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Bible Commentaries

Scott's Explanatory Notes, Practical Observations on the book Psalms

Psalms 104

Verses 1-35

Psalms 104:1-35.

V. 1. The Septuagint ascribe this psalm to David ; and as it opens with the same words, which both begin and close the preceding Psalm, some expositors conjecture that it was written at the same time. (Notes, Psalms 103:1-2; Psalms 103:20-22.) The Psalmist ’ celebrates the mighty power ’ and goodness of God, in the fabrick of the world ; as the ’ hundred and third doth his benefits to himself, and to the ’ rest of the children of men.’ Bp. Patrick. ’ The prophet sheweth that we need not to enter into the heavens ’ to seek God ; for as much as all the order of nature, with ’ the propriety and placing of the elements, are most lively ’ mirrours to see his majesty in.’ He manifests himself in each of his works ; and though he himself is invisible, yet his garments of glory and beauty are every where most clearly seen. (Notes, 2. Psalms 93:1. Is. 59: 16-19. Daniel 7:9-12. Romans 1:18-20.)

V. 2. The formation of light was the beginning of the work of this visible creation, by which God discovered his glory in the beauty and excellency of his other works. (Notes, Genesis 1:3-5; Genesis 1:14-19. Job 38:19-21. Is. 45: 7. 2 Corinthians 4:5-6.) Knowledge, wisdom, purity, and felicity, are denoted by the emblem of light ; and with these the Lord is most gloriously arrayed.

(Notes, Psalms 97:11. Colossians 1:9-14; 1 John 1:5-7.) ’ Thou art kept from all mortal eyes by that inaccessible light, wherein thou dwellest above.’ (Note, 1 Timothy 6:13-16.) The writers of the New Testament expressly ascribe the work of creation to the divine Saviour : and when, at his transfiguration, " his " face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as "the light;" he gave his disciples a glimpse of "that " glory, which he had with the Father, before the world " was." (Notes and P. O. Matthew 17:1-13. Notes, John 1:4-5. Revelation 1:12-20.) ’ The spacious heavens are the ( royal pavilion, which thy sovereign power hath extended, ’ like a canopy, for thy Majesty, in this great palace of ’ the world.’ Bp. Patrick, (Psalms 48:8. Notes, Psalms 102:25-28. Is.40. 21- 24. Psalms 45:12-13.)

V. 3. JEHOVAH is here represented, as building the upper stories of his magnificent palace, in those waters above the firmament, whence the clouds are formed ; upon which he comes riding as in a chariot, when by his thunder and lightning he appals or destroys the inhabitants of the earth : and he " walketh upon the wings of the wind," when storms and tempests execute his commands. (Notes, 2 Samuel 22:7-16. Is. 19: 1. Amos 9:5-6. Nahum 1:2-6. Matthew 26:63-68. Revelation 1:7) ’ How astonishingly magnificent and tremendous is the idea ... of the great King, ’ riding upon the heavens, encompassed with clouds and ’ darkness, attended by the lightnings, those ready exe’ cutioners of his vengeance, and causing the world to re’ sound and tremble at the thunder of his power.’ Bp. Home.

V. 4. The old translation of this verse is strictly literal, " Which maketh the spirits his messengers, and a flaming " fire his ministers." The word rendered " spirits " may, however, be translated winds. ’ As the prophet here ’ sheweth, that all visible powers are ready to serve God ; * so the apostle to the Hebrews 1:7; beholdeth in this glass, ’ how the very angels also are obedient to his commandment.’ ’ He sends his angels, (and what king is there ’ that hath such noble ministers ?) sometimes in vehement ’ winds, and sometimes in lightning and thunder, whereby ’ they execute his royal pleasure." Bp. Patrick. ’ Who ’ maketh those glorious spirits of heaven his messengers ; ’ and causeth them to appear in the forms of fire ; and ’ maketh both the winds and the fire to execute those offices ’ of revenge, or preservation, which he committeth to ’ them.’ Bp. Hall. The apostle’s infallible exposition, however, seems to include the whole ministration of angels, and to confine the verse to that subject ; whence we learn that the holy angels are swift, like the wind, in obeying the commands of the Lord ; and as a flame of fire with love and zeal.

