Matthew Poole's Commentary
Bless the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty.THE ARGUMENT.
As the next foregoing Psalm treats of the special favours of God to his church and people, so this declares and celebrates the wonderful and gracious works of God to all mankind in the creation of this visible world, and in the wise and powerful disposition of all things therein to man’s use and comfort.
The prophet, stirring up himself to praise God for his power manifested in the creation, Psalm 104:1-6, his wonderful wisdom and power in governing of all hinge, Psalm 104:7-32, voweth perpetually to praise him, Psalm 104:33,34, and curseth the unthankfulness of the wicked, Psalm 104:35.
Thou art very great, as in thy own nature and perfections, so also in the glory of thy works.
Clothed; surrounded and adorned.
With honour and majesty; with honourable majesty.
Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment: who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain:Coverest, or adornest, or clothest. With light; either,
1. With that light which no man can approach unto, as it is called 1 Timothy 6:16, wherewith therefore he may well be said to be covered or hid from the eyes of mortal men. Or rather,
2. With that first-created light, Genesis 1:3, which the psalmist fitly puts in the first place, as being the first of God’s visible works.
Like a curtain; the use whereof it hath, partly in reference to that glorious mansion of the blessed God and his holy angels, which these visible heavens (far above which it is, Ephesians 4:10) do veil and cover; and partly in reference to the earth, which they enclose and protect.
Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters: who maketh the clouds his chariot: who walketh upon the wings of the wind:In the waters; in the waters above the heavens, as they are called, Genesis 1:7; or, in the clouds, as it is explained in the next clause, in which he many times resides and rides, and manifests his presence. Who manageth and employeth the clouds and winds in his service.
Who maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire:Who maketh his angels spirits, i.e. of a spiritual or incorporeal nature, that they might be fitter for their employments. Or, who maketh his angels winds, as this last word most commonly signifies, i.e. who made them like the winds, powerful, and active, and nimble in executing God’s pleasure. Or, who useth and governeth those glorious creatures at his pleasure, even as he commands the senseless winds. A
flaming fire; or, like a flaming fire; the note of similitude being here understood, as it is Genesis 49:9 Deu 32:22 Psalm 11:1, and oft elsewhere; to which he compares the angels for their irresistible force, and great agility and fervency in the execution of God’s commands. Or the sense is, Who sometimes clotheth his angels with subtile bodies of wind, or air, or of fire, as he sees fit. And the angels may not unfitly be mentioned in this place amongst and in the close of those works of God which were done in the heavens, of which he hath hitherto spoken, Psalm 104:2,3 because they were made at the same time when the heavens were made, and for the same uses and purposes, and because they are commonly employed by God in managing the clouds, and winds, and meteors, to accomplish God’s designs by them. But this verse is otherwise rendered, both by Jewish and some Christian interpreters, and that very agreeably to the Hebrew text, He maketh the winds his angels, and the flame or flames of fire (i.e. the lightning and thunder, and other fiery meteors in the air)
his ministers; he maketh use of them no less than of the holy angels, and ofttimes for the same purposes, and they do as certainly and readily obey all his commands as the blessed angels themselves do. This interpretation may seem most agreeable to the scope of the Psalm, and to the context, wherein he is speaking of the evil works of God. The only difficulty is, that this seems to invalidate the allegation and argument of the apostle, who expounds it of the angels, Hebrews 1:7. But indeed it doth not; for (to say nothing of other solutions given by other men) when the psalmist saith that God maketh or useth the winds as his angels, &c., 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-eminency of Christ above the angels; which is the apostle’s design in that place.
Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever.He hath founded or established the earth upon its own basis or foundations, i.e. upon itself, or its own weight, whereby it stands as fast and unmovable, as if it were built upon the strongest foundations imaginable; which is a stupendous work of Divine power and wisdom. That it should not be removed out of its proper place, which is the lowest part of the world.
For ever; as long as the world continues.
Thou coveredst it with the deep as with a garment: the waters stood above the mountains.Thou coveredst it with the deep; either,
1. In the general deluge. Or rather,
2. In the first creation, as we read, Genesis 1:2,9; of which the psalmist is here speaking.
The waters stood above the mountains; the mountains were not made by the deluge, as some have thought, who for that reason understand this verse of the said deluge, for it is apparent they were before it, Genesis 7:19, and most probably were in the first creation, because this variety of mountains and valleys is both ornamental and useful to the world.
