Lectionary Calendar
Friday, July 19th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 104

Kingcomments on the Whole BibleKingcomments

Verses 1-4


Psalm 104 is a song of praise to the LORD as the Creator and Sustainer of His creation. Psalm 103 sings of the LORD’s lovingkindness toward His people. Psalm 104 sings more about the power, wisdom, and lovingkindness of God toward all creation (cf. Revelation 4:11).

We find five psalms related to creation:
1. Psalm 8 Creation and man (Psalms 8:4-1 Samuel :).
2. Psalm 19 Creation and the law, the Word of God (Psalms 19:1-Joshua :).
3. Psalm 29 The forces of nature, especially thunder (Psalms 29:3-1 Samuel :).
4. Psalm 104 The cosmos, which speaks of God’s eternal power and Divine nature (Psalms 104:1-Jonah :; Romans 1:20; Genesis 1-2).
5. Psalm 148 Creation joins to give thanks the LORD (Psalms 148:1-2 Chronicles :).

Division of the psalm

Psalms 104:1-Numbers : The heavens.
Psalms 104:5-1 Samuel : The earth.
Psalms 104:10-1 Chronicles : The waters.
Psalms 104:14-Job : The plants.
Psalms 104:19-Isaiah : The lights: arrangement of time.
Psalms 104:24-Amos : The wisdom of God in creation.
Psalms 104:31-Habakkuk : Praise on the occasion of creation.

God Is Great

The psalm begins and ends with the same call as Psalm 103 to “my soul” to praise the LORD (Psalms 104:1; Psalms 104:35; Psalms 103:1; Psalms 103:22). The reason for praising the LORD is different. The reason for praising the LORD in Psalm 103 is His lovingkindness and faithfulness; here in Psalm 104 that reason is God’s majesty and glory in creation.

Then the psalmist addresses God directly. He calls Him “LORD my God”. He is in a personal relationship with the Creator of heaven and earth and knows Him as “my God”. He addresses Him boldly. There is no question of any popularity toward God. On the contrary, full of admiration and in deep awe, he says to Him: “You are very great.” It is not creation, but God Who is worthy of being magnified.

Also, he sees that the LORD is “clothed with splendor and majesty”. This points to the royal dignity of His government of creation. This is how the LORD revealed Himself to him. Without revelation, we do not know Who God is. When He reveals Himself, His majesty and glory become visible. Then it becomes clear that He rules the universe. We recognize God by what becomes visible of Him. God has become visible to us in His creation, that is, we see in it “His eternal power and divine nature” (Romans 1:20).

Then the psalmist changes from speaking to the LORD to speaking about the LORD. He says of Him that He covered Himself “with light as with a cloak” (Psalms 104:2). Here we are drawn to the first day of creation, the day God created light (Genesis 1:3-Deuteronomy :). This light is not sunlight, for the sun was not created until the fourth day of creation. What God creates does not come from nothing, but from Himself. “God is light” (1 John 1:5) and is “in the light” (1 John 1:7). He “dwells in unapproachable light” (1 Timothy 6:16). Here we read that He envelops Himself in light.

When it says that He covers Himself with light, it means that He lets the light shine in a concealing manner (cf. Habakkuk 3:4). If God were to reveal Himself in absolute light, it would be the end of man and creation. He has revealed Himself in Christ in a concealing light (John 1:18). In Christ, the light of God has come into the world without consuming the world.

As already mentioned, God reveals Himself in His creation. We see this when we look at “heaven”, which He stretches out “like [a tent] curtain” (cf. Psalms 19:1; Psalms 19:4) to dwell in it. He reveals Himself in it. The tent curtain spans the earth (Isaiah 40:22), so we can also see this tent as a dwelling place for people on earth. When a tent curtain is stretched out, it creates a space to live under. So it is also with the heavens that are stretched out, creating a space to dwell under them, namely the earth.

