Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Bless the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty.
Ps 104:1-35. The Psalmist celebrates God's glory in His works of creation and providence, teaching the dependence of all living creatures; and contrasting the happiness of those who praise Him with the awful end of the wicked.
1. God's essential glory, and also that displayed by His mighty works, afford ground for praise.
Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment: who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain:
2. light—is a figurative representation of the glory of the invisible God (Mt 17:2; 1Ti 6:16). Its use in this connection may refer to the first work of creation (Ge 1:3).
stretchest out the heavens—the visible heavens or sky which cover the earth as a curtain (Isa 40:12).
Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters: who maketh the clouds his chariot: who walketh upon the wings of the wind:
3. in the waters—or, it may be "with"; using this fluid for the beams, or frames, of His residence accords with the figure of clouds for chariots, and wind as a means of conveyance.
walketh—or, "moveth" (compare Ps 18:10, 11; Am 9:6).
Who maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire:
4. This is quoted by Paul (Heb 1:7) to denote the subordinate position of angels; that is, they are only messengers as other and material agencies.
flaming fire—(Ps 105:32) being here so called.
Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever.
5. The earth is firmly fixed by His power.
Thou coveredst it with the deep as with a garment: the waters stood above the mountains.
6-9. These verses rather describe the wonders of the flood than the creation (Ge 7:19, 20; 2Pe 3:5, 6). God's method of arresting the flood and making its waters subside is poetically called a "rebuke" (Ps 76:6; Isa 50:2), and the process of the flood's subsiding by undulations among the hills and valleys is vividly described.
At thy rebuke they fled; at the voice of thy thunder they hasted away.
They go up by the mountains; they go down by the valleys unto the place which thou hast founded for them.
Thou hast set a bound that they may not pass over; that they turn not again to cover the earth.
He sendeth the springs into the valleys, which run among the hills.
10-13. Once destructive, these waters are subjected to the service of God's creatures. In rain and dew from His chambers (compare Ps 104:3), and fountains and streams, they give drink to thirsting animals and fertilize the soil. Trees thus nourished supply homes to singing birds, and the earth teems with the productions of God's wise agencies,
They give drink to every beast of the field: the wild asses quench their thirst.
By them shall the fowls of the heaven have their habitation, which sing among the branches.
He watereth the hills from his chambers: the earth is satisfied 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;
14, 15. so that men and beasts are abundantly provided with food.
for the service—literally, "for the culture," &c., by which he secures the results.
oil … shine—literally, "makes his face to shine more than oil," that is, so cheers and invigorates him, that outwardly he appears better than if anointed.
strengtheneth … heart—gives vigor to man (compare Jud 19:5).
And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart.
The trees of the LORD are full of sap; the cedars of Lebanon, which he hath planted;
16-19. God's care of even wild animals and uncultivated parts of the earth.
Where the birds make their nests: as for the stork, the fir trees are her house.
The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats; and the rocks for the conies.
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 do creep forth.
20-23. He provides and adapts to man's wants the appointed times and seasons.
The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God.
The sun ariseth, they gather themselves together, and lay them down in their dens.
Man goeth forth unto his work and to his labour until the evening.
O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches.
24-26. From a view of the earth thus full of God's blessings, the writer passes to the sea, which, in its immensity, and as a scene and means of man's activity in commerce, and the home of countless multitudes of creatures, also displays divine power and beneficence. The mention of
So is this great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts.
There go the ships: there is that leviathan, whom thou hast made to play therein.
26. leviathan—(Job 40:20) heightens the estimate of the sea's greatness, and of His power who gives such a place for sport to one of His creatures.
These wait all upon thee; that thou mayest give them their meat in due season.
27-30. The entire dependence of this immense family on God is set forth. With Him, to kill or make alive is equally easy. To hide His face is to withdraw favor (Ps 13:1). By His spirit, or breath, or mere word, He gives life. It is His constant providence which repairs the wastes of time and disease.
That thou givest them they gather: thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good.
Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust.
Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth.
The glory of the LORD shall endure for ever: the LORD shall rejoice in his works.
31-34. While God could equally glorify His power in destruction, that He does it in preservation is of His rich goodness and mercy, so that we may well spend our lives in grateful praise, honoring to Him, and delightful to pious hearts (Ps 147:1).
He looketh on the earth, and it trembleth: he toucheth the hills, and they smoke.
I will sing unto the LORD as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.
My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the LORD.
Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth, and let the wicked be no more. Bless thou the LORD, O my soul. Praise ye the LORD.
35. Those who refuse such a protector and withhold such a service mar the beauty of His works, and must perish from His presence.
Praise ye the Lord—The Psalm closes with an invocation of praise, the translation of a Hebrew phrase, which is used as an English word, "Hallelujah," and may have served the purpose of a chorus, as often in our psalmody, or to give fuller expression to the writer's emotions. It is peculiar to Psalms composed after the captivity, as "Selah" is to those of an earlier date.