(Note, Hebrews 1:5-7)

V. 5. The great Creator so formed the earth, and orden-d every thing respecting it, as to provide effectually, that it should preserve its relative situation in the universe, and its regular course, without deviation, perpetually, until the appointed time for its final dissolution. (Notes, Psalms 24:1-2. Psalms 93:1-2 Psalms 96:10. Job 38:4-7. Revelation 20:11-15.)

V. 6- 9. In the beginning the waters covered the whole chaotiek mass, so that no mountains appeared above them : but at the voice of the Creator, which was as thunder, they hasted away. " And the mountains ascend, and the " valleys descend, to the place which thou hast established " for them. But thou hast set them " (the waters) " a w bound which they shall not pass : they shall not return " to cover the earth." (8, 9.) This is the old version : it accords with the Septuagint, and is more clear than the present translation. ’ Immediately the dry land was seen; ’ part of which, by thy wonderful contrivance, O LORD, ’ rose up in lofty hills ; and the rest sunk down in lowly ’ valleys ; where thou hast cut channels for the waters to ’ run into the main ocean, the place thou hast appointed ’ for them : and there, though they restlessly toss and ’ swell ; yet they cannot get over the shores, wherein thou ’ hast inclosed them, nor shall they ever recover their ’ former liberty, to overflow the earth again.’ Bp. Patiick. ’ Upon thy command the waters sunk down into one ’ place, so as the hills, (thereupon appearing,) seemed to 1 ascend, and the valleys to go down into their settled hol’ lowness : thither, by thy divine appointment, did the ’ waters gather themselves, and there abide.’ Bp. Hall.

(Notes, Genesis 1:2-9. Job 38:8-11. Proverbs 8:26-30. Jeremiah 5:20-25.) Some suppose that the retiring of the waters after the deluge was meant;’ and the clauses, " the waters stood above the mountains," and " that they " turn not again to’cover the earth," favour the interpretation. ’ The process at the creation was so exactly similar ’ to that at the deluge, with regard to the circumstances ’ here mentioned, that it matters not to which we apply ’ the beautiful and truly poetical passage before us. In ’ both cases, the earth was covered with the waters, as ’ with a garment, in every part ; in both cases they fled at ’ the Almighty word, like the scattered remains of a routed ’ army ; from the heights of the mountains, whither they ’ had ascended, they sunk down into the valleys ; and ’ from the valleys they retired to the bed of the ocean.’ Bp. Home. Yet the Psalmist is speaking of creation: and a single exception (the miracle of the deluge,) does hot abrogate the general rule, which is often spoken of. (Nates, Genesis 7:10-23; Genesis 8:13; Genesis 8:20-22; Genesis 9:9-17 - Is. 54. 6- 10. Amos 9:5-6. Matthew 8:23-27. 2 Peter 3:5-7.)

V. 10, 11. ’The waters of the sea are not only pre’ vented from destroying the earth, but, by a wonderful ’ machinery, are rendered the means of preserving every ’ living thing which moveth thereon. Partly ascending ’ from the great deep, through the strata of the earth, ’ partly exhaled in vapour from the surface of the ocean ’ into the air, and from thence falling in rain, especially on ’ the tops, and by the sides of mountains, they break forth ’ in fresh springs, having left their salts behind them; they ’ trickle through the valleys between the hills, receiving ’ new supplies as they go ; they become large rivers, and after watering, by their innumerable turnings and windings, immense tracts of country, they return to the place from whence they came. Thus every animal hath an opportunity of quenching that thirst, which must otherwise soon put a period to its existence. The " wild asses " are ’ particularly mentioned ; because they live in remote and ’ sandy deserts : yet they ... are, by the God of nature, ’ taught the way to the waters ; insomuch that the parched ’ traveller ... findeth them to be the best guides in the world ; ’ and needeth only to ... follow the herds of them descending to the streams.’ Bp. Home. (Notes, 27- 30. Genesis 1:9. Job 39:5-8. Is. 41: 17- 20; 43: 14- 21.)

