Psalm 103:11
For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(11) So great is his mercy toward.—Literally, Strong is his mercy upon (or, over). (Comp. Psalm 117:2.) The comparison in the first clause, and the use of this expression in Genesis 49:26 and 2Samuel 11:23, suggests as the right rendering here

For as the heaven is higher than the earth,

So far (above what was expected) for them fearing him prevails his mercy.

(For the same comparison, see Isaiah 55:7-9; and comp. Isaiah 38:17; Micah 7:19.)

Psalm 103:11-13. As the heaven, &c., so great is his mercy — So much above our deserts and expectations, and above the mercy which one man shows to another; toward them that fear him — Which clause he adds here, as also Psalm 103:17-18, to prevent men’s mistakes and abuses of God’s mercy, and to overthrow the vain hopes which impenitent sinners build thereon. As far as the east, &c., so far hath he removed our transgressions — 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. Like as a father pitieth, &c. — No father can be more indulgent and tender hearted to his returning children, than the Lord is to those who so reform, by his chastisements, as to fear afterward to offend him. Thus, in these three verses, “we are presented with three of the most beautiful, apposite, and comforting similitudes in the world. When we lift up our eyes, and behold around us the lofty and stupendous vault of heaven, encircling, protecting, enlightening, refreshing, and cherishing the earth, and all things which are therein, we are bidden to contemplate, in this glass, the immeasurable height, the boundless extent, and the salutary influences of that mercy which, as it were, embraced the creation, and is over all the works of God. Often as we view the sun arising in the sea, and darkness flying away before his face toward the opposite quarter of the heavens, we may see an image of that goodness of Jehovah, whereby we are placed in the regions of illumination, and our sins are removed, and put far away out of his sight. And, that our hearts may, at all times, have confidence toward God, he is represented as bearing toward us the fond and tender affection of a father, ever ready to defend, to nourish, and to provide for us, to bear with us, to forgive us, and receive us in the paternal arms of everlasting love.” — Horne. “One would think it impossible,” says another eminent divine, “if daily experience did not convince us to the contrary, that human creatures should be regardless of such love, and ungrateful to so solicitous a benefactor! For my own part, I cannot conceive it possible for any heart to be unaffected or uninfluenced by such a composition as this before us.”

103:6-14 Truly God is good to all: he is in a special manner good to Israel. He has revealed himself and his grace to them. By his ways we may understand his precepts, the ways he requires us to walk in; and his promises and purposes. He always has been full of compassion. How unlike are those to God, who take every occasion to chide, and never know when to cease! What would become of us, if God should deal so with us? The Scripture says a great deal of the mercy of God, and we all have experienced it. The father pities his children that are weak in knowledge, and teaches them; pities them when they are froward, and bears with them; pities them when they are sick, and comforts them; pities them when they are fallen, and helps them to rise; pities them when they have offended, and, upon their submission, forgives them; pities them when wronged, and rights them: thus the Lord pities those that fear him. See why he pities. He considers the frailty of our bodies, and the folly of our souls, how little we can do, how little we can bear; in all which his compassion appears.For as the heaven is high above the earth - See the notes at Psalm 57:10. Compare the notes at Isaiah 55:9. The literal translation of the phrase here would be, "For like the height of the heavens above the earth." The heavens - the starry heavens - are the highest objects of which we have any knowledge; and hence, the comparison is used to denote the great mercy of God - meaning that it is as great as can be conceived; that there is nothing beyond it; that we cannot imagine that it could be greater - as we can imagine nothing higher than the heavens.

So great is his mercy toward them that fear him - To those who reverence and serve him. That is, His mercy is thus great in forgiving their offences; in imparting grace; in giving them support and consolation.

11. great—efficient. 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.

For as the heaven is high above the earth,.... Which is the greatest distance known, or can be conceived of; the space between the heaven and the earth is seemingly almost infinite; and nothing can more illustrate the mercy of God, which reaches to the heavens, and is in heaven; though this is but a faint representation of the largeness and abundance of it, and which indeed is boundless and infinite:

so great is his mercy towards them that fear him, or, his mercy hath prevailed over them that fear him (a); as the waters of the flood prevailed upon the earth, and reached and overflowed the highest hills, Genesis 7:18, so abundant and superabundant is the grace of God over them that "fear" him. Which character is given, not as being the cause of their obtaining mercy, but as descriptive of the persons that partake of it; on whom it has such an effect, as to cause them to fear the Lord, and his goodness; and is mentioned to prevent obstinate and presumptuous sinners expecting it, or trusting to it.

(a) "praevalet super", Musculus; so Cocceius, Michaelis.

For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
11. Cp. Psalm 36:5; Psalm 57:10; Isaiah 55:9.

so great is] so mighty hath been. The change of a letter would give the sense, so high hath been; but it is unnecessary. Cp. Psalm 117:2. The perfect tense in Psalm 103:10-12 refers to Israel’s recent experience.

them that fear him] True Israelites are those who can claim the promise. Note the triple repetition of the words, which recur in Psalm 103:13; Psalm 103:17.

11–14. The greatness and tenderness of Jehovah’s forgiving love.

Verse 11. - For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him (comp. Psalm 36:5, "Thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens, and thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds"). The metaphor is bold, yet inadequate; for God's mercy is infinite. Psalm 103:11The 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.
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