Above the stretched out heaven, the blue sky, the psalmist sees with his spiritual eye the Divine “upper chambers”, the chambers of God’s heavenly palace (Psalms 104:3). He connects its ceiling with the waters, which are the waters above the earth. Here we see a reference to the second day of creation (Genesis 1:6-Ruth :). God gives to the waters, which have no stability, by His power the stability to establish His dwelling there.

The psalmist then says that God “makes the clouds His chariot” and that He “walks upon the wings of the wind” (cf. Isaiah 19:1; Psalms 18:11). Here we see God’s further interference with the earth. The clouds and the wind symbolize His government of the earth. He rides and He walks above the earth and governs it all.

For His reign of the earth He employs “the winds” or “His angels” whom He makes “His messengers” (Psalms 104:4; cf. Psalms 103:20-Song of Solomon :). These servants He makes “flaming fire”. These are winds (=spirits), e.g., storms, and flaming fire, e.g., lightning. This depicts angels, who are ministering spirits. They are messengers of God who also guard the holiness of God as cherubim with flaming fire.

They are subordinate to the Messiah, Who is the Son, while the angels are servants (Hebrews 1:7). They make it known that God is “a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29). God is surrounded by servants, by reasonable beings like angels and by will-less elements like the clouds and the wind. He deploys all these servants according to His pleasure and wisdom.

Verses 5-9

A Boundary Set On the Sea

What the psalmist describes in Psalms 104:5 does correspond to God’s work described in Genesis 1, but he does it poetically. We are reminded of the third day of creation. The dry land comes forth (Genesis 1:9-2 Samuel :; cf. Job 38:4-Joshua :). God “established the earth upon its foundations” (cf. 1 Samuel 2:8; Psalms 96:10). The LORD is the Creator of heaven and earth. He is also the Sustainer of creation, for the earth “will not totter forever and ever”.

In Psalms 104:6 we see a reference to the history of the flood (Genesis 7:17-Proverbs :). In this too we recognize the hand of the LORD (Genesis 7:4). The historical flood is denied in the end times, the time in which we live (2 Peter 3:3-Joshua :).

The psalmist depicts the end of the flood by depicting that God rebukes the waters (Psalms 104:7). Then they hurry away. They rush off, hastened to do so by the sound of God’s thunder.

After the power of God in the flood, the mountains rose up and the valleys sank down in the place that God had “established for them” (Psalms 104:8). When He brought forth the dry, He gave the waters of the sea their place in the valleys, among other things, as oceans.

The sea is under the authority of God. In His power over the sea, He has set a boundary on the water (Psalms 104:9; Job 38:8-1 Kings :). The earth will not be covered by water again. That there was a worldwide flood was due to the wickedness of man. Then God said that He will not destroy the world by water again (Genesis 9:11-Esther :).

That does not mean that God’s judgment will not come upon the earth once again if man persists in his sin. However, that judgment will not come by a new flood, but by fire. Peter says that “the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water”, but that “the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction” (2 Peter 3:6-Judges :).

Verses 10-18

God Cares For His Creation

The “springs”, where we can think of the rain clouds, are controlled by God (Psalms 104:10; cf. Job 37:11-2 Kings :; Job 38:25-Ezekiel :). He determines that they should pour out their water “between the mountains”, leading the streams of water to the valleys. These are the dry riverbeds, the wadis. When it rains, they fill up and form rivers that flow between the mountains. The springs are the places where the water from the wadis meet.

By means of this watering system God has made, He “gives drink to every beast of the field” (Psalms 104:11). This is how He keeps them alive. Also “the wild donkeys quench their thirst” there. Wild donkeys live in the dry wilderness and desperately need the water. The most indomitable animals, living far from man and completely independent of God’s help, are an object of care to God.

God also makes sure that the birds can drink. He has made the watering places so that “the birds of the heavens” can dwell by them (Psalms 104:12). Near the waters grow trees and plants where the birds can dwell and find their food. They drink and return to their place in the branches where they make their voices heard by singing to God’s glory, as it were, to thank Him for His care of them.

