Psalm 102:6
I am like a pelican of the wilderness: I am like an owl of the desert.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(6) Pelican.—See Leviticus 11:18. “It has been objected that the pelican is a water-bird, and cannot, therefore, be the kâath of the Scriptures—“the pelican of the wilderness”—as it must of necessity starve in the desert; but a midbar (wilderness) is often used to denote a wide open space, cultivated or uncultivated, and is not to be restricted to barren spots destitute of water; moreover, as a matter of fact, the pelican after filling its capacious pouch with fish, molluscs, &c, often does. retire to places far inland, where it consumes what it has captured. Thus, too, it breeds on the great sandy wastes near the mouths of the Danube. The expression ‘pelican in the wilderness,’ in the psalmist’s pitiable complaint, is a true picture of the bird as it sits in apparently melancholy mood with its bill resting on its breast (Bible Educator, iv. 8).

Owl.—Heb., khôs. (See Leviticus 11:17.) The bird is identified with the “owl” by the Hebrew in this passage, which should be rendered, “owl of the ruins.” Some, however, would identify this bird with the pelican, since khôs means “cup,” rendering “the pelican, even the pouch-bird.” (See Bible Educator, ii. 346.) LXX., Aquila, Theodotion, all have “screech-owl;” Symmachus, the “hoopoe.”

102:1-11 The whole word of God is of use to direct us in prayer; but here, is often elsewhere, the Holy Ghost has put words into our mouths. Here is a prayer put into the hands of the afflicted; let them present it to God. Even good men may be almost overwhelmed with afflictions. It is our duty and interest to pray; and it is comfort to an afflicted spirit to unburden itself, by a humble representation of its griefs. We must say, Blessed be the name of the Lord, who both gives and takes away. The psalmist looked upon himself as a dying man; My days are like a shadow.I am like a pelican of the wilderness - A bird in the midst of desolation becomes a striking image of loneliness and distress. The word rendered "pelican" - קאת qâ'ath - is supposed to have been a name given to the pelican from the idea of vomiting, as it "vomits the shells and other substances which it has too voraciously swallowed." The word occurs in the following places, where it is rendered as here "pelican:" Leviticus 11:18; Deuteronomy 14:17; and in Isaiah 34:11; Zephaniah 2:14, where it is rendered "cormorant." The following description, taken from the "Land and the Book," vol. i. p. 403, by Dr. Thomson, will illustrate this passage. Speaking of the outlet of the Huleh, and the region of the exit of the Jordan from that lake in its course toward the sea of Tiberias, he says, "Here only have I seen the pelican of the wilderness, as David calls it. I once had one of them shot just below this place, and, as it was merely wounded in the wing, I had a good opportunity to study its character. It was certainly the most sombre, austere bird I ever saw. It gave one the blues merely to look at it. David could find no more expressive type of solitude and melancholy by which to illustrate his own sad state. It seemed as large as a half-grown donkey, and when fairly settled on its stout legs, it looked like one. The pelican is never seen but in these unfrequented solitudes, and to this agree all the references to it in the Bible."

I am like an owl of the desert - The owl is a well-known bird which dwells in solitudes and old ruins, and which becomes, alike by its seeking such places of abode, by its appearance, and by its doleful cry, the very emblem of desolation.

6, 7. The figures express extreme loneliness. Pelican; or, bittern, as the same word is translated, Isaiah 34:11 Zephaniah 2:14. It is a solitary and mournful bird, as also the owl here following is. I am like a pelican of the wilderness,.... It may be so called, to distinguish it from another of the same name that lives upon the waters; which has the name of "pelican" in the Greek tongue, as is said, from its smiting and piercing its breast, and letting out blood for the reviving of its young; and in the Hebrew language, from its vomiting shell fish it has swallowed down; See Gill on Leviticus 11:18 where the word is rendered a "pelican" as here, and in Deuteronomy 14:17, the same we call the "shovelard"; but a "cormorant" in Isaiah 34:11, however, it seems to be a bird of solitude, and therefore the psalmist compares himself to it. According to Isidore (g), it is an Egyptian bird, that inhabits the desert of the river Nile, from whence it has the name of Canopus Aegyptus:

I am like an owl of the desert; or "of desert places"; so the Tigurine version; it is translated "the little owl" in Leviticus 11:17. It delights to be on old walls, and in ruined houses, and cares not to consort with other birds, and it makes a hideous sorrowful noise (h). Jarchi renders it the hawk, but that, as Kimchi (i) observes, is found in habitable places. Bochart (k) thinks the "onocrotalos" is meant, a bird so much of the same kind with the pelican, that they are promiscuously used by learned men; and which is a creature, as Jerom (l) says, that is used to dwell in desert places; and Isidore (m) observes, that there are two sorts of them, one that lives in the water, and another in the desert; it has its name from its braying like an ass; and Aelianus (n) speaks of a bird of this sort in India, which has a large crop like a sack; and the Hebrew word "cos" here used signifies a cup or vessel, from whence it may have its name; and which he says makes a very disagreeable noise, to which the psalmist may compare the voice of his groaning, Psalm 102:5.

