« PreviousContinue »
fabricated as grounds of adoration, unless it be that none that are real can properly excite those affections, and be made the theme of commemoration? In setting aside what the hymn actually commemorates, he thus rejects its whole meaning, and exhibits it as a mere empty and heartless pageant.
Other writers have also treated the interposition of God celebrated in that Psalm as representative of a different act. Jerome regarded it as prophetic, instead of commemorative, and as having had its accomplishment chiefly in the miraculous events that attended Christ's death and resurrection. He says: Totus hic Psalmus sub persona David ad Christum pertinet. “The whole Psalm under the person of David refers to Christ.” He accordingly treats all the elements of the theophany, v. 6-16, as representative. The trembling of the earth prefigured Christ's passion. The mountains symbolized the proud, and their foundations demons; the fire denoted compunction; the water tears; and the coals of fireman's fallen nature illuminated at Christ's coming through baptism or repentance. Whether he supposed the Psalmist had himself been the subject of such a miraculous deliverance as he describes, he does not indicate. Several commentators also of the seventeenth century referred the Psalm to Christ.
Later writers, however, as Rosenmüller, Hengstenberg, Maurer, and Alexander, regard the intervention of Jehovah, which the Psalmist depicts, as supposititious or conceptional merely, and designed simply to represent in an emphatic and impressive form the deliverances God had wrought for him by his providence; but hold that it is figurative instead of symbolical. Thus, in regard to the question whether the description of the tempest is to be understood figuratively or historically, Rosenmüller says: “It seems to be a poetic image which simply indicates that God was angry at the enemies of David, and moved by his prayers against them, delivered him-while supplicating—in a wonderful and glorious manner. Maurer also represents it as an sidwotoinois, a mere piece of imagery, exhibiting God as appearing at David's supplication, amidst lightning, and thunders, and an earthquake, and means nothing more than simply that God aided David.
None of these writers, however, give an adequate reason for their view of the passage. If correct, it should be verified by an analysis of the language, identification of the figures which it involves, and demonstration from their nature, that the descent of Jehovah which it describes, was merely tropical, not real. If it is figurative, the figure by which it is expressed should be designated, and the mode in
which it fills its office defined and demonstrated. If no such figure can be pointed out in it, or shown to exist, their supposition must be mistaken.
The reason given by Rosenmüller, for regarding it as tropical, is that David employed the image of a tempest in imploring Jehovah (Psalm cxliv. 5) to interpose for his deliverance; and that the other Hebrew poets described him, when angry and about to overthrow the enemies of his people, as shaking the earth and smiting the whole world with tempests and thunderbolts (Is. xxix. 6; Nahum i.; Hab. iii.; Haggai ii. 21; Zech. ix. 14, xiv. 3). But he there assumes what he should have proved, that these passages, all of which but the first are prophetic, are not to be literally accomplished. Psalm cxliv. 5–7, is a prayer, and so far from bearing any marks of a figure, is properly to be regarded as founded on the fact that God had, at the time it was composed, already interposed in that miraculous manner, as commemorated in Psalm xviii., and granted him such a deliverance. Had the Most High actually descended in such a form, and rescued him from impending danger, it certainly would have been most natural and appropriate when again environed by enemies, that he should ask another interposition in the same form. But it would have been wholly unnatural, had God never appeared for his aid in such an extraordinary mode. The pious now, though often receiving extraordinary deliverances, never ask miraculous interventions for their extrication from the power of enemies, or relief from alarming dangers. It would be regarded as indicating both very mistaken views of his government, and a fanatical spirit. And if God had wrought no miracles for David's relief and protection, but had granted him only the ordinary aids of his providence, which his children generally enjoy, why would it not have been as inappropriate and unnatural in him to have prayed for an intervention in such a visible form for his extrication from the evil that threatened him ?
The prayer, then (Ps. cxliv. 5–7), may justly be considered as a proof that God had already actually granted him a deliverance like that which he there invokes, and that the interposition, therefore, which he commemorates (Ps. xviii. 6–16), was a real and visible theophany, such as he represents. It was no more miraculous and wonderful than the inspiration which he enjoyed, and the peculiar communications and promises that were made to him. It was no more extraordinary than the visible manifestations of himself which God granted to Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Elijah, and is as credible therefore as they are.
of the other passages to
which Rosenmüller refers, (Nahum i. 1-6), is descriptive of the mode in which God was accustomed to interpose for the deliverance of his people, and the communication and enforcement of his will, as in Egypt, at the Red Sea, and at Sinai; and instead of disproving, therefore, shows that it was in harinony with the administration he was exercising, that he should have interposed in that miraculous manner three hundred years before for the extrication of David from his enemies. On the other hand, Is. xxix. 6, Habak. iii., Hag. ii. 21, and Zech. ix. 13 -16, and xiv. 1-9, are predictions of God's visible interposition for the deliverance of the Israelites at their last great conflict at the time of their restoration, that are accordingly to have a literal accomplishment. There not only is no ground whatever for the supposition that they are figurative, but it is inconsistent with their nature. Instead of an obstacle, therefore, they present an additional reason for regarding the interposition described (Ps. xviii.) as an actual theophany.
The ground on which Hengstenberg regards that part of the Psalm as tropical, is, in like manner, not that there are any specific figures in it which show by their nature that the theophany which it celebrates was merely conceptional, but only that the song is represented in the title to have been com