Matthew Poole's Commentary
A Psalm of David. Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.THE ARGUMENT
This Psalm contains a thankful commemoration and celebration of God’s mercies to the psalmist himself, and to the people of Israel, and to all good men.
David stirreth up himself to bless God, Psalm 103:1,2; who forgiveth his sins, Psalm 103:3, redeemeth and satisfieth his soul, Psalm 103:4,5; for other manifold mercies to himself and the church, Psalm 103:6-14. He considereth the frailty of man, Psalm 103:15,16; and showeth God’s everlasting mercy to his covenanted ones, Psalm 103:17-19. He exhorteth all creatures to praise him, Psalm 103:20-22.
Let all my thoughts and affections be engaged, and united, and stirred up to the highest pitch in and for this work.
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:No text from Poole on this verse.
Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;Either,
1. Spiritual diseases, lusts or corruptions, which he subdues and purgeth out by his grace; as this phrase is used, Psalm 41:4 Isaiah 6:10 53:5. Or,
2. Corporal diseases or miseries, of which this word is used, 2 Chronicles 21:18,19 Jer 14:18 16:4.
Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;From destruction, both temporal and eternal; from deadly dangers and miseries.
Crowneth thee, i.e. encompasseth and adorneth thee, as a crown doth.
Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's.Who satisfieth all thy just desires and necessities.
Like the eagle’s; either,
1. As the eagle reneweth her youth by casting all her old feathers, and getting new ones, whereby it seems to grow young again. But this, being common to all birds, would not have been appropriated to the eagle. Or rather,
2. Like the youth of an eagle. As the eagle lives long in great strength and vigour, so that the
old age of an eagle is used proverbially for a lively and vigorous old age; so this is a promise of a long and comfortable life.
The LORD executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed.Which being a singular perfection, and that wherein most of the princes of the world were and are defective, is justly celebrated in God.
He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel.His ways; either,
1. His laws, which are oft called God’s ways. Or,
2. The manner and methods of his dealings with men, and especially with his people, called in the next clause his
acts; his merciful and gracious nature and providence, which is particularly called God’s way, Exodus 33:13, compared with Psalm 103:18,19, and with Exodus 34:6,7, and which is here described in the following verses.
His acts; his marvellous and gracious works.
The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.Slow to anger; not speedily punishing sinners, but patiently waiting for their repentance.
He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever.He will not always chide, or contend, by his judgments with sinners, but is ready to be reconciled to them, to wit, upon their true repentance, as is manifest from innumerable texts, and from the whole scope and design of Scripture.
Anger; which word is understood here, as also Leviticus 19:18 Jeremiah 3:5 Nahum 1:2, as is evident from the thing itself, and from the former clause. The Hebrew is a concise language, and there are many such ellipses in it, as 2 Samuel 6:6, compared with Exodus 9:9; and 1 Chronicles 18:6, compared with 2 Samuel 8:6 Psalm 3:7 Ecclesiastes 7:15.
He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.He hath punished us less than our iniquities have deserved, as was confessed, Ezra 9:13.
For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.So much above their deserts and expectations, and above the mercy which one man showeth to another.
Toward them that fear them; which clause he adds here, as also Psalm 103:17,18, to prevent men’s mistakes and abuses of God’s mercy, and to dash the vain hopes of impenitent sinners in God’s mercy.
As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.The guilt of our sins from our persons and consciences. The sense is, He hath fully pardoned them, so as never to remember them more, as he promiseth, Jeremiah 31:34 Hebrews 10:17.
Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him.No text from Poole on this verse.
For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.Our frame; either,
1. The corruption of our natures; which God is pleased sometimes to make an argument to pity and spare men, as Genesis 8:21. So the sense is, He considereth that great and constant propension to evil which is naturally in all mankind, and that therefore if he should deal severely with us, he should immediately destroy us all. So this clause contains one motive of God’s pity, and the next another. Or rather,
2. The weakness and mortality of our natures, and the frailty and misery of our condition, as it seems to be explained in the following clause, that we are but dust. So the sense is, He considereth that if he should let loose his hand upon us, and pour forth all his wrath, we should be suddenly and irrecoverably destroyed, and therefore he spareth us.
As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.A flower of the field; which is more exposed to winds and other violences than the flowers of the garden, which are secured by the art and care of the gardener.
For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.A blasting or stormy wind bloweth upon it, and there is no more any appearance nor remembrance of it in the place where it stood and flourished.
But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children;But though we quickly decay and perish, yet God’s mercy to us doth not die with us; but as it was from eternity exercised in gracious purposes, so it will be continued unto eternity in that future and endless life.
Upon them that fear him: see before on Psalm 103:11. His righteousness; either his faithfulness, or (that this branch may answer to the former) his mercy or benignity; this word being frequently used in both these senses, as hath been proved before. But it is here called righteousness, to intimate that God’s kindness to the posterity of his people is not only an act of his goodness, but also a discharge of his obligation under which he put himself to them, as elsewhere, so Exodus 20:6, to which this place seems to relate. Hence it is called mercy to Abraham and truth to Jacob, Micah 7:20.
To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them.To such as keep his covenant; to them that perform the condition of God’s covenant, that sincerely love and obey him. Such restrictions are oft added, as in the general to overthrow the presumptuous hopes of ungodly men, so particularly to admonish the Israelites not to rest too much upon the privileges of their parents, or the covenant made with them, nor to expect any benefit by it, but upon condition of their continuance in God’s covenant.
That remember his commandments to do them; that have them much in their thoughts, and practise them in the course of their lives.
The LORD hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all.Prepared; or rather, established. Having celebrated God’s mercy to his people, he now praiseth him for his excellent majesty and universal dominion.
His throne in the heavens which notes the eminency, glory, power, stability, and, in changeableness of God’s kingdom.
Over all; over all creatures both in heaven and in earth.
Bless the LORD, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word.Angels; which, though glorious creatures, are but his ministers and messengers, as the word signifies. And inviting the angels to bless God, he quickens men to the same duty, as having more dependence upon God, and, obligation to him. That excel in strength; of which see evidence 2 Kings 19:35. You are freed from the impentencies and infirmities of mankind.
That do his commandments; that live in a universal, constant, and perfect obedience to all God’s commands, which the best of men through the infirmity of the flesh do frequently violate.
Hearkening unto the voice of his word; that diligently wait for God’s commands or errands, and execute them with all cheerfulness and readiness.
Bless ye the LORD, all ye his hosts; ye ministers of his, that do his pleasure.All ye his hosts; ye angels; to whom he still continues his address, and whom he more particularly describes by the name of hosts, a title oft given to the angels, as Genesis 32:2 1 Kings 22:19 2 Chronicles 18:18 Luke 2:13 Revelation 19:14, in regard of their vast numbers, mighty power, unanimous concurrence, and exquisite order. In the former verse the expression was indefinite and general, ye his angels, here it is universal and yet particular,
all ye his hosts. He seems to apply himself to the several orders of angels, of whom see Ephesians 3:10 Colossians 1:16, and to each individual angel.
Ye ministers: this Hebrew word is commonly used of the highest and most honourable sort of servants.
That do his pleasure; whose constant business and delight it is to execute the will and commands of God.
Bless the LORD, all his works in all places of his dominion: bless the LORD, O my soul.All his works in all places of his dominion; all creatures, both in heaven and earth, according to your several capacities.
Bless the Lord, O my soul; which thou hast special and abundant reason to do. Thus he ends the Psalm with the same words wherewith he began it.