Verse 1. - Give unto the Lord, O ye mighty; literally, ye sons of the mighty. It is disputed who are meant. Most commentators suggest the holy angels (Rosenmuller, Hengstenberg, 'Speaker's Commentary,' ' Four Friends,' Professor Alexander, Cheyne, etc.); but some think the heathen (Michaelis, Kay); and others, the mighty ones of the earth generally (Koster), to be meant. Give unto the Lord glory and strength; i.e. praise his Name, ascribe to him glory and strength and every other excellency.
Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.
Verse 2. - Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his Name (comp. Psalm 96:8); literally, the glory of his Name; i.e. the glory properly belonging to it. Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness (comp. Psalm 96:9). This is generally explained as an exhortation to worship God in beautiful vestments, or with all the accessories of a beautiful ceremonial; but Dr. Alexander rightly questions whether the Beauty inherent in holiness itself is not meant. The apostle speaks of "the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit" (1 Peter 3:4). And in goodness and holiness of every kind there is a sweetness and grace which may well be called "beauty," seeing that it has a close analogy with the beautiful in external nature and in art. The Greeks expressed physical beauty and moral perfection by one and the same term - τὸ καλόν.
The voice of the LORD is upon the waters: the God of glory thundereth: the LORD is upon many waters.
Verse 3. - The voice of the Lord is upon the waters. The description of God's might in the thunderstorm now begins with one of the sudden transitions which David loves. "The voice of the Lord" - already identified with the thunder in Psalm 18:13 - is suddenly heard muttering in the height of heaven, "upon the waters;" i.e. the waters stored in the clouds that float on high in the air. The God of glory - the God set forth in vers. 1, 2 - thundereth. It is he himself, according to the psalmist, no minor agent. The Lord (Jehovah) is upon the many (or, great) waters (comp. Job 37:2-5 and Psalm 18:7-14).
The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty.
Verse 4. - The voice of the Lord is powerful; literally, in power, or with power (LXX., ἐν ἰσχύι'). The voice of the Lord is full of majesty; literally, in majesty, or with majesty. Two somewhat distant crashes, each louder than the preceding one, are thought to be represented - the storm sweeping on, and gradually drawing nearer and more near.
The voice of the LORD breaketh the cedars; yea, the LORD breaketh the cedars of Lebanon.
Verse 5. - The voice of the Lord breaketh the cedars. At length down swoops the hurricane - wind and rain and forked flashes of lightning all blended together, and violently tearing through the forest. The tall cedars - the pride and glory of Syria and Palestine - are snapped like reeds, and fall in a tangled mass. The Lord, who erstwhile "planted them" (Psalm cir. 16), now breaketh the cedars of Lebanon - breaketh and destroyeth them in his fury. Such storms, though rare in Palestine and Syria, are sometimes witnessed; and descriptions have been given by travellers which bear out this one of David (comp. Wilson, 'Travels,' p. 146; Cunningham Geikie, vol. 2. pp. 57, 335; Tristram, 'Land. of Israel,' pp. 40, 194, 227, etc.).
He maketh them also to skip like a calf; Lebanon and Sirion like a young unicorn.
Verse 6. - He maketh them also to skip like a calf (comp. Psalm 18:7). As the thunder crashes and rolls and reverberates among the mountains, it seems as though the mountains themselves shook, and were moved from their places. This is expressed with extreme vividness, though no doubt with truly Oriental hyperbole, in the present passage. Lebanon and Sirion like a young unicorn; rather, like a young wild ox. Lebanon and Sirion, or Hermon (Deuteronomy 3:9), are the two principal mountains of Palestine, Hermon being visible throughout almost the whole extent of the Holy Land, and Lebanon enjoying a commanding position beyond Galilee to the north. The storm which shook these lofty mountain-tracts would indeed be a manifestation of power,
The voice of the LORD divideth the flames of fire.
Verse 7. - The voice of the Lord divideth the flames of fire; rather, the voice of the Lord heweth out flames of fire. The poet describes the appearances of things, not the actual reality. To him it seems as if the thunder, rolling along the sky, hewed out a chasm in the clouds, from which the forked lightning issued.
The voice of the LORD shaketh the wilderness; the LORD shaketh the wilderness of Kadesh.
Verse 8. - The voice of the Lord shaketh the wilderness; yea, the Lord shaketh the wilderness of Kadesh. Kadesh seems to be mentioned as lying at the opposite extremity of Palestine from Lebanon and Hermon, so that the storm is made, by a magnificent hyperbole, to extend over the entire Holy Land, from the far north to the extreme south, and to embrace at once the lofty mountain-chains which are rather Syrian than Palestinian, the hills and valleys of Palestine proper, and the arid region of the south where Judaea merges into Arabia.
The voice of the LORD maketh the hinds to calve, and discovereth the forests: and in his temple doth every one speak of his glory.
Verse 9. - The voice of the Lord maketh the hinds to calve. Plutarch says, "Shepherds accustom their flocks in a thunderstorm to keep together, and put their heads in the same direction; for such as are left alone and separated from the rest through terror cast their young" ('Sympos.,' Quest. 2.). And Pliny, "Solitary sheep cast their lambs in thunderstorms; the remedy is to keep the flock together, since it helps them to have company." A traveller in South Africa observes, "In Bechuanaland, when there are heavy thunderstorms, the antelopes flee in consternation; and the poor Bechuanas start off on the morning following such a storm in quest of the young which have been cast through horror" (see Moffat's 'South Africa,' quoted by Dr. Kay, in his 'Commentary on the Psalms,' p. 93). And discovereth the forests; or, strippeth the forests. Denudes them of their leaves and branches. And in his temple doth every one speak of his glory; i.e. his grand temple, or palace (heykal), of heaven and earth. In this temple "every one," or rather everything, all that is in it. is continually speaking of his glory (literally, "says, Glory!").
The LORD sitteth upon the flood; yea, the LORD sitteth King for ever.
Verse 10. - The Lord sitteth upon the flood. Most moderns translate, "The Lord sat (as King) at the Flood," and understand by "the Flood" the great Noachian Deluge (Rosenmuller, Hengstenberg, Kay, Revised Version). Some, however, regard this as a forced and unnatural interpretation (Bishop Horsley, ' Four Friends,' 'Speaker's Commentary'), and think the flood accompanying the storm just described (vers. S - 9), or floods and inundations generally, to be meant. It is difficult to decide between the two interpretations. Yea, the Lord sitteth King for ever. As God has sat as King in the past, whether at the great Deluge or at any other flood or floods, so will he ever "sit as King" in the future.
The LORD will give strength unto his people; the LORD will bless his people with peace.
Verse 11. - The Lord will give strength unto his people. The Lord, who shows his strength in the thunderstorm, will be able, and assuredly will be willing, to "give strength to his people" - to impart to them some of that power and might which he so abundantly possesses. Then they, partaking in his strength, need not fear the attacks of any adversaries. Struggle and contention will, by his good providence, be one day brought to an end; and ultimately the Lord will bless his people with peace - will give them the "rest which remaineth to the people of God" (Hebrews 3:9), the perfect peace which "passeth all understanding" (Philippians 4:7).