Verse 14. Thou brakest the heads of leviathan in pieces. It is the Lord who has done it all. The mighty dragon of Egypt was utterly slain, and his proud heads broken in pieces. Our Lord Jesus is the true Hercules, dragons with a hundred heads are crushed beneath his foot: the infernal hydra he utterly vanquishes.
And gavest him to be meat to the people inhabiting the wilderness. Not only did the wild beasts feed upon the carcasses of the Egyptians, but the dwellers along the shores stripped the bodies and enriched themselves with the spoil. Israel, too, grew rich with the relics of her drowned adversaries. How often do great afflictions work our lasting good. Leviathan, who would have devoured us, is himself devoured, and out of the monster we gather sweetness. Let us not give way to fear; hydra headed evils shall be slain, and monstrous difficulties shall be overcome, and all things shall work our lasting good.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 14. Thou brakest the heads of leviathan, etc. It is spoken of Pharaoh's army which God destroyed in the Red Sea; that is, the destruction of the Egyptians was a pledge of the accomplishment of God's promise to cast the Canaanite out of the promised land, and to give them possession of it. Many hardships they were to pass through in the wilderness, but God gave them this mercy as food, not to their bodies, but food to their faith, while they were in the wilderness: therefore, those former great and glorious promises were accomplished. So that former mercies are food that God gives unto the faith of his people to feed upon, till he hath perfectly accomplished whatever he hath promised unto his church. William Strong.
Verse 14. Leviathan. The Arabic Lexicographers (quoted by Bochart) affirm that Pharao, in the Egyptian language, signified a crocodile. Parkhurst remarks that in Schenchzer's Physica Sacra may be seen a medal with Julius Caesar's head on one side, and on the reverse a crocodile with this inscription: AGYPTO CAPTA, Egypt taken. M. Mariette has discovered at Karnak a monumental stele of Thothmes on which the king says of himself,
"Fierce as the huge crocodile, I made them see the glory of
Terrible Lord of the waters, none dare even approach him."
Verse 14. Leviathan is a name given not only to the crocodile, but to the whale and other large fishes. The Zum, or people inhabiting the wilderness, are supposed, by many sensible writers, to be the Ichthyophagy, or fish eaters, who occupied, according to ancient authors, a part of the coast of the Red Sea. The psalmist is here speaking of Israel's passage through its waters; and it is a singular fact that Diodorus, who lived about two thousand years ago, mentions a tradition, prevalent amongst these very persons, to the effect that in the time of their remote forefathers an extraordinary reflux took place, the channel of the gulf becoming dry, and the green bottom appearing, whilst the whole body of waters rolled away in an opposite direction. There can be little doubt that this strange people would have used for food, and various purposes, such great fish as might have been cast ashore on the termination of the miracle. Most writers give this text a figurative meaning, but that is no reason why it may not be also literally understood; for such a mode of speaking is common in the Bible. But whether we understand it one way or the other, we have the testimony of heathens to its propriety and force. If, by the term Leviathan, we believe Egypt to be intended, and by its heads those petty states into which that country was divided, the traditions of India, and the East, inform us that such designations were well understood, and therefore beautifully applicable. Anon., in "Biblical and Theological Gleanings"; by William O'Neill. 1854.
Verse 14. Meat to the people inhabiting the wilderness. May not the exact meaning be that even as the sea monsters washed upon the shore furnished food for the inhabitants of the Red Sea, even so the symbolic dragon power of Egypt when destroyed at the Red Sea, became food for Israel's faith, and even furnished provision for their wilderness journey by the spoil which was cast up by the tide. C. H. S.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 14. God's defeat of our enemies, and the benefit accruing to ourselves.