corner graphic   Hi,    
ver. 2.0.19.08.21
Finding the new version too difficult to understand? Go to classic.studylight.org/

Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Psalms 104

 

 

Verse 1-2

Psalms 104:1-2. O Lord my God, thou art very great — As in thine own nature and perfections, so also in the glory of thy works; thou art clothed Surrounded and adorned, with honour and majesty — With honourable majesty: who coverest, or clothest, thyself with light — Either, 1st, With that light which no man can approach unto, as it is described 1 Timothy 1:10 : wherewith, therefore, he may well be said to be covered, or hid, from the eyes of mortal men. Or, 2d, He speaks of that first created light, mentioned Genesis 1:3, which the psalmist properly treats of first, as being the first of all God’s visible works. Of all visible beings light comes nearest to the nature of a spirit, and therefore with that, God, who is a spirit, is pleased to clothe himself, and also to reveal himself under that similitude, as men are seen in the clothes with which they cover themselves. Who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain — Forming “a magnificent canopy or pavilion, comprehending within it the earth, and all the inhabitants thereof; enlightened by the celestial orbs suspended in it, as the holy tabernacle was by the lamps of the golden candlestick.” Now God is said to stretch this out like a curtain, to intimate that it was “originally framed, erected, and furnished by its maker, with more ease than man can construct and pitch a tent for his own temporary abode. Yet must this noble pavilion also be taken down; these resplendent and beautiful heavens must pass away and come to an end. How glorious, then, shall be those new heavens which are to succeed them and endure for ever!” — Horne.


Verse 3

Psalms 104:3. Who layeth the beams of his chambers — His upper rooms, (so the word עליותיו signifies,) in the waters — The waters that are above the firmament, (Psalms 104:3,) as he has founded the earth upon the seas and floods, the waters beneath the firmament. The Almighty is elsewhere said to make those dark waters, compacted in the thick clouds of the skies, the secret place, or chamber, of his residence, and a kind of footstool to his throne: see Psalms 18:9; Psalms 18:11. Though air and water are fluid bodies, yet, by the divine power, they are kept as tight and as firm in the place assigned them, as a chamber is with beams and rafters. How great a God is he whose presence-chamber is thus reared, thus fixed! Who maketh the clouds his chariot — In which he rides strongly, swiftly, and far above, out of the reach of opposition, when at any time it is his will to make use of uncommon providences in his government of the world. He descended in a cloud, as in a chariot, to mount Sinai, to give the law, and to mount Tabor, to proclaim the gospel; and he still frequently rides upon the clouds, or heavens, to the help of his people, Deuteronomy 33:26. Who walketh upon the wings of the wind — “There is an unequalled elegance,” says Mr. Hervey, “in these words. It is not said he flieth, he runneth, but he walketh; and that, on the very wings of the wind; on the most impetuous element, raised into the utmost rage, and sweeping along with incredible rapidity. We cannot have a more sublime idea of the Deity; serenely walking on an element of inconceivable swiftness, and, as it seems to us, uncontrollable impetuosity.” “How astonishingly magnificent and tremendous is the idea which these words convey to us of the great King, riding upon the heavens, encompassed with clouds and darkness, attended by the lightnings, those ready executioners of his vengeance, and causing the world to resound and tremble at the thunder of his power and the noise of his chariot-wheels. By these ensigns of royalty, these emblems of omnipotence, and instruments of his displeasure, doth Jehovah manifest his presence, when he visiteth rebellious man, to make him own and adore his neglected and insulted Lord.” — Horne.


