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Thursday, July 18th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 103

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 2962. B.C. 1042.

This Psalm contains a thankful commemoration and celebration of God’s mercies to the psalmist himself, to the people of Israel, and to all good men. “It may properly be said to describe the wonders of grace, as the following Psalm describes the wonders of nature.” David excites himself to praise God for the mercies of redemption and salvation, Psalms 103:1-5 . Celebrates the divine goodness to Moses and Israel, Psalms 103:6 , Psalms 103:7 . Sets forth God’s philanthropy to mankind in general, Psalms 103:8-13 . Describes man’s frail and perishing state, Psalms 103:14-16 . Leads him for comfort to the everlasting mercy of God in Christ, Psalms 103:17-19 . Calls upon heaven and earth to join with him in praising God, Psalms 103:20-22 .

Verses 1-3

Psalms 103:1-3. All that is within me, bless his holy name Let all my thoughts and affections be engaged, united, and raised to the highest pitch in and for this work. Forget not all his benefits In order to our duty, praising God for his mercies, it is necessary we should have a grateful remembrance of them. And we may be assured we do forget the m, in the sense here meant by the psalmist, if we do not give sincere and hearty thanks for them. Who forgiveth all thine iniquities This is mentioned first, because, by the pardon of sin, that which prevented our receiving good things is taken away, and we are restored to the favour of God, which ensures good things to us, and bestows them upon us. Who healeth all thy diseases Spiritual diseases, the diseases of the soul. The corruption of nature is the sickness of the soul: it is its disorder, and threatens its death. This is cured by sanctification. In proportion as sin is mortified, the disease is healed. These two, pardon and holiness, go together, at least a degree of the latter always accompanies the former: if God take away the guilt of sin by pardoning mercy, he also breaks the power of it by renewing grace. Where Christ is made righteousness to any soul, he is also made sanctification to it in a great measure; for, if any man be in Christ he is a new creature: old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new.

Verses 4-5

Psalms 103:4-5. Who redeemeth thy life from destruction Both temporal and eternal; from deadly dangers and miseries. Who crowneth thee with lovingkindness That is, encompasseth and adorneth thee therewith, as with a crown. Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things Satisfieth all thy just desires and necessities. So that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s That is, as some interpret the words, As the eagle appears to renew her youth with her plumage, when she casts off all her old feathers, and gets new ones, whereby she seems to grow young again. But, as this is common to all birds, it is hardly to be supposed that the psalmist would have alluded to it here as if it were peculiar to the eagle. This circumstance, however, is most observable in hawks, vultures, and especially in eagles, which, when they are near a hundred years old, cast their feathers and become bald, like young ones, and then new feathers sprout out. But the psalmist seems chiefly to refer to the long lives of eagles, and their great strength and vigour at a very advanced age. Hence the old age of an eagle is used proverbially for a lively and vigorous old age.

Verses 6-7

Psalms 103:6-7. The Lord executeth judgment for all that are oppressed Which, being a singular perfection, and one wherein most of the princes of the world were and are defective, is justly celebrated in God. He made known his ways unto Moses His laws, often called his ways; or, the methods of his dealing with men, and especially with his people; his merciful and gracious nature and providence, which is particularly called God’s way, Exodus 33:13, compared with Psalms 103:18-19, and chap. Psalms 34:6-7, and which is here described in the following verses. His acts, &c. His marvellous and gracious works.

Verses 8-10

Psalms 103:8-10. The Lord is merciful and gracious See on Exodus 34:6. Slow to anger Not speedily punishing sinners, but patiently waiting for their repentance. He will not always chide Or contend by his judgments with sinners, but is ready to be reconciled to them, namely, upon their repentance, as is manifest from innumerable texts, and from the whole scope and design of the Scriptures. Neither will he keep his anger for ever The word anger, though not in the original, is necessarily understood here, as it is also Jeremiah 3:5, and in many other places. He hath not dealt with us after our sins He hath punished us less than our iniquities have deserved.

Verses 11-13

Psalms 103:11-13. As the heaven, &c., so great is his mercy So much above our deserts and expectations, and above the mercy which one man shows to another; toward them that fear him Which clause he adds here, as also Psalms 103:17-18, to prevent men’s mistakes and abuses of God’s mercy, and to overthrow the vain hopes which impenitent sinners build thereon. As far as the east, &c., so far hath he removed our transgressions The guilt of our sins, from our persons and consciences. The sense is, He hath fully pardoned them so as never to remember them more. Like as a father pitieth, &c. No father can be more indulgent and tender hearted to his returning children, than the Lord is to those who so reform, by his chastisements, as to fear afterward to offend him. Thus, in these three verses, “we are presented with three of the most beautiful, apposite, and comforting similitudes in the world. When we lift up our eyes, and behold around us the lofty and stupendous vault of heaven, encircling, protecting, enlightening, refreshing, and cherishing the earth, and all things which are therein, we are bidden to contemplate, in this glass, the immeasurable height, the boundless extent, and the salutary influences of that mercy which, as it were, embraced the creation, and is over all the works of God. Often as we view the sun arising in the sea, and darkness flying away before his face toward the opposite quarter of the heavens, we may see an image of that goodness of Jehovah, whereby we are placed in the regions of illumination, and our sins are removed, and put far away out of his sight. And, that our hearts may, at all times, have confidence toward God, he is represented as bearing toward us the fond and tender affection of a father, ever ready to defend, to nourish, and to provide for us, to bear with us, to forgive us, and receive us in the paternal arms of everlasting love.” Horne. “One would think it impossible,” says another eminent divine, “if daily experience did not convince us to the contrary, that human creatures should be regardless of such love, and ungrateful to so solicitous a benefactor! For my own part, I cannot conceive it possible for any heart to be unaffected or uninfluenced by such a composition as this before us.”

