Q&A Forum: Psalm 29:9

What does Psalm 29:9 mean when it says that “in His temple doth every one speak of His glory?”

Even after reading this beautiful psalm over carefully many times, it is difficult to come to a settled conclusion as to the meaning of the phrase before us. Many expositors through the centuries have come to different conclusions, so we will not pretend to give the “last word” on its meaning. The main questions to be answered are: What is the “temple” that is referred to, and to whom, or what, does “everyone” refer?

The psalm begins with a threefold call (vv1–2) to “give” (ascribe) glory to the Lord. A further command is given in verse 2 to “worship the Lord.” Worship requires the intelligent response of beings who understand and appreciate the glory of the Lord. The words we are considering in verse 9 may be seen as a response to these commands. The verses between give reason to respond.

It is quite easy to visualize in verses 3 – 9 the poetic description of an intense thunderstorm passing over the land of Israel from the north (“Lebanon”) to the south (“the wilderness of Kadesh,” v8). The fearful might and majesty of the Lord is described in the wind and lightning and thunder (“the voice of the Lord,” seven times) and the destruction caused by the storm. Some commentators, following the path of the storm, feel that, as it passes over the city of Jerusalem in its fury, it causes the worshipers in the literal temple to exclaim, “Glory.” Since this is a “Psalm of David,” Solomon’s temple would not yet have been built, though earlier structures, such as the one in which Eli ministered at Shiloh, were called “the temple” (1Sam 1:9, the first use of the word in the Bible). Others speak of the “heavenly temple.” Psalm 18 has imagery similar to this psalm, and speaks of the Lord hearing David “out of His temple” (v6) and of the convulsions on earth when He “came down” (v9). Psalm 11:4 and Micah 1:2-4 also seem to refer to heaven as the Lord’s “temple.” Still other commentators see the “temple” as the whole realm of creation, although there do not seem to be any other Scriptural uses of “temple” in reference to nature. While the views regarding the “heavenly temple” or the realm of nature as a “temple” have elements to commend them, in view of the initial commands to ascribe and worship, and the two references to “His people” in verse 11, it seems most reasonable to consider the “temple” as being the place of God’s presence among His people, where His glory, as displayed in the storm, is recognized and acknowledged.

In regard to “every one,” there are several alternative translations. Thomas Newberry’s marginal note suggests translating “doth every one speak of,” as “every whit of it uttereth.” This might direct our thoughts to the glory of God being reflected in the temple – a true statement – but this would seem to be an abrupt change from the context. Others suggest that “every one” is the thought of “everything” or “all” or “all of it.” However, if we consider the “temple” to be the physical place where the Lord had chosen to place His name, then it seems most appropriate to retain the thought of “every one,” and link it with spiritually intelligent worshipers.