Psalm 104:29
You hide your face, they are troubled: you take away their breath, they die, and return to their dust.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(29) Thou hidest Thy face.—Elsewhere an image of displeasure, here only of withdrawal of providential care. (See Psalm 30:7, where the expression “troubled” also occurs.)

Thou takest away their breath.—Not only is the food which sustains animal life dependent on the ceaseless providence of God, but even the very breath of life is His, to be sent forth or withdrawn at His will. But to this thought, derived of course from Genesis (comp. Psalm 90:3, Note), the poet adds another. The existence of death is not a sorrow to him any more than it is a mystery. To the psalmist it is only the individual that dies; the race lives. One generation fades as God’s breath is withdrawn, but another succeeds as it is sent forth.

104:19-30 We are to praise and magnify God for the constant succession of day and night. And see how those are like to the wild beasts, who wait for the twilight, and have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. Does God listen to the language of mere nature, even in ravenous creatures, and shall he not much more interpret favourably the language of grace in his own people, though weak and broken groanings which cannot be uttered? There is the work of every day, which is to be done in its day, which man must apply to every morning, and which he must continue in till evening; it will be time enough to rest when the night comes, in which no man can work. The psalmist wonders at the works of God. The works of art, the more closely they are looked upon, the more rough they appear; the works of nature appear more fine and exact. They are all made in wisdom, for they all answer the end they were designed to serve. Every spring is an emblem of the resurrection, when a new world rises, as it were, out of the ruins of the old one. But man alone lives beyond death. When the Lord takes away his breath, his soul enters on another state, and his body will be raised, either to glory or to misery. May the Lord send forth his Spirit, and new-create our souls to holiness.Thou hidest thy face - As if God turned away from them; as if he was displeased with them; as if he withdrew from them the tokens of his friendship and favor.

They are troubled - They are confounded; they are overwhelmed with terror and amazement. The word "troubled" by no means conveys the sense of the original word - בהל bâhal - which means properly to tremble; to be in trepidation; to be filled with terror; to be amazed; to be confounded. It is that kind of consternation which one has when all support and protection are withdrawn, and when inevitable ruin stares one in the face. So when God turns away, all their support is gone; all their resources "fail, and they must die." They are represented as conscious of this; or, this is what would occur if they were conscious.

Thou takest away their breath - Withdrawing that which thou gavest to them.

They die, and return to their dust - Life ends when thou dost leave them, and they return again to earth. So it is also with man. When God withdraws from him, nothing remains for him "but to die."

27-30. The entire dependence of this immense family on God is set forth. With Him, to kill or make alive is equally easy. To hide His face is to withdraw favor (Ps 13:1). By His spirit, or breath, or mere word, He gives life. It is His constant providence which repairs the wastes of time and disease. 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 hidest thy face, they are troubled,.... God may be said to hide his face from the creatures when he withholds their food from them, when there is a scarcity of provisions, a famine in the land; when there is no pasture for them to feed on, nor brooks of water to drink of; then are they troubled or perplexed, as in Joel 1:18 and know not what to do, nor where to go for help, but faint, and sink, and die. So in a spiritual sense when God hides his face from his people, removes his Shechinah, or divine Majesty and Presence, as the Targum here; and withdraws the influences of his grace and Spirit; or when they have no food for their souls, or what they have is not blessed, then are they troubled, Psalm 30:7.

Thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust; their original dust, from whence they sprung, as man himself does; the breath of all is from the Lord; he gives it to his creatures, and when he pleases he takes it away; and when he does, they die and become dust again.

Thou {p} hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust.

(p) As by your presence all things have life; so if you withdraw your blessings they all perish.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
29. All creatures depend upon God for life as well as food. The breath or spirit of God is the source of the life-breath of His creatures. The Psalmist probably had Job 34:14-15 in his mind. Cp. Acts 17:25; Colossians 1:17. The ‘hiding’ of God’s face is usually the symbol of His wrath; but here it denotes rather the withdrawal of His sustaining power. Cp. Psalm 30:7.

thou takest away their breath] Or, thou gatherest in, withdrawing the spirit lent for a time (Ecclesiastes 12:7), so that they expire, and their bodies return to the dust whence they were taken (Genesis 3:19).Verse 29. - Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled. If God withdraws the light of his countenance from any living thing, instantly it feels the loss. It is "troubled," cast down, confounded (comp. Psalm 30:7). Thou takest away their breath, they die. As the living things have life from God, so they have death from him. Not one of them perishes but he knows it, and causes it or allows it (see Matthew 10:29). And return to their dust. Return, i.e., to the dead matter out of which they were created. The fifth decastich, in which the poet passes over from the third to the fourth day, shows that he has the order of the days of creation before his mind. The moon is mentioned first of all, because the poet wishes to make the picture of the day follow that of the night. He describes it in Psalm 104:19 as the calendarial principal star. מועדים are points and divisions of time (epochs), and the principal measurer of these for civil and ecclesiastical life is the moon (cf. Sir. 43:7, ἀπὸ σελήνης σημεῖον ἑορτῆς), just as the sun, knowing when he is to set, is the infallible measurer of the day. In Psalm 104:20 the description, which throughout is drawn in the presence of God in His honour, passes over into direct address: jussives (תּשׁת, ויהי) stand in the hypothetical protasis and in its apodosis (EW. 357, b). It depends upon God's willing only, and it is night, and the wakeful life of the wild beasts begins to be astir. The young lions then roar after their prey, and flagitaturi sunt a Deo cibum suum. The infinitive with Lamed is an elliptical expression of a conjugatio periphrastica (vid., on Habakkuk 1:17), and becomes a varying expression of the future in general in the later language in approximation to the Aramaic. The roar of the lions and their going forth in quest of prey is an asking of God which He Himself has implanted in their nature. With the rising of the sun the aspect of things becomes very different. שׁמשׁ is feminine here, where the poet drops the personification (cf. Psalm 19:1-14). The day which dawns with sunrise is the time for man. Both as to matter and style, Psalm 104:21 call to mind Job 24:5; Job 37:8; Job 38:40.
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