At thy rebuke they fled; at the voice of thy thunder they hasted away.At thy rebuke; upon thy severe command, Genesis 1:9; which he calls a rebuke, to imply that there was something in that state of things which might seem to need reproof and correction, even that confusion of earth and water together, which therefore God amended in his second day’s work.
They fled; they immediately went to the place which God had allotted to them. Of thy thunder; of thy sovereign command, which as they could not but hear, so they durst not disobey. He ascribes sense and reason to inanimate creatures by a figure called prosopopaeia.
They go up by the mountains; they go down by the valleys unto the place which thou hast founded for them.In that first division of the waters from the earth, some part of them by God’s command, contrary to their own nature, went upwards, and became springs in the mountains, and the greatest part went downwards to the channels made for them. Others, both ancient and later interpreters, read the words thus, The mountains ascend, the valleys descend; when the waters were separated, part of the earth went upward, and made the mountains; and part went downward, and made the valleys or low grounds. But our translation seems the best, as being most agreeable to the context, because he speaks of the waters both in the foregoing and following verses.
Unto the place which thou hast founded for them; unto their proper channels and receptacles which God provided for them.
Thou hast set a bound that they may not pass over; that they turn not again to cover the earth.A bound; even the sand of the sea-shore, as it 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; which is noted as a wonderful work of God, Job 38:8, &c.
The earth, to wit, the whole earth, as it did in the beginning of the creation. This was God’s appointment, and the course of nature settled by him. But when men transgressed their bounds, all the laws of God and men, it is not strange if the waters also transgressed their bounds, and once again overwhelmed the earth in the general deluge.
He sendeth the springs into the valleys, which run among the hills.The springs, and the rivers which come from them.
The hills; wherewith God hath shut in the rivers where he saw fit, that they might not overflow the land.
They give drink to every beast of the field: the wild asses quench their thirst.Which he mentions, partly because they are dry and thirsty creatures; and partly because they live in dry and desolate wildernesses, and are neither ruled nor regarded by men, and are most stupid creatures, and yet are plentifully provided for by the care and bounty of Divine Providence.
By them shall the fowls of the heaven have their habitation, which sing among the branches.By them; either upon the waters, where many fowls have their common abode; or in the ground nigh unto them; or in the trees, which commonly grow by the banks of rivers.
Which sing among the branches; which, being delighted and refreshed by the waters, send forth their pleasant notes.
He watereth the hills from his chambers: the earth is satisfied with the fruit of thy works.He watereth the hills; which most need moisture, and have least of it in them.
From his chambers; from the clouds, as above, Psalm 104:3.
The earth is satisfied; by this means all the parts of the earth, the mountains as well as the valleys, are made fruitful.
With the fruit of thy works; with the effects of those sweet showers, which he calls God’s works, because he alone can and doth give them, as is noted, Jeremiah 10:13 14:22.
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;Herb for the service of man; both for delight, and for necessity, either as food or physic. And this God doth; he watereth the earth, that thereby it may be prepared or disposed for the production of necessary provisions for beasts and for men, that so he (to wit, God)
may bring forth food out of the earth, which without this blessing of God the earth would never yield.
And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart.Wine; he also bringeth out of the earth the vines which yield wine.
Oil to make his face to shine: he alludes to the custom of those times and places, which was upon solemn and festival occasions to anoint their faces with oil. See Psalm 23:5. But these words with the former are by divers learned interpreters rendered otherwise, which seems more agreeable to the order and contexture of the Hebrew text,
And (he giveth) wine that maketh glad the heart of man, to make (or, that he may make, i.e. that thereby he may also make) his face to shine more than oil, i.e. more than it shineth when it is anointed with oil; or, as with oil. So he speaks only of the wine, which he commends from two qualities, that it makes the heart cheerful, and the countenance pleasant.
Bread, i.e. bread corn, by a metonymy.
Which strengtheneth man’s heart; which hath a singular faculty to preserve or renew our strength and rigour; whence it is called the staff of life.
The trees of the LORD are full of sap; the cedars of Lebanon, which he hath planted;The trees of the Lord, i.e. which the Lord hath planted, as the next clause expounds this; which came up and grew. and thrive not by man’s art and industry, but merely by the care of God’s providence.
