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)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.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.”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.
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.
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.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 103:1 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.
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