalm, "Kadesh" sig "sanctuary" or "holy place".

Psa 29:9

THE VOICE OF THE LORD TWISTS THE OAKS (Or MAKES THE DEER GIVE BIRTH): "The voice of the Lord maketh the hinds to calve..." (AV): Assuming the rightness of this translation, then those of the flock who are left alone during a storm are likely, because of their terror, to lose their young: Job 39:1. The Heb for "shakes" in v 8 (chuwl) can mean: 'travailing in birth' ("writhe in pain": NEB; cp. Isa 13:8; 23:4; 26:17,18; 54:1; 66:7,8; Mic 4:10), and is related to the Heb for "maketh to calve" here. The general idea of cataclysmic events upon the earth producing new life is an appropriate figure for the "birth-pangs" of an old creation in violent decline, giving birth at last to the glorious "New Creation" of God's children (Rom 8:22,23; Mat 24:8; Mar 13:8; 1Th 5:3; etc)!

STRIPS THE FORESTS BARE: "...Discovereth the forests" (AV). Trees blown down in the gale. ie peeling or stripping off bark, leaves, and small branches -- discovering (revealing) the "nakedness" of the trees. RV and NIV have "strippeth... bare". The "fig leaves" of man's covering cannot remain intact before the storm of the Almighty. (However, the NEB -- in maintaining // with the first phrase in the v -- has "brings kids early to birth".)

IN HIS TEMPLE: The newly-erected Tabernacle on mount Zion.

ALL CRY, "GLORY!": Cp Isa 6:1-4, where the cherubim (seraphim) speak of His glory, and the doorposts were moved (earthquake!).

Psa 29:10

THE LORD SITS ENTHRONED OVER THE FLOOD: Cp "many waters" of v 3. God is enthroned (RSV) above the mighty thunderclouds (cp Gen 1:6,7; Job 38:8,25).

Yahweh's victory over the "sea", is compared to Canaanite sea myths: see Lesson, Leviathan.

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