Verse 5. Who laid the foundations of the earth. Thus the commencement of creation is described, in almost the very words employed by the Lord himself in Job 38:4 . "Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened, and who laid the corner stone thereof?" And the words are found in the same connection too, for the Lord proceeds to say, "When the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy."
That it should not be removed forever. The language is, of course, poetical, but the fact is none the less wonderful: the earth is so placed in space that it remains as stable as if it were a fixture. The several motions of our planet are carried on so noiselessly and evenly that, as far as we are concerned, all things are as permanent and peaceful as if the old notion of its resting upon pillars were literally true. With what delicacy has the great Artificer poised our globe! What power must there be in that hand which has caused so vast a body to know its orbit, and to move so smoothly in it! What engineer can save every part of his machinery from an occasional jar, jerk, or friction? yet to our great world in its complicated motions no such thing has ever occurred. "O Lord, my God, thou art very great."
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 5.-- Not be removed for ever. The stability of the earth is of God, as much as the being and existence of it. There have been many earthquakes or movings of the earth in several parts of it, but the whole body of the earth was never removed so much as one hair's breadth out of its place, since the foundations thereof were laid. Archimedes, the great mathematician, said, "If you will give me a place to set my engine on, I will remove the earth." It was a great brag; but the Lord hath laid it too fast for man's removing. Himself can make it quake and shake, he can move it when he pleaseth; but he never hath nor will remove it. He hath laid the foundations of the earth that it shall not be removed, nor can it be at all moved, but at his pleasure; and when it moves at any time, it is to mind the sons of men that they by their sins have moved him to displeasure. -- Joseph Caryl.
Verse 5. -- The philosophical mode of stating this truth may be seen in Amde Guillemin's work entitled "THE HEAVENS." "How is it that though we are carried along with a vast rapidity by the motion of the earth, we do not ourselves perceive our movement? It is because the entire bulk of the earth, atmosphere, and clouds, participate in the movement. This constant velocity, with which all bodies situated on the surface of the earth are animated, would be the cause of the most terrible and general catastrophe that could be imagined, if, by any possibility, the rotation of the earth were abruptly to cease. Such an event would be the precursor of a most sweeping destruction of all organized beings. But the constancy of the laws of nature permits us to contemplate such a catastrophe without fear. It is demonstrated that the position of the poles of rotation on the surface of the earth is invariable. It has also been asked whether the velocity of the earth's rotation has changed, or, which comes to the same thing, if the length of the sidereal day and that of the solar day deduced from it have varied within the historical period? Laplace has replied to this question, and his demonstration shows that it has not varied the one hundredth of a second during the last two thousand years."
Verse 5. --
God of the earth and sea, Thou hast laid earth's foundations:
Because thy hand sustains,
It ever firm remaineth.
Once didst thou open its deep, hidden fountains,
And soon the rising waters stood above the mountains.
At thy rebuke they fled at the voice of thy thunder,
The flood thy mandate heeded,
And hastily receded:
The waters keep the place Thou has assigned them,
And in the hills and vales a channel Thou dost find them.
A limit Thou hast set, which they may not pass over;
The deep within bound inclosing,
Strong barriers interposing,
That its proud waves no more bring desolation,
And sweep away from earth each human habitation.
John Barton, in "The Book of Psalms in English Verse: a New Testament Paraphrase," 1871.