Verse 4

Psalms 104:4. Who maketh his angels spirits — That is, of a spiritual or incorporeal nature, that they might be more fit for their employments; or who maketh them winds, as the word רוחות, ruchoth, commonly signifies; that is, who maketh them like the winds, powerful, active, and nimble in executing his pleasure. His ministers a flaming fire — So called for their irresistible force, agility, and fervency in the execution of his commands. But this verse is otherwise rendered by Jewish, and some Christian interpreters, and that very agreeably to the Hebrew text; namely, He maketh the winds his messengers, and flames of fire (that is, the lightning, and thunder, and fiery meteors in the air) his ministers: he maketh use of them no less than of the holy angels; and oftentimes for the same purposes; and they do as certainly and readily obey all his commands as the blessed angels themselves do. This interpretation seems most agreeable to the scope of the Psalm and of the context, wherein he is speaking of the visible works of God; and, perhaps, if properly considered, it will not be found to invalidate the argument of the apostle, (Hebrews 1:7,) who informs us that the words have a reference to immaterial angels: for, when the psalmist says that God maketh the winds, מלאכיו, malachaiv, his angels, or messengers, he plainly signifies that the angels are God’s ministers, or servants, no less than the winds. And that is sufficient to justify the apostle’s argument, and to prove the pre-eminence of Christ above the angels, which is the apostle’s design in that place: see on Hebrews 1:7.


Verse 5

Psalms 104:5. Who laid the foundations of the earth — Hebrew, יסד ארצ על מכוניה, jasad eretz gnal mechoneah, who hath founded the earth upon its own bases, or foundations, that is, upon itself, or its own centre of gravity, by which it is self-balanced, and by which it stands as fast and immoveable as if it were built upon the strongest foundation imaginable, which is a most stupendous work of divine wisdom and power; that it should not be removed — Out of its proper place; for ever — Or, till the end of time, when it must give way to the new earth. “God,” says Dr. Hammond, “has fixed so strange a place for the earth, that, being a heavy body, one would think it should fall every moment: and yet, which way so- ever we should imagine it to stir, it must, contrary to the nature of such a body, fall upward, and so can have no possible ruin, but by tumbling into heaven,” namely, which surrounds it on all sides.


Verse 6-7

Psalms 104:6-7. Thou coveredst it with the deep — That is, in the first creation, of which the psalmist is here speaking, when the earth, while yet without form, was covered all over, and, as it were, clothed with the great deep, that vast expansion of air and waters; the waters stood above the mountains — Those which are now the highest mountains were all under that liquid element. At thy rebuke — That is, at thy powerful command, which, as it were, rebuked, and thereby corrected and regulated that indigested congeries and confusion of things; they fled — Namely, the inferior waters; at the voice of thy thunder — Thy powerful voice, which resounded like thunder; they hasted away — To the place that thou hadst prepared for them, where they still make their bed.


Verse 8

Psalms 104:8. They go up by the mountains — Rather, They went up mountains: they went down valleys, &c. — They went over hill and dale, as we say; they neither stopped at the former, nor lodged in the latter, but made the best of their way to the place founded for them. The psalmist is “describing the motion of the waters in mountains and valleys, when, at God’s command, they filed off from the surface of the earth, into the posts assigned them.” Some interpret the psalmist’s meaning to be, that, in that first division of the waters from the earth, part went upward and became springs in the mountains, but the greatest part went downward to the channels made for them. Thus Dr. Waterland: They climb the mountains; they fall down on the valleys. The Hebrew, however, may be rendered, (as it is by some, both ancient and later interpreters,) The mountains ascended; the valleys descended; that is, when the waters were separated, part of the earth appeared to be high, and formed the mountains, and a part to be low, and constituted the valleys or low grounds. So Bishop Patrick: “Immediately the dry land was seen, part of which 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.” But the former sense seems most agreeable to the context, because he speaks of the waters both in the foregoing and following verses.


Verse 9

Psalms 104:9. Thou hast set a bound — Even the sand of the sea-shore, as is expressed Jeremiah 5:22. Which, though in itself contemptible, and a very poor defence to the earth against that swelling and raging element, yet, by God’s almighty power and gracious providence, is made sufficient for that purpose, as the experience of five thousand years hath taught us. That they turn not again to cover the earth — Once indeed they did, namely, in Noah’s flood, because God commanded them so to do; but not since, because he prohibits them, having promised not to drown the world again. God himself glories in this instance of his power, and uses it as an argument with us to fear him, Job 38:8, &c.; Jeremiah 5:22. And surely this, if duly considered, would keep the world in awe of God and his goodness, that the waters of the sea would soon cover the earth if God did not restrain them.