V. 12. By the springs of waters, in the valleys, the birds delight to build their nests ; and, concealed in the branches of the trees, to pour out their cheerful notes. ’ The musick of birds was the first song of thanksgiving ’ which was offered from the earth, before man was formed. ’ All their sounds are different, but all harmonious ; and ’ altogether compose a choir which we cannot imitate.’ Wesley in Bp. Home. (Marg. Ref.)

V. 1 3.’ As for the hills, which constantly thus enrich ’ the lower grounds, he waters them from the regions ’ above ; whence dews distil, and showers of rain come ’ pouring down.’ Bp. Patrick. (Notes, 3. Amos 9:5-6.) Thus the whole earth is satisfied and enriched, by " the " fruit" or effects of the Lord’s most wonderful contrivance. (Notes,Psalms 65:8-13 )

V. 14, 15. ’He describeth God’s provident care over ’ man, who doth not only provide necessary things for him, ’ as herbs and other meat; but also things to rejoice and ’ comfort him, as wine, and oil, or ointments.’ Under the word herb, all kinds of corn, pulse, and vegetable food are comprised ; and likewise the produce of the vineyards and olive- yards. (Marg. Ref. Notes, Genesis 1:11-12. Judges 9:8-15. Matthew 26:29.) Bread and wine, and oil, and every thing useful for man and beast, are produced from the soil, according to the purpose and power of God. He could have sent all down from the clouds, as he did the manna, had he seen good.

V 16. The largest trees, and the most flourishing, as the cedars of Lebanon, grow without man’s care. They are, both on this account, and also by reason of their magnitude, "the trees of the LORD, ...which he hath plant" ed ; " yet by no means comparable to " the trees of right" cousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be " glorified." (Notes, Psalms 92:12-15. Is. 61. 1-3.)

V. 17, 18. (Note, 12.) ’Most admirable is that wisdom and understanding, which the Creator hath imparted ’ to the birds of the air, whereby they distinguish times ’ and seasons, choose the properest places, construct their ’ nest with an art and exactness unattainable by man, and ’ secure and provide for their young.’ Bp. Home. The kind and condescending attention of the omnipotent Creator, to the meanest of his creatures, as thus introduced along with his special regard to man, is very beautiful and affecting to a serious mind. (Marg. Ref. Note, Proverbs 30:24-28.)

V. 19. The Psalmist next celebrates the wisdom of God, in the motions and revolutions of the heavenly bodies. The moon divides time into months, and its changes divide the months also : the seasons of the year were anciently computed by moons, and the Jewish festivals were fixed in the same manner. ’The sun, or solar light ... seemeth to know the exact time of its coming on, and going off, arid fulfilleth the course prescribed to it without the least deviation.’ Bp. Home.

(Notes, Genesis 1:14-19. Leviticus 23:4. Numbers 28:11-15. Deuteronomy 4:19. Job 38:12-15; Job 5:12; Psalms 74:13-17 - Jeremiah 31:35-37.)