The water comes directly from the presence of God, “from His upper chambers” (Psalms 104:13). From there He “waters” the mountains. That “the earth is satisfied by the fruit of His works” means that the rivers, as the fruit of God’s work in giving rain, satisfy the earth with water making the earth fertile. Through the rain, God “causes the grass to grow for the cattle”, as well as, for example, wheat as a “vegetation for the labor of man” (Psalms 104:14). Thus, God brings forth “food [literally: bread] from the earth” for all creatures on earth.

Wine, oil and food [literally: bread] (Psalms 104:15) are presented as foods that come from the earth. In fact, they are the end products of grapes, olives, and wheat after they have been processed by man. It is good to keep in mind that the end product has its origin in the earth where God made it grow (1 Corinthians 3:7). Also, it is good to remember that the end product came about only because God gave man the wisdom and strength to do so. We see here that the LORD is not only the Creator. He is also the Sustainer of creation, His creatures, and thus also of mankind.

The three raw materials from which the final products are made are the summary of the fruit of the land. They are often mentioned in the same breath: “your grain and your new wine and your oil” (Deuteronomy 7:13; Deuteronomy 11:14Deuteronomy 12:17; Deuteronomy 14:23Deuteronomy 18:4). Wine here is associated with joy (cf. Judges 9:13; Ecclesiastes 10:19). The oil is a picture of the Holy Spirit with Whom the believer is anointed (1 John 2:20; 1 John 2:27). In the bread we see a picture of the Lord Jesus, Who is the bread of life (John 6:35).

There is not only abundance of everything on that one, same earth, but also great diversity. From the water God gives, “the trees of the LORD drink their fill [literally: . are satisfied]” (Psalms 104:16). The trees tower impressively high above the grass. That is why they are called “trees of the LORD”. Compare “cedars of God” which are mighty cedars (Psalms 80:10). The trees provide many kinds of fruit, as well as timber to build with. Wood can also serve as firewood, both for sacrifices and for cooking.

Trees are thereby a place where the birds nest, where they have their young and feed and protect them (Psalms 104:17; Psalms 104:12). The stork is mentioned by name, as are the fir trees, or cypress trees, the trees where he has his home. Cypress timber was used in the building of the temple (1 Kings 5:8; 1 Kings 5:101 Kings 6:15; 1 Kings 6:34; 2 Chronicles 2:8; 2 Chronicles 3:5). The stork is an unclean bird (Leviticus 11:19; Deuteronomy 14:18), but she knows her seasons (Jeremiah 8:7) and also has her fixed home. Both are given to her by God.

For the wild goats and for the shephanim [coney or rock badgers], God made another shelter (Psalms 104:18). Each animal has been given its own shelter by God. There it feels at home and also safe. Thus, “the high mountains”, which are difficult for man to climb, are “for the wild goats” an area of protection. Similarly, are the cliffs “a refuge for the shephanim”. They “are not mighty people, yet they make their houses in the rocks” (Proverbs 30:26).

Verses 19-23

God Regulates the Rhythm of Day and Night

God also made a unique time arrangement (Psalms 104:19). Here we are reminded of the fourth day of creation (Genesis 1:14-Psalms :). This clock of God is never ahead and never behind, but always on time. Man can set his clock to it. Nor can he change it. It is wisdom if, as far as possible, he adapts to it. The 24-hour economy breaks with this regularity, resulting in much disruption of family and social life.

The moon was made by God “for the seasons”. Because of this, He made the months as a unit of time. These seasons God has also given to His people in regard to the various feast days or feast times He wants them to keep for Him (Leviticus 23:2; Leviticus 23:4). The word for “seasons” is translated “appointed times” in Leviticus 23. This refers to the times when the LORD wanted to meet with His people. Some of the feasts of the LORD are determined by the moon: The Passover and Feast of Booths when it is full moon, and the Feast of blowing of trumpets when it is new moon.