Verse 10-11

Psalms 104:10-11. He sendeth the springs — “The waters of the sea are not only prevented 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 the 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.” — Horne. Thus they give drink to every beast of the field — Not only to man, and those creatures that are immediately useful to him, but to every animal which needs that refreshment, for God’s mercies are over all his works; where he has given life he provides for its support, and takes care of all creatures. The wild asses quench their thirst — Which he mentions, because they live in dry and desolate wildernesses, and are neither ruled nor regarded by men, yet are plentifully provided for by the bounty of Divine Providence, by which, dull and stupid as they are, they are taught the way to the waters, in those sandy and parched deserts, so perfectly, that “there is no better guide for the thirsty traveller to follow than to observe the herds of them descending to the streams.” The reader of taste will easily observe, that “the description here is very picturesque, of fine springs in the midst of valleys frequented by a variety of beasts and birds, allured thither by the place, and giving a kind of society to it.” — Dodd.


Verse 12

Psalms 104:12. By them — By the springs of water in the valleys; the fowls of the heaven have their habitation — Delighting to build their nests, and sing among the verdant branches which conceal them from our sight. “The music of birds,” says Mr. Wesley, “was the first song of thanksgiving which was offered on earth before man was formed. All their sounds are different, but all harmonious, and all together compose a choir which we cannot imitate.” (Survey of the Wisdom of God, vol. 1. p. 314, third edition.) “If these little choristers of the air,” adds Dr. H., “when refreshed by the streams near which they dwell, express their gratitude by chanting, in their way, the praises of their Maker and Preserver, how ought Christians to blush, who, besides the comforts and conveniences of this world, are indulged with copious draughts of the water of eternal life, if for so great a blessing they pay not their tribute of thanksgiving, and sing not unto the Lord the songs of Zion!”


Verses 13-15

Psalms 104:13-15. He watereth the hills — Which most need moisture, and have least of it in themselves; from his chambers — From those chambers spoken of Psalms 104:3, the beams of which he lays in the waters, those store- chambers, the clouds that distil the fruitful showers. The earth, &c. — By this means all the parts of the earth, the hills as well as the dales, the mountains as well as the valleys, are satisfied with the fruit of thy works — With those sweet showers which they drink in, or rather with the effect of them, the fruitfulness caused thereby. “Hence all the glory and beauty of the vegetable world; hence grass that nourishes the cattle, that they may nourish the human race; hence the green herb for food and for medicine; hence fields covered with corn, for the support of life; hence vines and olive-trees, laden with fruits, whose juices exhilarate the heart, and brighten the countenance.” — Horne.


Verse 16

Psalms 104:16. The trees of the Lord — Trees which are not planted by the art, nor watered by the care of man, but by God’s almighty providence, are full of sap — Being sufficiently supplied therewith through the rain, of the good effects of which he is yet speaking; for “the moisture of the earth, rarefied by the heat of the sun, enters their roots, ascends their tubes, and, by due degrees, expands and increases them, till they arrive at their growth.” The cedars of Lebanon which he hath planted — Yea, the tallest and largest cedars, those of Lebanon, and even whole forests of them, though growing upon the most barren and stony mountains.