V. 20- 23. The bountiful and wise Creator has so ordered it, that the beasts of prey naturally shun the light, and seldom leave their dens, till it is dark, and man is retired to his rest : so that there is no great danger from them, even in the regions where they most abound, except in the night-time. Then they range abroad, and, in their way, " seek their meat from God ; " till the sun arises, and man returns to his work, and then they retire to their dens. (Marg. Ref. Notes, Genesis 1:3-5. Is. 45: 7 Wicked men, who choose darkness, as best suited to the commission of their crimes with secrecy and impunity, and who " hate the light " of God’s word, " because their " deeds are evil," resemble the savage beasts, in this and many other respects:

(Notes, Job 24:13-17 - John 3:19-21. Romans 13:11-14. Ephesians 5:8-14. 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3:) as do they also, who spend the night in revels and dissipation, and retire to rest when they ought to set about some useful employment ; for thus they seem to renounce their kindred to the human species, and to be ambitious of a relation to the wild beasts of the forest. In nations which

sit in darkness for want of revelation, Satan seems to have permission to range and devour at pleasure : (Note, Exodus 22:18:) but when "the Sun of Righteousness" arises, this roaring lion has his power diminished, and men are stirred up to " labour for the meat which endureth unto " everlasting life."

V. 24. . ’ Transported with a survey of the wonders ’ which present themselves in heaven above, and on earth ’ below, the Psalmist breaks forth into an exclamation, ’ (and what heart has not already anticipated him ?) on the ’ variety and magnificence, the harmony and proportion, ’ of the works of God, in this outward, and visible, and ’ perishable world. What then are the miracles of grace ’ and glory ! What are those invisible and eternal things, ’ " which God hath prepared for them that love him ! " Bp. Home.

(Notes, Psalms 8:3-9. Psalms 139:17-18. Romans 11:33-36. 1 Corinthians 2:6-9. Ephesians 3:9-12.)

V. 25, 26. ’ This great and spacious sea also, which seems to embrace the earth in its arms, is no less full of ’ thy wonderful works.’ Bp. Patrick. ’ There is not in ’ all nature a more august and striking object than the ’ ocean. Its inhabitants are as numerous as those upon the ’ land ; nor is the wisdom and power of the Creator less ’ displayed, perhaps, in their formation and preservation, ’ from the smallest fish that swims, to the enormous tyrant ’ of the deep, the leviathan himself. By means of navigation, Providence hath opened a communication between ’ tin: most distant parts of the globe; the largest solid ’ bodies are wafted with incredible swiftness, upon one ’ fluid, by the impulse of another, and seas join the countries which they appear to divide.’ Bp. Home. (Note, Genesis 1:9.) ’ There the ships sail as swiftly as the fishes ’ swim; fetching us the riches both of sea and land: and ’ there that great leviathan (in forming of whom thou ’ hast shewn thy mighty power,) finds room enough to thimble up and down, and sport himself in his absolute dominion over all that the sea contains.’ Bp. Patrick.

Many authors, and among the rest, Bishop Patrick, in commenting on Job, suppose the leviathan to mean the crocodile : but the text before us so fully decides the leviathan to be an inhabitant of the sea, that this respectable author paraphrases it, in direct opposition to his exposition of the scripture before referred to ! (Notes,Psalms 74:13-17 - Job 12:1-25: Isaiah 27:1.) The word, rendered "things creeping," is used concerning the fishes, in the history of the creation : and as none of them, properly speaking, have legs and feet, and many of them in great measure lie and crawl at the bottom of the water ; there is a propriety in considering them as a peculiar species of reptiles. (Genesis 1:20. marg.) Beasts. (25) Or, " Living creatures." (Note, Revelation 4:6-8.)

V. 27- 30. The immense creation, forming one great family, maintained upon the riches and bounty of JEHOVAH, as the great Householder, is a very striking idea : whilst at his will one generation of creatures perish, a new generation succeeds ; and successive crops of vegetable productions renew and cover the face of the earth. (Marg. Ref.

Notes, Matthew 6:25-32.) The Holy Spirit seems to be spoken of in Scripture, as the immediate agent in giving and preserving life, both natural, spiritual, and eternal. (Notes, Psalms 33:4-6, Psalms 5:6. Genesis 1:2. Job 33:1-7; Job 5:4.)

