5. The voice of Jehovah breaketh the cedars; I say, Jehovah breaketh the cedars of Lebanon. 6. And he maketh Lebanon to skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young unicorn. 7. The voice of Jehovah striketh out [or heweth out] flames of fire. 8. The voice of Jehovah maketh the wilderness to quake, the voice of Jehovah maketh the wilderness of Kadesh to tremble.
5. The voice of Jehovah breaketh the cedars. We see how the prophet, in order to subdue the stubbornness of men, shows, by every word, that God is terrible. He also seems to rebuke, in passing, the madness of the proud, and of those who swell with vain presumption, because they hearken not to the voice of God in his thunders, rending the air with his lightnings, shaking the lofty mountains, prostrating and overthrowing the loftiest trees. What a monstrous thing is it, that while all the irrational portion of the creation tremble before God, men alone, who are endued with sense and reason, are not moved! Moreover, though they possess genius and learning, they employ enchantments to shut their ears against God's voice, however powerful, lest it should reach their hearts. Philosophers think not that they have reasoned skilfully enough about inferior causes, unless they separate God very far from his works. It is a diabolical science, however, which fixes our contemplations on the works of nature, and turns them away from God. If any one who wished to know a man should take no notice of his face, but should fix his eyes only on the points of his nails, his folly might justly be derided. But far greater is the folly of those philosophers, who, out of mediate and proximate causes, weave themselves vails, lest they should be compelled to acknowledge the hand of God, which manifestly displays itself in his works. The Psalmist particularly mentions the cedars of Lebanon, because lofty and beautiful cedars were to be found there. He also refers to Lebanon and Mount Hermon, and to the wilderness of Kadesh,1 because these places were best known to the Jews. He uses, indeed, a highly poetical figure accompanied with a hyperbole, when he says, that Lebanon skips like a calf at God's voice, and Sirion (which is also called Mount Hermon2) like a unicorn, which, we know, is one of the swiftest animals. He also alludes to the terrific noise of thunder, which seems almost to shake the mountains to their foundations. Similar is the figure, when he says, the Lord striketh out flames of fire, which is done when the vapours, being struck, as it were, with his hammer, burst forth into lightnings and thunderbolts. Aristotle, in his book on Meteors, reasons very shrewdly about these things, in so far as relates to proximate causes, only that he omits the chief point. The investigation of these would, indeed, be both a profitable and pleasant exercise, were we led by it, as we ought, to the Author of Nature himself. But nothing is more preposterous than, when we meet with mediate causes, however many, to be stopped and retarded by them, as by so many obstacles, from approaching God;3 for this is the same as if a man were to remain at the very rudiments of things during his whole life, without going farther. In short, this is to learn in such a manner that you can never know any thing. That shrewdness alone, therefore, is worthy of praise, which elevates us by these means even to heaven, in order that not a confused noise only may strike our ears, but that the voice of the Lord may penetrate our hearts, and teach us to pray and serve God. Some expound the Hebrew word lyxy, yachil, which we have translated to tremble, in another way, namely, that God maketh the wilderness of Kadesh to travail in birth;4 because of the manifold wonders which were wrought in it as the Israelites passed through it. But this sense I object to, as far too subtle and strained. David appears rather to refer to the common feelings of men; for as wildernesses are dreadful of themselves, they are much more so when they are filled with thunders, hail, and storms. I do not, however, object that the wilderness may be understood, by synecdoche, to mean the wild beasts which lodge in it; and thus the next verse, where hinds are mentioned, may be considered as added by way of exposition.