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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 104

Old & New Testament Restoration CommentaryRestoration Commentary

Verses 1-5

Psa 104:1-5

GOD’S GREATNESS AS SEEN IN THE CREATION

Taking his information from the book of Genesis, the psalmist here elaborates the greatness of God’s works in the first five days of creation, this is the portion of the creation that concerns nature only, as distinguished from mankind.

Who authored the psalm is unknown, as is also the occasion of its being written. Barnes tells us that, "The LXX, the Latin, the Syriac and Arabic versions ascribe it to David, but do not cite any grounds for their doing so.” Dummelow concluded that, "It was written by the same author as Psalms 103.” However, he did not believe David was the author of either one. We believe that his remark supports the possibility that David was indeed the author of both.

Regarding the occasion, Rosenmuller and Hengstenberg suppose it was written in the times of the exile; and Briggs thought the tone of it reflected the times of the Maccabees.” This writer can find nothing whatever in the psalm that definitely indicates either of those occasions; and we find full agreement with Barnes that, "It has nothing that would make it inappropriate at any time, or in any public service.”

This writer never sees this psalm without remembering the unlearned man who got up to read it at church one Sunday, and being unable to decipher the Roman numerals in the big church Bible, gazed at the title, "Psalm CIV," for a moment, and then said, "We are now going to read `PESSELLAM SIV’"!

The paragraphing we shall follow is that of the five days of creation as spoken of in this psalm.

Psalms 104:1-5

THE FIRST DAY OF CREATION

"Bless Jehovah, O my soul.

O Jehovah my God, thou art very great;

Thou art clothed with honor and majesty.

Who covereth thyself with light, as with a garment;

Who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain;

Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters;

Who maketh the clouds his chariot;

Who walketh upon the wings of the wind;

Who maketh winds his messengers;

Flames of fire his ministers;

Who laid the foundations of the earth,

That it should not be moved forever."

The focus of these lines is upon Genesis 1:1-5. The creation of light and the heavens and the earth are mentioned in that passage.

"The heavens like a curtain" (Psalms 104:2). This is an appropriate line indeed, because the atmospheric heavens are indeed a protective tent or curtain shielding the earth from the destructive debris from outer space. A glance at the moon, which has no atmosphere, shows what the earth would have looked like without that protective mantle of the atmosphere.

"The beams of his chambers in the waters" (Psalms 104:3). The `waters’ here are those "above the firmament," that is, the vaporous waters of the clouds mentioned in the same breath.

"His chambers ... his chariot ... walketh upon the wings of the wind" (Psalms 104:3). These poetic expressions of God’s ubiquitousness and mobility are highly imaginative, but there is no ground whatever for criticizing them.

"Who maketh winds his messengers and flames of fire his ministers" (Psalms 104:4). A marginal reading for "winds" is angels; Hebrews 1:7 sheds light on what is meant here. "And of the angels he saith, "Who maketh his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire."

"Who laid the foundations of the earth" (Psalms 104:5). It is not merely the creation of the earth but its stability and permanence which are stressed.

E.M. Zerr:

Psalms 104:1. This verse starts with the same expression as Psalms 103:1, and I request the reader to see my comments at that place. Honour has special reference to grandeur of appearance, and majesty refers especially to dignity.

Psalms 104:2. To be covered with anything means to be completely surrounded by it. When light is used figuratively it means that which is good, pure and truthful. The Lord is thus equipped and hence he is properly possessed of power. This power gave him the ability to hold up the heavens or parts of the universe as easily as if they were so many curtains in the hands of a human being.

Psalms 104:3. The clauses of this verse are figurative, and are intended to show the ease with which God manages the parts of His creation. The deep waters, the soaring clouds and the boisterous winds would baffle the limited power of man. But the great One who brought them into existence controls all with infinite might.

Psalms 104:4. Happily the apostle Paul comments on this verse in Hebrews 1:7. And Hebrews 1:13-14 as well as the general connection, shows the passage has direct reference to the intelligent beings who live in Heaven with God. The Psalmist meant to show some more of the power or authority of God in that he had such control over these angels. For instance, he was able to use them as spirits (1 Kings 22:19-24), or to make a flaming fire out of them (Exodus 3:2). However, even in thus controlling these celestial creatures, God was bestowing a great honor upon them, which was the point the writer of Hebrews was making.

