Verse 4. In his hand are the deep places of the earth. He is the God of the valleys and the hills, the caverns, and the peaks. Far down where the miners sink their shafts, deeper yet where lie the secret oceans by which springs are fed, and deepest of all in the unknown abyss where rage and flame the huge central fires of earth, there Jehovah's power is felt, and all things are under the dominion of his hand. As princes hold the mimic globe in their hands, so does the Lord in very deed hold the earth. When Israel drank of the crystal fount which welled up from the great deep, below the smitten rock, the people knew that in the Lord's hands were the deep places of the earth.
The strength of the hills is his also. When Sinai was altogether on a smoke the tribes learned that Jehovah was God of the hills as well as of the valleys. Everywhere and at all times is this true; the Lord rules upon the high places of the earth in lonely majesty. The vast foundations, the gigantic spurs, the incalculable masses, the untrodden heights of the mountains are all the Lord's. These are his fastnesses and treasure houses, where he stores the tempest and the rain; whence also he pours the ice torrents and looses the avalanches. The granite peaks and adamantine aiguilles are his, and his the precipices and the beetling crags. Strength is the main thought which strikes the mind when gazing on those vast ramparts of cliff which front the raging sea, or peer into the azure sky, piercing the clouds, but it is to the devout mind the strength of God; hints of Omnipotence are given by those stern rocks which brave the fury of the elements, and like walls of brass defy the assaults of nature in her wildest rage.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 4. In his hand. The dominion of God is founded upon his preservation of things. "The Lord is a great King above all gods." Why?
In his hand are the deep places of the earth. While his hand holds, his hand hath a dominion over them. He that holds a stone in the air exerciseth a dominion over its natural inclination in hindering it from falling. The creature depends wholly upon God in its preservation; as soon as that divine hand which sustains everything were withdrawn, a languishment and swooning would be the next turn in the creature. He is called Lord, Adonai, in regard of his sustentation of all things by his continual influx, the word coming of !wa, which signifies a basis or pillar that supports a building. God is the Lord of all, as he is the sustainer of all by his power, as well as the Creator of all by his word. --Stephen Charnock.
"In whose hand are the recesses of the earth
And the treasures of the mountains are his."
--Thomas J. Conant's Translation.
Verse 4. In his hand are the deep places of the earth. This affords consolation to those; who for the glory of the divine name are cast into prisons and subterraneous caves; because they know, that even there it is not possible to be the least separated from the presence of Christ. Wherefore He preserved Joseph when hurled by his brethren into the old pit, and when thrust by his shameless mistress into prison; Jeremiah also when sent down into the dungeon; Daniel among the lions, and his companions in the furnace. So all who cleave to Him with a firm faith, he wonderfully keeps and delivers to this day. --Solomon Gesner, 1559-1605.
Verse 4. In his hand are the deep places of the earth. As an illustration of the working and presence of the Lord in the mines amid the bowels of the earth we have selected the following: "The natural disposition of coal in detached portions", says the author of an excellent article in the Edinburgh Review, "is not simply a phenomenon of geology, but it also bears upon natural considerations. It is remarkable that this natural disposition is that which renders the fuel most accessible and most easily mined. Were the coal situated at its normal geological depth, that is, supposing the strata to be all horizontal and undisturbed or upheaved, it would be far below human reach. Were it deposited continuously in one even superficial layer, it would have been too readily, and therefore too quickly, mined, and therefore all the superior qualities would be wrought out, and only the inferior left; but as it now lies it is broken up by geological disturbances into separate portions, each defined and limited in area, each sufficiently accessible to bring it within man's reach and labour, each manageable by mechanical arrangements, and each capable of gradual excavation without being subject to sudden exhaustion. Selfish plundering is partly prevented by natural barriers, and we are warned against reckless waste by the comparative thinness of coal seams, as well as by the ever augmenting difficulty of working them at increased depths. By the separation of seams one from another, and by varied intervals of waste sandstones and shales, such a measured rate of winning is necessitated as precludes us from entirely robbing posterity of the most valuable mineral fuel, while the fuel itself is preserved from those extended fractures and crumblings and falls, which would certainly be the consequence of largely mining the best bituminous coal, were it aggregated into one vast mass. In fact, by an evident exercise of forethought and benevolence in the Great Author of all our blessings, our invaluable fuel has been stored up for us in deposits the most compendious, the most accessible, yet the least exhaustible, and has been locally distributed into the most convenient situations. Our coal fields are so many Bituminous Banks, in which there is abundance for an adequate currency, but against any sudden run upon them nature has interposed numerous checks; whole reserves of the precious fuel are always locked up in the bank cellar under the invincible protection of ponderous stone beds. It is a striking fact, that in this nineteenth century, after so long an inhabitation of the earth by man, if we take the quantities in the broad view of the whole known coal fields, so little coal has been excavated, and that there remains an abundance for a very remote posterity, even though our own best coal fields may be then worked out."
