Psalm 77:16
The waters saw you, O God, the waters saw you; they were afraid: the depths also were troubled.
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(16-20) The prominence given to Joseph is a feature common to the Asaphic psalm. With this magnificent lyric of the passage of the Red Sea comp. Habakkuk 3:10-11. The narrative in Exodus says nothing of a storm, but Josephus has preserved the tradition (Ant., 2:16. 3). Philo also mentions the storm.

(16) The waters saw thee.—Possibly alluding to the “look” which troubled the Egyptians (Exodus 14:24).

Were afraid.—Better, writhed, as in travail pains.

Went abroadi.e., darted hither and thither. The arrows are the lightnings.

Psalm 77:16-18. The waters saw thee, O God — They felt the visible effects of thy powerful presence. They were afraid — And stood still, as men or beasts astonished commonly do. The clouds poured out water — Namely, upon the Egyptians. The skies sent out a sound — In terrible thunder; thine arrows also went abroad — Hail-stones, or rather, lightnings, or thunderbolts, called God’s arrows, Psalm 18:14; Psalm 144:6. The earth trembled and shook — By an earthquake. This tempest is not particularly recorded in its proper place, yet it may well be collected from what is related Exodus 14:24-25. That the Lord looked on the host of the Egyptians, through the pillar of fire and the cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians. For these verses of the Psalm seem to explain in what way he looked upon them, “namely, by thunders and lightnings, storms and tempests, rain, hail, and earthquake, the usual tokens and instruments of the Almighty’s displeasure. Josephus, in like manner, relates that the destruction of the Egyptians was accompanied by storms of rain, by dreadful thunders and lightnings; and, in short, by every possible circumstance of terror, which could testify and inflict upon man the vengeance of an incensed God.”77:11-20 The remembrance of the works of God, will be a powerful remedy against distrust of his promise and goodness; for he is God, and changes not. God's way is in the sanctuary. We are sure that God is holy in all his works. God's ways are like the deep waters, which cannot be fathomed; like the way of a ship, which cannot be tracked. God brought Israel out of Egypt. This was typical of the great redemption to be wrought out in the fulness of time, both by price and power. If we have harboured doubtful thoughts, we should, without delay, turn our minds to meditate on that God, who spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, that with him, he might freely give us all things.The waters saw thee ... - The waters of the Red Sea and the Jordan. There is great sublimity in this expression; in representing the waters as conscious of the presence of God, and as fleeing in consternation at his presence. Compare Revelation 20:11; Habakkuk 3:10-11.

They were afraid - On the word used here - חול chûl - see Psalm 10:5, note; Psalm 55:4, note. It may mean here to tremble or quake, as in pain Deuteronomy 2:25; Joel 2:6. - Alarm, distress, anguish, came over the waters at the presence of God; and they trembled, and fled.

The depths also were troubled - The deep waters, or the waters "in" the depths. It was not a ripple on the surface; but the very depths - the usually calm and undisturbed waters that lie below the surface - were heaved into commotion at the divine presence.

15. Jacob and Joseph—representing all.16 The waters saw thee, O God, the waters saw thee; they were afraid: the depths also were troubled.

17 The clouds poured out water: the skies sent out a sound: thine arrows also went abroad.

18 The voice of thy thunder was in the heaven: the lightnings lightened the world: the earth trembled and shook.

19 Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known.

20 Thou leddest thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

Psalm 77:16

"The waters saw thee, O God, the waters saw thee; they were afraid." As if conscious of its Maker's presence, the sea was ready to flee from before his face. The conception is highly poetical, the Psalmist has the scene before his mind's eye, and describes it gloriously. The water saw its God, but man refuses to discern him; it was afraid, but proud sinners are rebellious and fear not the Lord. "The depths also were troubled." To their heart the floods were made afraid. Quiet caves of the sea, far down in the abyss, were moved with affright; and the lowest channels were left bare, as the water rushed away from its place, in terror of the God of Israel.

Psalm 77:17

"The clouds poured out water." Obedient to the Lord, the lower region of the atmosphere yielded its aid to overthrow the Egyptian host. The cloudy chariots of heaven hurried forward to discharge their floods. "The skies sent out a sound." From the loftier aerial regions thundered the dread artillery of the Lord of Hosts. Peal on peal the skies sounded over the heads of the routed enemies, confusing their minds and adding to their horror. "Thine arrows also went abroad." Lightnings flew like bolts from the bow of God. Swiftly, hither and thither, went the red tongues of flame, on helm and shield they gleamed; anon with blue bale-fires revealing the innermost caverns of the hungry sea Which waited to swallow up the pride of Mizraim. Behold, how all the creatures wait upon their God, and show themselves strong to overthrow his enemies.