Verse 17

Psalms 104:17. Where the birds make their nests — Taught by the wisdom and understanding imparted to them by the great Creator, which is indeed most wonderful, enabling them “to distinguish times and seasons, choose the most proper places, construct their nests with an art and exactness unattainable by man, and secure and provide for their young.” “What master” (inquires Mr. Wesley in the fore-mentioned work, pp. 312 and 313) “has taught birds that they have need of nests? Who has warned them to prepare them in time, and not to suffer themselves to be prevented by necessity? Who hath shown them how to build? What mathematician has given the figure of them? What architect has taught them to choose a firm place, and to lay a solid foundation? What tender mother has advised them to cover the bottom with a soft and delicate substance, such as cotton or down; and when these fail, who has suggested to them that ingenious charity, to pluck off as many feathers from their own breasts as will prepare a soft cradle for their young? And what wisdom has pointed out to each kind a peculiar manner of building? Is it for the birds, O Lord, who have no knowledge thereof, that thou hast joined together so many miracles? Is it for the men, who give no attention to them? Is it for those who admire them, without thinking of thee? Rather, is it not thy design, by all these wonders, to call us to thyself? To make us sensible of thy wisdom, and fill us with confidence in thy bounty, who watchest so carefully over those inconsiderable creatures, two of which are sold for one farthing?”


Verse 18

Psalms 104:18. The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats — As if he had said, “even those parts of the earth which may seem barren and useless, have yet their uses, and serve to shelter certain animals that are adapted to them.” The psalmist, having alluded to the force of what we call instinct in birds, influencing them to choose secret and secure places in which to fix their habitation, and place their young, proceeds to show the power of the same principle in terrestrial animals, directing them to places of refuge, where they may be safe from their enemies. “Thus the wild goats climb, with ease, to the tops and crags of mountains, where they deposite their young. And thus animals of another kind, which are more defenceless than goats, and not able to climb like them, have yet a way of intrenching themselves in a situation perfectly impregnable among the rocks:” see on Leviticus 11:5.


Verse 19

Psalms 104:19. He appointeth the moon, &c. — “From a survey of the works of God upon the earth, the psalmist proceeds to extol that divine wisdom which is manifested in the motions and revolutions of the heavenly bodies, and in the grateful vicissitude of day and night occasioned thereby.” For seasons — For measuring the weeks and months, and, among many nations, years also, distinguishing the seasons of the year, and directing the business of the husbandman; for governing the tides, the state of the weather, and divers other natural events; as also the times for sacred and civil affairs, which were commonly regulated by the moon, not only among the Jews, but among heathen also: see on Genesis 1:14. The full and change, the increase and decrease of the moon, exactly observe the appointment of the Creator. The sun, also, knoweth his going down — Namely, the time and place in which he is to set every day of the year, which, though varied from day to day, yet he as regularly and exactly observes as if he were an intelligent being, and had the understanding of a man or angel to guide him, in obeying the laws of his Creator.


Verse 20

Psalms 104:20. Thou makest darkness — Which succeeds the light, by virtue of thy decree and established order; and it is night — Which, though black and dismal, contributes to the beauty of nature, and is as a foil to the light of the day. Wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth — To seek their prey, which they are afraid to do in the day-time, God having put the fear and dread of man upon them, (Genesis 9:2,) which contributes as much to man’s safety as to his honour. Thus, by this vicissitude of day and night, God hath wisely and mercifully provided, both for men, that they may follow their daily labours without danger from wild beasts, and for the beasts, that they may procure a subsistence.


Verse 21

Psalms 104:21. The young lions — Which can no more subsist, without Divine Providence, than those that are old and infirm; roar after their prey — They roar, as naturalists observe, when they come within sight of their prey, by which interpretation this place is reconciled with Amos 3:4, Will a lion roar in the forest when he hath no prey? that is, when he hath no prey in view. And seek their meat from God — This is a figurative and poetical expression; their roaring is a kind of natural prayer to God for relief, as the cries of infants are a kind of prayer to their mothers for the breast. It is observed by Dr. Hammond here, that lions are not provided with great swiftness of foot to pursue those beasts on which they prey, and that it was necessary, therefore, that this defect should be provided for some other way: and, accordingly, it has been affirmed, that their very roaring is useful to them for this purpose; and that when they cannot overtake their prey, they do, by that terrible noise, so astonish and terrify the poor beasts, that they fall down, and become an easy prey to them.