Verses 14-16

Psalms 103:14-16. For he knoweth our frame The weakness and mortality of our natures, and the frailty and misery of our condition, (as the expression seems to be explained in the following clause) That we are but dust And that if he should let loose his hand upon us, we should be irrecoverably destroyed. For, as for man Fallen, mortal man; his days are as grass Which grows out of the earth, rises but a little way above it, and soon withers and returns to it again: see Isaiah 40:6-7. As a flower of the field If man, in his best estate, seem somewhat more than grass; if he flourish in health and strength, youth and beauty, riches and honour; if he look fresh and fair, gay and lovely, glorious and powerful; yet even then he is but as a flower which, though distinguished a little from the grass, will wither with it; yea, as a flower of the field Which is more exposed to winds and other violences than the flowers of the garden, that are secured by the art and care of the gardener; so he flourisheth Unfolds his beauty in youth, and flourishes a while in the vigour of manhood; but the wind A blasting or blighting wind, unseen and unlooked for; passeth over it Over the flower, even when it is in its perfection; and it is gone It droops, shrinks, and bows its head; its leaves fall off, and it sinks into the ground that gave it birth. And the place thereof shall know it no more There is no more any appearance or remembrance of it in the place where it stood and flourished. Thus the life of man is not only wasting of itself, but its period is liable to be anticipated by a thousand accidents. If the breath of the divine displeasure pass over him, and God, with rebukes, correct him for iniquity, his beauty consumes away like a moth fretting a garment: his comeliness and vigour; his prosperity, wealth, and glory; his health, strength, and life, waste away gradually, or vanish suddenly; and he bows his drooping head and mingles again with his native dust; his friends and his companions look for him at the accustomed spot which he once adorned, but in vain: the earth has opened her mouth to receive him, and his place shall know him no more.

Verses 17-18

Psalms 103:17-18. But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting, &c. But though we quickly decay and perish, yet God’s mercy to us doth not die with us, but, as it was from eternity exercised in gracious purposes, so it will be continued unto eternity in that future and endless life which is before us; upon them that fear him That is, upon them that are truly religious: see above on Psalms 103:11. And his righteousness unto children’s children Either his faithfulness, or his benignity, the word being frequently used in both these senses, as has been shown before. But it is here called righteousness, to intimate that God’s kindness to the posterity of his people is not only an act of his goodness, but also a discharge of the obligation under which he had laid himself to them, as elsewhere, so especially Exodus 20:6, to which this place seems to relate. To such as keep his covenant To them that, through his grace, perform the condition of God’s covenant, that sincerely love and obey him. Such restrictions are often added, as, in the general, to overthrow the presumptuous hopes of ungodly men, so particularly to admonish the Israelites not to rest too much on the privileges of their parents, or the covenant made with them, nor to expect any benefit by it but upon condition of their continuance in God’s covenant. And to those that remember his commandments That have them much in their thoughts, and practise them in the course of their lives.

Verse 19

Psalms 103:19. The Lord hath prepared, &c. Having celebrated God’s mercy to his people, he now praises him for his excellent majesty and universal dominion; his throne in the heavens Which expression denotes the eminence, glory, power, stability, and unchangeableness of God’s kingdom; and his kingdom ruleth over all Over all creatures, both in heaven and earth.

Verses 20-22

Psalms 103:20-22. Bless the Lord, ye his angels Who, though glorious creatures, are but his ministers and messengers, as the word signifies. And by inviting the angels to bless God he excites men to the same duty, as having more dependance upon God, and obligation to him. That excel in strength Of which see one evidence, 2 Kings 19:35. You are freed from the inabilities and infirmities of mankind; that do his commandments That live in a universal, constant, and perfect obedience to all God’s commands; hearkening unto the voice of his word Who diligently wait for his commands, and execute them with all cheerfulness and readiness. Bless the Lord, all ye his hosts The angels again, to whom he still continues his address, and whom he more particularly describes by the name of hosts, a title often given to them on account of their vast numbers, mighty power, unanimous concurrence, and exquisite order. Ye ministers of his The Hebrew word משׁרתיו , mesharethaiv, thus rendered, is commonly used of the highest and most honourable sort of servants; that do his pleasure Whose constant business and delight it is to execute his orders and fulfil his will. Bless the Lord, all his works, in all places of his dominion All creatures, both in heaven and earth, according to your several capacities. Bless the Lord, O my soul Which thou hast especial and abundant reason to do. Thus he ends the Psalm with the same words wherewith he began it.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 103". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/psalms-103.html. 1857.
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