Are full of sap, Heb. are or shall be satisfied, to wit, with the rain, of whose good effects he is yet speaking.
The cedars of Lebanon; yea, even the tallest and largest cedars, such as these were, are supported and nourished by it.
Where the birds make their nests: as for the stork, the fir trees are her house.The stork; which make their nests not only in the tops of houses, but also in the field and in high trees, as Varro and others have noted.
The fir trees; which also are trees of great height and bigness; and which, being here said to afford the storks a house, are thereby supposed to be preserved and nourished by the rain water.
The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats; and the rocks for the conies.So he passeth from the rain to other works of God’s providence, as that God hath made suitable and sufficient provision for the security of these creatures against their persecutors. Although this verse also may have a reference to the former work, and the barren and rocky hills may be mentioned as receiving benefit by the rain, and it may be thus rendered, And
the high hills, ( understand, are satisfied, which is expressed Psalm 104:16, and may very well be carried hither) which (that particle being frequently understood) are
a refuge for wild goats, and the rocks (understand out of the former branch, according to the usual manner, which are a refuge) for the conies; or, as others translate this word, for the mountain mice.
He appointed the moon for seasons: the sun knoweth his going down.For seasons; to measure and distinguish the times, both months, and, amongst many nations, years also; as also the seasons of divers natural events, as of the ebbing and flowing of the waters, and of the humours in man’s body; and other seasons for sacred and civil affairs, which were commonly regulated by the moon, not only amongst the Jews, but among heathens also. See Poole "Genesis 1:14".
His going down, to wit, the time and place in which he is to set every day of the year, which, though varied from day to day, yet he so regularly and exactly observes, as if he had the understanding of a man or angel to guide him in obeying the laws of his Creator. See Job 38:12. What is here expressed concerning his setting is necessarily supposed concerning his rising also; but he mentions only his setting, as most agreeable to the context, because that did usher in the rising of the moon, of which he now spake, and the entrance of the night, of which he speaks in the next words.
Thou makest darkness, and it is night: wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth.Darkness; which succeeds the light by virtue of thy decree and established order.
Creep forth, to look out for prey, which in the day time they dare not do for fear of men. So by this vicissitude of day and night God hath wisely and mercifully provided both for men, that they may follow their day labours without danger from wild beasts, and for the beasts, that they may procure a subsistence.
The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God.The young lions; which can no more subsist without Divine Providence than those which are most old and decrepit.
Roar after their prey; they roar when they come within sight and reach of their prey, as naturalists observe; whereby this place may be reconciled with Amos 3:4.
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 prayers to their mothers for the breast. And this is justly noted as an act of God’s special providence, because the lions are very ravenous, and need much prey, and also are dull in their scent, and so difficultly find it, and slow in their motion, and unable to reach it; and therefore God hath provided another creature, of quicker sense and motion, which is usually confederate with them, and procures prey for them, partaking of it with or after them.
The sun ariseth, they gather themselves together, and lay them down in their dens.Or rather, they retire or betake themselves; for the lions do not commonly go in companies to one place, but severally, each to his own den.
Man goeth forth unto his work and to his labour until the evening.With security and confidence, knowing the nature and custom of wild beasts, that they hide themselves by day.
O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches.Of excellent and comfortable things, which are the effects of thy bounty and power.
So is this great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts.Creeping: this word is common to all creatures that move without feet, touching with their belly the element in which they move, whether they creep upon the earth or swim in the sea.
There go the ships: there is that leviathan, whom thou hast made to play therein.That leviathan; either the whale or the crocodile; of which See Poole "Job 40:1", See Poole "Job 41:1"; who being of such vast strength and absolute dominion in the sea, tumbles in it with great security, and sports himself with other creatures, which he taketh and devoureth at his pleasure.
These wait all upon thee; that thou mayest give them their meat in due season.These all, both beasts and fishes,
wait upon thee, expect supplies only from thy providence; which is said 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.
In due season; when it is necessary or convenient for them; by which expression he intimates the moderation of the beasts in their desires of food, and tacitly reproves the intemperance of men who feed themselves in season and out of season.
That thou givest them they gather: thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good.Whatsoever they receive is from thy bounty and gift.
Thou openest thine hand; thou providest plentifully for them; as this phrase implies, Deu 15:1: compare Proverbs 31:20.
Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust.Thou hidest thy face, when thou withdrawest or suspendest the favour and care of thy providence.
Troubled; dejected and distressed.
Takest away; so this word is used, Hosea 4:3 Zephaniah 1:2, and elsewhere.
To their dust; to the earth, from whence they had their first original.
Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth.Thy spirit; either,
1. That spirit by which they live, which is called the spirit of a beast, Ecclesiastes 3:21, which is called their breath or spirit, (for the word is the same there and here,) Psalm 104:29, and here may be called God’s spirit, because it was given and preserved by him. Or rather,
2. Thy quickening spirit; for here seems to be an opposition between their spirit, Psalm 104:29, and thy spirit here, and this latter is mentioned as the creating or productive cause of the former. And this may be understood either,
1. Of the Holy Ghost; to whom, no less than to the Father and the Son, the work of creation is ascribed, Job 33:4 Psalm 33:6. Or rather,
2. That quickening power of God by which he produceth life in the creatures from time to time. For he speaks not here of the first creation, but of the continued and repeated production of living creatures.
They are created; either,
1. The same living creatures which were languishing and dying are strangely revived and restored; which may not unfitly be called a creation, as that word is sometimes used, because it is in a manner the giving of a new life and being to a creature. Or,
The glory of the LORD shall endure for ever: the LORD shall rejoice in his works.So the sense is, Thus God doth and will advance the glory of his wisdom, and power, and goodness in upholding and continuing the works of his hands from generation to generation, and he doth and will take pleasure both in the preservation and blessing of his works, as also in his reflection upon these works of his providence, as he did rest and delight himself in the contemplation of his works of creation, as is noted, Genesis 1:31 2:2,3. But the words are by divers, and, it may seem, more agreeably to the Hebrew text, rendered thus, Let (for the first word is of the imperative mood) the glory of the Lord endure for ever, and let the Lord have joy (or, then shall the Lord rejoice) in his works. So this is added as a convenient doxology or thanksgiving after the commemoration of his great and gracious works; and the sense may be this, Seeing therefore God hath enriched the earth and us with so many fruits of his bounty, let it be our constant desire and endeavour that God may be perpetually served and glorified in and by them, and that God may be no more grieved at the remembrance of his kindness to us, as he was, Genesis 6:5,6, and thereby be again provoked to destroy us, but may take pleasure in beholding and cherishing of his own workmanship.
He looketh on the earth, and it trembleth: he toucheth the hills, and they smoke.This is a further illustration of God’s powerful providence over all the creatures, and their dependence upon him; as when he affords his favour to creatures, they live and thrive, so one the contrary one angry look or touch of his upon the hills or earth makes them tremble and smoke, as once Sinai did when God appeared in it. And this consideration he may possibly suggest to enforce the foregoing exhortation of glorifying God, because if we do not give him the glory due to his name, he call quickly right himself, and destroy us and all his works.
I will sing unto the LORD as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.But whatsoever others do, I will not fail to give God his glory and due praises.
My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the LORD.My meditation; or, my speech, or discourse; my praising of God, mentioned Psalm 104:33. Of him; concerning the glory of his works.
Shall be sweet; either,
1. To God; he will graciously accept it; praise being his most acceptable sacrifice, as is affirmed, Psalm 69:30,31. Or rather,
2. To myself, as may be gathered from the next clause. He implies that he shall not only do this work, which a man may do unwillingly, or by constraint, but that he will do it cheerfully, and with delight; which is most pleasing to God.
I will be glad in the Lord; I will rejoice in the contemplation of God’s works, and in praising him for them.
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.But as for those ungodly creatures who do not regard the works of the Lord, which is noted as a most grievous sin, and punished with a grievous imprecation, like this, Psalm 27:4,5, nor give him the glory due to his name, but dishonour God, and abuse his creatures, and thereby provoke God to destroy the earth, and the men and things which are upon it, it is my prayer for thine honour, and for the safeguard of all mankind, that those sinners who obstinately and resolutely continue in this practice of dishonouring and disobeying their Creator, may be taken out of this world, that they may no longer infect it, nor procure its total destruction. Or it may be a prediction delivered in the form of an imprecation, as hath been noted before in like cases. But thou, O my soul, come not into this wretched society, but employ thyself in this great work of blessing and praising God; and it is my desire and hope that others will follow my example.