Psalm 104:14
He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth;
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(14) For the service of mani.e., for his use (so Gesenius). But some deny this meaning to the Hebrew, which properly means “labour” or “office.” (In 1Chronicles 27:26; Nehemiah 10:37, it means “agriculture,” “tillage.”) Hence they render, “And herbs for man’s labour in bringing them forth from the earth,” alluding to his task of cultivating the soil. Standing by itself the clause would indeed naturally require this sense, but the parallelism is against it, and in 1Chronicles 26:30, “service of a king,” we have a near approach to the meaning “use.”

That he may.—Better, bringing food out of the earth, taking the verb as gerund instead of infinitive absolute.

104:10-18 When we reflect upon the provision made for all creatures, we should also notice the natural worship they render to God. Yet man, forgetful ungrateful man, enjoys the largest measure of his Creator's kindness. the earth, varying in different lands. Nor let us forget spiritual blessings; the fruitfulness of the church through grace, the bread of everlasting life, the cup of salvation, and the oil of gladness. Does God provide for the inferior creatures, and will he not be a refuge to his people?He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle - Out of the earth there is caused to grow every variety of food necessary for the various orders of beings that are placed upon it. The idea here is not merely that of "abundance;" it is also that of "variety:" the needs and tastes of all have been consulted in the productions of the earth. The one earth - the same earth - has been made to produce the endless varieties of food required for the creatures that have been placed on it. The word "grass" here refers to all the vegetable productions needful for cattle.

And herb for the service of man - Genesis 1:29. The word "herb" here would include every green plant or vegetable; or all that the earth produces for the food of man. This, of course, refers to the earth as it came from the hand of God, and to the original arrangement, before permission was given to man to eat the flesh of animals, Genesis 9:3. The word translated "service" might be rendered "culture," as if man was to cultivate it for his use, not that it was to be produced, as the food for cattle, spontaneously.

That he may bring forth food out of the earth - Hebrew, "bread." That is, that by culture he may bring forth that which would make bread.

14, 15. so that men and beasts are abundantly provided with food.

for the service—literally, "for the culture," &c., by which he secures the results.

oil … shine—literally, "makes his face to shine more than oil," that is, so cheers and invigorates him, that outwardly he appears better than if anointed.

strengtheneth … heart—gives vigor to man (compare Jud 19:5).

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. He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle,.... By means of rain falling upon the tender herb, and upon the mown grass, whereby provision of food is made for those creatures that live upon grass.

And herb for the service of man: some herbs being for physic for him, and others for food, and all more or less for his use. Herbs were the original food of man, Genesis 1:29 and still a dinner of herbs, where love is, is better than a stalled ox, and hatred therewith, Proverbs 15:17. Some render it, "and herb at the tillage of man" (o): grass grows of itself for the use of the cattle; but the herb, as wheat and the like, which is for the use of man, is caused to grow when man has taken some pains with the earth, and has tilled and manured it: but the former sense seems best.

That he may bring forth food out of the earth; either that man may do it by his tillage; or rather that the Lord may do it, by sending rain, and causing the grass and herbs to grow. However, man's food, as well as the food of beasts, comes out of the earth, as he himself does, and to which he must return.

(o) "ad culturam", Cocceius, some in Vatablus, and Michaelis; so Gussetius, p. 572.

He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of {h} man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth;

(h) He describes God's providential care over man, who not only provides necessary things for him such as herbs and other meat: but also things to rejoice and comfort him such as wine and oil or ointments.

14. herb] Cp. Genesis 1:11-12; Genesis 1:29-30; Genesis 3:18; Genesis 9:3. The term includes all vegetable products.

for the service of man] The use of the word in Psalm 104:23 and elsewhere is in favour of the rendering of R.V. marg., for the labour of man:—God makes the soil respond to man’s tillage with abundant produce. But the Heb. word seems to be capable of the same extension of meaning as ‘service’ and this sense fits the parallelism and the context best.

14 b, 15. The division of the verses obscures the parallelism. Render,

That he may bring forth bread out of the earth,

And that wine may gladden the heart of man.

That he may make his face to shine with oil,

And that bread may sustain man’s heart.

Corn wine and oil were the chief products of Palestine (Deuteronomy 12:17). God provides for man’s enjoyment as well as for his sustenance. Cp. for the language Jdg 9:13; Ecclesiastes 10:19.Verse 14. - He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle. The results of God's careful arrangements are now spoken cf. In the first place, grass - fodder of every kind - is provided for the beasts on which man's life so greatly depends - a boon both to man and beast, of inestimable value. Next, there is brought forth herb for the service of man - i.e. for his direct service - vegetables and fruits for his food; spicy shrubs for his delectation; flax, papyrus, saffron, aloes, etc., for his use. That he may bring forth food out of the earth. That man himself may by his labour, by the cultivation of the natural products, obtain from the earth the food suitable to him. Psalm 104:8 continues with the words אל־מקום (cf. Genesis 1:9, אחד אל־מקום): the waters retreat to the place which (זה, cf. Psalm 104:26, for אשׁר, Genesis 39:20) God has assigned to them as that which should contain them. He hath set a bound (גּבוּל, synon. חק, Proverbs 8:29; Jeremiah 5:22) for them beyond which they may not flow forth again to cover the earth, as the primordial waters of chaos have done.
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