“The sun” is represented as a celestial body that “knows the place of its setting”. He is always obedient to God’s command to do so. He never sets before his time. Man knows that he can rely on the sun. So do the other creatures rely on the sun, especially the nocturnal animals, for they can emerge when the sun sets. Everything serves the good of man and beast.

The psalmist again addresses God directly when he speaks of darkness and night (Psalms 104:20). God “appoints darkness and it becomes night”. Darkness comes and night falls as a result of an act of God. Then life does not cease, but the nocturnal animals begin to live. “All the beasts of the forest prowl about” in search of food.

“The young lions” make themselves heard (Psalms 104:21). They “roar after prey and seek their food from God”. God gives it to them (cf. Job 38:39-Matthew :; Psalms 147:9). In this they are examples to countless people who devour food without any thought of God. The believer will ask God for food and thank Him for food He gives (Matthew 6:11; 1 Timothy 4:4-Deuteronomy :). This again shows that the LORD is the Sustainer of His creatures. The issue here is not the LORD as Creator, but as Sustainer. When He had created heaven and earth there were no predators and prey, the animals lived in harmony with each other. We are talking about the period after the Fall.

The night ends when “the sun rises” (Psalms 104:22). It becomes light and the darkness is dispelled. A new situation arises. The nocturnal animals know that their time to provide themselves with food is over. It is time to go to sleep. They “withdraw and lie down in their dens”. There they are until the sun goes down again.

At the rising of the sun, it is time for man to wake up, get up, and go “forth to his work” (Psalms 104:23). Arriving at his workplace, he begins “his labor”. With this he is busy “until the evening”. He finds full satisfaction in his service work, which he can do with all his creativity and skill.

Verses 24-29

God Made All His Works in Wisdom

All previous structures were created by God with precision. Everything interlocks like the wheels of a clockwork. He has given everything in creation a fixed place and time and takes care of both life and inanimate matter. The whole cycle of time and life comes from Him and He maintains it. We cannot help but exclaim in admiration with the psalmist: “O LORD, how many are Your works!” (Psalms 104:24).

The psalmist again speaks directly to God. He says to Him that in all His works His wisdom is evident. “In wisdom” He has “made them all”. Wherever we look on earth or in the deepest seas, we see His possessions everywhere. When we look at creation with a telescope, with a microscope or even an electron microscope, we see His wisdom and His possessions. The earth is full of it, both by day and by night. It is all His, it is His possession. What a poor, blind, fool man is who believes that the earth and life on it came into being ‘by chance’ and developed through evolution.

Then the psalmist looks at the sea (Psalms 104:25). What he sees overwhelms him. He sees how “great and broad” the sea is. The sea is full of life. There are “swarms” living in it. Their number is so great that they cannot be counted. Nor are they all equal in size, for there are “animals both small and great”. God has also provided great diversity in the life of the sea. Here we recognize the fifth day of creation (Genesis 1:20-Isaiah :).

On the sea “ships move along” (Psalms 104:26). This is also striking when the psalmist looks at the sea. The sea carries the ships. It is a wondrous sight. The ships cross the great, wide expanse of the sea to areas that are otherwise inaccessible. God has made it possible for man to navigate the sea.

Another thing that stands out about the sea is that it is a playground for a special sea creature, the “Leviathan”, which God has “formed to sport in it”. From the description of this animal in the book of Job, it is clear that it is an indomitable giant, like a dinosaur, which man is incapable of subduing (see commentary on Job 41). But God deals with him with ‘playful ease’. He shows him the space where he can move. Beyond that he cannot go. He is completely in the power of God.

All life on earth depends on God. The animals know this instinctively. “They”, the psalmist tells God, “all wait for You, to give them their food in due season” (Psalms 104:27). With this we can connect the sixth day of creation, which is not only about the creation of the animals and man, but also about the provision of food for man and animals (Genesis 1:29-Amos :).

