The house of Jacob. This phrase is an indirect
reminder of how the mind of Jacob was set on the fulfillment of the promise made
to him at Luz/Bethel (“the house of God”) — that is, of
his inheritance of the Land (Gen. 28:13,14,19; 48:3,4).
From a people of strange (foreign: NIV) language
(cp. Psa. 81:5; Deut. 28:49). Not only the Egyptians (Gen. 42:23), but also
the Assyrians are so described in Isa. 33:19: “a people of deeper speech
than thou canst perceive; of a stammering tongue, that thou canst not
understand” (cp. Isa 28:11). If God could rout the Egyptians, He could
also deal with the Assyrians.
The LXX has barbaros; in God’s eyes this
oldest and proudest civilization in the world was a “barbarian” one
— not just because their language was incomprehensible to the Israelites,
but especially because in that language there was no knowledge or confession of
the God of Israel. (With this bleak picture contrast the future for all nations,
including Egypt and Assyria, beautifully depicted in Isa. 19:18,22-25; Zeph.
3:9; Zech. 14:9).
Judah was his sanctuary, and Israel his dominion. The
crucial event depicted here was the establishing of God’s covenant with
the whole nation of Israel at Sinai, and the construction of the ark of the
covenant and the tabernacle to house it. From the earliest days all segments of
the nation were closely associated in the worship of their God, and so it must
be in later days. There were (and are) no “lost ten
His sanctuary. The holy place, where God will dwell, is
not a mere building; it can be (and is) a special people in whom He will
dwell: “And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy
nation” (Exod. 19:6; cp. 1 Pet. 2:9).
The sea saw it, and fled (Exod. 14:21; Psa. 77:16):
Jordan was driven back. Foes “flee” at the coming of a mightier
force! The beginning and end of the wilderness journey were marked by
unmistakable phenomena, emphasizing God’s control not only of Nature but
also of all His people’s affairs. The psalm treats these well-remembered
details in vivid figurative fashion.
The mountains skipped (s.w. “danced” in
Eccl. 3:4) like rams (Psa. 29:6; 68:16; Hab. 3:10). In general,
earthquakes accompany awesome manifestations of God (Exod. 19:18; Judg. 5:4;
Psa. 77:18; Isa. 2:10-22; Jer. 4:24; Ezek. 38:20; Joel 3:16; Amos 9:1,5; Zech.
14:4; Rev. 6:12; 11:19; 16:18).
At the back of this impressive simile, of rams frolicking in
the fields, there is a remarkable factual addition to the Exodus history. What
brought about the dividing of the waters of the Red Sea? Exod. 14:21 answers:
God’s operation of a strong east wind. But this verse says: Earthquake
(cp. “Tremble” in v. 7 here)! And the same must then have been true
at the crossing of Jordan (Josh. 3:16,17). (There may be reference here to the
earthquake on mount Sinai — Exod. 19:18; but this psalm as a whole is
plainly concentrating on the passages through the Red Sea and the Jordan.) And
the fall of the walls of Jericho (6:5,20) suggests a renewal of seismic
phenomena. While this may seem like a too-“natural” explanation, the
question remains for any would-be skeptic: Why did these seemingly
“natural” causes operate just when and where and
how they were needed?
What ailed thee? Compare the question of Psa.
Tremble, thou earth (eretz = Land of
Israel), at the presence of the Lord (cp. Rev. 20:11). Here is the
explanation of these mighty works. It was not just the presence of the Ark of
the Lord, but of the Lord Himself. “Tremble” (Hebrew
chuwl) is a word associated with the labors of childbirth (Psa.
29:8,9; 77:16; Isa. 13:8; 23:4,5; 26:17,18; 45:10; 54:1; 66:7,8; Mic. 4:10). The
Land of Israel was “travailing” to bring forth the new nation of
God’s people in its midst!
The God (Elohim) of Jacob. Elohim here
suggests angelic activity (cp. Josh. 5:13-15; Gen. 28:12). And
“Jacob” means “supplanter” — the twelve tribes of
Jacob were about to take over the Promised Land and supplant the ten
nations that dwelt there (Gen. 15:18-21)!
Which turned the rock into a standing water, the flint into
a fountain of waters (Exod. 17:6; Num. 20:11; Deut. 8:15; 32:13; Psa. 78:15;
105:41; 107:35). This was performed not only at the beginning and end of the
wilderness journey, but also according to need during the hardship of the
journey. Is this verse a vivid hyper-bole, or did Moses actually smite the rock
at just such a spot as would allow the water to accumulate and form a
“If any man thirst let him come unto me: and he that believeth, let him drink, as the Scripture hath said, ‘Out of his belly [i.e., from Christ, the antitypical Smitten Rock] shall flow rivers of living water’ ” (John 7:37,38; cp. 4:14; Zech. 13:1; 14:8; 1 Cor. 10:3,4; John 9:34; Ezek. 47:1-12; Rev. 22:1).