EXPOSITIONVer. 5. What ailed thee, O thou sea? Wert thou terribly afraid? Did thy strength fail thee? Did thy very heart dry up?
What ailed thee, O thou sea, that thou fleddest? Thou wert neighbour to the power of Pharaoh, but thou didst never fear his hosts; stormy wind could never prevail against thee so as to divide thee in twain; but when the way of the Lord was in thy great waters thou was seized with affright, and thou becamest a fugitive from before him.
Thou Jordan, that thou wast driven back? What ailed thee, O quick descending river? Thy fountains had not dried up, neither had a chasm opened to engulf thee! The near approach of Israel and her God sufficed to make thee retrace thy steps. What aileth all our enemies that they fly when the Lord is on our side? What aileth hell itself that it is utterly routed when Jesus lifts up a standard against it? "Fear took hold upon them there," for fear of HIM the stoutest hearted did quake, and became as dead men.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Fly where thou wilt, O Sea!
And Jordan's current cease!
Jordan, there is no need of thee,
For at God's word, whenever he please,
The rocks shall weep new waters forth instead of these.
Verse 5-6. A singular animation and an almost dramatic force are given to the poem by the beautiful apostrophe in verses 5, 6, and the effect of this is heightened in a remarkable degree by the use of the present tenses. The awe and the trembling of nature are a spectacle on which the poet is looking. The parted sea through which Israel walks as on dry land, the rushing Jordan arrested in its course, the granite cliffs of Sinai shaken to their base -- he sees it all, and asks in wonder what it means? --J. J. Stewart Perowne.
Verse 5-6. This questioning teaches us that we should ourselves consider and inquire concerning the reason of those things, which we see to have been done in a wondrous way, out of the course of nature. There are signs in the sun, moon, stars, heaven, etc., concerning which Christ has spoken. Let us inquire the reason why they are, that we be not stupid and inaccurate spectators. The things which are done miraculously do speak: and they can give answer why they are done. Nay, rather, portents, signs, earthquakes, extraordinary appearances are loud speaking, and they declare from themselves what they are: namely, that they are prophetic of the anger and future vengeance of God. Such inquiry as this is not prying curiosity, but is pious and useful, working to this end, that we become observant of the judgments of God, with which he visits this world, and yield ourselves to his grace, and so we escape the coming vengeance. --Wolfgang Musculus.
What ails thee, sea, to part,
Thee Jordan, back to start?
Ye mountains, like the rams to leap,
Ye little hills, like sheep? --John Keble.