V. 31. The old version here is, " Glory be to the " LORD for ever; let the LORD rejoice in his works." Our present translation is more literal : but the variation shews, that no certain rule has been adopted, in rendering such passages ; some being rendered in the future, as predictions, others as prayers, in the imperative ; and that the context in .general must determine in which sense we should understand them. ’ All future ages shall praise, ’ as well as we, the same power, and wisdom, and good’ ness of the Lord ; which appear so gloriously in all his ’ works, that he himself is still delighted in the continu’ ance of them, as he was at first in their contrivance.’ Bp. Patrick.

(Marg. Ref. Notes, Genesis 1:31. Is. 62. 1- 5. Jeremiah 32:39-41. Zephaniah 3:14-17. Luke 15:3-7; Luke 15:22-32. 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10.)

V. 32. ’ At his presence the very earth trembles, and the mountains, as our fathers saw at mount Sinai, are ’ full of fire and smoke.’ Bp. Patrick. It is probable, however, that earthquakes and volcanos, as terrific displays of the Creator’s power, (in whatever way men account for them,) were also intended ; and perhaps there may be some reference to the last general conflagration.

(Marg. Ref. Notes, 2, 3. Exodus 19:16-20. Hebrews 3:3-5. Hebrews 12:18-21. 2 Peter 3:10-13.)

V. 33. Notes, Psalms 145:1-2. Psalms 146:2.

V. 34. Meditation on the glorious perfections of God, as displayed in all his works of creation and providence ; and still more, as harmoniously manifested in his works of redemption and grace ; must be delightful to the soul, in proportion as it becomes spiritually minded. For it excites the most pleasing sensations of adoring, complacent, and grateful love, with admiration still more and more augmented, by further discoveries of the manifold wisdom, righteousness, faithfulness, and mercy of our God ; and creating a sort of triumphant exultation, combined with confidence and self-congratulation, that this most glorious God is become our Salvation and our God, our Father, our Friend and Portion for ever. The felicity of heaven, no doubt, greatly consists in the joy of such contemplations, and rapturous adorations and thanksgivings ; the beginning of this happy frame of mind is the earnest of heaven ; and the capacity of delighting in such meditations and praises, is in good measure " the meetness for the inheritance of " the saints in light." (Notes, Psalms 1:1-3; Psalms 63:1-6. Psalms 139:17-18. Philippians 4:4.)

V. 35. Let the sinners, &c.] Or, " The sinners shall " be consumed, &c." (Marg. Ref. Note,Psalms 68:1-3.) The Psalmist concludes as he began, " Bless thou the " LORD, O my soul ; " only calling on all that read and sing the psalm, and on all creatures, to join with him in praising the eternal and glorious God of heaven and earth: Hallelujah. (Notes,Psalms 68:4. Psalms 103:1-2; Psalms 103:20-22.)


V. 1-11.

Every object, which we behold or reflect on, may remind us to bless and praise the Lord, who is very great, and arrayed with majesty, glory, and excellency, infinitely surpassing our comprehension. " His eternal power and " Godhead " are clearly seen, by the things which he has made : his glory, like the sun, becomes visible by its own splendour ; and they are without excuse, who do not love, and thank, and worship him. (Note, Romans 1:18-23.) The heavens stretched forth as his curtain ; the light as his magnificent garment ; the clouds as his chambers, or his chariot ; the winds and flames as his servants and messengers ; and the holy angels, executing his commands with inconceivable zeal, alacrity, and promptitude, are so many demonstrations of his power and authority ; and shew that all his creatures serve him, apostate spirits, and apostate man, alone excepted. The less we can comprehend of the manner, in which the Creator retains the earth in its course, and the seasons in their order ; the more we should admire and adore his power, wisdom, and goodness : and while we consider the numerous and invaluable advantages, which we derive from the ocean, and from the wonderful process, by which the earth is watered from that great reservoir ; we should remember to bless the Lord for his faithfulness to Noah and his posterity.

V. 12-30.

In these verses we are called on to observe, admire, and adore the wisdom, love, and power of God, in the instinctive propensities of all animals ; by which they are not only led to the means of their own preservation, and the continuance of each species, but are rendered subservient to our comfort and benefit. And when we reflect on the provision, which the bounteous Creator has made for the wants of all his creatures, we should also notice the natural worship, so to speak, which they render unto him ; while the feathered songsters warble his praises, and even the lions, roaring in the woods, " seek their meat " from God." Yet man, forgetful and ungrateful man, is favoured with the largest measure of his kindness : to him he gives all things richly to enjoy ; not only bringing food out of the earth, but wine and oil for his exhilaration and pleasure. He has put the animal tribes under his dominion : even those, which render him no service, stand in awe of him, and are taught to retire to their dens, when the rising sun calls him to his work ; and in general they only venture forth, when night has drawn her sable curtain to favour his repose. Well then may we break forth in admiration, and say, " O LORD, how manifold are thy " works ! in wisdom hast thou made them all : the earth is " full of thy riches ! " For the seas and the dry land, the air, and even the bowels of the earth, are abundantly replenished with useful treasures for the service of man. Yet let us remember that we are pensioners, and, in some

sense, fellow commoners, with the inferior creatures ; which " all wait upon the LORD," who " giveth them " their meat in due season ; " which gather what he gives, and are examples to us of contentment and moderation. Let us also recollect, that death, which sweeps away the innumerable multitudes of living creatures that people the earth, and makes room for successive generations, first entered by man’s sin ; and likewise that we are not sent into the world, as leviathan into the great deep, " to play " therein ; " either by living merely for amusement, or by preying upon our inferiors. We have much to do : we arc sentenced to eat our bread in the sweat of our brow ; and he who does nothing useful to society, lives upon the labour of others. We ought, therefore, to " work out " our own salvation," to improve our talents, and to serve our generation, from the morning to the evening of our lives; and then the faithful servant will enter into rest, and the slothful will be called to a severe account. Man alone lives beyond death. When the Lord takes away his breath, his soul enters on another state of existence ; and his body shall at length be raised either to eternal glory or misery. May the Lord then send forth his Spirit, and new create our souls to holiness ; and renew the face of the earth by the conversion of sinners.

V. 31-35.

The power of the glorious God will be found at last, and often is seen to be at present, as terrible to the impenitent workers of iniquity, as beneficial to his humble worshippers and devoted servants : and in every way " his glory shall endure for ever ; the LORD " shall rejoice in his works." If he look with a frown upon the earth, it trembles ; if he touch the hills in anger, they smoke, and kindle into a flame ; and at length " the " day of the Lord will come ... in which the elements " shall melt with fervent heat ; the earth also, and the " works that are therein, shall be burnt up : " and then sinners, however numerous or powerful, shall perish without hope and for ever. But those who trust in his mercy, and love his name, shall sing his praises as long as they have their being, even to eternal ages. And if meditation on the glories of creation be so sweet to the soul ; what superior glories must appear to the enlightened mind, Avhen contemplating the great work of redemption ! There all the divine perfections, with combined splendour, beam upon the soul, exciting astonishment, love, gratitude, and joy : there spiritual riches are discerned, far more unsearchable, than those temporal treasures which supply the wants of the whole visible creation : and there alone can a sinner perceive ground of confidence, and joy in God. While then we thankfully receive, and use moderately, and fear to abuse, the bounty of Providence; while we learn to trust in him who feeds the young lions, assured that he will not desert his children ; let us fix our attention and choice on " that good part, which shall " never be taken from us : " and not only let us shew our gratitude by fervent songs of praise, and by exciting, as far as we are able, all around us, to join in this delightful and heavenly employment ; but by devoting ourselves, all we have and are, to the service of our God, and imitating his liberality and mercy, as we have opportunity and ability

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Scott, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 104". Scott's Explanatory Notes, Practical Observations on the book Psalms. 1804.