George Booker
Psalms Studies - Book 1

Psalm 29

1. Structure

1, 2.
Give glory to the Lord
3- 9.
The voice of the Lord
When the Lord is King, He shares His glory with His people

2. Historical reference

The meager hints available suggest the time of David’s first attempt to bring the Ark to Zion: 1 Chron. 13 (not 15). The indications in this psalm of 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: 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 (1 Chron. 15:28,29). Psalm 18:7-15 is a very striking comparable passage.

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

3. The Lord in storm and whirlwind

The (seven-fold) voice of the Lord is His thunder in the storm (v. 3; cp. John 12:29,30; Exod. 9:23,28; 20:18; Job 37:2-5; Isa. 30:30; 58:1; Ezek. 1:24). (Compare also the “rushing mighty wind” on the Day of Pentecost: Acts. 2:2.) The seven thunders of Revelation 10:3 are later described as each being an “angel with a great voice” (Rev. 14:6,7,9).

Sirion is sometimes shortened to Sion (not the same as Zion!), an alternative name for mount Hermon in the extreme north (Deut. 3:9).

He maketh them also to skip like a calf. Compare 114:4, another “earthquake” context. Also, 68:16.
The voice of the Lord divideth the flames of fire. Without doubt, a poetic reference to lightning. As to Pentecost, compare the cloven (divided) tongues of fire, representing the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:2,3).
The voice of the Lord shaketh the wilderness of 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.)
The voice of the Lord....discovereth the forests. Trees blown down in the gale.

In his temple, the newly-erected Tabernacle on mount Zion.

Every one doth speak of his glory. Compare Isa. 6:1-4, where the cherubim (seraphim) speak of His glory, and the doorposts were moved (earthquake!).
The Lord sitteth upon the flood. Compare “many waters” of v. 3. God is enthroned (RSV) above the mighty thunderclouds (cp. Gen. 1:6,7; Job 38:8,25.)

4. 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. Verses 1 and 2 are an exhortation to 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 Day: 1 Cor. 15:52; 1 Thes. 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; 80:1), from whence it shines forth in blessing on that Day.

5. Messianic fulfillment

There is good reason to associate the seven-fold trumpet blast of Revelation 8 and 9 with Psalm 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:

A half-hour silence while the high-priest is in the sanctuary.
The burning of much incense: Lev. 16:13.
Coals of fire cast into the Land, and open signs of God’s rejection of the prayers of Israel, instead of the manifestation of the Shekinah Glory in the Most Holy.

The indications of Last Days fulfillment of the trumpet-visions are abundant (see Whittaker, Revelation: A Biblical Approach, pp. 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.

Psalm 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 (110:3; 1 Chron. 16:29; 2 Chron. 20:21). (Another possibility is reference to special priestly garments for the Day of Atonement: “for glory and for beauty”: Exod. 28:3.)

The flood (v. 10) is the same word as in Gen. 7:7. Also see Luke 17:26,27: “As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of Man.” 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 Psalms 22:1 through 31:5 with Christ while on the cross (cp. 22:1 with Matt. 27:46, and 31:5 with Luke 23:46), then the violent storm of Psalm 29 should also be connected with the darkness and earthquake of the crucifixion scene (cp. again Psa. 18:7-15 and notes there).

6. Other details

Ye mighty. Hebrew “ye sons of Elim”. The same phrase, in 89:5-7, clearly describes immortal angels. Job 38:7 has a similar, though not identical, term. Also, see Psa. 103:20.
AV margin has in his glorious sanctuary. RSV has in holy array. And NEB and 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: “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth” — or birth (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).
The cedars of Lebanon symbolize those who are “proud and lofty” (Isa. 2:12,13), who will be brought down in that day.
Unicorn = ox in 22:21; 80:1 — and is so translated in most versions.
Flames of fire. Compare also 2 Kings 2:11; Isa. 6:6; Jer. 5:14; 23:29; Ezek. 1:4,13; Acts 2:3. This last passage, as Psa. 29, brings together flames of fire, a great wind, and the voice of the Lord!
In keeping with the tabernacle motif of this psalm, Kadesh signifies “sanctuary”.
The voice of the Lord maketh the hinds to calve. 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 Hebrew for “shaketh” 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 Hebrew 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; Matt. 24:8; Mark 13:8;1 Thes. 5:3; etc.)!

(However, the RSV — not without reason — has “make the oaks to whirl”.)

Discovereth the forests, i.e. 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 parallelism with the first phrase in the verse — has “brings kids early to birth”.)
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