Verse 22-23

Psalms 104:22-23. The sun ariseth — For as he knows the time of his going down, so, thanks be to God, he knows the proper time of his rising, and then the wild beasts gather themselves together — Or, rather, withdraw themselves, or retire, as יאספו, jeaseephu, may be rendered; and lay them down in their dens — Which is a great mercy to mankind, who can now go forth with security and confidence, and perform unmolested the task assigned them by their Maker. Thus, “when the light of truth and righteousness shineth, error and iniquity fly away before it, and the roaring lion himself departeth for a time. Then the Christian goeth forth to the work of his salvation, and to his labour of love, until the evening of old age warns him to prepare for his last repose, in faith of a joyful resurrection.” — Horne.


Verses 24-26

Psalms 104:24-26. O Lord, how manifold are thy works — How numerous, how various! Of how many kinds, and how many of every kind. Thus, “transported with a survey of the wonders which present themselves in heaven above, and on earth below, the psalmist breaks forth into an exclamation, 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 for them that love him, in another and a better world, and of which the things visible and temporary are no more than shadows? Admitted to that place, where we shall at once be indulged with a view of all the divine dispensations, and of that beatitude in which they terminated, shall we not, with angels and archangels, cry out, O Lord, how manifold are thy works, &c.” — Horne. In wisdom hast thou made them all — When men undertake many works, and of different kinds, commonly some of them are neglected, and not done with due care; but God’s works, though many, and of different kinds, yet are all made in wisdom, and with the greatest exactness: there is not the least flaw or defect in them. The most perfect works of art, the more narrowly they are viewed, (as, suppose, with the help of microscopes,) the more rough and imperfect they appear; but the more the works of God are examined, (by these glasses,) they appear the more fine and complete. God’s works are all made in wisdom, for they are all made to answer the end designed, the good of the universe, in order to the glory of the universal King. The earth is full of thy riches — Of excellent, useful, and comfortable things, which are the effects of thy goodness and power. So is this great and wide sea — Which might seem at first view a useless part of the globe, or, at least, not to be worth the room it occupies, but God has appointed it its place, and made it serviceable to man many ways. For therein are things creeping, or, rather, swimming, innumerable — (Hebrew, ואין מספר, veein mispar, and there is no number, namely, that can comprehend them,) both small and great beasts — Or animals, as חיות, chaioth, signifies; that is, fishes of various kinds, many of which serve for the food of man; and there go the ships — In which goods are conveyed to countries very distant much more easily, speedily, and at less expense than by land carriage. “There is not,” says Dr. Horne, “in all nature, a more august and striking object than the ocean. Its inhabitants are as numerous as those upon the land; nor are 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,” of which see Job 40. and 41. “By means of navigation, Providence hath opened a communication between the 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.”


Verses 27-30

Psalms 104:27-30. These all — Both beasts and fishes, wait upon thee — Expect supplies from thy providence: which is spoken of them figuratively, and with an allusion to the manner of tame beasts and fowls, which commonly look after and wait upon those persons who bring their food to them. That thou mayest give them their meat, &c. — When it is necessary or convenient for them. That thou givest them they gather — Whatsoever they receive is from the bounty of thy gift, and they do their part for the obtaining of it: what thou placest within their reach they gather, and expect not that thy providence should put it into their mouths; and with what they gather they are satisfied. For when thou openest thy hand — To supply their wants, they are filled with good — And desire no more than what thou seest fit to give them. Thou hidest thy face — Withdrawest, or suspendest the favour and care of thy providence; they are troubled — Dejected and distressed through want and misery. Thou takest away their breath — Which is in thy hand, and then, and not till then, they die and return to their dust — To the earth, from whence they had their original. Thou sendest forth thy spirit — That spirit by which they live, which may be called God’s spirit, because given and preserved by him. Or rather, that quickening power of God, by which he produces and preserves life in the creatures from time to time. For he speaks not here of the first creation, but of the continued production and preservation of living creatures. They are created — That is, either, 1st, The same living creatures, which were languishing and dying, are strangely revived and restored. Or, 2d, Other living creatures are produced or generated; the word created being taken in its largest sense, for the production of things by second causes. And thou renewest the face of the earth — And thus, by thy wise and powerful providence, thou preservest the succession of living creatures upon the earth, which otherwise would be desolate and without inhabitants. It is justly observed here, by Dr. Dodd, that “the ideas in these verses can be excelled by nothing, but by the concise elegance of the expressions;” which convey to the human mind the most sublime and awful conceptions of that Almighty Being who does but open his hand, and the creatures are filled with good; does but hide his face, and they are troubled and die; does but send forth his Spirit, and they are created.


