Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
Hymn in Honour of God the All-Compassionate One
To the "Thou wilt have compassion upon Zion" of Psalm 102:14 is appended Psalm 103, which has this as its substance throughout; but in other respects the two Psalms stand in contrast to one another. The inscription לדוד is also found thus by itself without any further addition even before Psalms of the First Book (Psalm 26:1, Psalm 35, Psalm 37). It undoubtedly does not rest merely on conjecture, but upon tradition. For no internal grounds which might have given rise to the annotation לדוד can be traced. The form of the language does not favour it. This pensive song, so powerful in its tone, has an Aramaic colouring like Psalm 116; Psalm 124:1-8; Psalm 129:1-8. In the heaping up of Aramaizing suffix-forms it has its equal only in the story of Elisha, 2 Kings 4:1-7, where, moreover, the Kerמ throughout substitutes the usual forms, whilst here, where these suffix-forms are intentional ornaments of the expression, the Chethמb rightly remains unaltered. The forms are 2nd sing. fem. ēchi for ēch, and 2nd sing. plur. ājchi for ajich. The i without the tone which is added here is just the one with which originally the pronunciation was אתּי instead of אתּ and לכי for לך. Out of the Psalter (here and Psalm 116:7, Psalm 116:19) these suffix-forms echi and ajchi occur only in Jeremiah 11:15, and in the North-Palestinian history of the prophet in the Book of Kings. The groups or strophes into which the Psalm falls are Psalm 103:1, Psalm 103:6, Psalm 103:11, Psalm 103:15, Psalm 103:19. If we count their lines we obtain the schema 10. 10. 8. 8. 10. The coptic version accordingly reckons 46 CTYXOC, i.e., στίχοι.
A Psalm of David. Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.In the strophe Psalm 103:1 the poet calls upon his soul to arise to praiseful gratitude for God's justifying, redeeming, and renewing grace. In such soliloquies it is the Ego that speaks, gathering itself up with the spirit, the stronger, more manly part of man (Psychology, S. 104f.; tr. p. 126), or even, because the soul as the spiritual medium of the spirit and of the body represents the whole person of man (Psychology, S. 203; tr. p. 240), the Ego rendering objective in the soul the whole of its own personality. So here in Psalm 103:3 the soul, which is addressed, represents the whole man. The קובים which occurs here is a more choice expression for מעים (מעים): the heart, which is called קרב κατ ̓ ἐξοχήν, the reins, the liver, etc.; for according to the scriptural conception (Psychology, S. 266; tr. p. 313) these organs of the cavities of the breast and abdomen serve not merely for the bodily life, but also the psycho-spiritual life. The summoning בּרכי is repeated per anaphoram. There is nothing the soul of man is so prone to forget as to render thanks that are due, and more especially thanks that are due to God. It therefore needs to be expressly aroused in order that it may not leave the blessing with which God blesses it unacknowledged, and may not forget all His acts performed (גּמל equals גּמר) on it (גּמוּל, ῥῆμα μέσον, e.g., in Psalm 137:8), which are purely deeds of loving-kindness), which is the primal condition and the foundation of all the others, viz., sin-pardoning mercy. The verbs סלח and רפא with a dative of the object denote the bestowment of that which is expressed by the verbal notion. תּחלוּאים (taken from Deuteronomy 29:21, cf. 1 Chronicles 21:19, from חלא equals חלה, root הל, solutum, laxum esse) are not merely bodily diseases, but all kinds of inward and outward sufferings. משּׁחת the lxx renders ἐκ φθορᾶς (from שׁחת, as in Job 17:14); but in this antithesis to life it is more natural to render the "pit" (from שׁוּח) as a name of Hades, as in Psalm 16:10. Just as the soul owes its deliverance from guilt and distress and death to God, so also does it owe to God that with which it is endowed out of the riches of divine love. The verb עטּר, without any such addition as in Psalm 5:13, is "to crown," cf. Psalm 8:6. As is usually the case, it is construed with a double accusative; the crown is as it were woven out of loving-kindness and compassion. The Beth of בּטּוב in Psalm 103:5 instead of the accusative (Psalm 104:28) denotes the means of satisfaction, which is at the same time that which satisfies. עדיך the Targum renders: dies senectutis tuae, whereas in Psalm 32:9 it is ornatus ejus; the Peshto renders: corpus tuum, and in Psalm 32:9 inversely, juventus eorum. These significations, "old age" or "youth," are pure inventions. And since the words are addressed to the soul, עדי cannot also, like כבוד in other instances, be a name of the soul itself (Aben-Ezra, Mendelssohn, Philippsohn, Hengstenberg, and others). We, therefore, with Hitzig, fall back upon the sense of the word in Psalm 32:9, where the lxx renders τάς σιαγόνας αὐτῶν, but here more freely, apparently starting from the primary notion of עדי equals Arabic chadd, the cheek: τὸν ἐμπιπλῶντα ἐν ἀγαθοῖς τὴν ἐπιθυμίαν σου (whereas Saadia's victum tuum is based upon a comparison of the Arabic gdâ, to nourish). The poet tells the soul (i.e., his own person, himself) that God satisfies it with good, so that it as it were gets its cheeks full of it (cf. Psalm 81:11). The comparison כּנּשׁר is, as in Micah 1:16 (cf. Isaiah 40:31), to be referred to the annual moulting of the eagle. Its renewing of its plumage is an emblem of the renovation of his youth by grace. The predicate to נעוּריכי (plural of extension in relation to time) stands first regularly in the sing. fem.