But it is not only in these inexhaustible supplies of mineral fuel that we find proofs of divine foresight, all the other treasures of the earth rind equally convince us of the intimate harmony between its structure and the wants of man. Composed of a wonderful variety of earths and ores, it contains an inexhaustible abundance of all the substances he requires for the attainment of a higher grade of civilisation. It is for his use that iron, copper, lead, silver, tin, marble, gypsum, sulphur, rock salt, and a variety of other minerals and metals, have been deposited in the veins and crevices, or in the mines and quarries, of the subterranean world. It is for his benefit that, from the decomposition of the solid rocks results that mixture of earths and alkalies, of marl, lime, sand, or chalk, which is most favourable to agriculture.
It is for him, finally, that, filtering through the entrails of the earth, and dissolving salutary substances on their way, the thermal springs gush forth laden with treasures more inestimable than those the miner toils for. Supposing man had never been destined to live, we well may ask wily all those gifts of nature useless to all living beings but to him why those vast coal fields, those beds of iron ore, those deposits of sulphur, those hygeian fountains, should ever have been created? Without him there is no design, no purpose, in their existence; with him they are wonderful sources of health or necessary instruments of civilisation and improvement. Thus the geological revolutions of the earth rind harmoniously point to man as to its future lord; thus, in the life of our planet and that of its inhabitants, we everywhere find proofs of a gigantic unity of plan, embracing unnumbered ages in its development and progress. --G. Hartwig, in "The Harmonies of Nature", 1866.
Verse 4. -- The deep places of the earth, penetralia terrae, which are opposed to the heights of the hills, and plainly mean the deepest and most letired parts of the terraqueous globe, which are explorable by the eye of God, and by his only. --Richard Mant.
Verse 4. -- The strength of the hills. The word translated "strength" is plural in Hebrew, and seems properly to mean fatiguing exertions, from which some derive the idea of strength, others that of extreme height, which can only be reached by exhausting effort. -- J.A. Alexander.
Verse 4. -- The strength of the hills is his also. The reference may be to the wealth of the hills, obtained only by labour Gesenius, corresponding to the former -- "the deep places of the earth", explained as referring to the mines Mendelssohn. Go where man may, with all his toil and searching in the heights or in the depths of the earth, he cannot find a place beyond the range of God's dominion. --A.R. Faussett.
Verse 4. -- Hills, The Sea, the dry land. The relation of areas of land to areas of water exercises a great and essential influence on the distribution of heat, variations of atmospheric pressure, directions of the winds, and that condition of the air with respect to moisture, which is so necessary for the health of vegetation. Nearly three fourths of the earth's surface is covered with water, but neither the exact height of the atmosphere nor the depth of the ocean are fully determined. Still we know that with every addition to or subtraction from the present bulk of the waters of the ocean, the consequent variation in the form and magnitude of the land would be such, that if the change was considerable, many of the existing harmonies of things would cease. Hence, the inference is, that the magnitude of the sea is one of the conditions to which the structure of all organised creatures is adapted, and on which indeed they depend for wellbeing. The proportions between land and water are exactly what the world as constituted requires; and the whole mass of earth, sea, and air, must have been balanced with the greatest nicety before even a crocus could stand erect. Or a snowdrop or a daffodil bend their heads to the ground. The proportions of land and sea are adjusted to their reciprocal functions. Nothing deduced from modern science is more certain than this. --Edwin Sidney, in "Conversations on the Bible and Science."
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 4-5. The universality of the divine government.
- In all parts of the globe.
- In all providences.
- In every phase of moral condition. Or, Things deep, or high, dark or perilous are in his hand; circumstances shifting, terrible, overwhelming as the sea, are under his control as much as the comfortable terra firma of peace and prosperity.