Psalm 29 Study Notes
29:1 To ascribe something to someone is to acknowledge they have that attribute. Heavenly beings is literally “sons of gods.” The word for “gods” (Hb ’elim), although similar to the word for “God” (Hb ’elohim), is never used of him. The term has a background in ancient Near Eastern mythologies as referring to the divine assembly of the gods (see note at 82:1). In fact, it sometimes refers to pagan gods (Ex 15:11; Dn 11:36), though not as an affirmation that they existed but only as a recognition that other nations believed in them. It can also refer to people, with the meaning of “the mighty” (Jb 41:25). In this context it is best to understand the term as angelic beings (Ps 89:6). The angels are witnesses of God’s creation (Jb 38:7) and are allowed access to God in heaven (Jb 1:6; 2:1). They surround his throne to praise and worship him (Is 6; Ezk 1). It is most appropriate to address them as those who worship the Lord.
29:2 The word for splendor can mean “adornment,” such as the ornate clothing worn by rulers or dignitaries. In the case of the Lord, he is clothed in his own attributes (93:1), which in this case refers to his holiness (96:9; 2Ch 20:21).
29:3-4 Voice here and through v. 9 is used as the Lord’s audible expression of his power, comparable to thunder. The imagery of a thunderstorm for God’s power is used in military contexts picturing the Lord as a warrior (see note at 18:7-15); however, this context does not have any explicit military references and more likely compares the Lord to the formidable physical phenomenon itself. In the ancient Near East, “vast water” represented the primeval chaos that could not be tamed. The description of God’s voice above the vast water shows his dominion over it (93:3-4; Jr 10:13; 51:16).
29:5-6 Lebanon was known for its cedars, the strongest and most majestic trees in Israel (104:16; Sg 5:15; Is 2:13). Sirion refers to Mount Hermon, the tallest mountain in that area (Dt 3:8-9). Together these represent the greatest spectacles of creation in and around Israel.
29:8-9 The verb for shakes is commonly used to mean “tremble with fear” (96:9; 114:7), so that the picture is of creation itself trembling before the Lord’s power. In this psalm his temple is heaven (11:4; Mc 1:2) where all is the “heavenly beings” in v. 1.
29:10-11 The flood continues the image in v. 3, relating it to “water,” but here the unleashing of the destructive powers of chaos in a flood makes this even more significant than the earlier reference. Some interpreters relate it directly to the flood of Noah’s time (Gn 6-7), while others see it as the waters at creation (Gn 1:7; Ps 148:4). The point in either case is that the Lord rules over (sits enthroned) the most powerful forces in the natural world. Because of this great power, his people find strength in him.