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:
Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;
Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;
Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's.
The LORD executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed.His range of vision being widened from himself, the poet now in Psalm 103:6 describes God's gracious and fatherly conduct towards sinful and perishing men, and that as it shines forth from the history of Israel and is known and recognised in the light of revelation. What Psalm 103:6 says is a common-place drawn from the history of Israel. משׁפּטים is an accusative governed by the עשׂה that is to be borrowed out of עשׂה (so Baer after the Masora). And because Psalm 103:6 is the result of an historical retrospect and survey, יודיע in Psalm 103:7 can affirm that which happened in the past (cf. Psalm 96:6.); for the supposition of Hengstenberg and Hitzig, that Moses here represents Israel like Jacob, Isaac, and Joseph in other instances, is without example in the whole Israelitish literature. It becomes clear from Psalm 103:8 in what sense the making of His ways known is meant. The poet has in his mind Moses' prayer: "make known to me now Thy way" (Exodus 33:13), which Jahve fulfilled by passing by him as he stood in the cleft of the rock and making Himself visible to him as he looked after Him, amidst the proclamation of His attributes. The ways of Jahve are therefore in this passage not those in which men are to walk in accordance with His precepts (Psalm 25:4), but those which He Himself follows in the course of His redemptive history (Psalm 67:3). The confession drawn from Exodus 34:6. is become a formula of the Israelitish faith (Psalm 86:15; Psalm 145:8; Joel 2:13; Nehemiah 9:17, and frequently). In Psalm 103:9. the fourth attribute (ורב־חסד) is made the object of further praise. He is not only long (ארך from ארך, like כּבד from כּבד) in anger, i.e., waiting a long time before He lets His anger loose, but when He contends, i.e., interposes judicially, this too is not carried to the full extent (Psalm 78:38), He is not angry for ever (נטר, to keep, viz., anger, Amos 1:11; cf. the parallels, both as to matter and words, Jeremiah 3:5; Isaiah 57:16). The procedure of His righteousness is regulated not according to our sins, but according to His purpose of mercy. The prefects in Psalm 103:10 state that which God has constantly not done, and the futures in Psalm 103:9 what He continually will not do.
He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel.
The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.
He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever.
He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.The ingenious figures in Psalm 103:11. (cf. Psalm 36:6; Psalm 57:11) illustrate the infinite power and complete unreservedness of mercy (loving-kindness). הרחיק has Gaja (as have also השׁחיתו and התעיבו, Psalm 14:1; Psalm 53:2, in exact texts), in order to render possible the distinct pronunciation of the guttural in the combination רח. Psalm 103:13 sounds just as much like the spirit of the New Testament as Psalm 103:11, Psalm 103:12. The relationship to Jahve in which those stand who fear Him is a filial relationship based upon free reciprocity (Malachi 3:11). His Fatherly compassion is (Psalm 103:14) based upon the frailty and perishableness of man, which are known to God, much the same as God's promise after the Flood not to decree a like judgment again (Genesis 8:21). According to this passage and Deuteronomy 31:21, יצרנוּ appears to be intended of the moral nature; but according to Psalm 103:14, one is obliged to think rather of the natural form which man possesses from God the Creator (ויּיצר, Genesis 2:7) than of the form of heart which he has by his own choice and, so far as its groundwork is concerned, by inheritance (Psalm 51:7). In זכוּר, mindful, the passive, according to Bצttcher's correct apprehension of it, expresses a passive state after an action that is completed by the person himself, as in בּטוּה, ידוּע, and the like. In its form Psalm 103:14 reminds one of the Book of Job JObadiah 11:11; Job 28:23, and Psalm 103:14 as to subject-matter recalls Job 7:7, and other passages (cf. Psalm 78:39; Psalm 89:48); but the following figurative representation of human frailty, with which the poet contrasts the eternal nature of the divine mercy as the sure stay of all God-fearing ones in the midst of the rise and decay of things here below, still more strongly recalls that book.