Psalms 104:5. We do not think of the earth as having a foundation in the ordinary sense of that word. The verse has the idea that the existence of the earth is well founded as it is sustained by the almighty power of its Creator.

Verses 6-9

Psa 104:6-9

Psalms 104:6-9

THE SECOND DAY OF CREATION

"Thou coverest it with the deep as with a vesture;

The waters stood above the mountains.

At thy rebuke they fled;

At the voice of thy thunder they hasted away

(The mountains rose, the valleys sank down)

Unto the place which thou hadst founded for them.

Thou hast set a bound that they may not pass over;

That they turn not again to cover the earth."

The division of the waters from the waters, separated by the firmament, is recounted in Genesis 1:6-8

"Thou coverest it (the earth) with the deep (the sea) as with a vesture; the waters stood above the mountains" (Psalms 104:7). This simply means that the entire planet earth was completely submerged at first, the highest mountains being beneath the waves: This, of course, is exactly the truth. If all of the multiplied trillions of tons of water in its vaporous or gaseous state were suddenly released upon the earth, and if all the millions of cubic miles of the frozen waters of the polar ice-caps were suddenly melted, the entire world would again be completely submerged in the sea.

The highly-imaginative manner in which this information is stated here has a majesty and dignity about it that every man should appreciate. These words are certainly entitled to a better comment than that of Briggs who wrote: "God’s thunder frightened the sea to the boundaries which God had assigned to it"!

E.M. Zerr:

Psalms 104:6. God’s knowledge and control of the works of creation is the theme running through several verses. The mighty ocean as it envelops the earth presents as easy a task in the Lord’s hands as the handling of a garment would be in the grasp of a man. See a similar thought in the comments at V. 2. The waters stood, etc, refers to the flood in the days of Noah. At that time they were said to nave been 15 cubits above the mountains. (Genesis 7:20.)

Psalms 104:7. At thy rebuke they fled refers to the fact recorded in Genesis 8:1, etc.

Psalms 104:8. This refers to the further abatement of the waters of the flood. After the bulk of the water had been driven away by the wind (similar to Genesis 1:6-7), the rest of it sought its original places in the valleys which God had founded for them.

Psalms 104:9. Set a bound is the same as Genesis 8:22.

Verses 10-18

Psa 104:10-18

Psalms 104:10-18

THE THIRD DAY OF CREATION

"He sendeth forth springs into the valleys;

They run among the mountains;

They give drink to every beast of the field;

The wild asses quench their thirst.

By them the birds of the heavens have their habitation;

They sing among the branches.

He watereth the mountains from his chambers:

The earth is filled with the fruit of thy works.

He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle,

And herb for the service of man;

That he may bring forth food out of the earth.

And wine that maketh glad the heart of man,

And oil to make his face to shine,

And bread that strengtheneth man’s heart.

The trees of Jehovah are filled with moisture,

The cedars of Lebanon which he hath planted;

Where the birds make their nests:

As for the stork, the fir-trees are her house.

The high mountains are for the wild goats;

The rocks are a refuge for the conies."

The Genesis account of this third day of creation is in Genesis 1:9-13. The Genesis account relates the gathering of the waters into one place, the appearance of the dry land, the creation of grass, herbs, fruit-trees and vegetables; but the account here stresses a number of things not mentioned in Genesis.

The thought regards the thoroughness and completeness of God’s provisions for all of his creatures upon the earth. We have often mentioned A. Crescy Morrison’s book, "Man Does not Stand Alone," which specifically extols the adaptation of our earth to its human inhabitants. This psalm indicates that same perfect adaptation and adequacy of the earth, not merely for mankind, but for all of the creatures God made and placed upon it.

The cycle of earth’s waters as they rise from the seas, fall upon the earth, and make their way back to the seas is the device by which the springs and streams of the mountains and valleys of earth provide life-sustaining water for a myriad of earthly creatures. As Dummelow said, "These things need not be analyzed in detail.”