Verse 31

Psalms 104:31. The glory of the Lord shall endure for ever — God will never cease to manifest his glorious wisdom, power, and goodness in his works; and creatures shall never be wanting to give him the praise and honour due unto his name. The Lord shall rejoice in his works — Shall continue to take that complacency in the products of his own wisdom, power, and goodness, which he had, when he saw every thing which he had made, and behold, it was very good. We often do that which, upon the review, we cannot rejoice in, but are displeased at, and wish undone again, blaming our own management. But God always rejoices in his works, because they are all done in wisdom. We regret our bounty and beneficence, but God never does: he rejoices in the works of his grace: his gifts and calling are without repentance.


Verse 32

Psalms 104:32. He looketh on the earth, and it trembleth, &c. — Unable to bear his frown. This is a further illustration of God’s powerful providence. As when he affords his favour to creatures, they live and thrive; so, on the contrary, one angry look or touch of his, upon the hills or earth, makes them tremble or smoke, as once Sinai did when God appeared on it.


Verse 33-34

Psalms 104:33-34. I will sing unto the Lord, &c. — Whatever others do, I will not fail to give to God his glory and due praises. My meditation of him — My praising of God concerning the glory of his works; shall be sweet — Either, 1st, To God; he will graciously accept it; praise being his most acceptable sacrifice, Psalms 69:30-31. Or rather, 2d, To myself. I will not only do this work of praising God, but I will do it cheerfully and with delight: it shall be a pleasure to me to praise him, and I shall find comfort in so doing.


Verse 35

Psalms 104:35. Let the sinners be consumed, &c. — This speaks terror to the wicked. As if he had said, As for those ungodly creatures who do not regard the works of the Lord, nor give him the glory due to his name, but dishonour him, and abuse his creatures, and thereby provoke God to destroy the earth, and the men and things which are upon it, let them be consumed, and be no more, for it is my prayer that, for thine honour and for the safety of mankind, those sinners who obstinately and resolutely continue in this practice of disobeying their Creator and Preserver, their Governor and Judge, may be taken out of the world, that they may no longer infect it, and hasten its total destruction. Or rather, the words are a prediction, and יתמו, jittamu, should be rendered, they shall be consumed, it being impossible that any should prosper, who harden themselves against the Almighty. And they that rebel against the light of such convincing evidence of God’s existence, wisdom, power, and goodness, and refuse to serve him, whom all the creatures serve, will be justly consumed. Bless thou the Lord, O my soul — But thou, O my soul, come not into this wretched society, but employ thyself in this great and blessed work of praising God, in which I hope to be employed when the wicked are consumed, even world without end; and desire that others may follow my example herein, and therefore say, Praise ye the Lord — Hebrew, Hallelujah. This is the first time that this word occurs, and it comes in here on occasion of the destruction of the wicked. And the last time it occurs, Revelation 19., it is on a like occasion, the destruction of Babylon.

 


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 104:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/psalms-104.html. 1857.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, August 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20
ADVERTISEMENT
Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
ADVERTISEMENT
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology