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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments
Psalms 104

 

 

Verses 1-35

This psalm has no title in the Hebrew, but it is ascribed to David by the LXX, and by most of the Versions. It celebrates the works of God in the creation of the world, and in strains worthy of the royal psalmist.

Psalms 104:2. With light as with a garment. St. Paul says, “he dwelleth in light.” He said in the creation, “Let there be light.” He appeared of old in glory, and in a cloud. The heathen poets represent the gods as appearing clothed in luminous clouds, or with a rainbow.

Psalms 104:3. Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters; who maketh the clouds his chariot. See on Deuteronomy 33:26. The dense clouds are represented as the secret chambers of the Most High, where he prepares the rain, and whence he utters his voice in thunders.

Psalms 104:4. Who maketh his angels spirits, like the soul of man. Genesis 2:7. The French bibles read, “He makes winds his angels, [messengers] and burning fire his servants.” How does he do that? Answer; He bade the fires burn Sodom and Gomorrah. He blew with his wind, and the sea was divided. But if these ideas be all, why does he say spirits, in the plural number, while the elements, wind and fire, are in the singular? He rode on the wings of the wind:—the Highest gave his voice, hailstones and coals of fire. Did not hosts of angels attend his chariot; and are not the seraphim his burning ones? The angels in the cloud of his presence are the shining of a flaming fire. There can be no doubt but St. Paul, who wrote to the Hebrew christians with the utmost caution and care, had the highest rabbinical authority for applying this text to angels in the plural number, and not to wind and fire. The rabbins are all agreed that the angels are servants of the Messiah, and swell the glory of his train.

Psalms 104:6-8. The waters stood above the mountains. At thy rebuke they fled— they go up by the mountains; they go down by the valleys. This alludes to the play of the tides for the long space of about three hundred days, during the flood of Noah, by which the old world perished, and new hills were made. See on Genesis 8:3; Genesis 9:13. Mr. Merrick, in his new version of the Psalms, has correctly preserved this idea, which has the sanction of De Saussure, of the Abbe la Pluche, and of Humboldt.

He spake—and o’er the mountain head,

The deep its wat’ry mantle spread;

And first adown their bending side,

With refluent stream the current tide.

Psalms 104:13. He watereth the hills, dry and thirsty, with a double portion of rain; for the clouds which float over the plains, not only rain, but descend on the mountain ranges. Such is the wisdom of God.

Psalms 104:16. The trees of the Lord, planted with his own hand, grow to the highest perfection. A solemn grandeur is found in the primitive forests, which cannot be equalled by the arts of the nursery; and which powerfully attracts the aboriginals to the native woods.

Psalms 104:18. The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats. There they find proper food; and in time of danger they can make vast leaps from rock to rock, and leave the dogs and wolves far behind. Such is the care of their Creator. The Hebrew word, in some Versions, is translated deer.

Psalms 104:26. Leviathan. Literally one that scoffs and derides; the crocodile, as described at large, Job 42.

Psalms 104:30. Thou renewest the face of the earth with vernal beauties. This text is cited by the rabbins in succession, to prove the resurrection of the dead. The learned Manessè Ben Israel writes on it as under: “When God takes away their breath, and the body is reduced to ashes, if the spirit be sanctified, it will a second time return to the body;” which obviously refers to the resurrection of the dead.

Psalms 104:32. He toucheth the hills, and they smoke. A sublime figure, derived from the smoke and vapours emitted from those mountains on the summits of which volcanoes have opened their craters. He kindled these fires, and they are under his controul. He reserves them for that day when the heavens and the earth shall be burnt up. 2 Peter 3:7.

REFLECTIONS.

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handy work. They announce his perfections, and publish his praise. They absorb the mind in contemplation, and inspire it with the tenderest sentiments of piety. Whether we begin, as in this psalm, by contemplating the orbs, and the celestial influences of the heavens, and then descend to the minuter objects of the earth; or whether we begin by investigating an insect or a flower, and thence rise to man, and to all the celestial objects which strike the sight, reflections crowd on the mind, and discover a universe filled with God.

In the style and character of this and some of the succeeding psalms, in an age when astronomy was simple, and the study of nature an infant science, we cannot but admire the aid which is afforded to devotion. The style is natural, the transitions easy, and the sentiments sublime. The sacred author begins with the glory and majesty of God; the splendours of the heavens are his robes, the ethereal skies his curtains, the clouds his chariots, tempests and lightnings, figurative of angels, are the ministers of his vengeance.

From the glories of the higher heavens he descends to the minuter beauties of the earth. Here the fertilizing springs, the luxuriant soil, and the stately trees alike display the glory of God. The sea, not less than the land, where leviathan sports as prince of the finny tribes, displays the wonderful works of the Lord. The seasons, here represented as the hiding of God’s face in winter, and the blowing of his breath in the spring, equally unfold the wisdom and care of providence. The spring opens his treasures, the summer displays his beauty, the autumn bestows his bounty, and rude winter gives repose to nature, and prepares her for all the vigour of the returning year. Thus the whole creation is an overflowing of the divine goodness, said a high display of his perfections. Consequently, the sole duty of man is to contemplate, to adore, and conform his heart and life to the divine pleasure. He should learn of angels to cry continually, holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.

The man, whether learned or unlearned, who studies nature without devotion; who sees all these glorious works without giving glory to God, who suffers scepticism to enter his mind, and corruption to captivate his heart, shall be consumed. What has he to do to treat of science, and lead astray the rising age? His learning makes his folly conspicuous; but not so conspicuous as the judgments which await the depravity of his heart.

 


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Bibliography Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 104:4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jsc/psalms-104.html. 1835.

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Saturday, December 7th, 2019
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