They have no food sources of their own. God has to give it to them. Even if they can stockpile, it is because God gives it to them. When God gives it, they go out and gather it (Psalms 104:28; cf. Exodus 16:4; Ruth 2:8). They receive food from His opened hand. To open the hand means to give (Deuteronomy 15:8; Deuteronomy 15:11). Thus “they are satisfied with good”. When God opens His hand to give, He gives with a generous hand. He also always gives the good, and so much, that the recipient is satiated with it.

It may also be that God hides His face (Psalms 104:29). This is a terrible thing, causing such a great terror that it “dismays” them. Even worse is when He “takes away their spirit [or: breath]”. Then “they expire and return to their dust”. Life and death are in the hand of God. Everything depends on Him. All life ends when He withdraws Himself.

Verses 30-32

God’s Glory Endures Forever

The taking away of the breath is not God’s last word with regard to His creation. In Psalms 104:30, the psalmist describes new life after a drought or after a winter, as a picture of the regeneration of the earth: the realm of peace. It is a picture of the work of the Spirit of God Who brings about a new creation by renewing “the face of the ground”.

The same will happen when the realm of peace is established (Isaiah 65:17). That will happen after the period of the great tribulation. We see a picture of this in the flood and afterwards. After the flood, which ended all life on earth, Noah and his family come to an earth with a renewed face.

In the realm of peace, “the glory of the LORD” will “endure forever” (Psalms 104:31). All that is then is the work of God Himself through His Spirit. At that time, “the LORD” is “glad in His works”. All who enter into the realm of peace will rejoice with Him in it. It is like the Sabbath, the seventh day, when God sees all that He has made and sees that it is very good (Genesis 1:31; Genesis 2:1-Leviticus :).

He remains the Almighty even then (Psalms 104:32). His gaze alone is enough to make the earth tremble (cf. Habakkuk 3:10). And when He touches the unshakable seeming mountains with His finger, “they smoke”. We see this at Mount Sinai when God descends upon it (Exodus 19:18).

Verses 33-35

What Endures and Who Disappears

After his description of God’s wonderful work in creation, the psalmist comes to the exclamation that he “will sing to the LORD as long as” he lives (Psalms 104:33). The psalmist again calls the LORD “my God” here, emphasizing his personal relationship with the LORD. The psalmist praises the LORD for Who He is.

He will continue with it and never stop. Always He will see new reasons to praise Him even more. There will be an eternal increase of reasons. The glory of God is so great that it will never be fully fathomed. Eternally there will be new things visible that are reason to honor Him.

All the foregoing is material for meditating on Him, on His Person (Psalms 104:34). Everything that has become visible of God in His works points to the greatness of Himself. It is about Him. His works refer to Him. Meditating on Him is “pleasing to Him”. There is no activity that is more pleasant. The psalmist is “glad in the LORD” Himself. This is the fellowship that leads to complete joy (1 John 1:1-Numbers :). We see it in the three forms of boasting of which the apostle Paul speaks. The believer boasts “in the hope of the glory of God”, he boasts “in tribulations”, and finally he boasts “in God” Himself, through the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:2; Romans 5:3Romans 5:11).

Those who do not join in with the song of praise to the LORD are “sinners” and “the wicked” (Psalms 104:35). They do not acknowledge Him as the source of all their material blessings (cf. Romans 1:21). Therefore, they have no right to a place on God’s earth. These people will disappear from the earth and not be there anymore. They do not belong in a world fully established and maintained by God, of which Christ is the center and object of worship.

The psalmist ends with the same words with which he began the psalm: “Bless the LORD, O my soul” (Psalms 104:1). His soul is full of all that he has sung and especially of Him about Whom he has sung.

The final word of the psalm is “hallelujah!” or “praise the LORD!” This is a call to others to praise the LORD. First the call to oneself to praise the LORD sounds, and then a call to others.

The word “hallelujah” appears in the Old Testament only in Psalms. In this psalm we hear it for the first time. After this it is used twenty-three more times. In the New Testament it occurs only in Revelation, where it is exclaimed four times (Revelation 19:1; Revelation 19:3Revelation 19:4; Revelation 19:6).

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Psalms 104". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/psalms-104.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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