As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.
Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him.
For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.
As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.The figure of the grass recalls Psalm 90:5., cf. Isaiah 40:6-8; Isaiah 51:12; that of the flower, Job 14:2. אנושׁ is man as a mortal being; his life's duration is likened to that of a blade of grass, and his beauty and glory to a flower of the field, whose fullest bloom is also the beginning of its fading. In Psalm 103:16 בּו (the same as in Isaiah 40:7.) refers to man, who is compared to grass and flowers. כּי is ἐάν with a hypothetical perfect; and the wind that scorches up the plants, referred to man, is an emblem of every form of peril that threatens life: often enough it is really a breath of wind which snaps off a man's life. The bold designation of vanishing away without leaving any trace, "and his place knoweth him no more," is taken from Job 7:10, cf. ibid. Job 8:18; Job 20:9. In the midst of this plant-like, frail destiny, there is, however, one strong ground of comfort. There is an everlasting power, which raises all those who link themselves with it above the transitoriness involved in nature's laws, and makes them eternal like itself. This power is the mercy of God, which spans itself above (על) all those who fear Him like an eternal heaven. This is God's righteousness, which rewards faithful adherence to His covenant and conscientious fulfilment of His precepts in accordance with the order of redemption, and shows itself even to (ל) children's children, according to Exodus 20:6; Exodus 34:7; Deuteronomy 7:9 : on into a thousand generations, i.e., into infinity.
For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.
But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children;
To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them.
The LORD hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all.He is able to show Himself thus gracious to His own, for He is the supra-mundane, all-ruling King. With this thought the poet draws on to the close of his song of praise. The heavens in opposition to the earth, as in Psalm 115:3; Ecclesiastes 5:12, is the unchangeable realm above the rise and fall of things here below. On Psalm 103:19 cf. 1 Chronicles 29:12. בּכּל refers to everything created without exception, the universe of created things. In connection with the heavens of glory the poet cannot but call to mind the angels. His call to these to join in the praise of Jahve has its parallel only in Psalm 29:1-11 and Psalm 148:1-14. It arises from the consciousness of the church on earth that it stands in living like-minded fellowship with the angels of God, and that it possesses a dignity which rises above all created things, even the angels which are appointed to serve it (Psalm 91:11). They are called גּבּרים as in Joel 3:11, and in fact גּבּרי כּח, as the strong to whom belongs strength unequalled. Their life endowed with heroic strength is spent entirely - an example for mortals - in an obedient execution of the word of God. לשׁמע is a definition not of the purpose, but of the manner: obediendo (as in Genesis 2:3 perficiendo). Hearing the call of His word, they also forthwith put it into execution. the hosts (צבאיו), as משׁרתיו shows, are the celestial spirits gathered around the angels of a higher rank (cf. Luke 2:13), the innumerable λειτουργικὰ πνεῦματα (Psalm 104:4, Daniel 7:10; Hebrews 1:14), for there is a hierarchia caelestis. From the archangels the poet comes to the myriads of the heavenly hosts, and from these to all creatures, that they, wheresoever they may be throughout Jahve's wide domain, may join in the song of praise that is to be struck up; and from this point he comes back to his own soul, which he modestly includes among the creatures mentioned in the third passage. A threefold בּרכי נפשׁי now corresponds to the threefold בּרכוּ; and inasmuch as the poet thus comes back to his own soul, his Psalm also turns back into itself and assumes the form of a converging circle.
Bless the LORD, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word.
Bless ye the LORD, all ye his hosts; ye ministers of his, that do his pleasure.
Bless the LORD, all his works in all places of his dominion: bless the LORD, O my soul.