Briggs translated "fir-tree" (Psalms 104:17) as "cypress," and "conies" (Psalms 104:18) as "marmots.” "This animal lives in holes in the rocks, where it makes its nest and conceals its young, and to which it retires at the least alarm.”

E.M. Zerr:

Psalms 104:10. The residue of the flood waters was to serve the needs of living creatures. In order to do so it was necessary to have springs and running streams.

Psalms 104:11. Man needed the services of the beasts and that made it necessary to sustain these dumb creatures with the water.

Psalms 104:12. The fowls were to furnish food for man, also be used in sacrifice to God. It was thus needful that they likewise be supplied with water.

Psalms 104:13. From his chambers is a figure of speech, referring to the great bounty and storehouse of God, "from whom all blessings flow."

Psalms 104:14. This verse is more specific and includes much the same list of good things as was mentioned in Genesis 8:22 regarding the continuance of the seasons.

Psalms 104:15. The products that are named in this verse are necessary for the use of man. Those products, however, could not have been provided naturally after the destructive volume of the flood came upon the earth had the Lord not been able and willing to take control of the situation and turn everything to good account.

Psalms 104:16. This verse considers some items of vegetation that are greater than the herbs of the field. These serve mankind in various ways; fruit, building material, beauty and shade all come from the wonderful plant that towers above all other plants.

Psalms 104:17. Not only do the trees serve man directly in the manner mentioned in the preceding verse, but they make shelter for birds which also serve man.

Psalms 104:18. The Psalmist somewhat departs from the conditions in and after the flood. He is concerned with the great works of God as they have always been from the creation. The perfect adaptation of the various parts of creation to the different kinds of living creatures is the thought in this verse. For instance, the wild goats are "at home" while scrambling over the hills, while the coney, being a small and less rugged animal, would prefer finding its home -in the clefts of the rocks.

Verses 19-23

Psa 104:19-23

Psalms 104:19-23

THE FOURTH DAY OF CREATION

"He appointed the moon for seasons:

The sun knoweth his going down.

Thou makest darkness, and it is night,

Wherein all the beasts of the forest creep forth.

The young lions roar after their prey,

And seek their food from God.

The sun ariseth, they get them away,

And lay them down in their dens.

Man goeth forth unto his work

And to his labor until the evening."

In Genesis 1:14-19, is found the basis of what is written here. We shall mention one feature of the fourth day which is often overlooked. The sacred text states that, "God set them (the sun, moon and stars) in the firmament of heaven to give light upon the earth" (Genesis 1:17). Also they were thus set in order to produce the seasons. Significantly, it is not here stated that God created the sun, moon, stars and the earth; because that had already been accomplished in the very first day of creation. Then what was it that occurred on the fourth day? We believe that God Almighty moved the earth from some other location and established it in its present orbit around the sun with its axis inclined 23 degrees upon the plane of its orbit. Would such a maneuver indeed have "set the sun, moon and stars" in the earth’s firmament? See my comments in Vol. I of my Pentateuchal series of commentaries (Genesis) regarding this "fourth day." Is there a better explanation of what is meant by this? If so, we have not encountered it.

In this discussion of the fourth day, as in the others, it is not the mere fact of creation that is stressed, but the results of what was created.

The day and the night provide dual opportunities. The young lions search for their prey at night and retire to their dens in the daytime. Man, on the other hand works in the daytime and retires to his place at night. God’s creation provides the correct environment for all of the creatures God made to live upon earth.

E.M. Zerr:

Psalms 104:19. One shade of meaning of the original for appointed is "to use." The thought is that the moon was depended upon to set the dates for certain seasons. For an example, the months of the Jewish calendar were started by the moon as it came "new." (1 Samuel 20:24-27.) The argument of David is that God has such control of the moon that he could rely on it to signal the season of period called the month. The feasts and other rituals of the Jewish worship were to be at regular intervals, and if they were to be regulated as to date by the moon, then the changes of that body would have to be reliable. The appearances of the sun also would need to be according to God’s wish.

Psalms 104:20. In strictness of speech, darkness does not have to be "made." It is a negative condition and is merely the absence of light. In the passage we are considering the Psalmist is discussing God’s power to manage the things of the universe, including the "going down" of the sun. That condition was necessary in order to bring the rest in sleep for the comfort and welfare of living creatures.

Psalms 104:21. The darkness is seen to be an advantage to some of the beasts which God created. The lions find the night time the best for their necessity and they unconsciously roar the praises of the Maker of all things.

Psalms 104:22. After the lions have captured their prey under cover of darkness, they may confidently use the light of the sun to deposit it in their dens.

Psalms 104:23. This verse was written before the days of "24-hour" programs in the industrial world. The Lord designed the day as the time for work, and the darkness of night as best adapted for sleep and rest. That is why we have such expressions as are in John 9:4; John 11:9; John 12:35. I realize that Jesus was using the words figuratively, but all figures of speech are based on some literal fact.

Verses 24-30

Psa 104:24-30

Psalms 104:24-30

THE FIFTH DAY OF CREATION

"O Jehovah, how manifold are thy works!

In wisdom hast thou made them all:

The earth is full of thy riches.

Yonder is the sea, great and wide,

Wherein are things creeping innumerable,

Both small and great beasts.

There go the ships;

There is Leviathan, whom thou hast formed to play therein.

These wait all for thee,

That thou mayest give them their food in due season.

Thou givest unto them, they gather;

Thou openest thy hand, they are satisfied with good.

Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled;

Thou takest away their breath, they die,

And return to the dust.

Thou sendest forth thy Spirit, they are created;

And thou renewest the face of the ground."

This is based upon Genesis 1:2-23; but here again, the psalmist speaks not so much of the actual creation, but of the existence of it in the myriad forms and manifestations of it at the present time.

"How manifold are thy works" (Psalms 104:24). The uncounted millions of species in the animate creation include not merely the larger units of the creation, but innumerable beings that are almost infinitely small, not merely insects, and the tiniest creatures of the sea, as mentioned in this paragraph, but the sub-microscopic beings, All of this great host of creatures both great and small that God made are fitted into an ecological system so great and so complicated that no man has ever understood all of it.

There is the utmost diversity in the animate creation. One reference here suggests that Leviathan (the whale) was made to play in the sea, which is exactly what that creature does throughout his whole life. The Zebra with his stripes, the giraffe with his long neck, the elephant with his long nose, the monkey with his long tail, etc. All of these illustrate the unlimited diversity of the animate creation.

Although the inanimate world of flowers, trees, shrubs, grasses, etc., is not mentioned here, that portion of God’s creation is truly as wonderful as any of the rest of it.

The big surprise of this psalm is the fact that after detailed attention to the first five days of creation, there comes no mention whatever of the sixth day, and of God’s creation of mankind. The apparent purpose of the psalm found such a reference totally unnecessary.

The design is apparently to stimulate men to appreciate God’s overruling providence in the marvelous way he has arranged in the world of nature to care for and feed the myriad creatures of the earth. Apparently Jesus had the same purpose in mind when he spoke of the sparrow, declaring that, "Not one of them shall fall on the ground without your Father" (Matthew 10:29), "and not one of them is forgotten in the sight of God" (Luke 12:6).

The deductions that Jesus made from such statements are also important. "Are ye not of more value than many sparrows?" "The very hairs of your head are numbered" Is there really anything that the child of God should worry about?

E.M. Zerr:

Psalms 104:24. This verse is a fitting summing up of the great works of the Lord. Having specified some of them, the Psalmist concludes with this general statement regarding the products of the land and their several uses.

Psalms 104:25. Passing from the wonders of the dry land, David takes up the vast realm of the seas that occupies most of the surface of the globe. Creeping is from an original with more general meaning than we are accustomed to give to it. The word merely means to move, and refers to all living things that go from place to place on their own power. That would include the fish as well as mammals that live in the ocean.

Psalms 104:26. The ocean is so formed that man can travel on its bosom, while in its vastness underneath, the leviathan (some kind of large water animal) can play (be perfectly at home) and move about at will.