(g) Origin. l. 12. c. 7. (h) "Solaque culminibus ferali carmine Bubo, saepe queri----", Virgil. Aeneid. 4. (i) Sepher Shorash. rad. (k) Hierozoic. par. 2. l. 2. c. 20. col. 275, 276. (l) Comment. in Esaiam, c. 34. fol. 64. A. (m) Ut supra. (Origin. l. 12. c. 7.) (n) De Animal. l. 16. c. 4.

I am like a {e} pelican of the wilderness: I am like an owl of the desert.

(e) Always mourning in solitude and casting out fearful cries.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
6. He compares himself to solitude-loving birds which haunt desolate places and ruins, uttering weird and mournful cries. Cp. Isaiah 34:11; Zephaniah 2:14 (A.V. cormorant). Render the second line, I am become as an owl in desolate places. The owl is called by the Arabs “mother of ruins,” and “in the tombs or on the ruins, among the desolate heaps which mark the sites of ancient Judah, on the sandy mounds of Beersheba, or on the spray-beaten fragments of Tyre, his low wailing note is sure to be heard at sunset.” Tristram’s Nat. Hist. of the Bible, p. 194.Verse 6. - I am like a pelican in the wilderness. The Hebrew word here rendered "pelican" is elsewhere in our version translated by "cormorant" (Leviticus 11:7; Deuteronomy 14:17; Isaiah 34:11; Zephaniah 2:14); but it is now generally believed that the pelican is intended (compare the Septuagint πελεκᾶνι, and see Mr. Houghton's letter in the Academy, April 5, 1884, and the versions of Hengstenberg, Kay, Cheyne, and our Revisers). The pelican is a bird which haunts marshy and desolate places. It abounds in the Lake Huleh in Northern Galilee (Thomson, 'The Land and the Book,' p. 260). I am like an owl of the desert; or, "of the ruins." The owl haunts ruins in the East no less than in our own country (Layard, 'Nineveh and Babylon,' p. 484, note). This is the "prince's Psalm,"

(Note: Eyring, in his Vita of Ernest the Pious Duke of Saxe-Gotha, v. 1601, d. 1675, relates that he sent an unfaithful minister a copy of the 101st Psalm, and that it became a proverb in the country, when an official had done anything wrong: He will certainty soon receive the prince's Psalm to read.)

or as it is inscribed in Luther's version, "David's mirror of a monarch." Can there be any more appropriate motto for it than what is said of Jahve's government in Psalm 99:4? In respect of this passage of Psalm 99:1-9, to which Psalm 100:1-5 is the finale, Psalm 101:1-8 seems to be appended as an echo out of the heart of David. The appropriateness of the words לדוד מזמור (the position of the words is as in Psalm 24:1-10; 40; 109:1-110:7; 139) is corroborated by the form and contents. Probably the great historical work from which the chronicler has taken excerpts furnished the post-exilic collector with a further gleaning of Davidic songs, or at least songs that were ascribed to David. The Psalm before us belongs to the time during which the Ark was in the house of Obed-Edom, where David had left it behind through terror at the misfortune of Uzzah. David said at that time: "How shall the Ark of Jahve come to me (the unholy one)?" 2 Samuel 6:8. He did not venture to bring the Ark of the Fearful and Holy One within the range of his own house. In our Psalm, however, he gives utterance to his determination as king to give earnest heed to the sanctity of his walk, of his rule, and of his house; and this resolve he brings before Jahve as a vow, to whom, in regard to the rich blessing which the Ark of God diffuses around it (2 Samuel 6:11.), he longingly sighs: "When wilt Thou come to me?!" This contemporaneous reference has been recognised by Hammond and Venema. From the fact that Jahve comes to David, Jerusalem becomes "the city of Jahve," Psalm 101:8; and to defend the holiness of this the city of His habitation in all faithfulness, and with all his might, is the thing to which David here pledges himself.

The contents of the first verse refer not merely to the Psalm that follows as an announcement of its theme, but to David's whole life: graciousness and right, the self-manifestations united ideally and, for the king who governs His people, typically in Jahve, shall be the subject of his song. Jahve, the primal source of graciousness and of right, it shall be, to whom he consecrates his poetic talent, as also his playing upon the harp. חסד is condescension which flows from the principle of free love, and משׁפּט legality which binds itself impartially and uncapriciously to the rule (norm) of that which is right and good. They are two modes of conduct, mutually tempering each other, which God requires of every man (Micah 6:8, cf. Matthew 23:23 : τὴν κρίσιν καὶ τὸν ἔλεον), and more especially of a king. Further, he has resolved to give heed, thoughtfully and with an endeavour to pursue it (השׂכּיל בּ as in Daniel 9:13), unto the way of that which is perfect, i.e., blameless. What is further said might now be rendered as a relative clause: when Thou comest to me. But not until then?! Hitzig renders it differently: I will take up the lot of the just when it comes to me, i.e., as often as it is brought to my knowledge. But if this had been the meaning, בּדבר would have been said instead of בּדרך (Exodus 18:16, Exodus 18:19; 2 Samuel 19:12 [11]); for, according to both its parts, the expression דוך תמים is an ethical notion, and is therefore not used in a different sense from that in Psalm 101:6. Moreover, the relative use of the interrogative מתי in Hebrew cannot be supported, with the exception, perhaps, of Proverbs 23:35. Athanasius correctly interprets: ποθῶ σου τὴν παρουσίαν, ὦ δέσποτα, ἱμείρομαί σου τῆς ἐπιφανείας, ἀλλὰ δὸς τὸ ποθούμενον. It is a question of strong yearning: when wilt Thou come to me? is the time near at hand when Thou wilt erect Thy throne near to me? If his longing should be fulfilled, David is resolved to, and will then, behave himself as he further sets forth in the vows he makes. He pledges himself to walk within his house, i.e., his palace, in the innocence or simplicity of his heart (Psalm 78:72; Proverbs 20:7), without allowing himself to be led away from this frame of mind which has become his through grace. He will not set before his eyes, viz., as a proposition or purpose (Deuteronomy 15:9; Exodus 10:10; 1 Samuel 29:10, lxx), any morally worthless or vile matter whatsoever (Psalm 41:8, cf. concerning בליּעל, Psalm 18:5). The commission of excesses he hates: עשׂה is infin. constr. instead of עשׂות as in Genesis 31:28; Genesis 50:20; Proverbs 21:3, cf. ראה Genesis 48:11, שׁתו Proverbs 31:4. סטים (like שׂטים in Hosea 5:2), as the object of עשׂה, has not a personal (Kimchi, Ewald) signification (cf. on the other hand Psalm 40:5), but material signification: (facta) declinantia (like זדים, Psalm 19:13, insolentia; הבלים, Zechariah 11:7, vincientia); all temptations and incitements of this sort he shakes off from himself, so that nothing of the kind cleaves to him. The confessions in Psalm 101:4 refer to his own inward nature: לב עקּשׁ (not עקּשׁ־לב, Proverbs 17:20), a false heart that is not faithful in its intentions either to God or to men, shall remain far from him; wickedness (רע as in Psalm 36:5) he does not wish to know, i.e., does not wish to foster and nurture within him. Whoso secretly slanders his neighbour, him will he destroy; it will therefore be so little possible for any to curry favour with him by uncharitable perfidious tale-bearing, of the wiliness of which David himself had had abundant experience in his relation to Saul, that it will rather call forth his anger upon him (Proverbs 30:10). Instead of the regularly pointed מלושׁני the Ker reads מלשׁני, melŏshnı̂, a Poel (לשׁן linguâ petere, like עין oculo petere, elsewhere הלשׁין, Proverbs 30:10) with ŏ instead of ō (vid., on Psalm 109:10; Psalm 62:4) and with Chirek compaginis (vid., on Psalm 113:1-9). The "lofty of eyes," i.e., supercilious, haughty, and the "broad of heart," i.e., boastful, puffed up, self-conceited (Proverbs 28:25, cf. Psalm 21:4), him he cannot endure (אוּכל, properly fut. Hoph., I am incapable of, viz., לשׂאת, which is to be supplied as in Isaiah 1:13, after Proverbs 30:21; Jeremiah 44:22).

(Note: In both instances the Masora writes אותו (plene), but the Talmud, B. Erachin 15b, had אתו before it when it says: "Of the slanderer God says: I and he cannot dwell together in the world, I cannot bear it any longer with him (אתּו).")

On the other hand, his eyes rest upon the faithful of the land, with the view, viz., of drawing them into his vicinity. Whoso walks in the way of uprightness, he shall serve him (שׁרת, θεραπεύειν, akin to עבד, δουλεύειν). He who practises deceit shall not stay within his house; he who speaks lies shall have no continuance (יכּון is more than equivalent to נכון) before (under) his eyes. Every morning (לבּקרים as in Psalm 73:14; Isaiah 33:2; Lamentations 3:23, and לבקרים, Job 7:18), when Jahve shall have taken up His abode in Jerusalem, will he destroy all evil-doers (רשׁעי as in Psalm 119:119), i.e., incorrigibly wicked ones, wherever he may meet them upon the earth, in order that all workers of evil may be rooted out of the royal city, which is now become the city of Jahve.

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