Psalm 77:18

"The voice of thy thunder was in the heaven," or "in the whirlwind." Rushing on with terrific swiftness and bearing all before it, the storm was as a chariot driven furiously, and a voice was heard (even thy voice, O Lord!) out of the fiery car, even as when a mighty man in battle urges forward his charger, and shouts to it aloud. All heaven resounded with the voice of the Lord. "The lightnings lightened the world." The entire globe shone in the blaze of Jehovah's lightnings. No need for other light amid the battle of that terrible night, every wave gleamed in the fire-flashes, and the shore was lit up with the blaze. How pale were men's faces in that hour, when all around the fire leaped from sea to shore, from crag to hill, from mountain to star till the whole universe was illuminated in honour of Jehovah's triumph, "The earth trembled and shook." It quaked and quaked again. Sympathetic with the sea, the solid shore forgot its quiescence and heaved in dread. How dreadful art thou, O God, when thou comest forth in thy majesty to humble thine arrogant adversaries.

Psalm 77:19

"Thy way is in the sea." Far down in secret channels of the deep is thy roadway; when thou wilt thou canst make a sea a highway for thy glorious march. "And thy path in the great waters." There, where the billows surge and swell, thou still dost walk; Lord of each crested wave. "And thy footsteps are not known." None can follow thy tracks by foot or eye. Thou art alone in thy glory, and thy ways are hidden from mortal ken. Thy purposes thou wilt accomplish, but the means are often concealed, yea, they need no concealing, they are in themselves too vast and mysterious for human understanding. Glory be to thee, O Jehovah.

Psalm 77:20


The waters saw thee; they felt the visible effects of thy powerful presence.

They were afraid; and stood still, as men or beasts astonished commonly do. The waters saw thee, O God,.... The waters not of Jordan, but of the Red sea; these felt and perceived the power of God, in causing a strong east wind, which dried it up, and made way for the children of Israel to pass through it as on dry land: compare with this Psalm 114:3,

the waters saw thee; which is repeated for the confirmation of it, and to excite attention to it, as well as to express the psalmist's admiration at it; the Targum is,

"they saw thy majesty in the midst of the sea, O God; they saw thy power upon the sea;''

not the Egyptians, but the sons of Jacob and Joseph; the old Syriac church understood these waters of the waters of Jordan, at the baptism of Christ, when in their way they saw the incarnate God, and felt his sacred body laid in them, by which he was made manifest to Israel; but Jerom better interprets them, by the help of Revelation 17:15 of people, nations, and tongues; some of which saw Christ corporeally, others spiritually, and by faith, as preached in the Gospel to the Gentile world:

they were afraid; of the majesty of God, obeyed their Sovereign, of whom they stood in awe, gave way unto him, and fled at his rebuke, see Psalm 114:5 or "were in pain" (z), as a woman in travail, as were the Gentile world at the preaching of the Gospel of redemption and salvation by Christ, Romans 8:22,

the depths also were troubled; not only the surface, or waves of the waters, were moved by the strong east wind, through the power of God, but the bottom of the sea was reached by it; the depths were congealed in the midst of it, the channels of water were seen, and the foundation of the world discovered, and the children of Israel went through the deep as on dry land, see Exodus 15:8.

(z) "parturierunt", Montanus, Vatablus; "dolore corruptae sunt, videl dolore parturientium", Piscator; so Ainsworth.

The {k} waters saw thee, O God, the waters saw thee; they were afraid: the depths also were troubled.

(k) He declares how the power of God was declared when he delivered the Israelites through the Red Sea.

16. The waters and depths of the Red Sea are personified, as though they were conscious of the presence of their Creator and Lord. Cp. Hebrews 3:10, “The mountains saw thee, they were afraid”: and Psalm 114:3; Exodus 15:5; Exodus 15:8. We miss in translation the pictorial force of the Heb. tenses: lit. they are afraid, the depths also tremble.