Psalms 104:27. These as a pronoun refers to the leviathans mentioned in the preceding verse. They are powerful creatures, yet they must wait upon God, or depend on him.

Psalms 104:28. Openest thine hand is understood to refer to the handiwork of God in providing for the needs of these living things.

Psalms 104:9. This verse is to show the dependence of even the sea monsters upon God. When (or if) He hides his face, these creatures are troubled because of their helplessness. Should this desertion continue it would result in the death of them, and they would return to the source from which they were formed. (Genesis 3:19.)

Psalms 104:30. This verse is very general, because all things were created by the power and through the spirit of God. To renew means to enliven and keep alive the things belonging to the face of the earth. In other words, God started the existence of all things, and he it is who keeps them in existence.

Verses 31-35

Psa 104:31-35

Psalms 104:31-35

PRAISE AND GLORY TO GOD FOREVER

"Let the glory of Jehovah endure forever;

Let Jehovah rejoice in his works:

Who looketh on the earth, and it trembleth;

He toucheth the mountains, and they smoke.

I will sing unto Jehovah as long as I live:

I will sing praise to my God while I have any being.

Let my meditation be sweet unto him:

I will rejoice in Jehovah.

Let sinners be consumed out of the earth.

And let the wicked be no more,

Bless Jehovah, O my soul.

Praise ye Jehovah."

"The earth ... it trembleth ... the mountains ... they smoke" (Psalms 104:32). These are obvious references to earthquakes and volcanos; and the fact that men have some small scientific understanding of such things does not take away the fact that they are nevertheless God’s doings. As a matter of fact, all of the great disturbances of man’s peace and prosperity on earth such as earthquakes, volcanos, floods, tornadoes, cyclones, hurricanes, droughts, climatic changes, untimely freezes, etc., etc., are, in all probability, merely the heavenly extension of God’s curse upon the earth "for Adam’s sake" (Genesis 3:18-19). God is surely the "first cause" of all such things, the design of which is clear enough. God simply does not intend that rebellious and sinful men should be able to make themselves too comfortable on earth. Such disasters as those mentioned, and others, are designed to prevent that.

Regarding that primeval curse upon the earth in Genesis 3:18-19, a proper interpretation of the "Trumpets" of Revelation (chapter 8) shows that God is still providentially monitoring the earth and conditions therein as a judgment upon sinful men.

"I will sing ... I will sing ... I will rejoice ..." (Psalms 104:33-34). These words carry the pledge of the psalmist of his undying love of Jehovah and of his intention to sing and shout his praises as long as he has life and breath. By implication, it is also his prayer that all who hear his words will join him in so doing.

THE IMPRECATION "Let sinners be consumed out of the earth. And let the wicked be no more" (Psalms 104:35). Some love to find fault with an imprecation of this kind; but inasmuch as such a wish is absolutely in harmony with the will of God, being in fact exactly what God has promised to do in the Second Advent, we shall allow it to stand without any comment of our own about how superior the Christian attitude is to such a cruel wish as this.

It is our opinion that Christians should accept into their theology the principle that God totally abhors evil, and that upon the occasion appointed by his own eternal will, he will cast evil out of this universe; and that is exactly what the psalmist prayed for in these lines.

E.M. Zerr:

Psalms 104:31. When God had finished his creative work he declared it was "very good" (Genesis 1:31). He has never changed his estimate of the great works. That is why David here says the glory of the Lord shall endure for ever. The additional thought is given to strengthen the one just expressed in that the Lord shall rejoice in his works.

Psalms 104:32. Trembleth and smoke are figures of speech, meaning the complete dependence of all the earth upon God.

Psalms 104:33. The greatness of the works and goodness of God caused David to sing praises. This vow was made in view of the many excellencies of which he had been writing.

Psalms 104:34. Not only would the Psalmist audibly sing the praises of God, but he would meditate upon them when alone. This was according to what he wrote in Psalms 1:2.

Psalms 104:35. The sinners in this particular connection would be those who do not appreciate the wonderful works of God. David considered them as unworthy to live in the enjoyment of the blessings of the Lord.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Psalms 104". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/psalms-104.html.
 
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