16–19. The manifestation of God’s sovereignty over nature in that supreme act of redemption.Verse 16. - The waters saw thee, O God, the waters saw thee. Professor Cheyne regards this and the three following verses as not belonging properly to this psalm, but a "fragment of another," accidentally transferred to this place. But most commentators see in the passage a most essential portion of the poem. It is the thought of the deliverance from Egypt that especially sustains and comforts the psalmist in his extreme distress. The passage is prepared for by vers. 11 and 14, and is exegetical of ver. 15. They were afraid. They shrank from the sight of God, and made a way for his people to pass over. The depths also were troubled. The very abysses trembled with fear, and moved themselves, leaving the bottom of the sea dry (see Exodus 14:29). With ואמר the poet introduces the self-encouragement with which he has hitherto calmed himself when such questions of temptation were wont to intrude themselves upon him, and with which he still soothes himself. In the rendering of הלּותי (with the tone regularly drawn back before the following monosyllable) even the Targum wavers between מרעוּתי (my affliction) and בּעוּתי (my supplication); and just in the same way, in the rendering of Psalm 77:11, between אשׁתּניו (have changed) and שׁנין (years). שׁנות cannot possibly signify "change" in an active sense, as Luther renders: "The right hand of the Most High can change everything," but only a having become different (lxx and the Quinta ἀλλοίωσις, Symmachus ἐπιδευτέρωσις), after which Maurer, Hupfeld, and Hitzig render thus: my affliction is this, that the right hand of the Most High has changed. But after we have read שׁנות in Psalm 77:6 as a poetical plural of שׁנה, a year, we have first of all to see whether it may not have the same signification here. And many possible interpretations present themselves. It can be interpreted: "my supplication is this: years of the right hand of the Most High" (viz., that years like to the former ones may be renewed); but this thought is not suited to the introduction with ואמר. We must either interpret it: my sickness, viz., from the side of God, i.e., the temptation which befalls me from Him, the affliction ordained by Him for me (Aquila ἀῤῥωστία μου), is this (cf. Jeremiah 10:19); or, since in this case the unambiguous חלותי would have been used instead of the Piel: my being pierced, my wounding, my sorrow is this (Symmachus τρῶσίς μου, inf. Kal from חלל, Psalm 109:22, after the form חנּות from חנן) - they are years of the right hand of the Most High, i.e., those which God's mighty hand, under which I have to humble myself (1 Peter 5:6), has formed and measured out to me. In connection with this way of taking Psalm 77:11, Psalm 77:12 is now suitably and easily attached to what has gone before. The poet says to himself that the affliction allotted to him has its time, and will not last for ever. Therein lies a hope which makes the retrospective glance into the happier past a source of consolation to him. In Psalm 77:12 the Chethb אזכיר is to be retained, for the כי in Psalm 77:12 is thus best explained: "I bring to remembrance, i.e., make known with praise or celebrate (Isaiah 63:7), the deeds of Jāh, for I will remember Thy wondrous doing from days of old." His sorrow over the distance between the present and the past is now mitigated by the hope that God's right hand, which now casts down, will also again in His own time raise up. Therefore he will now, as the advance from the indicative to the cohortative (cf. Psalm 17:15) imports, thoroughly console and refresh himself with God's work of salvation in all its miraculous manifestations from the earliest times. יהּ is the most concise and comprehensive appellation for the God of the history of redemption, who, as Habakkuk prays, will revive His work of redemption in the midst of the years to come, and bring it to a glorious issue. To Him who then was and who will yet come the poet now brings praise and celebration. The way of God is His historical rule, and more especially, as in Habakkuk 3:6, הליכות, His redemptive rule. The primary passage Exodus 15:11 (cf. Psalm 68:25) shows that בּקּדשׁ is not to be rendered "in the sanctuary" (lxx ἐν τῷ ἁγίῳ), but "in holiness" (Symmachus ἐν ἁγιασμῷ). Holy and glorious in love and in anger. God goes through history, and shows Himself there as the incomparable One, with whose greatness no being, and least of all any one of the beingless gods, can be measured. He is האל, the God, God absolutely and exclusively, a miracle-working (עשׂה פלא, not עשׂה פלא cf. Genesis 1:11)

(Note: The joining of the second word, accented on the first syllable and closely allied in sense, on to the first, which is accented on the ultima (the tone of which, under certain circumstances, retreats to the penult., נסוג אחור) or monosyllabic, by means of the hardening Dagesh (the so-called דחיק), only takes place when that first word ends in ה- or ה-, not when it ends in ה-.))

God, and a God who by these very means reveals Himself as the living and supra-mundane God. He has made His omnipotence known among the peoples, viz., as Exodus 15:16 says, by the redemption of His people, the tribes of Jacob and the double tribe of Joseph, out of Egypt, - a deed of His arm, i.e., the work of His own might, by which He has proved Himself to all peoples and to the whole earth to be the Lord of the world and the God of salvation (Exodus 9:16; Exodus 15:14). בּזרוע, brachio scil. extenso (Exodus 6:6; Deuteronomy 4:34, and frequently), just as in Psalm 75:6, בּצוּאר, collo scil. erecto. The music here strikes in; the whole strophe is an overture to the following hymn in celebration of God, the Redeemer out of Egypt.

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